Saturday 20 December 2014

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A general regulation of administrative procedure for the European Union?

Posted by on 16/12/14

Since the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon the passionate desire of the European Ombudsman and European Parliament is to create a regulation for administrative procedures for all European institutions. Unfortunately the legal basis for such a proposal is far from solid.

By Pieter van der Ploeg

Currently, rules on administrative procedures for EU institutions are scattered throughout a variety of sources of EU law. In primary law article 41 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union establishes everyone’s right to fair and impartial administration. At the level of secondary law, administrative procedures are regulated per policy area in a variety of binding and nonbinding instruments. The prime example is Regulation 1/2003, which contains the Commission’s procedures on competition law. Last, the European Court of Justice has established several principles of good administration in its case law. So far the court has recognized the principle of non-discrimination, the principle of proportionality, the right to a hearing before an adverse decision is taken by a public authority, and several other principles.

 

Towards a regulation of administrative procedure

In 2012 the European Parliament conducted an investigation into the current state of affairs of administrative procedures in the so-called European Value Added Assessment on the Law of Administrative Procedure of the European Union. To the European lawyer the results sound familiar and reasonable. Rules on administrative procedures are fragmented, are often legally nonbinding, or are completely absent in some policy areas. A general European administrative procedures law would enhance legal certainty, create a clear set of rules of procedure for all European institutions, increase the effectiveness of the European administration, and, most importantly, enhance citizens’ trust in the European Union. Consequently, on 13 January 2013 the European Parliament adopted a resolution urging the Commission to draft a proposal on the matter.

However, is there a solid legal basis in the EU treaties for such a EU regulation for administrative procedures? The second paragraph of article 5 of the Treaty on the European Union (TEU) clearly states that the Union shall only act within the limits of the competences conferred upon it by the member states. In other words, the European Union needs an explicit legal basis in the EU treaties in order to adopt any form of legislation. The European Parliament claims to have found a legal basis in a combination of article 41 of the Charter of fundamental rights of the European Union and article 298 in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). The first paragraph of the first article is:

Every person has the right to have his or her affairs handled impartially, fairly and within a reasonable time by the institutions and bodies of the Union.

Everyone has the right to a fair and impartial European administration, however, article 41 of the Charter does not prescribe how this fairness should be regulated. Article 298 of the TFEU states:

1. In carrying out their missions, the institutions, bodies, offices and agencies of the Union shall have the support of an open, efficient and independent European administration.

2. In compliance with the Staff Regulations and the Conditions of Employment adopted on the basis of Article 336, the European Parliament and the Council, acting by means of regulations in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure, shall establish provisions to that end.

The second paragraph provides the much needed competence for the EU to adopt legislation. However, the aim of this competence is solely to regulate the relation between the EU institutions and the European administration. By its very nature a regulation concerning administrative procedures has both an internal and an external effect: it not only contains norms that regulate the decision-making process of the administration itself, but also norms of good administration that citizens can appeal to and norms which allow individual citizens to appeal unjust acts of the administration. There is considerable room for doubt as to whether article 298 TFEU actually provides a legal basis for a EU regulation on administrative procedure since the aim of the article is purely internal.

 

The case for a legal basis for the EU regulation for administrative procedures

The study carried out by the European Parliament (see above) fails to provide solid arguments with regards to the legal basis for a EU regulation for administrative procedures. An important argument is the interpretation of article 41 of the Charter by the Intergovernmental Conference in which a link between this article and article 298 TFEU is established. While the supposed weight of this interpretation may be brought into question, let us address the substance of the argument.  The conference does not explicitly mention that the two articles provide the basis for a European administrative act. It only states that both article 41 of the Charter and article 298 TFEU are connected. Furthermore, the conference does not mention the specific form in which these articles should be implemented. From the conference’s interpretation the conclusion therefore cannot be drawn that the manner in which European administrative law is currently shaped is insufficient.

A stronger argument is based on a systematic interpretation of the EU Treaties. According to this line of reasoning, the EU Treaty and the TFEU already have separate provisions for adopting internal rules of procedure and staff regulations. The scope of article 298 TFEU is wider than these provisions and therefore it provides a sufficient basis for an administrative regulation. Nevertheless, article 298 TFEU is still limited to establishing provisions aimed at the European administration. While the separate provisions on rules of procedure and staff regulations allow the EU institutions to regulate their own procedure article 298 TFEU allows the EU to regulate this matter across all EU institutions. The Commission, the Council and the European Parliament can regulate the entire European administration with one legally binding instrument.

This is not the first time that the European Union attempted to adopt an act with the best intentions in mind. In Opinion 2/94 the Court of Justice found that the (former) EC lacked the competence to accede to the European Convention on Human Rights. It took a formal change of the EU Treaties to gain this competence which is now codified in article 6 (2) TEU. Although the aim of the EU regulation for administrative procedures is admirable, this does not mean that the EU may adopt an act outside of the competences that have been conferred to it under the EU treaties. A change in the EU Treaties is a difficult process, but will provide a stronger legal basis for a EU regulation for administrative procedures.

Pieter van der Ploeg studied European law at the University of Amsterdam.

Good media relations require a two-way relationship

Posted by on 16/12/14

In an article for the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, Whitehouse Associate Director Alex Singleton explains why spamming journalists with press releases doesn’t work.

To read Alex’s article, please click here.

The Whitehouse Consultancy is one of Europe’s leading public affairs and communications agencies.

Turkey’s EU Accession Negotiations should now be suspended

Posted by on 15/12/14
By Andrew Duff This Turkey will not join this European Union. Why? In short: Turkey is becoming less and less European.

Most national embassies and consulates will be closed by 2040

Posted by on 15/12/14

The EU and its 28 member states maintain the most extensive network of diplomatic representations on earth. This situation will become financially unsustainable and no longer necessary after the creation of the European External Action Service which is running 140 missions today.

Diplomatic representations have become very expensive; their cost has kept rising through increased safety measures and the need to pay high salaries for qualified personnel and premiums for the growing number of hardship posts. That is why member states have come under pressure for cutting costs and closing embassies and consulates.

Thus the Netherlands will lower the expenditures for their Foreign Ministry by a quarter until 2018; and the new Belgian government has decided to reduce its diplomatic missions from 137 to 104. Both countries will do this within the framework of comprehensive reforms with the purpose of cutting budget expenses.

The EU is definitely over-staffed with diplomatic personnel and missions.

EU Delegations have largely taken over political and economic reporting for EU headquarters in Brussels and national capitals. They should also progressively assume consular duties for EU citizens, especially issuing visa where still required and organising assistance to EU citizens in situations of natural catastrophes and political unrest.

Member states` diplomatic missions should focus on promoting business contacts to the extent that joint chambers of commerce do not do so, as is the case in some major business centres like Beijing or Tokyo.

For cost reasons member states are therefore likely to close most of their diplomatic missions during the coming 25 years and rely on EU missions.

What may look like a revolution today will be perfectly normal by 2040. The transition should take place smoothly and start as of today with intermediate stages like pooling missions or offices of several member countries.

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 10.12 2014

About a dog and an innovation-friendly vision

Posted by on 15/12/14

Last Monday, I took part in the Rzeczpospolita daily newspaper’s economic debate entitled ‘The end of the free market? Origins of the crisis’. Three questions were sent to the participants by the host:

  • Have capitalism and the free market discredited themselves?
  • What is the alternative to the free market? Which economic system should we choose?
  • Should Poland increase the involvement of the state or of the market?

I am quoting the questions here to outline the context of the debate, which revolved around the most fundamental aspects of the political system and the relationship between the state and the market. Has the global financial crisis, whose effects are still felt today, altered the laws of economics, for instance by taking interest rates, the key tool for controlling inflation, away from central banks? Those interested will find the account of the debate in the newspaper, while I would like to take this opportunity to elaborate on the dog metaphor which I invoked in the conclusion of my answer to the third question.

Seeing that two of the previous speakers, asked about what Poland should do to ensure economic growth at a reasonable rate, argued that the country needed to look for its competitive advantage in entrepreneurship and innovation (because the growth model based on cheap labour is running dry), I decided to focus on how this should be accomplished.

The issue is not with the extent of involvement of the state and the market, but with the state’s responsibilities and the way the market operates. The state should become involved primarily where the market is not enough, which justifies the state’s role in overseeing today’s markets and creating new ones. This is done not only through appropriate institutions, such as banks and stock exchanges, whose scope and quality depends on the quality of the state, but also through suitable regulations and rules of operation. Nowadays reality is changing before our very eyes. New, revolutionary technologies emerge, giving rise to associated products and services which change the rules of the economic game, making regulatory adjustments necessary. If these adjustments are not made fast enough, the economy pays the price, suffering depressed growth, which is something that can be avoided. Examples abound.

In the oil and gas industry, where I work, this leads to regulatory uncertainty regarding shale gas exploration and production in Poland. Currently, after four years, this uncertainty has been significantly limited. Alas, in the meantime, however, American companies (which have the necessary know-how) lost interest in making investments in Poland, having been drawn by the prospect of the U.S. ban on gas exports being lifted, which has turned Poland from a potential shale gas producer into a potential importer of LNG derived from American shale. Europe’s CO2 emissions trading market, which is in need of a thorough overhaul, is yet another example.

What should Poland do? Improve the quality of the state by fine-tuning its presence to the needs of the economy. The state should withdraw its involvement from production and modernisation projects, as businesses can handle these areas with ease. Since running state institutions is costly, funnelling funds into the two areas is a waste of the taxpayer’s money. However, there are certain areas where, despite its involvement being very needed, the state is either absent or its presence is insufficient. What I am talking about here is creating visions for Poland’s growth. It appears to me that because state institutions fail to investigate the topic, they are unable to make proper use of the results of the studies that certain universities carry out. In any case, such academic research does not aim to create alternative visions for Poland’s growth or its place on the economic map of Europe and the world, but rather to develop tools which can be used to create such visions.

Poland has so far managed without a vision for growth, because we have taken economic transformation and modernisation as a priority. Busy building a market economy, we have failed to notice that we have achieved tremendous success in securing continuous economic growth and a steady rise of incomes. Having joined the club of high-income countries, we are facing yet another challenge – to ensure further growth of per-capita incomes. Mimicking others in enforcing cost (salary) controls will not help us meet the challenge. So far we have been creating a second Japan and a second Norway, and now we are working on a second Denmark, or so the politicians say. Now it’s high time to choose our own way.

Poland needs a course of its own to serve as the fulcrum for the research paving the way to innovation. Primary research gives rise to new products and technologies, which are not immediately usable. They are like Lego bricks in that they can be used to build anything we need. Those who played with Legos as a child will remember that new bricks matched previous sets and offered entirely new possibilities. What I am saying is essentially that we should focus on financing those primary and applied research projects which are geared towards practical applications, rather than the research whose sole objective is to be published. Doing so by funding research with public money, we are shifting onto the state the part of the risk associated with the first stage of the process whereby an idea is transformed into a product. Many ideas will fail, while others will have to wait for the right time, but some will be transformed into new technologies and prototypes which will attract the attention of venture capitalists. Furthermore, to avoid spreading out the financial potential too much, we need a vision for growth. Today, Poland does not have such a vision as there exist no state institutions whose business it would be to create such visions. It is essential that the life of such institutions, the visions their create and the research their pursue be perpetuated by subsequent administrations. Such institutions must be created.

This where the dog comes in, a black-and-white terrier digging vigorously in Sopot’s sandy beach. I first noticed it during my morning walk and thought the creature was trying to reach water. When I was coming back an hour later, I saw an impressive ditch, which grew further as the excavations continued. It was apparent that reaching water was not the plan after all. No discernible purpose could be seen, as the dog did not seem interested in connecting the ditch to the sea. Tired, the terrier continued digging. The moral of the story is that if you do not know where you are going, every road will get you nowhere.

 

Is ‘digital native’ government possible?

Posted by on 15/12/14
An interview with Jim Bankoff, who just raised another raised $46.5 million in funding for Vox Media (“the fastest growing Web brand of 2014″), caught my eye: “Vox.com’s main draw [is] making sense of complicated issues in ways that are easily digestible for online readers… Our content platform is less about the 1s and 0s [...]

What aviation means for growth

Posted by on 15/12/14

With Boeing’s support, the Euractiv Institute recently held a forum at the European Parliament on why aviation matters in order to draw the attention of EU policy-makers to aviation’s contribution to economic growth and the need for the appropriate policy framework in support of the aviation sector. The event attracted a broad range of stakeholders, including airline personnel, industry associations, aerospace manufacturers, and NGOs.

The forum was hosted by Marian-Jean Marinescu, MEP of Romania, who introduced the conversation by emphasising the contribution the aviation sector makes to job growth and economic mobility. Referring to the Single European Sky II Plus programme — which is currently in the co-decision process between the Parliament and EU member states — he expressed hope it can be completed in the next six months.

Emmanuelle Maire, the head of unit for internal aviation market and airports at the Commission’s Transport Directorate, also discussed aviation’s role in growth, which she called a catalyst for value production, generating 2.7 million direct and indirect jobs. Maire cautioned that aviation is not growing as fast in Europe as it is in other regions and called for the Commission to project an integrated vision for strong hubs, regional airports and airlines in the EU. However, Guillaume Xavier-Bender of the German Marshall Fund warned that the traditional US/EU business model for airlines, airports, and aerospace firms is under pressure from emerging models from the Persian Guld states and Southeast Asia.

Other speakers explored the technological aspects of aviation’s contribution to growth. Aviation is rapidly developing new sustainable biofuel capabilities to reduce the sector’s environmental impact. Jens Nilsson, MEP for Sweden, pointed out that political targets and R&D investment are crucial for new fuels. Boeing’s President for EU & NATO Relations, Brian Moran, discussed how research and new products such as the B787 Dreamliner are addressing challenges associated with emissions and aircraft noise.

Moran called for “smart regulations” and investments to help aviation fulfil its promise of growth. As far as policies are concerned, Hhe urged EU policymakers to continue working through ICAO to develop a global system to address aviation emissions, recognizing that no one country or region can address a worldwide challenge on its own. Moran also stressed that chemical regulations should take into account aviation’s unique ecosystem and high safety standards, that increased policy support is needed to advance aviation biofuel development and commercialisation, and that capacity constraints both on the ground and in the air need to be addressed.

Žiga Turk: ‘If you provide open data they will come’

Posted by on 15/12/14

Žiga Turk, professor and blogger on innovation, sustainability and technology, published a blogpost on Sunday concerning efforts in South-East Europe to open up public data sources. If you offer the data, aggregated by public administrations anyhow, developers and innovators will come in and build applications on top of it, Turk writes.

Turk is a member of BlogActiv’s community of EU bloggers who is definitely worth following. We re-published his latest blogpost here (without editing).

~

Opening public data contributes to the transparency and public oversight that the people have over their governments and public sector that they fund.

“In the EU we are often accused of having big government and public sector; spending too much; collecting too much information etc. But there may be a silver lining to it.

In the globalized competition among the states, of course it is important to improve the level of services, cut costs and reduce the red tape. But it is also important to make the best out of the situation. Which is that the public sector is sitting on a treasure of data which costs taxpayer money to collect and maintain and in many cases citizen effort to provide.

Therefore it would be wise to make sure the data is either put to use or stopped being collected.

It is highly unlikely that the governments would come with the only and the brightest ideas on what to do with that data. On the contrary, the growth around the internet has shown the tremendous potential of innovation in the private sector and the academia.

Zagreb Summit

In the beginning of December I took part at a Summit “Data Driven Innovation in Southeast Europe“. It was organized by several organizations from the region and Google in Zagreb, Croatia. Members of governments, academia, civil societies and businesses from the region met to exchange best practices and discuss the innovation strategy. Innovation that should be based around data openly provided by the public sector.

While Slovenia is also a Central European country, it shares a long common history and therefore institution types and public-sector culture with former Yugoslav republics. There are plenty of opportunities to collaborate and borrow solutions from each other.

A whitepaper summarized  the initiative and best practices. The message from Slovenia was very clear – “if you build it, they will come“. If you build open access to open public data, developers and innovators will come and create services and apps on top of that.

They will create services which are useful to the citizens. But not only directly useful ones, such as live traffic information. They would create services that would make the publicly available data easier to access and understand.

By doing that they would contribute to the transparency and public oversight of that the people have over their governments and public sector that they fund. And thereby indirectly contribute to its quality.

More information in the PressRelease and the Whitepaper.”

Russia encroaches on the Baltics

Posted by on 14/12/14
Russia is very persistent in the pursuit of the goal to expand its influence inside the EU at all levels and in all spheres. Moscow is constantly seeking opportunities to influence European politics and public opinion and to turn them to its own advantage. The Kremlin effectively uses numerous Russian-speaking diasporas in the EU Member States; it also provides financial support to a large number of pro-Russian organizations. Adhering to this policy line, Moscow has appeared capable to consolidate its positions in some European countries, in particular, the Baltic states. The Kremlin runs large-scale propaganda campaigns in these countries through the media which are under its control, e.g., notorious “Russia Today” and newly presented “Sputnik”.

One of the most effective leverages used by Russia for lobbying its interests is intense cooperation with the left-wing and the far-right-wing parties. For the last few years leftists, ultra-rightists and nationalists have managed to enlarge their electoral base and to increase the number of their parties’ representatives in the national parliaments and the European Parliament, exploiting economic problems and social discontent.

The Kremlin is using a whole bunch of mechanisms and instruments to deepen collaboration with these forces. Special funds and information centers creation, conferences and fora organization, exchange of visits, sharing of the best dirty campaigning practices are pressed into service. Meanwhile Moscow doesn’t forget about financial incentives to the top people and leaders. In fact, it’s a well-tuned and smoothly running bribery scheme. They are rendered assistance in exchange of some “insignificant” turn in the future. Qui pro quo. Usually they are asked to back or oppose a certain decision. One can see the impressive output of these coordinated actions. Some far-right and nationalist parties, for instance, expressed their approval for the “independence referendum” in the Crimea and acknowledged its results to please Russian tutors. The international community condemned even the fact of conducting this illegal voting; Russia’s allies, however, sent their observers to the Crimea… and there were many of them: “Jobbic” (Hungary), the Front National (France), the Freedom party of Austria, the Flemish interest (Belgium), the Attack party (Bulgaria).

Russia has been working hard to cement its influence in the post-Soviet and Eastern-European countries for a long time. The Revolution of dignity in Ukraine and signing the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement struck a blow to Russia’s imperial plans. The Kremlin reacted aggressively and violently. Russia annexed the Crimea and became a sponsor of the warfare in the Eastern Ukraine. Putin’s regime can’t afford Ukraine’s drifting apart towards the EU because it may set a precedent which the other former Soviet republics and the federal subjects of Russia will likely want to follow (It will surely lead to breakup of Russia).

Therefore, some experts consider that Ukrainian scenario recurrence in Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania is rather probable. Latvia is the most obvious target for the Kremlin’s campaigns. There is a large Russian diaspora there and an influential pro-Russian political alliance “Concord center”. However, Putin acts more cautiously towards the EU Member States. Russia’s threats are rendered by Eurasianism spinners and odious politicians (Vladimir Zhirinovsky and those of his ilk).

The Kremlin is effectively conducting propaganda among Russian-speaking population to form favorable for Russia public opinion. It is feeding popular dissatisfaction and sponsoring street protests. Moscow defames the Baltic states by manipulating public opinion and political mudslinging. It forms the image of Nazi-states, where Russian-speaking citizens are deprived of their rights; the governments cultivate hostile attitude towards Russia and Russians, etc.. Opinion polls confirm that the level of negative perception of government home policy is increasing among Russian-speaking population in the Baltic states, in particular, in Lithuania which is known for its anti-Russian stance.

Russian propaganda is disseminating the idea of so called “Russian world”. Taking actions through friendship societies, Russian language fans’ clubs, Russian compatriots abroad associations, Russia laboriously strengthens its humanitarian influence. Such organizations as “Good Russians”, “World without Nazism”, “Russian movement”, “For the progress in Latvia”, “The republic of Uzupis” are of great help to Moscow.

The Kremlin combines humanitarian expansion with threat of war. For instance, this year Russian warships approached to Latvia territorial waters more than 50 times. Russian aircraft also repeatedly conduct maneuvers near the Baltic states’ airspace. However, Moscow is not able to intimidate the Baltics because they are NATO members and the Alliance will always protect them. NATO has already approved wide-ranging plans to boost its defense capacities in the Eastern Europe, aiming to reassure anxious allies about Russia’s military ambitions. The Baltic states’ governments have already expressed their complete readiness to resist Russian war threats. Dalia Grybauskaite, the president of Lithuania, unequivocally called Russia a ”a terrorist state that is engaged in open aggression against its neighbor”. She is sure that if Russia “is not stopped then that aggression might spread further into Europe”.

Lithuania is planning to increase its defense budget by 40% in 2015. Moreover because of a rise in the activity of Russian forces in the western part of the Russian Federation, Lithuania made a decision to put several of its rapid response units on a higher state of preparedness. The country is also taking part, together with Poland and Ukraine, in the formation of a joint military init to participate in peacekeeping operations. Latvian president Andris Berzins has announced the defense budget increase up to 2% GDP. Estonia has taken measures to strengthen its defense capabilities too. The government has requested NATO to deploy its contingent in the country.

The Baltics has also agreed actions to withstand Russian propaganda. They consider that it’s necessary for the EU to finance alternative media broadcasting in Russian, to develop communication strategy towards Russia and toughen the EC regulations concerning audiovisual sector content.

More Romanian EU specialists in Brussels? A first list of urgent priorities

Posted by on 14/12/14
Anchoring European countries in the community structure requires a lot of specialists, active both in Brussels and in the capitals. The European construction has mainly an institutional dimension, but civil society and particularly the business sector are actively involved in recent developments. Experts say there is a very pronounced corporate lobby in Brussels, as well [...]

Energy Union: a (long) way towards employment?

Posted by on 14/12/14
Ana Luísa Correia for FutureLab Europe Out of Juncker´s €300bn investment package, €21bn will be directed to building an effective Energy Union for secure, affordable, and environmentally-sensitive energy. But what does this mean for unemployed Europeans?

Data driven innovation: If you build it they will come

Posted by on 14/12/14

In the EU we are often accused of having big government and public sector; spending too much; collecting too much information etc. But there may be a silver lining to it.

In the globalized competition among the states, of course it is important to improve the level of services, cut costs and reduce the red tape. But it is also important to make the best out of the situation. Which is that the public sector is sitting on a treasure of data which costs taxpayer money to collect and maintain and in many cases citizen effort to provide.

Therefore it would be wise to make sure the data is either put to use or stopped being collected.

It is highly unlikely that the governments would come with the only and the brightest ideas on what to do with that data. On the contrary, the growth around the internet has shown the tremendous potential of innovation in the private sector and the academia.

Zagreb Summit

In the beginning of December I took part at a Summit “Data Driven Innovation in Southeast Europe“. It was organized by several organizations from the region and Google in Zagreb, Croatia. Members of governments, academia, civil societies and businesses from the region met to exchange best practices and discuss the innovation strategy. Innovation that should be based around data openly provided by the public sector.

While Slovenia is also a Central European country, it shares a long common history and therefore institution types and public-sector culture with former Yugoslav republics. There are plenty of opportunities to collaborate and borrow solutions from each other.

A whitepaper summarized  the initiative and best practices. The message from Slovenia was very clear – “if you build it, they will come“. If you build open access to open public data, developers and innovators will come and create services and apps on top of that.

They will create services which are useful to the citizens. But not only directly useful ones, such as live traffic information. They would create services that would make the publicly available data easier to access and understand.

By doing that they would contribute to the transparency and public oversight of that the people have over their governments and public sector that they fund. And thereby indirectly contribute to its quality.

More information in the PressRelease and the Whitepaper.

 

Do national hymns matter?

Posted by on 14/12/14

Countries have national hymns which are singed at celebrations, solemn occasions and sport events. Less known is that the Council of Europe and the European Union have the same anthem – “Ode to Joy” with words written in 1785 by the German poet Friedrich Schiller and music composed by Beethoven in 1823 (his 9th symphony).

The anthem isn’t supposed to replace the national anthems of the Member States. But no doubt the lyric of the European Anthem sounds more peaceful than most national anthems. It pays tribute to joy which unites all human beings and celebrates their brotherhood.

National anthems vary greatly in wording and usually pay tribute to the history, nature or government of the country. Countries which have been independent for centuries highlight the glory of their history. Countries which lost their independence express longings to become independent again.

This was illustrated when the Museum of the Polish-Jewish History was recently inaugurated in Warsaw. It stands in what was the heart of Jewish Warsaw before WWII. Its core exhibition is a journey through 1000 years of Polish-Jewish history.

It’s partly a conflict-ridden history where Jews and Poles lived in a kind of symbiosis with intertwined economies for hundreds of years. In many smaller places Jews were in majority. Churches and synagogues were often built close to each-other.

Jews were welcomed by the catholic kings of Poland in the 13th century or even earlier. The first coins in Poland have Hebrew letters. No expulsions took ever place from Poland. Religious tolerance was legislated.

Poland became the center of the Jewish world in Europe with a unique form of self-government during the commonwealth of Poland and Lithuania in the 16th and 17th centuries.

In the period between the two world wars the Jews in Poland had developed a multi-facetted civil society with their own schools, media, political parties and cultural organizations.

Journalist and historian Anne Applebaum – well-known for her history of the Gulag in Soviet Union – attended the inauguration of the museum and wrote a moving article. Poles and Jews share a common history that is shown in Warsaw’s new museum.

Both Poles and Jews lost their independence in the past and were dreaming about national liberation. That is also reflected in their national hymns.

”For those who live in larger nations, I’m not sure that this emotion is even comprehensible. But those who live in small nations can perhaps empathize with one another somewhat better,” Applebaum writes.

She quotes the Polish anthem, written during the Napoleon wars, which starts with the words: “Poland has not yet perished, so long as we still live.”

The Ukrainian anthem, with words originally written in 1862, from an era when Ukraine did not figure on any maps of Europe, starts with similar words: “Ukraine has not yet perished, nor her glory, nor her freedom.”

In this context, she could of course also have mentioned the Israeli anthem, Hatikva (= Hope), written in the same period when so many nations yearned for freedom. “Our hope is not yet lost, the hope of two thousand years, to be a free people in our land.”

Google News & Spain: Bad day for citizens, online innovation and publishers themselves

Posted by on 11/12/14
Guest blogpost by Jakob Kucharczyk, Director of Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA). Yesterday we learnt that Google will shut down its ‘Google News’ service this year in Spain. This is just one consequence of the introduction in Spain of an ancillary copyright levy (known as the ‘AEDE levy’) affecting online services (apps and websites). In a nutshell, [...]

A child with Down syndrome placed directly into an institution

Posted by on 11/12/14
Guest blogpost by Jana Hainsworth, Eurochild Secretary General. A mother from Bulgaria addressed Members of the European Parliament on 10th December to share her experience of the pressure put on parents to abandon children with disabilities into institutions. By bringing this testimony, the Opening Doors for Europe’s Children campaign hopes to illustrate everything that is [...]

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