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THE INDEX—October 5, 2009

Ireland voted in favor of the European Union's Lisbon Treaty by a two-to-one margin in what Irish Taoiseach Brian Cowen called a "clear and resounding" endorsement. "It is a good day for Ireland and a good day for Europe," he said, praising the referendum's 67.1 percent "yes" majority. The Lisbon Treaty contains several reforms designed to streamline EU institutions, including instituting a full-time president and a foreign minister to present a united position on Europan policies. Irish voters deadlocked the reforms in June 2008 when, in a first referendum, they rejected the treaty, which needs to be ratified by all 27 EU member states in order to take effect. But the severity of this year's economic downturn, as well as guarantees from the EU on key issues of Irish sovereignty, persuaded voters to change their minds. Voter turnout was recorded at 58 percent in this weekend's polls, and the results displayed a swing of 20 percent since the first referendum. The European community widely welcomed the results: Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, whose country currently holds the EU presidency, said it was becoming possible for the EU to "push the button for the better European co-operation that the Lisbon Treaty will give us." The EU will now turn its attention to Poland and the Czech Republic, the only two countries yet to ratify the treaty. Upon hearing the results of Ireland's referendum, Polish Prime Minister David Tusk said he hoped for his country to ratify the Lisbon Treaty "very quickly." But in the Czech Republic, eurosceptic President Vaclav Klaus will not take action until the Czech constitutional court rules on the matter, and he said ratification is "not on the cards" anytime soon.

At the annual International Monetary Fund/World Bank meeting in Istanbul, economic ministers rejected calls against new financial regulations from industry officials. Josef Ackerman, chairman of the Institute of International Finance, the global bankers’ association, objected to the series of financial regulations passed at the G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh last month and to any current or future plans for additional regulations. “There is a trade-off between maximizing stability of banks and optimizing growth of the real economy,” Mr. Ackerman said, citing proposals to raise the quantity and quality of capital that banks must hold, add capital buffers for systemic firms, impose liquidity requirements, and levy taxes on banks to compensate for bailout and stimulus packages. The entire global economy would “pay a high price” for too much regulation, Mr. Ackerman added. In response, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner insisted that such regulations are “not anything like the biggest risk we face today.” Mario Draghi, governor of the World Bank and chief of the Financial Stability Board, which is developing these regulations, added, “I think it is a bit premature to be concerned about the excess of rules at this stage, frankly.” Also being discussed at the annual meeting are fundamental IMF reforms that would chart an “exit strategy” from the recession. Additionally, the IMF will listen to calls from BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) for increased voting power in IMF/World Bank governance. Several European nations have objected to such lending reforms, noting that they still contribute the lion's share of IMF/World Bank funds.

The Nigerian government's amnesty program was hailed as "a huge success" after Government Ekepemupolo, the last prominent militant in Nigeria's oil-rich Delta region, agreed to lay down his weapons, the Presidential Amnesty Committee said. Ekepemupolo, who is more commonly known as Tompolo, heads the main rebel faction in the western Delta. He led hundreds of his followers to disarm in a ceremony on Saturday in exchange for promises of cash and education from the government. Ateke Tom and Farah Dagogo, two other rebel leaders from the eastern Delta, also gave up their weapons on Saturday. "It's an indication that peace has finally come to the Niger Delta," said Nigerian Defense Minister Godwin Abbe. "The time has come for us to settle down as a country and find a solution to the problem that led to the crisis in the region." Militant groups began to surface in the Nigeria's Delta region in 2006, saying proceeds from oil wealth had not benefited local people and demanding a redistribution of wealth. But clashes between Tompolo's fighters and Nigerian troops in May prompted a major government offensive against insurgents in the region. Part of this offensive includes a 60-day amnesty program, which came into effect in August and offers cash, education, and rehabilitation to any rebels that agree to lay down arms. Though unable to give any concrete figures as of yet, the government said it expected more than 10,000 fighters in the region to disarm.

Honduras' interim leader, Roberto Micheletti, annouced today he will rescind the 45-day decree of emergency rule issued last month after ousting President Manuel Zelaya in the June coup d'etat. The decree had suspended many civil liberties, including bans on two radio stations loyal to President Zelaya, and prohibited public gatherings of more than 20 persons. Zelaya was ousted in June after angering powerful conservatives by hinting he would change the Honduran constitution to extend his term in office, triggering a constiutional crisis. He fled the country, but has since returned secretly and is staying at the Brazilian embassy. The Organization of American States, which some commentators have criticized for an inability to effectively address the crisis, has scheduled negotiations between Zelaya and Micheletti for this week, though each party shows no signs of conceding. In Tegucigalpa, one reporter laments, ”Roberto Micheletti and Manuel Zelaya have shown themselves to be political novices without the maturity and intellect to guide this country out of this crisis.” The international community has condemned the coup, and the United States has suspended aid to Honduras. Presidential elections are scheduled for November 29 and, while Zelaya and Micheletti are both legally prohibited from running, both appear intent to do so.

Eight U.S. soldiers were killed in Afghanistan on Sunday, marking the deadliest attack on coalition soldiers in more than a year. The killings, in eastern Nuristan Province, on the border with Pakistan, come as the U.S. and NATO continue to send vague and sometimes conflicting signals about their future commitment to the Central Asian nation. National Security Advisor Jim Jones has called this a “strategic moment” in Afghanistan. U.S. fatalities have been steadily increasing each year since 2006. The senior U.S.-NATO commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, has publicly called for more forces in Afghanistan and has privately requested as many as 40,000 additional forces. But Jones, frustrated about McChrystal’s public pressure, cautioned in a speech in London that President Obama is considering many different options. “Ideally, it's better for military advice to come up through the chain of command," he said. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates advised patience as a presidential decision is reached: “it is important that we take our time to do all we can to get this right." Over the weekend, the new head of the British army supported escalation, noting that reinforcements would enable achieving objectives more quickly, but other NATO member nations have tacitly refused to commit more resources.

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