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.