Syd Barrett is dead

by Harry on July 11, 2006

BBC obit here.

Bear hugs

by Henry on July 11, 2006

This “FT”:http://us.rd.yahoo.com/finance/news/ft/SIG=119k1ua5r/*http://us.ft.com/ftgateway/superpage.ft?news_id=fto070920061427320025&referrer_id=yahoofinance op-ed by Timothy Garton Ash, Dominique Moisi and Alexsander Smolar makes some good trenchant points about the EU’s increasingly tricky relationship with Russia.

bq. Europeans are faced with a delicate balancing act in their policy towards Russia. Should the message be one of trust in a re-emerging power whose energy resources are vital to us, or wariness of a regime whose authoritarian instincts are clearer than ever? … Today we may be witnessing the emergence of competition between European states for privileged relations with Moscow and favoured access to Russian gas. … he time has come for the EU to develop a genuinely European policy towards Russia. While seeking a long-term strategic partnership with its giant Eurasian neighbour, the EU should not hesitate to ask three elementary things of Russia. …The first of these requirements is that Russia should allow its neighbours to determine their own futures. … The second requirement … Energy contracts should be clear, binding and respected … The third strategic requirement has to do with certain minimal standards of legal and political conduct inside Russia’s borders. …Non-governmental organisations should be allowed to function properly in civil society and media independence should be a reality. … The concepts of “sovereign democracy” or “managed democracy” advanced by Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, remind us of yesterday’s concept of “people’s democracy.”

I was too busy grading to write a post a few weeks ago on Cheney’s comments on Russia’s slide into autocracy. These were undoubtedly hypocritical (Cheney was perfectly happy to kiss up to nasty Central Asian autocrats a couple of days later) but nonetheless dead on target. Russia is a real problem for both the US and Europe, but EU member states don’t want to face up to it. They’re increasingly dependent on Russian energy resources, and Russia has made it clear that it’s willing to exploit this dependency towards political ends. It has very successfully been playing the game of divide and rule, making individual deals with EU member states (many of which have been notably willing to reach agreement, sometimes under rather dubious circumstances). There were some mutterings a month or two ago about a special energy summit to be convened by the Finns, but as far as I know, nothing has come of this. Unless the EU comes up with a common approach to energy policy, its member states are likely to find their political choices greatly curtailed in coming decades. As far as I can see, there’s no sign that the EU is willing to do this.

Incoming!

by Maria on July 11, 2006

When I heard Jonathan Edelstein, aka the Head Heeb, had been to Ireland recently and was planning to write something about it, I knew we’d be in for a treat. Today he’s posted a very informative piece on immigration in Ireland. It’s a good overview from someone who has a lot of comparative knowledge about immigration and can place our experience in a wider context. From being a net exporter of people up to 1995, we’ve been an immigration nation since, with 10% of people living in Ireland today born elsewhere. And it’s only getting started.
[click to continue…]