Sunday, October 14, 2012

The EU is awarded a Nobel Prize!

The EU has been awarded last Friday a Peace Nobel Prize by the Norwegian Nobel committee. The news have made many people angry while for others, notably the EU officials, it was a very proud and joyful moment.

In my opinion the Nobel Prize is justified and something that should have happened long time ago. Europe is indeed transformed for the better because of the EU and many people benefit from many EU funded programs. Europe will never go back to what it was before, a war torn continent because our economies are so intertwined now, that going to war would be something unthinkable! Because you would be hurting your own economy too, if you tried to harm another country.

Nevertheless I also think that the timing was very bad. If they awarded the Prize after 2004, when Europe united after 5 decades of being cut in half by the Iron Curtain it would be more appropriate. The re-unification of the Continent was a reason to present the EU with the Nobel Prize. But now, if we look at what is happening across Europe it simply looks daft!

There is a social uprising almost in every country and people are angry, especially in the countries worst affected by the recession. How you justify the award, when you are in their eyes the cause of so much poverty, inequality and injustice. When it is you who impose the austerity on them and you force them to not have enough to provide for their children. When you force many jobs to close in their countries and leave them without jobs and with an uncertain future? What prize can make you look better in their eyes?

Is it just a PR move from the European elites? Are they trying to promote this way the European project to their citizens? Well this is the stupidest way of doing it. Even though as a staunch "pro-European" I am delighted the the EU won eventually this award and it deserved it, it just does not make sense at this moment in time. If you want to promote the EU and the opportunities it offers or the achievements it has accomplished, do so by making the citizens' lives better and provide them with solutions to their problems.

Right now what we see is that the EU (apparently) creates more problems for them! It promotes more competition, open markets, it supports the Banks and their bailing out, it supports the Markets and the capitalist system! It takes away their social benefits and lowers their salaries in half. Now of course it is not the EU's fault that Europe is in crisis. The blame should be put mainly in the chronic wrong political and financial decisions that our national governments have followed. But when they need solutions, they always call the EU to come and clean their mess, thus scapegoating the EU for the problems and putting it in the front-line to find solutions.

Not that the EU has not a share of blame for this mess that we are in. It is proven that the EU officials knew about the state of many of Europe's economies, but they did nothing to change that. Could they I could ask, when Europe is being governed by the rich elites of each nation. And of course the rich elites of the richer nations have more say and power. The EU as it stands and operates at the moment in other words, represents the Aristocracy of this continent. Even though there are many great EU projects, programs, initiatives and institutions, they are all being undermined by our national governments that though are signing up for them, they never bother to implement them fully.

In other words, though the EU is giving many opportunities to the citizens, they are being hijacked by the ruling elites of each country and being used for their benefit. Is it any wonder for example that in my native country Greece, there was literally no information about our EU rights as EU citizens for the public? We joined the EU in 1981 and it was only after I moved to Ireland 8 years ago that I saw for the first time a program in our national television, discussing and explaining our EU rights to us. Why doesn't our government inform us about our rights as EU citizens? Is it perhaps because they want to safeguard those benefits and use them for their own benefit, when they want to present them as their idea or for their supporters only?

Generally I put the blame for the situation mostly on the Greek political, financial and industrial elite, then of course on the elites of our European "partners" like those of Germany, France, Holland, Finland, Austria, Britain and so on. They want their interests secured and served, so our elites simply oblige them by doing whatever they ask. Just see how Germany's Chancellor Mrs. Merkel has taken the lead of Europe and advices us all how to run our economies. Who gave her this privilege and right?

So the EU, that is run by our political elites, simply follows our elites' guidelines. But it is the EU that takes the blame for the mess, never our national governments. If the Greek politicians had any backbone, and if the politicians of some rich countries in Europe were not as greedy, we the citizens would not be the ones who would pay the price. But trying to award the EU with a prize now, simply resembles with a slap in the face to most of us! What is the point? We need to see actions and solutions to reinstall support and confidence in the European project and no award can do that.

I would happily love to see the award being given if and when the EU solved the crisis in Europe and made the lives of the citizens easier. Certainly not now! And it is funny to see that the award is actually coming from Norway, a country that chose to stay out of the club. Is this a sign of a possible Norwegian membership renegotiation, or have they simply made a secret deal with the rest of the European elite? I would love to think it is the first case. Does the award represents an approval of the EU by the Norwegian elites?

Whatever the motives were for such a decision, they certainly managed to create some controversy. While people in Greece and Spain are out on the streets protesting and being abused by the police, the EU receives a Peace Prize. Not to mention that it is one of the few times that this award is nominated to a person and not an organization. Perhaps we are seeing changing trends by the Nobel Committee, or they simply ran out of people to give the award, given the fact that in a large part of the planet there is a rise of hostility.

The decision is definitely political. But as the European Parliament's President Mr. Martin Schulz mentioned, does that decision mean that our elites decided that "more Europe" (aka a European federation of some sort) is needed and what will this mean of us? What kind of Europe are they trying to create and will Norway be a part of it? It all remains to be seen.

SOS for the Erasmus program!!

Recently it came to my attention that the EU's Erasmus program, available for all EU students is running out of funds and is in danger. The program is named after the Dutch philosopher Desiderius Erasmus, who lived and worked in many places in Europe to expand his knowledge and gain new insights. At the same time, ERASMUS stands for European Community Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students. (source Wikipedia).

Currently we read in the EU Commission website: "The European Commission is keeping in regular touch with the National Agencies to try to minimize the impact of the current shortage. In the meantime, the European Commission is working with the Budgetary Authority (the European Parliament and national Governments) to make sure it recognizes the importance of the Erasmus program and rapidly agrees to additional funding for this highly valuable and popular European student mobility program." (

They advise the public that they are doing whatever they can to safeguard the continuation of this project and they encourage the students to keep applying for it.

Well I really hope that they do not abandon this great project and allow any fund cuts to be passed on to it. In my opinion it is one of the greatest achievements that this continent managed to achieve, after the creation of the EU itself of course.  And it is not just good for education or accumulation of knowledge, or even to have some fun while studying in another country.

To me the Erasmus program is a great opportunity to create more "Newropeans" in our continent, young people with a more broad knowledge and conscience. With a more "European" mind frame. For many of the students this opportunity is perhaps the first or the only one they could get to travel and live abroad. And as with Erasmus himself, that gives them an opportunity to gain new insights and knowledge first of all, but mainly to come in contact with many other students from all over Europe. Exchange ideas, knowledge, get in touch with other cultures. Perhaps learn a new language and a new way of life.

By living in another country you get to know how the people of this country live and think. And by living together with many other students from other European nations you automatically become a cosmopolitan person. You stop having a narrow, national only and perhaps conservative way of thinking and of course you take all the experience you gain back in your own country. And if we really want to create a European community and a multicultural society, that is the best tool and way of doing it.

What better way to give this opportunity to our young generations, to be not more cosmopolitan, educated, experienced, multilingual and progressive, but also have a love for Europe as whole. If we are going to change our continent we need to start from the young generation and invest in them, they are the future. They hold the key for a new kind of society in our continent. We need to give them the tools and the stimulus to be this new generation of Europeans.

So why are we giving all our tax money to the Banks, and wasting our resources in maintaining the current economic and political status quo? While we should be investing in our young people and provide them with all the tools necessary for a new Europe. Why are we bowing to the orders of the Banks and the Markets, giving more money and power to the rich elites, while it is our youth who need our attention and they are by far a better investment for the future?

Because with an educated, creative, experienced, multilingual and with a more European frame of mind or open minded future workforce, we have a chance to gain an advantage against our competitors form other regions. That is how you conquer the global markets, not by bailing out your banks! We do not want to live in a Banker's world. We want to provide our youth the tools to spread their wings and fly, and with them, Europe will fly too!