July - December 2010

As Euro Struggles, Estonia Readies for Entry in Currency
30 December 2010 – The New York Times – Jack Ewing
Estonia long ago passed the point of no return in its journey from Soviet republic to full-fledged member of the euro area. So in the first frigid minutes of the new year, Prime Minister Andrus Ansip will slide a bank card into an automated teller specially installed for the occasion in front of the Tallinn opera house.  He will withdraw some euro bills. Estonia will officially become the 17th member of the euro area. Cue the fireworks.  To outsiders, it may seem curious that this Baltic nation of just 1.3 million people is lashing itself to the euro mast just as the common currency is taking on water. In fact, Estonia has been a de facto member all along, pegging its kroon to the German mark and later the euro after giving up the Russian ruble in 1992.
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Europe’s Economic Pain Awakens Old Arguments
29 December 2010 – The New York Times – Landon Thomas Jr.
For most of 2010, Europe struggled to contain a debt crisis that has prompted investors to drive up the yield on government bonds. And despite two bailouts — for Greece and for Ireland — the anxiety has not dissipated, and attention has turned to other faltering economies like Portugal and Spain.  If history is any guide, these critics say, even more troubles could be on the way. They point to a handful of little-known and less ambitious common currency efforts that failed in the past.
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Greece approves austerity budget
23 December 2010 – CNN.com - Elinda Labropoulou
The Greek parliament early Thursday approved an austerity budget that makes cuts required under conditions of a massive bailout from the International Monetary Fund and the European Union in May.  The 2011 budget foresees the deficit declining from 9.4% of GDP to 7.4%. Many of the cuts are focused on the public sector, including health, education and public enterprises such as the railways and other forms of public transportation.  The vote was 156 to 142.  The budget forecasts tax revenues will increase by 7% at a time the overall economy is expected to shrink by 3%. The plan also focuses on reducing corruption and tax evasion, both of which have been blamed for Greece's dire financial state.  Greece's economy has suffered a severe blow after it was revealed early this year that the country's budget deficit was more than twice as big as forecast.
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Europe Set to Extend Rescue Fund
7 December 2010 – The New York Times - Steven Castle and David Jolly
Casting aside their differences over how to contain the continuing debt crisis, Europe’s leaders on Thursday pledged to do “whatever is required” to defend their embattled currency.  They also agreed to create a permanent support fund for the euro after 2013 — something they hope will be a first step to calming the markets.  But even as they moved to restore investor confidence, the seriousness of the euro’s plight was underlined by events in beleaguered countries. Spain paid a sharply higher interest rate on an auction of long-term bonds than in its previous sale, reflecting investor fears about the country’s indebted economy.
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NATO's new Strategic concept "New Serbia, new NATO" discussed and debated

8 December 2010 - Balkans.com Business News

This week, NATO's brand new Strategic concept, adopted by the alliance's 28 member states during the Lisbon Summit in November, is being vigorously debated at an international conference entitled "New Serbia, new NATO: Future Vision for the 21st Century." During a breakout panel session, Ambassador Lawrence Rossin, NATO's deputy assistant secretary-general for operations highlighted that "today's threats are transnational...and can require both a military and civilian response...international terrorism, cyber-attacks and nuclear proliferation are all challenges which respect no borders and the consequences of which can be global in scope." Ambassador Rossin argues that "the new Strategic Concept lays out how NATO can achieve the core mission of collective defense" by emphasizing three key priorities: investment in modernized capabilities, deeper engagement with other foreign actors, and rapid reaction through streamlined procedures.

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IMF says EU needs "comprehensive solution" on debt

7 December 2010 - Business Week

IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn is urging the EU to figure out a "comprehensive solution" to the bloc's debt crisis. In his visit to Greece Tuesday, Strauss-Kahn said the EU should not deal with its crisis ravaged members as separate entities from the rest of Europe. Strauss-Kahn is in Athens to discuss a possible extension of Greece's repayment of its bailout. His speech came after finance ministers from eurozone countries agreed on Monday not to take another other immediate measures to deal with Europe's debt crisis. During his meetings with Greek officials, a key point of discussion was whether Greece's bailout loan repayment deadlines would be extended by up to 4.5 years, a move that EU governments admit is being considered.

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EU, Russia Reach WTO Deal, 'Road Map' On Visa Waiver

7 December 2010 - Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Russian Premier Dmitry Medvedev and EU leaders have reached an agreement for the EU to lend its support to Russia's WTO bid, after Moscow achieved U.S. backing earlier this year. Speaking after the agreement had been made, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said that talks would move into a multilateral phase, noting that "Russia becoming a WTO member in 2011 is now a very realistic prospect." Barroso said the agreement should also be helpful in producing the next EU-Russia agreement. When asked specifically whether Russia's membership in a planned customs union with Central Asian neighbors and Belarus would be an obstacle, both Barroso and Medvedev argued that it would not. In addition, the leaders made progress in talks on a visa-waiver agreement for travelers in between Russia and EU member states, although the EU has to get the unanimous agreement of all 27 member states for the measure to officially proceed.

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Eurozone Ministers Say There's Enough Money To Handle Debt Crisis
6 December 2010 - The Washington Post - Gabriele Steinhauser and Pan Pylas
At a meeting in Brussels on Monday, the 16 Eurozone finance ministers agreed that the area's emergency bailout fund has enough firepower to deal with Europe's government debt crisis.  However, the ministers did not rule out increasing the fund in the future.  The $1 trillion fund was put in place to help Eurozone member governments at risk of running out of money.  As speculation that Portugal and Spain could join Greece and Ireland in making use of the fund, many worried that the size of the fund would not cover the increasing number of countries that may run into financial trouble.  Klaus Regling, who heads the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), noted that the latest bailout given to Ireland is only expected to amount to 10 percent of the total fund, leaving sufficient resources to deal with other cases.
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