Thursday, 31 July 2008

Moscow to build separate areas for migrant workers

May I hint to a newspaper article titled "Ghetto for guest workers" translated from Russian and presented by Robert Amsterdam. The article reports about plans of Moscow authorities to build separate housing areas for migrant workers from Central Asia and South-Eastern Europe.

The article criticises that this could not only lead to ghettoisation but would also foster racial discrimination and ease xenophobic attacks, which have become more frequent in today's Russia.

ECtHR, Moldova, and the press

On Tuesday, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), which is not a court of the European Union but of the Council of Europe, found in a case of the Moldovan national newspaper "Flux" against Moldova that there has been no violation of the right to freedom of expression (article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, ECHR).

Let me first present you the press release on the case and then explain why I am bringing it forward, although there has been no violation of a human right:
Flux v. Moldova (No. 6) (no. 22824/04)

The applicant, Flux, is a newspaper based in Chişinău.
In February 2003 the newspaper published an article about Spiru Haret High School in which, having received an anonymous letter from a group of students’ parents, it alleged that the school’s principal had misappropriated school funds and taken bribes in exchange for enrolling children in his school. The case concerned the applicant newspaper’s complaint about the ensuing civil proceedings brought against it for defamation of the school principal. The applicant newspaper relied on Article 10 (freedom of expression).

The Court noted the serious accusations against the principal and the fact that the newspaper had not carried out any kind of investigation into the matter, including trying to contact the school principal to ask his opinion on the accusations. Moreover, the newspaper had refused the principal’s right to publish a reply. Stressing that the right to freedom of expression did not give newspapers an absolute right to act in an irresponsible manner and make accusations with no factual basis, without even offering the possibility to refute them, the Court found that the applicant newspaper had blatantly disregarded the duties of responsible journalism. It therefore held by four votes to three that there had been no violation of Article 10.
[full ruling]
In fact, this is not the first case that Flux has brought before the Strasbourg court.

In "Flux v. Moldova", the Court held that an interference of public authorities (the leader of the Communist faction in the Moldovan parliament filed a suit against an "defamatory" article) constituted a violation of Article 10. In the case "Flux and Samson v. Moldova" concerning a newspaper article about an ex-Minister of Construction, there has also been found a violation of the freedom of expression.

These latter cases show that in fact the freedom of speech and expression in Moldova is not yet fully guaranteed, especially if (former) public figures are involved. However, that Flux has now lost a case also demonstrates that the freedom of expression is not only a responsibility of public authorities but also of the media itself.

The fact that accusations are made without any proper investigation (even though the accusations could have been correct) and that a reply was denied by the newspaper reveals that not only the Moldovan government has to go quite some way but also that the country's media has to reach a higher level of professionalism in order to live up to the standards set by the European Convention on Human Rights.

I wanted to present this example because usually the Court's rulings are used to strengthen one side of a story. However, taking together cases that are won and lost gives us a picture that is more objective than just looking at single rulings. Reality is usually much more complex than we would like it to be, not only in Moldova.

- And by the way, to be as objective as possible: The decision against Flux was very tight with 4:3 judges.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Debate: Should Ukraine join the EU and/or NATO?

I could spend quite some time formulating my opinion on this question, but instead I recommend reading the debate on this issue at the Central Europe Active blog. Just a short statement:

If it wants, an internally united Ukraine should get a membership perspective for the European Union; nevertheless, the process will take quite some time and enormous efforts.

But before you go to the debate, please first stop by at Dante's Vitaliy's 8th Circle, because he was so kind presenting the translation of some recent figures on the public opinion in Ukraine concerning the accession of the country to the European Union. The figures confirm the divide of this big European country, although they leave some room for interpretation. Vitaliy does this in a more optimistic way while personally I would show some restraint.

Will the Euro become the leading global currency?

Georgetown University associate professor Kathleen R. McNamara (photo + more) has published an article in the August 2008 issue of the scientific journal "Review of International Political Economy" (description) titled
"A rivalry in the making? The Euro and international monetary power".
In her article, McNamara concludes that the Euro will not yet become the leading international currency because it lacks "the necessary political power and social requirements".

So, how does McNamara come to this conclusion, and what are the "necessary political power and social requirements"?

Let's first see her definition of the key currency:
"I define key currency broadly, as the currency that dominates across a variety of functions: namely, the national money held most widely outside its own borders by both private actors and public authorities, used in the majority of cross border transactions around the world, and most frequently purchased in the form of various financial instruments such as bonds."
According to her figures, the global foreign exchange reserves in 2006 were 65.7% in US-Dollar (-5.2 since 1999) and 25.2% in Euros (+7.3 since 1999). Together with some more details on global currency use, McNamara comes to the following intermediary conclusion:
"In sum, the Euro is a fast developer, performing at a level far beyond its age; however, the US dollar still dominates across a range of currency indices. Should we assume that this will continue to be the case?"
The answer to that question is that the speed of change in a global social and economic system like the focus towards the Dollar is rather low. According to McNamara, the factors determining the pace of change in this specific case are:
  • The European Union is only slowly becoming a real foreign policy actor, and its institutional ability or political will to become the dominant international political power is still too low (especially in comparison with the US).

  • The international financial system is used to the Dollar while watching the development of the Euro with caution.

  • The financial market of the European Union with its varying national legislation and control mechanisms is not as integrated as the US market.

  • The European Union and the European Central Bank are not actively promoting the Euro to become the leading currency, while the US Treasury regards a strong Dollar as a national interest (although actual politics showed a weakening stand on this position).
All these points taken together lead to the conclusion that
"The Euro has many of the economic advantages that investors are likely to seek out in a key currency. A huge internal market, increasing financial integration, and generally sound fiscal profiles all point to the Euro rising to challenge the US dollar over the next decade. However, the political and social determinants of key currency status are not yet met in the EU case, giving a good deal of breathing room to the US dollar."
But, and this is the key argument of the text, many of the denominators for a possible change are socially and politically constructed. Thus:

A European Union politically willing and institutionally able could quickly become the leading financial power of world, replacing the Dollar with the Euro as global key currency.

Why the USA should join the European Union

Stephen Colbert on the question, why and how the United States of America should "Join the European Union" (the video is still available, just click on it).

My favourite: "Geographical discrimination". Turkey can use this against France and Germany in the future...

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Romanian corruption prosecutor under fire

Who was the only person receiving praise in the latest European Commission report on Romania (and Bulgaria) in connection with the high level of corruption in the country?
  • Chief attorney and head of the anti-corruption agency (DNA), Daniel Morar.
And now guess whom the ruling National Liberal Party (PNL) and the opposing Social Democratic Party (PSD) want to get out of office when his term ends in mid-August?
  • Right, the same Daniel Morar!
NGOs united in the "Initiative for a Clean Justice" (e.g. Freedom House Romania) are opposed to these plans and are urging the Romanian justice minster Predoiu, an independent, not to follow the will of PNL and PSD. Predoiu, however, has not decided yet.

From an outsider's point of view, this would be a blow towards Brussels and most probably also a blow to the general fight against corruption in Romania. As long as those threatened by prosecution can remove the prosecutors from office (or in this case, prevent him from continuing his work), we won't see major positive developments.

It's a pity!

Background source: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), 30 August 2008

Gordon Brown is the crisis

Labour in Great Britain is in trouble. If Liberal Democrats can celebrate standing in front of the Labour party, which is already 24% behind the Conservatives in one poll, then the dimensions are quite obvious.

For the French daily "Le Monde" the main reason for this crisis is obvious:
"The personal equation of Gordon Brown is nevertheless central to understand the dimension of this crisis. After 10 years without mistakes at the Treasury, the Prime Minister, according to the not very flattering portraits in the British press, seems to be unable to direct, to delegate, or to communicate. This is quite something at a post that requires exactly the art of leadership and the taste to convince.
(own translation)

In fact, this explanation might be too easy, although I have no doubts that the description of Brown is rather correct. Still, the problems Brown is facing economically are to a large extend outside his personal control. Yet, in such situation of crisis, any non-charismatic leadership is facing harsh personal critique because he or she lacks the ability to create support of those who could paint a better picture: His/her fellows, the public, and the press.

A more charismatic personality can make at least some good news and good mood even in difficult situations. Brown seems to be unable to do so - and it might well be that his political fate is sealed by now...

(Article found through: European Avenue.)

Bosnian president Silajdzic avoiding questions

If you are looking for Silajdzic's speech at the Council of Europe on 30 September 2008, read this newer article.

"I have to believe in a democratic Bosnia within the European Union and NATO."
Bosnian president Dr Haris Silajdzic (photo) yesterday was the guest in the excellent BBC show "Hardtalk" with the always impressive Stephen Sackur.

I was too late to watch the whole interview (see RealPlayer video) on BBC, but from the last 10 minutes I saw it became quite clear that both, the divisions in Bosnia and within the Balkans will remain high, and the willingness of regional leaders to offer direct and positive answers to the tough questions asked for the future of their countries and the region remains low.

Still, the interview is worth seeing since President Silajdzic is giving it in fluent English (something not all presidents of European countries would be able or willing to do) and as far as I know only "Hardtalk" is able to present such high level personalities facing the tough questions other would avoid to ask (which, however, does not mean that this is leading to new answers).

Read also:

David Hannan (the half-time MEP): "Don't hold Bosnia together artificially"

Monday, 28 July 2008

Tracking: EP elections 2009 (V)

The Party of European Socialists (PES) is discussing how to make use of members from national socialist/social democratic parties living abroad for the upcoming 2009 European Parliament elections.

Although this sounds like a very positive idea - and it seems as if in countries like Portugal with a non-negligible amount of expatriates from other European Union countries (in this case: Romanians) there is already some cooperation going on - I have my doubts that in practice this will be of real added value.

As far as I can observe, there won't be real European campaigns from the European parties, but at maximum coordinated campaigns, which in every country will be adapted to the national agendas. And national agendas can be very "particular". Not to forget that all European parties unite quite different national member parties, sometimes several in the same country.

The question is thus whether in those countries with a relevant amount of foreign party members one or several national parties will be able to motivate indirect members to really become active.

If I should estimate, the figures will be very low in the large majority of countries and low in a few other.

Under the category "Tracking: EP elections 2009" am following up national and European activities on the path to the European Parliament elections 2009. So far: (4), (3), (2), (1).

In memoriam: Lord Russell-Johnston

Yesterday, Scottish Liberal Democrat and former Member of Parliament Lord Russel-Johnston died, one day before his 76th birthday.

Lord Russel-Johnston was a committed European and worked both in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) as well as the PA of the Western European Union. From 1999-2002 he was the President of PACE and remained one of the most active and visible members of this most important transnational parliamentary body: If you were following the work of the Council of Europe and its Parliamentary Assembly, you did not get around Lord Russel-Johnston.

Europe has lost another great mind.

(Please also read Jonathan Fryer's article, who has known Russel-Johnston personally.)

Sunday, 27 July 2008

World trade, the French, and New Labour

These days, world trade negotiations at the World Trade Organisation (in Geneva) are under way to see whether the so-call Doha Development Round can lead to a new global agreement or if Doha will ultimately fail. All details of the negotiations are constantly published on the WTO homepage. Prospects are low to mixed.

What interests me is the inner-European personal conflict that has evolved: French president Nicolas Sarkozy and EU-Commissioner Peter Mandelson (Trade) are at loggerheads with each other about "the" European position and are playing a nice little blame game. If we add another figure, Pascal Lamy, French Director-General of the WTO, the whole story become a nice little ménage à trois:

  • Nicolas is the current president of France (in office since last year) and president of the EU Council (since this month). The centre-right politician has won his campaign and started his French presidency with comparatively extreme reformist policies. He is not one of the typical French "Ecole National d'Administration (ENA)"-elites who have captured a large share of top posts in French politics.
  • Pascal is exactly one of these typical ENA-guys. Specialisation in economics. Member of the Socialist Party. Rather straight carreer. In his WTO office for almost three years now. Before he was... EU-Commissioner for Trade. To get into his WTO position, there must have been extensive lobbying by the French president and/or the Prime minister - at the time Jacques Chirac and Dominique de Villepin (also an ENA-guy).
  • Peter is one of those British "New Labour" architects, hence a social democrat with pro-market orientation. His political career was interrupted several time by charges of corruption. He is in office as EU Commissioner since 2004.
So we have these three man: Two social democrats and one centre-right/conservative. Two French and one Brit. On self-made ego-mane double president, the elitist WTO Director General, and one EU-Commissioner with quite some controversies during his career.

And now they are playing the big interests game: French ("European") farmers vs. EU power and world markets vs. global free trade with a piece of the pie for everyone. Yet, negotiations are carried on by individuals. And these three individuals have quite a fascinating mixture of personal, cultural and political similarities and differences with a big potential for conflict besides their political responsibilities. Alpha-males, dependent on each other but nonetheless in the constant thrive to get the maximum for themselves.

Yes, WTO is about trade, global questions, and power plays between powerful blocs. But on the second track it is also the arena for personalities. In the end, there will be winners and losers. On the first track, the winners and losers will be countries and their people. On the second track, it will be high-level political individuals.

Both will influence the course of the upcoming years, for the EU and the rest of the world

Friday, 25 July 2008

Interlude (2): Digging deeper

Now that I am four weeks among those who blog about Europe and the European Union I am still figuring out how to dig deeper.

What added value - apart from the personal pleasure I have in blogging - can I, can we offer to ourselves and to the non-blogging readers in writing about European issues?

I have been blogging before, in a different context, but with very clear political intentions. The issues at that time were much more limited; blogging was part of a very specific political activity, it had a purpose and I knew who were my adversaries and who were my addressees. The field that is spread in front of me now is quite different.

Here, I do not have so clear-cut goals. What I feel is missing, is a European public sphere. I am dissatisfied that there is no good European media and only very few pan-European public discourses.

I am always looking for some more depth, for stories and analyses that keep up with the complexities that this continent offers. And with depth, I do not refer to scientific meticulousness. I am referring to stories and enquiries that stop scratching the surface or that look at everything European from a national angle, even though quite nicely disguised from time to time.

By blogging and reading a multitude of blogs I am trying to find this depth, this complexity, this dive below the surface.

And so, between the more spontaneous, "non-strategic" articles that reflect more my immediate need to tell and talk about something I have just read, I would therefore like to write (and also read from you, fellow bloggers!) a different level of articles that add more precisely to what I am looking for:
An all-European story.

Heaven save us from half-time MEPs

Daniel Hannan, British conservative and independent Member of the European Parliament, wants heaven to save us from full-time politicians.

In his blog he is sending us the following glorious message:
[W]hy do we always call these outside interests "second jobs"? Ideally, they would be an MP's first job. Unable to make a living as a full-time politician, the MP would be far less likely to go native. A legislature made up of working people, who met in session from time to time to prevent the institutions of the state from aggrandising their powers, and who drew no more than a modest compensation for their time, would be far more representative of the nation's temper.
That is the right attitude of a member of parliament!

Why should members of parliament spend time in boring sessions, read detailed reports and background analyses, listen to all sides of a story if they can just come back from sailing, or, aehm, writing, once or twice a month and let their gut speak for the people.

I am looking forward to stories like this:
Hey boss, I will finish building this wall in the afternoon - I have to pass by the parliament quickly to decide on that bill on stem cell research. [...] No, I didn't read it, but I will ask my colleague who works in the laboratory of that big pharmaceutical company. [...] Sorry boss, just this time! Next week they are discussing on foreign trade, that is not so important and I can be with you when we are finishing the second storey of the new Commission building. [...] Aehm, I don't know when we decided this, I must have been elsewhere.
To keep it short: Maybe people who want to continue working in their ordinary jobs should not become members of parliament. Or maybe some members of parliament should have a more professional understanding of what they are doing - not in their own interest but in the complex interest of their fellow citizens.

Not just twice a month, but every day!

Thursday, 24 July 2008

No, Barack Obama couldn't!

Sorry, but this was kind of weak. This was a political speech, but not a historic one.

Okay, Obama presented some nice rhetoric, he got his applause, he made his compliments, he has his visions, but you could hear with every word that he tried to avoid every possible political mine, here in Germany and Europe, at home in the US, and elsewhere in the world.

In some phrases, his writers could construct his vision, but the visionary force he develops in domestic speeches was not in his eyes. He spoke out of calculation, not so much out of deep conviction. His personal story that works domestically does not really work on the international scene. This makes his message much weaker here than it is in the USA.

And he did not address some very concrete and important issues: No word about Guantanamo, no word about a wrong war in Irak, no real promise that an America under his leadership would join binding global agreements e.g. to tackle global climate and energy problems. And while he talked about a world without nuclear weapons, no word about global superpowers like the US also abandoning these disgusting weapons.

So, Obama got his European backdrop, he had his audience, and now let's see what he can make out of it.

Yes I could!

If I left now, I still could be in time for Senator Obama's speech here in Berlin. YES, I COULD! This man knows how to deliver a speech. And I love listening to him - not for everything he is saying, but for saying some excellent things in his positively prepossessing manner.

Yet, this kind of cheer-and-applause events for just one single person always make me hesitate. It doesn't count that this is the "Yes we can"-man Barack Obama. It doesn't count that he might become the Democratic candidate for the post of US president. It just counts that he as so many charismatic leaders wants the masses to follow.

But cheering within the masses means being a sheep in a herd following the shepherd, for the good and for the bad. And having German ancestors makes me quite reluctant being such a sheep.

I think I have a more active vision of political involvement, a more discursive one. So I will watch and listen to Obama at home. If he inspires me, you will hear about it. If he disappoints me, you will hear about. And if he remains irrelevant for me or for Europe, I will find other interesting topics to blog about. And you will definitely here about these!

Romanian foreign minister: "Continue enlargement!"

The Berlin-based newspaper "Tagesspiegel" has published an interview with the Romanian foreign minister Lazar Comanescu (in office since April).

While the four first questions concern the recent discussion about the EU-Commission report on Romania (and Bulgaria), with answers that are not too much news compared with what you can read everywhere else, and the fifth question is dedicated to the Romanian schedule to the Schengen area (mid-2011) and Eurozone (around 2014), I would like to translate the last question & answer of the interview:
Interviewer: French president Sarkozy and [German] chancellor Merkel have threatened to stop the enlargement process after the Irish "No" to the EU Reform Treaty. What do you think about it?

Lazar: Why is the EU so interesting for numerous states all over the world? Because in the past it has proved its ability to keep its promises. The EU has to stand by its promises also in the future - and this includes the enlargement process.
While some of you might doubt whether the European Union has always proved that it keeps its promises, the answer of Lazar is a double reminder:

First, that for Centre-East and East European countries the enlargement process is much more important than it is for some older member states, not least for France and Germany. And second, that even if the European Union seems stuck in this not-so-unexpected Irish "No!"-vote there is a life inside and outside the EU that keeps on going on, and that a more and more self-referential European Union will become less credible to the outside world.

And in this sense Lazar is right: A certain kind of credibility has been the attraction of the EU and, beside its economic strength, part of its regional (and maybe global) power. Anti-enlargement statements might be institutionally understandable, but politically they put in question the vision of the original project that sometimes seems to be lost between power games and bureaucratic argy-bargy.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Examples of political culture: Albania

Well, maybe we are a bit fastidious when it comes to political debates; we want technical details, intelligent and cryptic irony, polished rhetoric, and refined arguments.

But why not look to Albania?! During a taped parliamentary debate, the following incident happened:

After Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha announced that he wants to appoint the daughter of Albanian Republican Party leader Sabri Godo, Socialist deputy Taulant Balla said in a speech:
"Now that Godo's daughter ... has been appointed minister, the Prime Minister will have problems at home because his own daughter will ask to become a minister, or even a prime minister."
The Prime Minister's reaction who directly intervenes in Balla's speech is more than, well, unusual:

"What will happen to you sister, a lowlife, a prostitute in motels will end."
[I only found this bad translation.]
And then screaming:
"You should know that I'll kill you! You won't make it alive into parliament again! I will kill you!"

Such stories always remind me about the reason why I am such a big fan of Europe: It's cultural differences, stupid!

PS: Depending on your proficiency in Albanian, you can also watch the incident on Youtube.

Tracking: EP elections 2009 (IV)

Found at
Estonians may be allowed to vote by mobile phones in next year's European Parliament elections

Estonians may next year become the first people in the world allowed to cast votes by mobile phones – and the first elections for which ‘m-voting’ would be allowed would be to the European Parliament.

A bill on m-voting, as the possibility is dubbed, was introduced today
[16 July 2009; JF] and will be put to the vote in the Estonian parliament in September. The proposal has the backing of all members of Estonia’s governing coalition. [...]

Estonia is a funny country: The internet is a civil right there and every commune has to provide at least one free access point for all citizens. Estonia was one of the first countries, if not the first country to introduce e-voting and voting through the internet. Oh yes, and Estonia was also the only country that had to introduce [sic!] customs duties/tariffs for entering the European Union because before it did not have any...

So now: Mobile phone voting for the European Parliament elections in 2009. Actually, that doesn't surprise me.

Under the category "European parliament elections 2009" I am following up national and European activities on the path to the European Parliament elections 2009.

For an overview over all articles in this category have a look at the overview article.

For the five newest post see also the sidebar.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Powerful Women (I): Meglena Plugchieva

The category "Powerful Women", which I will continue in the future, will be dedicated to European women with influence on the national or supranational level but with relevance for both.

As seen in the "Females in Front" petition, looking for qualified women for top European jobs is a permanent task and my "Powerful Women" series will be part of this work.

The first woman to be mentioned is Meglena Plugchieva (photo). Mrs. Plugchieva is Deputy Prime minister of Bulgaria and in this function responsible of monitoring and coordinating the EU funding.

Those of you following the news will have read that the preliminary publication of an EU Commission report on the state of affairs in Romania and Bulgaria has provoked intense discussions in Bulgaria and in the European Union - not least because huge amounts of EU funds will have to be repaid due to corruptive practices and misappropriation.

These bad news show that Mrs. Plugchieva, in office since April/May (before she was the Bulgarian ambassador to Germany), has quite a tough way to go. Yet, she has shown in her statements that she is ready to be as tough on this subject as it is necessary:
"I will not be Brussels' carrier pigeon. I will coordinate the work of each group of experts responsible for the EU funds absorption. However, this does not mean that the ministers, who have taken commitments to absorb funds under operative programs of the EU are exempt from their responsibilities and duties."
Today's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, one of the leading national newspapers in Germany, calls her the "Guardian of [public] virtue" and remarks that she does not appear like a "woman with the back to the wall" but like a hard working and assertive politician willing to eliminate all corruptive practices in her country.

And in June, a high official of the Bavarian government (the most important German federal sub-unit) said about her:
"The nomination of Mrs. Plugchieva is an important signal for the earnest effort of the Bulgarian government to fight the misappropriate use of European funds. With Meglena Plugchieva, this task is in good hands."
We will see whether the pressure from Brussles will be helpful for Mrs. Plugchieva. From my side, I can only hope that she is successful in bringing corruption and criminal practices down. This is as important for her country and the European Union as it is - supposedly - for herself!

Good luck, Mrs. Plugchieva!

Why applying for the intelligence service?

Mihnea from the very interesting Romanian language blog "Politică&New Media" has found a report from a group of young people called 08 Agency.

For the report, youngsters have been asked why they are applying for the Romanian domestic intelligence service SRI ('Serviciul Român de Informaţii' = a secret service). The results are astonishing:
  • 53% are applying for job security reasons
  • 11% want to do it for the money, and 
  • 6% are doing it for familiy traditions
More interesting are the following:
  • 19% want social recognition (... for a secret function!)
  • and 2% apply because of ... James Bond.

Well, it seems as if the SRI offers plenty of interesting perspectives: A secure, well-paid and recognised work connected with a James Bond lifestyle that has been a family tradition for a long time already.

Maybe the European Union could harmonise this so that all countries or the EU as a whole would enjoy such a nice secret service.

Radovan Karadzic


Radovan Karadzic, Bosnian Serb and war criminal, has been arrested this Monday in Serbia after 13 years of hide-and-seek.

This is a good day for humanity.

The Irish fisherwoman surrounded by enemies

I was just about to gag on an article by Bruno Waterfield. In this article about the anti-Lisbon demonstrations in Ireland during the Sarkozian visit, he writes about a fisherwomen:
Her existence fishing the waters around the Aran Islands, like that of all Ireland's fishermen, is a day-to-day struggle with the European Union's Common Fisheries Policy and the powerful Irish bureaucrats that enforce it.

Cliona is the type of person that rational, democratic and progressive societies need. She is self-reliant, outspoken, committed and knowledgeable about her trade and passionate in the defence of its interest.

But her expertise and commitment, like that of people in many other walks of life, is now overridden by the technocrats and "experts" who impose the "we know best" rules and procedures of officialdom.

I was already melted in tears when I continued reading with a citation of this fisherwoman:
"We fish monk surrounded by French and Spanish boats. You are lucky to see one other Irish boat. We can not fish in our own waters," she told me. "But we do see a lot of the Irish Navy because it keeps busy intimidating Irish fishermen to enforce EU rules."

"Irish fishermen are the apex of an upside down pyramid that supports fisheries bureaucrats and inspectors who sit in their suits without a clue about what we do. If the Irish fishing industry disappears it is nothing to them. They are civil servants."

It is exactly this kind of antiquated nationalistic argumentation combining stupidities of "family tradition", the bad "Spanish/French/etc." fishers (who should have no right!!! to fish along the Irish shores), with this notion of evil technical "experts" that keep Europe and the rest of the world apart from solving our common problems.

That the fish stocks all over the European waters are so low that we have to fear the extinction of complete populations of fish can only be solved by "bureaucrats" who try to see the global picture instead of single sad stories mixed with political stupidities. But yes, Mr Waterfield, try to tell us something about a "rational, democratic and progressive society" that will never come as long as such kind of articles help to divide instead of finding common solutions: "Irish waters for Irish fisherwomen." is not progressive, democratic and not rational!

And that Lisbon (compared to Nice) does in no way change the situation of this lady is just another truth ignored in the article. ..

Monday, 21 July 2008

Barroso's Brussels

By the way: Mr. Barroso, President of the European Union Commission, wants to stay in office after the next elections, EUobserver has observed.

The only thing he needs is a European Peoples Party majority after the next European Parliament elections.

However, it is a pity that Commissioner Walström did not put forward my comment to one of her recent posts concerning gender equality in politics to Mr. Barroso. I suppose, blogging and commenting is not as influential as I though...

Big daddies grudge big mamma Obama

I was quite amused reading in leading German online news-source SPIEGEL.DE (with an English language sub-division lagging behind temporally) that French president Sarkozy and British premier Brown are not amused that Obama's trip to Germany gets more attention than his visits to their respective countries.

Obama's camp is cited saying that their focus on Germany is because Mrs. Merkel is supposed to be the most influential political figure in Europe, Gordon Brown being in troubles domestically and Nicolas Sarkozy being not long enough in power.

Rrr, nice little causeless conflicts... That is what the press is longing for.

Remark: Obama will speak in front of the Siegessäule (Victory Column) in Berlin on Thursday, and masses are expect to listen to him along the "17th June Street", famously known for the "Fans' Mile" during the last football World Cup and European Championship.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Interlude: What is Europe - and why am I writing about it?

Why am I writing about Europe? Where is the sense in spending time on blogging about this thing called "Europe"?

The reason: I am born European geographically. I was raised European mentally. And I have become European politically.

So what is Europe? It is as simple as this: Europe is a construction. It doesn't really exist. For me, it is the word that expresses two different feelings that are on the two sides of the same mirror:

First, Europe is the multitude of identities floating through me every day. And second, Europe is the feeling of connectedness with people from all over this (sub-)continent: my Russian and my French brothers; my Greek and my German sisters; my Finnish and my Swiss idols; my Welsh and my Norwegian teachers; my Polish and my Estonian friends; my Spanish and my Moldovan competitors; my Bulgarian and my Hungarian flatmates; my Bosnian and my Belgian partners; my Azeri and my Austrian colleagues; my Czech and my Italian ancestors.

Through them and many more I am European. That is why I am blogging about Europe. Not in an exclusive sense as the European Union is designed. But in an inclusive way that says: As much and as many in as possible.

However, the European Union is fascinating because it is a right but in some ways mislead political project. It is an example of how to do it and of how not to do it. The European Union is not Europe, it is just a part of it, in some way or another. So it is also part of this blog, in some way or another.

Yet, this blog is about everything European. And since I cannot capture everything, I take a look at some of the things. That doesn't mean I ignore the rest, it just means I don't write about it. If I had unlimited time available, everything would be in. If there was unlimited time available, everything would be Europe. But sadly and truely, time is limited. And so I just try (almost) every day:

As much and as many in as possible.

Read also: "The European Dream"

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Tracking: EP elections 2009 (III)

Looking at the time schedules of the European parties for the EP elections, I could find some indications on the planned timing:

European Liberals and Democrats

According to to a press release from April, "[t]he final ELDR electoral programme will be adopted by the ELDR Congress on 30 and 31 October 2008."

European Socialists

After the public consultations for the PES manifesto have ended, consolidation work is now under way. The manifesto-page tells: "The PES manifesto will be adopted by the PES Council - a mini-Congress with voting representatives from all member parties - in December 2008."

European Greens

Although I did not find any specific hints, the general schedule suggests that it might be decided at the party's Council meeting from 10-12 october 2008 in Paris.

European People's Party

I did not find any indication for the EPP schedule. (Anyone else?)

Under the category "Tracking: EP elections 2009" am following up national and European activities on the path to the European Parliament elections 2009. So far: (2), (1).

12 MEPs with conflicts of interest has published a report titled "Too Close for Comfort?" showing personal and financial conflicts of interest of MEPs from the UK, Germany, France, Finland and Romania.

The list includes (citation from the table of contents):
  • Sharon Bowles: Patent lawyer pushing patents
  • John Purvis: Investing in industry
  • Klaus-Heiner Lehne: Another lawyer pushing patents
  • Elmar Brok: MEP and media man
  • Jorgo Chatzimarkakis: Network of lobbying links
  • Malcolm Harbour: MEP inside the car industry
  • Giles Chichester: Close to (nuclear) power
  • Pervenche Beres: Opening doors to the financial industry
  • Caroline Jackson: Benefiting the waste industry 
  • Ioan Mircea Paşcu: Consultant to US military contractors
  • Eija-Riitta Korhola: Pro-nuclear and funded by nuclear
  • Martin Callanan: More MEP motoring perks 

A very interesting reading, indeed. Here you can find the full report as PDF.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Belgium back to crisis

Several news sources report that Belgian prime minister Leterme has offered his resignation tonight:
Belgian media say Prime Minister Yves Leterme has offered his resignation after his government failed to agree on more self-rule for Belgium's Dutch and French-speaking camps.

Leterme who has been in office since 20 March 2008 has led a 5-party-coalition that was meant to produce national unity. It seems as if this project has failed.


According to TV, the king of Belgium has refused the resignation.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Tracking: EP elections 2009 (II)

Please see the Overview Article for all articles in the series "Tracking: European Elections 2009".

For the most recent articles, please check the "Special Feature: Road to the European elections 2009" section in the sidebar!


While I am looking at the path to the European Parliament elections 2009 from a European citizen's perspective, others are tracking the whole process scientifically.

A large scientific pilot project is PIREDEU, short for "Providing an Infrastructure for Research on Electoral Democracy in the European Union". Under the auspices of the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies of the European University Institute in Florence (Italy), a group of 20 researchers from 14 institutions in differenct EU countries have joined to collect data all around European elections:
This three-year design study will assess the feasibility of an upgrade to the European Election Studies that will provide an infrastructure for research into citizenship, political participation, and electoral democracy in the European Union (EU). The scientific and technical feasibility of this infrastructure will be investigated by means of a pilot study conducted in the context of the 2009 elections to the European parliament. If the pilot study is successful the EES will be in a position to request funds to create a comprehensive empirical database that would endow the social science community with the most essential information required for a recurrent audit of the most important aspects of the electoral process in the European Union.

At the same time as providing evidence for a feasibility assessment, the pilot study will provide the basis for a fully-fledged study of the European Parliament elections of 2009, comprising a voters study, a candidate study, a media study, a manifestos study, and a contextual data study.

Quite interestingly, the project also offers an Open Forum for "consultation with the wider research community". So if you are interested in the five topics of the project:
  1. surveys of citizens (design of the voter survey)
  2. surveys of elites (design of the candidate survey)
  3. contents of party manifestos (design of the manifesto study)
  4. contents of news (design of the media study); and
  5. contextual data;

then you can join the scientific process through active contribution.

Under the category "Tracking: EP elections 2009" am following up national and European activities on the path to the European Parliament elections 2009. So far: (1).

Sunday, 13 July 2008

MEP and former Polish foreign minister Geremek dead

Bronisław GEREMEK, Polish foreign minister from 1997-2000 and member of the European Parliament for the ALDE group (Liberals and Democrats) since 2004 has died today in a car accident, the International Harald Tribune reports.

Geremek has an impressive European biography that I recommend reading (e.g. on Wikipedia). Europe has lost a great European today.

EP elections: Spain hopes for Lisbon

According to the Spanish secretary of state for European Union affairs, Diego López Garrido (cited in El País), in an ideal situation the Lisbon Treaty would be ratified early enough so that it could be applied for the upcoming European Parliament elections. The reason he presents: Spain receives four more seats under the Lisbon rules compared to the present (=Nice Treaty) situation. If Lisbon enters into force too late, the four seats have to be added at a later stage.

I am glad that some politicians are as open as this. Why talking about common values, balance of powers, or the possibility of future enlargements? For Spain, the timing of the ratification of Lisbon is as simple as the calculation x + 4 = better then x (while x would be 50 according to Nice). Politics are much nicer if you keep them this simple!

(To be fair: López Garrido also adds that with the Lisbon Treaty the Union would gain in legitimacy thanks to the strengthening of the Parliament and the inclusion of the Charter of Fundamental Rights.)

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Looking south with low expectations

Tomorrow, 44 heads of state and government will meet in Paris for the foundation of the Mediterranean Union, a club of EU-states and all the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea.

In fact, the expectations for this Sarkozyan project are low. For the Times, "Flop fears loom over Nicolas Sarkozy's grand plan for Mediterranean Union" and according to AFP, Amnesty International has expressed "serious concerns regarding the absence of any rights dimension" in the project.

Germany's national daily newspaper "Süddeutsche Zeitung" writes:
If you ask diplomats about the state of the preparations for the summit [...] you get two things: First of all the information, that they are mainly concerned with "protocolary questions". And second, the appraisal that one could be happy if on Sunday a new start-up for a Mediterranean cooperation could be "started" [at all; JF]
[own translation]

Whether this Union of friends and enemies can have any success at all is doubtable. Those sitting together around a table are having huge cultural and political differences, not least due to a history of conflict.

The only thing uniting them is this warm and salty sea that might disappear within the next 10-20 million years when the African continent has made its way below the Eurasian plate. Maybe they should try again around that time, and maybe there will also be a solution for global warming then...

Friday, 11 July 2008

Lower reading skills in EU

The "Annual report on education systems in the EU" for 2008 shows diminishing reading skills among under 15-years olds in EU countries.

The report is part of the monitoring of the Lisbon strategy. It compares 16 monitoring indicators (e.g. literacy, investment in education and training, civic skills, higher education graduates, learning to learn skills) and measures 5 benchmarks with clear goals for 2010:
  • No more than 10% early school leavers;
  • Decrease of at least 20% in the percentage of low-achieving pupils in reading literacy;
  • At least 85% of young people should have completed upper secondary education;
  • Increase of at least 15% in the number of tertiary graduates in Mathematics, Science and Technology (MST), with a simultaneous decrease in the gender imbalance;
  • 12.5% of the adult population should participate in lifelong learning).

While EU Commissioner Ján Figel can report slight progress in most areas - for example rising numbers of higher education graduates - the only benchmark with negative development is the one connected to literacy. EUobservers titles "EU struggles with growing teen illiteracy". In fact, if almost 25% of under 15 year olds have poor reading skills and the figure has risen by 3 percentage points from 2000 to 2006, then this is a problem. The countries with the highest illiteracy are Romania (53.5%), Bulgaria (51.1%), followed by Greece, Italy, and Spain (all above 25%).

Among the main messages of the report is also, that
[g]ender inequalities remain. Boys do less well at reading and have more special education needs. Girls do less well at mathematics and are underrepresented among mathematics, science and technology students and graduates.

The report shows that while the EU has a comparatively well developed education system, large regional disparities cast a shadow over the high goal of a European Union knowledge society ready for the 21st century. Some countries and regions are well ahead of the goals set for 2010, other will need much longer to get to this point.

This is not only bad for a "competitive economy" but also disastrous for a European society where some parts of the population can take part in the intellectual and technical developments while (according to the report) about 1/3 of all the population might be left behind.

And I doubt that as long as we spend billions on a last century's agricultural policy while ignoring the need to invest all along the "educational chain", from the youngest kindergarten child to the oldest active parts of the population, the EU as whole will make good progress.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

No second referendum in Ireland?

Daniel Hannan, British MEP, reports in his blog after having listened to French president Sarkozy in the European Parliament:
I'm more and more certain that there won't be a second referendum in Ireland. I've just been in the chamber of the European Parliament, listening to Nicolas Sarkozy (and resisting the juvenile impulse to shout levez-vous when the diminutive president rose to speak).


I can't prove it, of course. I am inferring as much from Sarko's body language and tone as from his words.

I would join Daniel's prediction that there won't be a second referendum in Ireland.

For two reasons: First, this would undermine the credibility of the ratification process. The issue has been much more politicised than in the past and a second referendum would attain too much political attention. And second, politics will be looking for a much secure solution than a referendum. Why? - A second "No!" would be much more disastrous and there is quite a risk that this could happen.

Rising tensions in Abkhazia

On the eastern rim of the European continent, rising tensions between Georgia and its breakaway region Abkhazia (some would say: the unrecognised country Abkhazia) are making me concerned if a rather "frozen" conflict could become a new war.

Abkhazia, situated on the eastern shores of the Black Sea, on the southern side of the Caucasus, and in the north-western part of Georgia, has been a self-proclaimed Autonomous Republic since 1992 and since the 1994 ceasefire agreement, the conflict has been frozen with different levels of activity over the years.

In fact, the region is a geopolitical "playground" of Russia, the USA and the European Union. Russia has established semi-official links to what (behind the scenes) it considers an independent country. It can control the situation on the ground through Peace-Keeping troops led by the Russian army, and it uses every possibility for provocations. The USA and the EU pledge for the integrity of Georgia, the latter in order to have stability in its neighbourhood and the former for geostrategic reasons (containing the influence of Russia). US foreign secretary Rice is in Georgia right now to discuss those issues.

But these days' tensions are the worst during the last two years (remark: I did not follow this region before). There is a rising number of reports about killed Abkhaz soldiers at the Georgian-Abkhaz border, arrested members of the Georgian army in the Abkhaz reasons, repeated reports of airspace violations (which have been quite usual during the last years) etc.

This is why my alarm bells are ringing. I am aware that there is no easy solution for the conflict, but all sides were "intelligent" enough during last years to have their ego-mane power games played with words (mostly) and economic policies. This is bad enough, but I hope that the region will not face a new war or not even an intensified armed conflict. In the end, this is all played on the back of the local population.

The Abkhaz authorities and the Georgian government should start to fully respect democratic standards and human rights norms in their respective areas of influence. Only on this basis, they could become credible partners and only then a truly peaceful solution can be found.

But as long as big men with big balls want to be strong daddies, I have my doubts about a positive prospect for Abkhazia...

Some press articles:

Reuters UK: "Georgian and separatists forces in armed clash" (2008-07-09)
AFP: "Georgian Rebel region calls for peace talks: report" (2008-07-09)
Reuters: "Rice urges Russia and Georgia to avoid provocation" (2008-07-08)

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Obama at the Brandenburg Gate?

Barack Obama, the presumptive nominee as US presidential candidate of the Democratic Party, wants to speak in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin on 24 July 2008.

Since the Brandenburg Gate is an important historical monument and political speeches in front of this backdrop have always had historical importance, German politicians are now debating whether Obama as a candidate should be allowed to campaign there (that is, before he has been elected president).

Chancellor Angela Merkel (Christian Democrats, centre-right) feels "alienated" by this idea while Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (Social Democrats, centre-left) has nothing against. However, the one to decide about this question is Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit (Social Democrats), famous for his inauguration speech "I am gay, and it's okay that way!". He seems to favour an Obama speech at the Brandenburg Gate, but has not yet decided officially.

The story on other blogs:

O'Connal Street
Tizona's Weblog

Social democratic parties under pressure?

Having just watched "C dans l'air", a political TV show on "France 5", I had a strange déjà-vue:

It seems as if in France and in Germany the same discussions concerning the social democratic parties are taking place. Both, the Socialist Party (PS) of France and the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) are facing strong internal debates not only concerning the general political and programmatic direction but also concerning the leadership of the parties. And in both countries, the social democratic parties have difficulties handling their competitors to the left, the Communist Party in France and the Left Party in Germany, which are able to take up many classical issues formerly occupied by social democratic discourses.

The move to the political centre of the social democracy and the continuing disputes about leadership and political orientations will most probably strengthen both, the centre-right parties as well as the more extreme left in the upcoming years. I don't see that without a particular charismatic leadership the social democratic parties, at least in France and Germany, can get back their former strong positions.

And this will bring about quite interesting political constellations (both, positive and negative)...

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Tracking: EP elections 2009

Please see the Overview Article for all articles in the series "Tracking: European Elections 2009".

For the most recent articles, please check the "Special Feature: Road to the European elections 2009" section in the sidebar!


Next year, from 4 June to 7 June 2009 there will be the next elections to the European Parliament, no matter if the Lisbon Treaty will be ratified or not.

From today until June 2009, I will keep track of the political preparations for this huge transnational electoral process involving 27 member states of the European Union.

So far, the European parties represented in the Parliament are showing quite different stages of preparation with regard to their public websites' frontpages:

For the European Peoples Party (EPP), the elections do not yet seem a frontpage issue.

In contrast, the Party of European Socialists (PES) invites visitors of their website to go to and have a say on the PES manifesto for the 2009 elections.

The European Liberal Democrats (ELDR) have no reference to the upcoming elections. In fact, on their frontpage we can still find the link to their 2004 manifesto.

Looking at the European Greens, we can only find a press release from April 2008 on the very bottom of the page. It is stating that the "European Greens Council makes great progress on preparation of 2009 European Parliament election campaign". (The release is likely to disappear in the near future.)

The United European Left/Nordic Green Left (UEL/NGL) as well as the Union for a Europe of Nations, which (as far as I know) both do not have fully fledged European parties behind them, do also not have any hints to the elections on their frontpages.

I am aware that frontpages are not the only measures for party activities. However, (not) putting up an issue like the EP elections is a quite good sign of how far the preparations have gone so far. And for now, eleven month before the elections, only the Socialists seem to be ready to inform and involve the public.

But let's see, how things will develop - I will keep track!

Monday, 7 July 2008

EU transparency: Structural Funds

The European Commission has started a new website in order to strengthen transparency in the spending of structural funds.

The site, which is "work in progress", will be a hub linking to all relevant national and regional authorities within EU member states responsible for the spending of structural funds. On these national/regional pages, the authorities will have to list all beneficiaries of structural funds.

So far, there is still very much work to do. In fact, only a very small majority of national websites is linked, some of them are not working and others are also work in progress, which means that they do not yet contain any information on beneficiaries.

In general, this is a good and important initiative, but it seems as if we will have to wait for quite some time until this will provide an effective tool for intra-state and inter-state comparisons.

And, what is very important from my point of view: All the national/regional websites should provide an English language version (at least!) of their respective information in order to allow citizens and authorities from other countries to see how the money is spent in other regions. If this would not be the case, than the whole initiative would be non-sense.

Launched: European Association of the Schools of Political Studies

The Council of Europe, the pan-European human rights, democracy and rule of law watchdog (with 47 member states from all over the continent), has announced on Saturday the creation of the "European Association of the Schools of Political Studies".

The association will unite 16 national/regional Schools of Political Studies (e.g. in Bulgaria, Georgia, Kosovo, Moldova, Russia), which, "supported by the Council of Europe, aim to train the next generation of political, economic, social and cultural leaders in the countries in transition. The schools organise seminars and conferences on such themes as European integration, democracy, human rights, the rule of law and globalisation in which national and international experts take part." (for more information, read here).

In a declaration, 650 participants of the Third Summer University for Democracy, representing the Network of the 16 Schools of Political Studies, inter alia:
Encourage the Council of Europe, the European Union, the governments of the member states, observers and all public and private partners to continue and increment their support for the further development of the network of Schools of Political Studies, a unique project that seeks to ensure that democratic values, institutions and practices become a reality across the European continent

I can only join this request: Training competent citizens and leaders who are aware of human rights, of democratic norms and of the need for good governance and the rule of law is sooo important! (Especially in the countries where the Schools have been set up...)

Maybe we cannot change the old elites, their stupid blame-games, their ignorant intolerance, and their lack of awareness for the most basic values of a free and democratic society - but we might be able to work within our generation, e.g. through those Schools of Political Studies, to achieve the necessary changes.

And building upon European associations is a good sign because it shows that these issues are taken seriously as a common goal.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Bomb blasts in Belarus

I know I am quite late but it took me three days to read that an explosion in Minsk/Belarus on Thursday (during the national independence day celebrations) hurt 50 people.

Belarus, the last complete dictatorship on the European continent, has not made itself heard through good news in the last decade and this explosion is a tragic confirmation of this rule.

In fact, as Die Presse remarks in an article, this is not only tragic for those injured by the blast but also for the desperate Belarussian opposition. Even though there are no blames for a political motivation of the attack, it will most probably be used to take a much tougher stand on regime critiques - especially to ensure that the upcoming presidential elections in September will not be "disturbed"...

Lukashenko, the dictatorial president, who already is the strong man of the country can now even better show how strong he really is.

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Electronic vote counting lacks transparency

The London-based Open Rights Group (ORG) has published a report on the electronic vote counting ("e-counting") during the May London elections. In the conclusions, ORG remarks:
ORG also commends the spirit in which London Elects has sought to enhance transparency around the May 2008 London e-count. However, as has been noted in various sections of this report, the level of transparency is not yet adequate. There is insufficient evidence available to allow independent observers to reliably state whether the results declared are an accurate representation of the intentions of London‘s voters.

I think that for the future of voting we will have to very carefully balance the need to have an efficient procedure (i.e. through electronic means) with the need for a general transparency of the process. Especially for countries that lack the general will to organise open, free, and fair elections the general acceptance of intransparent electronic voting systems could be a good opportunity to make sure that elections will always have the "right" result.

The report reminds again that elections need to be as observable as possible during all stages of the process in order to guarantee that the democratic standards can be monitored by (neutral) external actors.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Highest courts on electoral laws

The German Constitutional Court today ruled that the German electoral law has to be reformed until 2011 because it allows "negative votes". This is the result of a mixed procedure with a combination of proportional and first-past-the-post voting further complicated by a federal multi-state system where more proportional votes for a party in one federal state can lead to a loss of overall seats in parliament.

On Tuesday, the European Court of Human Rights (the ECtHR is not a court of the European Union!) will issue a (final) Grand Chamber judgement concerning the 10%-threshold in the Turkish electoral law (see press release). So far, the Court has not seen a violation in the European Convention of Human Rights by this threshold and we will see, whether this position will be confirmed on Tuesday.


The Grand Chamber has found that the 10% threshold is no violation of the European Convention of Human Rights.

Females in Front

Have you heard about the initiative "Females in Front"? It is an all-EU initiative that aims at a small but very important goal, namely that at least one of the future top EU-posts will be held by a woman.

You may think that this is irrelevant but even from a very minimalist standpoint, as Foreignpolicyblogs has argued, we have to have at least one woman on top EU-post:
Arguably, though none of the posts in question are truly democratically representative offices, nominating at least one woman would serve as a better reflection of the Union’s actual population (more than half of it are female)

Since the initiators are looking for 1 million signatures, it has still a long way to go, but until today, almost 20,000 people have signed the petition.

And since I hold this an extremely important issue, both in terms of political representation and even more in terms of gender equality, I can only ask you to join!! Go to the website and sign!

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Dahrendorf: Back to the roots

In a lengthy contribution [German] to the Neue Züricher Zeitung, old-school European and unconventional liberal, Ralf Dahrendorf asks for a restart of Europe. The Union should care more about real issues and should not be stuck in the typical "Brussels culture" about which Dahrendorf writes:

"One could say a lot of things about the 'Brussel's culture'. It has something integrating but also excluding. This includes a special way to talk about Europe that is far away from common speech. Not only the Commission's and Council's employees but also journalists as well as a number of Members of Parliament are quickly prepossessed by a mixture of idealism and esoteric special interests." [own translation]

EUobserver on European Education

Have you ever thought about studying in Europe? I mean: abroad? Outside your home country? Some people dream of a European Higher Education Area but in fact there isn't much more than an European Higher Education Chaos.

The so-called Bologna-Process that aims to unify European higher education (and European does not only include the EU but 46 countries from all over the continent) has so far produced an impressive unity in similar problems through a variety of very dissimilar concepts. Labelling them Bachelor or Master is more a marketing strategy than a real innovation.

In this context, the very much appreciated EUobserver today has published several articles under the headline "European Education". I recommend reading!

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

The first step

This is the first step to say more. I hope to keep up my goal of blogging at least twice a week, and you are most welcome to hold me accountable for this promise.