Monday, August 22, 2011

National politicians vs European ones.

If we would like to give European politics legitimacy and the approval of the European citizens, we will have to increase their interest and support for their MEPs and the European Parliament. Right now as things stand, Europeans turn to their national or local politicians for their problems and they see the EP as something distant.

And who can blame them, since they rarely see them or their work, what they are discussing in the EP, what they do and how they represent them.

Can the Europeans trust their MEPs since they do hear from them directly, regularly on their national television in any TV program, news and chat shows? The EP politicians are not as accessible as the national or local politicians. National politicians can be met in our streets, they can accept visits in their offices.

They have traditional relations with the local population, while EP politicians are based and working in Brussels and their voters usually vote for them because of their political party alliance. They come in contact with them only through their electoral campaign, once every five years.

A favorite or popular journalist for example has more chances to be supported and trusted in his work for the national Parliament. Because people can read his views or opinions through his work over the years, they get to know him/her and they inevitably trust him.

They consider him/her as their voice to the Parliament. Contrary to that, when our main political parties chose to nominate someone to represent them in the EP, they usually chose someone not as known or popular. They use the top and well known politicians for their seats in the national Government.

Perhaps it is time the EP politicians or other EU officials to show their work and faces more often to their voters and the public. With interviews on national media, participation in debates in political chat shows, live showing of a plenary session of the EP. Perhaps even touring or visiting institutions in each state.

There are already many links or sites on Facebook or Twitter that you can contact some of them. But how many of you even know who your elected MEP is? I have searched and found some of them and I have to say they are more keen in replying to your queries, than your Government politicians.

I think the EP politicians should become as accessible as the national elected representatives of each country. And for sure we need to send people in the EP that will inspire the public to follow them. Start building the same trusting relationship between the public and the MEPs, that exists (or at least existed before the crisis), between them and their national Government's officials.

If we want a fully functional and democratic EP and EU, we need the support, interest and involvement of the civilians. How can we achieve this when the public have no faces to connect with the laws that come out of the EP?

The new generation is far more knowledgeable and involved, simply because they use the internet more and can access or contact MEPs through that. And that is very heartening. But how about the older generations?

We need changes as soon as possible in Europe, and as long as we leave the over 40's generations still apathetic to the EU politics and institutions, it will take a long time to see real reforms in Europe. It is time for the MEPs to get out of the EP and reach for the voters more often!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Eurobonds..Nein, danke !!

At last, with the crisis in Europe and the Euro-zone reaching a critical turning point, two of Europe's leaders Mr. Sarkozy and Mrs. Merkel decided to do something about it. But why just the two of them took such important decisions and some long delayed ones too?

I do not understand any hesitance on the issue of finding a common solution on our common problems: we have a common market and currency, it is only natural that we need common financial policies to make the Euro-zone work.

Until now, we had 17 members states using the Euro, but 17 different economic policies and economies, that meant that each country could borrow independently from the Markets. That led of course to a fine mess.

After so many talks, there have been calls to bring in the Euro-bonds and bound all Euro-zone member states tighter. But Germany is "kicking" and I do not understand their attitude. You see it is quite simple: you either go all the way with the project that you so much supported, or you keep having booms and busts of the "peripheral" economies and you will have to keep bailing them out.

They just want their cake and eat it. They want the independence to manage their own affairs, the first say in the Euro-zone and other countries to follow their lead. It does not work like that in the hearts and minds of the voters of the other states though.

Since you have created the common currency and you insist on keeping it to the expense of the ordinary citizens, then you need to cope on and do what must be done: bring on the Euro-bonds, proceed to a fully integrated European economy and yes take a cut in your AAA rating. The "peripheral" economies' ratings were reduced to junk status for the survival of the euro, it is the least you can do from your part.

And speaking about "peripheral" economies, doesn't this sound a bit like those states and their citizens are just of a second class? In fact they are becoming more and more like the outer unimportant regions of a rich core of European countries. And they expect the EU to succeed and progress?

Why do you want to keep bailing out Greece instead of allowing to prosper, progress and become as wealthy as Germany? Yes the rich nations will lose some of their wealth but the whole Continent will gain in stability.

The Europe I am dreaming of has equal opportunities for prosperity, stability, employment and progress from Iceland to Ukraine, Portugal to Cyprus and Norway to Malta. All states will be equal and will have opportunities to develop and exploit their natural resources for the betterment of their people first, but for the whole Continent in extend. Both eastern and western states, or southern and northern. We had enough divisions in Europe!

Mr Sarkozy and Mrs Merkel, by rejecting the Euro-bonds and not taking this much needed step to solve once and for all the problems within the Euro-zone, they have just acted irresponsibly and prolonged the suffering of the ordinary people of Europe. Both of the troubled economies like Greece and Ireland, but of course their own citizens as well.

Because while the Greeks are suffering vicious austerity cuts for a loan that they should not have been forced to take in the first place, the Germans are also seeing their taxes being given away for the greed and incompetence of their politicians.

Instead of investing in European countries, creating jobs and allowing those nations in need to become more industrialized like their richer counterparts, they think it is better to put them literally on social welfare. Because that is what they are doing.

Greece and Ireland will be always receiving help from the richer states unless we create a stable and sustainable European economy. Begin with the creation of the Euro-bonds and perhaps even European rating agencies. It is time for us to take control of our economies and work together in solving the faults, or just abandon the whole project of the Euro.

Yes to the euro, but only if our leaders commit fully to it and stop brushing the rubbish under the carpet. Allow a European economy to exist. We are half way there, so what is the problem?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A common immigration policy for Europe?

I have a Tunisian friend here in Ireland and we were talking about our experiences of living in a foreign country. We both are foreigners but the difference is I am an EU citizen. I was stunned when I discovered that even though he is legal in the country, has his own shop and business and has a visa for Ireland, he can not travel freely to other EU countries. 

Each EU state has its own immigration laws and deals with third countries, and while he wanted to visit Cyprus or Greece, he changed his mind when he learned that he needed to go through the process of applying and paying for a visa. He instead went to Turkey that has an agreement with Tunisia on traveling and immigration.

While I understand that such laws are put to place to control and perhaps monitor the movement of non EU nationals withing the union, I feel that in some cases they are wrong. This man has set up a business. It is unlikely that he will decide to move around with no reason in Europe, and end up in a country that has already too many immigrants (aka France). 

I understand that some countries do not want to take on their solders the mistakes or irresponsible immigration policies of another EU state. But if you think about it, that underlines once more the disunity of EU states and who is really losing from this mess? I this case was definitely Greece and Cyprus that have lost out in tourism. 

Wouldn't be better to have a harmonized EU immigration policies, that will allow people like this Tunisian man, that are legal in one country and have businesses, to travel freely within EU? Wouldn't be better to have common immigration laws, that will allow all EU nations to take, share and cooperate in finding the required workforce needed, from the specific countries, or skills and educational background that they think is best to attract their workforce from?

Another example of bad immigration management and disunity among EU states is the situation that I witness in many EU states; the "ghettoization" of their immigrant communities. In some areas, let's say of Dublin, we see a high proportion of unemployed immigrants, that either their are not allowed to work because of their status in the country, or they had worked when the country was booming, but now are unemployed. An unemployed immigrant is harder to employ when things turn bad. 

There are regions of Dublin, for example Blanchardstown  and Tallaght, that are packed with immigrants claiming social welfare. Though some may be entitled to it as they have worked in the past, the image that many locals see is that they are paying for those people to live in their country. The thing is, that when the economy was doing great, nobody really minded or perhaps cared. Now that things are bad, it is more often to see the public opinion asking for solutions.

But why have immigrants in a ghetto in Dublin, or any other European city? Why not encourage them to move freely in other EU countries, instead of their partners importing new immigrants from Africa, Asia or Latin America; we could use or share those who are already in Europe, not import new ones in other countries and expanding the problem there too. 

In other words, create a common European employment market. If one country does not need a certain number of immigrants of some specific skill anymore, allow or encourage them to relocate elsewhere in Europe until they find somewhere or something suitable for them. The experience that they will take from one country to the other, will stay in Europe through them, and there will be no need to keep importing people from outside Europe, unless we need them!

The European Blue Card program that was initiated and perhaps an EU workforce embassy in every region of the World, trying to find the suitable workforce for each country would offer control and overseeing on who is entering Europe and for how long. No illegal immigrants would be accepted, and FRONTEX would work on that. But instead of that what do we get?

 Many fragmented European immigration policies, that former colonial powers (Britain, France, Holland etc) want to maintain in order to use immigration as a tool for influence over their former colonies. Therefore, we can not have a united response on immigration especially when each country does not trust the others, that they will implement the laws that will be voted for.

So in that way, we are condemning ourselves in having immigrants that we do not longer need or can integrate and absorb into our societies. Ghettos and further alienation is taking place then in many of our cities, resulting in riots in Paris (and recently London?). 

Instead of having an always mobile workforce of both EU and non EU nationals that will cover our employment vacancies all over Europe, wherever and for how long they are needed, we prefer to keep paying for benefits to people that would perhaps love to work and contribute. But because of the prejudices and narrow mindedness of our political elites, they are trapped in our societies and we are trapped with them.

When someone has nothing to offer to a country's economy anymore, or his/her skills are no longer needed, why keep paying him/her with benefits for years damaging the country's economy? If another EU state needs their skills that they have accumulated over the years, why not encourage them to move there and keep contributing and supporting their families back home, instead of threaten them with deportation. 

And to avoid deportation they are becoming desperate to get the citizenship of a state that has no real plans for them anymore! Keep creating second class citizens; a tactic that not only is meaningless, but dangerous too!

Monday, August 8, 2011

A European Hollywood?

As a film fan I can't help noticing one thing: the lack of European productions that hit our screens. The lack of funds that we dedicate towards making big block buster movies and of course promoting them in Europe and beyond. Our cinemas are flooded by mainly American productions.

Few European directors, actors, music composers or other artists can make a successful career outside their country though Europe is the largest market in the world! In a way, we are culturally assimilated by the Americans, because our leaders are using their model to manage and rule our countries and create a society after their model ; with their values and all their faults.

European movie makers are restricted to small national audiences, with result in being unable having big budgets to produce something bigger. The EU is subsidizing everything else, apart investing in promoting our culture and way of thinking. Even with this situation, European cinematography has produced some real gems over the years.

Imagine if there was a  group of movie makers funded by an EU ody, that produced European movies. A body that would finance movies in all European countries, from different directors and producers. Filmed in many different European regions, any language the producers wanted, depending the country they were coming from, or they chose. 

Circuit those movies in the European market, make profit and reinvest the money in making more European movies, matching our mentality and promoting our culture to the immigrants living here.

Actors and other artists from all over Europe would be able to find work in their own countries or any other European country they could. That would lead to having native stars and multilingual artists, resulting in a real cultural renaissance of Europe.

A Greek, Finnish or a Hungarian actor for example would be able to play in any film of any country, in any language they could speak, making them and their work famous all over the continent. A great way to create a dialogue and support multiculturalism in our continent.

We would be able to promote to other continents our values, way of thinking, culture and with our own distinct version of the Western civilization. Thus seeing a surge of new talent and many opportunities for young actors or other artists in Europe. They would not need to leave for America anymore to have a successful career.

Other regions of the World produce their own movies. India has Bollywood, China has their own movie industry, but Europe is still massively relying on America! Very few European movies make it internationally and our own actors find it harder to have a successful career, unlike their American or other English speaking colleagues.

Time for a European Hollywood then, but where will it based? Well we could base it in one of the many European cities that have already an established film festival. The Cannes for example being the most famous, but perhaps in Berlin, Dublin,Thessaloniki or Venice that also host film festivals. Can this be decided without Europeans arguing over who will take the lead again?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Populism in Europe. Always a setback to progress?

There has been a rather disappointing event recently, as Holland blocks Romania's and Bulgaria's Schengen Area entry. They are not ready apparently and there are concerns form the Dutch side, that they will be unable to implement the agreement.

They think that these two countries will be unable to control their borders, so that the rest of Europe will have to suffer with uncontrolled immigration and high criminal rates.

The issue of course is only technical, because the Romanian and Bulgarian citizens can already travel throughout Europe like the rest of us. Also, some of the Baltic states have disputable borders with Russia and it is well known that their borders "leak.," but they were allowed to join the Agreement area.

Wouldn't be better instead of demonizing and stereotyping those two countries, to take a united European approach to deal with the problem of illegal immigration? Bulgaria and Romania are the poorest member states and they have huge problems with corruption. But they are not the only EU states who have to battle with this issue. 

The problem lies with our Governments' reluctance in taking a united front and showing some solidarity with the least fortunate EU member states, because that would mean that they would have to give up some of their national interests. The easiest option to calm the concerns of the nation's voters down, is to smear and portray a country as unable to implement EU laws.

Instead of course to tackle the problem of illegal immigration in Europe united, providing funds, knowledge, staff and equipment to their partners and the outer borders of Europe. The Dutch never had to guard the outer borders of EU and they were not threatened by another nation, illegal immigrants, smugglers or other criminals. Some other countries are less fortunate and they need our help.

The real issue for such decision, is that the citizens of Holland and many other countries of Europe are turning against the multicultural mantra that we were brought up with, they are becoming more xenophobic and take even EU's expansion with discomfort. Nationalism has never really left Europe and it won't in the near future, as long as the European Project fails to deliver real and permanent solutions to the citizens' problems.

Of course Holland is not the only one to blame, as Denmark, France and many other countries agree with the Dutch in suspending the Schengen Agreement. Why do we keep this divisive culture of the rich core and the peripheral countries in Europe and poison the minds of our citizens with populism?

As if the real problem for the Dutch will be the Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants and not their Governments failure to establish a clear immigration policy, that will be in coordination with the rest of Europe's. It is that fear culture of when a new state joins the EU, that makes people believe that most of its citizens will pour into the richer ones, "taking their jobs."

The European project is not about allowing the workers of the poorer states to travel freely in Europe, filling job positions that the natives do not want to do anymore. It is also about lifting these states from poverty and political instability and that can only be beneficial for the citizens of the richer states, as it will limit the immigration flow from these countries in the future.

During this process of course there will be an immigration flow from the new EU states, to the old ones. It won't necessarily be permanent one and definitely not a negative development. These people bring new skills in the country and boost its economy by working hard. And if the European project succeeds in creating similar living standards and equal opportunities for all citizens across Europe, then the flow won't always be from the new states to the old, but vice versa as well.
The case of the City of London is another example. They seem to want to be totally independent from not just EU, but from the rest of the British citizens and reality as well. They hate so much any EU regulation that they will prefer to be under a total control of the Markets and the global Corporations, than give their citizens a better deal and a stronger voice and influence in EU and Europe.

 It is no wonder that London has also lower tax rates that the rest of Europe and the UK itself, in order to allow all foreign corporations to be established there. The British Government, media and the elites that dominate them, are brainwashing of the population with arguments that are partly or not at all true, in order to keep the anti-EU sentiment among them and avoid all EU regulations.

In fact, some of these regulations are beneficial for the ordinary workers of the country, like the 50 hour work week debate for example. The British media who are owned by people like Murdoch are playing an important part in this and we have seen the results, but also their true face and practices. 

And so the British public remains always strongly opposed to any EU regulation, or the idea of a united Europe. In that way, they become an obstacle for any real progress and development in the continent and Britain as well. 

Sadly the European citizens fall victims of the populist propaganda by many conservative groups and political parties, that oppose any development, change or reforms. Because it harms the established status quo that they thrived on. Or they simply want to grasp their chance to promote themselves into the political prominence in their country, by exploiting the confusion or hardships that any economic crisis or political and social change bring to all citizens, across the EU.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Norway's tragedy, Are Europe's values and views on multiculturalism the real victims?

The recent tragedy in Norway, brought upon the Norwegian people by Anders Behring Breivik, sent shock waves across Europe and the World. The media portray him as a Christian fundamental right winger, that sees himself as a hero and a fighter for Norway and Western Europe. To free them from the curse of multiculturalism and the expansion of Islam. The reality might be exactly that or something so much different. 

Is he just a crazy man like Hitler, or does he belong to a more well thought and organized group of people? Is Islam and multiculturalism his real enemies, or is he just a disturbed and lonely attention seeking personality? Do people like him pose a threat to us? Will we see more of people like him copying his actions and how can we prevent another disaster like that? Is multiculturalism working and are we really as open or tolerant as we think we are?

 Perhaps our ruling elites wants us to believe that all is working fine in our societies, but perhaps we leave out a few voices that are never being heard. These few or great numbers of people that do have other views or opinions that can not address them as in a real democracy they would, find way in dangerous circles of fundamentalists, not much different than the Islamic ones. And the result is the tragedy in Norway. Are they really as open society as they thought or wanted to portray their country to be?

We must notice that groups and people like him flourish lately in Europe because of irresponsible immigration policies of our Governments for decades. How about the True Finns party in Finland? In many other European countries we see a turn towards right wing and conservative parties or groups, simply because they are having enough of everything. 

We have the same "right" mix of elements like we had back in the '30s-'40s; immigration issues, economic crisis, unemployment. All we need is another "gifted" right winger to offer solutions. And people will follow him simply because they need and are desperate for solutions. If that can happen in a country like Norway, imagine what can happen in other less tolerant countries.

In Europe we are in a way being forced to accept everyone else, but have you ever seen an anti-racism rally that would actually target the immigrant communities themselves? Have you ever seen an Indian being happy for his daughter to marry an African? A Nigerian Muslim woman has more chances to marry a European Christian man than a Pakistani Muslim one. 

Yet the issue of racism is only focused on the relations between the native population versus the immigrant, usually the non Christian or white. Are we preconditioning ourselves for any feelings like Breivik's? Does racism has to be dealt only on a "white on black" or "Christian on Muslim" aspect? And because anyone who will even think to address issues like immigration and integration or multiculturalism is being snubbed ,then people like Breivik take the "initiative!"

I always dreamed my country to be more "colorful", but when I saw how this is being done in other countries then I had second thoughts to be honest. Still my nightmare became reality and Athens has ghettos, like Paris, London and Brussels. I can never understand why we must create ghettos and second class citizens that inevitably will turn against the state or will rely on social welfare because of discrimination. 

They will feel alienated, they will be unemployed, they will rely of benefits, they will contribute nothing to the state, they will be abused and exploited; why? Wouldn't be better to have functional  immigration laws that will allow people entering our countries, but also prevent the alienation and encourage integration of all communities?

Some countries can absorb more immigrants because of their industries and economies; some are not. We can not all be modeled after the UK or France, since we do not all have similar economies. Yet if you are not a multicultural country those days in Europe, you are treated as if you are being banal. Multiculturalism means a progressive and developed nation. 

Then why Cameron, Merkel and Sarkozy declared that multiculturalism has failed? We need to get over our complexes on immigration, race and racism, religion and multiculturalism, and have a open debate on what kind of society we want. I for one want a multicultural Greece and Europe for example, but not the mess of Brussels or Paris or other big cities of Europe. 

Policies that work and encourage the communities to come together, are fair to all, and reflect the wishes of the nation. Some states will be able to absorb more immigrants because of economic and cultural reasons, some less. Nothing wrong with that.

The problem is not only against Muslims. From what I know with most Europeans that we talked about issues like that, the majority of them had similar thoughts. An Irish colleague of mine years ago, opened up and expressed his worries about immigration in his country. "No offense" he said, " I am not against immigration, but equally so I do not want us (the Irish) to lose our national identity." 

No malice in his words, no racism as he commented in immigration in general not only against Muslims blacks or Asians. He only expressed his genuine worries, he did not spoke against any specific group. People from many other nationalities spoke in similar manner. 
I do not think that Europeans are more racists than Africans or Asians themselves. It is just that we do not dare to discuss openly about some issues, simply because of our shameful past. Some groups count on that to push for policies that will allow this immigration mess with many loopholes, so they can import and exploit people in our lands. 

Why Japan does not import so many people, even though it is expected together with Russia, Germany and Italy to have the greatest population decline in the near future? Here is the ageing population myth being debunked. Because if Europe did need to import people because of it, then Japan should try to import as many immigrants as well. They do not!

Greece for example, handles its immigration policies badly like most European states. While multiculturalism is good and it has its benefits, our Governments treat it the wrong way. Greece especially needs it a bit, to open up the minds of its population and break the gridlock that the country is in , under the Greek Orthodox Church and corrupt political elites. 

If you have only one ethnic group, one religion and one culture it is easy to manipulate the people using ethnic greatness bubble gums and populism. A diverse community supposedly has dialogue and new ideas are flowing around. The problem is that this is not happening. We lock the immigrants in a ghetto, they feel alienated and instead of caring for their host country they turn against it. Or perhaps we allow too many , more than a country can take or integrate, so that some firms can have cheap labor and people to exploit.

An illegal immigrant or an immigrant who can hardly get a decent job legally, will get any job under any conditions, something that a native would not do. And that is the point. Our ruling elites do not want multiculturalism to enhance our communities, rather to have always people to exploit; modern day slavery in a way. 

So multiculturalism like anything else potentially good, fails in Europe; but we still refuse to talk about it. In result we have a rise in far right groups and people fall for them because they feel alienated in their own country, and are hoping for a change.

We need to find a solution, that will respect those immigrants who were born here and perhaps curve the flow for a while until we work things out. Otherwise many more incidents like that of Norway will happen, once we alienate not only the immigrant populations, but the natives too in their own countries. The man who did that in Norway possibly had a lot of anger in him. 

Perhaps from his family background or other reasons. He obviously had chats with like minded people on the internet. It is a case of when the cult becomes reality for some. Imagine if others in other countries get inspired and act like him in Stockholm, Brussels, Paris, London...

That does not mean that the idea of multiculturalism is wrong. We simply messed it up big time and we need to rethink what we are doing. Having Christian fundamentalists in Europe? That's all we needed, as if we did not have enough of it in the past. Breivik's view on democracy, bombing his government's buildings because he did not agree with its policies, then killing youths on a gathering of the ruling socialist party,is absurd. And this coming from Norway? They are supposed to be a model society up there.

Migrants and EU citizens largely agree; language, employment, respect for the local culture and a clear legal status are the most important factors influencing integration, according an EU Commission research. I will add, dialogue. We should get rid off the taboos and hang ups, and let's have an open communication. I particularly like the clear legal status argument.

 Illegal immigration is offering nothing to nobody apart the human traffickers and the ones who employ illegal immigrants to exploit them. The ruling elite must listen to the worries and opinions of the citizens. The European project can not work without their support. 

Remember you can make someone give his/her consent about something or gain their support, only if you hear what they have to say and find a common ground. If you keep ignoring them, the issues won't go away; they will just be masked and come up to haunt you at some stage with a big bang! (aka Norway).