When EU leaders took delivery of Europe's first draft constitution at a summit in Thessaloniki, Greece, last June, it was with almost universal acclamation. \nThere was wide agreement that the text could save the EU from paralysis once it expands from 15 to 25 members next year, giving it more stable leadership and greater clout in the world. \nIt was too good to last. \nThe product of a unique 16-month public debate, the draft approved overwhelmingly by a convention of lawmakers and national representatives chaired by former French president Valery Giscard d'Estaing has become a battleground. \nFormer Italian prime minister Giuliano Amato, vice-president of the forum, recalled mixed feelings as he watched government representatives stand together for Beethoven's Ode to Joy, the official EU anthem, on the day the text was adopted. \n"I said to myself, they are doing this because there is a second round, not because they are convinced," he said. \nLess than four months later, the same leaders opened that second round on Saturday by drawing red lines, digging trenches and trading veiled threats to block agreement or cut off funds if they don't get their way. \nThe tone was polite, but unyielding. There was none of the thunder and personal venom that marked recent EU disputes over the Iraq war or agricultural subsidies. \nIn a bland joint statement, the leaders stressed that the constitution "represents a vital step in the process aimed at making Europe more cohesive, more transparent and democratic, more efficient and closer to its citizens." \nBut the sharp differences they set out over voting rights, the size and composition of the executive European Commission, defense cooperation and the role of religion set the stage for a struggle over power in an enlarged EU in the coming weeks. \nGrowing worry \nItalian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's hopes of wrapping up a deal by Christmas seem far from certain to be realized. \n"I left Thessaloniki confident that we would achieve by the end of the year an agreement on a constitution that would be very close to what the convention proposed," Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt told reporters. \nNow, he said he felt a growing worry that positions were drifting further apart. \nWhile the six founding members of the EU -- Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg -- plus Britain and Denmark, want as little change as possible to the draft, the 10 mainly central European countries due to join the 15-nation bloc next year seek to alter the institutional balance. \nA majority of small states are afraid of being steamrollered by the five biggest countries and are determined to defend the disproportionate voting rights they won at the 2000 Nice summit and to each keep their national member of the EU executive. \nTheir suspicion that the "big boys" bend the rules to suit themselves has been hardened by the recent spectacle of France and Germany flouting the budget deficit limits they imposed on the entire EU in the 1990s to underpin the euro single currency. \nSmaller states, which made painful sacrifices to obey those rules, are furious at the prospect of Paris and Berlin escaping punishment in the name of spurious "special circumstances." Spain and Poland have dug the deepest trenches, fighting to preserve the weighted voting system adopted at Nice which gives them almost as much power as Germany, although they have only half its population. \nPrime Ministers Jose Maria Aznar and Leszek Miller, renowned as two of Europe's toughest negotiators, disavowed any interest in bargaining away their acquired rights for other benefits. That prompted French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to draw an explicit link between a constitutional deal and the EU's future financing. \nThe threat was clear: if Poland and Spain, key beneficiaries of EU aid to poorer regions, want to avoid alienating Europe's main paymaster, Germany, they will have to yield. \nBut Madrid and Warsaw have EU law on their side. Unless there is a unanimous agreement to change the voting system, the Nice rules will continue to apply. \nEU experts fear that would create exactly the paralysis which the convention was established to overcome following the nightmare of the marathon wrangling in Nice. \nEuropean Parliament President Pat Cox warned the leaders on Saturday that it would be harder to get a "miserable lowest common denominator" treaty ratified if it unravelled the main achievements of Giscard's constitution. \n"A retreat to the Treaty of Nice would condemn the enlarged EU to gridlock," warned Claus Giering and Janis Emmanouilidis in a research paper for the Bertelsmann Foundation think-tank.
ILLUSTRATION: MOUNTAIN PEOPLE
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Johnny Chiang (江啟臣), tasked with reforming the party and returning it to the viable political force that it once was, is faced with a Gordian knot. The complexities of the job ahead go beyond appealing to a younger generation of voters. Chiang might have to decide between jettisoning much of what the party originally stood for and preparing it for a return to the Presidential Office, or doubling down on its founding purpose and representing what is increasingly, in the current state of Taiwanese politics, a minority view. The KMT, as the founding party and self-proclaimed champion
Although concerned over the impact of many citizens returning from Europe and the US while those nations cope with soaring COVID-19 infection rates, Taiwan has handled the pandemic with alacrity and seems to be successfully managing the process compared with many others, including European nations and the US. Despite its proximity to China, by March 3, Taiwan had only 42 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and one death, while Japan had 287 cases and six deaths and South Korea had 4,812 cases and 28 deaths. This is of considerable interest internationally because Taiwan is not only located near China, but is relatively densely
On Tuesday last week, Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said that he would ask government officials to assess the possibility of holding an online conference with international disease prevention experts to share Taiwan’s methods of limiting the spread of COVID-19. Su was responding to a question by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Charles Chen (陳以信), who had said that Taiwan should capitalize on its first-rate disease prevention experts and experience to “show the world its loss for excluding [Taiwan] from the WHO.” Chen is right. Taiwan must use this time — when the nation’s international profile has been elevated due to its pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly exacerbated the trend of US-China decoupling. For more than a decade, these two countries relied on each other for mutual economic growth and prosperity. Historian Niall Ferguson refers to this symbiotic connectivity as “Chimerica,” in which both nations worked closely to deal with the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis, championing state-controlled capitalism through massive economic rescue packages. However, the “Chimerica” nexus seems to have come to an end. As bilateral ties have worsened amid trade and media disputes, the entangled US-China relationship further complicates the development of geopolitics and the global economy. In recent years,