Wednesday 22 October 2014

Editor's Choice

Circus6: OOPS! The EU slept through Einstein’s ‘Wake-up Call to Europeans’!

All this year EU’s Commission’s headquarters Berlaymont building has been sporting a hypocritical reminder to all Europeans to remember the lessons of World War One. This year commemorates its centenary. The huge banner with WW1 soldiers and the poppies over their graves covers all 13 stories on the side wall of the Berlaymont facing the Robert Schuman Roundabout.

Today’s peace-enhancing Europe rose out of the cauldron of war. Every generation since before Roman times knew war. Then lasting peace came to Europe based on the direct application of Judeo-Christian principles.  Why is it now under attack by jihadis?

With all the millions of euros spent on the WW1 commemorations, why does the European Commission, the ‘Guardian of the letter and spirit of the Treaties,’ not want to inform citizens about the only proven peace process that ended millennia of perpetual wars?

The Commission ignored their own banner message. They ignored the message of Einstein and others for which the Commission had been given full documentation. They ignored the commemoration that some small political parties in the European Parliament had given recognizing the Einstein-Nicolai Manifesto, a balm in Europe’s troubled and bloody history.

The main characteristics of the European Community were first announced during and even before WW1. A hundred years ago this month, it took courage for Albert Einstein, renowned physicist of Relativity and the Quantum, and his colleagues to publish their historic Manifesto. They then  delineated the main features of what became the EU’s founding entity: the European Community, initially only in the coal and steel sector. Coal was then the main energy source as OIL is today.  Steel was vital for the armaments industries.

In mid-October 1914, Albert Einstein and his colleagues launched a powerful and sustained attack on self-serving global cartels. In his view and that of the co-signatories of the ‘Wake Up Call to Europeans,’ (Aufruf an die Europäer) global cartels were a major factor in the Arms Race before the world war. Patriots, citizens and consumers were exploited by both national and international cartels. Some examples:

* A paper company, Harvey Steel, was formed where Germany’s Krupp, France’s Schneider, Britain’s Armstrong and USA’s Bethlehem Steel and Carnegie Steel exchanged patents on steel armour and armour-piercing munitions to bolster trade and profits. Exploiting the gullibility of nationalistic politicians, they set one country against another.

*German industrialists like Krupp supplied arms to Germany’s future enemies, gained a French Legion d’Honneur and during the war exported basic metals to France via neutral countries.

* British firms Vickers, Brown and Armstrong sold arms and mines to the Turks that slaughtered British and Anzac troops at Gallipoli.

* ‘Industrial corporations formed and merged into vast international combines whose prosperity depended on exploiting the nationalist sentiments in different countries.’    The words are those of Henri de la Fontaine (Nobel Peace Prize, 1913). He went on to say: ‘the industries of iron, steel, copper and nickel, coal, petroleum and oils, chemical products (gas, explosives, gunpowder) and other materials as well as the manufacture of arms themselves form vast networks that encompass the entire planet.’ (The Bloody International of Armaments by Otto Lehmann-Russbüldt).

Einstein and the future founder of the European Union, Robert Schuman, were among a small number of activists who not only saw the global dangers but proposed solutions to stop wars. The race was on to create an iron and steel cartel that would dominate the European Continent. Victory of either side was likely to create conditions for another world war. So it was. But not a third.

By mid-October 1914 the German invasion of Belgium had made world war inevitable. What possible effect could Einstein’s voice have denouncing German and international cartels? Even then they manipulated much of the world economy.

A few weeks earlier, 93 eminent university professors launched their ‘Appeal to the Civilized World’ maintaining that Germany was perfectly right in going to war to safeguard its culture. It denied any atrocities occurred in Belgium. Soon 4000 members of the German intelligentsia had signed this Appeal. That represented the quasi-totality of German professors in support for war.

The ‘Wake-up Call to Europeans’ was quite different. The petition conceived by Einstein and Georg-Friedrich Nicolai (né Lewinstein, Berlin professor of physiology who had trained with Pavlov) was only signed by two others: Astronomy professor Wilhelm Foerster who headed Germany’s Standards Bureau, and Otto Buek, a philosopher of science. However the ‘Wake-up Call to Europeans’ was more far-sighted. Its aim was to ensure Europe would preserve its supranational values in a Community after the war. They already saw the main danger:  whoever won, the victor powers might sow the seeds for another world war for coming generations.

Undeterred, the group started a larger organization based on what they called ‘supranational solidarity.’ It was to tackle the great cause of the world war. They called it the Union for New Patriotism (Bund Neues Vaterland, BNV). It drew support from intellectuals around Europe. It did not blame war on the shooting of an Austrian grand-duke in Serbia. Nor was their focus on an ‘accidental’ war brought about by military treaties.

In June 1915 the BNV published a petition and sent it to the Reich Chancellor and all members of the German parliament, the Reichstag. It refuted Germany’s secret War Aims, by then known through the leaked Confidential Memo made by six national economic and industrial cartels. On 9 September 1914 Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg set these aims as:  the permanent dismantlement of fortresses in France and the cession of ‘the Briey basin whose iron ore was necessary for our heavy industry’. Luxembourg and Belgium were to become vassal States.

The cartels also demanded the annexation of ‘the iron ore basin of Briey’ a small French town of 2500 population just across the frontier of German-occupied Lorraine. Why Briey?

The Bund Neues Vaterland ‘opposed most energetically the demands of the petition and asked the Chancellor to take necessary measures against these manoeuvres so as to leave no doubt and to say clearly that the imperial Government does not approve the war aims that they have formulated. The annexation plans are motivated by the need to replenish supplies during a future war. An essential element to guarantee peace in future must be found in the development of international law. ‘

New forms of law, ‘supranational’ law, also preoccupied the son of a French Lorraine soldier who in 1870 defended French Lorraine against ‘Prussians’ at the siege of Thionville. Robert Schuman was a student at Berlin Humboldt University in 1905-6. Half a century later in 1950 Schuman shocked the world when he announced the creation of a new form of grouping of States: the European Community of Coal and Steel. It was based on what he defined as ‘supranational law’. One key characteristic was that it provided the world’s first international system to control cartels.

Schuman was born in Luxembourg where his father, Jean-Pierre, lived in self-imposed exile. He did not want to live under German occupation in Lorraine. Awarded most of the prizes in his final class at Luxembourg high school in 1903, Robert Schuman then made a surprising decision. He had the choice of universities across France, Switzerland and Belgium. Instead he crossed into occupied Loraine. At the Metz High School he crammed for the German university entrance certificate, the Abitur. He had to learn five years of some classes in just eight months. Why? His answer can be found in an later interview on Radio Luxembourg:

It is not by chance that the idea of a Community of steel, iron and coal came to a Luxembourg boy whose parents have experienced what it is to have war.’ Thionville was called France’s Steel City. Luxembourg’s economy also depended on its own vibrant steel industry, trading inside the German customs union. The Schuman family house lay on the frontier, midway between Thionville and Luxembourg city, and only a few kilometres from the newly discovered rich, iron ore basin of Briey.

In 1910 Robert Schuman received his doctorate of Law with high honours from German universities. The next year found him as deputy head of the German delegation to a conference in Leuven, Belgium, organized by Nobel Peace Laureate and Prime Minister Auguste Beernaert. Its theme?  International Peace through Law based on Christian principles.

Before WW1, Schuman thus liaised between Francophone groups and German societies who were then less open to the concept of international law.

What of the cartel problem before the outbreak of world war? In 1913 three-quarters of German iron ore came from Lorraine conquered in the 1871 Franco-Prussian war.  This rose to 80 percent during the war. ‘If iron ore production in Lorraine is interrupted,’ the cartels’ Memo warned, ‘the war to all practical purposes would be lost.’ France regained Lorraine after the war. Schuman became French deputy for Thionville. In the Second World War, Lorraine was again absorbed into Germany.

Then Schuman, twice Prime Minister of France, and long-time Foreign Minister was able to bring in a profound political strategy of reconciliation. He created a supranational Community of Coal and Steel among democracies. The ‘Wake-up Call to Europeans’ of a century ago provided a core document for today’s European Union.

Europeans are now living in the longest continual period of peace in more than two thousand years.  With incessant globalization, world population four times that of 1914, increased demand for strategic materials, and overt and covert cartels in strategic sectors including energy, democracies need to be forever vigilant.

 

 

Latest Posts

ACI grows Airport Carbon Accreditation to North America

Posted by ATAG on 19th October 2014

The Airports Council International-North America recently launched Airport Carbon Accreditation at North American airports, bringing the program across the Atlantic five years after it was launched in Europe. Available in the Asia-Pacific region since 2011 and Africa since 2012, Airport Carbon Accreditation has recognized 107 airports in these regions — including 86 across 24 European countries. Only in the past year, the programme yielded a net reduction of 353,842 tons of CO2 in Europe under the collective efforts of European airports. Additionally, it was selected as of the top three low carbon initiatives for Europe and was highly commended at the OECD International Transport Forum’s Transport Achievement Awards. Currently, it is nominated for the ‘Best Aviation Programme for Carbon Reduction’ Prize at this year’s World Responsible Tourism Awards.

The programme assesses and certifies airports’ plans to manage and reduce their carbon impacts. Airports are certified on four different levels of accreditation: mapping, reduction, optimisation and neutrality. The first U.S. airport to be certified was Seattle-Tacoma International in Washington state. The success of the programme reflects the fact that carbon management is high on the transport industry agenda world-wide, but also that it is recognized as a gold standard that many airports wish to attain.

Watch the video below to learn more:
 http://youtu.be/yJWDJx-aaFE

The United Kingdom: An Excellent Country for Erasmus Internship

Posted by mladiinfo on 19th October 2014

Article by: Hacı Mehmet Boyraz (Turkey)
Edited by: Stefan Alijevikj, Tatiana Mrugová

In Turkey, there is a question “Who knows better: the one travelling more or the one reading more?”. After his Erasmus Internship in the UK, the young university student Hacı Mehmet Boyraz from Turkey says, that the one who travels more knows better, because as in his situation, he touched the things he saw in the pages directly, and now he is writing his own observations and experiences. This is Hacı’s 4-months Erasmus Internship story where he explains how to enjoy in the UK as well as provides some relevant information about his internship experience:

I am studying International Relations with Political Science and Public Administration as a double-major student at Gediz University in İzmir. In my first year at the university, I decided to make a research in the UK, but as you know, conducting a research in the UK is expensive. In the time when I was thinking about this, thankfully, the Erasmus Office of the university declared, that the exam for those students who were interested in having Erasmus or Erasmus Internship abroad would take place, so I applied to take this exam and passed it. However, the main issue was not based on passing the exam; the problem was in regards to where I would get my Internship. Luckily, I found a professor, the Leader of the Politics and Applied Global Ethics Group of Leeds Beckett University, who accepted me as a research assistant in the Group.

Because it was my first time in the UK, I had some problems with accommodation. Before coming to the UK, as much as I remember, most of the dormitories were closed, so the best and cheapest choice for accommodation in the UK is always to search “Rooms for rent” online. In this way I found a big and cheap room. I was sharing the home with 5 Polish people who were all really nice and helpful

I have finished my Erasmus Internship a few weeks ago. During the Internship, I worked with many important social scientists at the Leeds Beckett University. This opportunity changed my mind towards academia. With their support, I have written approximately 20 works including articles, corner posts and interviews with well-known people living in the UK and Turkey. Moreover, beyond my job at Leeds Beckett University, I visited Oxford University – African Studies Centre, and University of London – School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). I was really excited about visiting these institutions because both of them host the most important experts on African studies, which was one of my research areas, as well as experts on the EU, Conflict Resolution, and Turkish Foreign Policy.

Irony with Goji Berries

Posted by epopress on 17th October 2014

By Jason Anderson, Head of European Climate and Energy Policy at WWF European Policy Office

Earlier this year I got a blood clot while flying home from a climate meeting in Peru, demonstrating God’s firm approach to high carbon footprint activists. A month later I tore an Achilles tendon while running on vacation abroad, leading me to believe that She’s pretty serious about a zero-tolerance policy.

The upshot is that I was practically living in my doctor’s office for a while so he gave me the bulk discount on blood tests, including a cholesterol check. This returned a surprisingly high level for someone who considers wheat germ a genuine food product and not construction material, but upon closer inspection there was room for improvement. I went hardcore, cutting out the bad stuff entirely and pulling every trick out of the bag: olive oil, walnuts, sardines, dark chocolate, avocados, psyllium husks, goji berries, chia seeds, tofu, linseeds, soy milk, agave syrup. My homemade granola had more trends jostling for attention than a storefront in Kreuzberg.

Within six weeks my cholesterol fell by 25% and my triglycerides fell by 50%, which I think means I can’t enter warp drive anymore but I’m no engineer.  And rather than provoking painful croissant withdrawal symptoms, the whole episode has given me an excuse to let my inner control freak have something more constructive to do than a crusade against split infinitives in WWF position papers. All in all, pretty successful.

But what, you may ask, is this little personal episode doing in a climate and energy blog?

It just so happens that changing diets is a pretty big deal when it comes to combatting climate change. WWF’s Energy Report calculated that meat consumption would have to be cut by half in rich countries if we want to want to achieve the multiple land-use goals of food, fuel, fibre and ecosystem health in a deeply decarbonised world. And our Livewell project has issued a series of recommendations about European diets that would have the dual benefit of better health and reduced carbon emissions in the food supply chain.

So it was with some curiosity that I noticed a billboard advertisement last week for the new Coke ‘life’, which comes in a green can. Why green? It contains stevia, a sweetener derived from a plant that for many years has had a flavour that is to sugar what turpentine is to Chateau La Tour. Coke is trying to do two things here – compete for the burgeoning grown-up ‘natural’ soda market, and react to obesity concerns linked to high-calorie junk food. But maybe their new product can earn some other green cred. Stevia manufacturer Pure Circle has done an interesting footprint analysis of their product, comparing it to a range of traditional sugars. They claim stevia’s CO2 emissions are 82% lower than beet sugar and 64% lower than cane sugar, when used in a soda.

Moreover, because stevia is so sweet, not much is needed. The lower volume means less land under cultivation – about 5 times less compared to sugar cane according to the industry. This offers at least the prospect of reducing land conflicts. And unless there’s some brand of chemistry I’m not aware of, stevia isn’t likely to be made into ethanol, but the sugar we’re no longer drinking could be.

So, next time I pass a green coke can in the market will I add it to my list of diet foods?  I don’t think so….that honour belongs to tap water. Which I understand is all the rage these days in Vesterbro.

 

Europäische Familienplanungen?

Posted by Günter K.V. Vetter on 17th October 2014

Sieht so die schöne neue Welt aus? Wird das Baby 2.0 so in den Lebenslauf programmiert, dass es die Karriere nicht stört, am besten also kurz vor der Pensionierung? Der Vorstoß der IT-Giganten Apple und Facebook, Mitarbeiterinnen das Einfrieren von Eizellen zu bezahlen, sorgt zu Recht für Wirbel. Das Grundproblem, dass Kinder immer noch als Störfaktor einer Karriere gelten, wird damit nicht gelöst, sondern bestenfalls verschoben. Mutterschaft entsteht nicht durch Anklicken von “gefällt mir”, Schwangerschaft lässt sich nicht als App programmieren. Das Verschieben der Familienplanung wegen des Jobs ist immer mit dem Risiko verbunden, dass es dann zu spät sein kann. Was folgt, ist nicht selten tiefe Reue, den Kinderwunsch dem beruflichen Erfolg geopfert zu haben.

Giornate complicate nelle istituzioni europee

Posted by Carlo Peano on 17th October 2014

«Ci sono settimane in cui capita niente e altre in cui succede di tutto, questa settimana siamo nella seconda se guardiamo l’Unione europea». Sto parlando con il mio amico Y, giornalista greco, mentre beviamo una birra dopo lavoro in uno dei bar di Place de Londres.

«Già, il Direttore Generale della DG SANCO (il corrispettivo europeo del Ministero della Salute italiano), Paola Testori Coggi, ha lasciato il posto per motivi famigliari» dice Y tra un sorso di birra e un altro, per poi aggiungere «Ma European Voice afferma che in verità lei abbia infranto le procedure sugli appalti».

Io l’ascolto con attenzione e intanto osservo i bar di quella piccola piazza poco lontana dal quartiere europeo.

«Si dice che abbia dato informazioni a una ONG senza avvisare le altre riguardo la data di apertura di un appalto e che poi sia corsa ai ripari e abbia chiuso l’appalto una volta compreso l’errore» rispondo e poi cambio discorso perché voglio parlare del Parlamento europeo.

Così ricordo che per formare e mantenere un gruppo politico ci vogliono almeno venticinque eurodeputati di sette paesi diversi e poi concludo « Il gruppo EFDD (European for Freedom and Direct Democracy) era composto da parlamentari di sette paesi, prima che il suo unico europarlamentare lettone lasciasse il gruppo. Ora che il gruppo è composto solo da sei paesi, l’EFDD non esiste più».

Y mi guarda pensieroso, riflettendo su qualcosa che gli ho appena fatto venire in mente, poi pensando ad alta voce esclama «Sarà interessante vedere con quali politici Farange pranzerà o prenderà un caffè a Strasburgo e a Bruxelles nelle prossime settimane… ».

Per chi fosse interessato al collasso dell’EFDD, consiglio di guardare il video sottotitolato in Italiano: http://europarltv.europa.eu/it/player.aspx?pid=6f5f80bc-bc61-4d71-a7b0-a3c300ac1182

Aggiornamento (20 Ottobre 2014): il parlamentare polacco Robert Jaroslaw Iwaszkiewicz ha abbandonato il Congresso Polacco della Nuova Destra (partito di estrema destra polacco) per entrare individualmente nel gruppo EFDD.

Uncertain times

Posted by adamczyzewski on 16th October 2014

Oil prices surprise us again as Brent falls to below USD 90 on Thursday (9/10). What is going to happen next? Will the downward trend continue? Or should we rather expect the prices to hit USD 100 and above again? The answer depends on the time frame of expectations. In the short-term perspective, three sources of uncertainty may be distinguished. First, there are the geopolitical factors which have caused oil production in six North African and Middle Eastern countries to decline by a total of 3.5 million barrels a day, resulting in an escalation of tensions on the global oil market, which has been historically dependent on Saudi Arabia’s sizeable crude reserves – a bulwark against sudden price upswings. There are many indications that the production slump has reached its lowest point. The possibility of these missing barrels of oil returning to the market produces a price decline risk. The word ‘risk’ is used, because whether production in the region will continue to rise or not remains a major source of uncertainty. When I discussed oil prices a month ago, there were few reasons to believe that Libya’s crude production would go up. As it did, rising to some 900,000 barrels a day at present, the unexpected upsurge in oil supply of more than 500,000 barrels a day reversed the upward price pressure triggered by the Islamic State’s offensive in northern Iraq. However, considering the precarious political situation in Libya, the country’s oil production can fluctuate widely and is unlikely to increase any further.

Interestingly, IHS reports that the Central Bank of Libya currently has all of oil production and oil terminal staff on its payroll and is financing militia forces to protect vulnerable locations. With the central bank’s involvement, crude oil production and supply can be expected to continue uninterrupted over the short term. Although the turmoil and rioting in Libya persists, the unrest has been moved away from oil and gas infrastructure and city areas, which has further reduced the risk of production stoppages in the near future. In the long-term perspective however, the situation remains uncertain as the forces which will eventually gain control of the country may also attempt to take over its oil revenues. While the House of the Representatives, Libya’s democratically-elected and internationally-recognised government, has power in the east of the country, the west is governed by the General National Congress, which also controls Tripoli, where the central bank resides. For now, the central bank is willing to pay salaries to maintain oil supplies, but retains most of the revenue from selling the commodity in an attempt to forestall the conflict between the two rival governments. Currently, neither side is trying to take over all oil revenues, but the situation is bound to change some time. When one of the factions lays claim to the money, the country’s oil production may shrink significantly.

Libya is not the only country whose oil production has the potential to rise above expectations. Iran is still blocked by sanctions, which prevent some 1 million barrels of oil from reaching the market every day. As negotiations with the P5+1 (United States, Russia, China, Great Britain, France + Germany) continue, addressing the sanctions as one of many issues, the oil market is struggling with more uncertainty. This also applies to countries whose oil production has so far not suffered any long-lasting slumps on a scale which could materially affect the global oil market, such as Nigeria, Venezuela, Russia, and Iraq, the last country’s situation being the most worrying in the short-term perspective.

As for the sanctions imposed on Russia, they will likely have their toll on the global oil market in one or two years as the effects of stymied investment in oil production become apparent.

The second source of uncertainty has to do with how fast oil production is going to increase in the United States. The country’s rising oil production, along with the increasing supply from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, more than offset the slump seen in North Africa and the Middle East, which has been instrumental in bringing relative stabilisation to the oil market. According to IHS, the potential increase in US oil production depends on whether the ban on American oil exports is lifted or not. The effects of the ban could be seen in the fourth quarter of last year, when the country’s market saw a steep decline in oil prices relative to Brent crude on the back of a seasonal decline in demand associated with repairs in American refineries. While unconventional oil extraction methods make drilling more and more wells necessary, low oil prices discourage any such investments. Lifting the ban on US oil exports could change the situation, as I argued in one of the previous posts.

Oil demand, which outside of the US has been growing at a slower rate than expected, will be the third factor of uncertainty in the coming years. What is uncertain in this case is economic growth in the Eurozone, which is facing the risk of deflation, and the condition of Asian economies, particularly China, which are grappling with an economic slowdown. The oil market is rapidly affected by stymied growth in the region due to still narrow refining margins. Russia and Brazil also contribute to the decline in crude oil demand.

However, there exist some concrete factors which will prevent crude oil prices from declining over the long term. Of these, production costs are the most important – if prices decline to a point where they are lower than production costs, oil production will be reduced, which will in turn cause the prices to go up again. A scenario where oil production declines due to low prices is particularly relevant in Saudi Arabia, where unconventional deposits account for a vast majority of the country’s reserves, and the United States, whose reserve potential is also unconventional in nature. While in Saudi Arabia the decision how much oil to produce is made arbitrarily (depending on economic factors), in the United States the same is based on individual decisions made by numerous independent entities, which are currently most affected by the oil export ban. This makes the US oil export policy, and any potential amendments to it, a crucial factor in shaping the situation on the American and global oil markets in the coming years.

 

Seven reasons we love Slovenia’s new Commission nominee Violeta Bulc

Posted by OE on 16th October 2014

By Open Europe Violeta Bulc, Slovenia's new Commissioner-designate, will be grilled by MEPs on her suitability for the Transport portfolio, next Monday. Here's our 7 reasons why she might shake up the Brussels bubble.

Frage: “Sollten die Deutschen mit dem Sparen aufhören?”

Posted by Günter K.V. Vetter on 16th October 2014

Frage:…Sollten die Deutschen mit dem Sparen aufhören?

Antwort:… Tatsache ist, dass die Politik langsam keine Optionen mehr hat, dass dieser Einbruch hier vielleicht viel gefährlicher ist als der, den wir 2008 hatten. Das haben wir durch billiges Geld wieder rausgerissen. Aber die Politik der Notenbanken kommt jetzt an ihre Grenzen, und deswegen ist diese Diskussion über neue Konjunkturprogramme jetzt im Umlauf.

Frage: Stehen wir wirklich vor einem Abschwung – oder schlimmer noch vor einem Kollaps?

Antwort: Ein Abschwung oder auch eine Deflationsspirale ist nicht auszuschließen… Wir haben nach 2008 mit sehr viel fast schon staatswirtschaftlichen Maßnahmen, also der Politik des billigen Geldes, die Zinsen gedrückt in der Hoffnung, dass damit die Wirtschaft angekurbelt werden sollte. Das funktionierte auch einigermaßen…

Aber die Politik der Notenbank ist jetzt am Ende. Wir sind schon fast bei null Zinsen, wir haben Strafzinsen. Das erinnert ein bisschen an die Spätzeit der DDR, wo auch solche potemkinschen Dörfer aufgebaut wurden.

Frage: Der Untergang für die Europäische Union… oder für Deutschland?

Antwort: Wenn es uns jetzt trifft, dann wird es wahrscheinlich eine Abwärtsspirale in der gesamten Weltwirtschaft. Wir haben diese unsäglichen Sanktionen viel zu früh und viel zu stark gegen Russland beschlossen, die natürlich vor allem Deutschland und Österreich treffen. Andere können sich da eigentlich bequem zurücklehnen. Wir haben jetzt den Abschwung ansonsten. Da kann ich schon verstehen, dass Rufe laut werden, dass man sich dem entgegenstemmen muss und die Sparpolitik aufgeben muss.

Frage: Dafür würden Sie votieren, einen Abschied von der schwarzen Null in Deutschland zum Beispiel?

Antwort: Ja. Man muss ja sehen, dass Amerika und England und viele andere, Japan seit Jahren eine hemmungslose Schuldenpolitik betreiben, damit ihre Aktienmärkte stützen und oben halten, während wir in der Europäischen Union eine doch relativ schizophrene Politik haben. Wir haben zwar auch die Politik des billigen Geldes der Notenbanken, das ist das Gaspedal, und gleichzeitig ziehen wir dann die Handbremse mit dem Stabilitätspakt.

Wenn schon es Richtung unbegrenztes Geld geht, dann müssen wir da unter Umständen mithalten, denn sonst haben die anderen nachher eine wachsende Wirtschaft, sie haben dann zwar Schulden, aber wir haben dann keine Schulden und keine wachsende Wirtschaft. Und wenn dann die Bereinigung kommt, wenn Schuldenschnitte erfolgen, dann stehen die anderen besser da.

Frage: Das heißt, Schäuble muss nachgeben, oder er macht eine Politik zum Niedergang der deutschen Wirtschaft?

Antwort: Das ist überspitzt… Der Mann hat sich ja auf das Sparen fixiert und er kann sich ja ganz gut fixieren, wenn er mal eine Idee hat, und das ist dann seine Linie, die will er durchhalten. Aber in der Tat wäre eine Auflockerung der Sparpolitik im Moment durchaus diskussionswürdig.

Frage: Und wenn wir das machen, wofür geben wir das Geld dann am sinnvollsten aus?

Antwort: Ja, das ist schon das nächste Problem. Das ganze viele Geld, was wir jetzt gedruckt haben, das ist an die Banken geflossen, das ist zum Teil in spekulative Bereiche geflossen und es ist nicht wirklich dahin geflossen, wo es hinfließen müsste, nämlich in den Süden, dort in den Mittelstand in Deutschland, dort wo Investitionen sinnvoll sind.

Von daher ist die Idee, die Schäuble da gebracht hat, dass die Europäische Zentralbank zunächst eine Kapitalerhöhung benötigt, an der sich dann ja alle beteiligen, dass dann die Europäische Zentralbank mehr Kredite gibt, gar nicht schlecht. Aber das ist natürlich weit weg von den 300 Milliarden, die Jean-Claude Juncker gefordert hat.

Frage: Und wofür sollte das Geld ausgegeben werden? Was kurbelt die Konjunktur an? Was hilft?

Antwort: Wir haben in Europa schon natürlich Rückstände in der Infrastruktur, auch in Deutschland. Infrastruktur ist eines, Bildung, Wissenschaft, Hightech. Aber wenn wir unseren Hightech-Sektor wirklich hochbringen wollen in Europa, dann müssen wir uns erst mal aus der totalen Abhängigkeit von Amerika lösen. Das sehe ich noch nicht. China ist da etwas eigenständiger, während im Hightech-Bereich die Europäer im Prinzip ein Anhängsel der USA sind und Territorium von Google, Amazon und Microsoft. Das wird nicht einfach, da was dagegenzusetzen.

Frage: Nun sagt ja Wolfgang Schäuble, mehr Investitionen seien schon okay, aber die sollten am besten durch Strukturreformen erreicht werden. Heißt das im Klartext, Deutschland wird wieder Sozialleistungen kürzen…?

Antwort: Leider wird es das in der Konsequenz heißen, wenn es so umgesetzt wird. Aber Strukturreformen sind ja mehr. Die EU ist im Prinzip in vielen Bereich zu einer Standortwettbewerbsmaschine im Hinblick auf Kürzungen von Sozialleistungen und sonstigen Gesetzen geworden. Aber man kann ja auch positiv was machen. Man kann Fördergesetze machen zum Beispiel für den Hightech-Sektor. Leider reicht dazu die politische Kraft der EU im Moment nicht.

Frage: Die Regierung in Deutschland gibt ja auch viel neues Geld aus, aber möglicherweise für die falschen Dinge. Sollte die Große Koalition so etwas wie die Rente mit 63, den Mindestlohn und das Betreuungsgeld wieder kassieren?

Antwort: Ja, das waren Wahlgeschenke. Die sind natürlich unsinnig…, kosten viel Geld, und sie entziehen dem Arbeitsmarkt produktive Kräfte. Es ist doch viel wichtiger, dass wir Arbeitsplätze schaffen. Mindestlohn habe ich ein gewisses Verständnis für. Da gibt es auch Untersuchungen, dass der nicht auf die Arbeitsplatzanzahl drückt, dass er nicht schädlich ist. Aber eine Rente mit 63 war ein ganz klares Geschenk.

Insofern brauchen wir tatsächlich Strukturreformen, die neue Arbeitsplätze schaffen. Das wird aber auch nicht ohne Geld gehen, und es geht nicht nur, indem man einen Dumping-Wettbewerb um Billiglöhne und um die günstigsten Standortvorteile im Hinblick auf Steuern und so weiter macht, sondern da muss man sich was Intelligentes einfallen lassen, zum Beispiel ein Förderprogramm für Hightech.

Frage: Sie haben kürzlich gesagt…, Sie hätten noch nie so viel Angst ums Geld gehabt wie angesichts der Krisen in der Ukraine oder in Syrien… Was raten Sie den Bürgern in dieser Situation?

Antwort:… Die Lage ist diesmal so ernst wie seit mehreren Jahrzehnten nicht, denn wir haben wirklich viele Krisen, und die Notenbanken sind mit ihrer Politik am Ende. Man kann nicht alles auf dem Sparkonto lassen, man kann nicht alles in der Lebensversicherung lassen. Geldforderungen sind tatsächlich irgendwann bedroht. Es muss eine Mischung her zwischen Sparkonto und dann vielleicht langfristigen Aktienfonds, globale einfache Aktienfonds, vielleicht auch ein kleines bisschen Edelmetall, sodass man wenigstens eine gewisse Streuung im Vermögen hat.

Frage: Wie schätzen Sie die Chance ein, dass die Weltwirtschaft noch einmal davonkommt?

Antwort: Mit Prozentzahlen tue ich mich immer schwer, aber die Gefahr, dass sie nicht davonkommt, die ist wie gesagt sehr real und so hoch wie lange nicht mehr. Zahlen sind wirklich schwer, Fifty-fifty vielleicht das davon kommen, vielleicht auch ein bisschen mehr. Aber die Gefahr ist absolut gegeben.

Frage: Und wie schnell wird sich das erweisen?

Antwort: Das ist wieder schwer zu sagen. Im Jahr 2008 hatten wir den Kollaps und da gab es Panik, und wenn da die Notenbanken nicht eingegriffen hätten, dann wäre es damals so weit gewesen. Diesmal ist es eher ein schleichender Prozess… Diesmal kann sich das wie eine schleichende Krankheit etwas länger hinziehen. Aber ich denke, in ein bis zwei Jahren haben wir Klarheit.

EU BANS TEDDIES IN TIME FOR CHRISTMAS!

Posted by EU Perspectives on 16th October 2014

True? False? Who cares?

It’s a great headline. With many shops, particularly in the UK, already displaying Christmas baubles in their windows it’s a timely news item certain to grab reader’s attention – especially that broad demographic “parents” who are already fretting over how to fill their children’s stockings in time for Christmas.

The answer of course is false. Let us spell this out clearly: No. The EU is not proposing to ban any teddies in time for Christmas. There is no such proposal on the table. No debates in Parliament. No member state pushing for it in the Council. No ECJ judgement imminent. Some years ago it nearly became headline news but that was a long time ago now…..

….in the mid-1990’s Emma Bonino, the chain-smoking radical feminist who, until recently was Italy’s Foreign Affairs minister, worked as the EU Commissioner for Consumer Affairs. At the time I was working for a public affairs consultancy. Late one Friday afternoon I got a panic stricken message from a client whose job it was to oversee the safety of toys sold across Europe. You can say many things about manufacturers, corporations and industry, all possibly true, but the one thing you can not say of the toy manufacturers is that they do not take safety seriously. If anything goes wrong it’s belly-up for them. Toy safety and the Toy Safety Directive was something they worked on round the clock. Each manufacturer had a dedicated safety officer in charge of designing safe toys and ensuring that all toys sold on the EU market met the safety criteria set out by the Toy Safety Directive.

That Friday afternoon the boffs were in disarray, panic was spreading amongst the ranks, disaster was nigh. Calamity sizzled in the air. Some lowly official in the Commission had proposed an amendment to the Toy Safety Directive that would have classified all toys with long hair as too dangerous for circulation in the EU. Were the amendment to go ahead it would have meant an effective European wide ban on all Barbie’s, teddy-bears, dolls and countless other toys that have fake hair attached to them. Something had to be done. Quick. I was to sort this mess out. Now. I rang the lady in the Commission responsible for the amendment. She didn’t deign to talk to me. I tried calling a few MEPs working on the proposed amendment. None of them were around; nor were their assistants particularly interested in helping me out. I tried to talk to some people higher up the command structure of the Commission. To no avail. No one was in the least bit interested in returning any of my calls or answering any of my urgent requests for more information on this proposed amendment. In the meantime I had the client on my back asking if I had any news? Desperate, I sent a fax to Emma Bonino’s spokesperson. In the subject line I wrote:

COMMISSION BANS TEDDIES IN TIME FOR CHRISTMAS”.

Within five minutes I had a meeting with none other than the Commissioner Emma Bonino herself. Result. The meeting went well. The toy safety team presented their case. Satisfied that EU consumers were not at risk from toys with long hair the amendment was scrapped. Readers will be pleased to read that in the intervening twenty years or so there have been no reported cases of children being maimed by or killed by toys with long hair.

A rather long anecdote to make a simple point: when it comes to tabloid head-lines the Commission runs scared. For good reason. The press have been brilliant at ridiculing, belittling, mocking but above all misrepresenting Europe. How easy it is for some bored, ignored Brussels journalist to make up a little story that feeds into the populist mood and grabs the attention of the misinformed.

Then again, if the EU is too stupid to develop it’s own independent media to present it’s case then really it deserves all it gets. More of the EU communication budget goes on paying expensive Consultancies to prepare glossy corporate-style brochures than it does to supporting an independent pan-European media outlet capable of presenting independent, newsworthy stories on a daily basis that readers can identify with.

Yet, at the same time it has to be admitted that a profitable pan-European media is notoriously hard to develop. Many have tried. Many have failed. In the early 1990’s Maxwell launched “The European”. Eight years later it was dead in the dust. In 1995, The Economist launched European Voice but sold it last year to a French company. One of the few survivors has been EurActiv, founded in 1999. EU Observer is perhaps the only other survivor. Neither are large enough to take on the entrenched, media giants that dominate the national landscape and who shape voter’s perceptions of the EU.

There has been much talk in Brussels recently of the new Axel Springer-Politico Joint Venture that will create a new pan-European wide media. Will it succeed where other have floundered? That remains to be seen. More on that later.

In the mean time, in a spirit of mis-information, half-truths and misleading headlines euperspectives has been scouting around for some good, newsworthy stories to boost reader numbers and has come up with some highly probably stories that are bound to engage readers.

Mayor of London, Boris Johnson bans Londoners from speaking English!

The Greater London Authority has announced that the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, wants to turn London into a “mini-Holland”. Were in not printed in black you’d think they were making it up – but the headline clearly states “Mini-Holland trial starts in Walthamstow!”

This can only mean one thing – Londoner’s are going to have to learn Dutch. Dutch is a guttural language that does not lend itself to estuary English or cockney so we went out to ask what ordinary Londoners thought about the idea. Pete, a cab driver from Lewisham hadn’t heard of the plan but when explained that Johnson intends to turn London into a mini-Holland he was furious. “If Johnson thinks I’m going to learn Dutch he’s got another thing coming. Who does he think he is to tell me what language to speak!”

Sheila Connors, a GP in Hackney worried that many of her patients would not be able to understand her. Hugh, a city worker in Canary Wharf took a more pragmatic view pointing out that Holland had better cycling paths than London so perhaps it was time for Londoners to start behaving more like the Dutch and less like Londoners?A good place to start would be to switch from English to Dutch.

Given the sensitivity of turning London into a mini-Holland we caution Johnson to think carefully about where this plan is heading. What starts out as some loose plan to offer Dutch-style cycling paths in London will soon lead to the complete Dutchification of London. Londoners are just not ready to abandon English in favour of Dutch. At the very least they should be given an “in-out” referendum so that their voices can be heard.

Farage in secret talks with tobacco industry to feature UKIP colours on cigarette packaging

If you’re worried that your teen-age kids might be discouraged from taking up smoking or from drinking cheap alcohol because of proposed plans to introduce plain packaging and minimum alcohol pricing then fear no more. Vote UKIP. Farage, the charismatic leader of UKIP, well known for his love of a pint of lager and a packet of fags is totally opposed to plain packaging of any form. According to the UKIP website the party opposes all “plain paper packaging’ for tobacco products and minimum pricing of alcohol.”

So delighted is the tobacco industry with Britain’s latest rising political star, rumour has it they are in talks with UKIP to use their bright colours, purple and yellow, on all cigarette packages before the end of the year. A spokesperson for the industry said, “Nigel Farage is a role model to all young people. He is a fine example of what a success you can make of yourself if you learn how to smoke more than twenty a day and drink in the pub at lunch time. We would most certainly welcome closer ties with UKIP.”

Farage has never made a secret of his love for drinks, smoking and women and he has not completely denied that he accepted a donation of EUR 25 000 from a British e-cigarette company. He later went on to make a You Tube video promoting their product.

True? False? Who cares?

 

EU-Russia Relations: Reloading again?

Posted by Tyszecki on 16th October 2014

The Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) will be held on October, 16-17, in Milano (Italy). German Federal Chancellor, British Prime-minister, Presidents of Ukraine and France confirmed their participation at the forum. Russian Prime-minister Medvedev was declared as a participant but at the very last moment President Putin announced his arrival to Milano.

Russians also confirmed that Putin was planning to meet with EU leaders as well as with the head of Chinese Parliament Li Kecian. There is also possibility of Putin-Poroshenko talks.

Putin’s primary goal in Milano is to convince EU leaders to lift sanctions imposed by Europe. It is worth to add that the future of these restrictive measures will be the main issue at the EU foreign ministers meeting on October, 20, in Brussels.

According to Kremlin’s official statements, Putin is going to offer for Europeans to ‘reload’ EU-Russian relations. The Russian economy has entered into recession. Russia should intensify its political and economic dialogue with Western countries, otherwise the decline of its economy cannot be stopped. The main source of the Russian budget income is oil & gas export (nearly 50%), but due to the latest trends in the oil markets Russia has lost profits – up to five trillion rubles. The Russian budget was based on oil price of $114 per barrel, therefore budget-2014 revenues will be reduced by 20-25%.

Trying to redirect its cooperation vector, Russia chooses China as the main strategic partner instead of EU. Lots of agreements were signed between Moscow and Beijing during last few years. The gas contract is one of the most important. The contract is worth $440 billion and the period of its validity is 30 years. However, gas deliveries will be possible not earlier than in 2018. But by that time, the Russian economy will not be able to survive without economic and political cooperation with EU.

“Reloading” of European-Russian relations is positively assessed by EU. But the Ukrainian issue is still open. A few European countries support lifting of sanctions against Russia: Hungary, France & Slovakia. Most of the EU members agree that sanctions against Russia must not be lifted until the situation in Ukraine becomes stable.

EU representatives consider that it is not the time to begin a new “Cold War”. All parties interested in resolving the Ukrainian conflict should carry on the effective dialogue. Only political negotiations can bring results.

The issue of economic sanctions lifting will be discussed during the meetings between EU leaders and Putin. Sanctions can be canceled under the only condition: Russia should withdraw its troops from the territory of Ukraine. This condition concerns not only the Eastern Ukraine, but also the annexed Crimea. So, EU-Russia relations reloading is possible but in case of fulfillment of this demand.

According to EU experts, Ukrainian and Russian economies bear loses due to the protracted conflict in the Eastern Ukraine. The countries have deeply integrated system of co-production in many industrial fields.

ASEM in Milano may become the starting point of the Ukrainian conflict resolving. Putin face a dilemma: to support EU peaceful initiatives and to create conditions for sanctions to be lifted or to destroy the Russian economy.

Ukraine and Russia may become a reliable economic bridge between Europe and Asia.

Participation Success Factors: a quick followup

Posted by Mathew Lowry on 16th October 2014

What happened when 60 odd people had a go at the Participation mindmap? The Europecom session went well yesterday, judging by the Tweets. I’d never even been to an event run on World Café lines, so thank goodness the others knew what they were doing. In the end the mindmap – which started out as [...]

The Syrian tunnel and the Spring

Posted by Fadi Elhusseini on 16th October 2014

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When the first spontaneous explosions of the Arab democratic revolutions erupted in Tunisia in December 2010, many were hoping that this revolt might usher in a new beginning for the whole region. When Egypt joined Tunisia a few weeks later, hopes mounted and everyone started to think that the long-awaited moment had finally arrived. This feeling further intensified with the Yemeni revolution and the early stages of the revolutions in Libya and Syria, and a new order was anticipated. Nevertheless, the trajectory of events took things in a completely different direction. Some opted to see the recent downward spiral as a conspiracy theory, while others saw in these events a natural outcome of an ignorance planted by corrupt rulers over decades.

In fact, every Arab, except those who were benefiting from toppled regimes, was happy and hopeful with the so-called Arab Spring, and Arab thinkers started to draw optimistic scenarios for their future. On the other hand, despite initial hesitation and falling into the trap of duality — i.e., interests versus morals — the West ostensibly began to cheer and support these revolts. Even the staunchest critics of the Arab world saw these revolts bringing the region into the democratic club.

Nonetheless, with the beginning of the armed conflict in Libya, the picture was distorted somehow. That is, people started to question how far violence can justify the fulfillment of democratic aspirations. Similarly, in Syria violence escalated to an unprecedented level as regional and international actors tried to use the Syrian scene either to counter others’ influence or to find a foothold in the region.

To that end, there were no objections whatsoever whose hands the money and weapons would fall into, as long as Bashar al-Assad’s regime was weakened and as long as they maintained some sort of leverage in the ongoing action in Syria. This fact refutes, without doubt, the allegations of some states that accused others of financing and funding the jihadists in Syria, because simply, everyone paid and funded everyone and anyone who fights against Assad.

The conflict in Syria revealed the divergence and the convergence in the policies of regional regimes concerning Arab revolts. While the Saudis were in favor of regional Status-Quo except for Syria and Libya (who did not have good relations with), the Iranians were in favor of a revolutionary change in the region, aiming to re-clone their experience, except for Syria- the ally. Turks, on the other hand, were in favor of a gradual transition in the region in order to maintain their economic interests, but again with the exception of Syria which they opt for a drastic change and toppling Assad.

With the emergence of al-Nusra followed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the whole Arab Spring was fully hijacked. In other words, with the number of atrocities committed by these two groups, not one single Arab is left with the luxury of thinking of democracy or fighting their dictatorships, lest they suffer from similar troubles.

Although there is a consensus on the grave threat ISIS-IS is posing, there has been no real agreement among regional and global powers on fighting or eliminating the group. Some powers see that weakening ISIS-IS would not only mean that Assad will remain, but would also give him the opportunity to retrieve lost territories in Syria. Other regional powers find in fighting and weakening ISIS-IS an empowered of other groups like Kurdish PKK and other Shiite guerrillas, while other super powers find that eliminating ISIS-IS would remove any reason for regional countries to seek support and assistance in fighting those radicals.

And again, as the notion of the US was what provoked many Arabs to revolt against their regimes, which were long accused of being American stooges, the moment the United States launched its air strikes against ISIL, the number of new recruits in ISIL increased dramatically — as it is claimed that more than 6,000 new recruits have joined the organization since the beginning of the US campaign.

With its quick rise and control of a large swath and chunk of Iraq and Syria, ISIL inspired many conspiracy theories to draw the certain and undoubted role of the US in these events. Although critics of this conclusion refute this, claiming that the US is currently leading a campaign against ISIL, I tend to see the latter argument as both erroneous and illogical.

Aside from the document revealed by former contractor at the US’s National Security Agency (NSA) Edward Snowden, which said British and American intelligence and Mossad worked together to create ISIL in order to attract all extremists of the world to one place, there are still other signs. First, all observers have concluded that these strikes are not really harming ISIL. US Senator John McCain himself told CNN on Oct. 7 that the ISIL advance shows the “ineffectiveness and fecklessness” of the air strikes. Second, the US’s tardy decision to launch air strikes took months during which ISIL was expanding and gaining power day by day and despite all the atrocities committed by the group. Third, attacking ISIL does not necessarily mean that the US has no role in the formation and the rise of the group. To illustrate, throughout history, many US administrations attacked former allies when their interests conflicted, e.g., Manuel Noriega of Panama.

However, one should concede that without the widespread ignorance among the Arab population — due to decades of malevolent policies by corrupt regimes that were allied with the US — such groups would not have found grounds to propagate an austere interpretation of Islam and such violent acts. This fact does not, however, rule out a foreign imprint in the ongoing chaos in the region, and several incidents do support this argument.

For instance, in a letter sent from Patriarch Gregorios of Greece to the czar of Russia at the end of the 18th century, he said that abolishing the Islamic Ottoman Empire militarily was impossible. He suggested weakening the empire from within, mainly through ending the discipline and morale and importing Western ideas (from the French Revolution) of liberation and freedom. Tracking the ensuing developments, not only during the demise of the Ottoman Empire but also in modern times, one can notice that this policy has been implemented perfectly and used non-Islamic culture as a cover, either by importing the values of liberation and equality from the French Revolution or the values of US globalization of human rights and democracy in order to penetrate Arab and Islamic societies. Confronting such foreign infiltration occurred through recalling historical exploits and sometimes adopting radical agendas.

Another example is a strategically important document: the 1907 Campbell-Bannerman Report. Although the report was suppressed and has not been officially released due to its gravity, several sources revealed a number of its conclusions, which included that the Arab countries and the Muslim-Arab people presented a very real threat, and it recommended promoting disintegration, division and separation in the region; establishing artificial political entities that would be under the authority of the imperialist countries; fighting any kind of unity, whether intellectual, religious or historical; and finally a “buffer state” to be established in Palestine, populated by a strong, foreign presence that would be hostile to its neighbors and friendly to European countries and their interests.

That said, Ismael Hossein-Zadeh in his article “Planned Chaos in the Middle East — and Beyond,” which appeared in Counter Punch on July 18-20, 2014, suggests that the “incoherent,” “illogical” or “contradictory” policies of the United States are in fact chaos that represents the success, not failure, of those policies — policies that are designed by the beneficiaries of war and military adventures in the region, and beyond. Quoting Hossein-Zadeh: “The seeds of the chaos were planted some 25 years ago, when the Berlin Wall collapsed. Since the rationale for the large and growing military apparatus during the Cold War years was the ‘threat of communism,’ US citizens celebrated the collapse of the Wall as the end of militarism and the dawn of ‘peace dividends’ — a reference to the benefits that, it was hoped, many would enjoy in the United States as a result of a reorientation of part of the Pentagon’s budget toward non-military social needs.”

Unfortunately, with the intercalation of new elements in the scene, i.e., the Kurdish and the ethnic factors, all regional players succumbed to a form of paralysis with few options at hand, and thus the whole region is susceptible to further schism and deeper ordeals until everyone realizes that no one will be immune from the ramifications of this scourge.

Appeared in: Your Middle East, Today’s Zaman, the Daily Journalist, Arabian Gazette, News 24, Arab Media Network, Iran Review, Political Science Academy, Middle East Monitor, Tuck Magazine, Middle East Online, Pakistan Tribune,

Slovenia tries again

Posted by Žiga Turk on 16th October 2014

Some Europeans are deeply respectful of European institutions and serious about the jobs of the persons that lead it. It is a valuable project that brought peace, prosperity and democracy to the continent. It deserves full support. On the other hand, the Slovenian center-left was cheering to the song that refrains “Europe is a gang of thieves”. Somewhere in between these two understandings is the second nomination for the member of the European Commission from Slovenia.

Not serious

Ms. Bulc has had a political job for a few weeks only. She has zero political experience. She has never been involved in policy-making. However, Slovenia is a country of political opportunity. For some. After a poor performance of the center-left government of MS. Bratušek, the voters this summer did not give a chance to the opposition. Instead they awarded Mr. Cerar, a center-left “non-politician”, with a landslide victory. The current prime minister was never leading anything bigger than a chair at a University. He set up his party a few weeks before the elections. He now leads the country. The uneven political playing field in Slovenia makes this possible.

Why, then, could not an absolute beginner lead a portfolio in the European Commission? The decision to nominate Ms. Bulc could be interpreted as an indicator of a shallow talent base of the Cerar’s party and a result of poor understanding of the seriousness of the European project. Which I believe is the case.

However, it could also be interpreted as a sign of contempt and disrespect: as if being a Commissioner is a job that does not require any experience. As if just about anyone who did some public speaking could do it.

It is worth remembering that in August, when his opinion did not matter much, Mr. Cerar said he was supporting Mr. Potocnik; then Ms. Fajon and Mr. Erjavec. Now that his opinion matters, he pushes his party loyal Ms. Bulc through the process. Though even in the government there were 7 votes against her, 6 in favor and 2 abstained. But technically not a majority against.

Mr. Cerar won the national elections on the ticket of morality and ethics. He is becoming a politician fast. Sadly Ms. Romana Jordan, two time MEP, PhD in nuclear physics and a respected member of ITRE was never seriously considered in Slovenia though she could excel in an energy, industry or science related portfolio.

The sacred feminine

The second controversy that is accompanying Ms. Bulc’s nomination is her track record in the occult, in shamanism, in walking on fire, whispering to horses, annulling the second law of thermodynamics. The list of readings and links on her website is long and mind-boggling.

If she is appointed a European Commissioner she could inspire the next Dan Brown’s novel. On how the sacred feminine energy, symbolized by the Zeus’s mistress Europa is returning to the center stage of Europe. Yes, the novel would take place in Brussels, not Vatican, Florence and Istanbul. Perhaps there are some some underground corridors between Justus Lipsius and Barleymont for Prof. Langdon to navigate.

On a more serious note, I actually think Ms. Bulc’s appointment (a few weeks ago) into the Slovenian government – to a position similar to mine in 2007-2008 – was not a bad idea. At a non-portfolio post she could not do much damage but could bring some out of the box thinking to the government table. Which can be valuable.

The way I understand Ms. Bulc’s consulting, it is about making businesses more creative and innovative. Without going too deep into the theory and psychology of creativity, being creative means finding a solution, which as outside of the set of obvious solutions that a mind limited with rationality could come across. The mumbo-jumbo that she preaches could be a way to “overload” the rational brain and, with the shields of common sense and reason weakened, allow for “out of the box” ideas to emerge – in business, design, anywhere.

I do not know if she really believes in the unscientific quackery that she lectures about or is just selling that snake oil to (naïve) business customers to help them be more innovative and creative. If it is the second, Brussels could certainly use an occasional departure from the politically correct but often void phrases that dominate the bubble.

She will make it

The problem is the thin line between the irrational and the creative. If she can persuade Mr. Juncker and the MEPs that she can walk it, she will do just fine at the hearings. After all, it would be disrespectful and un-European to dismiss a second Slovenian in a row.

There might even be sympathy for her beliefs in the parliament. In the West the appreciation of shamanism, African cults, conversations with horses etc. is regarded open, tolerant and multicultural. She would be in much greater trouble had her blogs be about the visions of Archangel Gabriel instead of pseudo-scientific equations; and conversations with Virgin Mary instead of with the spirits of horses.

Commissioners were dismissed for less. In the European Parliament it is more dangerous to be a strict catholic (such as Mr. Buttiglione) than a shaman. It is worth noting that we are speaking about European and not African Union.

Personally I am sorry that Slovenia was unable to look beyond petty party interests in the nomination of its Commission candidates. Ms. Bulc is not the best choice but has broad horizons, is intelligent and will hopefully learn fast.

The lesson

What Europe should learn from the saga with the Commission member from Slovenia (and a few others) is, that the Commission construction process is dysfunctional. The president of the Commission should simply have more to say on who he/she wants on his team. Parliamentary rejection also should not be such an exception. After all, the success or failure of the Commission is not the responsibility of the member states. It is the responsibility of president of the Commission and, to some extent, of the Parliament. Powers, formal and grabbed, should be compatible with that.

The beginnings of modern PR

Posted by Chris Whitehouse on 16th October 2014

Whitehouse Consultancy Associate Director and author of The PR Masterclass Alex Singleton discusses the beginnings of modern public relations.

To read Alex’s’ article, please click here.

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

Nobel Prize for Economics: a missed ex-aequo

Posted by Elio Pennisi on 16th October 2014

Dr Jean Tirole has won the Nobel Prize for Economics having pursued studies centred on regulations suited to ex State monopolies, like Power supplies, Telecom, Gas, Banks…
Mr Tirole concludes that those sizable companies, once privatized, tend to accumulate excessive profits, often not decorously compatible with the community of citizens.
Hence the opportunity to legislate in a differentiate way, paying due regard to the potential excesses of a specific market segment.

However, we should ask ourselves if the privatization of utilities is the right way forward or rather, we should direct the glance (the study) toward a better management of State enterprises. If a State-managed utility is not efficient in administering its services to the members of the public it might need less politics and better management with adequate salaries. A political system that is not capable of managing its state-enterprises economically will, almost surely, waste as well a large proportion of the national budget.

Dr Thomas Piketty, another French economist, has achieved a research that demonstrates the diminishing growth of a country to the widening of salaries beyond a certain point. In other words, the excessive accumulation of wealth in a few, compared to the whole population of a country, causes a dwindling in the purchasing power of citizens, hence the diminishing income to the State. The difference in compensation along the professional ladder is positive to stimulate motivation but if this difference becomes excessive then the economic system misfires. The work is detailed in his book “Capital in the Twenty-First Century”, a bestseller applauded by most economists and some of the political elite but insubstantially criticised by the “financial nomenclature”. Is this the reason for a missed ex-aequo? Dear Mr Piketty, the 21st century has just begun and you might enjoy a full bounty in the near future.

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