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 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.