The European Union must find ways to simplify its "excessively complicated" budget rules that are rarely met by struggling economies and discourage investment, the IMF said on Thursday. The criticism, made in an IMF report on the state of the eurozone economy, comes amid a renewed debate over the EU's Stability Pact, a strict set of fiscal rules requiring member states to keep their deficits in check. In the report, which was presented in Luxembourg to eurozone ministers by IMF head Christine Lagarde, the fund warned that the pact "has become excessively complicated with multiple objectives and targets."
China's veto of an alliance between major Western shipping firms shows its growing heft now extends to crucial global competition regulation -- and analysts say it uses the power to protect its own commercial interests. Beijing's commerce ministry on Tuesday rejected a proposed cooperation agreement involving the world's three largest container operators -- all Europe-based -- citing a negative impact on competition, particularly on Asia-Europe routes. As the world's biggest container shipping user China is a key market for the trio -- Denmark's A.P. Moeller-Maersk, France's CMA CGM and the Swiss MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company -- and they immediately abandoned the plan. "The main purpose is to protect the overseas development of domestic shipping companies," said Jiang Yuechun, director of the Department for World Economy and Development Studies at the China Institute of International Studies.
The cost of policing WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's asylum at Ecuador's embassy in London has passed Â£6 million, Scotland Yard said Thursday, two years to the day since he sought refuge there. The Â£6.4 million ($10.9 million, eight million euro) figure comes after Britain's Foreign Office urged Ecuador to bring Assange's "difficult and costly residence to an end". Assange has been holed up at the embassy in London's prestigious Knightsbridge district to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faces allegations of sexual assault. He fears extradition would lead to him being sent on to the United States, where he could face trial over WikiLeaks' publication of classified US military and diplomatic documents.
By Susan Heavey WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. public's confidence in its lawmakers in Washington, which has been on the decline for decades, is now at a historic low not just for Congress but compared to any major U.S. institution, according to a Gallup poll released on Thursday. Just 7 percent of Americans surveyed said they have "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence overall in Congress, down from 10 percent last year, the non-partisan polling firm said. "This is the lowest confidence score Gallup has recorded for any institution - ever," Gallup said in a statement. Confidence in U.S. lawmakers has been falling ever since Gallup began surveying the public about Congress in 1973.
By Julia Fioretti BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union countries need stricter controls to protect citizens from spying, a top data protection official said on Thursday, a warning that may rekindle a debate about snooping before an EU summit next week. Revelations by former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden about mass surveillance of global Internet traffic and phone records have prompted calls in Europe for tighter safeguards and a review of data-sharing agreements with the United States, but so far with few concrete results. In a letter to European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, data protection official Peter Hustinx expressed concern that EU heads of state might fail to make a strong enough commitment to protect their citizens.
Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) (AFP) - The Saudi-based Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, representing more than 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide, affirmed Thursday a commitment to unity in combatting "sectarian" policies. OIC members will stand "united in combatting sectarian, confessional, and exclusion policies that have led to sedition in some countries and threatened their security and stability," said a statement issued at the end of two-day meeting in the Red Sea city of Jeddah. The statement, read by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, did not explicitly name Iraq although many countries, including Saudi Arabia, have said the "sectarian" policies of Baghdad's Shiite-led government are to blame for the takeover by Sunni insurgents of key cities and large swathes of that country. His comments came in response to a question on Baghdad's allegations that Saudi Arabia should be held responsible for militant financing and crimes committed by insurgent groups in Iraq.
Media mogul Rupert Murdoch urged U.S. lawmakers to tackle far-reaching immigration reform, saying that scrapping quotas on special visas and promoting paths to citizenship would boost U.S. growth and innovation. The chairman of 21st Century Fox and News Corp has also pressed for immigration reform in his native Australia in the belief that freer borders there and in America would boost trade relationships. In an opinion piece published on Wednesday on the website of the Wall Street Journal, which he owns, Murdoch admonished opponents of such change in the United States "as being dead wrong about the long-term interests of our country". "One of the most immediate ways to revitalize our economy is by passing immigration reform," said Murdoch, himself a former immigrant who became a naturalized American citizen in 1985.
Ukraine's parliament on Thursday confirmed as foreign minister Pavlo Klimkin, the current ambassador to Germany who also represents Kiev in peace negotiations with Russia. Klimkin, 46, replaces acting foreign minister Andriy Deshchytsya, who became embroiled in controversy at the weekend when he used a swearword to describe Russian President Vladimir Putin while trying to restrain protesters who attacked Moscow's embassy compound in Kiev.
Before his stunning defeat, Majority Leader Eric Cantor didn’t just believe he would be the next speaker of the House. He also believed he would be a thought leader in the Republican Party. In 2011, Cantor dispatched a top aide to build a network of high-profile outside groups to cement his place in a GOP shaped in his own image and set the agenda for the party as a whole. Now, rejected by Virginia Republican primary voters, Cantor is reeling personally from the loss, of both his seat and his leadership ambition. But the groups he helped build to promote his ideology are in flux, too. Donors and establishment Republicans who once poured millions of dollars into them must decide whether it’s still a good investment to fund organizations that advocate for policies and candidates reflective of Cantor’s vision for the party’s future.
Nine days after Eric Cantor’s shocking primary loss, House Republicans will gather on Thursday behind closed doors to elect new leaders in the congressional equivalent of a papal conclave. And while such an event seems, on its surface, to be the sort of political sport that engages only the inside-the-Beltway class, it also has potential ramifications for the larger GOP moving forward, as conservatives and establishment members square off over the future of their party. The secret-ballot election, which will take place at 2 p.m. in the Longworth House Office Building’s ornate Ways and Means Committee room, could last for hours. Members are at a minimum choosing a new majority leader, replacing Cantor, and most likely also voting in a three-way race for majority whip. Though leadership elections are often messy affairs, this particular election seems especially fraught, as the conference’s insurgent conservatives hope not to squander the political window opened by Cantor’s upset loss at the hands of a tea party challenger.
Israel fears that a jihadist offensive that has swept up swathes of Iraq may prompt concessions to arch-foe Iran from its longtime ally the United States. "If Washington needs Tehran's help to solve the Iraq crisis, the United States will need to be more flexible in negotiations on Iran's nuclear programme," public radio cited a senior official as saying. Tourism Minister Uzi Landau warned: "We're in a situation where, to confront the threat from the global jihad, we rely on Iran and its allies." The rise of the jihadist Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which has seized Iraq's second city Mosul and a swathe of its north and centre over the past 10 days, has prompted talk of possible cooperation between Washington and Tehran to help stop the insurgency.
The man who led the US troop surge that preceded Washington's exit from Iraq after a costly eight-year war says there should not even be US air support without major change in Baghdad. The comments from General David Petraeus, who commanded US troops in Mosul -- Iraq's second city which fell to jihadists last week -- during a long military and intelligence career, came as the Shiite-led government in Baghdad formally asked for air support. Petraeus made a name for himself during the Sunni Arab insurgency that followed the US-led invasion of 2003 for questioning policies that he said risked fanning the resentment of the minority community that dominated Saddam Hussein's regime and all previous governments in Baghdad.
Iran's position in critical nuclear talks is "worrying", with no change on most issues, a Western diplomat said Thursday on the sidelines of negotiations in Vienna. "It is worrying that there is no evolution on the part of the Iranians on most subjects, including sanctions," the diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity.