A blog by an American expatriate living in the heart of New Europe

"It's a lateral transfer" -- George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States
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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

With a heavy heart at the news of the tragedy at the Halemba mine, I wish you a peaceful and happy Thanksgiving. More than ever, today it will be easy to remember all of the things we have to be thankful for.

Friday, November 17, 2006

No way we can lose now

Bo will be watching over the Wolverines at the Horseshoe tomorrow.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Is free trade too much to ask?

Poland's demand that Russia play fair is burning up both Brussels and Moscow

The EU and Russia had been preparing the love fest for months. On November 24, representatives from Brussels and Moscow were to meet in Helsinki to hammer out a new partnership agreement. This “landmark” agreement was meant to strengthen the EU-Russia relationship, though exactly how was unclear.

Poland, however, had other ideas. Foreign Minister Anna Fotyga has made use of Poland's veto on the mandate necessary to launch negotiations. The move has officials in both Brussels and Moscow apoplectic with rage – and accusing Poland of blackmail, settling scores, and putting narrow national interest above the interests of the EU.

Forget that other more powerful EU nations have already committed those same sins – I wouldn't defend them either – the reality is that Poland's veto was the right move against a trading partner that is trying to manipulate the energy market for political gain, as well as sow disunity among EU members.

Poland has demanded that before it lift its veto, Russia must first either sign a transit protocol of the Energy Charter Treaty, which would open up Russia's gas pipelines to foreign competition, or ratify the treaty altogether, which would end state-controlled Gazprom's monopoly. Additionally, Poland demands that Russia finally lift its unjustified ban on Polish agricultural goods.

Both are issues on which the EU should support Poland. The food ban is little more than a thinly-veiled political slap in the face, as for a year Poland has made every effort to satisfy the Russians on the supposed “hygienic” criteria Russia says Poland's products do not meet. It's well-known that Russia's food-hygiene standards are far lower than the EU's, and yet Polish food products are exported to, sold in, and eaten in every EU member state. What is it about Polish food that isn't good enough for the Russians?

Window of opportunity

On energy, the EU has a slim window of opportunity now to force at least some movement on Moscow's obstinate stance on its gas market. The Kremlin, through Gazprom, has a stranglehold on all of Russia's gas exports, leaving those supplies open to political manipulation. At the moment, the EU is relatively immune to that manipulation, as it isn't yet totally dependent on Russian gas – but it soon will be. Russia hoped to bring that reality closer at the Helsinki talks.

Conversely, without the EU market to sell its energy to, Russia would be unable to fund its shaky economic recovery. By the time another chance to negotiate another “partnership agreement” rolls around, China may be just as big a customer as the EU, making Moscow better able to dictate terms. If the EU wants a dependable supply of gas free of political interference, it ought to insist on energy liberalization.

The current partnership agreement expires soon, but can be automatically extended. Moscow has much to gain from a closer relationship (it's hoping for endorsement of its WTO bid), the EU very little. The EU ought to take this opportunity to make sure Moscow treats each EU member with the same amount of respect, and diversifies its gas market, before it's too late.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

U.S. politics

Democrats win House

Rumsfeld aside, is this going to change anything? I foresee gridlock.

Rummy resigns


Is there anything more to say?

Monday, November 06, 2006

Final scores, game 3

Warsaw Eagles 19 : Pomorze Seahawks 6

Wrocław Crew 20 : Poznan Fireballs 0

Standings after regular season:

1. Warsaw Eagles: 3 wins, 0 losses
2. Pomorze Seahawks: 2 wins, 1 loss
3. Wrocław Crew: 1 win, 2 losses
4. Poznan Fireballs: 0 wins, 3 losses

The championship and thrid-place games will be held this Sunday at 12:30 pm and 9:00 am respecitively, at the RKS Marymont Stadium on ul. Potocka 1, in Warsaw. It's Poland's first-ever American fooball championship. So come along, have some fun, and be a part of history!

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