Top of the Agenda: France's Hollande Sworn in as President
Socialist François Hollande was sworn in as the seventh president of the Fifth Republic of France today, vowing to "open a new path for Europe" (NYT). Hollande defeated incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy earlier this month in a contest that was seen as a popular rejection of Sarkozy's embrace of Germany's strict austerity response to the eurozone sovereign debt crisis. Hollande, who has called for a so-called growth pact to complement a German-engineered fiscal treaty mandating EU-wide debt limits, is set to fly to Berlin tonight to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
"Never before has a new relationship between German and French leaders been as strained as this one. Merkel refused to meet with Hollande during the election campaign and often presented herself as a supporter of losing candidate Nicolas Sarkozy. Meanwhile, Hollande campaigned against Merkel's European Union fiscal pact, her greatest European policy achievement to date," write Der Spiegel's Ralf Neukirch and Mathieu von Rohr.
"The EU should mobilize its structural funds to finance reforms in labor markets, product markets and higher education. The EU must also do more on what is typically called industrial policy. One idea would be to use the EU budget as collateral for the issuance of so-called 'project bonds' that would co-finance industrial projects with the European Investment Bank," writes Philippe Aghion for the Financial Times.
"In pressing Berlin to embrace programs favoring growth and not just belt-tightening, Hollande would likely find plenty of support from other EU members, including Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and other countries struggling with draconian budget cuts. Whether Hollande will also get support in such efforts from German Chancellor Angela Merkel is a big question, with serious ramifications for the EU--and the global economy," writes CFR's Charles A. Kupchan in this First Take.
China Concerned Over U.S.-Australia Military Ties
China is concerned over burgeoning U.S.-Australia military ties, Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr said during a visit to Beijing. The United States recently began deploying U.S. marines to northern Australia (BBC), part of an agreement that will see 2,500 stationed in Darwin by 2017.
Chinese financial authorities may set up a new mechanism for foreign pension funds (WSJ) to invest in the country's capital markets--outside of the official Qualified Foreign Institutional Investor program--in an effort to jumpstart its beleaguered stock market.
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
Pakistan May End NATO Blockade
Pakistani leaders will discuss today ending a blockade of a NATO supply route from Pakistan into Afghanistan that was put in place after a U.S. air strike killed twenty-four Pakistani soldiers late last year. Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said yesterday it was time for Pakistan to "move on" (AFP).
ISRAEL/PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES: Palestinians are expected to protest in the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem (al-Jazeera) to commemorate the so-called "day of catastrophe," or Nakba, marking the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.
EU Raids Somali Pirate Bases
EU naval forces conducted their first attack on pirate bases along the Somali coast, reportedly rendering five pirate vessels "inoperable" (BBC). The EU recently expanded the mandate of its military mission targeting Somali pirates--Operation Atalanta--by allowing forces to strike land targets.
A surge in pirate attacks off the Somali coast in recent years has prompted the deployment of an international coalition of navies. But experts say that military force alone cannot address the underlying issue of failed Somali governance, says this CFR Backgrounder.
This CFR Independent Task Force report encourages the Obama administration and Congress to adopt a "pro-America" trade policy that brings to more Americans the benefits of global engagement.
Obama's Economic Message to Graduating Women
President Barack Obama gave the commencement speech at Barnard College on Monday, urging the school's all-female graduating class to "fight for a seat at the head of the table" in the midst of an election cycle that has put a spotlight on women's issues ranging from economic equality to reproductive rights.