Thursday 17 April 2014

Currently browsing 'Communications'

The EU’s communication strategy has been under the spotlight since the French and Dutch “No”s to the EU’s Constitutional Treaty. The new ‘Reform Treaty‘ in the offing and the European Parliament elections scheduled for Spring 2009 will be major political debates.

 

Ante las elecciones europeas convendría hablar del proyecto Europa 2.0.

Posted by on 10/04/14

Que el proyecto europeo requiere una actualización urgente lo avala el temible dato con que podemos encontrarnos la noche electoral del 25 de mayo en forma de abstención en los comicios a la Eurocámara. Si tal dato se confirma y todos los sondeos país por país así lo atestiguan, quedará claro que a los ciudadanos europeos no les atrae la idea de Europa que sus dirigentes les están vendiendo. Sobre todo en estas elecciones cuando por primera vez en la historia eligen a unos representantes que legislan el 80% de lo que nos afecta y van a nombrar al presidente de la Comisión Europea de la misma forma en que en España el Congreso de los Diputados elige al presidente del Gobierno. Por tanto, podremos medir el apego real de las sociedades europeas a la construcción común, si bien cabe decir en descargo de los previsibles malos datos de participación, que cuanto más lejano es el centro de decisión menor es siempre la participación en democracia, como sucede desde décadas en Estados Unidos, donde la elección de congresistas o del presidente tiene cuotas de voto my inferiores a las de los gobernadores, fiscal de tu Estado o sheriff del condado.

En todo caso, creo que el principal problema que tiene el proyecto europeo llevado a las urnas es su falta de credibilidad ante su población. La Unión no es creíble para los europeos porque no tiene un relato fiable y no lo es porque los gobiernos de los Estados miembros, a los que a todos se les llena la boca retóricamente de europeísmo ferviente cuando se reúnen en Bruselas, a la hora de la verdad solo velan por sus intereses particulares, convencidos de que dicha política les concede mayores réditos electorales en sus territorios. Si los europeos fuimos capaces de iniciar este camino hace ya casi 60 años se debió a un único argumento central: la paz. Dos guerras mundiales y millones de cadáveres nos precipitaron al acuerdo pacífico. Después lo económico invadió todo, un mercado inmenso en posibilidades, abierto y libre se concebía como un escenario de nuevas oportunidades. De ahí devino el euro como la necesidad de uso de una moneda común en dicho espacio y, por precipitación de su uso y de la crisis financiera internacional, hemos parido con forces una unión bancaria. Queda y vendrá inexorablemente o se derrumbará todo el edificio común, un proceso de armonización fiscal que equipare las economías y las personas en derechos y deberes.

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Y hasta aquí la Europa que más o menos pudieron concebir nuestros padres fundadores, los Adenauer, Schuman, De Gasperi, Spaak, Spinelli o Monet. Pero bien entrado el siglo XXI y en plena sociedad globalizada, Europa necesita de una versión 2.0. de su entramado institucional y, ante todo, de su relato hacia los europeos y el resto del mundo. Un mundo que nos observa sorprendido, pues, pese a todas nuestras contradicciones y la falta de una clara idea común, ve que cada vez son más las personas integradas en la Unión y mayor el nivel de interrelación y de comercio. De la misma forma que al contemplarnos no se aclaran si somos una verdadera unidad en el destino o simplemente una unión temporal de Estados que se ponen de acuerdo en lo mínimo que les interesa. Ésta es la primera gran cuestión por dilucidar, el del modelo de organización institucional común entre los socios. ¿Qué somos y qué queremos ser como europeos? ¿Alemanes, franceses, italianos o españoles que nos beneficiamos de una joint venture más o menos ventajosa o ciudadanos europeos que vivimos en distintos territorios, con distintas historias y culturas, pero con una identidad común que anteponemos a cualquier otra? Este es el problema porque a los europeos nunca nos han querido poner en ese brete de elegir si somos más europeos que nacionales.

El principal problema para avanzar en ese concepto de identidad europea no es otro que los grandes Estados nación que han dado forma a la Unión y ahora la tienen rehén de sus contradicciones. Alemania, Francia, Reino Unido, Italia o España son culpables de su prevalencia como pretendidas potencias europeas. Algo que se podría resolver fácilmente si la Europa de los pueblos pudiera ser una realidad. Y me baso en un paradigma sociológico, es mucho más fácil poner de acuerdo a muchas comunidades pequeñas, que a cuatro o cinco grandes. Como es mejor la competencia en mercados de pymes que en fórmulas de oligopolio. Mucho mejor nos iría en Europa si tuviéramos 28 dinamarcas, que 4 francias. Pues en ese modelo de sociedades sería verdaderamente aplicable el modelo federal que reina en EE.UU., donde los desequilibrios entre los Estados son mucho menores que en Europa. La realidad más cercana se administra mejor, pero además tiene más capacidad para la negociación y el pacto porque no pretende la imposición o conquista, sino la búsqueda de acuerdos de asociación que fortalecen sus posiciones.

La otra gran cuestión a dilucidar es la de los recursos económicos que estamos dispuestos a poner en común para el desarrollo del proyecto europeo. El presupuesto actual de la Unión en 2013 alcanzó la cifra de los 150.900 millones de euros, suma elevada en términos absolutos, pero que apenas representa el 1% de la riqueza que generan al año los países de la UE. Es decir, sin ambigüedades nuestra Unión nos importa un 1% de lo que nos interesa nuestra realidad nacional, regional o local. Exiguo margen de gestión le quedan, pues, a las instituciones europeas para dirigir los destinos de los europeos hacia destinos tan ambiciosos como el empleo, la sostenibilidad medioambiental, la innovación o la política de seguridad y exterior. Si no estamos dispuestos a ser contribuidores netos y no meros receptores de ayudas para la construcción de un espacio común diverso y plural, pero enriquecedor para todos, el mundo no creerá nuestro afán de construcción. Con esa ridícula aportación que realizan los Estados para la tarea común, además soterradamente introducen la especie de que se despilfarra en los gastos generales de funcionamiento, es decir, en la burocracia de las instituciones, especialmente de la Comisión Europea. Un organismo integrado por 34.000 funcionarios que unidos a los del resto de las instituciones apenas llega a los 55.000 efectivos para una población de 500 millones de habitantes. Y debe decirse que su ratio de efectividad versus coste es muy superior al de cualquier administración de los Estados miembros que requieren aparatos muy superiores y que no decrecen pese a que sus competencias van siendo cedidas paulatinamente a Bruselas.

Pero en el fondo, lo que está poniendo en tela de juicio a esta Europa en versión vieja, es su modelo de democracia y de sociedad. Ambos elementos determinantes de la convivencia están cambiando a toda velocidad y, sin embargo, nuestros dirigentes no son capaces de dar respuesta a los retos que dicha evolución provoca. La participación política de los ciudadanos es claramente insatisfactoria y produce, junto a una corrupción endémica del sistema, un descrédito de la actuación de los políticos. Vivimos una era digital donde todo fluye a gran velocidad menos las propuestas y reacciones de los políticos. Son ellos los que nos tienen prisioneros en una versión 1.0. de Europa que ya no funciona. Son ellos los que tienen aprensión al cambio y a escuchar nuestras opiniones. Prefieren desconocer nuestras demandas y vivir de ofertas obsoletas aunque los problemas se acumulen a su alrededor. Ven cómo se deteriora su imagen y el de las instituciones que representan y, sin embargo, no hacen nada real por cambiarlas. Se han convertido una vez más en el ancien régime, el antiguo régimen que pretende sacralizar estructuras de funcionamiento que solo proporcionan ya desigualdad e injusticia. La crisis económica les ha puesto contra la espada y la pared, pero pretenden sortearla como si nada hubiera ocurrido, sin darse cuenta de que una vez más se quiera o no, más cruenta o más pacífica, las revoluciones acaban por certificar el cambio. Si fueran responsables y por su propio bien pondrían ya en marcha la versión 2.0. de una Europa basada en el Estado del bienestar que nos hace más comunes y que regenere la democracia participativa como vértice de la convivencia de nuestras sociedades. Si la abstención en las elecciones del 25 de mayo supera el 60% la suerte estará echada.

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Obama in town, common European values off the table…

Posted by on 25/03/14
By Peter Kramer These days all EU political ‘dignitaries’ queue up to be in the picture with him (there is maybe one exception: the Danish prime minster, who has already a selfie with him). When will Obama finally meet his commitment to close Guantanamo detention centre or will he end the use of the death penalty? Legal civil rights, opposition to the death penalty, common European values! But no subject during Obama’s visit.

L’Unione Europea sul nostro smartphone

Posted by on 14/03/14

Agorà Simone VeilSto uscendo dal Parlamento europeo e camminando su Agora Simone Veil, lo spiazzo in pietra rossa che si trova tra l’edificio Alfiero Spinelli e place Luxembourg; dopo pochi passi sotto un sole inusuale, mi sento chiamare. Così mi giro e vedo in lontananza la mia amica A. con il braccio alzato e la mano aperta.

Dopo i convenevoli, A. mi ringrazia per averle inviato un comunicato stampa della Commissione Europea su un argomento che le interessa. Così, mentre ci avviamo verso Place Luxembourg, mi chiede «Ma tu come fai ad avere tutte queste informazioni?»

«Le so grazie a EU Newsroom» le rispondo sorridendo «L’app dell’Unione Europea per Android e Apple».

A. mi guarda, sorpresa dalla risposta così semplice.

«E dove trovo questa app?»

«Sul sito dell’Unione Europea; ti giro il link quando arrivo a casa». Nel frattempo abbiamo attraversato place Luxembourg e ciascuno se ne va a casa seguendo la propria strada.

 

Per scaricare l’app sul proprio cellulare, consiglio di andare al sito: http://europa.eu/newsroom/mobile/index_en.htm

 

“Eat well – feel good” campaign at odds with policy on crystalline fructose and isoglucse

Posted by on 06/02/14

Kathleen Garnett reports

“…… malnutrition today is not caused by want of food but the type food on offer to the poor which is empty of nutrition but rich in fat, sodium and chemicals that only a food scientist without a moral conscience could devise.” Harry Leslie Smith

This week saw a number of alarming reports relating to obesity. Firstly, the WHO published a report warning that obesity (alongside smoking and alcohol consumption) could lead to a 70% increase in the rates of cancers being diagnosed over the next twenty years. Secondly, Public Health England reported that two-thirds of the UK are overweight.

It was also a week in which the European Commission announced a new campaign to encourage school children to “Eat well – Feel good”. The Commission, at a cost EUR 230 million per school year, is merging two separate projects that fund fruit and milk consumption in schools. The Commission press release states,  “In a context of declining consumption among children for these products, the aim is to address poor nutrition more effectively, to reinforce the educational elements of the programmes and to contribute the fight against obesity.”

A well intentioned plan but clearly not working.  Given the choice between an apple (5% fructose) and a sugary-syrupy chocolate bar which one is the kid going to choose? Given the choice between a glass of milk (lactose not fructose) and a Coke (crystalline fructose in high concentrations) which one is the kid going to chose? The fruit is tossed to the bottom of the school-bag left to bruise alongside the empty “biscuit” wrappers.

Parents require nerves of steel and an unbendinding determination to prevent their children from getting access to sugary artificial food products. Even if schools ban sweets, chocolates and sugared drinks from school premises these products are so cheap they easily fall into the budget of children’s weekly pocket money meaning many children can (and do) buy it on the way home from school.

Which does rather beg the question whether officials in the Commission are really talking to each other and trying to tackle the problem of obesity with proper policies and effective legislation rather than passing laws that allow manufacturers of crystalline fructose to peddle their product to the young and vulnerable and to allow manufacturers of starch to increase their production of cheap isoglucose (known as high fructose corn syrup in the US) with which to coat Europe’s processed food?

Campaigns such as “Eat well – feel good”, though well intentioned, can never be effective so long as  other aspects of Europe’s dietary consumption are ignored and glossed over. Perhaps the European Commission may want to consider this comment made by 91 year old Harry Leslie Smith who, responding to a piece on the UK Human Rights Blog addressing the issue of a “right to food”, noted:

Growing up in the North of England in the 1920s and 1930s, I knew hunger as did my ancestors who despite the “charter of the forest” lived miserable, hungry, short lives…

…… malnutrition today is not caused by want of food but the type food on offer to the poor which is empty of nutrition but rich in fat, sodium and chemicals that only a food scientist without a moral conscience could devise.

The issue in this country shouldn’t be about one’s right to food, the issue must be about one’s right to food that has quality and that is not going to happen unless we neuter the food lobby’s influence on parliament and change the way food is farmed, processed and delivered to our stores. Don’t get me wrong because what we face today is a crisis and too many lives have been ruined by this austerity. But no matter how real 21st century want is to those who must endure it, they still don’t know, thank god, the ravenous despair of the Great Depression. Yet if we continue down this road of cutbacks who knows, perhaps my yesterday will be everyone’s tomorrow?

The civil-action group “Sum-of Us” has set up a petition with the following message, “EU Food Standards Agency: Don’t allow Big Food to mislead consumers on fructose health claims.” They are looking to get 70 000 signature and already have 60 205.

Their message may be crude – but in the absence of such campaigns how else are individual consumers, concerned about their children’s health, going to get their message through to those who can affect real change in Brussels?

 

Sustainable communication with EU institutions

Posted by on 21/01/14
Sustainable communication, both with the European Union member states and the European institutions, must be a priority of any European capital. Over the last couple of years Romania has made progress in this regard, but still has some steps to go in order to achieve sustainability. What do we need to achieve this? What is [...]

Game changers in Romanian Presidential elections 2014

Posted by on 19/12/13
Imagine it‘s November 2014 and you are witnessing the first round of Romanian Presidential elections. If things stay as agreed between the partners in the Union of Socialists and Liberals, and the economy does not crash (a very unlikely scenario since it had the biggest growth in EU28 in 2013), Crin Antonescu, the leader of the National Liberal Party (PNL) will win at a limit the first tour; or, if not, he will be a strong favourite for the second tour of the Presidential elections. In the latter case, unless a United “Opposition” finds a true charismatic with a strong message (improbable for the moment), Crin Antonescu will be Romania‘s next President.
But things aren‘t always as scheduled in Romanian politics, quite the contrary. There can be several gamechangers in Romanian Presidential elections in 2014: some relate to international factors, some deal with internal politcs, and some with personalities.
I. International game changers
There are some international gamechangers for 2014. They have to do with the foreign media, external stakeholders‘ backing, elections in Hungary and Moldova, and a possible comeback of the financial crisis.
First, the foreign media: it can have an impact on the Romanian elections by their perceived, or supposed, objectivity in endorsing candidates. Since the President is the one who is the country‘s top external messenger, an assessment of its foreign credentials is key. In this context and if the elections move towards foreign representation as main theme, a former foreign minister with top contacts, like Mircea Geoana, can be a strong contender for Antonescu.
The same comment goes as regards external stakeholders, particularly the ones from Washington, Berlin and, as European Union mouthpiece, Brussels (here, it would be interesting to see the new Commission President, as well as the balance between the two main political families, the EPP and the S&D). Antonescu is a liberal (ALDE), and the EPP and S&D would logically prefer one of their own in the European Council (the Romanian Constitutional Court considered that it‘s the EPP President Basescu, and not S&D Prime Minister Ponta that should represent Romania at EU Summits).
For the first time, there will be top elections, in the same year, in Romania, Moldova and Hungary. If Viktor Orban tries to pump up the nationalist agenda, there will be responses from Bucharest, possibly altering the Presidential thematic agenda. That can lead to the PRM (nationalists) scoring bigger than expected in European elections in May next year, and possibly negotiating their support for the second Presidential tour. At the same time, if one of the candidates in the Romanian elections tries to bet, as a main theme, on a “union” with Moldova, this might take a more central role on the electorate‘s agenda. According to a November poll by IRES, over 70% of Romanians favour the idea of reunification with the Republic of Moldova.
One last “black swan” at this chapter, a possible comeback of the financial crisis. If this is the case, Romania will be affected by the international / European wave and “it‘s the economy, stupid!” might become central to the election. Otherwise, it‘s tough to make it a central part of the debate since a majority of the people seem to appreciate that no more salary or pensions cuts were done since the USL is in power; quite the contrary, they tried to get the level of salaries and pensions back to pre-austerity level, despite criticism that the money could be better used for investments.
II. Internal politics game changers
There are three gamechangers: USL breaking up, USL under a strong erosion via internal fighting in parallel with a United “Opposition” with a strong theme and charismatic leader, as well as the multiplication of urban youth protests.
First, USL breaking up, most probably in March 2014, before European elections where socialists and liberals are running separately; this means the PSD (the social democrats) will have to present a candidate, as Romania‘s biggest party. That will most probably be Victor Ponta. Unless the right wing unites behind Antonescu or any other candidate, Ponta is very likely to win the confrontation, helped by party discipline (the PNL‘s quest to become a “mass party” has alienated part of its traditional, mostly white collar liberals, electorate – this will show in May 2014, at European elections). If Victor Ponta thinks the PSD has a better chance with somebody else, like Sorin Oprescu or Mircea Geoana, he will probably prefer to stay on as PM.
Second scenario is USL going through a strong erosion but staying in one piece. That would mean that an “Opposition” candidate, most probably Catalin Predoiu, coming from the biggest opposition party organization (PDL / liberal democrats), could stand a chance in a second tour with a strong message based on USL-related economic and political disappointment. But Predoiu -like Mihai Razvan Ungureanu in case he will manage to get last minute support (he has a smaller organization, the Civic Force/ FC)- needs to secure his flank and count on President Basescu‘s endorsement, in order to have genuine success hopes.
Third black swan is the multiplication of urban protests, like was the case for Rosia Montana (with hashtags #rosiamontana and #unitisalvam). While mobilizing people who traditionally do not go to vote, the multiplication of urban protests can be a game changer from multiple perspectives: hijaking the agenda (the Facebook audience is 6 million out of 20 million) by forcing some TV coverage (parties still count on TV as the main channel to speak to “grassroots” Romania); giving or consolidating the impression that “something is rotten” in our Denmark (contributing thereby to erosion as well as blocking national plans dealing with energy security – the Chevron shale gas case); as well as, last but not least, channeling some key tens of thousands of votes -mostly negative ones- in the second tour of Presidential elections. This might affect Victor Ponta more than Crin Antonescu (the latter had similar views with the “crowds”) in case they compete against each other next year.
III. Personalities, as game changers
There are two personalities who can be absolute game changers -by their traits- in next year‘s elections. One is Mugur Isarescu, the other one is Sorin Oprescu. Mugur Isarescu is the highly respected central banker, who has been leading the National Bank (BNR) for more years than Alan Greenspan ruled the FED. According to polls, Isarescu would win against any opponent. The only question is if this is what he wants: not that probable, since he seems to target a renewal of his mandate at the BNR. Plus, as a cautious person, he would not get into the race unless he would be sure to win, and for that he needs backing from one of the three main parties: PSD (who knows?, and that would provide a tremendous spin doctoring surprise), PNL (not as long as Antonescu is the leader) or PDL (but they just nominated Predoiu as their candidate).
The second personality would be Sorin Oprescu, maire of Bucharest, in case the PSD decides to support him. He has a strong personality, he profiled himself as an anti-system politician to get support from voters across party lines. His Achilles heel is also his strong point: the personality. Let us not forget that PM Ponta‘s interest is to have a nice and decent partner at the Presidential Palace, who would leave the reigns of the country to the Government, and not a combative player.
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One final note about corruption. It has been a key theme is Presidential elections in 2004, it lost its “magic” in 2009, and will probably not be a game changer next year. The reason is pretty simple: despite the recent outcry on possible legislative modifications as regards the status of MPs, people do see politicians from different parties going to jail or getting prosecuted; the feeling of impunity is not as strong as it was in the past so it’s hard to turn the fight against corruption into a game changing theme.
To conclude, our assessment is that there will be a combination of factors and black swans, a mixture of the categories above, that will change the “expected” result at next year’s Romanian Presidential elections.

End of a period – Goodbye 2007-2013, Welcome 2014-2020!

Posted by on 19/12/13

Last week was an important week for us for two reasons: the first Horizon 2020 calls for proposals were finally launched on 11th December and we had our last training course of 2013, EU R&I Project Management and Financial Reporting, which took place in Vienna on 12-13 December.

It was Europa Media’s first time in Vienna to organise a training course. We are always keen to try new destinations, which is why in 2013 we have been for the first time in Madrid, Copenhagen and now in Vienna. In fact, we ended up travelling quite a lot in 2013. In addition to travelling for our general courses, we have been to Bilbao, Bonn, Brussels, Istanbul, Krakow, Leuven and London to deliver in-house courses at universities, research institutions and industry who wanted to get a kick-start to Horizon 2020 or tackle financial and technical challenges that they face during the implementation of their FP7 projects. We of course also travelled for kick-off or periodic meetings of our new and ongoing projects.

So, coming back to Vienna, we had a very good course and a very good time there last week. We welcomed 38 participants from 15 different countries representing all types of institutions including universities, research institutions, ministries, SMEs and large industry. This time we were in a quite designy hotel (see below the “Christmas tree” which was at the lobby), which also offered panoramic views of Vienna from its 18th floor.

 

 

Just like in our Budapest course the week before, we also had Christmas markets featuring our Vienna course. So, we had the chance to visit various Christmas markets of Vienna after an intensive day of training. Once we thought that we had enough glühwine, we naturally had to top it up with a Wiener Schnitzel at one of Vienna’s cosy cafés. This was also an occasion to celebrate the birthday of Gábor which coincidently was on the first day of the training.

We have now arrived to the end of the 2007-2013 financial period of the EU as well as to the end of the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). We are now looking forward to stepping into the 2014-2020 period and the new EU Research and Innovation Framework Programme – Horizon 2020. Having had a very dynamic year full of training courses, projects and travels, our team definitely deserves a break and will be recharging for a kick-start to 2014. The next months will surely be much about putting together and submitting proposals for the first calls of Horizon 2020 while at the same time continuing to travel for training courses and project meetings.

We are now off to our yearly Christmas party and wish you happy holidays and the very best for 2014!

Ömer

A guide to the Ukrainian media: priceless!

Posted by on 15/12/13

I received this excellent text from Vadym Omelchenko from the Gorshenin institute. I want to share it with all interested immediately, and I basically made no edits:

“In the tensed situation in Ukraine today, the Gorshenin Institute experts analyse both the essential senses and the resources used in the political battle occurring today in Ukraine. We are often asked today what the likely developments are and how far the confrontation could go. The answer to this question depends on many factors. Here I want to touch upon a major aspect. One of the main resources in such situations is obviously the mass media. Here is a snapshot of the Ukrainian media just before the protests occurred. All the central TV stations in Ukraine were controlled by the power and oligarchs. It was the same for the nation-wide printed media. It is worth mentioning here that shortly before the events, the largest Ukrainian media group – UMH – was sold to the emerging Ukrainian oligarch Sergiy Kurchenko who is considered by Ukrainian experts to be linked to the closest entourage of President Yanukovych. This group comprises more than 90 media, including top-ranked Forbes Ukraine and Korrespondent. Obviously, all the aforementioned media were loyal to the power, and their information policy was accorded with the strategies of Yanukovych at a given moment. Thus, for example, at the stage of the preparations for the signature of the agreement with the EU, these media actively promoted the idea of the European integration, and after the failure to sign, as actively they were explaining the reasons for the re-orientation towards Russia. A few top internet sites were remaining an island of freedom, including Ukrainska Pravda, lb.ua, censor.net.ua and some other.
The situation started changing rapidly with the burst of protests. These were the internet sites that were the first to undergo attacks. According to IT-specialists, the denial-of-service( DDos) attacks that have been practiced for already one month continuously, 24h round, are unprecedented for their intensity and technical support in the history of the Ukrainian Internet. In terms of technology and intensity, specialists compare those to the attacks on the web site of the Russian opposition publication “Novaya Gazeta”.
As result, all these sites have experienced full cuts several times, or operated with irregularities. We have an extended technical understanding about the types of the DDos attacks applied, but experts draw our attention to another point. These attacks are targeted not at just one publication, but at all the top-ranked internet media. The largest Ukrainian internet portal ukr.net suffered as result of the attack. i.e., the intensity of the attack is such that even providers are not able to withstand the load.
And this has occurred despite the fact that all the Ukrainian top sites are operating based on remote servers located in Europe or in the USA. However, the specialists have coped to mobilize and find technical solutions allowing for a relatively seamless operation of the sites and online coverage of all the events happening in the country. However, everybody understands that the attacks continue, the aggressor tests the sites protection, and the likelihood of a simultaneous cut of all the internet resources in Ukraine is not excluded. The pressure on the internet media went beyond just Ddos attacks, culminating in the Berkut special police detachment breaking into the office of cenzor.net publication on 9 December and destroying the servers.
As curious is the situation in the televised and printed media after the start of the protests. Top-ranked Ukrainian TV stations owned by Ukrainian oligarchs and covering the whole territory of Ukraine have manifested and continue keeping an objective attitude. TV channels Inter owned by oligarch Dmytro Firtash, 1+1 owned by Igor Kolomoyskiy and Privat Group, EastOne founder Victor Pinchuk’s media holding comprising channels ICTV, STB and Novy, and even Ukraina TV and radio company belonging to Rinat Akhmetov, regularly provide objective information about the events in Ukraine in their news. They present both the chronicles of protest and the reaction of the Ukrainian and international politicians, their local correspondents provide immediate information from all Ukrainian regions. The news reports are balanced, and do not have the manipulative or partial character typical for Ukrainian media. There is no censorship either.
One may have a feeling that the journalist teams have an emotional sympathy for the protesters. And if with regard to the Ukrainian politicians, the attitude is cautiously neutral, the TV stations have a strongly critical attitude as for the representatives of the law enforcement bodies involved in the crackdowns and in the beating of the protesters.
At the same time, it is important to note that none of the central TV channels switches on a continuous live streaming at even the most emotionally tensed moments. Even the 5th channel owned by Petro Poroshenko does not provide a continuous live streaming from Maidan. It is amusing to see how, at the moment when there is a one-million people march on the streets of Kyiv and activists are speaking from the stage of Maidan, the channel plays commercials for fitness machines. I.e. everything is reduced to rather regular news editions.
We read this as a the revolutionism or revolution turnaround missing in the Ukrainian media’s attitude. Which is rather reflective of the state of things in the society. Our monitoring of the printed media shows that the media controlled by Kurchenko and VETEK media holding present more the position of the President, and criticize the opposition. Furthermore, they stress on the success of the leadership in the foreign policy, including the European direction. The civil strength of the protest is hushed to a certain extent. According to these media, the protest is organized by the opposition leaders whose popularity is dubious. These media also speculate on the advantages and disadvantages of Ukraine’s European and Russian vectors. At the same time, the largest daily newspapers Fakty (Pinchuk) and Segodnia (Akhmetov) present an objective image. Moreover, positive coverage of the rallies and protests and criticism prevail in Fakty. Zerkalo Nedeli (Mirror Weekly), an independent Ukrainian media, traditionally reflects the position of the civil society in a fair manner.
It is to mention that the local media in the East of Ukraine are under control of the central and local administrations, at the same time as in the West of Ukraine, the media are independent. The inhabitants of the eastern regions get also information from the Russian TV channels, although their audience, according to the measurements made by the Gorshenin Institute, tend to shrink from year to year. Thus, today, one may say that the position of the central Ukrainian media is a major resource for the civil society. It is via the position of the Ukrainian media that the citizens of Ukraine join the protests rather than vice versa. This is another important element differentiating Ukraine from other post-Soviet states.”

Jan Techau: ‘We are no longer the coolest dudes on the planet’

Posted by on 26/11/13
By Joop Hazenberg Jan Techau is the director of Carnegie Europe, a think-tank in Brussels that focuses on Europe’s foreign policy. I had a fascinating interview with him, because the discussion focused on precisely the right issues of my book 'The Next Europe'. If you read Techau’s blog, you may get pessimistic about Europe’s future: we are no longer the coolest dudes on the planet; there are other cool dudes on the block.

European lotteries, policy makers and stakeholders are key partners in the fight against match fixing

Posted by on 18/11/13

12/11/2013

Gambling experts, sports commentators, athletes and EU decision-makers gathered in Brussels today for the first European Lotteries Sustainable Gambling Conference in the European Parliament. The event, hosted by MEPs Hannu Takkula and Santiago Fisas Ayxelà in the European Parliament, aims to address where things stand on match-fixing in Europe and discuss the solutions to it while highlighting the role of lotteries – the historic partners in the EU Member States – in promoting the highest sports integrity standards and ensuring fair sports betting.

 

“While we must remember that most sport is absolutely positive, attacks upon the integrity of sport have increased in recent years”, declared MEP Hannu Takkula (Finland, ALDE) when opening the conference: “As policy makers, we have made good progress, including tackling match fixing and illegal gambling; yet more needs to be done. We need seamless teamwork and all stakeholders, including governments, sports organisations and sports betting operators need to recognise that it is only collectively that we can build a credible defense against this threat.”

 

The gross revenue of lotteries across the EU reached over €30 billion in 2011, whilst their overall contribution to society amounted to more than €23 billion in the EU indicated Patrice Muller, from London Economics. Lotteries contribute to their national Treasury, but also to sports and other good causes. For example, a shift of 20% of consumer spending on lottery products to other gambling operators represents “a clear net loss in contribution to society of approximately €4.6 billion per year”.

 

According to Pascal Boniface, founding director of IRIS (Paris-based Institute for International and Strategic Relations) who presented a White Paper on match fixing, “regulation and supervision of the operators themselves is key. Poorly regulated environment creates higher risks of match fixing and are fertile grounds for fraud and money laundering”. His recommendations include improving procedures for identifying winners and requiring betting operators to draw up suspicious transaction reports.

 

Panelists discussed concrete solutions to match fixing. Pierre Delsaux, the European Commission Deputy Director-General for Internal Market and Services, said that “the Commission is actively engaged in the ongoing negotiations of the Council of Europe on a Convention on the fight against the manipulation of sport results. This is an important step as increased cooperation at European and international level of public and private organs (sport organisations, betting operators and supervisors, police and judicial authorities) is key to fight against match-fixing”.

 

MEP Santiago Fisas Ayxelà (Spain, EPP) underlined: “any measure at EU level should take the ‘subsidiarity’ principle into account, respect each Member State’s rules and the autonomy of the different structures’ governing sports.” However, the EU could have “added value” and help promoting good practices and complement the actions of Member States in areas such as the fight against doping and corruption in the world of sport, “match fixing” practices, promotion of voluntary sport activities and programmes of social inclusion through sport or sustainable financing of grassroots sport.

 

Declan Hill, world-wide known expert on the matter, insisted on the threats that sport is facing: “We in sport are at war. The very nature and existence of our passion, our ideals and our values in sport are in danger. We must understand this modern-day phenomenon of globalised match-fixing in order to fight it properly.”


EL President Friedrich Stickler concluded: “Sport in Europe is threatened by wide and deep networks working with criminal organisations and operating with complex techniques. The time has come for all parties involved: sport, national governments, international organisations, the law-abiding gambling operators and the police forces to intensify our cooperation to fight match-fixing. EL and its members are the historic partners of sport, we have always been leading in the fight against match-fixing and I now call for the establishment of a specific agency that deals with these matters.”

Western political technologies in the Ukrainian field – will there be a yield?

Posted by on 04/11/13

“The Obama phenomenon” allures Ukrainian politicians to embark on a slippery slope of direct replicating the western experience. The forecast of resultsis pessimistic.

In the countries of developed democracy voters have long been used to the fact that the candidates for elective public offices diligently win the electoral sympathies showing that nothing human is alien to them. They kiss children, shake hands with everyone who wants, prevent pregnant women, who suffer from diabetes, from losing consciousness (a recent “occasion” with Obama) and so on and so forth.

In the post-Soviet area the tradition “to go to the people” also has its deep roots – beginning with the “Potemkin villages”, with which one of the favorites pleased Catherine the Great, continuing with the meetings of the general secretaries of the Communist Party with the population, and finishing with Putin’s flights with white cranes. But the specific of our experience is that both the high guest and the target group know that this is a fake. And they act according to their allocated roles, without deeply feeling the situation.

However, over the last period of time, the Ukrainian politicians, who are considered the oppositionists (primarily Arseniy Yatseniuk and Vitali Klitschko) have begun to show the tendency to directly borrow the western experience. It seems that they have decided that if it works “there”, they should try it in Ukraine. But they forget that “there” the voters are different with the different mentality, the different political history and the different degree of the responsibility by politicians to their electorate. And the principles of interpersonal communication are different, admitting of and even welcoming a certain degree of acting.

That is why the Ukrainian oppositionists’ flirting with the people looks infinitely ridiculous. It looks as if an attempt to cook curd dumplings (Ukrainian national dish) according to a pizza recipe.

No matter what car a Ukrainian politician gets into, in what village he grazes a cow in front of photo- and television cameras or in what wayside café he fraternizes with long-distance truck drivers, his well-groomed appearance and fastidious arrogant look on the face reveal his real way of life and thinking. And a degree of trust to him is formed by his real actions.

This refers to both the authorities and the opposition. But it primarily concerns the opposition as it claims the status of the collective spokesman of popular aspirations and the fighter for justice. So it means that in a poor country, still trying to find its new identity, there is something to do except the intentional demonstration of their being a democrat.

One can wear pseudo-popular footwear or drive a pseudo-party car, but this cannot convince the electorate of their honesty and decency and cannot win trust. All the politicians look the same for the Ukrainians because they come from – literally or mentally – the Soviet nomenclature. And they act in real life not according the western textbooks on political management but according to the special courses of the Higher Party School of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (the factory of the Communist Party personnel in the times of the USSR) and according to the Machiavellian principles.

That is why common citizens do not see a big difference between various political forces and the Internet and even traditional mass media profusely provide them with the information about which “oppositionist” is supported by which oligarch. And if someone of the representatives of the politicians wants to really disassociate himself from his colleagues in the consciousness of voters, he will have to stop imitating active work and do something really bright and efficient.

And the main thing – is to do it sincerely. Ukrainians, as all citizens of the former totalitarian empire, can live “multi-dimensionally”: they say one thing, think a different one, and do the absolutely different. But at the same time, they can detect a lie perfectly well. Perhaps, they do not do it at first sight and not everybody at the same time. However, eventually, the pitcher goes often to the well but is broken at last – as the old saying goes.

Perhaps, that is why there is no real opposition in Ukraine. The politicians, claiming this status, prefer to “seem” and not to “be”. And no fashionable technologies and political technologies – both foreign and domestic – will help them to reach an absolutely new level until their inner motivation to participate in the political life changes.

 

Anti-EU propaganda in the Kyiv subway

Posted by on 28/10/13

The less time is left before а possible signing of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement in Vilnius, the more anti-EU propaganda appears in Ukraine. Here’s some pictures I’ve made today in the Kyiv subway.

Association with the EU leads to price increases tenfold
Association with the EU leads to growing prices

If Ukraine will sing an Agreement with EU, prices will rise more than ten times – from 19,99 hryvnias to 19,99 euros (1 hryvnia = 11 euros currently).

Association with the EU will lead to job losses
Association with the EU will lead to job losses

An order stamped “Dismissed”.

 Association with the EU is the gay marriages

Association with the EU means gay marriages

Ukraine is quite homophobic country, so this is another attempt to set up public opinion against the EU.

These lightboxes were installed by NGO “Ukrainian choise” (“Ukrayinskiy Vybir” in Ukrainian language) headed by Viktor Medvedchuk. He is the former President Leonid Kuchma’s administration Head and a close friend of the Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. Putin even baptized Medvedchuk’s daughter in 2004. In Ukraine and Russia such a relationship sometimes means more then a kinship.

To be honest, most people in Kyiv want the Association Agreement with the EU to be signed, so these lightboxes are quite useless here. But Putin gives the huge money to Medvedchuk for anti-EU propaganda in Ukraine so he should at least demonstrate activity.

Goebbels – the Russian way

Posted by on 23/10/13

The Russian state-owned mass media carry out the systemic propaganda to discredit Ukraine. The indisputable headliner of the “hatred broadcasts” remains Dmitry Kiselev, the presenter on the leading state-owned channel in Russia – ORT.

“New Yanukovych’s bosses in Europe”, “Yanukovych – in front of the rattrap which will break his spine” and other Kiselev’s passages evidently have nothing to do with the journalistic standards.  It is rather propaganda, constructed in the manner of the Goebbels templates, when systematic five minutes of hatred are intended to create for the Russian public the image of Ukraine as the stupid and agonizing country.

The argumentation – is at the level of the department of political science drop-out. The didactics – is marketplace or better to say, using jargon, dirty mouth.  What is the Kremlin trying to achieve with such programs? Is it making Russian businessmen refuse to make business projects in Ukraine?  It is never going to happen.

Moreover, in the context of  the systemic problems in Russia itself (caused, by the way, by the ignorant state governance, based on the narrow-sighted dictatorship) more and more Russian large and medium-sized entrepreneurs are gradually moving to Ukraine; especially those whose business is tightly connected with international operations. Well, Russian dealers are not very interested in letting in people from Lubyanka into their projects, having to share up to 50% of their profit. That is why they move to Ukraine.

The economic problems, which the Russian Federation faces, bear a gross and terrifying character. Premier Dmitry Medvedev forecasts the GDP growth at the level, not exceeding 2%, although at the end of the year the forecasts showed almost the four percent economic growth. This is, by the way, substantiated by the forecasts of the IMF and the World Bank.

The Ministry of Finance of the Russian Federation is even more pessimistic. Thus, according to the preliminary calculations of the  agency,  Russia’s federal budget in 2014-2016 may receive up to 1 trillion rubles profit less, that is, – almost 23 billion euros less.  The reason for such pitiful situation is also the unregulated relations with the Customs Union members (the Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, and Belarus). How does Dmitry Kiselev dare to claim that the European Union does not have any money and that Ukraine’s Association with the EU will kill us after such forecasts? It is silly, ridiculous and awkward to hear such rubbish.

And Russia has basically nothing to expect. The hopelessly obsolete infrastructure, multiplied by the paternalism, keeps on feeding the hordes of bureaucrats of all levels. The oil and gas needle, which the Russian economy persistently refuses to get off, is about to get clogged, ceasing to regularly fill up the decrepitating organism with life-giving cash flows. The investors run away – I will remind that only in the current year the forecast for the capital outflow from the Russian Federation approaches 70 billion dollars.

It undoubtfully gladdens that these attacks do not provoke any feedback on the part of official Kyiv, acting on the principal “the dogs bark – the caravan moves on”. “These reports (Dmitry Kiselev’s on ORT) are a peculiar mixture of the truth and the half-truth, and the tonality and the lexis of the presenter make an impression of his low quality as the reporter on the international affairs. It makes it more pitiful as it happens on the state-owned channel which, on the contrary, has to serve as an example of deliberateness and professionalism. But I am confident that the viewers will not mix apples and oranges,” – speaker at the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Yevheniy Perebyinis only observed.

At the same time, the problems continue on the border with the Russian Federation – as was prognosticated. The murder of Ukrainian fishermen in the Kerch strait, the explosion of a car at the checkpoint in Luhansk region – the style of professional provocateurs is obvious even for a person with bad defects of the eye-sight.

And the work of provocateurs, multiplied by the unscrupulous lying propaganda reeks of mere Stalinist or Hitlerite methods, which historians have proved to be the same. The difference is only that the Nazis were tried in Nuremberg and their Communist fellow-haters of people still govern the huge country to the east of Europe.

 

 

Greek tragedy, Irish farce, European Schools, EU Ombudsman, dog mess

Posted by on 16/10/13
By Urban Exposed Lets face it, the legal basis and governance structure of the European School system  is like a rather large pile of dog mess left in the Foyer of the Justus Lipsius building. There is no voice, anywhere saying its all ok, except of course the EURSC itself living in its Hades. Everyone knows it is a smelly mess, hence one to avoid. Examine it more closely and the stench becomes pungent.

Be aware, stay secure

Posted by on 14/10/13

Sadly most of us only get serious about our security, cyber or otherwise, when we or someone close to us have a bad experience. And with cyber it’s worse. While the consequences of inadequate physical security have been clear from the time men lived in caves, cybersecurity has no such place in our collective psyche. That’s why we need to get behind initiatives like the European Cyber Security Month (ECSM).

October 2013 is European Cyber Security Month (ECSM), a European Union advocacy campaign which aims to promote cyber security among citizens, to change their perception of cyber-threats and provide up to date security information through education and sharing good practices.

Talking about ECSM 2013, Neelie Kroes said that “the dream to create a connected continent cannot be accomplished without trust and confidence in a secure digital realm”. I couldn’t agree more: a digitally-powered Europe can only be achieved if a genuine circle of trust exists among governments, citizens and ICT service providers.

DIGITALEUROPE is very happy to support this initiative from DG CONNECT and ENISA, and we will be an official partner of the European Commission throughout the whole month.  We are dedicated to raising awareness and promoting a safe cyberspace to governments, business and citizens, and we want to play our part in this important campaign.

Part of our awareness-raising programme will include the ECSM talk co-organised with the European Commission during the official kickoff event for the campaign on 11 October.  DIGITALEUROPE is also participating in the organisation of a conference hosted by the Communications Regulatory Authority of the Republic of Lithuania on 25 October, where cyber issues will be at the centre of the debate between MEPs, EU officials and industry representatives.

Cybersecurity is not confined to national borders and so I am particularly pleased that the ECSM coincides with the US Cybersecurity Awareness Month. Effective global cooperation underpins a safe internet. We are also committed to promoting the leading role of industry in cybersecurity. The Seoul Conference on Cyberspace will provide a good forum for information exchange between government and industry.

But cybersecurity is not just for governments and industry: the end-user must become a stronger player in the cyber game in order to improve security for all. Citizens must be aware of current risks and future threats, take an interest in this debate and learn how to develop good security habits.

We as individuals are the cornerstones of cybersecurity.  In my view, cybersecurity goes beyond the obvious of protecting networks and preventing cybercrime. It must also include individual safe conduct on the net. Given the speed of technological progress – bear in mind that the smartphone boom only started in 2007 – we must each take on a greater role in keeping our cyber world secure.

I am glad to see that the European Commission has taken the initiative to dedicate one month to raising awareness about cybersecurity. But does this mean that our efforts should be put on hold for the next 11 months? If we want to stay secure, we must all be aware now and tomorrow.

John Higgins – Director General DIGITALEUROPE

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