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Romanian civic spirit at its best

Romanian civic spirit at its best

Feb 14, 2017 - by Lavinia Stan, President, Society for Romanian Studies, Department of Political Science, St. Francis Xavier University

For almost two weeks now, hundreds of thousands of Romanian ordinary citizens and civil society activists have taken to the street in Bucharest, across the country, and even in cities like London where significant numbers of Romanian migrants live and work to protest against the Social Democratic government of Sorin Grindeanu. A little known politician with no previous ministerial experience, Grindeanu was nominated as prime minister by the Social Democrats, who in the December 2016 elections won almost half of all seats in the bicameral parliament. Grindeanu’s name might have never been proposed if President Klaus Iohannis had accepted Social Democratic Party leader Liviu Dragnea as prime minister. But Dragnea was under investigation for fraud, and thus Iohannis warned that unscrupulous corrupt politicians should not occupy high-ranking government positions.

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Brexit Means Brexit Means What? 

 February 16, 2017 - by George Ross, Jean-Monnet Chair ad personam, Université de Montréal

Brexit began with UK PM David Cameron’s flawed strategy to keep Eurosceptics under control by calling the June, 2016 national referendum whose results cost Cameron his job. What soon  followed showed, in Jeremy Kinsman’s words, that the Brexiters were « …the dog that caught the bus : they hadn’t thought what to do next. » The absence of plans was evident in new PM Teresa May’s puzzling announcement that « Brexit means Brexit. »

There followed months of confusion. May appointed three leading Brexiters (including Boris Johnson, who had proposed that the UK could « …have its cake and eat it too») to top Brexit jobs, in part to keep them inside the government tent, but without knowing what they were to do. The new situation also disorganized the British civil service. Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty had to be invoked to negotiate « leaving », but excepting those ready to jump over the Brexit cliff without knowing where they would land, leaving remained to be defined. Among the options were staying in the EU single market without a voice in EU affairs, staying in the EU customs union but jettisoning EU laws, regulations, and practices, « cherry picking » desirable parts of the EU  (protecting the City of London and EU research and development, among others), or cutting EU ties and « going global. » Some even thought that people would return to their senses and overrule the referendum results.

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European Parliament CETA Ratification – Helped by Trump?

February 15th, 2017 - by Amy Verdun, University of Victoria

Today the European Parliament approved the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). There were 695 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) present of which 408 voted in favour, 254 against and 33 did not vote. It brings the completion of the ratification process another step closer. The agreement enables the Europeans and Canadians to trade more freely with one another as well as other forms of deeper economic cooperation. The ratification of the CETA by the European Parliament was not always a given. Some members of the European Parliament worry about the dispute settlement system that has been created together with this agreement. A new tribunal ‘the Investment Court System’ that has been put in place to deal with investor-state disputes. Critics worry that only investors will benefit from this court but that groups of consumers, environmentalists or workers cannot bring cases to it. These concerns were leading numerous voices in Europe and Canada to be sceptical about the astuteness of ratifying CETA.

It seems that with a change in global stance towards free trade, following the election of Donald Trump and the subsequent trials and tribulations of the first few weeks of the Trump Administration may have put the partnership of the EU and Canadian in a more favourable light. In the past, some MEPs were concerned about whether CETA would be a template for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP – the EU-US trade agreement). The first thing Trump has done, however, upon becoming the 45th president of the US, is to scrap the TTIP. Thus, those who would be worried about large US, litigious enterprises, would not need to be concerned about how CETA might pave the way for TTIP (at least not in the short-run). Furthermore, if the CETA agreement fails, it would make it more difficult for the EU to sign trade agreements with other countries.

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