Top of the Agenda: Ireland Votes in Referendum on Fiscal Compact
The Irish are voting today in a popular referendum over whether to ratify a German-engineered EU fiscal treaty (Telegraph) agreed to earlier this year. The pact, which mandates states to balance their budgets and keep deficits below 3 percent of national GDP, was signed by twenty-five out of twenty-seven EU member countries. An Irish rejection of the pact could close off the country from receiving further EU financial support, potentially leading to a banking collapse. At the same time, such a move would undermine Germany's strict austerity approach to the eurozone sovereign debt crisis.
"But as certain as a majority vote may appear, German Chancellor Angela Merkel will nevertheless be anxiously focused on the activity in Dublin on Thursday. In the past, the Irish have repeatedly proven to be both unpredictable and resistant to being told what to do. Should they reject Merkel's fiscal pact, it would be a further setback for the German chancellor following the election of Socialist François Hollande in France," writes Der Spiegel's Carsten Volkery.
"The case for not getting in is persuasive. Despite the promises of its driver, it is almost certainly not taking you in the direction you want to go: banks whose debt burden is unmanageable but for which taxpayers still have to pay; weaker economies with higher unemployment; falling revenues," says this Guardian editorial.
"Government by treaty also carries with it a deeper democratic deficiency. As with the Lisbon Treaty, the Irish people are getting an up-or-down vote on an agreement whose terms they took only indirect part in deciding, and whose stipulations would bind the decisions of future Irish governments to perpetuity. This is 'choice' only in the Soviet sense," argues this Wall Street Journal editorial.
Asian Markets Fall Over Eurozone Fears
Asian markets dropped sharply on Thursday amid investor concerns over the fragile Spanish banking system and the ongoing eurozone debt crisis, with Japanese and Australian indices (WSJ) recording their worst months since May 2010.
PAKISTAN: Shakil Afridi, the Pakistani doctor who helped the CIA find Osama bin Laden last year, was convicted last week not for his ties to the United States, but for his alleged "close links" to militant group Lashkar-e-Islam (AFP), according to a May 24 court verdict.
Pakistan's stability is of great consequence to regional and international security. Examine the roots of its challenges, what it means for the region and the world, and explore some plausible futures for the country with this CFR Crisis Guide.
U.S. Envoy Pessimistic on Syria Peace Plan
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said yesterday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad appears unlikely to comply with a UN-Arab League peace plan, suggesting that escalating violence in Syria could develop into a regional sectarian war with "arms flowing in from all sides" (NYT).
International efforts to ease Syria's crisis have been limited by divisions in the UN Security Council and a wariness about a military response, explains this CFR Backgrounder.
ISRAEL: The Israeli government today, in an apparent gesture of goodwill, handed over to the Palestinian Authority the remains of ninety-one Palestinians (BBC), including suicide bombers and militants who died carrying out attacks against Israel.
Turkey Hosts Somalia Conference
Officials from fifty-four countries began a two-day conference on Somalia in Istanbul today, focusing on international reconstruction efforts (al-Jazeera) in Mogadishu now that African Union and Somali government troops have largely cleared the capital of al-Shabaab militants.
MALI: The African Union is expected to refer the uncertain political situation in Mali--triggered by a military coup in March that toppled a democratically elected government--to the UN Security Council (Reuters), a source close to the AU chief reportedly said.
BOLIVIA: Opposition politician Roger Pinto has this week taken refuge in the Brazilian embassy (NYT) in the capital of La Paz because of alleged persecution by the administration of President Evo Morales. Pinto has accused Morales' government of human rights abuses, drug trafficking, and corruption.
U.S. Voters' Economy Focus Doesn't Extend to EU Crisis