Just today Italy is yet again on the brink, facing its own political collapse. The Christian Science Monitor Weekly Digital Edition But it is with incomprehension that Europe views the US this week, after a congressional dispute over President Obama’s healthcare plan led to a US government shutdown. So far European markets have reacted calmly to America’s political gridlock. And the shutdown has little direct impact on specific transatlantic relations. But it does add to a sense in Europe that the US is bogged down and focused elsewhere, even as discontent over governance is equallydiscernible on both sides of the Atlantic. RECOMMENDED: Think you know Europe? Take our geography quiz. It fuels an already confused debate when it comes to the future of transatlantic relations, says Ian Lesser, senior director for foreign and security policy at the German Marshall Fund of the United States in Brussels. Europe is already worried that the US is pivoting to Asia, and what this would mean for European strategic interests…. [The shutdown] will also reinforce existing European anxieties about a more inward-looking, less activist US. The Obama administration has acknowledged the global impact of the shutdown. It does have an effect on our relationships around the world and it cuts straight to the obvious question: can you rely on the United States as a reliable partner to fulfill its commitments to its allies? Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said to reporters this week. It does cast a very significant pall over America’s credibility to our allies when this kind of thing happens. A loss of confidence in the US? While a long-term shutdown would impact the global economy and thus Europe, it doesn’t directly mar transatlantic policies, such as the trade agreement negotiations that are underway. But it is the expression of a deeper problem of failed checks and balances that will impact American ties with Europe, says Josef Braml, a transatlantic expert at the German Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin. If the superpower has no room to maneuver, it will have to shift burdens to foes and friends, he says, which will then create a wedge.
The Treasury has said it will exhaust measures to stay within the limit by Oct. 17 and warned that a default could have catastrophic consequences that might last for decades. The government will run out of cash to pay bills between Oct. 22 and Oct. 31, according to the Congressional Budget Office. House Republicans met in Washington yesterday to discuss their negotiating tactics, with Speaker John Boehner telling party members that he will not allow a U.S. default, according to a person in the room speaking on condition of anonymity. This is political posturing rather than any interest in achieving actual results, Parry said. Were already getting hints of the Republican party backing down. National benchmark indexes fell in 11 of the 18 western European markets this week. Germany s DAX retreated 0.4 percent, while the U.K.s FTSE 100 (UKX) lost 0.9 percent. France s CAC 40 decreased 0.5 percent. Italy Vote Italys FTSE MIB surged 3.7 percent, the most since July. Letta won a confidence vote on Oct. 2 with support from former premier Silvio Berlusconi, who reversed his position after initially trying to bring down the five-month-old government by withdrawing his ministers from the coalition. Popolare di Milano surged 16 percent and Mediobanca gained 12 percent in Milan trading.
More than a hundred people are confirmed dead and the death toll is almost certain to rise dramatically. Although it may be awful, sadly this is neither an unusual nor unfamiliar story. According to the UNHCR, in 2012, some 15,000 migrants and asylum-seekers reached Italy and Malta and almost 500 people were reported dead or missing at sea. The figures are damning and shameful. Too many people are dying in their attempts to reach safety in Europe and much more needs to be done to address the root causes of why people risk their lives in this way. One thing is clear — this latest incident is an appalling reminder of what happens when people escaping persecution are denied access to safety at the EU’s frontiers. While we don’t know the personal circumstances of everyone on board this particular boat, we do know that the majority were from Somalia and Eritrea, two of the top 10 sources of refugees in the world, according to the UNHCR. Both are countries with well documented human rights abuses. Dozens dead in Italian boat accident Given this, it’s reasonable to believe that a number of people on board were refugees, fleeing persecution and seeking safety in Europe where there are substantial and settled Somali and Eritrean communities. Yet there’s been considerable head scratching in the media about why people would put themselves at such risk. Why would you get on an overcrowded, potentially unseaworthy vessel and risk your life to make it to Lampedusa? For refugees, the answer is simple — what they’re leaving behind is much, much worse. Somalia and Eritrea’s human rights abuses are well documented. Sexual violence and torture are commonplace.