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Eamon Gilmore at the helm of the OSCE

Posted on by Ray Donoghue

By Paul Cunningham, Europe Correspondent

Ireland is at the helm of a major international organisation and the responsibility for directing policy for its 56 member states falls to Eamon Gilmore.

For 2012, he holds the title of Chairperson-in-office of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, or the OSCE.

The OSCE’s mandate is to promote democracy and open government, as well as trying to prevent conflict and to negotiate peace.

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Lowering Expectations and Rising Tensions: the Informal EU Summit

Posted on by Tony Connelly

By Tony Connelly, RTE Europe Editor, in Brussels

The verdict from the markets on the May 23 informal summit in Brussels is already clear.

The euro slumped to a 22 month low against the dollar, investors flooded into the safe haven of German bunds, and fevered speculation continued about a Greek exit from the euro.

Before the meeting officials did their best not to raise expectations. This was after all an informal meeting and normally no big decisions are taken. “These meetings tend to have an up curve in the markets in advance, and then a down curve immediately afterwards,” lamented one EU diplomat. “We’re trying to get away from that.”

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What can the EU summit deliver?

Posted on by Tony Connelly

By Tony Connelly, RTE Europe Editor, in Brussels

EU officials are playing down expectations of any major decisions at the Informal Summit in Brussels, but there is plenty of scope for an unprecedented clash on the kinds of solutions the eurozone needs.

The big ideas involve the ECB, eurobonds and the new permanent rescue fund the European Stability Mechanism (ESM). What makes this summit fraught with expectation is that for the first time Germany and France will be at loggerheads on the fundamental issues.

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Ratko Mladic called to account at The Hague

Posted on by Ray Donoghue

By Paul Cunningham, Europe Correspondent, in The Hague

Former Bosnian Serb army chief Ratko Mladic arrived into the chamber today with a look of defiance.

He may face 11 counts of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, but he gave a thumbs-up sign to the public gallery and clapped his hands. Dressed in a blue suit and shirt with a green tie, he donned his glasses and studied documents.

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Restarting the Franco-German Motor

Posted on by Tony Connelly

By Tony Connelly, RTE Europe Editor, in Berlin

What kind of bond will Angela Merkel and François Hollande forge?

Until recently the chemistry between French and German leaders provided plenty of chin-stroking for European policy wonks and academics. But these days the unemployed, struggling businessmen, mortgage-holders and families from Cork to Corfu have an anxious interest in how these two get on and what they decide is best for Europe’s economy.

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The Search for Eurozone Growth

Posted on by Tony Connelly

By Tony Connelly, RTE Europe Editor, in Brussels

Now everyone is singing from the growth hymn sheet, but not everyone is singing the same tune.

At one end of the pew are those that say austerity should be tossed away as soon as possible, at the other those who insist growth will only come AFTER sound public finances have been restored.

Bunched in the middle are the majority, including Chancellor Merkel and the Irish government, who say growth and fiscal consolidation (read austerity) are two sides of the same coin.

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France: The Morning After Optimism

Posted on by Tony Connelly

By Tony Connelly, Europe Editor, in Paris

And so another European leader has fallen into the eurozone debt crisis vortex.

Gone is Nicolas Sarkozy, only the second ever incumbent to be kicked out by the French after one term. In his place is Francois Hollande, a politician who, despite his storied affability and modesty, is presenting himself as the man to turn Europe – perhaps even the world – away from the path of austerity.

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Fear and Loathing: Understanding the extreme right vote in France

Posted on by Tony Connelly

By Tony Connelly, Europe Editor

In the village of Dugny, to the north east of Paris, a small group of political activists have gathered in the home of Gil Clavel, a local ski instructor. Monsieur Clavel, who drives a peugeot that has seen better days, is serving home made buns and coffee to two portly and polite middle-aged ladies, and a young man named Charles, in his small, white painted terraced home.

The excited chatter and the rattle of coffee cups are redolent of a suburban book-club, but political pollsters have identified this harmless-looking gathering as the vanguard of a rather shadowy force which has upended the political order.

All four are members of Marine Le Pen’s National Front. She won nearly 18% in the first round of the presidential election, and is now poised for a sweep of new seats in June’s legislative elections.

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What next for Promissory Notes?

Posted on by Tony Connelly

Tony Connelly, Europe Editor, in Copenhagen

The government is putting the best gloss it can on the Anglo promissory notes deal, but opinion is divided as to how much has been achieved.

The exchequer doesn’t have to find €3.06 billion immediately, and it can potentially ease the state’s return to the bond markets in early 2014. On the other hand the deal will still cost the state €90m in costs, and it will have to be revisited in one year’s time.

In simple terms, instead of making at €3.06 billion payment to IBRC (formerly Anglo), the state has issued a 13 year bond which will allow the bank to secure the payment via a one year refinancing operation through Bank of Ireland (BoI).

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Anglo “promissory notes” dilemma enters critical phase

Posted on by Tony Connelly

By Tony Connelly,  Europe Editor

Across Europe, news organisations will be preparing to cover the Irish referendum on the fiscal stability treaty.

It’s never been an easy topic for the uninitiated: in the past correspondents have had to grapple with complex and emotive campaign issues like whether or not the Lisbon Treaty (or the Nice Treaty for that matter) would force conscription on young Irish males, take away Ireland’s right to prohibit abortion, or force us to increase our corporate tax rates.

This time round the international media will be scratching their heads over Promissory Notes, and what part they might play in the referendum campaign.

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