Sunday, November 25, 2012

A philosophical essay on the question of governance in Europe.

In the recent years across Europe and the world, we observe major political, ideological changes and developments. Many nations go through an economic crisis while others through a total change of regime.

During this time it is natural for people to question their governments, demand for change and envision a new political establishment for their country. They feel betrayed and let down and there are numerous debates on how to best move forward and out of the crisis.

In these debates people naturally focus on the weaknesses of the political system of their country and on ways to better it or even at some cases, reform it entirely.

The question is, how is best to reform an old and outdated political system, which is the best form of governance and what is the importance of having a government in achieving a civilized society? Is the existence of a state even necessary for our societies?

Humans are known to be social creatures and since the antiquity the communities they have formed were ever changing. And with every change the political or religious leaders, the scholars and thinkers of each era, have long debated about which is the best form of governance and state.

Humans developed from being hunter-gatherers into farmers and that made them form permanent settlements. These settlements later developed into cities, kingdoms or states. But could a large number of humans live peacefully side by side, if they haven’t placed a common set of rules, an agreement between them for a harmonious co-existence?

In ancient Greece we observe the first attempt to analyze the best political system for a fully functioning human society. The philosophers of that age, notably Plato and Aristotle, were among the first and most important to this day to attempt exploring how we can create a just and acceptable political system.

In Plato’s work The Republic, we read the story of Gyges, a shepherd in the ancient kingdom of Lydia. After an earthquake he discovered a magic ring that made whoever wore it and twisted it from one side to the other, invisible! He soon used his newly acquitted power to get the queen’s favor and overthrow the king, claiming his kingdom.

The issues raised from this story are obvious: would anyone do the “right thing” if he had superhuman powers? Are we prone to do just or unjust things? Can there be a just society and can we deal with any injustice and inequality, since there is the urge in every single of us to do injustice, if we could get away with it?
And as Plato explains, even if there were two rings and one was taken by a man who would do justice and the other one by a man who would do injustice, we would end up having the same issue. And that to him is a proof that any man is just not willingly or because he thinks it is the right thing to do, rather because he is afraid of becoming the victim of injustice too.

So that conclusion shows our behavior in a society and how can we create a just society. When everybody has the tendency of doing unjust things, we need perhaps to promote a mentality among the population that would prevent them from doing them. Promote laws, moral rules and role models that advocate justice as something that we all benefit from and we should strive to achieve.

If we all behave in an unjust way, then simply there would be no society to live in and with no society we would have no civilization. To develop any form of civilization, we need a group of people living and working together to create a successful, prosperous establishment that will allow them to develop their creativity and skills.

And how can so many people live so close together, if they have strong tendencies to harm each other. Our societies in a way are a contract among us and acceptance of unwritten and written laws; a truce that benefits us all!

So it is obvious that we need laws to create a successful and functioning society. But do we need an establishment; do we need a state to constantly overseer our behavior and tell us what to do? Why can’t us people decide and agree on these laws, compose them and then have only a policing body to make sure everybody abides by these laws?

Is it perhaps that we need to be ruled, we need somebody to lead us, make some certain decisions for us and take the responsibility for our destiny? If every state is being governed by a few “rulers,” while others just spend their whole lives as “auxiliaries” or “workers,” as Plato has described in his work “The Republic” the ideal consistence of a society, then that means that the fate of this society is in the hands of these few.

But Aristotle stated that “Man is by nature a political animal,” because what each one of us wants is a happy life. What will give us this he thinks, is the fullest development and exercise of our capacities that us compatible with living in a society. Unbridled self-indulgence and self-assertion will bring us into perpetual conflict with other people. (1) Thus no society and no happy life for anyone.

The above conclusion should be enough to make us obey the rules of the society we live in, as it would be for our own benefit, without necessarily the existence of and state authority. It would also mean that people would participate in the “commons” and help form the laws of the society they are living in, as it would be for their own interests to have a say in the laws that they will have to abide. If all humans are “political animals,” surely they can participate and practice politics.

So if people are able to put aside their selfish nature and compromise in a life in a community, but also participate in the formation of the rules, then democracy should be an adequate system to keep a society together.

But Plato’s ideas come against of what we perceive today of “democracy.” For him democracy means the rule of the “demos”. But in classical Greek demos can be understood both as the people or the “mob.” So, on the later understanding then democracy is a mob rule. His basic argument to support his idea is described as “craft analogy.” (2)

And it is very simple. If you were ill and wanted advice on your health, you should go to an expert.-the doctor. You should consult someone who had been specially trained to do the job. The last thing you would do is assemble a crowd and ask them to vote on the correct remedy. (3)

For Plato the best political system would be a monarchy, but to be a just system and not end up in becoming a tyranny, “the kings should be philosophers or the philosophers should become kings.” Philosophical training is a necessary qualification to rule. (3) In today’s capitalist world though, with a far more globalized and free market based economies, how many monarchs do we have with philosophical training?

The city states of ancient Greece were abolished by the Alexander the Great and his empire and then they were incorporated into the Roman Empire. The teachings of Plato and Aristotle could not fulfill the needs of this new reality and so many Roman philosophers had to update them to match their modern reality; in an empire, people from many different ethnic backgrounds, of different languages, culture and way of thinking had to be governed.

Similar changes continued to be happening when another large scale change took place in Europe, the rise of Christianity. Safeguarding Christian values or doctrine, while promoting a functioning political system was something that the Christian political philosophers like Thomas Aquinas had to deal with.

Since then Europe will see so many wars, uprisings and change of regimes and all that just to find this special “formula” of the most appropriate form of governance. Or perhaps to satisfy the megalomania, blind ideology or interests of those who were appointed with the task to lead?

How can we provide the citizens with a just system that protects them from any injustice caused by the ruling elite or other citizens? Some will claim that a form of communism or the other extreme, anarchy would be the solution.

But we witnessed that even in communism certain people are more “equal” than others and the personal happiness that Aristotle was talking about is not allowed to exist. As for anarchy, who is going to safeguard the interests of the people and in what way? Can we trust the mob for a fair and just judgement? So that answers the question of self policing; who will overseer if fair punishment is applied by an angry mob?

According to the Stoic movement of antiquity and especially Marcus Tullius Cicero, the Roman philosopher that followed the Platonic ideas, there are three pure types of states: monarchy, aristocracy and democracy. These rules are characterized by the love of subjects and reason, wisdom or freedom respectively. (4) But if monarchy can turn to tyranny, aristocracy to oligarchy and democracy to a rule of the mob, then how is best to protect our political system from failing?

One of Cicero’s characters in his “The Commonwealth” work was called Scipio. He states that although a monarchy is the best of the pure forms of government, he prefers one that mixes all three of the forms. (5)

And that is because inevitably all three governments eventually tend to degenerate into corrupt forms according to Scipio.

So by adopting a mixed government we could perhaps prevent this corruption. And of course by having a mixed state we could achieve a balance between the values of a monarchy and those of an aristocracy. Democracy for him was also unattainable as humans are not all equal.

Then if the best solution for a fair state would be a mixed government with the best values of monarchy and aristocracy combined with freedom, what impact would such a hybrid political system would have in our modern societies? How could the ordinary citizens be able to control or resist the institutionalized inequality that would favor the rich elites?

In fact if we examine the problems most countries are facing at the moment, this fact is exactly the root of their difficulties. There is no functioning democracy and in most cases it has been transformed into an aristocracy, with the business, economic, political and social rich elites in every country influencing the state’s policies for their own benefit.

Our societies are democracies only but in name, with very few exceptions. After centuries of debating, envisioning the best political system that would help us create a long lasting civilization, we have reached the point that the former remedies do not work anymore.

Today’s societies are ruled by economics, not enlightened visionary kings. The solution would be a new kind of political system, inspired by Stoicism but taking it to a new dimension. Starting from Europe, I believe that the future belongs to a federal multinational government. Have a new type of hybrid political system that establishes multiple levels of governance both on national and international level.

Europe and in extension the world, should be governed in local, national and European (or international) level. With two parliaments, one national and one European, together with the local authorities, cooperating, opposing, controlling each other and designing a more stable, equal Europe. We should form a democratic political system that does not rely solely on nations or classes.

So we can avoid populism and the dominance of a single political elite in each country. In that way, the qualities of the ancient Stoic philosophy will be best served; promoting cosmopolitanism with commitment to human equality and membership to a community that is transcending any political boundaries and borders.


1). Aristotle. The History of Philosophy. Bryan Magee. Dorling Kindersley Limited. 1998. Page 38.

2).Who should rule? An introduction to Political Philosophy. Jonathan Wolff. OpusGeneral Editors. 1996. Page 73.

3). Who should rule? An introduction to Political Philosophy. Jonathan Wolff. OpusGeneral Editors. 1996. Page 74.

4). Cicero, “On the Commonwealth.” 131, 140.

5). Cicero, “On the Commonwealth.” 140, 190.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A very short comment on the Gaza tragedy.

The Western media are rushing to make money by covering the situation in the Middle East and the escalating crisis in Gaza. "What should Europe do to help," many ask. "We must help those poor kinds in Palestine and bring peace in the region! Europe must get involved!" 

All so very humanist considerations of course. We should do something yes, but think of this: could Europe stand against Israel and do something about their aggression towards the Palestinians?

We are always supporting or tolerating their actions, perhaps because of a sense of eternal guilt and shame of how we treated the Israelis in the past. Of course the Palestinians themselves are not entirely clear of all blame. But unlike Israel, they are already being punished by being cut off from the rest of the world.

If Europe should get involved it should do so by imposing sanctions against Israel this time. But can we do that without angering the Americans and have them stopping all investments in Europe? In other words Europe can not get involved, apart from making statements and plenty of statements it gives.

The Israelis with the tolerance of the international community, have created a vast concentration camp in Gaza, a huge ghetto. And if the Palestinians react they call them terrorists and bomb them even more. I wonder if the ancestors of the modern Israelis would approve what their descendants are doing to other human beings. 

Wouldn't it be better to compromise, stop building new settlements and give the Palestinians more freedoms? The more they force them into poverty and deprivation, the more they radicalize them. Just because Israel has the full support of powerful "protectors" in USA and Europe, it does not mean that they can do whatever they want.

One side of the problem is the constant expansion of the Israeli settlements. This results to the Palestinians being "boxed" in a tiny strip, with almost no diplomatic or trade relations with any country of the world. Since the situation remains as such, the Palestinians become radicalized and support terrorist groups like Hamas and this goes nowhere.

More than 100 dead Palestinians, with around 10 dead Israelis this time only. Is that necessary? Why don't both sides make serious efforts for a peace deal? The Israelis consider the lands as theirs, but they forget that the Palestinians also have the same claims and they are right. They lived in the region for centuries. Equally the Palestinians have a sworn war waged against the very existence of an Israeli state in the region.  

So there is the question of if either side desires a peace deal at all. But once the Palestinians taste how being free and have rights is, it is doubtful that they will focus on making bombs for Israeli settlements anymore. Capitalism will do the rest and affect the Palestinian youths like it did in all other countries.

They will just want to buy this new i-phone that is being advertised, or education and similar lifestyle with that of Europe. That of course provided that the Arabs accept the fact that Israel as a state is there to stay. Its population knows no other country and after so many decades they have also the right to stay there.

If I am wrong and the Palestinians continue to behave as they do now and be hostile to Israel, then it will be them that will be on the wrong. The global community will turn against them and of course take action, while the Israelis then will be once again "the victims" and have full right to do what must be done then. And no one will blame them this time.

Both sides are partially wrong and so both must face the music for breaking human rights. Until now only Palestine suffers consequences. Perhaps it is time to put some pressure on Israel too, to save human lives from both sides. Europe does not help solving the issue by siding with one side because of guilt.

To a Palestinian the end of WW2 and the resolution of the Israeli state "problem," started their own misery and long fight for their land and human rights. The West solved the problem of an Israeli state, but created another one. It is no wonder then that the Palestinians feel hard done by the international community.

There is no doubt that their organizations are terrorist and must be dealt with, but not in the way that Israel is doing so. A good example is the UK. They have had attacks from the IRA, a terrorist organization that bombed and terrorized them for decades. But we did not witnessed the British cutting off Ireland from any international organization, or imposing a blockade.

Ireland was left to prosper and tensions were defused bit by bit. Britain got its way, Ireland got something too. There may be some dissidents but overall peace has been established. That is how you win both your way, stand your ground and solve a dispute.

Israel will be wise to follow Britain's example and end the blockade, while stopping all plans for future settlement expansion. The Palestinians and their Arab allies should stop the hostilities towards Israel and accept the Israelis as part of their region.

In the end of the day, they can both share the land in a federal Israeli-Palestinian state, if they manage to end their blind nationalism and religious fundamentalism. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Οι εμπειρίες μου ώς ένας νεαρός Έλληνας μετανάστης στην Ευρώπη.

Εδώ και 8 χρόνια, ζώ μόνιμα στο Δουβλίνο της Ιρλανδίας. Η απόφαση μου να φύγω απο την χώρα που γεννήθηκα αποδείχτηκε να είναι η σοφότερη απόφαση της ζωής  μου. Όχι οτι δεν υπάρχουν δυσκολίες και όλα είναι ρόδινα. 

Αλλά η μετανάστευση μου έδωσε προβάδισμα και πλεονεκτήματα έναντι άλλων ανθρώπων που δεν έχουν ζήσει σε άλλη χώρα εκτός της μητρικής τους, ή έχουν ταξιδέψει σε άλλες χώρες.

Όταν πρωτοήρθα στο Δουβλίνο,  δεν ήξερα κανέναν εδώ. Έτσι άρχισα να κάνω παρέα με ανθρώπους από πολλές άλλες εθνικότητες. Έμαθα καινούρια ήθη και έθιμα, κυρίως του ντόπιου πλυθησμού. Έμαθα να σκέφτομαι με άλλη νοοτροπία, να βλέπω τα πράγματα από άλλη σκοπιά. 

Και σε πολλές περιπτώσεις είδα που μπορούσα να βελτιώσω η να αλλάξω το τρόπο σκέψης μου, πώς να μάθω να σκέφτομαι όπως οι Ιρλανδοί και οι άλλοι λαοί που ήρθα σε επαφή. Στην αρχή δεν αντιλαμβανόμουν τις αλλαγές που γινόταν στις αντίληψεις μου.  Ήταν δύσκολο να εδραιώσω φιλίες, να βρώ εργασία που να με ικανοποιεί και να μην πέφτω θύμα εκμετάλευσης. 

Αλλά όλα αυτά τα μαθήματα ήταν πολύτιμα μαθήματα ζωής, που με ανάγκασαν να χρησιμοποιήσω το κεφάλι μου για να επιβιώσω. Αφού έμαθα την νοοτροπία των ντόπιων, άρχισα να καταλαβαίνω που κάνουμε λάθος ώς Έλληνες σε εργασιακά, πολιτικά, κοινωνικά, πολιτισμικά και άλλα θέματα. Και πού φυσικά έχουμε πρωταιρήματα. 

Με τα χρόνια άρχισα να χάνω την στενή και περιορισμένη αντίληψη που έχουν οι περισσότεροι Έλληνες αλλά και οι ντόπιοι Ιρλανδοί. Σαν κάποιος να μου έδωσε έναν μαγικό καθρέπτη που κάθε φορά που κάνεις κάποια λανθασμένη κίνηση και απορείς τί κάνεις λάθος, να σου το φανερώνει. 

Η νοοτροπία μου άλλαξε, τα πιστεύω μου άλλαξαν. Τότε άρχισε μια άλλη μάχη: να διαπιστώσω πού ανήκω πλέον. Όταν είμαι στην Ιρλανδία και μιλάω με τους Ιρλανδούς φίλους, υπάρχουν φορές που αναπόφευκτα τους κριτικάρω σε όλα αυτα που κάνουν λάθος και τους δίνω μια διαφορετική λύση στο πρόβλημά τους. 

Πολλές φορές το αντιλαμβάνονται  λάθος και νομίζουν ότι είμαι σνόμπ. Και ναι, υπάρχει ζήλεια και ξενοφοβία ανάμεσα και στους Ιρλανδούς, ειδικά σε ότι είναι και ξένο αλλά και διαφορετικό και καλύτερο.

Το ίδιο συμβαίνει και με πολούς Έλληνες όταν επισκεύτομαι την Ελλάδα. Κάποιες φορές οι  συγκενείς και φίλοι δεν αντιλαμβάνονται κάποια επιχειρήματα που χρησιμοποιώ σε συζητήσεις μας, αν και δείχνουν σίγουρα ενδιαφέρον. 

Πολλοί παραδειγματίζονται, άλλοι έρχονται σε άβολη θέση. Κάποιοι με θαυμάζουν, άλλοι με φθονούν. Απλά γιατί σκέφτομαι πράγματα που αυτοί με την περιορισμένη «εθνική» τους αντίληψη, δεν μπορούν. 

Η διαφορά μας είναι ότι εγώ πλέον είμαι και αισθάνομαι κοσμοπολίτης. Δεν αισθάνομαι Έλληνας μόνο, αλλά και Ευρωπαίος και πολίτης του κόσμου. Κάποια χαρακτηριστικά του «τυπικού»  Έλληνα τα έχω αφήσει πίσω μου. Και κάποια άλλα από αυτά τα χαρακτηριστικά τα χρησιμοποιώ συχνά για να αποκτήσω πρωταίρημα έναντι των Ιρλανδών και άλλων συναδέλφων άλλων εθνικοτήτων. 

Για μένα το να είσαι Έλληνας δεν είναι πλέον να είσαι κολλημένος στην «παράδοση,» αλλά να χρησιμοποιείς κάποιες παραδόσεις στο να εμπλουτίσεις την ζωή σου. Την φιλοξενεία, το φαγητό, το φιλότιμο, την εργατικότητα και την «ανοιχτή καρδιά» του Έλληνα τα κουβαλάω πάντα μαζί μου και τα χρησιμοποιώ τακτικά για να κερδίσω ανθρώπους και επιχειρήματα. 

Αλλά την στενομυαλιά, τον φόβο για κάθε ξένο και διαφορετικό ή προοδευτικό, την τυφλή αποδοχή της ιδεολογίας των γονέων μας, την αποπνικτική πολλές φορές σχέση μεταξύ γονέα-παιδιού ή μεταξύ δύο εραστών, όλα αυτα τα έχω αφήσει πίσω. Και η σχέση μου με την θρησκεία και την «Ορθοδοξία» έχει φυσικα αναπόφευκτα αλλάξει. 

Υπάρχει Ελληνο-ορθόδοξη εκκλησία στο Δουβλίνο, και έχουμε και Ορθόδοξο ιερέα που είναι Ιρλανδος στην καταγωγή. Άλλαξε θρησκεία κατά την παραμονή του στην Κύπρο, και ενώ υπηρετούσε στον Ιρλανδικό στρατό και τα Ηνωμένα Έθνη μετά την εισβολή των Τούρκων στη Μεγαλόνησο. 

Έτσι μπορώ να διατηρώ κάποια από τα αγαπημένα μου έθιμα όπως αυτά του Πάσχα, αλλά χωρίς να είμαι αδιάλλακτος σε θέματα δόγματος. 

Τα Χριστούγεννα για παραδείγματος χάρη, τα γιορτάζω με τρόπο «Ιρλανδικό» ή «Ευρωπαικό.» Πηγαίνω σε Καθολική ή Προτεσταντική εκκλησία με φίλους. Δεν χρειάζομαι να ακολουθώ απαραίτητα τα Ελληνικά έθιμα, παρά μόνο αυτά που μου αρέσουν. Όπως παραδείγματος χάρη την κοπή της Βασιλόπιτας (όπου η μητέρα μου στέλνει ανελιπώς κάθε χρόνο ταχυδρομικώς)! 

Έχω γενικά αποδεχτεί πολλά έθιμα απο την Ιρλανδία και εθνικές εορτές. Όπως την ημέρα του Αγίου Πατρικίου και το περίφημο «Χαλοουίν.» Ενώ έχω εγκαταλήψει τελείως κάποιες άλλες Ελληνικές εορτές όπως ο Δεκαπενταύγουστος.

 Εθνικά και θρησκευτικά έθιμα είναι απλά ένα παράδειγμα για τον νέο τρόπο σκέψης και κουλτούρας που έχω αποκτήσει. Ένα υβρίδιο πολιτισμικό, που πολλές φορές μου φέρνει πλεονεκτήματα, ενώ άλλες απλά κάνει την ζωή μου πιο πολύχρωμη, ενδιαφέρουσα και διαφορετική. 

Αισθάνομαι απίστευτα τυχερός που είμαι ικανός να έχω αυτή την εμπειρία. Γιατί παρά τα προβλήματα, τον ρατσισμό μερικές φορες και όλες τις δυσκολίες, δεν θα επιθυμούσα ποτε να γυρίσω πίσω σε αυτο που ήμουνα. Τώρα βλέπω τα πράγματα διαφορετικά και εάν ποτέ γυρίσω στην Ελλάδα, δεν θα επιτρέψω στον εαυτό μου να χάσει όλα αυτά που κέρδισα από την διαμονή μου στην Ιρλανδία.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Abortion Laws in Europe

For the past few weeks, another great debate has griped Ireland; the issue of abortion. The debate is not new in Ireland and in fact it has intensified for the past few years. Both camps, the "pro-choice" that supports the practice to be legalized in Ireland and the "pro-life" camp that is strongly opposing it, are fully engaging in it.

Ireland is one of the few countries in Europe that abortion is still illegal. Only Poland and Malta have similar laws. In fact pro-life campaigners mainly from Poland, are trying to gather 1 million signatures and make a petition to the European Parliament to ban abortion all over EU.

The people who are against the legalization of abortion in Ireland, do so because they want to protect the unborn children's rights and keep their country a "safe country for children to be born." The people who campaign for the legalization, want to promote women's rights.

A recent event gave the debate a whole new dimension. A clinic in Northern Ireland decided to allow abortions, making it the very first one to do so in the island of Ireland. The clinic of Marie Stopes Northern Ireland in Belfast decided to be the first sexual and reproductive health center to offer abortion services. Anyone over the age of 16 can access the center, including people from the Republic and services are available by appointment only.

Marie Stopes International, which is a not-for-profit organization, is the UK’s leading provider of sexual and reproductive healthcare services. The main legislative restriction is the Offenses Against the Person Act of 1861. Since 1967, the Abortion Act has governed abortion in England, Scotland and Wales but Northern Ireland was excluded, and the 1861 Act still applies there.

In 2009 the Department of Health published a document which, for the first time, provided guidance to health professionals in Northern Ireland on terminating pregnancy.

Last year there were about 1000 women from Norther Ireland and more than 4000 women from the Republic of Ireland traveling to England to end a pregnancy. Now with this new clinic in Belfast, that most likely will change. And of course it reignites the issue of abortion in the Republic. Can Ireland hold on to its conservative attitude towards abortions, since so many Irish women already practice it outside its borders?

Shouldn't we have a common European policy on this issue? With open borders and freedom to move around, what is the point of banning one thing in one state but allowing it in the bordering one? People will just move across the border and get it over there. Besides banning a practice that has been practiced illegally for decades before its legalization in other countries, only leads it to being practiced "underground," with huge cost to women's health. Remember the Vera Drake film?

Perhaps it is a matter of ethics and culture. I wonder why we always have to take it to the extremes. Either a total ban or total uncontrolled freedom! Why can't a woman be able to abort a fetus that she conceived after rape. Why can't a woman  abort a fetus if after medical tests the doctors prove that the newborn baby won't be healthy, mentally or physically. Why must we punish a young girl to become a young inexperienced mother, because she made one mistake in her youth years to have unprotected sex.

But on the other hand, how do we prevent women from having too many abortions? It is not good for their own bodies and it is not ethical to actually kill so many fetuses. I personally say yes to abortions and to the right of women to regulate their own bodies. But equally I want to stop them taking for granted such freedom and use it to satisfy their vanity, or serve their immature lifestyle. Abortion should be the last resort and contraception should be promoted from young age. That is why I find necessary the establishment of sexual education in our schools.

If we speak openly about issues like these both at home and in school, then perhaps young girls won't have to seek for an abortion, once they are taught to be responsible with their bodies. But I think it is cruel to condemn them in a young motherhood, if they make one mistake. Everyone should deserve a second chance.

Recently there was also a case in Poland, another conservative country, of a young girl that won her case against the Polish state. The girl was a victim of rape and she fought for her right to have an abortion in her country. Only to be met with a staunch resistance by the state, but also be harassed and humiliated by anti-abortion campaign groups.

Eventually she won her case and had the abortion, but also the European Court of Justice in Strasbourg awarded her and her mother with a generous lump-sum for damages and the costs of the trial. The Strasbourg court has already twice condemned Poland for failing to ensure the law on this subject.

The Polish girl's case was very similar to a case taken by three Irish women two years ago in which the court also ruled in their favor. So perhaps we do need a pan-European agreement on this issue and countries like Poland and Ireland must comply with the rest of the European states. But also offer an alternative tool to prevent too many abortions taking place and satisfy the more conservatives or skeptics. Sex education I think would be the first line of defense. 

Pro-life campaigning groups are putting pressure on the Irish Government to change its legislation and legalize abortions where necessary at least. Especially when the life of a woman is in danger or the pregnancy is a result of rape. The group Choice Ireland is notably one of them. They use the X-case that rocked Ireland back in the early '90s and then in the early '00s, as a solid argument for their cause.

A teenage girl that was raped and became pregnant, was refused the right by the Irish state to go to England and terminate her pregnancy. Because of that the girl considered suicide to end her misery. The Irish public was appalled by the way this young girl was treated and that sparked demonstrations from both camps on the abortion issue. Since then, the two camps are on the streets demonstrating occasionally. It lead to a referendum that resulted in the freedom to travel outside the State for an abortion to be passed. The freedom to obtain or make available information on abortion services was also passed.

The right to abortion though is still a thorny issue in Ireland. Hopefully both the Irish state and their European counterparts can come into a mutual agreement and respect women's rights as part of their general human rights. I would like to see more involvement by the EU in this issue, even though both in Poland and Ireland, this will be seen as "meddling" in internal state affairs.

Both Irish and Polish women are European citizens and should enjoy the same rights as any other woman in Europe. But in this case, the national politicians seem to be failing women, just to satisfy old, outdated, conservative, Catholic and male dominated doctrines. Isn't it time to move on from them, in the Europe of 2012?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The EU and Europe that I want.

It is noticeable that this blog is so called "pro-EU" or "pro-European." Does this mean that I personally support everything that comes from the current effort for European integration? Definitely not. 


I do not believe that the current EU represents the interests of the ordinary people. That is obvious. But we have to remember that the "European project" started as a trade organization and it remained so until the '90s. Is the best choice we have to scrap or oppose the EU? 


I think not. Even when we accept the fact that the EU is good for business and businessmen, there have been many beneficial projects initiated by the EU over the years. The Erasmus program is only one of them. 


The option we have in my opinion is to get involved and be vigilant. Use our vote wisely. Right now Europe is in its majority conservative. Most European governments are center-right or right-wing. And in result, the European Parliament is also dominated by the Right. The EPP is the most popular and powerful political party in it, taking almost 2/3 of the seats.


So is it any wonder that Europe is dominated by conservative, austerity and anti-social security policies? But who gave those certain parties power and placed them in power? We did, we voted for them. So how can we change this situation? Simply by voting for the right parties, that will respect and represent our interests. 


If we start voting for socialist or left wing parties, then the EU and Europe will be more socialist and protective of the worker's rights. In that way, perhaps we will achieve a more equal European society on a national or even pan-European level. 


To me, all European states should become EU member states and sit around the European Parliament's seats. From Iceland to Ukraine and Malta to Norway. Independently if the country is poor or rich, EU membership should not be about wealth and status only. But sharing common interests, working and cooperating to create a stable, prosperous European community for all Europeans.


We should end the monopolies of the rich elites, of the rich countries in Europe an the World! Turn the EU from a lobby to a political union and forum for the citizens, not the representatives of the rich elites. Make the EU more democratic, proceed with redistribution of wealth in Europe. Not just a few countries should gather all industrial and economic power and activity in our continent. 


But if you want a stable Europe invest in all countries, promote growth and jobs not austerity, create new industries, jobs and education to give our youth jobs. But do not give all these new industries to the hands of the few rich elites of the rich nations again. Let each nation or region create these new industries with the support of a newly set pan-European growth stimulus fund. 


Each country should exploit its own natural resources for the benefit of its own people first, then share them with the inhabitants of the whole continent of Europe. Make it fair, make it right. Stability and wealth for all Europe, means growth and competitiveness for all the continent against other, newly emerging regions of the world. We do not want any more bail outs, thus more debt being thrown on our countries. We want jobs! And a more socialist Europe. 


But how can we achieve that while having to deal with multinational companies and the ever lasting search for investment? They are not loyal to any nation, they are constantly seeking for more profit and new investments in order to achieve that. Today they are investing in your country, but when their interests shift they leave and they may never come back. 


So as soon as they invest in your country and you get money out of them, or create new jobs and better the living standards of your citizens, don't rely on them; invest this money to create jobs of your own  in your country, or educate your youth. Invest in education and innovation. So when they decide to leave and move on, you at least have used the opportunity wisely. 


Most of our leaders of course do not do that. The bow to their demands and waste the money in perpetuating their power, in numerous scandals. And in the end we end up with these multinationals owning our nations. By using lobbing they make sure that the policies that our governments pursue are always in their favor. 


We should also manage the banks, create a pan-European Banking Union. Perhaps even nationalize a number of them, merge them, limit their power. The Banks should be there to assist people and states in their development and of course make profit in the process. But not to stand in their way by becoming ruling dominating powers themselves. We have our governments to do that!


As for the Markets? Well we could start by establishing European rating agencies. Right now we only have American agencies, promoting their own interests and monopolizing the Markets. We need more diversity and competition in this sphere too, European and other rating agencies to break the monopoly of the USA. Under what criteria those American based rating companies are rating different countries?


To conclude, I definitely do not support THIS EU that we have at the moment. But instead of scraping it, I see the potential that we can achieve, if we all get a bit more serious and responsible in our involvement. If we make it a union of nations, not of businesses. If we keep in check our politicians and leading elites. If the EU becomes what it was really meant to be and was envisioned by its founding fathers. We need an EU for an equal, prosperous Europe. 


But not just in economics and finances: in art, culture, education, innovation, employment and human rights too. We do not need a trade only forum for businessmen that we have no voice in it, we need a strong European Parliament with all the powers that a parliament needs to have to be effective. That will make Europe federal, of some sort. We should not be afraid of that. If I had to scrap an EU body, that would definitely not be the EP, rather the EU Council. To end the "intergovernmental-ism" that plagues the EU.


Right now I do not blame any "euro-sceptic" person, as long as the criticism is constructive and not rooted in nationalism and narrow-mindedness. We need this constructive criticism, to evaluate where we are going with this project and have a variety of opinions. Though I am a staunch pro-European, I can see that the EU is in danger of following the wrong path. But negative thinking and mistrust is as destructive as blinded rose-tinted EU cheering.