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 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.