Category Archives: International Politics & Global Economics

Is a barge war looming between Austria & Hungary?


An article today in the Austrian Times highlights concerns in Austria about a new Hungarian law limiting the number of cargo barge using the river Danube. It seems that the Hungarians are arguing the law is needed for environmental reason but the counter claim is that they need to put more focus on infrastructure measures and water level management.

A policy that pushes ore and coal traffic off the waterways onto road and rail is in itself environmentally damaging, so this would seem on first viewing to be an example of needing to look at the wider picture. The EU has agreements in place that are meant to increase the days of navigation on the Danube which this law aim to help achieve, but it goes against the EU target of increasing barge traffic by 20%.

The protection of the environment, shared resources and free flow of commerce are all arguments for countries to work together and pool sovereignty within the EU, for their own and the greater good. Based on his story it would appear that we are yet again failing to seeing those benefits materialising.

Getting this co-operation right is likely to become even more important as the Alpine glaciers continue to shrink. The major source of water for central Europe their decline is certain to have environmental and economic impacts that will only be successfully address through Europe wide strategies – the alternative is increasing tension between countries and the loss of environment, resources and wealth.

On a lighter note, this report is a good excuse for me to put on the blog these pictures of a coal barge travelling through the Vienna stretch of the Danube.

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Filed under Austrian Politics, Green, International Politics & Global Economics, Politics, Transport, Water

Conservative leader attacks Cameron over EU veto


Talking about last week’s European summit and Britain’s role in Europe, the head of the country’s pro-European conservatives is quoted, here, as saying “Britain must discuss a change of opinion towards Europe. I hope (for a change) because Europe without Britain is unthinkable for me.”

Alas, the leader in question is not a British Conservative showing some signs of sanity and defending the real interests of Britain. Instead the quote is from Michael Spindelegger the leader of Austria’s conservative ÖVP and the countries Vice Chancellor. Unlike the political landscape of the UK, in Austria it’s the conservatives who are often described as the most pro-European of the parties.

Austria currently has the lowest unemployment in Europe, growth has (up until recently) been healthier in comparison to much of Europe (including the UK), and (for the present) the country retains its AAA rating. The Euro has contributed to the country’s economic success and the collapse of the currency would potentially cause significant damage – as it would to the UK.

For many living Austria the Euro crisis has often seemed to be something happening elsewhere – a little irritating, far off, giving money away! However, the country’s debt figure is 73% of GDP compared to 60% only a few years ago and Italy’s troubles have brought matters closer to home as it is a very significant trading partner. The talk now is of debt brakes, taxation and cutbacks especially in the country’s extensive bureaucracy.

Thus Austria is learning that it isn’t quite the Alpine ‘island’ in the middle of Europe that frankly is the way you often feel living here. Getting to grip with the debt, ensuring unemployment remains low (tackling the issue of youth unemployment) and getting the Euro sorted (with or without some of the current club members), all whilst maintaining social cohesion would, I think, sums up mainstream opinion here in the Republic. The anti-euro, anti-Europe glee currently coming out of some sections of the UK body politic sounds particular strange from here given the importance of the European market to Britain, the lack of growth, rising unemployment, as well as the UK’s dependence on the outcomes of decisions from the Euro zone, the States and China.

Don’t get me wrong I’m not actually suggesting that Austria is a model that the UK should be following. In fact, despite Britain’s problems, Austria and other EU members could still gain from adopting some aspects of the Anglo-Saxon approach. It’s just that the little Englander stuff I’ve been reading in recent days reminds me of that rather interesting solution suggested in Tudor times for avoiding invasion from the Spanish Armada – send the English fleet north with ropes and grappling hooks, then tow the British Isles out into the Atlantic.

In all seriousness, sitting here on this ‘Alpine island’, the option of trying to get the Euro/EU back on track looks a much safer bet than putting up the keep out signs and rotting away in obscurity.

 

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Filed under Austrian Politics, British Politics, International Politics & Global Economics, Politics

Gaddafi and the far right?


Another curious story about the Austrian far rights Middle-East and North African links and policies. It will be interesting to see whether the allegation of Libyan money funding the FPÖ have any substance or not.

http://www.austriantimes.at/news/General_News/2011-07-18/34995/Strache_sends_emissary_to_Libya

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Filed under Austrian Politics, International Politics & Global Economics, Politics

So do we really live in a global village?


Following up on a tweet by @Liberaldemokrat I’ve just read a rather interesting article in Die Presse.com:

http://diepresse.com/home/wirtschaft/international/674649/Globalisierung_Die-Welt-ist-rund-und-doch-kein-Dorf?_vl_backlink=/home/wirtschaft/index.do

Luckily for me Google translate does a reasonable job on this occasion and I recommend the article (with translation) to other mono-linguistic English readers.

Decided to look for something by Pankaj Ghemawat and found this fairly recent blog post in English covering some of the points from the Die Presse article:

http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2011/05/globalization_in_the_world_we.html

Personally I’m not sold on the idea that globalisation is automatically a bad thing nor that we really do all now live in some mono cultural global village, so I found Pankaj Ghemawat’s ideas of particular interest. Looks like globalisation will now go on my summer reading list along with research on the Austrian first and second republics, and various areas of Liberal thought. This excitement will of course be balanced with the more mundane work of visiting vineyards and attending Austria Wien and First Vienna football matches 🙂

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Filed under Austrian Politics, International Politics & Global Economics, Liberal Politics, Politics