Wednesday, March 19, 2014

EU citizenship for sale.
The question of citizenship, nationality and identity is in the news constantly these days, from the recent tensions between Eastern and Western Ukraine to the upcoming referendum on Scottish independence. 

In this regard, one interesting development is the decision of Malta to start selling passports to foreign nationals. 

For the modest sum of 650,000 euros, it is now possible to obtain EU citizenship without ever being required to live in Malta (though applicants are required to invest in Maltese property and buy government bonds).

By flogging passports on the open market, the Maltese government hopes to bring in an extra 30 million euros in the first year alone. Interestingly, Malta is not the first country to grant citizenship to non-EU citizens: Austria, Cyprus, Belgium and Portugal already hand out passports in exchange for investment in the country.  However, Malta is the first country to put a price tag on an EU passport.(Debating Europe).

Interestingly the above "trend" has got even more serious with revelations that Bulgaria is the newest nation to sell passports to non-EU citizens. Non-Europeans can buy Bulgarian and thus European Union citizenship for as little as €180,000 under a scheme operating in Bulgaria, an investigation by The Telegraph has disclosed.(The Telegraph).

These practices by all EU member states concerned,  are outrageous. It seems that after having turned everything in commodities in Europe, the largest market on the planet, we have now just ran out of things to sell. And so we are selling what the whole world wants and is interested to avail from us, the only thing we have left to sell: our citizenship.

It is understandable that we are still facing an economic crisis and we need money to rebuild our economies, or at least keep them afloat. Europe needs investments and especially the smaller, or peripheral states are in dire need.

But there is one thing to try to compete for investments and another to put a price tag on a document that will entitle anyone to be not just citizen of that country, but the whole of Europe. Without of course having set foot on this country's soil, or being able to speak a word of its language, or knowing any basic information about its culture, history and life style.

At least some nations like Austria and Cyprus, only hand out passports to people who invest in their country and buy property. We could call this as "facilitation", in order to do business. But such practices open dangerous loopholes that could attract criminals and other dubious personalities in our continent.

Europe will at best become a place for the rich people of the globe, either their wealth is coming from lawful or not practices. If anyone with enough money to spend can get his hands on a European passport, then he can move and settle anywhere in the continent, no questions asked.

The only way to safeguard who is entering our continent, would be stricter regulations and background checks. Provided of course that the responsible authorities in each state, do their work right and exam the background of the potential "buyer" before granting him citizenship.

If this continues, we will transform Europe to a place where the rich will turn it into their playground, invest and make profit, influence local politics; but with what cost to us, the ordinary citizens? If our continent becomes a place for the elites of this world, how could we influence policies that would be beneficial for us and have our voice heard, among such powerful interests?

These are practical issues of course. The other issue with such practices is more of an ethical one. Using the lure of a EU passport in exchange for money and investments, is a degradation to what most people identify with still in our days: nationality and citizenship. Either they are native nationals or naturalized, people still want somewhere to belong, a root where they can branch out and which identifies them.

According to what most people believe, nationality is something that you can not just buy; you either receive it by birth, or you acquire it by the naturalization process, after you lived for a certain amount of time in a country. You worked, paid taxes and have integrated yourself in the society and so you can be part of it.

Now our governments want to scrap this status, but only for the rich people. The poor immigrants will still have to queue long hours out of the immigration offices, trying to get their hands on a visa, that will allow them to work, pay taxes and contribute in the society for the long term.

How low can us Europeans get? Since there isn’t much more to sell, as our governments are already sold to the banks and markets, they now trade with our nationality. Though I believe in living in a Europe of open borders and a globalized world, my citizenship and especially my nationality is something I am proud of and bring always with me when I talk, travel, work or live anywhere in Europe.

The ultra-liberal voices that just do not get why people identify themselves under a nation flag, are of course delighted if not supportive of such development. For them, belonging to a nation is merely an accident of birth and it should not matter. They desire a border-less, nation-less world, where nationalism is banished.

I am afraid that is a utopia, at least for now. People do not want to forget who they are and where they are coming from. They have a deep instinct of belonging in a group, either it is ethnic, religious, social or political in their hearts. They are deeply interested in their history and past.

Even in America, a great melting pot of cultures, people still identify themselves as Jewish-American, African-American, Greek-American, Irish-American and so on. They are American citizens but they all want to hold on to this special set of values that they have inherited from family ties.

And a passport is not just a travel document, as long it describes citizenship as nationality on it. If we want to offer citizenship with a price, then we have to remove the word nationality from our passports and replace it with the word citizenship, which is a different thing.

As long as governments issue passports to their nationals, then such development undermines the value of nationality and what it means to the majority of people. It is deliberate of course and it aims to destroy any sense of nationalism and ethnic identity, turning us all into "citizens of this world".

While I do not necessarily object to this, it is the way they are trying to achieve this that I find outrageous and morally wrong. For me this is a mistaken way of achieving such thing. You can not abolish the instincts of the people, or their heritage that was in the making for thousands of years.

I believe in a Europe of nations, unlike the ultra-liberals that want a Europe without them, people with no identities and ethnicity. The best way to integrate European nations, is not by destroying or erasing our national heritage and culture, but on the contrary empowering it by constant cultural exchanges.

Share our culture with all other nations, thus eventually creating a single one in which every nation will contribute and identify with. It is culture and common heritage that binds people together, not a common currency or a single market, or the "nationality" that is written on your passport.

People with no history or sense of ethnicity are easier to manipulate and more prone to satisfy the lack of identity with consumerism. To close the gap that the lack of ethnic consciousness leaves, people follow trends that are promoted upon them, like fashion, music and products that are marketed towards them. The irony here is that they do so in order to belong and identify themselves with a wider, global community, by doing or having what everyone else has.

In this way we are creating a new kind of global, capitalist culture and identity and that is what the global capitalist elites are trying to do, by working on destroying nationalism and ethnic identity. First in Europe and then the world. And the fact that our governments condone with such thing for investments and money is shameful.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Gay and Human Rights in a Capitalist society: a necessity for consumerism.

In a previous article I have explained how women are being stereotyped and exploited by our modern capitalist, consumerist society. 

Sadly, as the capitalist system requires an ever expanding market, buying and working power to support it, women are not the only group of people who receive such treatment. 

And this is what I am going to analyze with this article.

Gay people, ethnic minorities and immigrants also play a role in our economic model. And this role is the driving force for the campaign for equal LGBT and human rights in most, but sadly not in all European countries.

We have to admit that the struggle for women’s or gay people's equality is partially driven not just by human rights, but also by the need of our capitalist system for more potential spenders. 

When women were not able to educate themselves or even work in most countries, they had no salary for themselves. And so they could not be counted as consumers or a potential market for products. Even if they did have any property in countries like Ireland, Britain or the USA, they had no right to it after they got married. 

But in a consumerist capitalist society, having half of your population idle with no income for themselves or spending power is illogical. So gradually we have witnessed the liberation of women and the establishment of equal rights for both males and females, something that would be unthinkable before.

And while a great amount of praise could be addressed to our leading elites for apparently allowing the promotion of human rights for women, their actions were assisted by a desire for more profit in the capitalist system. Women might have escaped the clutches of a severe patriarchal and absurd mentality, but that does not mean they are equal yet.

Women are still being subjected to stereotypes, though nowadays these stereotypes are not based on their role as home keepers, mothers, pillars of tradition, home-making and thrift for a successful household. Now they are merely a huge market for products that are necessary to keep our economy going. 

If they did not receive equal rights and payment as men, they would not be able to buy all those things that the media, particularly women's magazines are promoting in their pages. By establishing a very profitable business for them, they are creating a new role model and stereotype for females, that is pushed on them since their adolescence. 

On a similar note recently and increasingly, straight  and gay men also find themselves as subjects to stereotypes and role models. The fit, metro-sexual alpha straight male that is not afraid to spend money on his looks, while also spending hours in the gym to achieve the chiseled abs that the media and men magazines promote, is what most young men now aspire to.

This sad reality is even worse and vile in the case of gay men. After being subjected to centuries of ridicule, discrimination, violence and persecution now they are having the same treatment as women. Stereotypes are promoted on them, the so called "gay culture". Such "culture" may have risen from secret symbols and codes woven into an overall straight context, when homosexuality was banned everywhere. And it  began with wealthy homosexual men using the straight themes of these media to send their own signals. (Wikipedia).

Gay women come last as they find themselves in the worse position. Because they are women and gay, there are not even enough stereotypes made for them, as if they do not exist, while it is suggested that female homosexuality is on the same levels as that of the men. With few exceptions like TV presenter Ellen DeGeneres, they escape the attention of the media as society rarely bothers with them

Nowadays this "gay" culture combined with the commercialization of human social groups, has produced a stereotypical image of gay men and their role in a society. If you have any doubt about it, just close your eyes and think of anything "gay."

In case you thought of Madonna, Lady Ga-Ga, camp hair dressers or stylists that want to make naked women looking good, disco and colorful gay prides, then you probably have been watching too much television and you are brainwashed.

Homosexuality is not a "culture", it seized being one since gay sex has been decriminalized. Well at least it should have. It is not uncommon for older men and women divorcees, to be more open to it and exploring their sexuality more openly after being married all their lives.

The also stereotypical institution of marriage and the notion that it is a privilege only for straight people, is ridiculous as it is infuriating. Especially when we are witnessing a crisis in straight marriages in the developed countries, with a third ending up in divorce while another third being dysfunctional, sexless, loveless living arrangements.

You see once you liberate women from the clutches of the masculine hegemony, there is not always room for women's compliance to all the demands from men. And since many married men and women also engage, or have engaged at some stage in their lives in gay sex, it is clear that human sexuality is not a black and white situation, or a culture. All "shades of grey" are available between the two opposites. 

Instead of trying to promote stereotypes for people, we should allow everyone to have sex, love or marry anyone he or she wants. But then our image obsessed world would make no sense to us, especially to our capitalist elites who need stereotypes in order to file people and treat them accordingly. And so we are happy to label everyone, dictating how we deal with them and what he or she should be for us.

If a gay man still needs to go to a gay bar to socialize and find a person to love,because everywhere else is inappropriate then something is fundamentally wrong in our society. If a straight man can identify his masculinity only when he rejects "gay" attributions, habits and sex, or when he has sex solely with a female partner, then I am sorry but his so called masculinity is based on trivialities.

If a straight woman can be called successful and fulfilled only when she has a husband, a house with a mortgage, career, kids, a car just so to fit it with the general public, then also her happiness and fulfillment is based on pure materialism and outdated values.

Humans are not cattle to mate just for procreation. He are developed, emotional and as we would like to think of ourselves, spiritual beings. So why do we bring ourselves to the same level as animals? Even in nature homosexuality is not uncommon, so our whole social structure is based on the need to populate and colonize other continents during the European expansion, centuries back.

This stereotypical portrayal of ourselves leads to the commercialization of our gender, sexuality and race. And it is very important to the capitalist, consumerist societies that we live in, as we are bombarded with myriads of advertisements that are promoted role models for us to aspire. We are all turned into buyers as well as billboards, for companies to advertise their products with. We unwillingly become trade able commodities, as the population and its buying power or habits, are analyzed, categorized and exploited by the markets.

Either gay, straight, male or female, not only we got to play a certain role in our society according to established stereotypes, but we and our aspirations are also examined in order to create a consumer database. This database then creates certain products for certain groups of people and others for members of different groups. 

Sadly such attitudes also promote the eternal discrimination and injustice upon these groups in our society. If I am expected to act, behave, socialize and love in a certain way, do certain professions or engage in certain hobbies and activities in order to be accepted into the society I was born, then I am still not free and my human rights are merely rights to consume while I am being categorized by my choices.

And it gets worse. People of ethnic background or other races are also being categorized and exploited by such stereotypes. The immigrants usually do the jobs that the native population does not want to do, they work days that the mainly Christian European population would not want to. 

It is mainly the Muslim immigrants that work on Christmas Day for example, a holiday that is revered in many countries like Ireland and it is them that keep the shops open. A day that the market of a country is closed is lost revenue for the capitalists and so they promote multiculturalism in order to create a more vibrant working class.

The more variety in a population, the more things are to sell to them as their preferences differ and can be manipulated or categorized. I am not against multiculturalism, capitalism, gay people, straight women or men, but I wish we had the guts to proceed with true equality and not a skin deep one. 

And I also wish that stereotypes in our societies changed for real, not because they are necessary for capitalism but because it is not in our nature to live with them.

Women as a market from a Capitalist point of view.
We live in a consumerist society, in which our aspirations are defined by a collective set of values. These values are often either expressed or defined by our media, together with the numerous revenue enhancing advertisement campaigns that they run. 

That set of merits is ever changing according to the social, political or economic changes that a country goes through its history. By examining or studying a nation’s history of media, we can create an accurate profile of a society or the values its people adopt and why.

Print publications are the oldest form of mass media, with magazines playing a significant role. Their importance, form, content, narrative and "commerciality" have drastically been altered through the years, reflecting the changes taking place in our world.

As societies evolved, the role of men and women comprising them also did. Women in particular have been the focus of most major reforms. Gaining voting rights, or the right to work and own property, have been the most significant landmarks in the evolution of our modern societies. 

But according to many, that does not mean that women are not being subjected to pressure to conform to a different set of ideals. Their role this time is to be the driving force of the consumerist and capitalist system, by turning them into bigger and better consumers. 

This idea was expressed by an iconic feminist, Gloria Steinem. She is a political activist, author, editor, and all-around advocate for equality. Her ideas on the role of the media, especially those of the women’s magazines, help us understand that the reason women’s magazines look the way they look, is much less about readers than it is about advertisers. (1)

Advertisers simply won’t place advertisements in women’s magazines unless they write about their products. Other magazines may be punished if they write negatively about some product area, but only women’s magazines have to write positively or they don’t get advertisements in the first place. (1)

A lot that women liked very much has gone out of women’s magazines, like fiction and articles that just aren’t about products. Women’s magazine editors have to sneak in a couple pages here and there about something that isn’t a product. They are more like catalogs and should be given away free, according to Steinem. (1)

Fashion in particular has generally been conceived as a form of hegemonic oppression, exerting an obligation to conform that weighs heavily on the female population. Fashion photographs generate enormous dissatisfaction among women, because they create unrealistic expectations that most women are unable to meet. (2)

Feminists argue that media images of women are always directed at men and that women are encouraged to look at themselves and other women, the way men do. This view of hegemonic femininity, as the feminists believe, is incorporating masculine standards for female appearance that emphasize physical attributes and sexuality. (3)

Young girls in particular, often express unhappiness and dissatisfaction that the magazines portray an unrealistic female image, especially in terms of body shape. (4) The magazines’ editors’ claim, is that they cannot control the choices of photographers and art personnel. (5)

These artists allegedly perceive that a certain look will create the best image aesthetically and will be well received by their peers in the art world. So in addition to the advertisers who manufacture and sell beauty products, there are others in the industry that influence the images appearing in the media, especially photographers who want their pictures to be beautiful. (5)

There is also a lack of editorial control based on the direct and indirect influence of advertisers. The editors report that there is a strong connection between the editorial pages of the magazines and the advertisement ones, which are purchased by corporations to sell their products. (6)

Ultimately, advertising is the vehicle through which magazines and other media exist and they could not survive financially without it. So when the magazines are dependent on pleasing the advertisers, they struggle between the organization and the advertisers over how women should be portrayed. (6)

In this way, modern women are bombarded with myriads of advertisements that are promoted as role model for them to aspire. A role model who requires a lot of money to spend on cosmetics, plastic surgery, hair products, clothes and accessories, in order to fit in with the dominant image of a woman in our era. 

And so the struggle for women’s equality is partially driven not just by human rights, but also by the need of our capitalist system for more potential spenders. Ultimately women are perfect for that role, as to maintain the image that the media are promoting requires an ever increasing salary. 

In fact the late modernity unshackles women from the patriarchal past, when they had limited freedoms, rights, money and spending power. In post industrial times the “feminization” of labor, holds young women in high esteem as flexible, presentable and capable worker. Now the new feminine subject is economically independent, liberated from the domestic sphere, realizing the possibility of “having it all”. (7)

This commercialization of our gender, sexuality and race is very important to the capitalist, consumerist societies that we live in. We are all turned into buyers as well as billboards, for companies to advertise their products with. We unwillingly become trade-able commodities, as the population and its buying power or habits, are analyzed, categorized and exploited by the markets.

1)      Gloria Steinem. Women who made History. Miss Omni Media
2)      Gender, Race and Class in Media. Gail Dines, Jean M. Humez. Sage Publications. 2003. Gender and Hegemony in Fashion Magazines. Page 314.
3)      Gender, Race and Class in Media. Gail Dines, Jean M. Humez. Sage Publications. 2003. Gender and Hegemony in Fashion Magazines. Page 315.
4)      The Gendered Society Reader. Michael S. Kimmel and Amy Aronson. Oxford University Press. 2008. Contested Images of Femininity. Page 371.
5)      The Gendered Society Reader. Michael S. Kimmel and Amy Aronson. Oxford University Press. 2008. Contested Images of Femininity. Page 372.
6)      The Gendered Society Reader. Michael S. Kimmel and Amy Aronson. Oxford University Press. 2008. Contested Images of Femininity. Page 373.
7)      Gender Youth and Culture. Global Masculinities and Femininities. Anoop Nayak and Mary Jane Kehily. Palgrave MacMillan Publishing. 2013. Gender relations in Late-Modernity: Young Femininities and the New Girl Order.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The return of the Cold War in Europe!
During the past few days, Europe is in shock and disbelief. The developments in Ukraine and its region of Crimea, would well suit a Hollywood film scenario: but no, what is happening there is happening for real.

The Russian leadership decided to "protect" the Russian speaking population of Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, by sending troops to annex the region.

These excuses that Mr. Putin and his government are presenting us with, are no different than what the Turks were supporting about them invading Cyprus. "We are doing it to protect our nationals from violence, therefore we are entitled to invade another nation and compromise its sovereignty by force".

Firstly we haven't seen any violence yet between the regions of Ukraine or among its ethnic groups. So where does this argument stand? Secondly, even if the crisis in the country escalated indeed, Russia should not have taken the situation in its own hands, without the agreement of any other UN member states.

The outcome of such actions could be similar to those of the Turkish ones in Cyprus, where the situation still hasn't been resolved after so many decades. The only difference here is that in Ukraine's case, because the West has interests in the region, they will make a serious effort to find a solution and compromise.

Even if the situation is as Mr. Putin describes it, that the crisis won't descent into a war between Ukraine and Russia, or that the troops in Crimea are not Russian soldiers but pro-Russian local self-defense forces, (The Guardian) his actions are still unacceptable.

The interests of both the Ukrainian and Russian people, do not lie with the interests of a few Russian oligarchs, but with a closer cooperation and relationship with Europe. What would be best for our continent, is for Europe and Russia to become closer partners even allies, putting the decades of the Cold War well behind them.

The citizens of these two nations would benefit more if they had similar benefits and rights to those of countries like Norway; free movement, better living standards, opportunities to study and and travel visa-free across Europe. What their leadership is doing, is creating a canyon between the EU and Russia with few chances for an ever improving relationship.

The Russian government simply is showing their true colors and nature. They do not have the best interests of their people in mind, rather they are still living in the past, in an era that should be put well behind us. The Cold War mentality should be abandoned by either side.

While Europe has a fair share of blame in the situation, by sticking way too close with the USA over the years and not seeking to solidify better relations with its neighbors and other global powers, Russia is totally wrong here.

Just because its middle aged leadership hasn't abandoned its Cold War mentality that they grew up in, wishing for things to remain as they are,or even worse go back to what they were before, the whole continent of Europe faces the threat of instability and turmoil. Perhaps that is what the Russians are trying to achieve and Ukraine is just the chess mat.

If Ukrainians want closer relations with the EU, they should be allowed to have them. Even if the day comes that the country is accepted in the EU, I do not see why this is such a bad thing for Russia. Millions of Russians will become EU citizens, as thousands are already, through the membership of the Baltic states.

Russia might lose territories to have under their "influence", but they are going to have influence in the EU itself, since millions of EU citizens and thus voters, will be of Russian origin. And what is this issue of splitting Europe in parts and spheres of influence? 

We are one continent and it will be wise to bring all of Europe's nations together, from Iceland and Portugal to Ukraine and even Russia itself. I do not believe that a Russian EU membership would be good for either party, but a closer relation and cooperation between the two would certainly benefit both sides.

The Western nations and Russia must abandon this mentality of carving Europe and the world in parts, according their interests. Last time we did that, the consequences were bad for all of us. Besides, we can not engage in war between us.

Europe is still trying to recover from the economic crisis, a war right now would be disastrous. It took us decades to achieve what we have and a new war could spell the end of our efforts.

Any sanctions we could impose to punish Russia for its actions, as proposed by many European governments, won't wear the Russians much. Sadly they are not Iran, they have vast resources and they can live with them. Besides, we are the ones who rely on their oil and gas.

I am afraid the only solution left to end this tug-of-war between Europe and Russia, is for the Russian population to do what the Ukrainians did and change leadership. Only if their current administration with its outdated mentality and policies is ousted and when Europe forms an independent from the USA foreign policy, we can eventually see stability in our continent. From the West all the way to the East.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

An interview with Gay Mitchell MEP, on past, present and future of the EU.
In a recent interview with Gay Mitchell MEP, we discussed about the impact of the economic crisis in Europe, the Irish EU membership and the future of our continent. 

Mr. Mitchell strongly believes that Ireland became truly sovereign the day it joined the EU. “Everyone should think of what it was like before the country joined the block, when the value Ireland’s currency and interest rates were set by the British Chancellor of the Exchequer,” he says. 

“Our biggest export was people,” he adds.  There are 800 thousand people of Irish descent living in Britain to this day, who left during those years. “We had an economy which actually provided cheap food for Britain,” he describes. 

Mr. Mitchell recalls when he became a member of the Dail (Irish House of Representatives) in 1981; there were very few descent roads in the country, no financial services sector and though Ireland had an agricultural industry, it lacked the food industry that it has now. 

Today Ireland has pharmaceutical and information technology industries which are very big. “We export to the EU more computers for business use than the USA does,” he says. 

Ireland has also a booming tourism industry and the EU enabled the country to diversify its economy. “We have one Commissioner plus one Minister at the table in the EU council, on the same basis as Germany and France,” he explains. 

Of course bigger countries have a bigger vote, but the European way is trying to find consensus and agreement. Still Ireland has a disproportionate vote regarding its size.

The Secretary General of the EU Commission is Irish (Mrs. Catherine Day), plus the one before her, as well as the Chief operating officer of the EU Foreign affairs (Mr. David O’Sullivan). Ireland has recently had the rotating presidency of the EU Council for 6 months. “When did we ever have that influence in any international organization,” Mr. Mitchell asks. 

He believes that EU membership has changed Irish society. But additionally it preserved its cultural elements. When Ireland joined the EU, people supported the view that their language is part of who they are and wanted to keep it. 

So the Irish language became one of the EU official languages, while all-Irish speaking schools were established in Dublin. “Europe gave us that” Mr Mitchell explains, when a lot of his generation have lost their Irish because of the way it was taught in schools.

“In my heart I do not believe that Ireland has seen its best days yet. The Celtic tiger years were phenomenal for our country, but our best days are ahead of us,” he states. 

Ireland has been in the EU since 1973, yet it is still not a net contributory to the budget and it won’t become for a number of years. The country receives a lot of money out of the Common Agricultural Policy. 

Each time the Irish ministers boast that they fought a great fight in Europe, to get this money for Ireland. When things go wrong they claim that they have to implement laws because “Brussels” requires it. 

The EU takes decisions through the Council of ministers, the European Parliament and under the proposals of the Commission, in all of which all EU member states are represented. 

When there are talks about the economic crisis people hear the words Troika, the EU, European Central Bank (ECB), and the EU Commission. But they do not hear how the ECB and the European Commission provided a lot of the support which member states got. 

“We got to stop doing that to ourselves and start explaining to people what the EU is about. It is not about us getting money and transfers. I look forward to the day when Ireland is actually a net contributor, because that will be our membership fee for a very good facility,” Mr Mitchell explains. 

“I spend a lot of time visiting schools, speaking with trade union groups, NGOs and business people, explaining to them how the EU works and what it does,” he adds.

In the economic area Europe has to solve the problem of Eurobonds. “And I think that euro-bonds will come about. If we are going to have a single banking supervisory mechanism which we will have, it is sensible to have EU bonds that we can all avail of,” he also says. 

The Germans will write the cheque and give the guarantees for this, so the rest of us we’ll have to get our house in order to qualify. It is important to make it possible for the Germans to sign the guarantee. It will save a lot of money and make a big difference. 

“I also think that any ESM funding directly from banks, has to be retrospect. It is only fair to do so, plus our macroeconomic discipline is measured on our debt being a percentage of our GDP. It is done in the same basis across the whole of the EU. If on the Greek or the Irish balance sheets for example, are things that are not on other balance sheets then that is an unfair comparison. That needs to be resolved,” he explains. 

But that is not the only problems that the EU faces at the moment. Under the crisis there has been a rise of nationalism and far-right political parties. One of the oldest members which always had a difficult relationship with the EU, Britain, is holding a referendum on its membership by the end of 2017.

“I understand Mr Cameron’s dilemma but in Britain it is difficult to debate the EU, just like it is difficult to debate neutrality in Ireland. I hope we never find out through some very bad circumstances, that we really haven’t spent the money that we should on our own defense forces to protect us,” Mr Mitchell says.

Likewise, Britain in the EU is in a very precarious situation. Mr Cameron has said that he favors Britain remaining in the single market, even if the people voted to leave the EU. The rules governing the single market will be decided by a Commission, a Council and a Parliament, in which Britain will have no input but whose rules it would be required to follow. That does not make any sense. 

Britain should be leading Europe. They have the political and the diplomatic skills to do it. And more Europe would actually suit them better, but they can’t see that. 

Another key issue for Europe is the rebirth of the social market economy. It is not a socialist or a liberal invention, but a Christian Democrat one. Its ethos is not based on a religious element, but on four principles: enterprise and social justice rights and responsibilities. 

“We just stopped talking about social justice. I am in politics because of that and the reason why I spend so much time in the development committee. Anybody can talk to you about it, as a great line to get elected on. But with every right comes a responsibility. We have a responsibility for ourselves and to each other, and if you want social justice you have to encourage enterprise,” Mr Mitchell says. 

“If someone gets out of bed and goes to work every morning then they should be encouraged to do that, because that creates wealth. And if you can’t go to work part of that wealth should be used to help you,” he describes. 

But when you go to avail of the public services, in which we put a huge amount of the tax payer’s money, we have to have accountability. Because there are so many votes in the public service, there should be some kind of protected entity. 

Mr. Mitchell believes that that is the base of a new type of social market economy launch. We need a rebirth of the social market economy, because that is what happened at the end of the WW2. 

Konrad Adenauer, the first post-War Chancellor of Germany, said at the time that the European project is about people, not about money. Business people in Europe need to create an ethical environment in which to operate.

“I am pro business, because business creates wealth. But when we create wealth we got to distribute it well, have good public services and give people a fair opportunity. So all of us who are in the mainstream of politics, we need to think about this and start talking about social justice,” Mr. Mitchell explains.

Europe will have elections in May 2014.  Mr Mitchell believes that who we send to the EU Commission and to the EP, matters. “First thing citizens got to do is turn up and be committed. Also get on to the committees that are relevant to their country and express what their view of Europe is,” he says. 

He brings as example the Irish legal system. Everyday people see one or two judges reported in the papers for a number of serious offenses. They don’t hear about the other judges. But if they were not there, we would live in a jungle. The job they do is important. 

It is the same with MEPs and TDs. “It is not all about the ones who are in the media on a particular day. But about the guys who turn up and do their committee work, network and carry influence, who are measured, have a descent view of what is good for Ireland for Europe,” he continues. 

Whoever people are going to chose, they should chose the ones who are going to participate because they will have a real say for 5 years. 

Ireland is a country that has always been and still is in its majority, a pro-European nation. Yet in the last referendum on Lisbon Treaty, as well as many previous ones, the Irish citizens voted against them.

“I think De Gaul was right. He said that referendums are funny things, because when you ask people what they think, they do not answer the question you ask. In elections of that kind you can have people protesting, because they think they can,” Mr Mitchell notes.

Sometimes in a referendum people vote no, because they want to punish the government. Not all had to do with Europe during the referendum. Nevertheless there was a concern about Ireland losing its Commissioner.

The Oireachteas (The Irish National Parliament) committee collected evidence and they percolated all these issues, which later they identified. Then the Irish government went and renegotiated them. 

“I like the idea of Ireland and all the small states having a commissioner. The Germans, the Brits and the French gave up their second commissioner. But if we get to 35 commissioners, what portfolios will there be and will we end up having a commissioner for something obscure,” Mr Mitchell mentions.

Perhaps if the EU had only 20 substantial commission jobs, with every country having one by strict rotation, potentially that would be a better way. “People chose the former and for now it is probably right,” he notes. 

If there is ever a huge number of Commissioners, there may be a question of revisiting, yet this is not being pushed on Ireland by any party. The Irish people themselves might come to this stage later on, when this is no longer a concern. 

Gay Mitchell believes that his biggest impact in European politics was in the development of dealing with the 3rd world. He was recruited by the assistant secretary general of the UN, to advice her on disaster risk reduction.

Gay Mitchell is an Irish politician and was elected Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for the Dublin constituency, on 11 June 2004. 

He is a member of Fine Gael, part of the European People's Party, and a former Teachta Dála (TD) for the Dublin South–Central constituency from 1981–2007. 

He does not plan to run for this May’s European elections.You may find more information about his work on his website here.

The second part of the interview will be published on OneEurope