Thursday, August 29, 2013

Thoughts on the upcoming war against Syria.

As the world holds its breath for a new war against Syria, it is impossible not to have a sense of anger and disgust about what has been, is and is going to happen in the region.

We all knew that the possibility of the Western allies to intervene in Syria was high, but somehow we were hoping that common sense and humanity would prevail.

After the use of chemicals on innocent people allegedly by the Assad regime, there was an outcry throughout the Western world. But the UN hasn't yet investigated who used chemical weapons in Syria and it did not come to any conclusions. Hastily Europe and the USA are already preparing for war. A sense of deja-vu comes to mind, as we have seen similar cases many times before, like that of Iraq.

To understand what is going on, we need to stop thinking or reasoning the politics of Syria and the whole region of Middle East as we do for Europe. They have a very different way of thinking, they are a different culture. And their political heritage and reality is very different from ours. The Islamic and Arabic traditions have influenced politics in the region. Also foreign factors and meddling, especially during the era or European colonization in the Middle East have left their mark. 

The Arab states do not have the same version of democracy as we do. In fact most they do not believe in it and that is why most Arabic states are not democracies with European standards, but they have established their own version of our most cherished political system. We just do not understand Arab politics, but that is not a reason to support as citizens a further intervention in Middle East, as the situation is tricky. From one side we have a dictator oppressing his people and in the other we have rebels with links to radical extremists. 

Whose side do we get on? In reality this decision was taken for us a long time ago, as the Western media made it clear that the enemy of the West was the Assad regime. Obviously America and Europe just needed an excuse to strike. They have been supporting the rebels against the Assad regime openly and even promised to supply them with weapons, their kind remains unknown. Since we have no official evidence on who used the chemicals, ideally we should not condone to a war on Syria so easily. 

There are a lot of parties involved in the conflict and not all things are as they seem. Some of these parties are supporters of the USA in the region and many are their enemies. But when two parties have the same enemy, who can exclude the option of them cooperating in one case, while fighting each other in another?

The rebels in Syria are supported by Al-Qaeda that are enemies of the Assad regime. If Barack Obama decides to attack the Syrian regime, he has ensured – for the very first time in history – that the United States will be on the same side as Al-Qaeda. (The Independent)  

Will it be unreasonable to think that perhaps it was the agents of America or Al-Qaeda that used the chemical weapons, to provoke and initiate their involvement in their region? For too long now the West was looking for an opportunity to invade. Either it is Russia, America, China, Britain or France, they all have a reason to get involved and secure their interests. 

This is how it has always been and how it works. When the interests of big powers are conflicting, innocent civilians and soldiers die. And what we will have in the end is another Afghanistan. In the past the Americans supported the Taliban against the Soviets. Thirty years later it was them who were fighting against them. Now they support the rebels in Syria, despite their Al-Qaeda links and despite their crimes against the Christians of Syria and other groups of people. Thirty years from now, they will invade again to fight the very same people they are helping now.

The war is definitely good news for the US weapon industry, as they probably have secured few more months or even years of profits. The Americans and their European allies will do whatever they want to serve their interests and the interests of those who they serve, the weapon and oil industry.Sadly, war is profitable business for some. 

Syria could also be the next Iraq by all means. As stable is Iraq today and as successful was the Western intervention there, the same will be the future for Syria. The Westerners have a tradition of lies, when it comes in promoting their interests and achieving what they want, as they proved in Iraq and the "weapons of mass distruction" argument. The Russians are no better either. So the Syrian people are captured between the interests of the big powers of this world and local old feuds and political, ideological, religious and social struggles. 

And that makes this conflict very dangerous and we should be far more careful. Russia and China have repeatedly expressed their objections on a Western military intervention. The Russians even have sent warships in the region to protect the Russian citizens based on the region. Syria is Russia's last ally in the Middle East and it is doubtful that they are going to let it go as easily. 

They and the Chinese have walked out from a UN Security Council voting on the Syrian situation and that is a serious warning. (InvestmentWatchBlog) Iran has also condemned any military strike by the US and made threats on bombing Israel. There are many parties from neighboring countries like Lebanon and Palestine that will get involved, if the conflict escalates. Also what if Britain attacks Syria from their bases in Cyprus and the Syrians retaliate hitting back and implicating the island nation? 

It is very possible that the war will spill over to all neighboring nations, like Lebanon, Turkey, Israel, Iraq and Iran. This operation can have far worse implications for the region and all the people living in it. European states should be very careful when deciding to enter a war, that could escalate in a greater conflict that could engulf the whole region and Europe itself. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Scenarios that led to the Turkish riots this summer.

http://www.news.com.au/world-news/police-retreat-from-istanbul-square/story-fndir2ev-1226655237032
In the beginning of this summer season, we witnessed another uprising of the people in yet another Mediterranean and Muslim state, Turkey. The riots that took place turned violent and they resulted to human casualties, but they also brought to light the reality of the country's politics and public opinion.

The riots seemingly started by an outrage at a brutal eviction of a sit-in at Istanbul's Taksim Gezi park protesting against an urban development plan. Subsequently, supporting protests and strikes took place across Turkey protesting a wide range of concerns, at the core of which were issues of freedom of the press, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and the government's encroachment on Turkey's secularism. (Wikipedia)

The timing of the protests coming in the same period with the Arab Spring and its aftermath, but also the Occupy movement elsewhere, place the developments as highly important for the greater Euro-Mediterranean region. And that because the whole region is engulfed by an economic, political and social crisis and upheaval that has not settled yet, therefore we haven't been able to draw conclusions or see any immediate results.

In the center of the Turkish protesters' anger was the country's Prime Minister Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his party, the AKP. They have been ruling Turkey since 2002 and have led the country out of recession, boosting its economic growth and placing the country in the G20 and the top economies of the World. But as this economic growth is mainly based on the construction industry boom, it remains to be seen if this boom is permanent or Turkey is going to follow Spain and Ireland in a construction industry meltdown.

That of course does not stop the country's leadership continuing with their plans and pushing their agenda, hoping to make Turkey a major player in the region. The country has paid off the loans that it received from the IMF and it is asserting itself in the Middle East and in the Balkans. But what about Turkey's EU membership bid?

It is true that the success and long term in power, have made Turkey's leadership overconfident for some people's likings. The recent spat with Israel for example and Mr Erdogan's passionate outburst on the alleged Israeli involvement in Egypt's military coup , confirms that. (Hurriyet Daily News). And that is not the first time that Mr. Erdogan spoke out against Israel, a country that Turkey had formerly very close relations. A few years ago, the incident of the killing of several Turkish activists on a aid flotilla destined for Palestine, strained the two countries' relations.

But it is not just people from outside Turkey who start feeling discomfort with Erdogan's leadership and increasing power or influence. Since 2011, the AKP and Mr Erdogan have been accused of driving forward an Islamist agenda, having undermined the secularist influence of the Turkish Army.

During the same period they also increased a range of restrictions on human rights, most notably freedom of speech and freedom of the press, despite improvements resulting from the accession process to the European Union. They have allegedly also have increased restrictions on freedom of speech, freedom of the press, internet use,television content and the right to free assembly. (Wikipedia)

So is there any wonder that these protests came at a time that seems to be a general upheaval, or perhaps a redesigning of the greater region of the Middle East, the Balkans, Southern Europe and the Mediterranean? Mr Erdogan himself has stated in a speech on 18 June that "internal traitors and external collaborators", prepared the riots very "professionally."

And he is not deluded by believing this. The whole region is being reshuffled according to some people/groups' interests. If Israel did not take part in Egypt's coup, certainly others have who didn't approve the Islamist oriented policies that the ousted former President Morsi pursued. Could Mr. Erdogan also be warned by foreign powers on his seemingly ever increasing Islamist agenda, by stirring protests that could shake his government?

Turkey under Erdogan became very confident, even to the point of scorning EU membership and pursuing to create a new Turkish-led block in the Middle East, in order to expand the country's influence there. One can actually doubt that EU membership for Turkey is seriously still considered by either the Turks or the Europeans.

By just being an EU candidate country, Turkey receives a vital lump-sum to push for the necessary reforms that are needed in order for any country to achieve full membership. Reforms that in Turkey's case are either not happening or they are proceeding in a very slow pace.

But in that way Europe does not close the door to Turkey for good and it keeps it under its influence. Turkey also receives not just funds, but also access in the European market with a lot of other benefits that it gains through various bilateral agreements. Will this relationship evolve into a full membership one day? It is doubtful under the current Turkish political reality, especially under Erdogan.

Since they receive much of what they would like from a full EU membership already, I doubt that they will proceed with total reforms in order to meet the criteria that Europe placed as condition to join EU. The Turks would have to alter the country radically and break a lot of their nation's traditions. Changing the role of the military's involvement in the country's politics for example, could prove very difficult to achieve.

Nevertheless Turkey continues to pursue its own interests in the Balkans and over Cyprus, knowing that some of their activities could hinder all of their efforts to join the European club. They made clear their objections over the Israeli-Cypriot collaboration for gas exploration in Cypriot waters. They invest in FYROM and support the country, building strong links and spreading their influence in a nation with a dispute with Greece, an EU member state.

They also promote their interests in the Muslim minorities all over the Balkans, from the Turkish minority in Bulgaria, the Muslim populations of Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina and of Greece, which are not considered to be all of Turkish ethnic background. Yet Turkey keeps the Pomak communities in Northern Greece, well under their sphere of influence.

Either the protests were indeed fanned by foreign powers or they were a protest of the citizens towards their government's policies, they were definitely used by the foreign press to damage the Turkish government's image. Not that they were wrong in doing so. The Erdogan government, perhaps knowing that the protests were not strictly what they seemed or being aware of the consequences that it would have to deal if the rioters were successful, used an overwhelmingly amount of violence in order to place it under control.

But what has been achieved by the protests so far and why the media stopped focusing on Turkey, redirecting their attention once again on Syria and Egypt? We haven't seen any results or closure from last June's Turkish protests. Maybe the Erdogan administration has compromised with the protesters or the media attention on the incident simply fizzled out, captured by events with a greater importance in the neighboring countries.

It will take more than one protests to change Turkey and the Turkish citizens, their governing elite, their NATO allies and European partners know that. It would be great if we saw the protests evolving into a real citizen movement, working for the democratization of the country. But will the Erdogan government and these "external collaborators" as he called them, allow such movement ever succeeding in its cause?

The greater region is very unstable and things are still shifting. Turkey is located in the region and one way or another it will be affected by the whole process. The question is how the Turkish people will be impacted and how can the international community help them in achieving a better country for themselves first, then perhaps turning Turkey into a fully democratic European country.

Closing this article I would like to express my deepest condolences to the families of those killed in the protests and my best wishes for those injured or affected by them in any way. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Encouraging Entrepreneurship in Europe.

http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/policies/sme/promoting-entrepreneurship/
One of the things that Europe lacks and is harming its economy is the lack of entrepreneurship across the continent. A stereotypical explanation for this is that Europeans are too ashamed of failure and too unwilling to takes risks to be successful entrepreneurs.  

Contrast this attitude with that of America, where anybody – as long as they’ve got a “can-do” attitude and enough elbow grease – can start a business in their garage and watch it grow it into a billion-dollar enterprise. (Debating Europe)

So why America is able to encourage its people to experiment and be bold when starting a new business from scratch, making the American market and economy more competitive than Europe's? What are we doing wrong in this side of the Atlantic?

Europe basically lacks two things. Firstly our governments, our political and financial system do not encourage or even allow entrepreneurs to flourish. In some countries it is very hard to start business and that is deliberate. Our political elites want to keep the established financial status quo and do not encourage new business to blossom. 

Taxation, red tape and over regulation are the means that are used to stop any young or new businessmen to start their own business and bring more competitiveness in their region. Also in many countries it is very hard to start a new business if you do not bribe the local authorities, or do not know any high ranked official in them. 

Europe is a very rigid and conservative continent and it is no wonder that it finds itself now-days in a crisis, that is not just an economic but also a political, social and cultural. The narrow mildness of the ruling elites, but also their power mongering, lack of vision and true leadership is the real problem, not the "laziness" of the ordinary citizens.

The other problem is concerning our education system, but also our mentality as peoples that are not very independent or innovation oriented. We are teaching our youth outdated modules in school in an outdated way, like religion for example. Modules such as this should not be made compulsory, or be taught in the traditional way in our classrooms. 

Instead we should introduce new modules that will enhance the ability of our youth to become real businessmen. Our education system should overall change and include new modules, that will teach our youths about new industries and how to become more innovative. Encourage them to experiment and take risks, not place austerity on them and force them to stay with their parents well in their 30s.

How can anyone in Europe be bold enough to become an entrepreneur if the risks are too high and there are no guarantees of recovery or support by the government?

Also the European population like to stick to what it knows. This originates in the post WW2 era, when an income and job security was very important for our survival. Generation upon generation grew up with this mentality and that has lead to the crisis we are facing now. The world has changed, but sadly we have not. 

Our predominant industries are fishing in the North, agriculture in the mainland, public sector in small peripheral states. The property, tourism and banking industries also flourish just because they offer a chance of easy and quick money, seasonal profits in some cases but without the ability of exports. 

The globalization process has forced our biggest industries to move in countries with cheaper workforce, thus leaving Europeans with fewer options in finding a new job. And how can there be innovation without an industrial background and the ability in finding a job, to support you during the first years of becoming an entrepreneur.

Our established business elites support and perpetuate this situation, because they have invested millions in developing these sectors and economic model. Introducing any new sectors would alter the financial make up of the country and shake up vested interests.

The austerity that Mrs Merkel and other European leaders have placed upon us, hits the young people worse and how do the European elites expect Europe to recover in the future, if the continent's youth is incapacitated and have their wings clipped in its more creative stage? 

They are making sure in that way, that the wealth remains in certain rich and powerful elites of certain rich and powerful nations forever in their hands, while forbidding any chance of change of this status. So the only way that Europe can find a way out of this crisis, is for its political and business elites to realize that it is either reform or doom at this stage. 

It is in their interests to have an active European population, that is engaged in innovation and entrepreneurship. The wealth that is going to be produced can fuel the transformation of the European economy and with an educated population we could overall become more competitive. 

The solution could happen on a pan-European level with the direct involvement of the EU and its institutions, but it is doubtful that the local authorities will cooperate and implement the new regulations fully. The problem is that seemingly there isn't any European politician with enough leadership and back-bone, to proceed with the necessary reforms.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Gay "Propaganda" is banned in Russia, when will they ban human right abuses?

A disturbing news story has broken out from the largest neighbor of Europe, Russia. The government has approved a ban on gay "propaganda" as it named it, meaning gay pride parades, flags and anything that allegedly "promotes" homosexuality.

This is another sign that the country hasn't really changed that much from its authoritarian, totalitarian communist past. Most of the changes that took place after the collapse of Communism were on an economic, political and on ideological front, but not a social one.

Gay activists in the country were beaten up in a recent gay pride rally in June, while the attacks on gay people are on the rise in general and are not isolated incidents anymore. In the past, a rise in the number of attacks on foreigners from Africa or from the former USSR Asian democracies was a cause of concern, but as it happens in similar cases, after the foreigners it is always the gay people who are targeted. A lesson to be taught for many European states, notably my native Greece.

Russia of course is not the only country that witnesses a rise in far right and fascist outbursts. But it is the only country in Europe to pass a law that justifies and promotes discrimination towards gay individuals, instead of promoting a wider recognition for them. And the only developed country that consciously is moving backwards regarding gay rights.

The very notion of branding the gay pride as "gay propaganda" is laughable, especially in a country that  for decades after WW2, had established one of the best organized brainwashing, propagating and surveillancing systems in modern human history.

I hope that one day the Russian leadership will understand how ridiculous this law is and that they can not deny the rights to about 10% of their country's population. Homosexual individuals always existed throughout the history of the human race and in fact one of Russia's best loved music composers, Tchaikovsky was one of them.

The gay pride is a symbol of acceptance and human rights, though sometimes today it does not always stick to its real message and purpose. In some countries it has been transformed to a huge gay gathering and party, taking for granted the meaning for its existence.

The gay pride movement started after the Stonewall Riots on Saturday the 28 June 1969, where lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning persons rioted following a police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar at 43 Christopher Street, New York City. This riot and further protests and rioting over the following nights were the watershed moment in modern LGBT rights movement and the impetus for organizing LGBT pride marches on a much larger public scale.

On November 2, 1969, Craig Rodwell, his partner Fred Sargeant, Ellen Broidy, and Linda Rhodes proposed the first pride march to be held in New York City by way of a resolution at the Eastern Regional Conference of Homophile Organizations (ERCHO) meeting in Philadelphia. (Wikipedia).

Since those days the movement has spread to almost every country in the "West," symbolizing the right to be of different sexual orientation. Although I am not a great gay pride goer myself, I am really happy to know that both the city I originally come from, Thessaloniki in Greece and the city I chose to live, Dublin in Ireland have the annual celebration of the gay pride.

It symbolizes that those cities and the countries in general are not morally pretentious, conservative and authoritarian, but they are embracing the diversity of the sexual orientation of their inhabitants and thus being open, liberal societies. It does not symbolize as the Russian leadership believes, that the country is immoral and is succumbing to any kind of propaganda coming form the West or the gay people.

The Russian gay community is Russian above all, they are citizens of this country and they have rights as they have obligations just like every other citizen. To be able to celebrate the gay pride, is not about following a popular trend that sweeps the Western nations, rather showing that as a society Russia is mature and aware that a percentage of its population has different sexual orientation. And that this is fine by the heterosexual majority.

It gives the gay community a chance to show themselves and manifest not only their existence, but their absolute acceptance by the society and state they are living in. It is in fact a collective statement of a nation, that being homosexual is totally accepted and tolerated among its society and it is not about the gay community rubbing their "immoral" practices to the face of the mainstream, conservative and heterosexual community.

The Olympic games bring all nations of the planet together in peace and acceptance of each other, in respect of basic human values and peace. In 2014 Russia will host the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi and so many activists, notably the British writer and broadcaster Mr. Stephen Fry, have called for a boycott of the games.

I do not think that such drastic initiative will be allowed, or supported by the majority of the governments, athletes and various political or sport groups. As the Olympics are generally a chance not only for peace, but of a great commercial importance for many sponsors, I doubt that they will back any move to cancel or relocate the games. Besides the Olympic games were never supposed to be political, though humanity has seldom managed to achieve that.

What I would love to see from all countries and the athletes that will be participating in the games, is to enter the stadium holding a gay pride flag together with their national one. Or perhaps all athletes could wear the pink triangle on their chest, as a protest of such laws and a message of solidarity to the Russian gay activists.

Sometimes it is best not to alienate or criticize a nation for its wrong decisions and direction. Such attitudes occasionally empower the hard-liners and unites the rest of the nation around them, so a boycott on the games might just do that. But if we silently transform the Olympic games into a big gay pride, we will give a strong message to the Russian nation, that the rest of the World empathizes with the 10% of the Russian population.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Dealing with immigration in Europe.


Immigration is one of the topics that the European public opinion is highly divided over. Immigrants, from both outside and within the EU, are transforming the social, economic, demographic and political reality in each country.

A lot of the negative public opinion that focuses on the immigrant communities can be blamed on groups or media with a populist agenda.

Immigrants bring both positive and negative changes in a country, but if we had a well functioning immigration policy we could limit the negative ones. Sadly, our governments failed so far to achieve harmonization among all EU member states' immigration policies and this fact is exploited by populist or far-right groups that oppose multiculturalism, immigration of the EU itself.

Immigrants bring economic growth by working and being exploited. They have to pay each year around 1,000-3,000 € just to stay in the country plus work unpaid overtime, just because they have no rights as workers. Rights that we as EU citizens take for granted. Many of them that enter an EU country with a student visa, they got to keep studying and thus paying another at least 3,000 € per year for college fees that they do not really need.

They have to pay higher taxes than the natives and other EU citizens, plus they may only find employment by doing jobs that the natives won’t take with any salary offered just to stay in the country. Jobs that they would like to do, are not available for them because of their visa restrictions. In other words, most of the money they earn for their low paid job goes back into the economy, either by paying for their visa, college, rent and higher taxes.

Refugees are a totally different case than legal migrants. The problem with this group is that they are not allowed to work and contribute, while they would love to. The reason for them to come to Europe is to find employment. Yet they are given a payment of around 19.80 € per week to live in the case of Ireland, or put into camps in the case of Greece and they are banned from certain "exclusion zones" for the "protection of the locals," in the case of Switzerland. (Spiegel Online).

The unfortunate thing is that Europe can not accept all in and integrate them. We do not have the capacity, either social or economic to accommodate the ever increasing numbers of asylum seekers arriving in Europe. And it proves very costly to keep them in "centers of hospitality," where they are placed until their fate is decided. First we need to create a common immigration policy to attract immigrants from countries and with skills that we need and are useful to us.

As for the problem of illegal immigration, perhaps we should stop invading the countries of origins of the people arriving as refugees, or meddling with their affairs so we won’t have to receive them. Most of the illegal immigrants or refugees coming into Europe from Greece are from Iraq and Afghanistan and that itself states something.

Another problem, the one with the Roma Gypsies that many Western European countries are struggling to deal with, is of a different nature. Their communities are often the victims of discrimination all over Europe and that perhaps has made them a bit insular, closed societies with their own way of doing business and life style.

That is partly because they are refusing to adapt to our way of life and partly because the discriminating they are facing. Their integration and the ending of their stigmatization should become a priority for EU policy makers. They are after all native Europeans, they have been living among us for centuries.

We should not put all immigrant groups in one bag, each one is different. Some immigrants we need, some we don’t and for some we can not do anything about them but to try and integrate them. So we need to develop a comprehensive, fair and functioning immigration policy to attract and keep the ones who we need, just like other countries like Australia and Canada are achieving.

This policy should prosecute individuals and companies who employ illegal immigrants or immigrants from the newest EU countries, in order to exploit them. They are making a profit and they are the ones to blame, not the immigrants for the lack of contributions into our welfare state. These people work and while they are not paying taxes, they offer their labor to local employers.

If they need to get hospitalized, it should be these employers that should pay for their expenses, as they are the ones who make lots of money by underpaying these people and by not covering their social insurance. That is in fact one of the main arguments that many of those who oppose immigrants from other poorer EU or non-EU countries, are putting forward against immigration.

They claim that since these people have never contributed to the State by paying taxes, then they should not be receiving housing or social welfare, draining our fragile system. But why don't they never point the finger to the local employers who employ them? As long as they offer these jobs to the immigrants in order to make profit, these people will keep coming because they are needed by employers throughout Europe that seek them.

When we are discussing about issues arising from immigration within the EU, we have to realize that we can not stop the free movement of people, that is one of the main freedoms for EU citizens. We could though, make it compulsory for all EU citizens to be paid the same salary in any given country.

If any people coming from the new EU states would receive what a native worker would as a salary, they would not be preferred by the local tax evading employers. It would make no difference to them to employ a Polish and Romanian worker from a British, Irish and French. In that way, we keep both the free movement of people and we limit the exploitation of the immigrant and native workers, limiting the tensions between the two communities.

Since none of the above logical measures have been adopted, it is clear that immigration into Europe, or within it is a modern kind of slavery. Migrant workers are largely allowed into our countries to be exploited, so the native employers can make greater profits. And that is why we can never form a fair and comprehensive immigration policy, since it is not in some people's interests and so we should stop blaming the migrants themselves.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Freedom of speech or hate speech?

In the recent years we see a rise not only in Euro-skepticism, but in the support for far right political parties, xenophobia and racism in Europe. One of the consequences of this development is the spread of hate speech in various websites, forums, chat rooms and social media. 

 How can we deal with the very disturbing trend that is spreading, without infringing on the right of freedom of speech? If we ban hate speech, we will have to make sure that we know how to define it. It is true that we need to be careful in whose authority we leave to examine what is hate and what is freedom of speech. 

Nevertheless we also must acknowledge that it is an issue that needs to be dealt with. By using anonymity, certain individuals dominate social media and their websites, spreading their radical ideas or ideology. 


 Recently Mr. Juan Fernando López Aguilar, an MEP with the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, commented on the issue on the Debating Europe website. He stated that Europe must respond not only politically, but with European legislation in reforming the framework decision of 2008. 

Based on the values of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, we should introduce legislation to strengthen the protection of victims and establish a new legal framework with criminal laws and penalties, to combat not only the politics of hate, but also hate speech as well.

I totally agree with his position, but legislation to ban hate speech is not the only solution. As it is our youth who is more vulnerable to the exposure to such unhealthy doctrine, because they use the internet the most and do not always have the right judgement and experience, Europe should put some effort in educating them on sensitive issues in school. Before they turn naturally to the internet as a source of information, getting radicalized as a result by certain people or groups with an agenda.

I guess as a true Parliamentarian Mr. Lopez Aguilar sees as the solution to the problem the implementation of more legislation. But this issue is not just like many others that we are facing, like the economy and the crisis. It is a sign of a moral, social and cultural crisis, that is hard to deal with just more legislation and without complicating things further and limiting the true freedom of speech of the citizens.

Legislation must be combined with educative and social initiatives and programs, to end discrimination and the stereotypical portrayal of certain ethnic, religious or other minorities. The role of the media must certainly be discussed and perhaps the proposed by Mr. Lopes Aguilar legislation must apply on them too, as they are the ones who often victimize or create a stereotypical image of a nation.

If this proposed legislation is designed carefully to target certain vocabulary or tone of expression and not the actual opinion, the we have nothing to fear as citizens from a move to implement a greater control or ban on hate speech. It is the way one expresses his opinion that counts. You have every right to hold any opinion, even if that one is not shared by the majority on sensitive issues such immigration gay marriages or Islam in Europe etc. 

But if you express these beliefs with hatred, no valid arguments or facts and just rants, then you are just become a bigot with nothing constructive to add to any debate and with the only purpose to offend groups that you do not like. In such case hate speech is unacceptable and should be banned, but not the freedom to express your honest opinion on issues like immigration for example. 

In other words watch you language and arguments that you use and you will be able to get your point across just fine, without insulting or stigmatizing certain groups of people just because you do not like them. The people who will design this legislation must make sure that they take into consideration the right to have a different opinion, as long as it respects the rights and dignity of all parties involved in a debate. 

Such legislation must not come into effect to block or dampen any open debate on any issue that we need as a society to design our future, rather regulate the content, motives and behavior of the participants as well as their use of language. Then it will be a constructive tool and not an obstacle, but also a sign of a mature and civilized society that respects all its members.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Will you be eating a burger from stem cells?

The world’s first test-tube burger, made from lab-grown meat, was today cooked and served in London.

Scientist-turned-chef Professor Mark Post produced the burger from 20,000 tiny strips of meat grown from cow stem cells.

Prof Post believes the new burger could herald a food revolution, with artificial meat products appearing in supermarkets in as little as 10 years. It has received the financial backing of Google founder Sergey Brin, who reportedly put some £215,000 of his vast fortune towards the project. (BreakingNews.ie)

So if you are what you eat, then what will it become of us, if we start eating laboratory grown foods? We have already a high number of cancer cases and many other diseases that may be linked to our diet. In fact obesity is growing into an epidemic in the developed world. And in the developing world he see also signs of the trend spreading. 

Do we need to be manufacturing more meat, maintaining the culture of binge and easy eating? We have already a diet that is consisted by manufactured foods, filled with preservatives and full of unnatural ingredients. It would be better if we kept our food natural, healthy and tasty. 

We do not have to produce fake meat, only to change our dietary habits if we need to "feed the world" and solve the potential food crisis. There is no need for us to eat meat everyday, so if we want to act on the problem, we should just limit the expansion of fast food chains that promote easy eating. 

We are becoming lazy in our eating habits because of these food chains and we binge eat. We consume too much meat as result of this and that is why maintaining our food supplies seems unsustainable. We should make an effort in going back eating meat a couple of times a week, with once a week eating fish and supplementing our diet with salads,vegetables and legumes. 

If we promote a more balanced diet for the European population, there is no need for "lab" foods. Who knows what the consequences will be in the future,  have we tested their long term consummation by humans and their effects on our health? Just because it is profitable for some, it does not make it good for us.

How should Europe respond to the US spying scandal?

Today, the US President Barack Obama‬ has cancelled a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin,‬ after Russia's decision to grant asylum to Edward Snowden‬. The issue was a very embarrassing one for the US Government and it almost had an impact on the EU-US relations and recent trade talks. 

After Russia decided to grant asylum to Snowden just a week ago, tensions between the two nations have been rising. The two have never signed an extradition treaty between them, though the US President has claimed that America has tried to respect if there’s a law breaker or alleged law breaker in their country. "We evaluate it, and we try to work with them," said Mr Obama on Jay Leno's show on NBC’s “The Tonight Show” last Tuesday. (ABC News)

Mr Obama also accused Russia of slipping back to the Cold War mentality. Well when you use Cold War practices to spy on everyone, even your allies and your own citizens, you can not point the finger on others. Both Russia and USA are continuing treating each other and Europe, with the traditional post Cold War mentality. So why is America surprized? 

Aren't they the ones who insist on establishing their missiles on European soil to protect us from any "threat," pointing them directly towards Russian soil among others? And with every EU expansion, the new states are almost simultaneous entering NATO as well, angering Russia even further. They are both seeking in expanding and safeguarding their interests in the region and that is fair enough.

But what should Europe do, if their squabbles over Snowden become more serious? Well we should not side with either of them and be neutral on this. Because of them Europe was bitterly divided during the Cold War, but now it is reuniting. What good will it do us to take sides? We rely on and we are close partners with both. 

We rely on the Russians for their gas and we cooperate with them on our space exploration. Likewise we rely on USA for our defense and trade. Besides, America's mistrust towards Europe, its older allies, leaves us no option but to keep low and watch the space. Let them sort it out. Why should Europe become once more their battleground for dominion? 

Russia has every right to act as it pleases, as they have no obligation to the US. And since the Americans showed their real "feelings" for Europe, then we have no obligation to support them in this either. In fact Snowden made us a favor by doing what he did and leaking the top secret files. So we should just watch the space and do not make the mistake to rush criticizing Russia for its actions on this.