Sunday, June 26, 2016

Could Brexit be a blessing in disguise for Europe, or its doom?
Europe's worse nightmare became a reality, after last Thursday's British EU referendum result; one of the block's oldest members has voted to leave the union.

With 51.9% of the votes, the United Kingdom will be leaving the EU by 2019. Many EU officials and politicians have called for a quick "divorce," to avoid damaging long term Europe's economy by dragging the negotiations for too long.

The outcome was expected. For many years, not just Britain but all of the continent's governments were allowing populism to thrive. They failed dealing with the economic crisis quickly enough and in addition, they made serious mistakes when responding to the Syrian refugee crisis.

They forgot that populism always wins. It is easier for people to understand an argument about issues that affect them directly, in the plain language that demagogue Far Right or Far Left politicians were using.

Instead of this, national governments were continuously scapegoating the EU for all that was wrong in their economies. They have purposely avoided explaining to their citizens how the block works and what benefits it offers.

And that simply to engage in political games, with aim to gain an upper hand in their country's internal politics, while perpetuating their rule and power. They ignored the interests of the ordinary people and deliberately allowed them to be misinformed for years, to serve local elites. 

They never wished for the EU and its institutions to replace them in the hearts and minds of the voters. Why would they after all? They preferred citizens to trust them when it came to dealing with issues that were of concern and keep voting for them.

But it was not the EU that failed the citizens during the economic or the refugee crisis.Its institutions did not have much say on how each state would deal with the amount of people pouring from the Middle East. 

In each case, it was the national governments that decided which policy they would follow, opening the borders like Germany or Sweden, or hermetically closing them like Slovakia and Hungary to refugees. It was our own rulers who were delaying the process and hindering a quicker response to the problem.

Additionally, it was not the EU that followed disastrous economic policies for decades, leading to the economic crisis which affects millions of Europeans now. Each national government has either decided alone or in agreement with its EU partners and the block's institutions and laws, which they have accepted and voted for, on their financial policies. 

Where the EU is largely at fault, is that they remained too detached from the citizens for decades. It mainly focused on the financial nature of the union, while it did little to remain relevant in the citizens' every day expectations and problems.

In addition, it responded in a very technocratic- often arrogant- manner to the financial crisis, ignoring the warnings or voices of analysts with a different approach. 

They acted with absolute disregard to the ordinary peoples' needs while they were quick to appease European banks. Thus proceeding with disastrous austerity policies, in the case of states like Greece.

As result, the EU became the poster-child of the euro-zone crisis even though it was not entirely its fault. it comes to Britain itself, its political leadership allowed for decades wealthy populist con-men to brainwash and misinform people through media, misrepresenting the reality on the country's EU membership.

On that, most recent British politicians are to be blamed not just David Cameron. They allowed the bubblegum of "Britain is Great and we pay too much in Europe" to go on for years.

Maintaining this arrogance and nationalism among the political elite and the people, resulted in the populist politics bursting at their faces in the recent referendum.

Subsequently we witness an extraordinary set of developments, as an aftermath. David Cameron himself announced his resignation by October. The Labour Party is in turmoil facing a number of resignations, while Scotland and Northern Ireland expressed their intentions of looking into ways to leave the UK altogether.

The Scottish in particular, which voted for staying in the EU are causing the most ripples. The country's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, hinted at how undemocratic it would be for Scotland to be dragged out of the European Union, after having voted by 62% to remain.

Mrs Sturgeon has appeared to suggest that the Scottish Parliament could block Britain's exit from the EU, or it could hold a second referendum to leave the centuries old union with the rest of the Kingdom. Could this be the end of the Europe and Britain as we know it?

In a worse case scenario if the UK leaves the EU, we could see the dissolution of the country and Scotland and N. Ireland rejoining the block in time. Yet Britain's departure could cause negative side effects throughout the continent.

Most European Far Right leaders, like France's Marine Le Pen and Holland's Geert Wilders have hailed the British referendum outcome, hinting that they will try to achieve the same for their own countries.

If they succeed, we will have the dissolution of the EU, a work in progress since WW2 and the most admirable achievement of Europe. The economic, social and political chaos that will follow, should scare any reasonable person in this continent. 

Additionally we could see the return and rise of fascism, nationalism, xenophobia and extremism in Europe, in forms that we haven't experienced since the end of the last big war.

On a more positive tone, it will never come to this. If Britain eventually leaves the union, it will most likely join EEA/EFTA, thus not much will change. But it will take a lot of negotiations and political skill from their part, to convince the rest of Europe to accept them as a member of these blocks. 

As the remaining European powers will most likely want to make an example of the UK and punish it, in order to forbid other Euro-skeptic nations attempting something similar. Just as they humiliated Greece so that other member states could hastened reforms, Britain could pay a high price in order to punish all these states who also might want out. 

Another positive outcome from this referendum, could be that the rest of Europe may proceed with further integration now. Britain was always the most vocal member state advocating against such development and since now is on its way out, pro-European and federalist powers could finally achieve their goal.

If of course others don't decide to leave. Britain has a lot of allies and close partners in the union. Sweden, Denmark and Ireland, all joined the block because Britain did initially. 

The case of Ireland is particularly interesting. The small nation shares close economic ties, plus the only land borders with the United Kingdom. What will happen to it when Britain leaves? While the Irish are pro-European and most likely to integrate themselves further in EU by joining the Schengen Agreement now that Britain is out, things could go the other way too.

If the Germans and the French are not careful and push too hard for fast and uncompromising federalization of Europe, they could hurt Ireland's economy even further. Because the country is closely relying on Britain, with a Brexit it will become one of the worse affected nations in the EU.

If the Franco-Germans corner the small nation to abolish its corporate taxation system and harmonize it with the rest of Europe, they could also push the Irish out of the union and in the hands of the British-Americans out of desperation. 

These are of course scenarios, as there are many who believe that the UK won't have to leave the EU after all. 

British Labour MP David Lammy has called on Westminster to "stop this madness" and to vote against the referendum decision to leave the EU. He claims that the the referendum was an"advisory, non-binding referendum."

"We can stop this madness and bring this nightmare to an end through a vote in Parliament. Our sovereign Parliament needs to now vote on whether we should exit the EU."
(The Independent)

In addition there is a petition which has already gathered over 3 million votes, calling for a second referendum. Could the above developments indicate that the British citizens and leadership do not really want to leave the EU?

Is all this fiasco with the referendum an effort to expose, silence and finally eliminate Britain's Euro-skeptics? They have been blocking their country's further integration into the union, plus the EU's progress in a fully fledged functioning federation.

Could their victory become their end? It is debatable if they have the skills to lead Britain and navigate it out of the mess they brought the country in. If there is any chance of getting rid of them for good, it could well be to seemingly get their way, fail and disappear for good.

If the UK leaves the union, then forced to rejoin due to the extreme economic penalties it could face, it will then be forced to join both the Schengen Agreement and the euro-zone. Could this disastrous outcome become the Euro-skeptic's Pyrrhic victory, which could lead to a better EU and Europe? 

A reformed EU, that will be kick-started by Britain's departure and the need for further coherence in the remaining member states, could just be all that Europe needed all these years. The union has hit a wall; politically, financially and socially.

Could the outcome of the British referendum, actually be a blessing in disguise for both the UK and our continent? 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Brexit threat is seriously looming over Europe.
As the date of the British referendum on its EU membership approaches, the country finds itself evenly split while Europe holds its breath.

This will be the UK's most important decision in its modern history; it will not only impact the nation's future, but also that of the whole continent and even the global economy.

As result one would expect the British electorate to be looking at the wider picture, rather focusing on populist and nation centered arguments. But they do not.

The debate on the UK's EU membership is not new. Ever since I started blogging around 10 years ago, it has been brewing in the European bloggosphere and it was one of the most heated debates, together with the potential Turkish EU membership.

British Euro-skeptic bloggers have been long arguing about their country's EU membership contribution, immigration and loss of control over important decisions. In addition they were keen to convince their leaders to get Britain in a trade agreement with Europe, similar to that of Switzerland and Norway.

It was very hard to convince them about the difference between being a small rich country, yet with little voice or influence in the world like Switzerland and being one of the leading economies in Europe; just as Britain is.

The EEA/EFTA Agreements may seemingly offer unlimited freedom to conduct business with third countries. Yet when dealing with the EU, all EFTA/EEA nations must comply with numerous laws and legislation that they haven't even voted for.

The so called "fax-democracy," where a large bulk of the laws you must adopt as government come to you by fax from Brussels in order to remain part of the Free Trade Area, is not something the UK should be aspiring to.

A former pioneering outward looking nation, will potentially cut ties with its own backyard in order to create new ones with its former colonies and emerging economies. 

And that desperate act is caused mainly by the one sided mentality, questioning who pays more in the EU budget. It is true that the UK contributes more than most other countries. But it is, just like Germany and France, one of the main long term beneficiaries from their membership.

Most multinational companies and banks have settled in the UK because of its EU membership, to access the world's biggest market. They have transformed the country in the economic powerhouse that it is today.

Britain's economy is not an industrial one any longer; it is based on exporting services, predominately financial ones and mainly to the rest of Europe. Why would anyone reinstate regulations and laws that have been abolished in order to make the exportation of these services easier, to seek trade with former colonies?

Besides will these nations be willing to accept British economic influence and dominance as before, now that the world is transforming to a more multi-polar diverse global economy?

 Let's face it. The Western economies, including Europe and Britain have been declining in terms of wealth and power over the past decades, while new economic blocks have been emerging. 

Is it wise for Britain to leave its cradle now, while it should be integrating totally with the rest of Europe, leading, transforming and even dominating it.

Why hand over the EU to the Germans or the French, while the British could and should be fighting to stay in and taking over.
Not that the arguments that the Leave campaign supporters are putting forward, are invalid or irrelevant. They are simply rather European issues, not strictly British.

Sadly the EU has been focusing for decades now on its financial nature, rather trying to remain relevant to its citizens, their needs or aspirations. There are few true direct benefits that we citizens get out of our country's EU membership. 

The freedom of movement, to be able to travel, work, study and trade anywhere in the continent are the most obvious. But in times of an economic downturn, in a very unequal economically continent, with austerity and unemployment affecting all countries, it is hard to convince citizens to look at the bigger picture.

Populism, nationalism, xenophobia and extremist radical political ideas take hold and it is easier to manipulate public opinion; just as it has been happening not only in Britain, but the whole of Europe for the past decade.

Particularly in the UK,populism and Euro-skeptic propaganda reached to such level, that we are now potentially faced with the departure of one of the EU's oldest members and main economic power engines. 

Could this lead to the block's disintegration, if other countries chose to leave or join an outer, less integrated European club?

The debate in Britain now is so heated that something unthinkable happened last week. For the first time after many decades in Europe, we had a politically motivated assassination. 

Jo Cox, a Labour Party MP as well a pro-European, was shot and stabbed in her constituency of Yorkshire, northern England. (MarketWatch)

The killing, for which a 52-year-old local man has been charged, caused the suspension of referendum hostilities for three days, depriving the Brexiteers of much-needed momentum, affording the Remain camp an equally needed emotional rallying point and ensuring that the final stages of the struggle will be far more low-key and even-tempered.

All this, together with a general wave of revulsion about the killing and the view that the alleged murderer (who gave his name in court as “Death to traitors, freedom for Britain”) was a home-grown right-wing political extremist. (

The incident and its significance might have been watered down by the media, in order to keep the public calm and not incite further divisions or violence. Yet we can not ignore the fact that such episodes usually happen in countries that the UK was so critical of, regarding their political systems. 

It is truly worrying to witness it in the UK, which used to be a beacon of liberalism and modernity in Europe. If Right wing radicals have moved on from killing Leftist supporters like the case of Breivik in Norway, to killing elected MPs and prominent politicians, what does the future hold for British and European politics?

From my experience during the Irish referendums on the Lisbon Treaty, it is hard to convince the electorate to vote for something that they do not understand and you have difficulties explaining in plain language. 

It is even harder to convince them, when all business and political leaders insist on a YES vote, simply because "it is good for the country." While populist, opportunist political personas debate in simple terminology and about problems that directly concern the voters.

In reality, no matter the outcome of the referendum we must realize that this is a battle between different elite groups in UK. One has interests outside, the other has interests remaining in the EU. They have invested in their cause, or their businesses are losing out by being in.

Sadly, all they need is our "approval" which in nothing more than an endorsement of their interests, to make it seem more "democratic" and compatible with the values they have incited in us. 

The U.K. will be fine both in and out the EU after all. The issue that we as citizens must be focusing on, is what kind of Britain, Europe and world we want to leave for our future generations.

Shall we give in to nationalism, protectionism, xenophobia and reverse all that we have achieved all these decades? Or shall we continue in our efforts in creating a more equal Europe?

Not that our continent is perfect at the moment; far from it. But European unification was always a work in progress and there are many issues still to be dealt with, in order to make a better continent.

Europe should become a beacon of human rights, equality and prosperity that could lead by example and help other regions overcoming their problems. It is also in our interests as citizens to want to achieve this goal.

If you are worried about "immigrants coming over and taking your jobs," then I am afraid there is not better solution to this problem than encouraging financial prosperity elsewhere in Europe and the world.

And that can only happen by sharing resources and knowledge, fair trade, regional integration and continuous cooperation between the future integrated economic blocks across the globe. 

You will not have your interests served by perpetuating the current unequal economic system, that creates poverty elsewhere abroad.

Should a YES vote is passed in the UK, we could get a chance that if managed properly by our leaders, it could send a message to the rest of the world. 

That Europeans do not give in to populism and nationalism, that we have our views set differently for our future. That Europe should remain united working for equality and prosperity and that other regions should follow its example.

If a NO vote is passed, then other countries may follow Britain's lead and Europe will return to protectionism, nationalism and borders. And the chance for any constructive change forward will be lost for our continent.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Europe is showing its true, ugly-very ugly self....!!
Observing the recent developments in Europe, one can not but feel utter shame and disgust.

The refugee crisis that has been troubling our continent for the past year, has finally managed to bring the EU on the verge of disintegration.

The Schengen Agreement, that offers us citizens one of the greatest benefits from our country's EU membership, is under threat.

In most countries, the Far-Right is gaining support, fences are being put in place, anti-immigrant protests and sentiments are on the rise, while our governments are still debating how to respond.

European nations haven't managed to coordinate their efforts in dealing with this challenge. While some, like Sweden and Germany, have done more than their fair share, others preferred to do the minimum possible.

Most Eastern European states, have turned even anti-European and decided to vote in governments that are openly Euro-skeptic, anti-immigrant and conservative. Empowering of course the British skeptics, which since the very beginning of this humanitarian crisis, found just another reason to turn their backs to the rest of Europe. They have now added the immigration crisis into their list of reasons to leave the EU.

Poland has turned a page and from one of the most enthusiastic new EU member states, they have now elected the far-right Law and Justice party (PiS) in both chambers of parliament. It has spent its first two months in power tightening its grip over the security services, the constitutional tribunal and the civil service. Soon after that, it has been purging the country’s public media. (The Economist)

Poland, together with Hungary now form a rising Euro-skeptic block in the Eastern Europe, promoting, nationalism and populism, where there once was optimism and hope for the European project. Naturally bringing these two countries in collision with Germany, who seems to be increasingly the only nation still supporting European integration.

Others like Slovakia and Cyprus, have openly stated that they would only accept Christian refugees, while the Baltic states have also turned sour on the idea of accepting Muslims.

In this absolute ugly mess, Greece's EU partners shamelessly have often called for the country to be kicked out of the Schengen Agreement, because apparently "it can not guard its own borders!"

This is plain scapegoating, just as they did with the euro crisis. Instead of admitting that the euro-zone was very badly designed, they blamed all its failures on its weakest link.

Now they are placing Greece again on the defendant seat, blaming it for the worsening refugee crisis. It is a disgraceful claim, as Greece once again is being unfairly treated by its so called "partners".

First of all Greece has mainly sea borders with its neighbor-Turkey, which the Europeans decided to give 3 billion euro in order to bribe them and make them help Europe with the problem. To no avail of course.

It is very difficult to guard such extended shorelines against such volumes of people arriving; no nation was ever prepared for such thing. But a continent with some of the most prosperous nations of this world, should have been.

It is Europe collectively that should have already coped on and created a unified force to deal with the problem; either a common European army or an empowered FRONTEX, in which all EU countries would contribute and be part of.

Greece is not the desired destination for the refugees, the rich states of the North are. Thus making this problem a European one, not just a Greek or Turkish one.

In addition, Greek migration minister Ioannis Mouzalas has revealed that a Belgian minister suggested Greece should "push" refugee boats "back into the sea" to help solve the migration crisis on the country's shores during a meeting in Amsterdam. (Sputnik News)

There are simply no words to describe the above statement. It is at least vile and outrageous. If Greece ever openly proceeded in such practices, I am sure that countries like Belgium would be the first to throw stones at it for being undemocratic, breaking humanitarian laws, non fitting for the European family etc.

But behind the scenes, the rich European states are unveiling their true selfish, arrogant and fascist face. If they really cared about solving the refugee crisis, they would have acted years ago. This problem has been accumulating, confined in the borders of Jordan, Turkey and Iraq for years now.

Why hasn't Europe, too absorbed by sorting out its own finances, foreseen the potential disaster and done something about it? Assist the Middle Eastern countries and help the refugees to stay in the region. Offer them humanitarian assistance and use diplomacy, to convince other rich nations of the world to contribute in this effort.

Now that the crisis has reach a breaking point, they are seeking someone to take the blame and be ridiculed. And so it is Greece again who must answer for the mess, while the finger must be pointed to the rich Western European countries and their arms industries who have been supplying weapons to the region, fueling this disastrous conflict, while they are making profit out of it.

In addition, Europe's governments and media must answer for their support of US foreign policy in the region, supporting the Syrian rebels and fanning the conflict in order to destabilize the region. Once you meddle with other countries' internal affairs, who must be able to accept the consequences. Most EU governments have been supporting America and its policies in Syria.

Also we must not forget that Europe has been where Syria is now in the past, after WW2. Especially the Eastern European countries, which have seen waves of refugees escaping to the Western part of the continent over the past decades, one would expect them now to be very supportive towards the Syrians.

It was not long ago, that the stereotype of the "Polish plumber" stealing jobs from Western Europeans, was also shaming our continent. Europe has become an ugly place to live and I am increasingly disgusted with where the continent and the EU are heading.

My view of Europe is an open society with open internal borders, a beacon of humanity and prosperity that's true to its values that it so much prides itself of. There is so little of this on display nowadays and as Europeans are increasingly turning more xenophobic and nationalist, I hold little hope for a future united Europe, that will be a happy place to live in.

Monday, November 2, 2015

The new Left and Right division of Europe.
Ever since the economic crisis broke out, new divisions have formed in Europe.

This time they are not restricted necessarily to the previous geographical borders.

In the past we had a Western Europe, that has adopted capitalism.

While the Eastern part of our continent saw communist regimes being established, all united under a Russian led Soviet block.

After the collapse of communism in Europe, we witnessed an acceleration of the democratization of the majority of its Eastern states.

Consequently leading to more markets opening up in the East,plus the expansion of opportunities for wealthy Western companies.

While the Eastern states benefited hugely from the large investment influx that they needed, to rebuild their infrastructure.

This reality sadly did not last long enough. The economic crisis, exposed major faults in Europe's single currency, the euro.

The continent soon was divided once more between the "sluggish" conservative economies of the South and the more liberalized, adaptable and competitive ones of the North.

The financial turmoil combined with the refugee crisis, gave rise to many "radical" political parties across Europe,both from the Right and the Left.

Our continent became a battleground between old competing ideologies again;capitalism and socialism. This time though, it is more of a cross-nation class struggle, than competing ideologies of Europe's superpowers.

Almost in every EU member state, we are observing a turn towards the Left, the Right or both, with Liberal or Centrist parties trying to keep the balance.

And while the European elites are heavily preoccupied with making sure that Leftist parties do not gain more influence, they do little to stop the rise of the far-Right.

When Syriza rose to power in Greece, it faced a harsh and unanimous opposition from all other euro-zone governments, led by Germany. Other Leftist movements in Spain, Portugal and Ireland are similarly treated.

Recently the Portuguese President Cavaco Silva, who belongs to the Right-wing party PSD, made some unfortunate remarks that revealed how intense this struggle really is.

What he said is basically that he would not allow in government leftist parties, like Bloco (Portuguese Syriza or Podemos) and the Communists, that oppose Europe’s regime of austerity and NATO.

The President effectively conveyed that he cared more about what financial institutions and the European establishment think of the Portuguese elections than what Portuguese people want.

Such painfully honest but also arrogant statements, haven't been made by a European leader for a long time. They echo the cold war era and show the commitment and determination of our continent's leaders, to proceed with their plans regardless the backlash of the public opinion.

It is worth noticing that Europe's elites are tolerating nationalist governments like that of Hungary, plus recently Poland and many other European nations. In addition they are not as worried about the rise of the far-Right and in fact in some states like Finland, they form coalitions with them.

They must not forget, that the far-Right was also responsible for the worst crimes and disasters that our continent has ever had to endure. Their tolerance towards them is not just disrespectful, but dangerous for Europe's future unification aspirations.

Another question is what the establishment's plans are, if austerity and the diminution of our social security rights are here to stay for the long term.

Both groups-the establishment, conservative and Right-wing or the Left-wing, people oriented and socialist- have been locked in this tug-of-war for dominance of their interests or ideology.

It seems that they are doing so just to settle old accounts, but they are missing the point. Europe and the world are not the same anymore. New powers are emerging fast and we are heading towards a multi-polar world, where our continent is in danger of becoming irrelevant.

Our societies and economies must adapt and change, if we want to still remain a wealthy region of the world. But the solution lies somewhere in the middle, rather in the absolute dominance of either ideology or approach.

The establishment, threatened by the competition they face by emerging, yet poorer regions of the world, in which workers enjoy little benefits, want to limit those of Europeans.

On the other hand the socialist groups, want rightfully to protect these social rights. But in their effort they often make bad choices, driven by populism, lack of experience and their need to gain support from the ordinary citizens.

Syriza for example, after their victory and in a show of dominance, reversed many of the austerity policies that have been adopted by the previous government. Some were just, while others were nothing more but populist decisions to satisfy the demands of their voters.

What the voters of one party may expect though, is not always the best for a country's interests. And here is where the Left often fails.

As it does not have the resources to establish itself in a country's politics, it relies solely on the support of the average voter. And to maintain their support, the Left often sticks to anachronistic policies that are not necessarily viable, or they obstruct progress for the country as a whole.

Similarly, the establishment is highly influenced by the interests of those who finance the political parties, which represent it. As result, their policies are benefiting mainly the rich few of the society, those with power and money; and that is unacceptable in any society that wants to be called a true democracy.

Sadly Europe's politics are still locked in outdated ideologies and vested interests, obstructing the development or promotion of ideas that will offer long term solutions and a vision for the continent's future.

We need a balance and an absolute coordination of both political outlooks, not the pointless struggle between them.

Europe must secure its citizens' social rights and invest in their future development. It is outrageous that European elites chose to save the continent's banks pouring billions into them, while our youths are left with little opportunities.

The best investment that a capable leader could make is in its nation's future, which is the young people. Ensuring their adequate education and career prospects, will mean that the country will have a rich and capable pool of human resources in the long term.

Which in return, will increase competitiveness and innovation, encouraging economic recovery. Protecting the rights of all workers must not be seen as negative or costly. In a market based economy, having a prosperous and able to consume working force, is vital for the survival of a nation's internal market.

It is illogical what happened in Greece, which was the complete destruction of the country's market, by imposing policies that impoverished the middle class.

We need reforms and a clamp down of old and outdated practices, policies and benefits of certain groups in a society. To achieve those, it is obvious that some policies that many liberals and center-right wing leaders are promoting must be adopted.

The problem is that their proposals are targeting mainly the lower or middle classes, while the upper class of Europe will not have to compromise or be affected by them. In fact these proposals are there to protect and serve them.

What we need is not to decide whether Europe turns Left or Right for solutions; rather find ways to utilize the best of what both have to offer. We must find a compromise between the interests of the ordinary people and reform Europe's economies, in order to compete with the rest of the world.

It is not the right time to stick to ideologies, rather encourage dialogue that will promote ideas. But ultimately, it is the establishment that needs to listen to the citizens and take into consideration their concerns. If their vision for the future of Europe is to be successful, it will need the support of every social group not just the top 1%.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Reforming European education systems.
The mantra that we were hearing during the start of the economic crisis from our continent's leaders, was the "need to reform".

From their perspective, these reforms should mainly focus on Europe's social justice and security system.

It is true that some sacrifices and changes have to be made, in order to make Europe more competitive, ready to deal with the challenges ahead.

These challenges are created by an increasingly multi-polar and competitive world, in which Europe must secure a prominent place.

But if we are discussing about the future of Europe, then our efforts should be focused on the most obvious asset that we ought to invest in: our future generations, our youths.

Sadly right now our leaders are mainly rushing to stabilize Europe's banks and the single currency, the euro. Crushing of course the future of our continent's most valuable asset for recovery in the process; the creative potential of our young population.

Unemployment has hit hard people under the age of 30 across the continent, mainly due the austerity policies that were implemented. In addition, years of neglecting our educational and social security systems, contributed to the problem.

Since Europe must maintain or increase its competitiveness, it will need highly skilled and educated young workers, that will become innovators and entrepreneurs. Or simply that will attract companies to invest, taking advantage Europe's qualified workforce, either native born or migrant.

Therefore, our continent must establish new industries in which he would be a pioneer or hold an edge of competitiveness. That can never be achieved without skilled workforce, appropriately and adequately educated or trained.

Consequently Europe must reform its very educative system, in order to offer its youths the skills and knowledge to face the future. In addition of course with creating new jobs and industries.

Young Europeans must receive the right education to be able to fill jobs and professions that Europe will need, in order to achieve an economic breakthrough and innovation.

Despite the struggling EU economy, fewer and fewer Europeans are studying so-called ‘hard’ subjects like science, engineering and maths. Since 2006, the number of ICT and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths) graduates in Europe has plunged by almost 10%!

In the workforce today, only half of Europeans are deemed to be ‘digitally skilled’. And yet, over 90% of jobs today require these digital skills. In other words, there is a ‘skills gap’ in Europe, and it’s growing worse.

The situation is especially perverse when you consider that so many young people across the continent are unable to find jobs, while at the same time there are employers out there struggling to fill vacancies. If things continue as they are, then there will be a predicted 825,000 unfilled vacancies just for ICT professionals alone by 2020. (Debating Europe)
The obvious thing to do of course, is to reform Europe's education system, to close this gap. We should introduce new subjects in our classrooms, that will prepare young Europeans for the upcoming shift.

I remember when I was a young man in high-school, having to memorize useless subjects like religion, or be taught music and arts in totally inadequate way. Teaching these subjects and course learning them was something mechanical, a thing that was always have been and no one dared to challenge it.

But wouldn't be much better if we scrapped some certain subjects out of our classrooms, or change the way they are taught, while introducing new ones. Subjects that will benefit our youths, helping them find a job in an increasing competitive Europe.

Naturally computer skills and languages are necessary, in a progressively diverse and technology or information driven continent. But these are not the only changes that European classrooms should see.

We still need old subjects like history, arts and science. Art because we need creativity in people. History so we won't repeat the same mistakes. And of course science to generate those scientists and innovators that Europe needs.

We just teach them the wrong way, from the wrong angle. In history we should teach the horrors of war and conflict, not glorify the heroic achievements of our ancestors. In arts we should encourage open mindedness and creativity, not just teach its boring history and significance in the past. 

We should introduce new subjects like European studies at the latter levels of education, in high-schools, so we will have informed European citizens.

Finally we should introduce sexual education in schools, to have happy and comfortable with their sexuality individuals, which will reduce stereotypes, discrimination, sexism and STI's or unwanted teen pregnancies. 

Human sexuality goes hand in hand with human creativity, so sexually aware humans make happy and creative individuals.

Europe must ponder on what kind of future generations does it want, apart from its politics and economic model. Where our leaders go wrong, is that they try to formulate first the economic model and then the society of people which it is supposed to exist for.

In reality they should work the other way around. First plan what kind of future European society they want, then reform their country's education and economy around it. Thus their main concern should be education, not the banking system.

Unless of course their vision for Europe is one of increasing inequality, with stagnant economy and relying on immigration to cover our workforce needs, resulting in increasing social backlash. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Syrian Civil War, closer in becoming a global one.
The US Senator John McCain has accused Russia of targeting Free Syrian Army rebel recruits backed by Washington.

McCain, who is head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the Russian air strikes have hit forces that have been “armed and trained by the CIA because we have communications with people there.”
The above statement is clearly a proof that the CIA and the US are behind the creation of the Syrian conflict. The Syrian civil war is nothing more than a coup to overthrow Assad and his regime, to serve the geopolitical interests of the USA in the region.

One of course will now question; since they created this messy situation, will they accept all refugees from Syria? After-all, they have the responsibility for this development, not Europe. They should be ready to accept the consequences as well.

Most importantly, this constitutes a very dangerous and worrying development. Have any CIA officers been killed by the Russians in this attack and if yes, how will the Americans respond? This could lead to a renewed cold war in our planet, or even worse; a very hot one. 

Right before the bombs rained down, a Russian general arrived in Baghdad warned the U.S. military planners to keep America's own warplanes out of the way. U.S. officials said they would not alter their flight plans.

This is the beginning of a dangerous new phase of the international intervention in the Syrian civil war. Not only has Russia tried to order U.S. forces to step aside, it actually has the firepower to back up its demands. Some of the 35 warplanes Russia has deployed to Syria are specifically designed for fighting foes like the United States, not ISIS.

Seemingly out of nowhere on September 21, they appeared at an air base in Latakia, a regime
stronghold in western Syria—28 of the Russian air force’s best warplanes, including four Su-30 fighters and a number of Su-25 attack planes and Su-24 bombers.

Soon six more Su-34 bombers and at least one Il-20 spy plane followed, part of a contingent of Russia forces reportedly including some 500 troops plus armored vehicles and SA-15 and SA-22 surface-to-air missiles.  
(The Daily Beast).

But Russia is not the only power to get involved after America. France is the only European country so far, to carry out its first airstrikes against ISIS in Syria last Sunday. (The Guardian)

Furthermore China is also getting involved. On September the 23rd, Al-Masdar Al-‘Arabi, (The Arab Source), claimed a Chinese naval vessel passed through the Suez Canal and is headed to Syria. To assist the Russians fighting the Islamic State and the US, plus the Gulf Emirate proxies trying to overthrow the Al-Assad government.

The website cites an senior officer in the Syrian Army stationed at Latakia who claims Chinese troops and military aircraft will arrive at the port city of Tartus within six weeks.

This is not a regional conflict anymore, but potentially we could see a new global war within the next few months, if not weeks. It is obvious that Syria, just as Ukraine were just the chessboard for a greater stir-up in the geopolitical status all this time.

The people of Syria are not just victims of the Assad regime, nor the rebels. They have been caught between bigger regional and international power games, that could potentially settle old open accounts for good. Unfortunately this will not happen in an easy or pleasant way for any of us. 

The rich Arab states hate the Assad regime and they are calling upon the Americans to overthrow him. Annoying in return Russia, as Assad is their only long-term ally in the region. The Russians are calling the Chinese in assistance to deal with the Americans and literally give them the message to back off-or else.

Finally Europe looks on confused and divided on what to do. No one wants a conflict or war, especially since our continent has not recovered yet from the economic crisis. We should be spending money on creating a fairer and brighter future for our youths, not destroy the little opportunities they have left.

Sadly, Europe might not have a choice, but to get engaged. Ukraine and Syria lie in its doorstep. Hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing the Middle East, pouring into European countries. Soon enough and if the conflict in Ukraine continues, Europe will see a new stream of refugees arriving from the East.

We won't have the luxury of remaining passive or simply viewers. If the war mongering leaders of this planet continue with their immoral power games, none of us will be given a choice.

Potentially the only thing Europe could do, is to act as a mediator and try to bring some sense into the minds of those irresponsible leaders. If the conflict in the Middle East escalates, no region will be unaffected, especially Europe due to its proximity.

East against West, Christian against Muslim, Sunni against Shia, liberal against conservative. This will be an annihilation of our world as we know it.

Every war brings economic possibilities and growth, after the initial disaster. And as the resources in our world are seemingly gathered in a handful of individuals, perhaps some wish to initiate this redistribution of wealth and power. 

We have been watching these struggles for the past 6 years now, ever since the euro-one crisis has begun and how Greece was treated by the IMF and the EU. The war in Ukraine and Syria, the Arab Spring and the increasingly aggressive Russia. The animosity in the South China Sea. Things do not look good.

Perhaps us Europeans, will have to take to the streets soon enough. This time not to protect our hard won civil and social security rights, but the stability of our region and world peace. Please, leave Syrian people alone and stop meddling!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Outcome of the second Greek Elections.
On Sunday the 20th of September, the Greeks were called for a second time in a year to vote for their Parliament.

The previous Syriza/Anel government collapsed, due to a split in Syriza last month.

As result, the party's leader and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was forced to call snap elections.

About 25 rebel Syriza MPs, who objected to Mr Tsipras's acceptance of more austerity demanded by Greece's creditors, formed the Popular Unity party, challenging Tsipras and Syriza. (BBC)

Popular Unity was led by former energy minister Panagiotis Lafazanis, who argues that Greece would be better off leaving the euro and going back to the drachma. (BBC)

Many other high profile Syriza members, like the former Speaker of the Hellenic Parliament-Zoe Konstantopoulou, also joined the rebel party.

Consequently, Syriza went to elections without its most outspoken, anti-austerity and hard-line members; the Popular Unity, plus Yanis Varoufakis who quit previously.

Yet this development did not prevent Syria from winning the elections and Tsipras being reelected as Greece's Prime Minister.

In fact it made his position even stronger. Firstly because the Greek people reinstated Tsipras as their Prime Minister, sending a strong message to Europe that they are giving him another chance.

Secondly, with the more radical Syriza members gone, Tsipras will now face little opposition from within his party. 

This is definitely good news, but not only for Tsipras or Syriza. The development offers an opportunity to Greece and Europe, to find a quick solution and bring the indebted country back on track fast. 

That of course only if the newly elected government and its European counterparts, actually avoid the previous antics and actually cooperate. 

With less opposition from the hard-line anti-austerity members and with a more cooperative Tsipras, Europe must grasp this opportunity to assist Greece and support the new Greek government.

Ending the political instability in Greece, is of the utmost importance to end the economic one too. If Europe continues to torpedo Tsipras' Left-Wing government, then things can only get worse.
The Greek people have once again spoken. Europe must now respect their decision and support their new government, in finding a way out of the economic crisis. 

It is in the best interests of both Greece and of course, Europe itself.

Similarly, Syriza should start acting with a more professional and diplomatic manner when dealing with its European partners. 

Some of the statements made from previous Greek government officials, were utterly unacceptable and naturally they did not help the negotiation process.

Not that Syriza must totally compromise and abandon its efforts to end, or at least limit  the austerity policies. But in the past, we were witnessing a cacophony of opinions from its members, plus a total disrespect of Greece's partners by the Syriza/Anel officials.

But these elections did not bring only positive developments. One of the definitely negative outcomes is that the Far-Right Golden Dawn party, remained the third political force in Greece. 

It seems that sadly, they are here to stay for many years to come in the Greek political reality, posing constantly a threat to the country's future.

If for any reason this government collapses again, Golden Dawn could be further empowered and gain more support among the Greek voters; and that will make Greece's economic recovery almost impossible.

The second negative development is that Tsipras is looking to form a new coalition with his old partners, ANEL (Independent Greeks). If the Syriza rebels were not helping the negotiations with their intransigence, ANEL leader Panos Kamenos, has also often made inflammatory comments that had the same effect.

Ideally Tsipras should have been more open to a coalition government with a less hard-line party. Besides he should have learned a lesson; that by aggressive approach to negotiations you can never win support and the argument.

Especially when your party and government officials have a mind of their own, making statements that add oil to the fire. Greece has a justified goal to pursue, but it won't achieve its goals without skillful negotiators and politicians. 

The final major negative development that we observed in these Greek elections, was the very low turn-out. About 44 % of Greeks who were eligible to vote did not go to the polls on Sunday. 

In real numbers this means that out of 9,836,997 Greeks who could cast their ballot approximately only 5,562,820 people voted. This is the highest abstention rate in the history of Greek parliamentary elections following the fall of the dictatorship in 1974. (Greek Reporter)

That is a worrying occurrence. The Greek voters, totally disillusioned and fed up with their country's political reality are becoming apathetic towards the democratic process.

But what would one expect from them? After having voted against austerity and for a party that allegedly promised to end it, yet somehow the same party signed for a third bail-out.

The Greek and European leadership have to realize, that they have a responsibility towards them and all the other nations of the continent. If of course themselves value and truly support democracy. 

Europe is losing a generation with high youth unemployment rates and experiences increasing inequality, both among its nations and its people. How do our leaders want to be remembered in the future? We should hope not as those who surrendered our continent to vested interests. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Europe's outer borders should be collectively patrolled.
When we observe how Europe is dealing with the migrant crisis, it is evident that EU member states are coming to a breaking point and often at odds wit each other.

During the weekend, we have witnessed a spat between countries in the new refugee frontier; Croatia, Slovenia and Hungary.

But sadly, this is not the first time that's happening. Last week, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban blamed Greece for the refugee crisis in his country, adding that the EU needs to deploy forces to Greece’s borders.

“If Greece is not capable of protecting its borders, we need to mobilize European forces to the Greek borders so that they can achieve the goals of European law instead of the Greek authorities," Orban said. 

He did not elaborate on how exactly such a plan will turn into real life, but he proved that he has probably never heard of FRONTEX, the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union. (Keep Talking Greece)

Although his antics may seem out of sync with the rest of Europe, he is right in this case. Frontex may well exist for a number of years now, dealing with illegal migrants in Europe's borders; but they never had to face such scale of arrivals before.

One would have thought that ever since the crisis begun, the organization would be boosted with new recruits and funds, to deal with the increase of refugees entering Europe's outer borders. But such action did not take place, at least not yet.

In April, a Frontex report published the results of annual negotiations it has with member states over border staff and equipment.

The report shows shortages of Frontex-requested border staff ranging from 4% to 20% in various roles including first line officers and interview experts.

The cumbersome manner in which Frontex has to negotiate and persuade countries to lend equipment many months in advance has had an impact on operations during the summer’s crises.

The inflexibility causes Frontex difficulties ensuring continuity in its emergency operations: member states have been lending equipment for only single months at a time. It means Frontex is often scrambling around for new resources from around Europe every month.

So much so that Frontex relies in part on Iceland, a non-EU country which the agency says has lent more than a third of its entire coast guard fleet to help in Greece and Italy. Norway, another non-EU country, has been similarly co-operative.

Each member state has the sufficient capacity to handle border control, but when the migratory pressure becomes exceptionally high, they might require additional assistance of either technical equipment or specialized border guards.

The role of Frontex is to coordinate the deployment of such additional assets and human resources from other EU/Schengen Area countries, as described in its founding regulation.

As chaos continues to grip key migration routes, Frontex officials have admitted to the Bureau it “badly need(s) border guards on the Greek islands, border guards and technical equipment on the land border between Greece and Turkey, Bulgaria and Turkey and, crucially along the Hungarian border with Serbia.”

The Bureau has also learned that despite more than two million refugees amassing in Turkey and planning their dangerous trips across the borders, Frontex has not had a single member of staff based there gathering intelligence about smugglers. (EU Observer)

From the above report it is obvious that Europe is failing again in protecting its own borders. Each state government prefers to either push the responsibility to its neighbors, the countries of entry, or the rich destination nations, but they are avoiding doing the obvious; cooperating in a pan-European effort to tackle the crisis.

If European politicians want to control their nation's borders, they got to understand that primarily it is in their interests to shield the outer borders of Europe, at the entry points.

Instead of bickering and trying to shift responsibility, they should first of all utilize what they have already set up; an agency with a particular task in minding Europe's common borders, like Frontex.

That naturally means, increasing the funding and supplying it with all necessary resources, plus recruiting individuals to work for the agency.

We got huge unemployment ravaging Europe's youths, why don't we start employing people to work where they are needed the most nowadays?

Unemployed people could apply to be assigned for paid work for a season, a year or more-event permanently on a Greek island, southern Italy, Malta, Bulgaria, Hungary and so on.

In addition, as the report suggests, people could be employed directly in refugee camps in Turkey or Lebanon, where a large number of refugees arriving in Europe are coming from.

In this way, we could control who enters our continent, plus we could have already their documents and identity, before they hand them out to smugglers, arriving illegally in our continent. If there is a way to avoid alleged ISIS fighters entering Europe, perhaps this is one.

Our leaders were hiding their heads in the sand for too long, being preoccupied by the economic crisis and Greece. They hoped that this humanitarian urgency would never knock our door.

Now that they were proven wrong and people are arriving in their hundreds of thousands, they still rush to protect their borders and blame their EU partners, than take action and responsibility.

This crisis once again affects all EU states, so the solution must be achieved in absolute coordination, cooperation and participation by all the union's members.

We should support Frontex and if needed, send additional forces and officers in the entry points on Europe's borders. Furthermore we could assist countries like Turkey and Lebanon by sending them resources, plus officers to encourage legal migration into Europe, discouraging illegal one.

We must understand that since we have opened our borders, the only way forward and to deal with this challenge is to act united and unanimously.

We can not bow to the pressure from nationalist and conservative parties, which take advantage from this situation to achieve their goal; raising the internal borders in Europe again. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

European Dis-Union faced with refugee crisis.
The current refugee crisis that Europe is faced with, proved to be more than just a humanitarian tragedy; it has become a huge test for EU's capability in dealing with such crises.

The outcome is in mild terms, rather embarrassing.

Some member states like Hungary are raising fences, refusing to allow the streams of the refugees arriving from Syria and Afghanistan enter.

Under a huge pressure, Germany and other countries are suspending the Schengen agreement, jeopardizing one of the greatest benefits that EU citizens receive with their country's membership.

Additionally states like Slovakia and Cyprus are willing to accept only Christians, as if humanitarian help is extended only to homo-religious people.

Nations mainly from the Eastern block but also Denmark and the UK, are refusing to accept the proposed by the EU Commission refugee quotas, on redistributing 120,000 people across the block.

As result, Germany recently has threatened the states which refuse the quotas, with sanctions. The Germans are annoyed-and rightly so- that they are expected to accept the bulk of the refugees.

So they are pointing out that since most of those countries also happen to be nations that receive large amounts of supplemental funding from European Union, these funds could be cut off if they continue to refuse quotas. (International Business Times).

This attitude only adds oil to the fire. The real issue is the huge differences of mentality, type of economy, culture and attitude towards migration among the European states.

While Germany is trying desperately to shake off the image of the "bad guy" in the continent and appear welcoming, open and friendly, other nations do not have the same aspirations.

Many former European colonial powers like France, are well used to multiculturalism and in fact they have based and modeled their economies around migration. Other countries like Sweden have been rich and open societies for a very long time and are organized, prepared to deal with the issue.

On the other hand, Eastern countries like Poland, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, are only recently advancing as economies and societies. They have been caught totally unprepared for such crisis and in fact, it is doubtful that they ever expected to find themselves as refugee destination.

Until not so many decades ago, it was them who were fleeing the clusters of oppressive communist regimes, to enter the wealthier Western Europe and America. One would have expected them to be more open and welcoming to refugees, as they have been in similar conditions in their recent history.

But they aren't. The governments of Prague and Budapest in particular are strongly opposing the EU Commission quotas, infuriating many EU officials and the governments of Western European nations.

Their excuse is that Islam is "not compatible with Europe's Christian values," or that they already have many Ukrainian "refugees". In reality the first argument is contradicting the EU's very values, a union that they were so keen to join for economic reasons; yet they have difficulty accepting certain obligations attached to it.

Human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights – these values are embedded in the EU treaties, that they signed for. ( Respect for human rights and dignity, something that is extended to all humans, as Christian Europeans do not comprise the whole humanity.

Secondly, the Ukrainian's that flee to Eastern Europe are not necessarily "refugees" as they are allowed to work and do the jobs that the locals are turning down, for better paid ones in the Western EU states. They are simply economic migrants, as many of their nationals are in other richer European states.
Refugees in general, are not allowed to work for a considerable amount of time and they rely on the host country's welfare system. Alas, this excuse is rather daft.

Yet, their attitude is partially understandable. Migration into their countries is something new.

Many of the Western nations struggled to accept their first migrants back in the '50s. As the richer nations managed to deal with the issue, so will the new EU member states one day.

It is just that they were caught unprepared like most of the continent for something like this, plus they still see themselves and countries of emigrants and workers to the West.

Contrary to all the above, the states who oppose the quotas are partially right. The EU, Europe as a whole, the UN and the rich Western or Eastern nations, should have been more generous in helping countries like Turkey and Lebanon.

These nations have been hosting refugees in greater numbers and for a considerable amount of time. Europe has failed them, because if it played a more active role in the crisis since the beginning, now it would not have to face floods of refugees arriving on its doorstep. This "welcoming" attitude is too little too late.

It is clear that European leaders have failed us-the EU citizens, the refugees and their countries, as well as these nations who were until now dealing with the problem; with little help from the rest of the international community. We should have acted a long time ago.

Now since we are forced to deal with the problem, we must show solidarity firstly among ourselves and secondly towards the refugees.

We can not allow only a handful of countries in the Mediterranean to tackle the crisis on their own, nor Germany to take full responsibility and all of the refugees.

For once, let's show real unity and solidarity in our "union" and to the world that Europe can handle the leadership that sometimes is required from it. Instead of being an example of bigotry, we should act as one of compassion and global jurisdiction that inspires others to follow suit.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Blue Star Program. What is the Blue Star Program?

The Blue Star Program aims to foster better understanding and knowledge of the European Union among pupils in Irish primary schools through classroom projects and activities.

Beginning with a pilot year in 2011, the program has been run for four successful years to date and is now entering its fifth year in 2015-2016. Blue Star’s goal is to lessen the information and communication deficit that exists about the EU and how it affects the lives of Irish citizens among this key demographic in Ireland. 

 It’s no exaggeration to say that, year on year, the program succeeds in fostering a strong sense of citizenship and knowledge of Europe among its participants - be it a small, rural 20 pupil school in Westmeath or a 1,000 pupil school in Dublin – and that this sense of ‘belonging’ and knowledge extends far beyond the school walls into wider local communities.

The Blue Star Program is a venture of the Communicating Europe Initiative, supported by the Office of the Minister of State for European Affairs in the Department of the Taoiseach, the Department of Education and Skills, the European Commission Representation in Ireland and the European Parliament Information Office in Ireland. European Movement Ireland has acted as the National Implementation Body for the program since its pilot year in 2011.

What’s involved in the Blue Star Program?

The Blue Star Program asks teachers and pupils to carry out projects and tasks related to the History, Geography, Culture and Institutions of the EU.  There is a huge amount of flexibility in the program and schools are encouraged to get creative in their interpretation of these key elements and the way in which they can be fulfilled.  

History projects can be related to a significant European event or a pivotal person in European history, for example. Geography projects may focus on a specific EU country where the children can learn about that country’s population, language, similarities with Ireland, etc. Cultural projects can look at food, places and art of Europe, while Institutional projects teach pupils how the EU works and how the different European Union institutions co-operate with each other in accessible and fun ways.

The hard work that the pupils put into their projects culminates on Europe Day (9th May each year) when schools are supported and encouraged to exhibit and showcase these projects to parents and the wider community.

Schools that successfully complete the Blue Star Program are awarded two Blue Star certs and a Blue Star flag to mark their participation in the program. Pupils and teachers that have taken part in Blue Star cite it as a highlight of the school year, and we have schools who sign up year after year to take part and interpret the program in new, fresh and exciting ways.

Why get involved in the Blue Star Program?

To date, over 400 schools and approximately 35 - 40,000 children have participated in the programme. Last year the Blue Star Program was active in 175 Irish primary schools, interacting with almost 15,000 students in every corner of the country.

Its success didn’t stop there either; following a nomination in 2014 by Ireland South MEP, Mr. Sean Kelly, hundreds of Irish national school teachers who are involved in the Blue Star Program were made joint Irish winners of the prestigious European Parliament’s European Citizen’s Prize at an awards ceremony in Brussels in February 2015.

Article via the European Movement of Ireland and the Program's website.