1) Ségolène Royal and Nicolas Sarkozy
2) Gerhard Schröder
3) Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin
07 July 2007
1) Ségolène Royal and Nicolas Sarkozy
Posted by T at 00:14
05 July 2007
"Even more extraordinary was the way Serbian attempts to prevent or retaliate against those KLA attacks were denounced as the "ethnic cleansing" of Kosovo's Albanians (ironically it was the KLA that invented the term, to describe its plan to drive out the Serbian minority). The U.S. and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization move to bomb Serbia into submission followed soon after, even though it was the KLA, not Belgrade, that violated a 1998 ceasefire organized by the U.S."
What they didn't say at Kennebunkport
Posted by T at 21:41
Europe sexed up
Posted by T at 18:43
26 June 2007
I bet Iain Dale is pretty close with his predictions.
Hat tip: Daniel Finkelstein.
Posted by T at 23:45
25 June 2007
Here is the wording of the petition again:
"We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to accept our congratulations for recommending to the Queen that Salman Rushdie receive a knighthood."I was very proud to become the 13th signatory today; I urge you to sign too (if you are a UK citizen/resident). Otherwise register your support for Sir Salman in the comments!
It is more important than ever that we do use this tool of direct democracy to express our support for Rushdie and free speech. Why? Because Minhal Master, a communications secretary of the World Federation of Khoja Shi'a Ithna-asheri Muslim Communities, has started a counter-petition to revoke Rushdie's knighthood. Bad enough that we are losing to the Islamists in southern Afghanistan. But we can never let them win in our own backyard. We are all Salmans now!
Posted by T at 21:32
23 June 2007
Lil' Bush: Resident of the United States is a new cartoon on the US Comedy Central channel. Essential viewing for anyone who cannot kick back without politics.
Wikipedia provides a good review of the programme:
"Lil' Bush takes place in an alternate reality version of modern times, where George H.W. Bush is president and George W. Bush ("Lil' Bush" on the show) as well as other major modern politicians (many of them members of real-life George W. Bush's staff) are all children attending Beltway Elementary School. Issues the current Bush Administration is involved in---for example, the Iraq War---are transferred to the elder Bush, but feature the younger Bush interacting with them in various ways. Also, just as George Bush's father is president, the parents of the other kids (Lil' Condi's mother, Lil' Rummy's father and Lil' Cheney's father, who is represented by Darth Vader) are members of the elder Bush's cabinet."
Posted by T at 22:12
"Vaclav Klaus of the Czech Republic, by contrast, is exactly the same whether you have known him for ten minutes or 20 years: abrasive, forceful,well-informed and magnificently dismissive of views other than his own. If you have a Nobel prize for economics, he may give your views a marginally more polite hearing. Otherwise, thicken your skin."
"As someone who lived under communism for most of his life, I feel obliged to say that I see the biggest threat to freedom, democracy, the market economy and prosperity now in ambitious environmentalism, not in communism. This ideology wants to replace the free and spontaneous evolution of mankind by a sort of central (now global) planning."
Posted by T at 07:13
22 June 2007
Posted by T at 22:03
(For those who don't happen to be EU geeks: Javier Solana is the EU's High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy and the Commission President is José Manuel Durão Barroso.)
There is some excellent reporting on the ongoing European Council summit by Ben Brogan on his blog. Mind you, what he writes needs to be taken with a pinch of salt as The Daily Mail, his employer, is staunchly Europhobic. Mark Mardell, the BBC's EU correspondent, is equally brilliant.
The issue surrounded by most controversy so far (except of the Kaczyński's faux pas) is Sarkozy's half-spoilt attempt to change the EU's competetion law. I will write a post on it later.
Posted by T at 21:21
21 June 2007
Daniel Finkelstein, the chief comments editor of The Times newspaper, submitted a petition for the Number 10 Downing Street website that reads:
We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to accept our congratulations for recommending to the Queen that Salman Rushdie receive a knighthood.The e-petition will appear here as soon as it is approved by Number 10. I will sign. It is important that we all show our solidarity with Sir Salman, who is not only an excellent writer but also a symbol of free speech. We must show the Islamists that the West will not surrender to blackmail and compromise its values.
Posted by T at 01:32
Posted by T at 00:45
18 June 2007
Brown is now touring the country with his "Gordon Brown for Britain" campaign, trying to build up a momentum before the start of his premiership. Interestingly, his campaign blog is written by Oona King. King used to be a Labour MP for Bethnal Green, an East London constituency predominantly inhabited by Bangladeshi Muslims. At the last general election in 2005, she got ousted from her seat by George Galloway, a former Labour MP and a founder of the Respect party. The whole affair was seen as particularly nasty because King, who is black and Jewish, had a little chance to shield herself from Galloway's attacks pandering to radical Islam. Nevertheless, George Galloway MP now works as a presenter for Channel 4's Big Brother, having previously been one of the contestants on the celebrity version of the show.
Paradoxically, Brown seems to have a clearer vision for Africa then for Britain. It was rather amusing to watch his last speech, where he got all worked up about providing free education for children in developing countries. Yet the banner "Gordon Brown for Britain" rather begged for outlining Brown's reforms of the British malfunctioning state education system. His policies on Europe are also a subject of much speculation among the commentators. A good analysis of Brown's probable strategy for the upcoming European Council summit is on Benedict Brogan's blog, but noone can effectively read the Chancellor's mind.
Thanks to a pamphlet produced by the resurgent Labour Movement for Europe, the deputy leadership candidates' positions on the European Union are somewhat less mysterious. The electoral process is rather complicated, with three different colleges (members, MPs and MEPs, trade unions) selecting the deputy leader and voters required to rank all the candidates according to preference.
However, it is unlikely that Europe will play a big role in the deputy leadership election. The hottest topic seems to be re-connecting with the disenchanted and demoralised party base.
Posted by T at 15:27
15 June 2007
Hat tip: Guido Fawkes.
Posted by T at 19:12
14 June 2007
Posted by T at 02:02
13 June 2007
Finally someone to counter the charges of the Eurosceptical Open Europe think thank that the EU is anti-business.
Posted by T at 03:48
12 June 2007
Posted by T at 15:52
"The reason that China will eventually be the world's largest economy is that its population is roughly four times that of the United States.Predictions that Japan would over-take the US, popular in the late 1980s, were always implausible. The difference in population size would have meant that the average Japanese would have had to become more than twice as rich as the average American for Japan to surpass America – and that was never going to happen.
By contrast, if you want to argue that China will never overtake the US, you would have to believe that China cannot achieve a GDP-per-capita of just 25% of American levels. And yet there are several examples of Asian “tiger economies” that have already got to that level and well past it – Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore (the latter, admittedly a micro-state) - some of them managing tricky transitions from authoritarianism to democracy, without stopping growth.
My colleague Martin Wolf points out that if China were to achieve the GDP-per-capita levels of Portugal – the poorest country in western Europe – its overall GDP will be larger than that of the US and the European Union combined."
Posted by T at 03:50
11 June 2007
He outlined his "strategy" for resolving the stalemate: "One, that we need to get moving. And two, that the end result is independence. And we spent a lot of time talking about this issue, here." Bush said he does not support the idea of "endless dialogue on a subject that we've already made up our mind on. " Perhaps someone should inform Mr Bush that a genuine dialogue is led by two sides and it is not enough for only one of them to make up its mind to reach the conclusion.
Let me remind Mr Bush of this clause from the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 on Kosovo, which was adopted on 10 June 1999:
"Reaffirming the commitment of all Member States to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the other States of the region, as set out in the Helsinki Final Act and annex 2,"
One would expect them to keep their word. But perhaps that would be too foolish knowing that they had bombed Serbia without the UN approval. The USA was trying hard to secure the Russian and Chinese support for the intervention, but without success. Yet the attack on Serbia went on anyway; the UN blessing suddenly wasn't "needed." Quite strange - why would anyone make so much effort to get something one did not need anyway? Why had the USA even bothered to attempt to win over Russia and China when the USA had made up their mind already?!
Footnote: The Chinese Embassy in Belgrade was hit during a NATO air strike. The odds are that it was deliberate, or so claims The Guardian.
One question at the press conference in Tirana clearly baffled Bush: "Yesterday you called for a deadline for UN action on Kosovo. When would you like that deadline set?" Bush: "... First of all, I don't think I called for a deadline. I thought I said, time -- I did? What exactly did I say? I said, "deadline"? Okay, yes, then I meant what I said. (Laughter.) The question is whether or not there is going to be endless dialogue on a subject that we have made up our mind about. We believe Kosovo ought to be independent." I beg your pardon?
Posted by T at 00:01
08 June 2007
Posted by T at 22:47
07 June 2007
Posted by T at 00:19
05 June 2007
I am here to highlight the effort (still searching for a suitable adjective) made by our defence minister Vlasta Parkanová to make President Bush feel welcome. Together with Jan Vyčítal she recorded a song for Bush: "Good day, the Star-Spangled Banner". The melody is based on a legendary song by Jaromír Hnilička, "Good day, Major Gagarin". Vyčítal's text has also got a lot in common with Hnilička's iconic celebration of the Socialist bloc's victory in the space race.
Parkanová commented: "I wanted to lighten up the negative campaign, which is accompanying the radar debate. And I also wanted to give President Bush an unconvetional gift." Tick. Though the negative campaign - "The No to the Bases" initiative - only managed to muster 700 protesters today. I guess the rest have already gone backpacking to Rostock.
To listen to the song (artistically pretty good in my opinion) click here. The English version was apparently recorded too, so a lot to look forward to!
Posted by T at 02:56
19 May 2007
17 May 2007
Posted by T at 00:52
09 May 2007
Yet Polly Toynbee in The Guardian delivers a merciless verdict on by far the worst form of voters' disenfranchisement: the first-past-the-past (FPTP) electoral system used to select the local councillors as well as MPs.
"In yet more councils results and votes were wildly out of kilter: in Brentwood the Tories won 11 of 13 seats on 37% of the vote. In Sunderland Labour won 75% of the seats on 43% of the vote. In Eastbourne the Lib Dems got fewer than half the votes but 20 of 27 seats. So why bother to vote? Most voters didn't and their cynicism was often a rational response. Tories may puff themselves into artificial indignation over the West Lothian question (Scottish MPs voting on English issues), but like Labour they ignore this far greater voting swindle."I cast my vote for a Labour candidate. As she did not get most of the votes in my ward and thus did not make it on the Council, my vote was for nothing. At least I thought that she may have won. But what if you live in a ward/constituency which has always been (and always will be) held by the party you don't support? You simply don't bother to vote anymore. And not because you don't care about politics. As Toynbee says:
"It makes sense: where there are more parties, where every vote counts and where no constituencies are a foregone conclusion, more people bother to vote."
"Opposing proportional representation is a no-brainer for the stupid party; the Conservatives are now at a massive disadvantage under the present system. On these results they are still unlikely to win outright in a general election, but they might if votes were fairly apportioned. As it is, they still have mountains to move in the north and in the cities. They would be wise to start campaigning for PR now while they are ahead, for if Brown does well and Labour surges forward, it will look like a loser's bleat later on. Only Tories in mainly Labour Wales get the message: they put PR for local elections into their manifesto."However, the Tories are most probably not going to listen to Toynbee's advice. Funnily enough, the Conservatives were recently told by one of Cameron's key advisers to "ditch Churchill" and instead embrace Toynbee's left-wing social agenda. I guess that doesn't apply to the constitutional reform.
So why are the Tories so reluctant to open the door to reform? Firstly, they are unlikely ever to get over 50% of the national vote. Therefore, they are worried that the use of the PR would inevitably translate into a permanent Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition in Westminster and condemn the Tories to eternal oppositon. Yet they are forgetting that with the introduction of the PR, other parties like the Greens or the British National Party would most likely obtain Westminster seats and mix the cards. Secondly, one gets the feeling that in some quarters the FPTP is portrayed as an essential component of British democracy, in direct opposition to the European PR systems which are commonly dismissed for producing weak governments. And it goes without saying that the Conservatives' first and foremost task is to conserve all "ancient British institutions". Sadly, that doesn't seem to include civic equality.
Posted by T at 00:42
04 May 2007
The article basically states that Vidkun Quisling, who ruled Norway under the German supervision during the WWII, called upon Britain to initiate a British-German union as a core of a united Europe in order to prevent the war. Hence the federalist claim that the European Union has ensured lasting peace in Europe is supposed to be rebutted.
The piece concludes: "But the idea to which Quisling gave his name - that it is better to collaborate than to sit carping on the sidelines - has had a better fate. Not only does it carry the day among British pro-Europeans now..." What a demagoguery. Of course Britain should not have collaborated with the Nazi Germany. To use that argument to say that Britain should not "collaborate" with any Europeans now is ridiculous.
So who is the author of this blatant propaganda? Certain historian by the name of John Laughland, PR Man to Europe's nasties regimes, as David Aaronovitch desribed him in the Guardian. Aaronovitch fully exposes Laughland's ideas; my personal favourite is that Viktor Yuschenko got in power with the help of "druggy skinheads from Lvov". As far as Laughland's European outlook is concerned, Aaronovitch writes:
"Laughland is also European Director of the European Foundation (patron, Mrs Thatcher), which - judging by its website - seems to spend most of its time and energy sending out pamphlets by arch-Europhobe Bill Cash. A synopsis of one of Laughland's own books, however, notes his argument that, 'Post-national structures ... and supranational organisations such as the European Union - are ... corrosive of liberal values (and) the author shows the ideology as a crucial core of Nazi economic and political thinking.'"Time to have a laugh? Not until we have won over the hearts and minds of the British people.
UPDATE: Oliver Kamm examines Laughland's article in depth here.
Posted by T at 00:07
03 May 2007
What a satisfaction after what happened in my General Studies class shortly after I came to Britain three years ago. The teacher in my £12 000-a-year London school asked us who we would vote if there was a general election today. When I put my hand up for the Liberal Democrats (mind you, that was three years ago) - and was the only one to do so - he told me: "you don't have a vote". He was Irish.
I cast my vote for the Labour candidate and my fellow School of PEP student Grace Fletcher-Hall. She is one of 4 candidates competing for the Heslington campus ward. There are 22 wards in York, which have to turn in 47 councillors. The candidate with most votes in each ward gets elected (if there are more seats allocated to a ward then the candidates with most votes succeed). The Council is now dominated by the Liberal Democrats, who at the moment hold the Heslington ward as well.
The use of the majoritarian system means that the Conservatives have virtually no councillors (and MPs) in big northern cities like Manchester, Newcastle or Sheffield. Surprisingly not even in York, which has not got much old working-class stigma attached to it. Michael Heseltine, Thatcher's challenger, has been in charge of re-building the Tory relationship with "the north" since David Cameron took over the party leadership in 2005. We will see how successful he was when the results from local elections across England are published tomorrow.
Posted by T at 17:11
02 May 2007
In reply to the letter sent out by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to her 26 European counterparts, the Young European Federalists (JEF Europe) take a stand on 12 questions concerning the future of the Constitution.
In their open reply letter, available on www.jef.eu, the Young European Federalists underline both the advantages of the current version of the Constitution and the most urgent needs for further improvement. They strongly urge for the parts I and II of the current text to be upheld in their entirety while including new topic fields, in which the Union has progressed over the past months.
JEF Europe’s president, Jan Seifert, commented on their initiative: "We take this questionnaire as an opportunity to speak out symbolically and publicly as an organisation representing 35,000 young political activists who are concerned about their European future. The consultations on the future of the Constitution must be taken out of the closet and into the public thereby involving the interested civil society and parliamentarians. Unfortunately, the German presidency has not yet dared to do so. It is now high time that Chancellor Merkel’s ministries get actively involved in preparing her proposed civil society hearing together with the European Parliament.”
Seifert added: “The European Constitution was a long necessary step forward in terms of institutional changes and one that provided for wider legitimacy thanks to the Convention method preparing it. We are concerned that Europe is falling back to the disastrous Nice-style IGC negotiations, hence giving way for deadlocks, ill-suited compromises and above all excluding the citizens in the drafting procedure. Instead we call for a second mini-convention to review the text where necessary and then put it up for a European consultative referendum in 2009”.
The Young European Federalists have for long condemned the fact that a tiny minority of states keep the whole Union from progressing further. By lobbying for the abolishment of the unanimity principle for further treaty changes they support the idea that states who cannot agree on new steps can join the Constitutional Europe later.
Posted by T at 00:46
18 April 2007
There is a good summary of the candidates' position on the European Union on the Deutsche Welle. Sarkozy favours a "mini treaty" instead of the Constitution, and would avoid another referendum. Royal supports the referendum, but is even more unclear on how the treaty should actually look like. At least she tells us it should be drafted by some sort of a participative process. Bayrou is by far the clearest: he wants a short document, as federalist as possible, to be submitted to the electorate in a referendum.
And what has been Chirac's record on Europe? Aleksander Hall got it right in Poland's Gazeta Wyborcza: "Jacques Chirac wanted power for France. This is no doubt about why - despite his initially Eurosceptical stance and his moves to hinder Spain and Portugal on their path to Europe - he eventually converted to the 'European faith.' He tried to use Europe to boost France's position in the world... Chirac wanted the EU to become a political power in its own right. That was the right path. However, if you take a closer look at France's policies under Chirac you have to ask yourself exactly what role he had in mind for united Europe in the world. Sometimes you get the impression that it was to play the role of a counterweight to the US rather than a bastion of Western civilisation that would be the second great pillar of the West alongside America." I could not say it any better.
Posted by T at 00:27
17 April 2007
France is seen as the main obstacle to reforming the CAP (and thus to the success in the WTO Doha Round of trade talks) - the only presidential candidates who oppose it are José Bové, a hardly credible anti-globalisation crusader and organic farmer, and the centrist surprise François Bayrou. Bayrou, who is a farmer himself and his tractor-driving skills have done him well in the campaign, is quoted stating: "We have assassinated the African farmer. And this policy will be changed, so that we cannot be held responsible. We cannot let the African countries die of hunger.” Yet to call this a wind of change coming from France would surely be an overstatement.
What may do for the CAP rather than the plight of the African farmer is the CAP's apparent unsuitability in the enlarged EU. The Polish farmer's subsidies have to be "topped up" by the Polish state to the EU level already. The Romanian farmer's hand is wide open and possible Turkey's accession would not lower the CAP spending either. Furthermore, the CAP is raising the price of food for the consumers. Everyone has to eat - so it hits the poorest the most.
So what would we be the consequences of downsizing the CAP? Inevitably, the jobs would be lost - in places where it is difficult to replace them. The development of a "rural development policy" has long been viewed as a viable alternative to the CAP. The farmers would simply swap the current role of a food producer to the "protector of the environment". But I have to agree with Tim King, who writes the excellent Prospect blog on the French election, that such a transformation would come uneasy; the mentality of the people who have not given up till now is likely not to be very welcoming of such changes: "Farmers want to produce food to feed the masses, a virile, status-rich occupation, not receive a monthly cheque from a computer in Brussels for titivating a few hedgerows – for farmers are as much seduced by rural nostalgia as townies..."
Many farmers will of course survive as the locally produced food is becoming ever more popular (and expensive), or switch to biofuels. Ecotourism is on the steady rise too. But the key to keeping the countryside alive is encouraging the entrepreneurial activity there (although the early 1990s vision of people moving from towns to the countryside and working home from their computer has not materialised). Perhaps it should be the rural businessmen instead of large multinationals like Hyundai or Toyota who should get the tax incentives? I know a guy who lives in a little village and employs significant amount of local people in his company manufacturing swimming pools. And there are more success stories like that. Together with the ever improving infrastructure, developments like this could help make the countryside attractive for young people. There is a life after CAP.
Posted by T at 01:23
16 April 2007
By the way, the absurdity of the term "neo-conservatism" was laid bare by one of supposed fathers of the ideology, Richard Perle, in an interview for the Foreign Policy recently.
It is a term that is applied almost at random. I’ve seen it applied to Dick Cheney to Don Rumsfeld and to Condi Rice. Those are examples where it clearly is wrong. To some people, it’s synonymous with supporters of the Bush administration or with important people within the administration. In some cases, particularly in the Middle East, it’s a code word for “Jew.” It’s frequently described as a movement, which it isn’t, or as an organization, which it isn’t. It’s associated somehow with Leo Strauss, which I think is wrong. It’s mindlessly pejorative; it implies that there is a group of people who all think the same way on one or more topics. It’s a term that is almost without meaning and is therefore not very useful.
Posted by T at 20:31
02 March 2007
As soon as the data is evaluated, you will be able to read a summary of the results on the University website. That should be around April. Can't wait!
Posted by T at 16:24
13 February 2007
The article also states that "Mr Lippi and Mr Roxburgh [assistant coach] have been given permission by UEFA to approach players from the 52 nations affiliated to the organisation." The problem is that out of those 52 national football associations, some are not in Europe - Israel, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkey. Yet they are still affiliated to the Union of European Football Associations. That allows their clubs to compete in the European cups, and their national teams to play against more attractive opponents. The UEFA is happy to maintain this state of affairs, because the more national associations it has under its wings, the bigger its clout inside the FIFA, the global body governing football. However, there are serious implications of the UEFA's opportunistic policy: it gives an argument to those who would like the EU to enlarge forever, beyond Europe: "they play football with us, they are in the same cultural sphere." (For an explanation of the concept of the European Public Sphere, read an excellent article by Matteo Garavoglia on Le Taurillon.)
Posted by T at 09:03
10 February 2007
Yet the French government threatens to use the veto power in the European Council should the matter be raised there. That epitomizes the current French approach to Europe; but France should realise that unlike in de Gaulle's era, exercising the veto power comes with a price today. By stubbornly refusing to give up Strasbourg, France loses the potential to build consensus on more important issues. France gets the bad image, France appears to be holding everyone back. And not just in this case - France's objections are cited as one of the primary causes for the continuous failure of the WTO Doha Round talks.
Richard Corbett MEP (Party of the European Socialists) came up with a very good solution to the stalemate in his article for the EUobserver: Strasbourg should host the quarterly European Council summits. France would lose no prestige and the end would be put to a ludicrous travelling circus which costs the taxpayer 200 million euros every year. The Eurosceptics would lose an easy target, too. EuropaWorld's Peter Sain ley Berry, also writing for the EUobserver, made an interesting comment on Corbett's idea, which I shall quote in full:
As to its seat, Parliament has the remedy in its own hands. Treaty or no treaty, all parliaments are sovereign. They can meet wherever they want. If 785 members, or even a large body of them, refuse to make the journey to Strasbourg, then that is it. Finis! Parliaments have set up shop in tennis courts before now, and to mighty outrage. But the truth is parliaments always win.Bearing in mind that an increasing number of parliamentarians do not bother to turn up to the sessions anyway, and that the political groups in the Parliament are closely connected to the national governments which have to observe the terms of the Treaty, such a revolt seems unlikely ever to take place. It is hard to imagine an act of collective political heroism happening today.
Posted by T at 11:30
We'll kick some ass - then we'll see how it goes
And then we really don't know ...
Good luck to Kosovo!
Everytime we go to to little places like Kosovo
We never really know, what happens after we go
Tough luck for Kosovo!
Posted by T at 05:43
02 February 2007
Posted by T at 23:10
30 January 2007
Posted by T at 22:22
25 January 2007
Posted by T at 14:46
Seven and a half months on, we finally got a government. The prime minister Mirek Topolánek is heading a cabinet consisting of his Civic Democrats, Christian Democrats and Greens. Topolánek only survived the parliamentary vote of confidence because two Social Democrats, Vít Pohanka and Miloš Melčák, voted with the coalition deputies.
Václav Klaus, the president, has been criticised for overt intervention in the coalition negotiations. Klaus, who still wields a considerable leverage in the ODS which he founded, was pressing hard for the grand coalition between the Civic and Social Democrats. Yet there was a very little convergence in parties' manifestos: the ODS advocated the flat tax, the Social Democrats were promising more social benefits. The very heated campaign had created unbridgeable personal animosities.
Despite all that, Klaus, with his eye set upon re-election (the president is chosen by a common vote of lower chamber deputies and senators), concentrated on undermining Topolánek, who refused to ally himself with the ideological opponents. Klaus wanted Pavel Bém, the popular mayor of Prague, to overthrow Topolánek and create a "grand coalition", which would guarantee that Klaus regains his post in the presidential election. Yet Topolánek outmanoeuvred Klaus eventually, securing conditional support from the two Social Democrats.
The new government will not have an easy ride. It will have to rely on the support of two deputies who are still technically members of the ČSSD. Moreover, right from the start, scandals are emerging. The failure of Topolánek's marriage has long been filling the pages of tabloids. Jiří Čunek, the Christian Democrat leader, stands accused of political corruption and sexual harrassment. The culture minister Helena Třeštíková resigned before spending a single week in the function.
From the beginning, it was clear that the best solution would be a snap election. However, the Social Democrats, likely to lose out, always blocked this option. Now with the government confirmed in function, the constitutional path to a new election is even more complicated. The weak government will probably have to muddle along all the way.
Posted by T at 04:59
16 January 2007
There are however signicant differences between the European Union enlargement process and the German re-unification. Firstly, mutual identification between East and West Germans was much higher than there is among Europeans. Secondly, the German re-unification was a one-off act, whereas the European Union has been enlarging ever since it was created.
Therefore, it is not possible to “unite Europe” immediately, because there would be little popular support for it. In my opinion, the middle-aged people, unlike their parents, have a little appreciation for Europe in general because they no longer see the Union as something which guarantees peace in the Continent. In addition, the “Generation Erasmus” still needs time to fully assert itself.
Moreover, it would be highly impractical to perform the enlargement at once. The transition of East Germany has showed us that a hasty enlargement can cause more harm than good. The relations between the “Ossis” and the “Wessis” are tense; with the Westerners wary of subsidising the East and the Easterners fed up with being treated as second-class citizens. Politics of fear is being employed as we speak to scare the ordinary people by the imaginary hordes of Polish plumbers; Lithuanians are alienated by not being allowed into the Eurozone on a technicality, Czechs are angry at being refused an early entry to Schengen. As a result, we are losing the battle for the hearts and minds of Europeans.
We must learn from our mistakes in the past in order to conduct a better enlargement process in the future. One of the main problems with the enlargment is the very word itself. Indeed it triggers a feeling that we are “adding something extra” to what already was a fully functioning body, complete with all its parts. Every enlargement is therefore seen as an unnecessary step likely to worsen the current state of affairs, rather than as an opportunity for everyone. I therefore suggest that the term “enlargement” is replaced by the word “unification”: we are not enlarging Europe, we are unifying it! This will consequently make the accession process viewed much more positively, with the uderlying assumption that it is in fact necessary for Europe to be unified.
Reframing the issue would bring real world advantages for Europe. First of all, Europe would be no longer able to avoid defining its own borders. No more time would be wasted by endless talks on whether a country X should be ever allowed to start the accession negotiations. All European countries would be given a clear signal that if they work hard, they will make it one day. Needless to say, this approach would make the European “carrot” much more effective. Nowadays it does not function too well in countries like Serbia or Ukraine, where the prospect of the EU membership appears to be too illusive. Even bolder would be to integrate all the European countries, both the EU members and candidates, into a common, visa-free body of sorts. However, for the time being, that remains a utopia.
Posted by T at 04:20
03 January 2007
The "Baddie" goes to the Myanmar junta. The clever generals know that no news about Burma (Myanmar) is good news for them. But the international community cannot let the situation in Burma be forgotten. We have got the moral duty to act in a way which will lead to the end of the military regime which does not tolerate any political opposition and uses forced civilian labour, to name just the two from the long list of its sins. The EU has done its bit by imposing an all-round embargo on the country, but is that enough? How long will the opposition leader and the Sakharov Prize holder Aung San Suu Kyi have to rot under house arrest before the decisive change takes place?
The first runner-up is the Shia axis in the Middle East. Iran, in its quest to become a regional superpower, is orchestrating the show, arming the Shia militia in the southern Iraq (though it is not so close to the gunmen of Muqtada al-Sadr in the Baghdad area), Hamas in Palestine, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and propping up the ailing Syrian economy with its petrodollars. The West shows signs of giving in: Tony Blair was the first to break the line and call for a cooperation with Iran on Iraq, the Iraq Study Group in the US Congress recommended the same. But that is exactly what we should not do: the ruling cliques in Damascus and Tehran are growing desperate as their populations are getting ever warier of the consequences of being international pariahs. To give Ahmadinejad a helping hand when his domestic support is crumbling would be unwise.
The second runner-up is the United Nations. UNreformed, it stumbled on last year. Its new Human Rights Council is no less a sham than the Human Rights Committee it replaced: the worst abusers such as China or Tunisia still secured their places in the new body. The violence in Darfur escalated to the heights only seen in 2004. Moreover, the Arab janjaweed militia, supported by the central government in Khartoum, are taking the conflict across the border: their aim is to overthrow the government of Idriss Déby in the neighbouring Chad. What matters to China though is that it gets the preferential access to the rich Sudanese oil resources. The UN has irresponsibly restrained from involvement in Iraq and instead smirked as the Allies were struggling. The head of the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) Soren Jessen-Petersen, a personal friend of Ramush Haradinaj who is now being tried for the war crimes against the Serbs in the Hague, had to be withdrawn for being biased towards the Albanians and for mismanaging the Kosovar economy; yet for example the UNMIK-published school textbooks still have a distinctly anti-Serbian tone.
Those who just did not make it:
Jiří Paroubek, the leader of the Czech Social Democratic Party for his continuous refusal to enable a snap election which is the only satisfactory way to resolve the Czech electoral deadlock: we have been without a proper government since June.
Václav Klaus, the President of Czechia, for clearly being the only person who after reading our Constitution concludes that it creates a presidential system; and for his stubborn Euroscepticism.
The Slovak electorate, for voting out the reformist government of Mikoláš Dzurinda which put the country back on track after the lost years of the Mečiar premiership.
Posted by T at 23:17