Sunday 20 April 2014

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When people in Brussels look out to the 27 EU countries, they tend to forget that hardly anyone looks back. Polls and election turnouts confirm that for vast parts of the EU population, the national perspective prevails a long time before the European one. What lessons for the European Union to be learnt?

 

UK Government agency lacks resources to do its basic job

Posted by on 17/04/14
By Chris Whitehouse Staffing crises and soaring workloads at a UK Government Agency have forced it to throw up its hands in bureaucratic despair, a bizarre email acknowledgment suggests. Two main causes come straight to my mind...

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.

Never again.

Posted by on 16/04/14
As I am writing this I am listening to the speeches in the EP plenary in Strasbourg, on the WW I and lessons of the past as we look to the future. I’ve been pondering on writing on this subject for the past few months, as the subject is so vast and incredibly complex, that [...]

Roma Summit without Roma involvement?

Posted by on 14/04/14
By Zoltán Massay-Kosubek The good news: the third European Roma Summit has gathered high level political attention from both EU Leaders and Member States. The bad news: there were no real chance either for Roma contribution or for meaningful civil society involvement.

‘You have the right to immigrate’?

Posted by on 10/04/14

“Why, then, do most citizens of Western democratic countries oppose the opening of their borders? I believe the best explanation is that most of us suffer from a bias that makes it easy for us to forget about the rights and interests of foreigners. Racial bias once caused white persons to view members of their race as more important than those of other races, and to ignore the rights of members of other races. Sexist bias caused men to view themselves as more important than women and to ignore the rights of women. In modern times, great progress has been made in overcoming these biases. But some prejudices remain socially acceptable today, not even recognized by most as prejudices. Among these privileged prejudices is nationalist bias, the prejudice that causes us to view our countrymen as more important than citizens of other countries, and to ignore the rights of the foreign-born”.

Here is why: http://spot.colorado.edu/~huemer/immigration.htm

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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Policy of steady hand

Posted by on 03/04/14

There is a motto attributed to a former Chancellor in Germany. Helmut Kohl has become very famous by his politics of the „steady hand“. It may not be very common these days and means to be a reverse model to US but to follow a beaten track, even if all others around you are asking for „Change!“, should be an alternative. Now, Mario Draghi is asked to act in this manner of a steady hand. Ministers of Finance met in Athens on Tuesday and discussed about deflation risks in EU. Referring to forecasts, inflation will rise in Euro-zone about 1 percent in 2014, 1.3 percent in 2015 and 1.5 percent in 2016. This is close to the objective of price stability, ECB is aiming to. Sometimes it’s better to do nothing.

Acting against Euroscepticism

Posted by on 02/04/14

The European Union has unified the continent like never before. It has been instrumental in shaping the progress of its countries and people by promoting fundamental freedoms. But given these upsides, why isn’t the Union more popular amongst its citizens? Numerous reasons exists in giving substance to the criticisms, but three points stand notoriously firm:

  • The structural complexities surrounding the EU
  • The misinformation and the lack of information within the EU
  • The recent recession and its handling by the EU

The first point entails the complex structure of the Union’s political structure; its system is indeed confusing, considering the vast amounts of agencies operating around it that are likely to be unknown to the public. Since it is more than a confederation of states but not a federal entity, the EU’s unique structure is something unprecedented and requires time for the people to comprehend the complexities.

The second point hints to the lack of knowledge EU citizens have regarding the EU, which leads to misconceptions surrounding the institution. It has been suggested to citizens that the Union is a bureaucratic nightmare filled with unelected seniors who enact policies that affect them. Of course, such notions lead to people thinking that they do not have a voice in influencing EU policies. As such misconceptions grow, EU critics in the media take advantage of the citizens’ ignorance to fuel their agenda.

The third point signifies the citizens’ dissatisfaction regarding the recent economic crisis. This has led to the rise of populist anti-EU parties who resort to propagandizing acts, which include national politicians pinning the cause of their country’s crises to Brussels. The increasing support for Eurosceptic parties in the recent months has been alarming; when Eurosceptic politicians gain fame, the development of the Union becomes threatened because their extreme advocacies against EU policies reach the point where they spread nationalist views that lead to xenophobia and intolerance. Such policies of course lead to undesirable and regressive political ramifications that are contrary to the principles of the EU.

In the midst of an economic crisis where the Union is doing everything it can to fix it, citizens cannot afford to have their national politicians to resort to petty pinpointing and sensationalizing that merely hardens the EU’s work and progress and depraves the EU’s name.

The dangerous nationalism that caused World War I may be getting a comeback with the rise of right-winged anti-EU parties. What’s alarming is that these insurgent parties are likely to succeed in the upcoming European Parliament polls, which needs to change. Citizens must realize that their platforms are misleading and regressively delusional, and they must give their fellow citizens the incentive to take action, because the truth is they really don’t want to live in the delusions of Eurosceptics.

Thus, the fate of EU development falls under their hands. The low voter turnout in the previous European polls must not be repeated because if EU citizens really don’t want to adhere to policies that will threaten basic fundamental freedoms, they need to vote, and vote for the right party.

Even if one isn’t too enthusiastic on the EU, voting still helps for it is the first step. The next step is to then regain the enthusiasm and advocate reform. The Lisbon Treaty was the first step in enhancing the Union by simplifying its structure; but the EU needs more than that, the EU needs to take further steps in integration, namely the commitment to a collective ideology of citizens in bettering EU development. This is done by setting aside their differences and starting to cooperate with one another and by promoting a union of citizens instead of a union of member states.

http://i.imgur.com/I3JQUdx.jpg

Courtesy of the European Commission

 

Federalism in #RO

Posted by on 01/04/14
I have made it no secret that I am a true believer in a Federal Europe. My first post on this blog is about my belief that the national state has lived it’s life. And I do have to agree that in Romania, where I live, the federalist momentum has yet to become a reality, [...]

Ein ja zur EU-Freizügigkeit

Posted by on 28/03/14

Deutschland verfolgt eine falsche Strategie. Die Koalition in Berlin tut nicht gut daran, wenn sie sich den Ländern anschließt, die die Freizügigkeit in Europa einschränken. Das Vorhaben gehört zum gefährlichen politischen Arsenal des Populismus. Es wirft die Frage auf, ob Deutschland seine Grenzen abriegeln und in der Europapolitik den Rückwärtsgang einlegen will. Deutschland will nicht die qualifizierten Zuwanderern fernhalten, sondern die armen. Zuerst wurde Europa zur Festung ausgebaut, um die Immigration von anderen Kontinenten einzuschränken. Jetzt erliegt man der Versuchung, auch innerhalb Europas die Grenzen wieder zu verschließen. Der Vorwand, den Missbrauch von Sozialleistungen zu bekämpfen, öffnet einen breiten Boulevard für populistische Maßnahmen, die das Recht auf Freizügigkeit in der EU verletzen.

Study on Inter-programme Capacity and Competence in ETC Programmes

Posted by on 27/03/14

Recently I have received this email from INTERACT Point Turku. If you work for an ETC Programme please feel free to take the below survey and bring your own contribution to the improvement of the Management Bodies in charge with the implementation of cbc, regional or transnational programmes funded under the next programming period 2014-2020.

INTERACT is going to compile a Europe wide study on “Inter-programme Capacity and Competence in ETC Programmes”.

For this purpose, we are going to collect input from 2007-2013 (ETC) JTS staff directly dealing with projects (Programme/Project Managers/Officers etc.), from 2007-2013 (ETC) Heads of Secretariat and from MA/JTS (ETC) coordinating/involved in the 2014-2020 programming process. Your input to this study would be highly appreciated and we would like to invite you to participate in an online questionnaire which you can access here until (including) Friday, 11 April. Thank you for your support.

Background

If there is one big change to be noted from the 2007-2013 to the 2014-2020 programming period, then it is the thematic concentration and result orientation of future funding programmes, not limited to ETC as the core target group of INTERACT, but covering all ESIF programmes. When looking at the programme implementation bodies, this becomes most obvious by the change (not only in terminology) from a ‘Joint Technical Secretariat’ to a ‘Joint Secretariat’. Behind this skipping of the word ‘technical’ can be seen the overall change from focusing the support from a more technical project management support towards a more qualitative-content focused support. This does not only require careful considerations when setting up the Joint Secretariats and its working processes, but also and especially when designing and further developing the human resource set-up and profiles of future secretariats.

Focusing support to projects on the more technical project management issues – as often done in the past – required staff well trained and experienced in the specifics of the respective funding source and its legal requirements. It was not so much necessary to have knowledge or even experience in working with other funding sources beyond one’s own. In the past years and especially with the macro-regional strategies and their integral element of the alignment of funding coming into being, the perception of and approach to ETC, national and regional programmes and other funding sources is substantially shifting to a more integrative complementary approach. Meaning, ETC and the other funding programmes and sources do not any longer stand alone – but their links, interaction and synergies get more and more into the focus of attention, to create an added value by a complementary use of the different funding sources available.

And latest now with the thematic concentration and result orientation as essential elements of the 2014-2020 programming period and the change from the JTS to the JS, inter-programme capacity and competence of human resources become an essential skill to be able to support project developers and owners beyond purely technical project management issues. Due to the comparably small amounts of available funding of each ETC programme in the overall EU Cohesion Policy context, a real impact of the latter can only be achieved if all involved not only work for their programme area and actors, but at the same time also for the bigger picture.

Already in 2007-2013, but even more in 2014-2020, it is important for Joint (Technical)  Secretariat staff dealing with projects to see their funding programme, its objective, the co-financed projects in the overall picture. This requiring first of all general knowledge and understanding of the various funding sources in and beyond ETC, and especially of their interlinkeages and of ways to use them in a complementary way. This knowledge in the best case goes hand in hand with working  in other than ETC programmes or experiences with exchange and cooperation between ETC and non-ETC programmes. This all being Inter-programme capacity and competence.
And therefore should all secretariats staff – and especially those dealing directly with project generation, development, implementation, support and monitoring – possess and all secretariat activities reflect the capacity for inter-programme cooperation. And it goes without saying that an international staff and working environment is of great help. But how is the reality? Are the various secretariats really inter-programme oriented? Are they able to link their programme to larger contexts beyond the own programme, even beyond ETC? If not, what are the reasons for it and what should be done to attract interest and create the necessary abilities? What are the special challenges detected in the ETC working environment and how to overcome these to make the programme management by such inter-programme approach even more efficient? Since 2014 is the year when most secretariat staff will be recruited, these questions are of high importance to have a good understanding of the new demands and a good start from the beginning. But also during programme implementation it is useful to every now and then get back to these questions and evaluate the human resources composition of the secretariat against these aspects.

Approach to the study
The aim of the study is firstly to come up with a state of play regarding the inter-programme capacity and competence of human resources in present 2007-2013 secretariats, secondly to identify challenges in ensuring an international staff and working environment reflecting the inter-programme cooperation demands across ESIF programmes especially with regard to future programmes and thirdly to produce relevant suggestions and solutions to these challenges. For this purpose, a comprehensive questionnaire has been designed to collect information from three relevant groups in all ETC programmes across Europe:
- 2007-2013 JTS staff directly dealing with projects (project generation, assessment, implementation monitoring and support by Programme/Project Managers/Officers etc.) to identify the present individual staff profiles and their personal experiences and expectations with regard to inter-programme capacity and competence;
- 2007-2013 Heads of Secretariat to identify how inter-programme capacity and competence has been taken into account on the overall (human resource) management level;
- MA/JTS coordinating/involved in the 2014-2020 programming process:

a.    How on an overall management level the change towards more qualitative-content support instead of purely technical project management support will be taken into account in the 2014-2020 secretariat’s human resources set-up and how inter-programme capacity and competence will be reflected in it.

b.    How the profile of the secretariat staff dealing with projects (Programme/Project Managers/Officers etc.) will look like in 2014-2020 and how inter-programme capacity and competence will be reflected in the individual staff profiles.

Follow-up of study results

Based on the study and its findings, INTERACT will assess which kind of services could and should be provided in the second half of 2014 in the field of inter-programme capacity and competence to either a group of programmes, or to – if requested – to individual programmes. For this purpose, questions on possible service needs by INTERACT are included in the questionnaire.

We would very much appreciate your contribution by filling in the questionnaire by Friday, 11 April. Thank you.

In case of any question, please feel free to contact me directly by e-mail (philipp.schwartz@interact-eu.net) or phone (+358-405564237).

Thank you very much for your contribution!

INTERACT Point Turku
Itsenäisyydenaukio 2 | Box 236 | 20800 Turku | Finland
t. +358 (0)405 564237
philipp.schwartz@interact-eu.net
www.interact-eu.net

 

100 Tage GroKo in Europas Deutschland

Posted by on 26/03/14

Was haben wir noch nach hundert Tagen der ganz großen Koalition? Die Gewissheit, dass aus der innenpolitischen Sachwalterin des Hier und Jetzt keine Reformkanzlerin mehr werden wird.

Das Volk hat bestellt, und Angela Merkel liefert. Ruhe ist erste Kanzlerinnenpflicht, was sich übrigens vor allem in der Krim-Krise im Zusammenspiel mit der wiedererstandenen Außenpolitik aus dem Hause Steinmeier durchaus als Segen und Verdienst der großen Koalition erweist. Deshalb stört es die Langstreckenkanzlerin Merkel als Allerletzte, dass die ersten hundert Tage scheinbar nur aufs SPD-Konto einzahlen.

Merkel hat “ihren Schröder” gelernt: Hinten sind die Enten fett, war dessen Devise – in vier Jahren nämlich spricht niemand mehr davon, dass Andrea Nahles es war, die binnen 90 Tagen den Gesetzentwurf zum Mindestlohn vorgelegt hat. Wir Wähler sind vergesslich; das hat Merkel noch nie vergessen.

War sonst noch was in 100 Tagen Groko? Ach ja, eine Delle namens Edathy, ein Ex-Minister Friedrich, der über seine eigene Tölpelhaftigkeit stolperte, dessen überschaubarer Verlust aber alleine dadurch deutlich wird, dass er noch nie so populär war wie nach seinem Rücktritt.

Das wohl größte Langzeitärgernis für die SPD wird allein daraus erwachsen, dass ihr ebenfalls unglücklich agierender Fraktionschef Oppermann bis auf weiteres im Büßerhemd durch den Bundestag schleichen muss – diese Union vergisst nicht; sie verzeiht allenfalls bei Wohlverhalten.

100 Tage große Koalition, das sind ein Appetithäppchen nur auf 1.300 weitere ungewisse Tage, die noch folgen. Und das ist eine Weisheit fürs Poesiealbum der Großkoalitionäre: Hinten sind die Enten fett.

Austria’s Eurosceptics

Posted by on 23/03/14

It’s ironic that someone from a party notorious for its radical right-winged policies paralleling National Socialists showed contempt for a democratic polity and then likened it to a Nazi state. That’s what happened when the populist Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) politician Andreas Mölzer (who by the way, is the party’s frontrunner in the European Parliament elections) was reported to have recently compared the European Union to the Third Reich, by stating that the EU is an overregulated dictatorship while Germany under Hitler was more liberal. Mölzer justified his views by alleging that Nazi Germany “surely didn’t have so many laws.”

His statement was vile and his ignorance astounding as his delusional knowledge on the EU is flawed, but it comes to no shock since this is what happens when politicians open their mouths without consulting their brains. The Freedom Party’s advocacies and antics, like other rightist parties in Europe, shouldn’t surprise anyone but it should continue to disgust because they have an effect; recent polls suggest that the FPÖ is currently the strongest party, overtaking the Social Democrats and the People’s Party (parties of the grand coalition).

The FPÖ has had some notorious politicians in the past, such as the late Jörg Haider, the party’s former frontrunner and former Carinthian governor. He is arguably the most notable Freedom Party politician to date due to his notoriety and right-winged radicalism that made headlines abroad for his praising of Nazi policies and his zealous opposition on immigration, Islam and EU integration.

The party’s current frontrunner, HC Strache, who is notable for being Austria’s most ‘liked’ politician, has some regressive and disturbing ideas as well. Strache is notorious for advocating Eurosceptic and anti-immigration policies as he likes to warn the public of “over-foreignization” and asylum abuse, yet less than 0.3% of Austria’s population are refugee immigrants. He once stated that he wants to follow Switzerland’s steps by putting the issue of immigration from EU states to a vote, ignorant of the fact that freedom of movement is a fundamental right in the EU. Such campaigning suggests his blind nationalism and superficial xenophobia.

According to a Eurobarometer report on Austria last autumn 2013, the majority (41%) had a neutral view on the Union, while 34% had a negative view. The remaining 25% had a positive view. It may be disappointing, but it’s not unexpected.

The establishment of the European Union was undertaken to ensure peace and prosperity throughout the continent in the aftermath of World War II. But as decades passed and new problems arose, that revolutionary generation slowly faded away.

The EU is currently recovering from the recession’s aftermath, and instead of member states devoting themselves to cooperation and finding a genuine collective solution that satisfies all interests, its national politicians resort to petty pinpointing against other member states and the EU as a whole. This has led to the rise of Eurosceptic and nationalistic trends.

Nationalism is what ignites hatred and violence. Politicians such as Strache need to stop prioritizing merely the present state of their country and start prioritizing both the present and the future of their country and the EU as a whole. If national governments continue their promotion of their own national agenda in crisis handling, then progress is unattainable. They must not ignore the fact that the EU’s economic union regulations collectively benefit the member states more than the member states per se being isolated with their own policies.

People not only in Europe but all over the world need to realize that the Union’s determination to ensure continental peace and prosperity is still an imperative. Its structure is progressing and is supported by an international market economy driven by free trade, where the free movement of people, services and goods exist.

After years of enduring an economic crisis, has the project failed? Not even one bit; the Euro still prevails and the Union is getting back on its feet. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger; it is inevitable the EU will come out of this recession stronger and better than before.

http://i.imgur.com/rMguG4N.jpg

Courtesy of Austria Presse Agentur

 

Bongo Berlusconi

Posted by on 21/03/14
By Wytze Russchen I met Silvio Berlusconi twice. Though it is fairer to say that I saw him twice since an army of bodyguards assured our distance. Unfortunately, it wasn’t at one of those Bongo Bongo parties, but during less exciting gatherings in Brussels. The big Berlusconi, though the word ‘big’ applied more to show than to size…

Tumbling EU: lack of risk-assessment towards anti-EU forces

Posted by on 19/03/14

There is a growing concern from both independent and politically-dependent media that the forthcoming elections for the European Parliament on May will be stigmatized by the increase of anti-EU political forces. The rationale behind these concerns, while being clearly advocated, lacks significant understanding of the problem per se: Why the EU citizens are willing to question the European establishment by supporting eurosceptic forces?

Britain leads the way as the anti-EU Independence Party is on course to win the largest share of the vote in elections of the European Parliament with 30%, whereas the Liberals, the Labour, and the Tories slightly overcome 56-57% altogether. In France, a recent poll indicated that as much as 24% of the French population intends to vote for Marine Le Pen’s National Front, while in the Netherlands Geert Wilder’s eurosceptic Freedom Party concentrates 17% to 19% of voting intentions. In Denmark, which is said to preserve one of the most pluralistic political ecosystems, the eurosceptic Danish People’s Party along with the anti-EU People’s Movement stand for 29%. Are these voting intentions accidental? Not at all.

In addition, it only takes to compare these rates with the population digits and the number of seats these four countries might acquire in the next Parliament. It certainly depends on the performance of other political parties and groups as well, but for the time being and with only two months left, it goes without saying that the eurosceptic and anti-EU movements and parties find significant ground of support in lack of well-developed and bottom-up debates in Brussels and the capitals of the EU regarding the most crucial issues of our era. From this perspective, euroscepticism does not exist per se; it is feeded by broad policy gaps.

Bridging Europe’s 10-day online poll in the beginning of January (i.e. that was purposedly kept fresh throughout the following months) was eloquent of what we are now experiencing. Under the question
“What is the most important issue the European Union has to deal with?”, the majority of voters tapped for freedom, security, and justice with 38,3%, austerity politics with 35.3%, and constitutional reform with 17.7%. All three issues have been consistently neglected in the preliminary debates and it is on these three policy fields that anti-EU movements are developing their rhetoric: anti-immigration feelings; economic disaster; institutional deficit.

The failure to address these issues is paradigmatic of the mindset the EU mechanisms and the EU leadership are operating nowadays. After following the campaigns of the major political groups, someone could clearly discern the mismatch between political vision and political deeds. In this context, it is at least depreciating for the EU citizens to be treated as if they were clinically dead, with no sense of time, plunged into superficial oblivion of what has been done these five years , when it comes to stand in front of the ballot box: The European public will get what the European public wants.

At the end of the day, there is a growing gap of risk-assessment regarding the “next day” in the European Union. The presence
of a strong anti-EU alliance in the European Parliament might not be catalytic in decision-making, but it will certainly be insolvent. Notwithstanding, is there anyone to believe that this eurosceptic wave is going to end up with the elections of the European Parliament?

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