Archive for the 'European Politics' Category

Polish bigotry – why bother?

27 November 2005

Reacting to the criticism raised by myself and others on the result of the Polish elections and cabinet formation, some people wondered why this should be of any concern to us non-citizens and non-residents. Here are my considerations:

  1. Universal values are at stake
  2. We are in the same boat together
  3. Poland could be committing a breach of contract


Court of Auditors lambasts member states on EU spending

15 November 2005

The European Court of Auditors today published its annual report on EU spending in the year 2004. This is the first full budget year of the enlarged EU reviewed by the Court in its new, post-enlargement, composition, and the positive effects are already visible: The Court is much more outspoken than previous years in its criticism of the EU member states.

And rightly so! After all, no less than 80% of the EU budget is spent directly by the administrations of member states, not by the European Commission. And the only reason why the Court has refused, for the eleventh year in a row, to deliver a Statement of Assurance (Déclaration d’Assurance, DAS) on the 2004 budget, is that it finds it impossible to check whether spending by the member state administrations, not the Commission, is done in accordance with the rules. (more…)

Bigotry is back in Europe’s East

4 November 2005

Most Western European news reports on the outcome of the Polish elections qualified president-elect Lech Kaczy?ski as a “conservative”, and the new prime minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz of the same Law and Justice party (PiS) as a “technocrat”. My impression is that they are worse, and that the new leadership of Poland – which has equally many votes in the Council of Ministers as Spain and almost as many as France, Germany, the UK and Italy – is at worst a bunch of conspiring bigots, and at best another provincialist pain in the European ass. This is not a good thing – be it for Poland or for Europe (at least if you consider modernisation of Europe’s economy along Blairite lines as an improvement compared to the current situation). It is not a good thing either for those who would like to see Eastern Europe shed the remnants of its totalitarian past today rather than tomorrow: The PiS election victory sets a bad example in a region where bigotry and blame tactics often serve as red herrings allowing societies to avoid confronting itself with some painful truths and memories.

The only positive note directly after the elections was that defeated candidate Tusk’s party Civic Platform (PO) would become the voice of relative reason in the government coalition. By now we know that PO has dropped out of the talks, as a result of which the new government will depend on several smaller even-further-right parties for its support. Among these maverick Andrzej Lepper, who has become deputy Speaker of the Sejm. This is not going well…

Voting rights for kids?

30 August 2005

With the German economy in the doldrums and half of the country without a job, German politicians are concentrating on the essentials: Wahlrecht für Kinder (voting rights for children). Well, not literally: kids would not get to vote themselves, but parents would get one extra vote together for every child they have. Several heavy weights, among them Roman Herzog (former President of Germany) and political talk show host Sabine Christiansen, have expressed support for the idea, which was brought up first by the financial expert in Angela Merkel’s campaign team, Paul Kirchhof. Latest in the row of supporters: FDP (Liberals) MEP and rising star Silvana Koch-Mehrin.

Whoever thought ayatollah Ratzinger’s enthusiastic reception in Germany by thousands of catholic youth was just an exception should now really get suspicious. I certainly do, when I see even Germany’s liberals take over the arch-conservative agenda: (more…)

Baltic observations – I – introduction

25 August 2005

The Baltic republics Lithuania, Latvia, and Lithuania, where I spent my summer holiday this year, have much to enjoy for visiting tourists: historic cities with well-preserved mediaeval or Art Nouveau centres, a beautiful countryside with unspoiled forests, bogs and lakes, a friendly coast with sand beaches, dunes and islands. The occasional Molvanian experience notwithstanding, the general level of what is on offer is such that it is often almost impossible to believe that, unlike the former Warsaw Pact countries in Central Europe, this was part of the Soviet Union only fourteen years ago. (more…)

Britain gives terrorists the finger

7 July 2005

Apparently, according to the (self-proclaimed) perpetrators:

Britain is now burning with fear, terror and panic in its northern, southern, eastern, and western quarters.

Is it? All I can see is a country dealing calmly, resolvedly and efficiently with the effects of these lowly attacks on unarmed people, while the vast majority of its people continue their lives as usual. Because that is how civilised countries handle such things.

So, “fear, terror and panic”? Don’t make me laugh, inflated twats.

For updates: Nosemonkey is liveblogging the events. Also, wikipedia is a good place to start, as is good old auntie Beeb.

The Blair of reform

27 June 2005

It is possible that I have been wrong about Tony Blair. On a previous occasion, I listed him as one of those European leaders who are past their expiry date. But if the speech he gave in the European Parliament last Thursday – and the reception it got – is anything to go by, he may just have reinvented himself as the reformist leader Europe now needs.

That is a big if and I know it. Especially with Prime Minister Blair, who often is more successful at talking the talk than at walking the walk – most of all in recent years. But instead of trying to predict the results of his presidency on the basis of recent performance at the head of a government whose main goal seems to be staying in power, perhaps we should look at the early years of his government in the late nineteen nineties. Then, like now, he had just taken over from a sclerotic ancien régime that had lost public confidence. Then, like now, he surprised and inspired with an ambitious agenda for genuine reform. Then, like now, the chances for failure were substantial. Then, many reforms were never carried out. Now, we must try to avoid that. (more…)