• March 30, 2016

    Protect or innovate? Of Marseille Soap and other traditional products

    How to protect non-food products which are emblematic of a geographical area? The European Commission is working on the extension of both protected designation of origin (PDO) and protected geographical indication (PGI) system for non-agricultural products. What are the challenges? Is such a regulation adapted?

  • March 11, 2016

    Boris Johnson, tea bags and the complexity of law

    Boris Johnson, in his plea for Brexit, develops the familiar theme of excess of niggling and stupid standards coming from Brussels. But the proliferation of legal texts is not to be blamed on the European Union. It reflects the tensions between conflicting aspirations of a complex society, the demand for ever greater security and the refusal of any hazard.

  • Feb. 24, 2016

    Does France really need solar roads?

    Contrary to its neighbors and partly due to the low cost of its nuclear electricity, until recently France did not show much interest in solar energy. The country now seems to be catching up. Public policies are implemented, both to encourage households and to foster an industry which has not yet reached maturity. Only thing is, one can hardly make sense of some of these policies.

  • June 19, 2015

    The case for a European data policy

    A consistent set of European standards could prove to be a lever for framing a digital industrial policy. In a legal framework where individuals come under high protection, the winners will be the enterprises who inspire enough confidence to obtain the users’ consent to access and use their personal data. Trust, says Rachel Botsman, is the currency of the 21st Century. Maybe. But data is the commodity of the future, and those who can combine trust and valuable data can lead the race. It has just started.

  • March 26, 2015

    The dark side of the Californian dream

    If the structural problems of inequality, racism, immigration and unemployment seem beyond our control, why not simply change what we can, here and now? And why not use our cell phones and laptops to do it? Because Silicon Valley itself shows us it won’t work.

  • Nov. 29, 2011

    Is Asia afraid of China?

    At the 6th East Asian Summit in Bali on 19th November the Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao, found himself the butt of almost universal criticism from the leaders of the ten-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) both for Chinese territorial claims and recent provocative actions in the South China Sea. Supported by the United States as well as India, Australia and Japan, the ASEAN countries insisted on multilateral negotiations over these questions, while the Chinese remained firm on the principle of bilateral solutions in which they would have a distinct asymmetrical advantage.

  • Nov. 26, 2011

    Strategic Games around Free Trade Agreements in the Asia-Pacific

    Barely a week after the G20 in Cannes, ten of the 20 leaders reconvened half way across the world in Honolulu as part of the annual summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC), together with other Pacific Rim leaders. APEC summits are usually quiet and polite affair. This time, however, APEC became the scene of great diplomatic games and one more match in the growing strategic rivalry between China and US. Indeed, the US decided to use APEC as platform for strategic reengagement into Asia and balancing China’s growing dominance. This game may well be the one with the most significance for the future of the world economy.

  • Nov. 23, 2011

    Can Technocratic Government be Democratic?

    The resignations of Papandreou in Greece and Berlusconi in Italy, replaced by technocratic governments, have raised questions about the democracy of technocracy. These questions only gain in intensity when we add the EU Commission’s increasing powers of surveillance of member states’ national budgets, let alone those of the Troika (IMF, European Central Bank, and EU Commission) when it comes to eurozone member states that have had recourse to loan bailouts (Greece) or to the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF). The answers to such questions are mixed. Berlusconi's replacement with a technocratic government—precipitated primarily by global market pressures—may actually be a sign of democracy at work. Papandreou's replacement—precipitated by the pressures of the eurozone powers and Papandreou’s own ill-advised gamble on ‘direct democracy’—depends upon how things play themselves out. As for the technocratic governance of the EU, this is where the democracy deficit may be greatest.

  • Nov. 16, 2011

    The New Everyday

    Much of what I have previously written in this website suggests a powerful, albeit mostly implicit, motif. The profusion of technological information that is characteristic of our age is rapidly moving beyond the borders of social and economic institutions in which it was originally spawned in the form of filing, indexing and data processing. It increasingly infiltrates and ultimately colonizes everyday living. The relevant developments are certainly associated with the massive involvement of the internet in social life but they have further been reinforced by growing bandwidth, media convergence and social networking. They have, of late, been given a new push by the the rapid diffusion of a battery of potent portable and connectible digital devices such as smartphones, digital cameras and tablet computers that are operating across the traditional semiotic borders of text, sound and image and the separate technological conventions to which reading, listening and viewing have traditionally belonged.

  • April 17, 2011

    Africa, AIDS and governance

    Sub-Saharan Africa is by far the world region most affected by AIDS. It is estimated, according to UNAIDS, 2.2 million people were newly infected with HIV / AIDS in 2008, bringing to 24.1 million people living with HIV / AIDS in the worst case. Because there seems to be a link between AIDS and poverty in Africa, and a link between poverty and bad institutions, the epidemic raises the question of the quality of institutions, and after all, it can appear as an incentive to improve institutions.

  • April 12, 2011

    The trouble with the European Stability Mechanism

    The meeting of the European Council on 24-25 March focused on shoring up the battered Eurozone infrastructure through the European Stability Mechanism. This column argues that the mechanism is seriously flawed. It says it is unlikely to withstand the shock of a severe financial crisis and may even spread the damage to high-debt countries, while leaving the Eurozone in the grip of paralysing vetoes. (in French; English version available on VoxEU)

  • March 31, 2011

    The Libyan Intervention in the Rear View Mirror

    When we look back on the Libyan intervention, will we think of it as another Rwanda, another Somalia, or something else entirely? ‘Rwanda’ reminds us of the shame of inaction, ‘Somalia’ reminds of the costs of poorly executed action, and ‘something else’ stands for the promise of doing the right thing.

  • Feb. 18, 2011

    The Fog of Currency War

    One way to expose the economic mumbo-jumbo that is applied to the Chinese exchange rate by otherwise respectable economists is to look at it from the perspective of Germany and international trade. China-bashers, who from stuttering economies lecture those who have presided over the biggest economic miracle that has occurred without thieving foreign lands or labour, like to focus on current account imbalances. A better measure of competitiveness would be the trade account. The current account includes“hot money inflows that come under the exchange control restrictions and have ballooned since the China-bashers created the belief that the renimbi is a one-way appreciation bet. China’s annual trade surplus with the world was $184.5bn at the end of 2010 or 3.6% of GDP. More than ten significant economies have a larger trade surplus as a percent of GDP than China. Natural-resource-poor Germany is the most interesting analogy and it has the largest 12-month trade surplus in dollar terms in the world: $205.4bn or 6.0% of GDP. (in French)

  • Feb. 4, 2011

    Energy: Nabucco’s comeback

    Since its launching in 2002, the Nabucco pipeline project has had several lives. Many times it was given as death, but it finally managed to rise from its own ashes. Even though the Russian-Ukrainian gas crisis in 2006 transformed Nabucco into a top priority European project, in the last few years it advanced a little but backed up a lot, resulting in barely concealed mockery. This pattern is true and depicts Nabucco’s situation before the economic crisis. The latter, with its negative effects, brought a breath of fresh air for the European project and its proponents have used it rather wisely. The latest developments in Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan are encouraging with regard to the equation of supply sources. It seems that Nabucco is back.

  • Dec. 23, 2010

    The European debt crisis: worrisome delusion

    In the December 17 issue of the Financial Times, Lorenzo Bini-Smaghi has produced a brilliant, if slightly patronizing, defense of the no-default strategy currently pursued by the euro area authorities. His arguments are that public debts are widely-held instruments so that a default would harm domestic banks and domestic citizens, possibly triggering bank runs and forcing governments to take administrative measures like the Argentinean corralito, that true democracies do not do this kind of things, that it would be a “quick fix” with much worse consequences than tight fiscal policies and structural reforms. These are mostly solid arguments though it would be interesting to understand why democracies cannot default and what structural reforms have to do with fiscal discipline and, if they do, how soon their beneficial effects can be felt. (in French; an English version has been published on VoxEU)

  • Nov. 5, 2010

    EU: tax harmonization in sight?

    Led by EU Commissioner Algirdas Šemeta, the new Tax Policy Group brings together personal representatives of EU Finance Ministers to discuss key tax policy issues. The Group aims to work on fundamental topics such as how taxation can contribute to a stronger Internal Market, to the growth and competitiveness of Europe's economy and to a "greener" economy. It will also serve as a forum for deeper discussion on priority matters, such as financial sector taxation, common consolidated corporate tax base and the new VAT Strategy. What are the prospects for tax harmonization? (in French)

  • Nov. 4, 2010

    The 2010 French pension reform

    The 2010 French pension reform has now been passed by the French Parliament, after weeks of protests, strikes and even riots, all of which have aroused incomprehension in foreign media. The headline increase of the “legal retirement age” from 60 to 62 sounded to most pundits a very small step towards the sustainability of public finances when many European countries have already increased normal retirement age to age 67 or even 68. This short piece is not about the reasons behind the acute reaction of the French street – which would encompass much more than pensions. It aims simply at presenting the reform, its likely distributional impact and its effect in terms of financial sustainability. (in French; Italian version on LaVoce, English version to be published on VoxEU).

  • Oct. 29, 2010

    What does People's Bank of China's latest rate hike tell us?

    On 19 October, the People’s Bank of China announced a series of rate hikes. Although economists have been arguing for monetary tightening for months, this move was a surprise to many in the market. This column argues that the moves were aimed at combating domestic inflation and addressing the risks of an asset bubble. (French version on Telos, English version on VoxEU).

  • Oct. 15, 2010

    The Two Rebalancing Acts

    A “strong, balanced, and sustained world recovery” as demanded by the G20 is a daunting challenge for policymakers. This column argues that two rebalancing acts are required: internal rebalancing – replacing government spending with private-sector demand, and external rebalancing – addressing the global imbalances between exporting and importing countries. These two rebalancing acts, it adds, are taking too long. (French version on Telos, English version on VoxEU).

  • Oct. 1, 2010

    Beyond New Labour?

    This week, the Labour Party’s annual conference was marked by the inaugural speech of its new leader, Ed Miliband. The campaign for the leadership of the Labour Party had been perilously close: Ed Miliband only emerged as leader after four rounds of voting. His brother, David Miliband, former Foreign Minister in the government of Gordon Brown, had been the favourite to win the election. Keen to appease the tensions that the campaign had unleashed within the Party, Ed Miliband’s first speech as leader was a reconciliatory affair: the Guardian newspaper warmly described him as staking out the reformist centre-ground, much like Tony Blair had done in the mid 1990s. But what of New Labour? And what future for the British left?