Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Socialism in Europe under extinction?

 "Since the recent elections in Spain toppled Prime Minister Zapatero, only 4 out of 27 heads of government in Europe belong to the center-left. The Socialists also fared badly in the 2009 European elections, which saw the center-right European People’s Party dominating." That is what we read in the Debating Europe website recently. (http://www.debatingeurope.eu/2011/11/28/is-european-social-democracy-in-crisis/#comment-5747)

Indeed, in my opinion Socialism in Europe is critically endangered; like the Amur Leopards, very few remain in the wild. Haven’t you noticed that most of Europe is “blue” currently, in other words they have right/center-right wing Governments? And the few that do have left/leftist Governments, follow right wing policies. No wonder the people are angry and vote for right wing parties. Because if they can’t find social justice and security from the left wing parties then what is the point?

Not to mention that far right wing parties  and nationalism are on the rise in Europe. Because of irresponsible economic, social and immigration policies, the people want to return to what they knew best; a nation state!

If Europeans vote for right wing Governments then perhaps they are worthy of their fate, but then again what alternatives do they have since the Left is also promoting and supporting Capitalism? Most of the times they vote for right wing parties, is to get rid of the corrupt previous left wing Governments. Can we put the blame on the European voters?

In Greece previously they voted for the center-right party New Democracy, to get rid off the "socialist" party  PASOK, because of the constant scandals of corruption. When the New Democracy got elected, little has changed. The Greek public were witnessing more and more scandals so they voted back PASOK again with its new leader Mr. George Papandreou.

Only then to see austerity and a deep crisis hitting their country. Every worker's right they fought for during the past decades was scrapped, salaries slashed. Now they are having a Technocratic Government but we know for sure, that PASOK won't be in power anytime soon. In fact the media are already tipping New Democracy's new leader Mr. Antonis Samaras to be the next Prime Minister, after the emergency Government.

In Ireland after almost 15 years in power, the Fianna Fail center-left party loses the elections to the right-wing Fine Gael party. Again because of the scandals, the economic bubble burst and the destruction of the "Celtic Tiger" economic miracle, that infuriated the Irish electorate and thought it was time for them to go.

In my opinion they did the right thing. When a Government stays for too long in power, corruption settles certainly in. So we see again that the people voted for a center-right wing party to punish the existing Government in protest. The same we saw the same in Spain.

Without knowing it and out of desperation , anger, disappointment and a hope for a real change, Europeans willingly give power to conservative  parties. But this comes with the permission to the Right to chop their salaries, scrap their worker’s rights and establish a more American style Capitalism. And why the "socialist" Governments compromised and followed those policies already, do they answer to us or the Markets?

Has the Right infiltrated the Left and make it collapse from within, or could there be a plan to destroy Europe's Left and its traditionally strong leftist policies, by exposing it to the public's mistrust and anger? Perhaps there is too much corruption and nepotism in Europe that even the Socialists developed a "taste" for such Capitalism that is against the workers. Do we have a choice for Socialism at all anymore, or it is a thing of the past?

Where does this leave the ordinary folk and the workers of Europe, shall we accept our fate and allow our leaders to drive us to a Continent that has less Social policies? Some say that we can not afford a Social Europe anymore. Perhaps because we run out of regions of the World to exploit.

Were our social policies based on the poverty of other nations, or is it just the greed of our rich elites that always want more? There is a redesigning of our social structures as we speak, that is for sure. But are we going backwards when social issues and rights are concerned, are we losing the battles we won and what will be the new reality for the European working class in the future? Perhaps what is happening in Greece right now, is an omen of what it is to come for the whole Continent. Where Europe's powerful Right is leading us?

The EPP (European People's Party, Europe's center- Right) is the largest party in the European Parliament and they are in power in most European countries, notably Germany (the powerhouse of the euro-zone) with the Christian Democratic Union (C.D.U.). If they lead most of Europe, they have a majority in the E.P. and they keep winning the public's hearts and votes with the disastrous policies that the Left is following, what hope do we have for a Social Europe?

Obviously our leaders are following the American model, they are bowing to the pressure from the Markets and multinational companies to get rid of our social policies, in return of investments and loans. Do we want jobs but no worker's and social rights, or we keep our rights and we have no jobs and why can't we have both?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Eurasian Union dreams Putin. And the Turks design their own too!

Turkey’s President Mr. Abdullah Gul, put forward his vision for a democratic Middle East with its own E.U.-style structure and functions. He never of course commented on what will happen with Turkey's E.U. membership bid that has been pending for decades.

Is Turkey fed up of waiting and decided to set up its own club, or does President Gul see a place for his country as a “bridge” between the two regions? Perhaps this is another bluff to send a message to Europe. Are the Turks turning to the East to establish their influence and what will all this mean for us?

Either way, it’s not the only time that recently we’ve heard of plans for new organizations, modeled after the E.U. Last month the Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, announced that he wanted to see a Eurasian Union set up by 2015 incorporating Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, with its headquarters in Moscow.

Some in Europe and E.U. fear such moves and are suspicious of them. Perhaps they always see as threat whatever comes from Russia and the East and if they can not be part of it, they are becoming skeptical. Perhaps they do not want to let go Turkey out of their sphere of influence and are afraid of Turkey or Russia becoming too big and powerful.

I do not see why Europe should be afraid when other regions are forming blocks. There are blocks of nations all over the World: ASEAN, AU, MERCOSUR, NAFTA, you name it. So what if the Russians and the Turks want to create their blocks. Mr. Sarkozy created the Mediterranean Union. If any leader can satisfy his ego and leave a legacy by creating a new "Union" of nations, so be it!

What does the Mediterranean Union has achieved so far anyway? Do we ever read about what it does, how it works and what are its functions? While the E.U. is often scrutinized and blamed for being undemocratic, no one cares about what does Mr. Sarkozy's brainchild focus on and how it influences us. So will those two new "Unions" be just another club of nations cooperating, or can they ever challenge E.U./Europe's hegemony?

On the other hand, such initiative by the Turks will perhaps be the solution to the Turkish E.U. membership saga. If we do not want them in, then set them free and be honest with them. Are we afraid that two new strong blocks in our neighborhood will mean more competition? Perhaps that will give us a kick up the back side to get a grip, solve our differences and proceed with necessary reforms.

We should also re-approach Russia, our relationship with this country and not fear them.Our attachment to the hip with America is not good for us. We should have good relations both with America and Russia. Be an equal partner to them, not their sidekick and little toss-ball. We should pursue more independent foreign policies from USA, reestablishing our relationship with the Americans but also Russia, Turkey, China, Brazil and India.

All European nations should join the EU, that means both Ukraine and hopefully even Belarus. Russia and the EU should renegotiate immigration, freedom of movement, free trade and other bilateral agreements, while the Russians should expand their influence in central Asia. In that way, though Russia will never be an E.U. member state, it will contribute in the increasing European influence in the central Asian region. With Turkey we could do the same for the Middle Eastern Region and the Southern Caucasus.

If we keep good  relations with those two nations, re-approach them and set up new, crystal clear bonds of alliance, friendship and cooperation, I believe that it can be a win win situation for all. If we do not want Turkey in E.U. we should form a different close kind of relationship with them. Allow them to expand their influence in the Middle East, and through them we could increase our own influence without us having always to intervene.

What we should give Turkey and Russia back of course is another matter. I guess that is a topic for a good debate. If the Norwegians enjoy all E.U. citizens' rights without being a member, then perhaps that is a suggestion.

Of course we will have to guard our interests and make sure that those two new "Unions" if they ever materialize, do not pose a threat to us. It is down to us to get a grip and start thinking as a unit, supporting each other, backing up each others' interests and protect each others' borders. If we are truly united then no one could challenge Europe.

We do have so much going on for us and we should be engaging in a positive and open manner with our neighbors, not be skeptical or suspicious of them. There is no need to impose our will and interests on our neighboring nations or blocks. We can achieve so much more if we have them as allies.

Will they of course want to cooperate with us? Well Europe is Russia's most important customer when it comes to gas and oil. And if we were not too pro-American perhaps the Russians would behave differently towards us. Their interest in the rest of the continent was always there.

Some E.U. countries of Eastern Europe that were under the Soviet thumb might think differently. But things have changed now. Europe if becomes truly united, it has no need to fear Russia anymore. Turkey has long standing trade and historical ties with Europe as well, why do we always have to push them away?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Technocratic Governments in Europe?

Italy and Greece have new Governments. Their previous democratically elected Prime Ministers were replaced by technocrats; economists and bankers to be more precise.

One of course would think how "democratically" elected was Mr. Berlusconi, a man that seemed to be more like an oligarch. He run the country as he pleased, he was a part time politician as he admitted himself while focusing on his romances and bunga-bunga parties. He manipulated the public opinion since he owned most of the country's media!

He is replaced by Mr. Mario Monti, a pro-European Economist much hailed in E.U. and Europe. Mr. Papandreou, after a disastrous handling of the crisis in Greece, was replaced by Mr. Lucas Papademos a former Vice-President of the European Central Bank. He has the approval of many E.U. Officials and other European leaders and politicians.

What I find amazingly peculiar is the fact that now we have unelected Prime Ministers, not politicians but technocrats, replacing the leaders that the people chose to lead them. What does this say about Democracy in Europe? The Governments that the people vote in their Parliaments can not deliver in securing the country's interests while solving and addressing all the issues that the public is facing. Perhaps then we are in a much deeper crisis and not just a financial one, but political, social and moral as well.

Do we need the Technocrats to come and save us or do we need a reality check on how Democracy is being implemented, if we have a real Democracy at all in our Continent? Our national politicians have all let us down and the promotion of unelected Technocrats in the driving seat of our countries, is seen as the solution to our political system's shortfalls. I do not doubt that they are going to do a good job, but who do they represent?

Will they represent the people, the citizens of Italy and Greece and their interests and what are their agendas, influences and motivations? We do not know much about them, in which circles they belong or why they were chosen to lead their countries. They both seem to be well known in the European power brokers' circles and it makes sense to pick them to solve a pan European problem. But why our national Governments were unable all those years to deal with those issues and make the necessary reforms gradually in order to better their countries.

Perhaps our democratic system is corrupt beyond repair, or so dysfunctional that in order to heal it, we need not so democratic solutions. What does the future hold for Europe and its states? Will one by one be forced to replace their democratically elected Governments with Technocratic ones and who will control those new Governments? Perhaps we are experiencing a political experiment in Europe. If it succeeds in Greece and Italy, more countries will follow until these new type of Governments will be the reality. Are Technocrats better than politicians? How can we control or have a say on what the Technocratic Government will be doing, since we won't be voting for it and they won't be answerable to us anymore. 

It is no lie that we needed change, we needed a political reboot in our Continent. But I was hoping it would take place in a democratic way, it would be approved and supported by the citizens. We had a political elite established in most of our countries since WW2 and they got used in being in power so much, that staying there was more important than working for the betterment of Europe.

Will this new style of Government work? Only time will tell. But to me this is a very sad development. We have a new type of Government to save us from the evils of Democracy! It is scary if you think about it. I was hoping for a democratic solution, I was hoping to see the European Parliament empowered and in constant cooperation with the national Parliaments working for shaping a new Europe.

In the Arab countries they are fighting for more Democracy, transparency and freedom. In Europe we are giving away our Democracy, transparency and social justice. We are trying to assist the Arab countries in their battles to achieve Democracy. Who is going to help us then in our battles for transparency and social equality?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Liar, Liar!

French President Nicolas Sarkozy was caught calling Israel's Prime Minister Mr Netanyahu "a liar!" During the recent G-20 Summit in Cannes France Mr. Sarkozy, while on a private conversation with U.S. President Mr Obama and unaware that the microphones were switched on said: "I cannot bear Netanyahu, he's a liar."

Enabling reporters in a separate location to listen in to a simultaneous translation, the plot thickened when Mr. Obama reportedly replied: "You're fed up with him, but I have to deal with him even more often than you," according to the French interpreter.

To me this is hilarious and fascinating for many reasons. First we get a glimpse on how our politicians work or think of each other. Not much differently than classroom schoolchildren. With their strops, fake friendships, alliances, back stabbing comments. Then we get a glimpse on America's relationship with Israel, only now we also see that this does not always mean a perfect relationship.

America is supporting Israel no matter what, to support and protect its interests. What we did not know is that each US President, does not always "feel the love" for each Israeli Prime Minister. And perhaps that Israeli Governments and their policies do become a bit of a pain sometimes for the US and the West.

We can only imagine what goes around a diplomatic table, when our leaders meet in those "summits" or state visits. It can't be much different from when we, ordinary citizens meet with our colleagues at work, with everything that goes in those meetings. Wasn't the former Czech Prime Minister Mr. Topolanek, that was photographed naked around one of Italy's former Prime Minister Mr. Berlusconi pools? Politics, power, money and fornication go hand to hand it seems.

Has America's and Europe's unconditional "love" for Israel, made them the spoiled child of the West? Perhaps even if our leaders are tired of their politicians' antics, the Israeli elite are abusing their position of power. Did you notice how the USA reacted when Palestine joined UNESCO recently? They just withdrew their funding from the agency.  Either you do as we think it's best, or we are withdrawing the only powerful and most successful weapon we've got; our money.

Lately, Israelis got so overconfident that they suggested an attack on Iran to stop their nuclear ambitions. As if things were not fragile enough in the Middle East and our economies in a top shape. Yet they still want to drag us into another conflict with the Arab countries, as if we were not hugely involved in their affairs already.

But if Netanyahu is a liar, what does this say about his country, Israel's policies, interests, our leaders who support Israel, USA and Europe's choices and alliances? If our leaders are "forced" to work with a liar, cooperate with him and support the regime in his country, I do not see much justification in their claims about the region.

So, there we have it. One politician who is confirmed as a liar by his own colleagues. I wonder are there any honest ones in Europe or the World. How many things we do not know about, but we have to pay for and suffer the consequences I wonder. Due to out "lying" politicians, we can rest assured that our World won't change for the better anytime soon.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The kiss of Death for the Euro, or a bluff?

After months of announcing to the Greek public new cuts, austerity measures and the worsening state of Greece's economy, here comes a bomb from the country's Prime Minister. Mr. Papandreou decided to give the Greeks a referendum on the EU/IMF bail out plan.

One would think that such actions would take place right in the beginning of the bail out negotiations, not now.

Mr. Papandreou lied to the Greek public many times before, like when he reassured them that Greece has money and no bail out would be needed. He also promised them no more austerity cuts after the first ones were announced.

Then after trying so hard to stamp out any protest or opposition, he announces out of the blue a referendum. Of course after a mounting pressure by his European counterparts, he then withdraws the referendum option while fighting for his job.

Was his action a gaff, a bluff or a well calculated act? Some claim that it was a mistake to plan a referendum. But suddenly, the focus of the crisis in Greece went from the austerity cuts, the suffering and fight for survival of the Greek public, to if Greece will stay in the eurozone or even EU itself.

His actions certainly act as a blackmail to the Greeks, by giving them two options. Either you accept the austerity measures, or you are out! Of course we knew that he won't go ahead with it, simply because we knew that the outcome would be a secure NO.

The Greek public for the record never questioned their country's EU membership. They just can't take any more cuts. But by voting NO they would unwillingly put in question the country's future in the euro-zone and EU. So either you say yes and "democratically" accept the cuts, or you are out of the club.

Others claimed that he tried to show himself seemingly caring for his people and give them a "democratic" choice. So where was democracy in the beginning of the crisis, when salaries were slashed up to 40% and taxes rose to 23%?

Why didn't he practice "democracy" then, instead of using lying, bullying and propaganda in order to make the Greek Parliamentarians to vote for the austerity measures? And not just once, but for two bail out packages, the second just to repay the first one.

Another opinion says that in this way he just tried to blackmail Greece's European partners, threaten them so they can ease on their demands of Greece. He knew that if the Greeks were given a referendum, they would vote NO and that certainly would mean the end of the country's euro membership. And if Greece leaves the euro, it is most likely that the rest of the "peripheral" euro-zone members will follow suit. 

In that way the euro currency's own future is put in doubt, if the Greeks decide to leave. By casting a doubt over Greece's euro membership, he actually tried to threaten his European counterparts and make them back off their irrational demands. If that is the case, then it certainly indicates the real state of the European "Union," where the rich and powerful members are definitely bully the weaker ones.

What is going on in Greece right now is a pretty frightening scenario. It is no different from Britain during the early '80s and the "Thatcherite" policies. We hear on the media on a daily basis, about new cuts and austerity measures, plans to reform the country, different scenarios of potential disaster.

Jobs to be cut, sell out of all national companies and resources. Merging of hospitals, universities,ministries and local authorities, in an effort to  weaken any social services and coherence. Imagine the stress that the Greek public are going through. Which of the global media ever focused on this aspect of the crisis?

Greece is forced to sell out its national assets to its lenders. It is doubtful that the austerity measures are to shape up the Greek economy, rather to satisfy the global markets and economists and end the so called "European protectionism." By that of course they mean the European and Greek social model, that is loathed by many global financiers.

Greece's social policies were outdated of course and needed to be reformed, but not by impoverishing the people. All it needed was a determined and skillful leader, that Greece lacked for sure. Now the Markets attack the euro and its members, in order to force reforms that will favor the capitalist system and its powerhouse, the Markets themselves.

Recently in Ireland they discovered a “mistake” which revealed that the country has an extra 3.6 billion euro in its accounts. Yet no consideration to redesign the up-coming new austerity plan for 2012.Since the country has an extra 3.6 € billion, why doesn't the Irish Government put it towards the debt and lift some weight of the backs of the people?

As if austerity must be placed on the shoulders of the citizens at all costs. Money appear and disappear by “mistake” in Ireland and the Prime Minister of Greece lies on the country's finances. So are there any doubts still, that this crisis is designed to transform Europe's social policies, starting from the least progressive members like Greece?

We do not have a democracy in Europe, rather an intergovernmental institution that is elitist and relies on lobbyists and international financial institutions, rather the will or the interests of the citizens. Any actions coming from any Prime Minister in Europe, are not a "mistake." They are a well orchestrated theater that send signals to the real players of the European economy, or to confuse the European public opinion.