Thursday, 11 November 2010

on burka ban

Very good article from Bruno Waterfield (here). I can hardly imagine people going to jail because wearing wrong clothes.
Europe has a problem facing islam. And it even fails to admit that there is an issue. Banning is not the best basis for a dialogue...

Sunday, 17 October 2010

The faces of Brussels

I have recently attended a Brussels Citizen University. An event organised by the team of Eric Corijn. We have discussed in English, French and ... Flemish the future of this city. The biggest discussion was of course about financing of the investments.
If you look for complex topics then you cannot get a better one that the history, population and government of this city. Yet still it is part of the world city network, part of the conurbation which links Belgium, Holland, NRW and Lille. It is also a world city due its population which stems from Turkey, Morocco and Kongo.

During my 4 years in Brussels I have realised how great and mediocre the Belgians can be at the same time. But when I saw the way the Belgian federalism works- a federalism of dotations- I lost all hope. I think I might start voting for NVA just to change the curcuit of money. It does not make any sense. You have regions and communities which receive the gross of the money from the central pot. It is like a bed dream of a bureaucratic guru.

Another point: there is no real Brussels narrative. If you talk to people from Eastern communes like WSL or Uccle; they have nothing in common with those from Mollenbeek or Schaerbeek. These are two worlds which are virtually separated by a KANAL.

And funny enough, the diplomats and Eurocrats like me, pay only the indirect taxes. So even the acclaimed Belgian socialism with taxation rate going beyond 50% does not capture the 'international bourgoisie'.

What are the points of contact between the 4 communities: Arab/Polish immigrants; pauperised Belgians; rich Belgians and expats? Probably the police where the robbed fortunates realise that Brussels has a different face too.
And strangely enough, the police is organised as 4 regions.... for a city of 1 million inhabitants and 400 000 commuters....
Despite the positive remarks of Paul Magnette, there is something rotten in this country. It is now my country too.
So what we need is not only a Flemish movement. We need a Brussels movement, discussion, vision. Because now it seems like everybody turns his back against the rest.
What are the initiatives you can follow on this subject? There is office for urban reporting - OUR or Kanal Platform.
And for those thinking about Belgium - you can look at RE-BEL.
I go to read one of their pieces :)

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Stress and IT projects

I think my blog will change a bit its nature. During the first year it was mostly about my thinking about Europe and the world at large. But time has come to come back to the basics of a weblog: to assist the author in his daily activities.

I have an important meeting today. Around 15 people from different services will discuss how to improve the usability and interface of an IT application that is being created by my Unit. And believe no matter how boring IT may sound this is really of huge importance. The only parallel I can find is with designing a factory. If you design it well people know how to work and where to find the tools and machines. If you fail, you will have to put instructions everywhere and organise trainings for all newcomers. So the long term implications are huge...

How do you manage stress link to an important meeting? I still have not figured it out. I always pay with waking up in the morning at some crazy hour... thoughts come to your mind and crowd the dreams away.

And gathering people together is a big responsibility altogether. I will gather around 15 for the whole day. Let's count how much money of lost opportunities is a stake. If an avarage salary in the institutions for Administrators is 4000 Euros it means that this day costs 60 000 Euros. This should be a motivating factor to make the most of it.

So I have mixed feelings: stress and enthusiasm for a creative workshop will people I appreciate. The results will be seen probably next year only. Wish me good luck! :)

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

My 2010 Green manifesto

I have decided to join the Green movement. It took me 13 years to take this decision. Decision to join a political party. If you are born in a Communist party lead country party does not necessarily mean something good. Now I am ready.

Back in 1997 I have joined the young movement called 'Young democrats' (Mlodzi Democraci) which was a kind of youth assaciation affiliated to one of the key Polish political parties - Union of Freedom (Unia Wolnosci). I went for seminars, discussions, took part in electoral campaigns. But I was too cautious to make a step further and join the party itself. I was afraid of becoming manipulated and wanted to leave the options open. The Polish landscape of 1997 was still very fragile. I remember the discussions about the new Polish constitution and a clever, passionate speech of one of its opponents from the Kaczynski's camp: Ludwik Dorn. I remember the discussions about local government and the meeting with first Polish ambassador to the Czech Republic (...) forgot the name. I remember when I saw the name of Jerzy Buzek on the party list to the Polish Diet. I remember being invited for his expose in Sejm (Polish Diet) on the 10th November of 1997.
And now, 13 years later I decided to join the Belgian Green Francophone Party (ECOLO). These are my reasons:
1. I do believe that despite all their deficiencies political parties have a life in the post-national era of XXI century.
2. I learnt that being an official or diplomat you never enjoy the same freedom as the politicians do.
3. I believe that parties and internal elections are the best testing ground for young leaders and statesmen. I am now ready to take up this challenge. I am no longer afraid of being outmanouvered or ridiculed.
4. I believe the world we know is changing completely which creates a big challenge for the existing social systems in Europe and outside.
5. My generation 30-40 year old needs to get involved to represent a modern way of looking at the world.
6. The Christian Democrats have become part of the European establishment (EPP, Barroso, Juncker) and it will take time before a generation change occurs. Let me be silent on the links with the Catholic church now.
7. The Socialists never really made a right difference between equality and equality of rights. They should go back to the university and read about the incentive structure and engines of growth.
8. The Liberals - individualism is an important part of the European heritage but it will never solve the tragedy of commons. Liberals have been too close to the private business. And the 2008 financial crisis exposed to me the limits of liberal thinking.

Why Belgian ECOLO?
1. This is the only Belgian party which keeps close links (same parliamentary club) with the Flemish counterpart (GROEN).
2. I got fed up with the cars in Brussels and the limited space for bicycles.
3. The noise levels in Brussels are not acceptable. We need a green revolution, electric cars, responsible consumers and not highways bringing egoist navetteurs from the outskirts.
4. I believe in rights for sexual minorities and minorities altogether.
5. Ecolo brings new elements of discussions to the political system.
6. The European Greens are the openly pro-European party which remains critical of the current political establishment.
7. Greens being the new party are not yet overly dependant on the existing balance of interest. They are fresh in politics.
8. I believe within the next 20 years Greens can become a force in Europe of around 20% which will be necessary to govern the countries.
9. They have couple of charismatic leaders: Cohn-Bendit, Joschka Fischer, Trittin, Eva Joly.

Couple of information about the ecological movement in Europe:
1. In 2010 regional elections in France they scored above 16% (almost becoming the second party by vote).
2. They already had 1 Commissioner (German Michele Schreyer - Prodi Commission - 1999-2004)
3. If I remember well, in 2010 elections in UK they managed to secured the first MP seat.
4. In Poland - Zieloni 2004 - problems with emerging on the media scene.

my history as a Polish

Having spent 4 years in Brussels I begin to look at Poland with a mix of nostalgia and criticism. Nostalgia is self-explanatory. I spent the first 30 years of my life predominantly in this country; I come from a family where both parents spoke Polish; I was attending schools and universities in Gliwice and Krakow. So what I am right now is predominantly made in Poland.

On the other hand since the high school times I grew more and more interested in the outside world. Foreign news was the part of newspaper that I started reading at the age of 14. I was always excelling in history and political science: I remember still that Khmer Rouge was a bit like the story of Karol May (Winnetou) or conquistadores. The world back then was really far away.

I was born in a semi-independant state where friendship with Soviet Union was an undisputed principle yet everybody knew that Russia has been the biggest danger for the nation throughout the last 3 hundred years. Poland in the 80ies was a curious mixture of declining economy, strong church and a deligitimes nomenclature regime.

And then, 1988-89-90 history accelerated. I was still too young to really witness these years. In 1991 I joined the highschool. My rebellion against the adults had another layer: the generation of my parents was not ready for the new system... they seemed backwards, not ready to understand the new credo of capitalism. They adapted the best way they could but still for me they seemed not as good as me. Time has shown that I was not right.

Now I think my parents went through something that I would not like to repeat myself. Within one year Poland change the direction of its interest from East to West. Of course the west was always a synonyme of money, cars, success. But this is only thanks to my parents that I started learning English one year before Russian. And English was taken seriously while Russian was rather an obligation. West was always present in our thinking. Parts of my family were scattered in USA, France and Germany. But the graves of my family were located in Lviv (aUkrainian town only since 1945).

What meant Poland for me during the high school years? For this I should look at my diaries. I wanted to outperform my parents: engineers who spent their career in a big heavy industry company. In the 90ies being an engineer was no prove of success: we had thousands of them. The introduction of capitalism meant that the only serious career you could make in economy, banking or law. So having realised that law would mean learning by heart a lot of text I opted for economy studies: it was a good compromise between my mathematic skills, languages and history.

Today, looking backwards, I think I am part of a unique generation. A generation of those who still remember Poland before the Balcerowicz reforms and democratic transformation. I know it is difficult to understand now but Macronomy was a key subject for me because I wanted to understand what inflation really means... I believe with the current economic crisis new generations will flock the economic faculties to try to understand and build a better world system.

I am from a generation of Poles that left their country looking for better life perspectives. But I am also from a generation which learnt that you can be also proud for your 'heimat'. I think that for a long time I was trying to go further than my nationality; go beyond the notion of being a Pole. It was not easy to build your own identity. The Polish messianism, catholicism, shared tragic historical events is a very strong amalgam. It took me years to understand myself, my family, my home town, my country, a bit of Europe, a bit of the world evolving face.

I was lucky to grown in the optimism of the nineties. For my part of Europe the period between 1989 and 2009 will be depicted as golden years. This was a time of economic, mental and political opening. I still hope that the world will move forward and push the opening even further. But the current crisis will also show that human nature has many bleak sides. I hope that Europa will become a synonyme of post-national polity which respects the identities of the people that form it. And I hope that Poles will learn the lesson from the last 3 centuries which was a period of political decline and dependance. And I hope that our bet on political Europe will show that it was a wise, forward looking choice.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Balkans - 2010

I read a couple days ago that Balkan states launch 'mini-Schengen'. revealed that
'Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro and Kosovo have created a passport-free zone, called a "mini-Schengen" by Kosovo president Fatmir Sejdiu, in order to show their readines to join the EU's borderless, so-called Schengen area. Macedonia and Montenegro began EU visa-free travel last year'.

I think from Brussels perspectives Balkans are still far away. 2010 was a year of eurozone crisis and Greece was high on the agenda. So we tend to overlook what is happening in the former Ottoman empire. You ask why I bring back this old history? Let me just remind you that until the Congress of Vienna in 1815 most of Balkans including Greece were under the rule of Ottomans (if I read the maps correctly Montenegro stayed independant). Currently in Balkans we have several small states like the ones that joined the passport-free zone which are in the shadow of a somewhat bigger Serbia. And 15 years after the Dayton agreement we have an unresolved issue of Bosnia and Herzegovina...

The elephant in the room is the potential for creating a bigger Albanian state: joining Albania, Kosovo and parts of Macedonia. But I am really not an expert on this so maybe I go back to watch the Flemish national movement and see what comes out in my neighbourhood.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

The independance of Flanders

Like with the financial crisis people will say that nobody had seen it coming. And then you find some guys who actually did and they become famous, get invited to newspapers and become celebrities. That is my goal too :) but let's go back to the facts and my reading of them:

Nationalism is an ideology which puts the nation as the most important psychological link to the world. Nationalism is a religion born probably during the French Revolution. Nationalism is a modern religion which has spread across Europe during the last 200 years.

Nationalism is not over despite what many would like to hear. Just look at Yugoslavia where nations led by charismatic leaders became the dominant political forces. Yugoslavia broke into pieces, even Kosovo is now a quasi independant state. The unfinished business is Bosnia and Hercegovina where different communities have been mixed for centuries. But the current international rule of BiH is unsustainable and most commentators agree to it. But joining the Union one day might be a good incentive to reduce the tentions - only if the political leaders would gain more from joining than becoming independant (Republika Srpska).

Flemish nationalism is a force which is growing in force since the collapse of the Flamse Union. Flemish Christian democrates have incorporated the nationalist agenda into their programme thus giving the nationalistic claims the status of legitimate argumentation.

CD&V (the party of Leterme, van Rompuy, Jean-Luc Dehaene) has lost their bet of reforming the Belgian state: splitting the BHV electoral district, breaking up the solidarity between Flanders and the rest (Wallonie, German communities and Brussels). Bart de Wever, leader of NVA- New Flamish Alliance, is the winner of the three-year-long political stalemate since the elections in 2007.

The Wallonia and Brussels have turned to Socialists to defend their claims for social justice. The Francophone claim that if solidarity between north and south is broken, it will be the end of the state. Their main argument is that in the first half of XX century it was the Wallonia which financed the developement of the poorer north.

The social security systems do not have to be homogenous in federal polities. Given the difference of income and living costs many economist would agree that different systems would actually provide a more accurate solution (let's say based on the Purchasing Power etc.). I will not go into the details but I have no problems saying that an unemployed in a richer region should get 500 euros per month while in the poorer 450 would be enough.

The current social security system in Belgium is ridiculous and does not provide enough incentives to look for a job. The taxation of work is so high that it can dissuade people from moving from the social security to the labour market. I believe it kills enterprenership too and is part of the problem in Wallonia and Brussels. It has also a perverse effect of bringing to Belgium immigrants who are seeking to acquire the rights to social benefits (but there are also historical reasons for immigration so let's not put this as the only reason).

So what is happening? Flamings want to have a German style efficient and functioning state. The Wallons are for them the lazy rent-seekers who live on the Flemish work. Does it bring to your mind the pictures of cruel capitalists exploiting the worker class? So the Flemish nationalism has a hidden anti-exploitation Marxist ideology.

The only elements that keep the country together is Brussels and its important political and economic status. The Brussels metropolitan area (essentially the Brabant walloon and flemish with the Capital region) is a economic motor of Belgium. Additionally Brussels is perceived by Flemish as a Flemish capital - mainly for linguistic history of the town.... yes, it used to be Flemish speaking.

Now the majority of people in Brussels capital region speak French, English, Arabic, Flemish (in this order). So the Flamings cherish the sentiment of lost heartland (like the Kosovo Pole for the Serbs or Lvov and Vilnius for Poles). Flemish have a minority status in Brussels which gives them over-representation in the regional government. They try to reconquer the lost land by supporting the Flemish revival (culture, schools etc.). This policy is partly successful but given the internationalisation of the town the progress will be slow. Flemish as a language is fighting to remain at the level of 20% (population knowing it, not necessarily using it in their daily lives).

So the question is if Bart de Wever will take a patient approach of Mr Van Rompuy who tried to build compromise and satisfy the Flemish claims. It is unlikely. These completely different political personae. So the risk is that finally NVA will take over the leadership of Flanders region and give up the claims for Brussels. If Paris is worth the mess, then for nationalists independant Flanders is worth losing Brussels. Or this is too high a price? This is the question.

So what is the possible scenario? NVA will try to limit the remit of the federal government and given the opposition of Francophone will be forced to push through solutions hostile to the Francophone in the federal parliament. Despite their majority it will take a lot of time because the Constitution has many in-built brakes. But it will only slow down the process, not stop it. The Francophone pushed against the wall will either renegate on their support to the Francophone minority living in the municipalities surrounding Brussels region or block the government.

After some time, with the finances of the country deteriorating, the Flemings will escape from the sinking ship leaving Brussels behind. We should not exclude violent clashes for the communes which are essentially francophone but are located in the Flamish region (Rhode-St Genese, Kraineem, Wezembeek-Oppen etc.)
At the end Brussels with Wallonia will become the new Belgium. It will be a buncrupt state so sooner or later they might ask for a protective hand from Paris. And if at this moment France is ruled by a Socialist president, the temptation to increase the political clout over a reunified French might outweight the cost of the bailout. And this way Brussels might one day find itself in Gaullist/Mitterandist hands.
Or Germans, Brits and others will claim an independant status of the capital of Europe. And in 2014 - the 100th commemoration of Sarajevo debacle Europe will be ruled from Brussels CE (Capital of Europe).

This narrative is a political fiction for now. But let's see what the future brings us. Watch carefully because it is no longer a Belgo- Belgian feud. It really is about the heart of Europe (in geographical and philosophical meaning).

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Danish Design

If anybody is looking for ideas how to improve the world we live he should go to Copenhagen to the Danish Design Centre. It is impressive and I mean it. I spent 3 hours in altogether 4 rooms watching films, listening to interviews and discovering what it means to design our environment and tools in a way which is pleasant, intuitive and useful.
The concept of design is not as easy as it seems. It is about research what the users need, it is about planning and implementation. You can go to the website to see how the concept is explored by the Scandinavians!
And even more, the Danes are crazy enough to implement this concept. You can see it in the trams that circulate in the town.
Europe has plenty things to discover... you just need to leave Brussels for a weekend :)

Friday, 28 May 2010

On Turkey

We have recently forgotten that Turkey has not only a Muslem but also a secular political force. Maybe the struggle of the Kemalist party to survive should be more a barometer of the future of Islamic states. Please read for details The Economist.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Turkey revisited

One more interesting article about Turkey; this time in the context of NATO. My personal and strictly personal view is beginning to firm up.

1. If we looked backwards at the history of European culture, Christian links and the affinity between nations Turkey with its Islamic majority, link to Middle East and difference in points of reference should be left outside the EU.
2. But if we look at the future challenges; the question of transgressing the existing borders between former enemies (Franco-German entente etc.), build bridges between religions, confirm that people should not be discriminated based on their ethnicity or religion; and that Europe cannot achieve much without the support of Turkish authorities and legitimacy in the Muslem world; if we look at Europe as a global concept which aims at transforming the world; then Turkey cannot be excluded on the basis of any arguments about Islam, historical hostility etc.

Actually the only argument which speaks to my mind is the size of European Parliament and Commission with Turkey represented. But I am sure this question was on the table even before the ex-Soviet block countries knocked at the door.
Will Turkey ever join the EU. I think that this is possible but nothing is decided yet. If you wander how many years can be a candidate country look at Norway. Leadership, patience and the incremental approach should be the key features of the European authorities.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

On Jeremy Rifkin and his works

Jeremy Rifkin has become one of the prothets of the XXIst century. He is appearing in all possible media spreading the gospel of climate change and the end of fossil fuels. So what is the catch?

After reading couple of interviews with this guy I think he is right. We are on the bring of the third technological revolution. Internet and new energy sources will play a key role in the societal transformation. And he is right that instead of crying for the lost welfare state we should prepare our adaptation strategy. It is good that some visionaries get a publicity before they die.

Friday, 21 May 2010

How to engage with the Arab world

Recently I am lucky in finding interesting suggestions for the future of the EU policy.

Here is an article that brings in some interesting comments. I quote the 6 points of Mr Abdulfattah Yaghi:

...'I propose six-point model to improve Europe-Arabs serious and lasting cooperation:

(1) Historical reconciliation. Europe must officially admit that colonization of Arab nations was wrong, immoral, and illegal.

(2) Europe should compensate all Arab nations it colonized through a special international court. (3) Europe should correct its mistakes and solve the cornerstone issue in the Arab World that is the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Europe should fully recognize the State of Palestine on all the lands occupied by Israel in June 1967, (b) recognize that East Jerusalem is the capital city of the State of Palestine.

(4) Turkey is the strategic ally to Arabs. Arabs look at Europe-Turkey relations as precedence. Denying Turkey from entering EU and insisting on keeping EU a Christian club does not help Europe sustain fruitful relations with the Arab World.

(5) A paradigm shift is needed in Europe to focus on cooperation rather than containment.

(6) Decent treatment of Arab immigrants in Europe is needed to curb Christian fascism and national racism. '...

If I can share my views, I believe Turkey is getting further and further from joining the EU. Not because of some underlying changes, it is just that the public opinion is now seriously taken into account in enlargement and this will not fly.
But I completely agree on the issue of Israel/Palestine and the point about the treatment of Arab/Muslem minorities. The incoming elections in Belgium and Holland will be important in this sphere.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Key recomendation for developement

Another article I found really inspiring gives 4 recomendations about the development funds and how to improve our 'donor' performance:
I quote:
• Remove the disbursement pressure. I have worked with donors where it was in reality forbidden to discuss this – and most senior donor staff continue to pretend that the disbursement pressure is manageable. Yet I have never, over more than 20 years working of intensively with donors, met any field staff who did not complain about the disbursement pressure. It is there, it is real, and it is destructive. Spending big sums of money faster than it can be absorbed effectively can be outright harmful. Budget support modalities are not exempt from this curse – they just make it easier to spend the cash.

• Adapt business processes to country cycles. The TC reform argues for a mental shift in how we work. Donors have to focus on the partners’ programmes and help the partners in getting their programmes right. Then, they have to define their support to these programmes and not, (as implied in some donor-speak) see the partner as a ‘counterpart’ to the donor project. But this mental shift is hardly compatible with compressed identification and formulation procedures which, at fixed calendar times every year, have to produce identification and action fiches according to a Brussels-convenient calendar. The standard operating procedure of calling in consultants for three weeks to ‘do’ the identification and formulation is yet another mismatch: they do, nearly by default, end up being driven by the donor’s priorities and demands, not by the country partner’s.

• Recognise that field staff are doing development work, not (supposedly less worthwhile) administrative work. If staff have no time to get out of the office and engage in informal dialogue and networking, they cannot add the needed value to the money transfers. As said in Lusaka, we are in the relations-business – and that takes time.

• Spend small when opportunities are limited. Adapting to the heart beat of those we seek to assist implies sometimes spending very small catalytic money (and a lot of staff time). There must be room for that.

There is a lot of discussion about the Technical Cooperation and aid effectiveness. Very pertinent contribution.

Belgium outlines ideas on EU diplomatic appointments

Very interesting article scatching the Belgian philosophy.

EUobserver / Belgium outlines ideas on EU diplomatic appointments


Belgium's Mr De Ruyt aims to shift chairmanship of all EU Council working groups on foreign relations to the EAS by 2011, saying: "Our ambition is to make sure that the working presidency no longer has anything to do with external relations by the end of our term."
Meanwhile, EU foreign policy statements are to be made exclusively by Ms Ashton. "We will not publish any EU communiqués which bypass her office," Mr De Ruyt .....

I hope they succeed in building the External Action single voice.

Monday, 10 May 2010

EUrope is still alive!

You were wondering if this blog is still alive? Yeah... actually I was looking around trying to catch up with the recent developments on the global scene. I have an impression that the pace of global politics has accelerated since winter. And it was difficult to comment on the unfolding news:
1. The creation of the European External Action Service is rapidly progressing.
2. EUrozone at least has just affirmed a solidarity mechanism which was unthinkable even 3 months ago.
3. Poland lost part of its governing elites in a crash in Russia close the II world war crime place - Katyn with huge symbolism for the Polish nation.
4. UK has elected a hung parliament with big uncertainty about what will happen next.
5. Belgian federal government has exploded under the nationalistic pressures of Flamish liberal party.
6. The economic crisis is far from being over.
7. The digital revolution is taking place killing many of the foundations of the liberal democracy we know (newspapers).
8. The ash cloud reminds us how vulnerable our life style has become.

So what I would like to underline among all these important news/processes? I would say that Europa as a political project has just reached 60 anniversary (Schuman declaration) and the crisis shows that it will rather survive the turmoil.
And what is missing is a new narrative to justify its existance and competences. Probably this is the chapter to be written by our 'new' generation.

Sunday, 31 January 2010

Let's go East... Middle East

Having spent around 10 years studying European integration, witnessing the Convention process and elections of Ms Ashton I grew a bit disenchanted. EU does not seem to be an independant entity with its own political forces. It is rather like a big Titanic which is being pushed from all sides (mostly by nationally thinking politicians) and thus far it has escaped the biggest ice bergs. It is more or less business as usual, money being spend, agriculture subsidized, some merger cases making the waves but not many new ideas... think about flexicurity...
The discussion about Turkey has not really started. Anyway Bosfor seems the upper limit of European ambitions and interests. But what I will claim in this blog is that this big ship is heading for a crash with one big iceberg- and this is precisely the issue of East... Middle East in fact.
Being Polish I should concentrate more on the intrinsic danger coming from our Russian imperialist friends. But I do not know why I grow more relaxed with Mr Putin embrace of the ex-empire.
What troubles me more and more is our Southern, East-Southern neighbours. And I mean is not any particular nation, state, but rather the whole puzzle surrounding Europe. The complex relations between the Palestinian political movements, Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia. The only big plan that the West seemed to have is failing right now. If we do not buy into the mercantilist explanations for the Iraq intervention (petrol) there is a political one, which seems more convincing to me. Since most of the suicide bombers on 11/9 were Saudis, the US understood it cannot sustain its regional politics on the basis of the Saudi regime. And in order to unfreeze the stuck situation, they attacked Saddam Hussein who was the apparent threat to the whole region. Sadam out of the playing field, the situation does not look better, despite claims of Tony Blair.

I remember also one cartoon in the Economist: the solution to the Middle East conflicts cannot go without resolving the Palestinian question. But since whenever you speak about Hamas, Hesbollah or PLO you cannot just avoid listing the interests of the neighbours. So a global solution is needed. A global regional solution starting from Egypt and finishing in Iran.

And in my view EU does not have such. It perceives the region as a mix of ex-colonial interests, servitude to Uncle Sam and integration of immigrants within the western societies. The furthest east Europeans dare to look in a strategic way is the bridge over Bosfor. Istamboul seems like a European Muslem town, Ankara is somewhere deep in Asia. Yet it is Ankara who seems play a role of negotiator and power broker in the region. Turkey is both European (legacy of Ataturk) and part of Middle East. So definitely Turkish politicians have a much better understanding of the Middle East then our European ex-colonies. France and UK never recovered after the Suez crisis.
So what is at stake in the whole dossier? Nobody seems to have found the golden solution. Well Germans supported Polish accession to the EU precisely in order to stabilise their neighbourhood. EU should do the same but not by building new spectacular Mediterainean Unions but rather producing a coherent, pragmatic vision which goes beyond the sense of guilt towards Israel and pity for the suffering Palestinians.
Mercosur and Asean are important political blocs, but EU should rather concentrate on stabilising its south-east flank. Once the Americans are out of oil and Iraq we shall have a terrible mess to sort out. Better start now. Ms Ashton, the floor is yours.
In the meantime, in case Europe needs another 20 years to make up its mind, let's start learning Arabic...

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

So Minister Jeleva is gone

It seemed so boring... Dozens of Commissioners appeared in front of the parliamentary committees and were repeating nice briefings prepared by the Commission staff. Some had even some charisma: I mean Mr Oettinger, Ms Hedegaard. But still after the nomination of Ms Ashton everything seemed set for a safe intronisation. And then we hear that the pressure from EP made one of the weakest abandon her dreams. She was so close of getting to the European Versailles and yet she renounced.
I do not know how serious were the charges against her but still I was happy to hear about her decision. First, because all that shows that EU is not puppet show is good for its life. And second because it seems that EP takes its job seriously.

But this all is a bit like a fog. It covers the interregnum in the EU. Some authors ask themselves who is ruling the EU now. Mr Rompuy, Mr Zapatero, or the golden trio (Sarkozy, Brown and Merkel). What went rather unnoticed is that Mr Juncker has been reelected as the chair of the Eurogroup for another 2.5 years. He might make a come-back one day, like a Batman ressurected.
The EU is almost invisible but it is growing like a tree with the roots deeper in the soil. One day we shall see better the real face of it. Maybe it will look more German than we think...
I was impressed by Mr Oettinger: good German product which is reliable, has his convictions and know how to speak to people and not between them. Same Ms Hedegaard: she started her speech by answering the question why we do politics. Greece will have to be put under stronger control. Spain is realising it is not such a tiger. Maybe the heart of EU will move closer to Berlin. I hope they will be ready to assume the responsibility.

Monday, 11 January 2010

The new media, social games and politics

For some time now I have been reading the British monthly: Prospect Magazine. It brings insightful articles written by interesting authors. Recently I came by an article about the new internet social gaming industry. The title of the piece is 'All the world is play' and it describes how the approach taken by game producers might show the pattern to be explored by politicians and reformers. I advice you to read it however it is not available in the internet version (as far as I see).
The key passage from the article is the age of ideologies and grand social schemes is over. Now we enter an evolutive, iterational world were you can test ideas by the use of social networks, internet feedback tools etc.
Indeed I think that we have not yet grasped the influence of facebooks, blogs and twitters on the future generations. Probably in 2010 we do not know yet the 10 best paid jobs of 2025. Maybe sooner than we think the PR agancies will transform in producing fake internet records.
Another aspect of the article is that social games explore are most precious wants of being challenged, acquiring new skills and being rewarded. These rules from the world of game shall come to the adult society from which they were expelled long ago. So collective power points or money, learning how to jump to the next level etc. need to be introduced into our professional lives. Nothing new, you say...
Still for me it's revealing. The next generation might not want to pass huge bar exams knowing that this is mostly a useless experience. If you can google everything easily it is the putting together of information that really counts.
I still have not thought it over but I think this shall have huge implications for the new jobs, valuable skills etc. For example: a chief product placement officer who will test which websites are used by the youth we are trying to target. And since they will be changing the sites, escaping the traps, we need seduce them into our games, into a jungle of challenges, skill development and rewarding.
So maybe the future society will be one of multiple levels of internet identity. Who knows.
ps. Sorry for being silent for so long but I was either too busy or too clueless. Wish all of you a pieceful and inspiring 2010.