Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Poland in the making

20 years ago the Berlin wall fell. Or actually the citizens of GDR heard in the radio that they can now cross the border and claimed their right. Was it a revolution? In the European sense it was the high point of a wave started in Poland and Hungary, under the wind of change blowing from the East.

So where are we 20 years later? I just read a short interview with the Polish new Commissioner - Lewandowski. And it is the first time I hear that the EU budget should not only redistribute but bring dynamism to Europe. I am not sure if the French agriculture got the message but a new revolution is on the doorway. EU as a source of dynamism, not the stabilisation of agriculture public anger.

And then I read a story about the girls from Polish public agriculture companies (PGR) who try their chance in Warsaw. Thanks to EU money they manage to leave the villages of malaise, alkoholism and marital violence (sorry to all those who live there without falling into any of these psychological traps). They stay in Caritas house managed by the church in Warsaw. And you see how the nouns try to educate the young girls: teaching how to keep clean, making sure they feel the inferiority due to their background. 'White stripes' in the Polish context. And when you read this, then you know that Europe cannot turn its back on those forgotten in the hinterland. True- direct payments do not solve this issue. But still most of the Polish peasants (agriculture guys) are below the lower quarter of the French or German bauers.

Poland is still very 'peasant' in its thinking. We cherish resentiments which explain our poverty. We do not like the Germans because they invaded us and are cold, obedient and distant. The communism taught us that the state is a place to claim from not contribute. But time is working to our benefit. Many Poles have left Poland during the XX century and their offspring made their lives anew. They climb the ranks of ex-colonial empires. Many Poles got rich during the last 20 years and as part of becoming to the new elite their learn English, travel the world and aspire to be part of the Europeans. And the arriere-Poland has its chance too. Working in Leroy Merlin, Tesco, body-building gyms and new beauty salons. I hope that the next Polish transformation (the cultural one) will be less violent than the one we undergone in 1989-90.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Do we get anything about the EU? Me not!

By reading a provoking article about the state of Polish Universities I came across a very interesting University: The New School of Social Research which is located in New York. I looked at the type of classes they have and I realised how heterogenity of students and their interests make a vibrant community.
I am afraid that most of those studying the EU fall back to finding a single history of why all this happened. Of course there are federalists... but they only claim what is the end game- a federation of states/regions etc. There are functionalists, who say that we did it because we needed. There are realists who say that actually nature is not changing. They claim that states always existed and they have always pursued state interests... There are liberal intergovernmentalist who start depicting the rules of negotiations and the rational decision making. And at the very end we have politicians who write their biographies and depict the life as they remember it/or they want to be remembered.

So why we have direct elections to the European Parliament... I have not read a profound analysis of this break in politics in 1976 (it was decided then). What are the unintended consequences of the establishment of the Convention in Laeken? What was the mindset of the first Secretary General of the Commission? Did he perceive the role of administration according to ENA standards or was closer to the Dutch approach?

After all my studies I see an enormous gap in looking at all the European organisations jointly: Council of Europe, OECD, OECE, NATO. I understand that in 2009 the EU overshadows all the other phora. But how was it in the fifties, sixties?

And we fail to realise the huge complexity of interest formation and articulation within the governments and between them. I must say I know only one eye opening book about integration written by Philipe de Schouteete-a long serving member of COREPER. He does not depict history; he writes about ideas and their incarnations. And when he writes about these ideas, he shows the extremes and the full spectrum in between. OK, I agree I should read the Memoirs of Delors.
I was hoping that somebody (or me) will write one day a huge narrative about the European Union; a narrative which shall clarify who did what and when and with what objective. This would be exactly the story that nation states created to justify their claim to power and control. I understand that this needs to be deconstructed. But maybe we just should not have a new great narrative which will replace the existing ones. Cause then in becomes a religion....

Ok, I need to read more about the school in New York and maybe one day apply to join it. There is nothing more enthusiastic than an opportunity to challenge our mindset with creative people with different backgrounds. Maybe we, the funtionaires, take it to easy to be the guardians of the treaties and Commission spirit. Maybe we should be more challenging?

I think I should read more Weber about administration and bureacratisation of society. So my next post should be about the impact of new communication technologies on the XIX century administration.... Or actually the concepts continues the old French concept.... we the administrators, they --- les administre (please add the accent above the last e).

So the king is naked. European integration despite all the flags, speeches and anathems is an object which should be scrutinised without piety. Let's show the notions in the heads of the directors. Let's show what the promotion mechanisms are; who gets the Commission jobs and for what reasons. And let's show the aculturation of Commissioners- did they change after serving their term... Or they are statist actors as realists claim.

I wrote a Ph.D. about it and I still know nothing.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

looking beyond the current affairs

The last 2 months made me quite fed up with the European politics. Don't you have an impression that everything falls on one piece of hair? Barroso nomination, Irish referendum, the psyche of Mr Kaczynski and Klaus, Constitutional Courts. I had an impression of a soap opera when everyday the life of the main character is hanging desperately on a piece of information or the right set of street lights.
This is definetely bad taste. The Americans had a long preparation for elections. Primaries building up the pressure. Big or no so big debates. The final voting and Obama walking in the hall of fame.
The Europeans will finish with somebody taken out of a hat. And Mr Milliband refuses to become the Foreign Minister... unlike Ms Clinton who almost made it to be in the ruling seat.
You will say that the two systems are not comparable. You are right.
You will say that the European drama is of different kind. That we have just concluded the longest negotiations in history. We started by negotiating the Maastricht treaty in 1990 and we finish 2009 with a new set of institutions. So maybe indeed everything started with the fall of the Iron Curtain and the 20 years of changes were needed to work out a sensible compromise. So what we really miss is the historical perspective.
Anyway who remembers that George Washington was not really the strongest speech maker.... He laid foundations to the US. There was no Federal Reserve during his time etc.
We did it the other way round. First we build a central bank, than we chose the President (of the European Council).
Maybe this November is too grey. I miss the perspective. I am in the middle of my 30ties so why should I have it?
Peter Ludlow was actually very optimistic about the state of the Union. I want to believe that he is right. So let's forget the bickering over the name of the first President and let's cherish the moment... No more referenda in front... Hmmm- there are Interinstitutionals Agreements to be seen to.
Shitmerde.... I do not want negotiations all the time. I want a vision.
Change, we can. Preside we can. Draft communicates we can. Joining working lunches we can. I am fed up with diplomacy. I want something that the pupils in schools can learn and grasp. Be it van Rompuy.

Monday, 12 October 2009

The European sense of guilt

I have read today an article in a Polish newspaper under a significant title 'Waiting for the Barbarians'. The author talks about a recent book of Christopher Caldwell „Reflections on the Revolution in Europe". And a very interesting notion is about the Europe whose main reason of political action is the sense of guilt. Guilt for Holocaust (Jews), colonialism (Third World), discrimination (women, homosexuals). And this is right you would say. But actually when guilt is the source of our actions they not always leading to good results.
Many time I struggle to understand why we continue huge packages of development aid know that a big chunk of it finishes in the coffers of corrupt politicians. There are cases when development money turned an apparently functioning state (Ghana) into one driven by corruption. Only in 2000 we managed to come with a kind of benchmark - Millenium Developement Goals. So what were we doing before? Pumping money to keep dependence and pursue our political objectives? Probably partly so. But there is one issue which gets lost from this picture. The whole development sector, the insiders who profit so much from this neocolonial lifestyle and their priviliged roles in the African societies.
Of course there are plenty of people who come to development for ideological reasons and there really exist a lot of good projects. But my deep belief is that it can only function where there is face to face relation. I think that there are only few politicians who can sustain the pressure of easy money.
So what do I propose? I think that the EU should stop to be the biggest development donor in the world. We should rather provide European citizenship with tax deduction for all the money they give for charity. Let them finance projects that they deem beneficial. And we can use all the officials in DG DEV and AIDCO to better control Member States who want to pursue adverse economic policies against the developing countries. Maybe AIDCO should move in the direction of DG Competition... but this time we would talk about world unfair competition. Maybe this would be a better investment than in all the anti-immigration measures, border controlls etc. Policy coherence for development - this is what we try but rarely succeed. The name of the game is global governance.

Coming back to the sense of guilt - maybe it is time to admit that this feeling does not lead us far. A feeling of responsibility towards the future should become the guiding one.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

So much, so good, so what? AD 2100

There is so much going on in the world. G20 shall meet in USA. Ireland is discussing about Lisbon treaty. Commission has lost a case for exceeding its rights in emission trading. China is buying energy sources around the world... they want to get rid of the dollars they gathered, before they lose value.

Still there is something missing in all these equations. All this noise about Lisbon, G20, Barroso cover something below. I think we should go back and read Marx and other sociologues. Not that I am a Marxist... coming from formerly Soviet Block I am far from this. I will be boring... we still have not learnt from the financial crisis. The cheap talk about cutting bankers bonuses hides a bigger problem: what is the role of finance in the current world?

I am looking for a new Keynes, somebody to put new founding blocks for economy. Somebody who would understand the financial markets and put them under social control. Somebody who would show the last 20 years (end of cold war) in the right perspective. BRICs- multipolar world... it is too much a repetition from the Saint League and Europe after the Napoleonic wars. The Iphone as a new Gutenberg revolution? Tempting but how strong is the link between power and communication. A new revolution - similar to the one of 1789 in Paris? American democracy seems too well embedded in the society.

What is the grand scheme, new pattern that would help us understand the new world post Lehman Brothers... Maybe it is time to go to China and see what is going on there? Or Iraq and Afghanistan are signs of the falling empire along the lines of the ancient Rome? Maybe I should start reading Arnold Toynbee and his study of civilisations. When do they fall? What triggers decline. Or XXI century will be the age of Islam?

Kalypso Nikolaidis in the Reflection Group is analysing different scenarios of the future. I suggest you have a look at this page 2100.org Maybe collectively we can be better in foreseeing the future than we used to have.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Irish campaign getting colours

Thanks to EUObserver I came across the leaflet distributed in Ireland by Freedom and Democracy Group of the EP. I must say this is the first time that I see a clear message about the European Union and what stands behind it.
I do not want to say that I would sign to this message and the information behind. Especially the data showing the loss of 'relative voting power in the EU Council' is unfounded showing that the Germany gains 100% while Ireland loses 50% (on the graph rather 60%). But let's not play a Commissioner here. The important is that there is a clear message behind. And a lot of mixed concepts that should be used for real debate/discussion/duel.
I am not sure if anybody on the YES side will be ready to stand up against the claims and beat down the arguments of NO camp.
Why? Because a lot of these messages are right. The problem is that they are exaggerated.
1. Does the EU want to enlarge to Turkey? Yes. It would not negotiate if it did not.
2. Will Ireland become a net contributor to the EU? I hope so given it is one of richest countries...
3. Is the cheaper workforce from the East a challenge to the jobs in Ireland. Of course, these are the rules of the competition.
4. Does the Commission want to establish a common corporate tax basis? Yes, to facilitate the life of business.
5. Is Europe becoming an empire? I think in some sense it already is. The question is what are the objectives and values of this block/federation/confederation. And how the power is controlled. I am not satisfied by the existing control standards.
6. Does the EU try to harmonise civil laws? Yes, as it results from the growing number of conflicts between national laws. Take a case of international marriages and divorces.
7. Do we trust politicians like Sarkozy and Barroso - surrounded by some Irish heads? I believe Sarkozy tries to realise his vision of France and Europe. As to Barroso- I do believe he works hard to lead the Commission in the direction he believes it should go. Do you know this direction? Frankly saying- I have not captured it. Probably I should go for a one month sabatical to study his 40 page programme.

So, would I vote yes to the Lisbon treaty? Does the Freedom and Democracy group have the right to publish some materials? What is really at stake in this referendum? What is the central question?

I think it should be put as follows: Are Irish people ready to support the EU integration process as described in the Treaty of Lisbon.
If yes, then Sarkozy, Barroso and Merkel have the right to continue along the existing lines.
If no, then the EU will have 2 questions to reply:
Do we want to continue integration as set in Lisbon Treaty without the Irish and other blocking nations? Or should we go back to the drawing board and redesign the integration process.

So the 2nd October might be the real date of EU meeting its fate. I will watch it with attention.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Barroso stays - good or bad news? The answer lies in BEPA.

So the Barroso renomination saga is getting to the end. All the signs seem to show that the Greens, Liberals, Socialists and Communist did not manage to agree how to block Mr Nicy. They forced him to have a Commissioner for human rights, split the Justice, Security and Home affairs dossier and put a single person for financial markets supervision. But they failed to sink him. He is like a big ship, with some flaws and leakages but still able to navigate. He wrote a very nice document which will not go down into history because nobody managed to find a nice phrase to caracterise his new vision. Actually Rassmussen even said that 95% of the new vision is already in the plans of the European Commission. So the re-election show did not satisfy the spectators.

But this show had its own rules. And the main rule is that you cannot really change the course of events untill you have a senior contender, somobody challenging Barroso for the presidency. And I think this should be a starting point of all discussions. That there are incumbents who want to retain their power. But in all democracies there are candidates who contest them. We did not have such during these elections to the EP. The Socialists have not manage to agree on one for various reasons. And their weakness should really in the spotlight of the discussions. I was thinking that economic crisis would naturally benefit the descendants of Karl Marx. But it did not. Actually it increased the support for nationalist solutions, those personalised in anti-European parties: British Nationalist Party, UK Independance Party and those which claim themselves Eurorealists - British Conservatives, Polish Law and Justice and the Czech ODS.

So we do not say it openly but the political scene in Europe is in a flux. The discussion about the causes and culprits for the financial crisis has not really started. We are still more curious if the crisis is over or not. But the sole searching should start quickly. And this will not be a discussion between the current Left and Right. I think this discussion will touch the basis of consumption society: relations between generations (pensions and climate change); relations between the West and the poorer rest of the world; role of financial services sector against the 'real' economy, the role of imagined communities.

I think the only political movement ready to approach these questions are the Greens. I saw recently the 'Baader Meinhof complex' and I see that the questions posed by the activists-terrorist are even more pertinent now. I think we need to approach the questions of gender and sexuality. And the role of the state cannot anymore be perceived through the lenses of post-war welfare state. XXI century will be no longer about nuclear containment and the trade unions. It will be about those have-nots which shall protest in different ways again who have.

And we should not forget that we are leaving the Gutenberg age and going to the Icon age. Time to go back to McLuhan and read about the role of media in societies. Not many link that the invention of print by Gutenberg in XVth century was followed by the thesis of Martin Luther and the Peasant's War in Germany. I think it depends on the political elites if we approach a new revolution or will address those who contest via political action.

So coming back to the original question about Barroso - is it a good or bed news? I would say that the problem with generals is they are always preparing for the wars which have been fought already. So if Barroso leadersip will be forward or backward looking - this is the question. It remains to be seen what will happen with the Bureau of European Political Advisors (BEPA) - the Forward Studies Unit of Jacques Delors. Evidently it failed with preparing for the financial crisis. If it fails next time, Europe will be in danger.

Monday, 31 August 2009

How it all started- the beginning of WWII

I read today an article in le Soir about the different dates of the beginning of the WWII. For some it was 1 September 1939, for others December 1941. I started thinking, how can we write about the origins of our world if we cannot agree on a single date. Did our epoch start with the beginning of IIWW or with its end? And even the end is different in Europe 8/9 May and in Asia.

In 2007 Commission launched a big campaign 'Together for 50 years'... commerating the Treaty of Rome. But there was the High Authority and the Treaty of Paris before. And before the Schuman Declaration there was the Council of Europe. Where should we start the chronology? We need a sense of origins if we are to build a sense of belonging....

Or maybe we should look at the end of the old empires as the beginning of a new order. When Tsarist Russia, Ottoman Turkey and Austro-Hungarian duarchy seized to exist it was a new beginning for the whole terrain West of Germany, Switzerland and Italy.

I am afrain we shall get nowhere with dates. We have to go back to the ideas. And I am afraid we need to look at lawyers and philosophers: Hugo Grotius and Immanuel Kant. Maybe the law as a civilising power has to be the grounding idea? Maybe the idea of peace - perpetual if possible should be traced for being behind the European project? We need to be careful about looking for the origins... cause they will determine the objectives and the future. So if we look at the beginning of the WWII we talk about all that superiority and megalomania which seduced Germans in 1933. Tracing sins and vices leads you nowhere. You can find them everywhere. They are part of the human nature. Maybe we should look at examples of humans who went beyond it...

So the story of Europe starts with people who tried to reconcile the heimats (small territorial entities) with the power of the market and the notion of state as a regulating authority. National state was only a one example of reconciling these notions. And it had a catastrophic consequences. So not detaching yourself from local patriotism you need to establish a legal order where these heimats can survice and exchange (trade). And the centre cannot get to big so that it does not overshadow the small demoi, which it is composed of.

So the concept of funding fathers might be also exclusive. We should look beyond Adenauer, Monnet and Spaak. We should look at ideas that drove them. Or maybe anybody gets mature only when he/she liberates from the parents... Let the European dove fly and fly higher than the eagles of the nation states. The German eagle once managed to call all the other birds on the sky. We cannot let it fly under any other colours.

Monday, 24 August 2009

suicidal human nature - summer reflections

"You in the West have watches, we in the East have time" - this is what I heard in Ukraine. I keep on thinking about our civilisation which makes people stressed and depressed. The Economist published a short article about the depression. It says feeling law/depressed is a signal of the same kind as feeling pain. Feeling law is a signal from your brain that you are aiming for too much; that you have crossed the limits. And this signal should make reevaluate your objectives. Like the pain makes you limit your movement or stop touching a hot dish.

Why USA have the highest rate of clinically depressed? Because of the value of perseverence, lack of acceptance for giving up, readjusting the objectives. Once you survive bad times without changing your dreams, you should surely succeed. You become di Caprio, Obama or Armstrong. But nobody talks about those who failed, did not get where they wanted. If they did not give up, if they were working nights and days trying every chance, they might be the ones who are piled in psychiatric hospitals...
Why Freud discovered the sexual causes of psychic illnesses? Maybe because he was living in the puritan society of Vienna? What if our culture, social norms become our biggest oppressor? The norms that prevent us from killing each other are also the source of many tragedies?

Why people divorce? They stop loving each other? Or they do not feel the same romantic love which happens at the beginning of relations and should normally be transformed into a more sustainable kind of feeling? Is this a sign of times? Of a consumer approach to life: I take what I want and when I do not like I just buy a newer, updated version.

Or we travel for holidays to rest from our normal work. And we spend 3 weeks fighting with all the possible obstacles one would rather avoid: bad transport, uncomfortable hotels, queuing for things which you can better see on internet, drinking in bars that you would never enter if you had not been pushed too. Culture of holidays, culture of doing something different. Forgetting of who we are and learning what the others seem like being. ...

Obesity, alkoholism, narcomania, anorexia, workoholism, ADHD: is the human kind killing itself. WWII was not enough so we shall anihilate us through culture...?

Where do you hurry? Do you want to die sooner? Car is a weapon which can serve for killing and suiciding... You are rude on the street? Somebody will pay you back one day...

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

...and if the Irish say no?

There are 40 something days till the referendum in Ireland. The opinion polls are positive for the Lisbon Treaty. All commentators seem convinced that Ireland will not risk saying no to the EU in the times of crisis. The government and the oppossition seem engaged to convince the citizens to say yes. The institutions and media are already speculating about the new President of the European Council and the 'Foreign Minister'. Everything seems so nice.

Of course everybody adds, just for politeness and diplomacy ...'if the Irish say yes, Polish and Czech Presidents sign it and Germans push through the Parliament a new Parliament scrutinity bill. All the political elites are ready for the new treaty which will apparently solve so many problems, improve democracy, make the Union more accountable to the European Parliament, and European Parliament cooperate closer with the national ones. The long saga started after the night of 'short knives' in Nice seems to be heading to the close. Since December 2000 and the post-Nice package Europe has been discussing about its institutions, structures, mottos, values. The Convention on the Future of Europe (an almost democratic and almost representative body) came with a proposal of a Treaty establishing the Constitution. Ok, you say. The French and the Dutch did not like this package and had doubts about the content.

We got rid of some of the symbols, we have repackaged the whole thing and we all agree all the key elements of the 'Constitution' have survived the popular disbelief and disenchantement. Mr Sarkozy convinced his Parliament that the French cannot risk another referendum. Mr Balkenende did the same. Leaders agreed to push the ratification quickly, before the elections to the European Parliament in June 2009. All faces were saved. The problem was solved. Europe could start dealing with the real issues like climate change, Doha round and l'Europe puissance a la francaise. There were some troublemakers like Mr Klaus and Kaczynski who do not get what it means to be a well educated European. But a mix of carrot and pressure should solve the issue. After all they are from the Eastern Europe only and they have already missed one chance to stay silent.

The only real problem remained the Irish with their stubborn Constitution. - What? They rejected the Treaty? Our beautiful solution to all! Can not they read that we actually took into account of the demands of their government? Cannot they read 400 articles and understand how important it is to move from unanimity to QMV? Do not they see that the power of the European Parliament has increased? They are afraid of being forced to abandon their agreed values? Why? They are represented in the European Parliament by 12 MEPs. Among 736 MEPs? Hmmm... these are the rules of democracy...
- What? They do not trust their politicians charged with corruption? They should not blame Europe for this... Just go and vote yes for this bloody Treaty and let us move on! We need a President of the Europe... sorry European Council. This could be Blair or somebody else... This is the real issue who shall take this job! So what that there is no job description... anyway he/she will find her ways. We would never agree on his competences upfront. Too many controversial issues at stake....
Ok, so now when you heard this internal dialogue I want to get out of the obvious and politically correct and imagine what the consequences of NO would be. I do not mean I am against the Lisbon Treaty and want the Irish to reject it. After all it is a moderate compromise pushing the EU ahead in some issues and creating a couple of new, interesting jobs and services. But if on 2nd October we find out that the Irish did not share this point of view... what would the consequences be?

1. This would be a trauma for all the political elites who consider European integration as a sort of new utopia solving all the problems and creating remedies.
2. The Europe of projects of Mr Barroso would sound like a prescription of fitness centre for a patient suffering from dementia and sclerosis.
3. The Swedish presidency would have to go back to the drawing board and ask some serious questions about what democracy means and what happens when one small demos rejects a reform of elitist demoi-cracy in the making.
4. The Conservative and Reformist group in the EP would get a serious boost as their sceptic approach would seem to be winning.
5. Mr Cohn-Bendit would start talking about the voters who deceived the domocracy and rejected their European credentials.
6. Mr Sarkozy would claim that the Irish cannot block his political masterpiece and maybe we should have a Europe of 2 speeds: the faster ones would be everybody but Ireland, UK, Poland and Czech Republic. And of course he does not mind taking the role of President of Europe ad interim.
7. We would have a trully European debate about why EU is important and how we should fix it.
8. All the scholars that wrote something about democratic deficit and questions of legitimacy would take their articles from the drawers and publish immediately these hot potatoes.
9. Andrew Moravcsik would recall all the copies of his famous article 'EU ain't broke. Why fix it?'
10. Valery Giscard d'Estaing would propose to chair the next Convention which should get a real Constitutions for the fast track Europe within 6 months.
11. The heads of Communications Directorates in the European Parliament and Commission would go to Canossa or Santiago de Compostella.
12. Ms Walstrom would increase the number of interviews in non-Swedish media.
13. Couple of heads would fall down... first probably the Taoiseach in Ireland... then hmm who was guilty for all this mess?
14. Last but not least, if the EU had survived this vote of non-confidence, we would have a serious debate about what the citizens of Europe want it to do... And maybe one of the results would be a new treaty/statement of principles/statute clarifying in 100 articles what the EU is, what are the objectives and who does what?
15. Last but not least... Any enlargement would be blocked untill we sort out this mess. So the Croatians would have more incentives to talk to Serbia and discuss the solutions for Bosnia and Hercegovina.

Dangerous, scary, destabilising... Europe does not have a plan B but it should start thinking that if you ask somebody for his opinion you should be ready for a yes/no answers. Otherwise it is not a question. In Polish we call it 'dictatum' and it does not sound too democratic.

Do you want to join my list of other possible consequences. Let's do a proper brainstorming! Europe does need it! Use your head!

Monday, 17 August 2009

On Ukraine and Polish Janus face

During these holidays I had a short spell in Lviv, Ukraine - where my ancestors come from. Some of you will be puzzled - what is the link between Poles and a Ukrainian town. Hmmm.... how to explain it. This is a longer lecture so I give only a few facts.

1. Do you know that between 1386 and 1795 the Kingdom of Poland (Korona) had an 'ever closer union' with the Princedom of Lithuania? The official name (since 1569) being the Res Publica of Both Nations.

2. What I call Lithuania above meant the majority of current Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine. And that the inhabitants spoke not the current Lithuanian (which is a dialect of Zmudz rediscoverd in the late XIXth century) but the current Balarusian language?

3. Did you know that Lviv was the 5th biggest city of Austro-Hungarian empire, after Vienna, Prague, Budapest and Triest?

4. Did you know that the biggest Polish poets (Adamus Mickewiczus, Czesław Miłosz) and politicians (Jozef Pilsudski, Jerzy Giedroyc) considered themselves as Lithuanians (contributing to the heritage of the Polish-Lithuanian Res Publica that I scetched in point 1)?

5. That before the WWII Lviv was inhabited by: 50% Poles - Roman Catholics, 35% - Jews, 10% Ukrainians - Greek Catholics, Armenians, Germans etc. Not a bad mix... creative anyway!

6. To maybe present a more comprehensive picture: Lviv for the Ukrainians was a bit like Brussels is now perceived by the Flamish: a big town in the middle of Flamish territory that had been captured by alien- francophone forces. Of course Poles being the majority in Lviv did share this point of view.

7. That actually the last 50 years of the Austrian ruling in Galicia (1868 -1918) was the time huge cultural renaissance of Polish, Jewish and Ukrainian cultures.

I do not pretend to be an expert on the east Europe. I advice you to visit the site of Polish think-tank - Centre for Eastern Studies. They do state of art analysis of current affairs. So now you should understand why Poland is so much interested in the future of Ukraine and Belarus. Toute proportion garde - these countries are for Poles a bit like Brazil for the Portugese or India for the British. The mix of cultures was a very fertile ground. And that is why Poland is so Janus faced - looking both towards the West (EU, Western civilisation, prosperity) and eyeing East (where the still visible links, memories reside).

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Reflection Group - worse than poor website

Have you heard about the Reflection Group? I was hoping for a more interactive way of thinking about the future of Europe. I tried to post a comment but even this feature did not work... So I put my comment here... maybe it will reached the addressees one day.

I must say that the website is really poor in content. I was hoping that after the experience of the Convention on the Future of Europe at least the working documents will be published on-line. I know there is still 10 months till the end of your mandate but still the elitist approach is always suboptimal versus a more participatory one. I appreciate the experience of the persons involved but still 200 brains would be better than 12. And the most important 'sin' is that your lack of visibility does not help prevent the general feeling that EU is not thinking about the future and the challenges of globalisation/restructuring of the world scene.

Every generation has its own revolution?

During my holidays in Poland I came up with a startling observation: when we have a lot of young people of similar age and experience when they get around 20 years old, they rebel. Nothing new you would say? Maybe. Look at the examples I have found:

1. Of course 1968 - the sexual revolution of Woodstock, Western Europe with parallel student protests in Poland. Where do you find the origins. Just look at the date - it is precisely 20-23 years after the end of the WWII. Baby boomers were born in USA and Europe and since they reached 20 they jointly rebeled against the 'system'.

2. 1848 - The spring of nations. Everybody loses from sight that only in 1814-15 the Napoleon wars were over. The French invasion of Europe cost millions of lives so I do not need to ask demographers what happened when finally he was sent to his prison island. And where 1848 was most visible? France, German lands, Austria, Poland, Hungary (have you heard about Lajos Kosuth - leader of the Hungarian uprising).

3. 1944 - Warsaw uprising in Poland. This is an event not well known in European history cause during the 45 years of Polish communist republic it was actually hidden by the ruling Workers Party. This uprising - a great tragedy of the whole generation with almost 200 000 lives lost and the capital of Poland turned in ruins - was also a mostly generational 'no' to the years of slavery under the Nazi Germany. The decision to start the uprising was taken probably without taking into account the tragic strategic background. But watching the films etc. in Poland I realised that this euforia of young generation was probably very difficult to control.

4. 1980 - The Solidarnosc movement. Everybody heard about Lech Walesa and the movement of young workers in Polish shipyards and coalmines. But the generation aspect of this political movement has not been noticed. What generation was it - you may ask. It was just the second wave of kids born after the WWII. Lech Walesa belonged to an older generation but he led to the strike mostly young people who did want to live with the paradoxes, shortages and lack of liberty.

What is the conclusion of my theory of revolutions. This year we celebrate 20 years since the fall of the Communist regims and the Berlin Wall. The generation born in liberty will claim things which are maybe beyond the vision of the old generation. I hope that widespread feudal structures in Polish higher education, administration, health care, political parties will be peacefully challenged by those who 'did not know that what they dared was impossible'. Many young people in Poland voted with their legs leaving Poland for UK, Ireland and USA. That is how some of the fundamental flaws of Polish mental reality have been rejected, changed for better Western conditions. But since the economic crisis thrown many of them out of the labour market many of them will come back and claim what they believe should be their right. I hope for a peaceful revolution. The elections approaching in 2010 will be a good occassion for new initiatives. I hope for an emergence of a new party on the left side of the political scene. This should be a party of minorities: sexual, religious, gender, green, regionalist. I think that there is a big potential for such.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Althusius and the history of Europe

Did you know who invented the notion of subsidiarity which is essential for the concept of federalism? I have just found out it was a German Calvinist lawyer and philosopher - Jahannes Althusius who published his book Politica in 1603. Having read on Wikipedia the biogram of Althusius I can only say that you cannot understand the history of Europe without knowing what Reformation was and what the establishment of the independant Holland meant.

This brings me to the issue of teaching the history of Europe. During the last hundred years the history has been captured by the nationalist paradigm. Poles were learning the history of Poland, French those of France-la nation. Germans... actually I do not know what history they were taught as the German nation state dates only from 1871.

If EU is to gain legitimacy we must be able to explain what it is and where does it come from. We shall not manage to do it without clarifying what is the history of EU-Europe. I know that in the College of Europe they start with Norman Davis's 'Europe - a history'. But this piece is too heavy to most of us. We need a simplified version. I have just found one which seems very comprehensive to me.

I would like to congratulate the French authors of touteleurope.fr who did a great job by showing not only Monnet and Schumann but all the underpinnings of the European idea: Charlequint, Althusius, L'ordre nouveau (1930). I think it is a perfect basis of EU history which did not start with the speech of Churchill in 1946. Teaching history is a transmission belt for selling ideas, concepts and narratives. I think sb in the EU institutions should embark on this seriously. I know that Hans Goert Poettering was very keen on the idea of history of Europe. I hope that Mr Buzek will continue this project as this will be founding stone of a kind of European identity. As I remember from the book of Goran Therborn: community is built through a common history, language and political structure. I think that against a common thinking, in the EU the history has been most neglected so far. There are reasons for this but it is time to address this issue seriously. By the next EU elections we should have a sceleton of main ideas, personalities and events. I am not sure we are yet there.

For example the whole Commission campaign: Together since 1957 is underlining only the fact of establishing the European Commission as the result of the Treaty of Rome. This means that the speech of Schuman in 1950 and the High Authority chaired by Jean Monnet are merely the precursors/prehistory of the EU. I think we need a better narrative for this. And the EP is best placed to deal with this issue.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Barroso II - Yes but for 8 months only?

We are living in interesting times and not only 'financial times'. The European debate reaches its peak without being noticed. Four very important issues dominate the agenda and they are all linked one to another
1. Ratification of a Reform treaty that took already 7 years of preparation (since the Declaration of Laeken in December 2001). The Irish will make it or break it and thus will shape the future of the Union, either way.
2. The choice of the political leadership of the Union. The discussion around Barroso, the future President of the European Council and the foreign minister are actually a repetition of the discussion held around the Convention on the Future of Europe in 2002-03.
3. The ruling of the Constitutional Court of Germany shows that finally the issue of democratic deficit has to be treaten at a political and not philosophical level only. Germany being the biggest EU democracy will shape the future of the debate about the role of the national parliaments, EP, Committee of the Regions etc. After incremental changes during the next years it will lead to a new Reform Treaty to be negotiated in the next 5-10 years.
4. The reluctance of Mr Klaus to sign the treaty ratified by both Chambers of the Parliament will shape the relations between the legislative and executive power. I do not know much about Czech constitutional politics but I sense a big defeat of Mr Klaus. Still I believe he will manage to delay the coming into force of the treaty by let's say 6 months.

Conclusions: The current constitutional discussion in the EU shows that the proponents of the politisation of the Union are gaining ground. I am happy to see all this happening. We should not be pressed by the Calendar too much and let things be settled when they get mature. I do not like the rush of the German government to have all the bits ready before 1 October. This is an unnecessary brinkmanship for me but maybe I do not see the full political context.

I suggest to break the link between issues. How can we achieve this? By electing a temporary care taker Barroso II Commission which is actually already the case (given the departures of Mandelsson, Huebner, Grybauskaite, Michel). 2010 will be anyway a year when relations between the 3 top jobs in the EU will be settled so Barroso could be replaced by some one else if the new political equation sees the light of the day finally.

The only BUT for this solution is the question: which country will temporary lose 'its' Commissioner during the transitory period - till the entrance into force of the Lisbon treaty. I suggest that we divide all the EU countries into 3 groups: big (DE, UK, FR, IT, E, PL), middle (from RO - 22 M person till Bulgaria - 8 M person) and small and than make them choose straws who will 'lose' the Commissioner in each group. This would free 3 posts :) and keep a political balance between the EU states.

Somebody asks what will happen if France does not have a Commissioner? Would it make the EU less legitimate? I would answer that anyway France has so many ways to influence the EU (Sarkozy, DGs in the Commission, COREPER, EP etc.) that it would change much. Anyway the French big fish will sit in other cabinets too so why be afraid.... By the way it is Mr Chirac who brokered this unclear deal in Nice (less Comissioners than the number of MS) so at least they could praise being the fathers of the changes.

Anyway in the long term this should be up to the President of the Commission to chose how big his team should be. He should be able to create a Cabinet type Commissioners - a clever British invention to limit the number of political interlocutors for key decisions.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Poland is growing

My 'study' trip to my home town - Gliwice brings everyday something new. The most important message is that the crisis has not struck as hard as in other countries. The GDP in the second quarter of 2009 should still remain positive (around 0.8).

This is probably thanks to still strong consumption (might still go down) and huge public investments sponsored mainly from the EU funds. If somebody wants to have a look at the plans of north-south highway linking Czech Republic with Gdansk you can go to http://www.a1-pyrzowice-sosnica.pl/ (beautiful visualisation of the Silesian part of it). There are many new roads being built. I have witnessed it during the weekend in the Czech mountains (Pradzied). And no queue on the borders.... you travel like this was a ... Central Europe :)

There is also some movement in the national politics. Pawel Piskorski, once a founder and leader of the ruling Platforma Obywatelska and a former MEP is trying to challenge the existing establishment by building a new centre-left political on the ashes of the historical Stronnictwo Demokratyczne. His chances of success are still limited but still he pushes Platforma to react on the ideological issues. They managed to engage another former leader of Platforma, Andrzej Olechowski (who secured 17% of votes in the 2000 presidential elections) who will most probably stand again next year. Who knows, how sucessful he might be? I would bet he will make it to the socond round with Donald Tusk. This would make a very interesting discussion.

Last but not least, the regional and municipal elections are scheduled for spring 2010 (before the presidential ones in automn). This makes it an interesting time for those that fancy campaings and political debates. Magda, shall you stand for a post in the municipal council of the city of LODZ? You have fervent supporters not only in Brussels :).

So now it is time for Krakow, my life trampoline. During the almost 10 years that I had spent there I have developed a kind of love-hate relation. Now it is time to visit old friends and places again. It is always tough to visit places that accompanied you during good/bad times. I feel uneasy about this trip... Probably Krakow has already forgotten about me. I have cheated it with Brussels, so no lover forgets this :) Still I will go to say him hello....

I just can't help it.... on holidays but thinking of Europe :)

I think that I should start seeing my interest in Europe as an obsession. I went on holidays to my home country and am reading articles in Euractiv and Euobserver. I am thinking more and more that it is time for me to engage in the large scale debate on Europe.

I have been thinking a lot about the issue of enlargement and 2 big chunks on the way to be swallowed by the EU: Turkey and Ukraine. The more I look at these 2 countries, the more I have an impression that EU is just not ready to 'eat' them. Instead we should start thinking about putting them as strategic partners:
1) Ukraine should be our mean of transforming Russia into what it can be (a democratic, non imperialist country respecting its citizens)
2) Turkey should be our vehicle for change in the Muslim word. Turkey is actually a Muslim country with a European soul.

I go to Lviv, one of the historic towns of Ukraine next week. I have read a lot about its Polish/Ukrainian/Jewish/German/Armenian history. Am looking forward to discover how things look on place. Will write about it upon my return. But the most startling was that Ukrainian nationalism was a reaction to Polish nationalism in the late XIXth century. Nationalism seen as a European religion is really a new perspective.

I become a fun of Przeglad Polityczny. This is a periodic published by the group of Liberals from Gdansk (the friends of the current of Polish Prime Minister). They really write good stuff about the contemporary political discussions. I feel that my crazy idea to draft a common narrative for Europe is getting new insights from them. Now we have a new term for the EU polity - civitas. I will write more on this when it becomes more clear in my mind. Just a teaser: instead of talking about federation, state or union - which make us think the states of the XXth century we need to find a new expression to capture it. And CIVITAS seems for me to capture it :).

I need to read the ruling of the German Constitutional Court on the Lisbon Treaty. I think that this is a major piece showing the limited legitimisation of the European Parliament. EP will have to really take it into account. And this will give rise to the meaning of Convention as a Treaty reform stage. No matter if Lisbon fails or not... we will see a new Convention very soon. I hope this time we shall make it right.

And last piece: UK. This country is going through breathtaking political change which will influence the whole EU. I think that the year before Conservatives win the next elections will be crucial for establishing their position on major world issues. If they decide to go by EU, this will be a painful experience of lost influence. UK now, after the financial crisis is much closer to make strategic decisions about its internal rules. I expect a lot of changes in the coming years. And ultimately UK should make a clear choice if it remains an island by the EU or is part of this political project.

Have good holidays. Break from work does not mean break from thinking. :)

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

European Politics versus holidays

I have not written for a while but am following closely the recent events on the European stage. I am happy about the choice of Jerzy Buzek. Suddenly all the foreigners get interested in Poland... It is funny how power attracts and raises interests.

There is a lot of speculation about Barroso. I must say I like this speculation. I have nothing personal with this guy but somehow he has not convinced me so far. I do not want to join all those who say he did not do enough during the banking crisis. He was coping with an insitution which has doubled its membership within 3 years. But I think a fresh start would help.

It is a bit like with Buzek. He was the Prime Minister of Poland for 4 years. He had good will and try to accomodate different currents inside Solidarnosc. But he would have better done if he had resigned after the initial 2-3 years. Standing by the post is not beneficial for the system when people no longer bet on you. The fall of AWS (electoral block Solidarnosc) in the 2001 was a sad ending of his term as Prime minister.

One saying says: always give a second chance, never a third one. I think it does not apply to Presidents. They should have one chance and if they do not use it well, it means they do not have the capacity to improve....

I should write more but am getting ready for well deserved holidays. When I come back in August, I hope Brussels will sleep well and dream about a new Comission President. Why not Chris Patten? Why not Wastrom? Why not Fischer...

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

L'Europe puissance - the key question

Many years ago I read an article comparing the prevailing visions of Europe in France, Germany and UK (divided among their respective political parties). The main conclusion was that French tend to think about Intergovernmental Confederation (which guarantees respect of their nation-etat and is a vehicle of their interests), Germans about a Federal State (with clear delineation of power between different government levels) and the Britts about a Free Trade Union (reducing internal barriers for trade and competition, with limited central powers).

But I am afraid that many of these divisions disappear when people start to talk about spreading European values and L'Europe puissance (Europe as a political power). Recently I came across another article where the author complains that EU has concentrated too much on 'regulation',
abandoning the political project as such. I cite his words:
Ce n’est pas la régulation qui est un objectif en soi, c’est le projet politique qui est l’objectif. (It is not the regulation which is an objective as such, the political project is the objective).

This small innocent phrase which follows on the speeches of many so called 'founding fathers',made me think about value of thinking small against thinking big. I am afraid that whenever we start to talk about 'projet politique' there is a tendency to think in terms of the traditional nation state which has been the major political project of XIXth - XXth century (unification of Italy and Germany, the emergence of nation states in Central Europe following the I world war etc.). And with own its merits (declaratory equality of citizens, social protection, concept of demos), a nation state has been probably one of the biggest oppressor and source of violence in the international realm (wars 1914-1945), postcolonial conflicts in Africa. So if we think about EU in these terms, there is a risk of creating a new imperial structure which will repeat the nation-state experience in the larger intercontinental context. But it will not change the rules of the game, which have proved to be so dangerous for the humankind.

I think that we should accept the European project as precisely rather a regulation of relations between states than creation of a new political entity which will finally make the 'European' voice heard. It does not need to go any further. Europe should be a big think-tank, regulator and place for discussion/peaceful confrontation among different actors. It does not need to go much further but make all the internal actors play according to the rules of the game.

And precisely the French reflex of talking about 'l'Europe puissance' is dangerous in this context. We need much more moderation in our approach to foreign policy. EU should behave rather like inward looking China who tries to prevent external threats but does not have this intervention reflex that we so painfully experienced in Iraq and Afghanistan. Europe will not be a better, more efficient France. We cannot expect that by giving money, sending troops or negotiating trade deals we can fundamentally change the reality of countries in Africa, Asia or Latin America. We can support positive tendencies, help in sharing good practices but our influence will always remain limited.

I think that if we continue to talk about Europe as a sort of 'better, bigger nation state' we shall only bring back the imperialist thinking which partly lead to the second world war. There is tention between the 'Europe as a project to guarantee peace' and the 'Europe puissance' megalomania. I hope that this is what meant Schuman, Monnet, Spinnelli, Spaak and Adenauer. Moderation should become the major spice of European foreign policy.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Economic crisis and the meaning of politics

I have read an interesting interview with George Soros. For those who do not know he is a Hungarian financial invester who earned a lot of money on currency speculation (British pound in the 1990) and parallely started giving a lot of money to the developement of democracy in Central Europe (Open Institute). He warns that we still do not know the real magnitude of the economic crisis and that he believes it will be much deeper than we imagine.
For some years now the Chinese model of state capitalism will prevail. The role of China, India and Brasil will grow while that of US will fade. Nothing will be the same cause the fundamental belief of recent 20 years - that markets tend to automatically seek equilibrium has proved false. And that living on credit has finished when nobody wants to risk another credit.

What is the impact of the above on the politics in general? I think that politics will have to move back to the area which it has left to the specialists - bankers, insurers etc. The new agenda will paradoxically be: not only 'better regulation' but we cannot trust markets - financial markets especially.

But unfortunately Barroso, who put better regulation as a paramount preoccupation of his first term as Commission President, he failed to deliver in the view of the public (at least from our current perspective). I do not want to say that he is guilty for the financial crisis. The whole economists community is guilty for the epistemic mistake we took as a new truth. The problem with Barroso is that in normal times his conciliatory approach, niceness would win him another term. I am afraid (am I?) that this will not prove to be a winning policy this time. Politics needs scapegoats and somebody who has been perceived as supporting liberalisation and markets is a perfect bird to shoot at.

The paradox is that the subjective 'losers' of the last European elections - the Socialists are now rediscovering the meaning of confrontational politics. Probably to a large extent due to the approaching September elections in Germany, Mr Schultz is flexing his muscles in the name of Socialists. And as says Euobserver (http://euobserver.com/9/28374) the Socialists and Greens want to block a quick confirmation of Barroso for his new term. If this political position wins, there is a great risk that the grand coalition in the EP (PSE and EPP) shall be jeopardised once and for all. If Barroso is elected with the votes of EPP, Liberals and the New Conservative Block (together 401 votes - simple majority needed out of 732 MEPs) this will alter the consesus which has prevailed over the last 30 years (with the small exception of EP presidency by Pat Cox).

But coming back to the larger world context, this will not be business as usual anymore. Probably next 10 years will show an unprecedented level of international strain and conflicts. Soros predicts that international institutions will roll back - they will lack the backing of state leaders. I think there is great time now for a new analysis of the political consequences of the Great Depression. We talk about Hitler as the main cause of the WWII but we often forget in what situation he came to power. A situation when the German (Weimar) parliamentary democracy faced 25% of unemployment rate (6M jobless). But we often lose from perspective that the 30ties were the years of growing authoritarism and that international strains were partly a result of its use for domestic purposes (have to think more about this aspect...).

Coming back to the main thesis, politics will no longer be as we used to perceive it to be. It will step back into the areas of economics/monetary relations left to the markets.
Europe needs to prepare for increased tentions both inside and outside. This paradoxically can be positive for the legitimacy of EU as a political project. It will increase the political competition in the EP (more conflicts, more media coverage) and in the international arena there will be a need for a concerted action, otherwise no single EU state will be able to influence the situation. I hope only that the world will not repeat the short-term trade policy of 'beggar thy neighbour' of the 30ties. So far OECD has hailed the world leaders for sticking to the WTO rules and not increasing protection. But with the situation getting worse/stagnating, the quick wins such a policy might offer is a serious temptention. And as Oscar Wild once said: 'I can resist anything but temptation'.

To sum up, the next years will be far from boring. And both the next Commission and hopefully External Action Service shall have a lot of work to do. This is a test they cannot fail!

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Solana and the future of external service

Read today a very interesting aricle about Solana's views on the future of the external action service foreseen in the Lisbon treaty (http://euobserver.com/9/28355). It is funny how sometimes a simple truth can escape our political intuition. Solana is right! There should not be a revolution in merging national embassies with the Commission Delegations. It should be really a gradual process. We say in Poland: Hurry up slowly :).

I wonder what would say of my colleagues from DG RELEX who are sitting at their desks waiting to become part of the new elite. External Action Service is probably already provoking sleepless nights to many 'decideurs'. How to square the circle of exclusive Commission competences (trade), the mixed ones (developement) and all those which are still perceived as the remit of the nation state? How to choose the diplomats who shall serve there? Should DG Developement be part of it. What about EuropeAid and ECHO? What should be the proportions between officials from Commission, Council Secretariat and Member States? And then comes Solana and says: this should be done progressively. What a simple solution. So we shall slowly detache national diplomats to join EU Delegations, we shall foresee a selection board to have balance between Member States.

But a bigger puzzle is facing European leaders . If the ratification of Lisbon treaty is delayed (even after the foreseen yes of the Irish) let's say till January, there will be a long transitory period with unclear attribution of portfolios and choice of Commissioners. Poland for example would like to have one of the economic portfolios (industry, budget, internal market). If however we receive sth still sexy but not strictly economic, they the choice of the Commissioner might be different. Mr Lewandowski does not seem keen on non-economic issues. I imagine the same for other countries. Top level politicians do not accept everything or nothing proposals. And no political system deals well with leadership vacuum. I expect that 4 Commissioners that have been elected to EP will be soon out their current jobs. So anyway a reshuffling is on its way.

On the site of the European Policy Centre (www.epc.eu) there is an interesting publication with different views on the shape of the Commission. Antonio Missiroli developes a vision of enhanced role of vice president and totally novatory split of existing portfolios. One of his suggestion is to increase the standing of the Bureau of European Policy Advisors (BEPA). I find his proposals really interesting and revealing. I would like one day work in such a forward looking think-tank. But career path in European instutions is a subject of its own merits, so maybe... another day.
Wait for comments. It functions now :)

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Depeche Mode and Europe - I just can't get enough

I was yesterday at the concert of Depeche Mode in Werchter. I want to comment not only on their music but on the visual aspect - the pictures, films showed in the background.

I must say this was really inspiring. One that struck me most was the photos of different armies, vehicles, planes symbolising the war and the attitude of people towards strength and power. I think we keep on forgetting about the European war 1914-1945 (I know this is a controversial way to put it, but I will explain it one day). I think we forget very easily the attractiveness of pure power, of authoritative speakers who through their charisma manage the minds and hearts. I think we do not want to admit that a beautiful fighter plane which can go fast and destroy precisely what was marked, gives shivers to many guys, me included. I am 33 and heard a lot about war, conflicts and fighting. But only yesterday I could understand the war excitement which accompanied soldiers walking onto the front in 1914. I think we should be able to show this enthusiasm and show the picture of destroyed towns and burnt corps. Without this we shall never get it that our passions can drive us to extinction.

The other song was about sexuality. This showed two girls approaching each other. Then it got more blurred - as I heard, this was censored. But still I realised how far we have gone from the medieval times when Catholic church was setting the rules of what is allowed and what prohibited. I am reading a book European history (Est-ce que l'Europe a un histoire). And though it is true that Christianity has marked our past and is still present for many of us, the liberation of sexuality has been a huge step that i.e. the Convent failed to admit. There was also recently in European Voice an article about the role Catholic church plays in Ireland. When you put sexuality and religion next to each other you see how much tension appears. I do not want to say that Depeche Mode has the right answer to all questions. For me what they showed was rather a 'signum temporis' - sexuality is no longer a taboo, and I think rightly so.

Third picture was two faces next to each other. One seemed to be an old white guy with silver her. The other looked like a Black kid, teenager. During the song, slowly some parts of each picture got blurred and we could accompany a slow transformation of the grey guy into the Black kid and Black kid into the greyish guy. I did not know this song, but it made me think about the race, immigration and divide between the autochtone (eng. native) and allochtones (eng. others, strangers). The topic of who we are and who we become. I know I do not discover anything new, but if a kid can change into an old guy from another race, it makes you think how many prejudices there are in our hearts.

Last picture I want to describe was the famous crow sitting in the middle of the desert, with his blinking eye shown at the top of the screen. For me this was a picture of calm solitude. The bird was wise, alone. I do not know if it was a symbole of death, eternity what else can you imagine... Anybody want to add a better description. But it was amazing - the bird was calm, eternal.

Maybe I should read more about Depeche Mode and their symbolism before I share it with you. But music is eternal. And DM has something, I do not know how to say... transcendental. I think their music describes a lot of feelings of our times: depression, fear, passion, reflection, wanting to be part of a rhytm, crying. I think a guy needs to have real guts to sing about this in the way they do. It is a paradox when real masculinity is the courage to say that we have so much feminity. Or maybe this split is artificial; we are the much more similar than the tradition makes us think. Guys are crying and girls are sexual. Simple... maybe not so for all.

Anyway, DM gave me more inspirations than any preamble to the 'European' treaties. Maybe in fact they are hiding more than they reveal. Maybe one day we should talk about the transitions that we have gone through. This should teach us more distance into culture, social behaviour, shaming and liberation. There is a lot going on which the politicians have not captured so far.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Nomination of the next Commission

I have come across an interesting book written by Julian Priestley, aormer Secretary General of the European Parliament. '7 battles that shaped the European Parliament'. I read the chapter about the growing power of MEPs in the process of nomination of the European Commission.

I know that theory gets boring after a moment. But when you see the internal 'cuisine', the battle between personalities, the power of argumentation it really gets interesting. I am looking forward to the exercise this year. Let's say that Barrosso managed to scare all the rivals away. But when he will choose the fellow commissioners and attribute their portfolios, he will be under growing pressure of the EP. And the funny thing is that once you please one side of the spectrum, you make angry the other. Poor Mr Butiglione who tried to remain catholic while being questioned about human rights and non-discrimination. His failure is another sign that the new Europe is becoming more disengaged with the religion.

And I think that after the cold shower during the 2004 nomination Barroso will have to play it harder with the Member states governments. So I am waiting for the drama which will unfold soon.

I wonder what is in the heads of the newly elected MEPs. This must be a moment: you have been chosen for 5 years. You have a lot of time to realise your dreams and ambitions. You know you will spend a lot of time planes and trains. So you become a Hermes (transmission) and a little Zeus (you will decide about the future of the Union). You know that you might become marginalised in your home country. You know that the 736 will decide together how they go into history. Shall it be another Parliament known for its secret wars and meagre influence or shall they make it to the headlines and scoops. What is in the minds of the former Commissioners. Do they want to lend safely or actually they see a potential to change sth that they could not from inside?

Are they studying the CVs of fellow MEPs? Do they read biographies (like the one of Chris Patten or Giscard d'Estaing)? Do they get quick lessons of survival French? Do they check the airlines flying from Brussels to their home town? Are they rather afraid, messianistic, idealistic or cynical? What for do they want to fight. It is at the end only 60 months till the next elections. Do they prioritise? I will try to follow it as much as I can and write about what I find out.

Monday, 8 June 2009

European discussion - UK and JHA

So finally we have a European discussion. Who gets how many votes, who wins, who loses. The demise of Labour in GB is really estonishing. It really shows that there is not such thing as a party that can rule forever. Maybe this is the best aspect of democracy that it forces people to compete? Ok, they not always compete with ideas. There is also marketing, negative campaigns and so on. But still people need to think how to win with others. And the periodic changes in UK are really interesting. After the 18 years of Tories, we had 12 years of Labour. How long will be the next domination, if such occur... Or maybe a change of voting rules and end of two party system? Liberals and UKIP would not mind.

The results in UK are really putting its political class with a fundamental question. Shall we continue with the European project; do we want to speak with others about things that should matter to us.?It is interesting how the internal pluralism of British society (Welsh, Scotts, Pakistani, Indian, Poles) is putting its back to the external pluralism of the EU.

I am looking forward to the establishment of the conservative group in the European Parliament. They will be like dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, but still they can be interesting dinosaurs. What proposals shall they put for climate change, globalisation, transmissable diseases? Maybe they can propose a balanced deal to the issue of immigration... can they? I was recently thinking that the Justice, Home Affairs and Security Directorate General will soon become the key battleground for the European project. Not the Afghanistan question, not the fight with the economic crisis but the question of living with strangers seems the most fundamental now.

Polish corner:
There is a young MEP from Poland - Rafal Trzaskowski who has just made it to the hemi-sphere in Strasbourg. He was given a great chance and succeded. I hope that in 5 years time he will have established his name and shall continue political career that has just started. Being 37 he can understand better what are the preoccupations of the younger generation. I wish him luck.

The other phenomenon which attracks attention is the success of the French coalition of ecologists. Having on one list Verts, regionalist parties, Jose Bove and former anti-corruption investigator proved to be a very successful recipee. They managed to do the same as Jospin in 1997. I wonder if they manage to keep their cohesion for longer. If yes, we can see an emergence of an interesting political current in Europe. If they join forces with the European Free Alliance from Skandinavia they could overtake the Liberals. Maybe I am wrong but it is nice to speculate sometimes.

The question now is what to do with Barrosso. I do not see any contenders, do you? It is not a sign of a vivid polity, where nobody dares to challenge the incumbent. What is the merit of winning if there is no competition... It seems that monarchy is not a disregarded option in Europe. I stop here.

Friday, 5 June 2009

next Commission - hoping for waves

I hope that the choice of the next Commission's president and the college will not go smoothly. Why? Because Europe needs open conflicts and there is not a more stimulating conflictual situation as fighting for the jobs and portfolios.

Ideally Jerzy Buzek should become the President of next Parliament only after a tough battle with the Italian Mario Mauro. Jose Barroso should get a grilling during his hearings. And if he fails to convince that he did a good job during the last 5 years, he should not get a second chance. Conflict is a good topic for media coverage, so in this way EU should get a lot of attention. I do not mind a total blamage of the transitory Czech government. Europe has been consensual for too long.

I want the new Conservative fraction in the Parliament (British, Czechs and Poles) to question things that have not been questioned so far. And I hope that their criticism shall be rebuked with force by serious arguments from the other sides. We need heated debates in the Parliament. We need close votes where the result is not known until the very end and depending on appearance of one MEP (being ill or late). People and media like thrillers and circus. They should get it. We need dramas. A candidate in tears because he did not get the job he was promised. We need more spices and less consensus, meritocracy and diplomacy. Controversies are good. If we really want to create a debating space in Europe we need to create topics.

The Irish shall vote again on the Lisbon treaty. They deserve a big discussion before. They have shaken up the Union - this should be said openly. But we should not confuse the diplomacy, parliamentary adoption and referendums. There is space for each of them in the European polity. But the stakes should be clear. Referendums should be on clear issues and not on technicalities. I think that Irish politicians failed in their unability to decide to change the Constitution. XXI century will be a time to make tough decisions. And procrastination will have serious consequences. This comment should be addressed to Belgian politicians too, but this is another story for another time.

Personalities matter so let's choose those that appeal to us. I have made my mind already :).

Sunday, 31 May 2009

Why did the Convention fail.... or did it?

I keep on repeating myself. It still bothers me why the European project does not have a clear acceptable description of what it is. Why almost 60 years after the Declaration of Robert Schuman we did not agree where we want to go and how we want to do it.

Ok, we are learning by doing. Who would ever say that these poor, post-communist Poles with many complexes and fighting style will ever steer the European project (second half of 2011). Do we really trust others that they will take into account our interest and not drive through our country like Napoleon, Hitler and Stalin used to do. Each nation state has gone through a long debate about issues like what means human rights (right to kill, right to believe, right to protest, right to protect). And actually the drafting of the Charter of Fundamental Rights was a good exercise in creating ambiguous compromises and blurring the meaning of words. I think this debate is not over but we need it. This is a major debate of any federalism: how far can a central judiciary intervene in the parts which compose the polity. I think we need a debate about the rights of gay marriages in less liberal states. And the rights of gypsies to settle down on the outskirts of Rome. And the rights of employers to sack all the workers and bring Latvian cheaper workforce with a temporary contract.

I think we have forgotten that building of the single market was not the aim in itself. That it is only a tool for a greater cause. And this cause is much closer to the Kantian proposal to establish peace among nations. And even if 55 years after the world war II we already think it is unthinkable again we still need to go back to this primary preoccupation and bring back its own sense.

Bacause both the conference in Hague in 1949 (establishement of the Council of Europe) and the Schuman declaration had this basic preoccupation in mind. But to be really in line with the facts, the institutional structure proposed by Schuman has changed considerable over time as a result of internal negotiations and changing priorities.

But when I hear all these discussions about 'Europe puissance' - the power of Europe, it is really the old French dream of establishing world rules that comes to my mind. Yes we have interests and want to spread our values. But really a common foreign policy which is the reason for criticising Europe is at the end a secondary preoccupation. The major one was always internal. The Americans via NATO took care of Western Europe external security, so there was only the inner one to cope then. But it is true that one day the external security might become the primary one. Terrorism in fact is a serious threat. But still many times this comes eventually back to the one of integration of foreigners (Muslem British or Germans) in the societies. There is also state terrorism which has not die out with the end of cold war. But I think I shall come back to these issues later because the logic of this post is getting lost.

Still this is the major challenge of writing about EU. Whatever you start with it brings you always to other issues and it is difficult to conclude.

So coming back to the issue of Convention (on the Future of Europe). Did it fail or not really?
It failed largely because:
1. It failed to attract enough media and politician attention before the closing months when the real articles of the 'Constitutional Treaty' have been assambled together.
2. It produced a long juridical text which does not pass the test of explaining or resolving the fundamental dillemas of the European project. It has been kidnapped by lawyers.
3. It (President) forced a controversial idea of changing voting rules in the name of efficiency and simplicity, which applied directly create a risk of giving too substantial powers to the largest nation states.

It succeeded because:
1. It has initiated a huge debate inside EU and closed the period when European politics has been confined to elitist groups.
2. It has shown to many federalists the limits of comparison with USA and the process of statebuilding and the mobilising force of European ideal.
3. The Convention has established a precedent/model of debate and negotiation which is superior to the model of Intergovernmental Conferences.

Ok, that's it for now. I will come back to these issues again.

Friday, 29 May 2009

elections in the EU

I am following the elections in the EU. I use this term on purpose. These are not European elections. Timothy Garton Ash said this. That actually we selecting our candidates to seat in the European Chamber of Deputies (this is me). The name Parliament is misleading too. This is only the 'House of Commons' while the Council of Ministers is 'House of Lords'. Or the other way round.

The problem with the EU is that people try to describe by using parallels to the existing political systems. But like every system, this one is different. The waiting for the Lisbon treaty makes things even more complicated. Which names should we use. Which compentences belong too whom...

I would like to have one day a clear 'narrative' about the EU. Narrative which names things. And if there is no clarity about sth, it uses a language which opens the issue, rather than closing it/lying about the underlying problem.

I got very enthusiastic when following the questions put during the Nice summit, the Laeken declaration was elaborated in 2001. I am afraid that 8 years later we are not much closer to having an answer to the questions elaborated there. Do we need one treaty which would clarify the nature of the EU? For me the answer is yes. Should we call it a constitution? Probably not. But how should we call it then? Should it be a 'statement of principles'. Sounds boring already.

The EU has changed a lot since. I must say I like the major developement - Eastern enlargement. I was always hoping that the EU would clarify what it is after this enlargement, not as a precondition to it. But the shere numbers make me scared. 27. How can you dialogue with 27 MS. If my family had 27 members I am not sure I would remember all names :). How do you seat them around the table? Do you make a separate one for the kids (this is how dealt with such issues during parties). Poor guys who are chairing a meeting. There is no discussion in 27.

Coming back to the elections in Europe. We are approaching a cut off point. Then we shall have a fixed picture of what is EU now. What people think. What careers have they pursued. Do they want to defend their small angle, village, country or do they want to tackle wider subjects - internet: youtube or facebook, problems of fertility, the impact of tourism on economy, how to deal with people who hate what represent current London or New York.

Surely there will be a mix. One third hard working and ambitious, one third just trying to keep about the surface and a third whose ambitions (or lack of it) shall lie outside the European agora. Still this cut off point is important. I am not convincing anybody to vote. I just want to show that it is worth watching the show, even when it turns completely abberant.

I hope that the new Parliament will make some waves in the selection of the next college of Commissioners. I hope for a lot of troublemaking. Because troublemaking means people have to position themselves, which means reading, which means understanding more. I think that the fall of Czech government made huge publicity about what presidency means. So I hope that the post of next President of the European Commission will not be given without fight. I think it deserves this. We deserve this!

So I wait till next Sunday and then: alea acta est! have a good weekend!

Thursday, 21 May 2009

hesitations of a eurocrat

As you will see quickly English is not my mother tongue. I work for the EU institutions. 3 years right now. But the official policy of EU institutions is that I cannot speak to the press, unless authorised by my superiors and communication Unit. I risk sanctions (actually did not check what type). In general terms I like my job and I would like to continue the career. Do I need to keep silent?

On the other hand I have devoted last 10 years studying the European integration. I even made a Ph.D. about the Convention that has drafted the 'defunct' (dead) European Constitution. When I was given my Ph.D. title I solemnly sworn to - something like: in my life stick to the principles of science which means trying to seek the truth and describe reality for others (I confabulate a bit, but you get the point). Can I write in my personal capacity? Blog is such a tool by nature, isn't it?

Why I want to write a blog? Because I am thinking and discussing different aspects of EU on a daily basis. I would like to share it with others. I want to confront my thinking because my experience says that unless something is written down, it gots lost somehow.

But I have to live with this dual position. Being a private citizen with a freedom of expression and working in the big machine of European institutions. This is not an official blog of a person you can easily identify but on the other hand with time I am sure it will be easy to trace me. So I will try live with this duality. Please understand it.

This is actually my second blog. The first, in my native language, I started writing during my studies - 5 years ago. It died very quickly. I hope that this one will last longer.
So here we go.... aplause :)
As the Chinese say... a tour around the world starts with one step.