Top of the Agenda: Cameron's Referendum Promise Draws Worry From EU
In a long-awaited speech Wednesday, UK Prime Minister David Cameron promised a referendum (Reuters) on the UK's place in the European Union if he wins an election in 2015, ending months of speculation over the county's future role in the union. Cameron said that the UK would seek to claw back power from Brussels, but declined to be drawn on whether he would campaign for a no vote if he failed to secure changes in negotiations. The speech drew frosty responses (FT) from member countries like France and Germany, who told Cameron on Wednesday that the EU could not be treated "à la carte," while Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said the plan would undermine a fragile economic recovery.
"David Cameron is making three assumptions in seeking to change the basis of Britain's EU membership and then put this 'new settlement' to an in-out referendum. That our partners want Britain in at any price. That they will negotiate a new treaty in which Britain's demands can be easily accommodated. And that the British government will be able to determine the timetable. All these assumptions are highly questionable," writes Peter Mandelson for the Financial Times.
"Cameron feels that he must demand something from the rest of Europe in return for saying 'yes' to treaty change around monetary union in the future. So the first risk he runs is that other EU members will call his bluff. In which case, when he calls the referendum--because he will probably promise a referendum--rather than arguing in favor of staying inside the EU under a new deal, he will be forced to campaign against staying inside the EU," says Robin Niblett in this interview with CFR.org.
"Politically, David Cameron wants and needs a renegotiation of Britain's terms, either unilaterally or, he hopes, as part of a wider redrafting of the EU treaties. His estimation is that the other EU members, wrestling with the overall shape of the Union, may be persuaded to grant the concessions which would help ensure that the UK remains within the club," writes Brian Taylor for the BBC.
North Korea Could Face More Sanctions
South Korea and the United States are considering their own sanctions (Yonhap) on North Korea in addition to a new UN resolution that increased sanctions for its December rocket launch. U.S. and South Korean envoys will discuss the matter during talks on Thursday in Seoul.
CHINA: China said Wednesday denounced the "illegal occupation" of disputed South China Sea islands by the Philippines, and said that its request for UN tribunal intervention would only complicate the issue (Reuters).
A committee in India set up to strengthen rape laws in the country submitted its report (TimesofIndia) to the home ministry on Wednesday. The committee was launched in the wake of the gruesome gang rape of a physiotherapy student on a Delhi bus last month.
SRI LANKA: Lawyers in Sri Lanka are preparing to boycott a ceremonial welcoming event for its new chief justice amid controversy (Bernama) over the removal of his predecessor.
Israel Looks at New Coalition Government
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed a mandate to a third term as premier, but his Likud party garnered only thirty-one seats in the Knesset, seeing a surprise second-place finish for centrist party Yesh Atid. Coalition talks (Haaretz) are set to begin as the right and left battle for seats.
At Foreign Affairs, Noam Sheizaf discusses why Israel's liberal opposition has been so fragmented.
JORDAN: Jordan opened polling stations Wednesday for the first parliament vote (al-Arabiya) since mass protests in the wake of the Arab Spring. Islamists vowed to boycott the vote.
U.S. Begins French Troop Airlifts in Mali
The U.S. military began airlifting French soldiers and equipment to Mali to support their operation against Islamist militants (NYT), although it has yet to agree to a request from France to provide refueling tankers for its warplanes.
NIGERIA: Boko Haram militants, who are fighting to create an Islamic state, have been blamed for the deaths of at least twenty-three people in attacks in northeastern Nigeria (BBC) this week.
CFR's John Campbell raises the debate in Nigeria between human rights and security necessities in this blog post.
Russia Downplays Evacuation From Syria
Russia said on Tuesday it had begun evacuating scores of citizens out of Syria, but denied the move was the start of a mass exodus (Reuters). Moscow, one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's staunchest allies, says it has no intention of propping up the regime but insists Assad must not be pushed from power by outside forces.
Haiti Shakes Up Cabinet
Haiti's government reshuffled its cabinet for the second time in five months after months of speculation over the stability of President Michel Martelly's twenty-month presidency (MiamiHerald). The president and prime minister have come under fire recently for their extensive traveling.
VENEZUELA: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's son-in-law, a minister, gave an "encouraging" report on Chavez's health (LAHT), but set no date for his return to Venezuela.