Friday 25 July 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.

 

Trasparenza, crowdfunding e il Parlamento europeo

Posted by on 16/07/14

Sono al Parlamento europeo, seduto con la mia amica G al bar del terzo piano: quello di fronte alla stazione media, con le sedie dalle gambe lunghe e i tavoli slanciati in metallo lucente.

Io e G stiamo parlando dei dossier del Parlamento europeo e di come seguire il lavoro degli eurodeputati, quando mi chiede: «Ma tu conosci ParlTrack?».

Le parole le escono spontanee come un pensiero cui ha dato parola.

«Sì ed è molto utile» e spiego che è un database che raggruppa tutti i dossier, i risultati dei voti, gli eurodeputati e le agende delle commissioni del Parlamento europeo. Poso il gomito sinistro sul tavolo, mi sporgo in avanti e aggiungo «Sai chi l’ha fatto?».

«No, chi?» risponde G, che intanto osserva un eurodeputato inglese passare dietro di me.

«Un informatico ungherese, Stefan Marsiske. L’anno scorso ha fatto una campagna di crowdfunding su Indiegogo, ha raccolto 10.000 euro e ha creato il database», ritorno con la schiena dritta sullo sgabello e chiedo «Sai perché l’ha fatto?»

«Perché?»

«Per dare uno strumento alle persone per lottare per i propri diritti e fare leggi migliori» rispondo, finisco il caffè e aggiungo «Lui è la dimostrazione che chiunque può dare il proprio contributo».

Per chi fosse interessato ParlTrack è all’indirizzo: http://parltrack.euwiki.org/

My book: Next Europe

Posted by on 09/07/14
Our blogger Joop Hazenberg joined BlogActiv some nine months ago, kicking off the research for a book on Europe. After many blogposts of his interviews and thoughts on the EU's big questions and challenges, he now launches the finished version of his book 'Next Europe': "The EU is in a serious mid-life crisis and seems to have lost direction."

UNBELIEVABLE INCOMPETENCE EUROPEAN SCHOOLS HAVE MESSED UP BAC 2014, same exam, same inspector, same subject, different year

Posted by on 01/07/14

eeb1.com_fichiers_news_fichiers1_1679_2014-06-LD-34 BACC 2014 CHEMISTRY

VP Sefcovic made some commitments to the European Parliament. He said in 2013 ”Concerning European Baccalaureate 2012 exams, the Commission regrets the problems encountered at the mathematics and chemistry exams. The Commission requested a detailed report from the Office of the Secretary-General of the European Schools which was prepared by independent external experts. A number of recommendations were made that will be followed-up closely in order to avoid similar problems in the future.”

Mr Kivinen the Secretary General should be querying his position now 

I have previously told you that for Chemistry no such independent external expert report was prepared, the report is here RIES report i queried whether the Commission had mislead Parliament.

What were the recommendations he refers to?

what was the close follow-up and by whom?

in the light of this how did it happen again?

I expect MEPs will want to here from the Commission yet again.

the latest disastrous news from the school is at the top of this post.

Will the EURSC now admit its fundamental problems

Will the Member States and the Commission now recognise the harm being done to pupils?

Will the Member States and the Commission now redress the lack of any appeal rights or legal accountability of the EURSC

Will EURSC become subject to EU law, instead of being anarchic?

 

in shock at latest snafu?

oops they did it again!

Mr

New Crisis at European Schools? Rumours are that the Baccalaureate exam mess of 2012 has been repeated.

Posted by on 26/06/14

The European Schools (EURSC) administration appear to surpass themselves yet again.

Having botched the Baccalaureate in 2012, and since then having seen all sorts of commitments to put things right one might expect that things can only get better.

Rumour has it that the 2014 BAC has suffered a fate even worse than that in 2012.

Most likely this is a direct result of the EURSC being an anarchic body, not subject to any normal legal oversight. Amazing though it might be it is not subject to the TFEU or European Law

Watch this space.

Musica e Unione Europea

Posted by on 12/06/14

Sono in Place Luxembourg con il mio amico D. e siamo seduti al tavolo di uno dei bar. Non è giovedì, ma sono quasi le 19:00 e molta gente è seduta con noi a bersi una birra e ad approfittare del bel tempo.

«Sai che nel 1970 è stata composta un’opera sinfonica sull’Europa e la formazione di quello che ora è l’Unione Europea?» chiedo io giusto prima di sorseggiare la mia Grimbergen.

«No, quale sarebbe?» risponde D mentre si muove scomposto sulla sua sedia di plastica rossa.

«È l’Adagio all’Europa» dico io mentre sposto il mio peso sulla coscia sinistra, cercando di trovare una posizione comoda.

«Composto da chi?»

«Didier Van Damme, un compositore e direttore di orchestra belga» e racconto che la European Philarmonic Orchestra, diretta dal direttore Hugues Reiner, ha suonato l’opera sul Monte Bianco, il tetto dell’Europa.

Zeigefinger nach Brüssel

Posted by on 16/04/14

Der Spitzenkandidat der Sozialdemokraten bei der Europawahl, Martin Schulz, brachte es am Politischen Aschermittwoch auf den Punkt: “Scheint die Sonne nicht – Brüssel. Schweißfüße – Brüssel.” Man muss Schulz nicht mögen und auch die EU nicht immer gut finden. Aber eines stimmt in jedem Fall: Brüssel muss oft als Watschenmann herhalten für alles, was irgendwo schief läuft und für das man selbst als Politiker keine Verantwortung übernehmen will. Es ist oft richtig, sich über Brüssel aufzuregen. Aber das geschieht leider viel zu häufig aus den falschen Gründen. Ja: Die Europäische Union ist ein abstraktes Gebilde. Sie steht für Regulierungswut, für überbordende Bürokratie, sprich: für alles, was wir an staatlichen Einrichtungen nicht mögen. Und sie wird als solche selbst von denjenigen gebrandmarkt, die auf europäischer Ebene mitentscheiden – und zwar immer dann, wenn man sich Vorteile an der Wahlurne erhofft. Jüngstes Beispiel ist die Aufregung um das Verbot von stromfressenden Elektrogeräten im Haushalt. Wer, wie etwa die bayerische CSU-Europaministerin Beate Merk kritisiert, dass die EU sich damit zu sehr in die Lebenswelt der Menschen einmischt, kann sich des Beifalls vieler Wähler sicher sein. Das aber ist unseriös, weil erstens niemand aus Brüssel in die Küchen geht und alte Kaffeemaschinen konfisziert. Zweitens sitzt die CSU selbst mit im Straßburger EU-Parlament. Zudem ist gerade das Thema Energieeffizienz der beste Beleg dafür, dass aus der EU nicht nur Sinnloses, Teures und Nerviges kommt. Ohne stromsparende Elektrogeräte auch daheim kann keine Energiewende gelingen. Gestern erst wurde mit der Zustimmung des Parlaments zur Bankenunion sichergestellt, dass nicht mehr der Steuerzahler für die Zockerei der Banken aufkommen muss. Perfide daran ist, dass die Einzelstaaten sich solche sinnvollen Beschlüsse gerne ans Revers heften, während unangenehme als Brüsseler Regulierungswut abgetan werden. Oder aber man erwähnt das Sinnvolle erst gar nicht. Man schüttelt den Kopf über die Normierung der Gurkenkrümmung, aber verschweigt, dass die EU zukünftig das Handytelefonat im Ausland verbilligen wird. Weil es leichter ist, sich über das Brüsseler Allerlei aufzuregen, verstellt sich der Blick auf das, was man der Europäischen Union wirklich anlasten kann. Das ist vor allem ihr mangelndes außenpolitisches Format. Im Umgang mit den Flüchtlingsströmen über das Mittelmeer zeigt sich täglich, dass die EU die Symptome zwar mittlerweile gut bekämpfen kann. Die Ursachen für die Flucht von Tausenden Afrikanern aber – etwa die Flutung der afrikanischen Märkte mit billiger, weil hochsubventionierter Ware aus der EU – geht man nicht an. Und es war eine Zeit lang schicker, sich auf dem Maidan in Kiew mit prowestlichen Demonstranten fotografieren zu lassen, als früh die unangenehme Auseinandersetzung mit Russland zu suchen. Denn dann hätte man ja wirtschaftliche und politische Interessen der EU-Mitgliedsstaaten abgleichen müssen; oder, anders ausgedrückt: Man hätte als politische Macht auftreten müssen. Das aber will und kann diese EU noch nicht. Es wird ihr aber mittelfristig keine andere Wahl bleiben. Europa ist nicht mehr nur ein Wirtschaftsclub, der Binnenmärkte harmonisieren und sich der Konkurrenz globaler Märkte stellen muss. Die EU ist eine Gemeinschaft geworden, die stark genug ist, um Menschen dazu zu bringen, ihr Leben zu riskieren, damit sie dort leben können. Und die attraktiv genug ist, um in einem Land wie der Ukraine Menschen dazu zu motivieren, gegen ihre Regierung aufzubegehren. Die EU ist längst ein mächtiges Staatenkonstrukt, das aber Angst hat, diese Macht auch einzusetzen. Nur die EU wird dazu beitragen können, den Ukraine-Konflikt zu lösen. Die USA wollen und können das nicht. Wer Europa kritisiert, sollte daran denken, dass am 25. Mai Europawahlen sind. Nicht wählen zu gehen und dann zu schimpfen ist eine Option. Aber die billigste und feigste.

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.

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