Issuu on Google+

The Alpha Issue 0

71st International Session of the European Youth Parliament in Amsterdam


A m st e rd a m 2 0 12

Dearest delegates, dear all, In the process of producing Issue 0 of The Alpha, the official newspaper of the 71st International Session of the European Youth Parliament in Amsterdam, the journalists have sought for external advice in order to provide you with relevant, current and high-quality articles. We would thus like to thank the following people for having shared their expertise and knowledge with us:

- Valeria Fedeli, expert in gender equality in Europe for the Italian trade union CGIL;

- Dr. Hitesh Tewari, Assistant Professor in Computer Science at Trinity College Dublin;

- Paul Kenny, Pensions Ombudsman in Ireland;

- Dr. Milica Petrović, lecturer at the Agricultural Faculty of the University of Novi Sad;

- Michael Weiss - Director of Research at the Henry Jackson Society;

- Mercè Gómez Ubiergo, founding member of the Catalan Association of Labour Insertion

Professionals;

- Dr. Iphigenia Kamtsidou, Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Law at the Aristotle Uni-

versity of Thessaloniki;

- Dr. Fernando Moliní, Assistant Professor at the School of Humanities at the Autonomous

University of Madrid;

- Dr. Victor Yakushkin, lecturer in Regulation of International Trade at Moscow State Lin-

guistic University;

- Nicolas Précas, Director of the Department of Social Cohesion in Isère;

- Mrs Arzu Yayla, Carbon Trading and Reduction of Carbon Emissions at EnerjiSA;

- Christos Pachtas, Mayor of the Aristotle Municipality, former Deputy Ministry for Indu-

stry, Energy, Research & Technology, former Deputy Minister of Economy & Finance in

Greece;

- Dr. Matthias Morys, lecturer at Department of Economics and Related Studies at the

University of York;

- Hendrik Vos, Director of the Institute of EU Studies at the Ghent University.

We hope you will enjoy the read and find it useful for your preparations, for which we wish you the best of luck! With great excitement,

2 ge

Pa

Is

su

e

0

The Amsterdam Media Team


CONTENTS 4

AFET - Protest: a Bad Sign?

6

SEDE I - An Iranian Nuclear Bomb under The EU’s Decision-

making? 8

SEDE II - Mondern Warfar

10

JURI - Best Before: 14 Days of Pregnancy

12

AFCO - In Desperate Need of a European Demos

14

ENVI - Politics of Hippies

16

EMPL I - Pension: 2012 and Beyond

18

EMPL II - The Lost Generation

20

ECON - The Muddled Tale of European Banking

22

DROI - The Day After

24

DEVE - A Bar of Chocolate for Everyone

26

CULT - All Different, All Equal?

28

FEMM - The Right Not to Make a Choice

30

CLIM - Deeds, Not Words – It’s Getting Hot

32

ITRE - Ex Oriente Lux

Welco me

3 The Alpha


ig n A ffa ir s C o m m it te e o n Fo re

PROTESTS: A BAD SIGN? FAVOURING THE ECONOMIC APPROACH Dmitry Vyskrebentsev tries to reveal the links between Russia and the EU and questions the EU’s ‘fight for democracy’.

O

ver the last two years the world has witnessed an increased activity among Russia’s middle-class openly expressing criticism and protest. This has become ground for heated debates not only because of the overall complexity of the issue, but also because of the location where it is happening – in Europe - with most countries siding against their big western neighbour on this.

4 ge

Pa

Is

su

e

0

But what makes the situation so complex? First, we should start with the fact that few people actually have full comprehension of the current political processes in Russia. That is why one needs to be careful when judging the state of Russia’s democracy, no matter which side one is on. For example, not many are aware that the negotiations on Russia’s accession to the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development) by 2014, for which joining the

WTO (World Trade Organisation) is a prerequisite, were opened in May 2007. This also implies that the country will see more democratic change in the future making the ‘fight for democracy’ questionable. Furthermore, when Mr. Yakushkin, Doctor of Economics, analysed the current situation, he referred to a quote from Léon: The Professional where one of the actors asks: “What do you expect from a country that has only existed for 6 years?” Even though this, of course, is not the case for Russia, it highlights the idea that sustainable and reliable regimes cannot be established overnight. According to Mr. Yakushkin, one year of socio-economic development in Russia, looking at its history from 1991 onwards, equals 16 – 32 years of what Western democracies have achieved, which is quite an inspiring pace.


We should also understand that a strong and stable Russia is the cornerstone of prosperity in Europe, given Western European countries’ dependence on fossil fuels. But what is the essence of peaceful and steady relations between the two parties? The answer is simple: good economic relations. And herein the advantageous position of the EU as an important trading partner is to be recognised. While truly prospering relations would help raising the living standard in Russia, if the cheers for the ‘fight for democracy’ stay, this will further worsen the bilateral relations, and thus this goal will remain nothing but a dream. Unfortunately, some EU Member States fail to share this perspective, bringing discord to bilateral discussions. Such circumstances are a threat, especially in the face of the renewal of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement

(PCA). The development of a common EU policy, which stresses that strategic co-operation on all levels should be of utmost importance. This implies that Russia and the EU should try to resolve their problems by joining forces rather than doing the opposite. Russia and the EU have common ground and it is their shared objective to find it not only in the economic sphere but other fields, e.g. in scientific co-operation and cultural exchange, too. Only if this is the case profound change will occur, a change that everyone benefits from. In conclusion, every person should have the right to express themselves and this should never be considered as extraordinary, especially in light of protests happening in Europe at the moment.

5 The Alpha


rit y a nd D e fe nc e I cu e S n o e te it m m o C

AN IRANIAN NUCLEAR BOMB UNDER THE EU’S DECISIONMAKING? Jonathan Piepers looks at how the sensitive Iranian issue is handled by the EU and gives his opinion on where it might be going wrong.

I

6 ge

Pa

Is

su

e

0

mpossible to go unnoticed, the situation in Iran has been a hot topic in the news during the last weeks and months. Exhibits of the mounting tension are the tirades by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the President of Iran as well as Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s Prime Minister. The former uttered strong menaces towards the West and threatened to close down the Hormuz Straight whilst the latter urged for a ‘red line’ on Iran’s nuclear programme. The US, UN and IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) have voiced strong criticism towards Iran. The EU on the other hand stands somewhat rudderless at the side line of this conflict with a

condemning policy of sanctions against the Iranian government and certain civilians to cover up the internal differences. But is there an ideal solution for this invidious situation or is this a too utopian assertion? Currently, the EU is maintaining a policy of continuous sanctioning. This very moment a plethora of sanctions is already in place against Iran, these are sometimes aimed towards individuals that are alleged of serious human rights violations or close involvement with the Iranian nuclear programme. Despite this focus on individuals, the major part of measures is still di-


rected at governmental institutions. The sanctions entail embargos on certain goods and the freezing of funds and economic resources. Although this EU strategy seems like a lenient approach, it is starting to show its more grim side at this very moment as the Iranian people are starting to take to the streets. People are protesting against the serious economic strain the sanctioning policy is laying on the Iranian economy, with a severe devaluation of Iran’s official currency, the Rial, as a consequence and prime example. This way, the sanctions are also strongly affecting the regime in Iran itself. The EU had already been suspected of taking the humanitarian trigger over the nuclear one from the very start, putting the regime at the choice of continuing their nuclear endeavours or maintaining their firm position of power. This dilemma, if existent, might infuriate the Iranian regime and even lead to drastic reactions. The aforementioned policy seems to be a coherent EU-wide compromise, but sadly the opposite is true. As Professor Hendrik Vos, Director of the Institute of EU Studies at the Ghent University, clarifies: “The reason for the incremental imposing of embargo’s and other restrictions is a cover-up operation for the internal dissension within the Union. This is caused by differences in interests on a moral as well as an economic level.” This disunity easily leads to a deadlock towards a more substantial and sustainable approach, e.g. negotiating a ceiling on the nuclear programme that is high enough for Iran but not too high for the other parties, since the decision-making within the

Common Foreign and Security Policy is solely by consensus. Greece, for example, is very reluctant to take a strong stance towards the issue since they are still highly dependent on Iranian oil whilst the Netherlands and Germany are afraid of snubbing their relations with Israel. Although every Member State seems to deplore Iran’s incessant human rights violations and is even more severely triggered by the country’s dodgy nuclear programme, a clear and coherent policy remains absent. It is of course very difficult to define an ideal solution for this issue. Although, if we can believe Professor Vos, the focus should be on a strong common stance voiced by the EU’s High Representative Catherine Ashton and an active role for the European External Action Service. He proclaims this common position is vital to avoid a ”second Iraq fiasco” where the EU was rendered speechless by all its internal struggles when the US decided to invade. This very moment a military intervention in Iran still seems unlikely, but there is certainly a core of truth in the Professor’s discourse of a unified stance. At the same time we must face the harsh reality of the decision-making process in this matter, which threatens to impede any substantial progress, and is tying down the figures that should be the voice of the EU’s foreign and security policy. A solution to the EU-Iran deadlock seems like a distant dream at present, we might be in need of the proverbial ‘5 minutes of political courage’ more than ever, but who will take the stand?

7 The Alpha


rit y a nd D e fe nc e II cu e S n o e te it m m o C

MODERN WARFARE

Kieran McNulty uncovers the truth

behind hacking and asks if we can stop somebody who wants to set the world on fire.

T

here are many perceptions of the word hacking. We imagine a dishevelled geek crouching in a half-lit room, typing at the speed of an Olympic runner, whilst trying to hack into NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration). This, then, is the image society presents to us of a hacker: an oddball, a castoff from society like Lisbeth Salander of the Millennium Trilogy.

8 ge

Pa

Is

su

e

0

I decided to discover just how much of this image was true. Last year, a student in my university was arrested for hacking into a call the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) had with the Irish police. From knowing him, I began to understand hackers a bit more. Some of them, most even, do not do it to breach security or even to shut down systems. They do it because they can. They do it to highlight how at risk companies really are online. As one hacker who was a member of the group Anonymous puts it, “companies… don’t think [computer securi-

ty] really matters. You need to teach them why they need a good information security policy”. There are some hackers who are less morally driven. Some, who are known as black hats, do it for money. When asked what he thought about the invasion of privacy caused by hacking, a black hat said:“It’s not my fault if the person is an idiot.” The ones that disturb most people, though, are the ones that do it for fun. It brings to mind a familiar phrase: “some men just want to watch the world burn.” During this session we will talk about ending a crisis however, one much larger could be just around the corner. FBI Director Robert Muller has said that the time of individual disparate attacks are over. He thinks that hacking presents a larger crisis to the world than even terrorism. For a peek at what devastating potential a hacking attack has, look at the botnet attack on Estonia in 2007. The government, the leading banks and the newspapers had all gone black;


a world without power. The attacks on Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, in 2011 display that hacking is becoming an ever-prevalent threat, one that must be combated.

because it integrated public and private entities. But again, it can be asked whether or not these measures are strong enough to adapt to and control the ever-changing and unpredictable Web.

So what is to be done? There are several problems to safeguarding the internet against the scourge of hackers. Key among these is the failure of companies to own up to attacks, Dr.Hitesh Tewari, a lecturer in Trinity College Dublin told me. Most go unnoticed, unless there is a serious breach of customer accounts and the company is forced to come clean. Some Member States have now introduced legislation that compels companies to disclose these attacks, but this is far too slow a process. Awareness is now not one of these problems: in 2011, web-based attacks increased by 36%, forcing the EU to be at least somewhat active in fighting back.

In deciding what needs to be done in regards to internet security, the EU needs to recognise that the internet belongs to no man, but the responsibility of taking care of it belongs to all. There is a dire need for every country to align together and take a stand. Public and private companies need to merge quickly and efficiently to avoid red tape and to ensure standardisation of online systems.

Neelie Kroes, EU Commissioner for the Digital Agenda for Europe, is now actively pursuing an EU-wide strategy involving CERTs (Computer Emergency Response Team) and a cybercrime centre. There was recently a cyber-security exercise that attacked banks and government agencies to discover how secure they were that focussed on DDoS-denial of service attacks. That measure was a moderate success, mainly

What Europe needs to do is become a leader in internet security, to head up the attack against hackers. They may masquerade as modern-day Robin Hoods, but they are criminals. The EU has noted that and inflicted severe criminal penalties on convicted hackers, but is it enough to stop a man who wants to shut down the EU? Where should the line be drawn? Can you stop someone who wants to set the world on fire? These questions and more are ones truly worth asking, if we want to protect the EU from yet another crisis, perhaps one that we cannot solve.

9 The Alpha


l A ffa ir s C o m m it te e o n Le g a

BEST BEFORE: 14 DAYS OF PREGNANCY Maximilian Kiehn sheds light on the controversy about embryonic stem cell research and takes a closer look at three different approaches.

T

here hardly is a topic less emotional, there rarely is a debate less heated. Human embryonic stem cell research does not only use cutting-edge technologies it also twists around moral values and requires clear understanding of both technical terms and the different moral approaches.

Pa

10

ge

Is

su

e

0

Embryonic stem cells are extracted from a part of the four to five day-old embryo from fertilised eggs in test tubes. This means more precisely that a female ovum and a male sperm cell became one and duplicated through cell division over four to five days in up to 150 cells. These embryonic stem cells contain unique genetic information for one unique human being.

What makes using embryonic stem cells so valuable? Certainly the infinite ability of embryonic stem cells to grow into any kind of human cell, be it a muscle or a cardiac cell. This characteristic is unique to embryonic stem cells. Long story short your arm, your heart, your brain all of it developed out of embryonic stem cells. Thus, the possibility to reproduce all this drives research forward. How much freedom should we grand ourselves using embryonic stem cells? Are they really to be considered as humans? Three out of many approaches:


1# No embryonic research

3# Hard to tell

Yes they are! Therefore there should be no embryonic stem cell research at all as life begins from the moment of fertilisation, particularly since there is no scientific evidence helping to determine another point during the development of the embryo from when on it can be considered a human being. On the other side, if one fertilises eggs outside the human body, these have no potential to develop into a human being without being placed into a female uterus. For instance in the USA with its strong pro-life – anti-abortion- movement, embryonic stem cell research is supported by the government.

Thirdly, you cannot draw an exact line and declare that the embryo needs to be granted more rights as it develops. If an embryo is lost because the fertilised egg could not implant inside the uterus no one might even notice, while a dead birth often has an high impact on the mothers’ physical and on both parents’ mental well-being. Nonetheless, within a legal framework, you have to define when an embryo turns into a human.

2# Embryo becomes human after fourteen days Not really, and certainly not before the fourteenth day after fertilisation. At this stage embryos can still twin and have not yet developed a nervous system. As organ transplantations take place when a human is diagnosed as brain dead, thus when the nervous system has stopped functioning, an embryo before this stage falls into the same category. Using cells at this stage can easily be compared to transplanting an organ. Can it really though? An unconscious person is not considered to be non-human, even though he is not able to use his nervous system for a period of time. Furthermore an embryo twinning or not, has the potential to develop into a human being.

Introducing a conservative point of view, the Catholic Church, for instance, is very clear in its perception: “Embryonic stem cells are extracted from a human by murdering him in its earliest stage”, according to Cardinal Meissner. “The complete abandonment of embryonic stem cell research is the only way to stop the injustice and save the dignity of embryonic humans”, as Cardinal Meissner explains. However, questions of human dignity and the protection of pre-natal life are not only discussed in this area, abortion or artificial insemination which allows potential parents suffering from genetic disorders to know if they will pass on their diseases. Embryonic stem cell research might offer methods to tackle present incurable illnesses, it might. Research without embryonic cells, especially somatic stem cells, might help as well. In the end the question remains if we can ever find a common understanding of how to define life.

11 The Alpha


ti o na l A ffa ir s tu ti ns o C n o e te it m Com

IN DESPERATE NEED OF A EUROPEAN DEMOS Evanthia Kasiora argues that it is now time for Europe to rise like a phoenix from the ashes and overcome the current political stalemate, as it poses a threat to the very existence of the Union.

T

he current European crisis revealed multiple inadequacies in the structure and functioning of the European Union. While those had already existed before the beginning of the crisis, the latter’s impact on the economy and political processes stressed the EU’s malfunctions. One of the current initiatives advocates “more Europe”, which many interpert as a vision for the creation of a European Federation. However, this scheme is being presented in a hostile environment, as recent polls showed that most EU citizens are against such a major transfer of power to a central European level, and that a median of only 34% think that European economic integration has strengthened their national economies.

Pa

12

ge

Is

su

e

0

In addition, the existence of a European “demos” is a prerequisite for the creation of a European Federation. The Europeans still do not form a homogenous entity, in the sense that they do not share the sentiment of belonging to the same community or even the will to form one. Eurobarometer surveys reveal that for the Europeans, the strongest feeling of belonging is to a nation (94%), and as long as the Greeks categorically oppose to German proposals and the rest of Europe blames the former for the crisis, uniting all European people under a more powerful European government seems impossible.


One the other side, the “less Europe” scenario gives the Member States the opportunity to regain lost power and is in harmony with the growing sentiment of mistrust towards the EU, which stood incapable of preventing the crisis and pacifying the continent once it had burst out. Doubts about European integration have led many citizens to second guess their country’s EU membership. Recent poll results show that only 54% of the people surveyed in Spain, 48% in France and Poland and 43% in Greece believe that their country’s EU membership is still beneficial while the positive sentiment about EU membership has dropped around 15 points in the Czech Republic, Poland and Spain since 2009. In countries such as Greece, the EU appears to be a strong competitor for the state, trying to enforce the adoption of harsh measures and violating its independence. Even though the exact economic repercussions of “less Europe” are difficult to predict, this option does not favour countries that rely on the help of the EU to get past the crisis, as it would isolate them from the Union, while certainly harming the unified front the EU wishes to present. The EU’s democratic deficit has become an issue that concerns the citizens more than ever, seeing that decisions of economic policy that profoundly affect their lives are being made by European officials that are at best indirectly legitimised and are unlikely to be held accountable for their decisions. In the aftermath of those realisations, it is evident that we cannot proceed to further empow-

er the EU if we do not secure the two essential elements for the creation of a pan-European state – a demos and a constitution. The EU should make the rebuilding of people’s faith in its vision and goals a priority and try to build a solidary and accountable Union. As John Hutton, an MP in Westerminser believes, “having decisions made not in midnight deals but in the light of objective evidence and after consulting those who will be affected should itself provide some reassurance that the EU is trying to reform itself.” The plan for a European Constitution should not be abandoned, but laid on more democratic grounds. Instead of proposals from the Union’s central organs, national preparatory committees could develop draft constitutions reflecting their polity’s inherent values and their people’s mentalities and needs. Once these goals have been achieved, we can proceed to gradual reforms that will augment the current level of European integration, starting with a fiscal union, as the EU’s assuming liability for its Member States’ debts requires competence to make decisions in that field. In conclusion, when the process of European integration was initiated citizens were struggling to survive and rebuild Europe after the war. Their needs are different now and calls for more accountabilty are getting louder. While the EU succeeds in enforcing rules, it omitted to persuade the public of their necessity. If we are to come out of the crisis stronger than before, we need “more Europe” but only in a reformed union. 13 The Alpha


h a nd Fo o d S a fe ty lt a He lic ub P , nt e nm C o m m it te e o n En vi ro

POLITICS FOR HIPPIES Economic goals vs. our responsibility to the planet: Tuna Dökmeci asks whether the ‘versus’ can truly be replaced by an ‘and’.

T

he fight against climate change is often regarded as a ‘soft’ area of politics, something that only hippies or vegetarian hipsters with canvas bags care about. Yet, the measures to combat global warming are, unfortunately, not as simple as turning off the lights when leaving a room or refraining from using plastic cups. Discussions and negotiations over broader political and economic measures have started over 20 years ago and only few of them have been implemented successfully.

Pa

14

ge

Is

su

e

0

The European Union currently tries to combine its fight against global warming with maintaining its strong position in the global market and economic growth. Wonderful and balanced as it sounds, it evidently is not that simple. The two goals are contradictory by default. The EU up until now has thus especially tried to implement mechanisms, such as taxes applied on the


emission of carbon gases, which force companies to go green in order to remain competitive within the system. The European Emission Trading Scheme (EU ETS) is the most current and favoured one of these mechanisms. The system, consisting of three main phases, operates on the principle of cap-and-trade: at the beginning of the each trading phase, a limit for the total allowances of carbon emissions is set. Each company can emit the amount of carbon emissions capped by the allowances it has. These allowances can be traded, and thus their price is regulated by free market mechanisms, which is what makes it preferable. The EU ETS has clear advantages over other measures such as carbon taxes, setting an actual limit to the GHG emissions and affecting the producer rather than the consumer. During the first two phases, the EU ETS has faced and was criticised for problems, such as price volatility of allowances, over-allocation and a drastic decrease in carbon prices. With the EU ETS about to enter the third phase, which introduces the auctioning of 6o% of all allowances, and the inclusion of aviation and other important sectors in the scheme, it seems that many problems that occurred in the first two phases will be overcome. Moreover, if perfectly implemented, the system would strongly incentivise companies to switch to and to further invest in green technologies. Nonetheless, all these efforts will not make a big difference, if one argues that the EU ETS is

by principle not efficient or practical. Mrs Arzu Yayla, who is in charge of carbon trading and reduction of carbon gases at EnerjiSA, says that she does not expect the reforms of the EU ETS to make as much of a difference as the EU is advertising. For instance, she says, the EU claims that during the third phase the carbon price per tonne will increase from 7₏ to 12₏, and that this change will be a natural result of the necessities of the market, which is hardly possible without any intervention by the EU itself. Mrs Yayla states that the trading scheme will eventually have a positive effect on GHG reductions; however, the essential question revolves around its efficiency and effectiveness. Especially considering that big players of the global market, such as China, are still far away from joining the EU in its efforts, and that the US has not even ratified the Kyoto Protocol, how much can the EU realistically achieve? More importantly, will the EU’s competitiveness be at risk if other economies refuse to join its efforts in the fight against climate change? All in all, we must not forget that the EU ETS is one of many measures that can be taken. It has its advantages, and disadvantages. It can be changed or abolished. The crux of the problem is to decide to what extent the EU wants to pursue this goal. What happens if balancing economic growth and simultaneously radically reducing greenhouse gases proves to be unfeasible? Is long-term economic growth linked to environmental sustainability in the end? Will the EU choose a climate-friendly economy over a strong one, or are we going to jeopardise our planet?

15 The Alpha


S o ci a l A ffa ir s I nd a nt e ym lo p Em n o C o m m it te e

PENSION: 2012 AND BEYOND The future of our pension systems: Rónán O‘Connor compares pensions to homework and tells us why we should care.

“I

f I asked you about an Evergreen Fund would you know what I was talking about?” “I wouldn’t have a clue.” “What about an Alpha Fund?” “I’m still lost, unfortunately.” It was a rather innocuous start to my conversation with Paul Kenny, the Pensions Ombudsman of Ireland. As confused and surprised as I was, it was this exchange that summed up the problems that Mr Kenny sees as central to the pension crisis we are currently facing: “no one understands their pension, so no one understands the crisis.“

Pa

16

ge

Is

su

e

0

It is a little bit like doing your homework: everyone knows that researching and following up on your pension is for your own good, but we all try to do as little of it as possible. Unfortunately, that comes at a price. In order to adapt to the lack of public awareness of pension

schemes, mixed managed funds became ever more popular. These funds are a combination of high and low risk investments, ensuring a steady combination of return to your pension while still protecting your money. Or so the investment bankers would tell you. The problem is that pensions are more complex than that, and they develop and mature with each of us. At a young age, Mr Kenny argues that most people should invest in more profitable sectors: these are higher risk, but a young working individual can afford to bear it. As we age, we need safer investments to protect our money as we move towards retirement. This type of investment in areas such as cash and government bonds, which are guaranteed returns to money in your pocket. This type of investment is playing it safe, losing out on money that could be won on riskier in-


vestments. According to investment firms it is a crying shame that we would let our pension money rest in a bank account until we retire. The reality is that what they see as investment is little more than sophisticated gambling. Take the current crisis for example: for the last ten years, equity, which is investment in property, was seen as a safe, profitable investment. It was taken as gospel that money invested in property could only multiply in value. If only investment were that simple! In the last three years we have seen the crash of the equity market, hitting Ireland, Spain and Greece particularly hard. The proof is in the pudding: safe and profitable are mutually exclusive in the world of investment. “Why does this matter to us?” This was a question that I discussed at length with Mr Kenny, stressing the importance of our role as young European citizens. The short answer is simple: because we are paying for it. In recent statements, terminology such as ‘inter-generational support’ has become more prevalent amongst European politicians. Essentially this means that we are living beyond our means. Governments across Europe are spending current revenue on capital expenditure. In other words, we are paying for the pensions of our elderly today with money earned by the working citizens of today. Where is the forward planning? Where are the savings and the investment? Mr Kenny tells me that it is no exaggeration to say that this money has literally disappeared. Govern-

ment Pension Funds have been sucked dry in covering the cost of the current financial crisis. We are running on empty and we need a solution now. What can we do? Answering this question is without a doubt a daunting task. We must find a way to pay a deficit with people’s livelihood in the balance. The elderly who have worked and earned their retirement cannot be lost in the fold and need to be protected in a sustainable way. Yet, I see a great opportunity in this, too. We are talking about trying to resolve a crisis caused by institutionalised secrecy and trickery, that uses terms like “Evergreen Fund” and “Alpha” investment, which leads an already disinterested public to give up all hope of understanding the investment they are making in their future. This is an opportunity to change the way in which we approach our pension if we are be bold enough to rebuild the institutions and demystify investment. We can seek to create a consumer friendly mechanism, where those investing are at the heart of the decisions, and not those looking to make a quick buck off the life savings of the general public. End the gambling and make pensions more democratic. Will Europe have the confidence to tackle the behemoth of the pension world and remind us all that pensions are our future? Pensions in 2012 and beyond will never look the same again.

17 The Alpha


S o ci a l A ffa ir s II nd a nt e ym lo p Em n o C o m m it te e

THE LOST GENERATION With millions of young people struggling to find a job in Europe, Silvia Susach wonders if we still have time to provide a safe and prosperous future for them?

“A

man willing to work, and unable to find work, is perhaps the saddest sight that fortune’s inequality exhibits under this sun”, said Thomas Carlyle, a Scottish historian and writer of the nineteenth century. Sadly, fortune still plays an important role in the story of youth unemployment, since being born German is not the same as being born Greek. Despite both countries’ EU membership the likelihood that young Europeans have to find a job changes radically according to the country they are born or live in. While more than half of the young people in Greece are unemployed, countries like the Netherlands, Germany or Austria show youth unemployment rates below 10%. It seems obvious that, when looking for a job, some of us will have to fight harder than others.

Pa

18

ge

Is

su

e

0

But wait, aren’t we the European…Union? We are more than a few states co-operating in certain policy areas. The bond that ties us all together exceeds merely economic benefits, and the European Union’s aim should be to provide all its citizens with the same opportuni-

ties. Nevertheless, doing so while respecting the competences on employment of the Member States can be tricky, which leads us to a fundamental question: Would more European integration improve the current situation with regards to youth unemployment? Mercè Gómez Ubiergo, a Catalan expert on labour insertion, says that we should head towards deeper European integration whilst respecting the cultural differences of our nations. More integration will ideally lead to more awareness and a greater sense of responsibility towards the problems of the other Member States. Despite the lack of an exclusive competence on employment, the European Union has tried to improve the youth unemployment situation in many different ways. One of the directions that the European Commission has taken is to improve job mobility amongst young people, as stated in initiatives, such as Youth on the Move or Europe 2020, which seems to be a very poor long-term solution. Ms. Gómez Ubiergo believes that improving job mobility is always positive, as long as young people are free to decide whether they want to leave their coun-


try or not. She emphasises that the freedom of decision has vanished nowadays, and that job mobility has become a migration process, because young job-seekers face the necessity to leave due to a lack of jobs in their country. I believe that “forced” job mobility will also lead to brain drain in the countries which suffer from the worst youth unemployment rates, since in the near future they will lack people who could contribute to the country’s development. So if job mobility by itself is not the key, where is the solution? Education seems to be one of the answers. The European Union needs to encourage education reforms in its Member States so that access to higher education is widely guaranteed. In countries like Spain, people need to rely on their parents’ financial support if they want to study in a school which will ensure success at the university entrance exams, these are mainly private schools with monthly fees up to 500€. Public education, with very few exceptions, does not provide students with good enough preparation to enter higher education or working life. The opposite happens in countries like the Netherlands, where public education is free of

charge for children up to the age of 18. This is key to guarantee that all children will have the opportunity to get enrolled in higher education if they want to. It is clear that in countries like Spain the access to higher education is too limited compared to other Member States like the Netherlands. This is very relevant since the group of young people which has suffered most from the recession is the lower qualified. Promoting vocational education as an alternative to university is also necessary, since it educates students in very specific areas and provides them with technical and occupationally specific skills. Why are law faculties overflowed with students when our society also needs blacksmiths? All in all, bridging the gap between school education and the labour market seems to be key in solving this issue. How to do so without the European Union having exclusive competences on employment and education is the complicated part of the story. 19 The Alpha


M o ne ta ry A ffa ir s nd a ic m no o Ec n o C o m m it te e

THE MUDDLED TALE OF EUROPEAN BANKING Oscar Stenbom examines the history of and the current solutions to the banking crisis along with the entwined political issues that threaten to scupper any resolution.

A

s the financial crisis, the sovereign debt crisis and economic and political spheres merge into one, it can be extraordinarily hard to isolate single issues from a web of problems whilst not ignoring the wider debate the banking question is commonly caught up in.

Pa

20

ge

Is

su

e

0

The background to the crisis is, unfortunately, a lot more complicated than banks’ lending too much during the boom years and running the risk of default. Dr. Matthias Morys, an Economics professor at the University of York, reasons that the introduction of the Euro played an important role, as the vision of the unprecedented security that the Euro offered led European banks to lend unprecedented amounts to countries inside the Eurozone. Simultaneously, Southern European countries had a great appetite for sovereign debt as they could no longer rely on inflation to finance their government

debts due to the monetary inflexibility caused by the introduction of the common currency. Furthermore banks realised a lot earlier than any regulator or legislator that the rapid changes that the banking industry has undergone in the past 15 years, including the merging of ‘high street’ retail banking with proprietary trading, had blurred the lines systematically important and non-important banks, potentially giving most banks a reasonable case for a bail-out. Consequently, the financial crisis and European Debt Crisis that followed clearly showed the risks of lapses in regulation and supervision as banks increased leverage and combined retail banking and proprietary trading leading to massive losses when housing and sovereign debt bubbles burst. The systematic importance of banks to a healthy economy, and indeed recovery, led to an implied government guarantee


of bank’s credit as bailouts showed that the EU and national legislators were determined not to let banks fail. This continued stance has led regulators to start to implement reforms in order to ensure that the cost of any implicit bank guarantee will never again be borne by the general public. The UK’s Independent Commission on Banking advocates the ring-fencing of retail banks, separating banks’ high-street banking business with their riskier investment banking divisions. The EU’s Liikanen group of experts has said that “[Banks] must present a plan that they are able to unwind their activities without harming the broader economy”. The idea, they have said, is to “get rid of a system where profits are private and costs are public”. Other regulatory initiatives include the European Banking Authority which has the power to overrule national regulators if they fail to properly regulate their banks as well as conduct ‘stress tests’ to determine if banks’ leverage ratios, which tells us how many times-over a bank is permitted to loan out the assets it holds, are sustainable. According to the most recent report, this is both a crucial and ongoing process. The European Commission has also proposed establishing a Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM) which would give the European Central Bank (ECB) the ultimate responsibility for banking supervision in the EU, although it is already clear that Britain would not support such an idea

whilst economists have raised doubts that the large majority of an SSM board would consist of national supervisors who “do not appreciate ECB interference in their daily national supervisory activities”. The fact that EU leaders have only recently managed to agree a framework shows that the devil will truly be in the detail as regulatory proposals face difficulty as soon as they broach national political domains with Germans who are keen to avoid outside influence over their politically important regional banks. According to Prof. Morys this is due to the need to avoid emphasis on the extent of losses caused by the sub-prime mortgage bubble on banks that were supposedly created for domestic lending. More broadly the debate of Eurozone and EU banking-market integration is easily caught up in the underlying political disagreement over common liability throughout the sovereign debt crisis and the future, as exemplified most recently by the squabble over manner in which Spain’s banks should be bailed out. The International Monetary Fond (IMF) has stated that “Over the longer term, a successful banking union will require backstop to both the bank resolution authority and a joint deposit insurance fund”, furthering some people’s beliefs that the banking regulation debate will turn into a second battleground over Eurobonds and bailout solidarity.

21 The Alpha


n R ig ht s C o m m it te e o n Hu m a

THE DAY AFTER Dunja Tanović looks at Syria and tries to see what the light at the end of the tunnel will hold.

A

s of September 2012 over 25,000 men, women and children have been killed in Syria. There are 250,000 registered refugees and many more unregistered ones in neighbouring countries and over a million people have been displaced inside Syria due to the civil war. Yet, while the world knows and discusses the current situation in Syria, it has done little to consider its future – the day after Assad’s fall. The unfortunate and likely reality is that the fighting will not stop.

Pa

22

ge

Is

su

e

0

The 17th century philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, argued that “during the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that conditions called war.” This has evidently been the case throughout history and it is obvious that the Syrian situation is not a new one. It is not unique in any way and can be compared to every civil war there has ever been, not only the recent ones seen during the Arab Spring, but also those in Somalia, Yugoslavia, Spain, the U.S. – the list goes on. What

is unique about them all, however, is how they dealt with the day after scenario. The actions that are taken from now will go on to produce a unique State, but what kind of State will come is a mystery to all. The problems that come with the day after start with the fact that arms and money from outside sources are being given to Salifists and Jihadi groups over the secular rebel groups which is a worrying prospect when regarding the Syrian future. After the fall of the regime, these groups will still have the weapons which brought down Assad, and there is no way of knowing where they are and what they will be used for. Another factor which worries onlookers comes from the fact that jihadi groups have learnt from predecessors, such as Al Qaeda’s, mistakes. They are not currently intervening in political matters and are only attacking things


associated with the regime; however, all this could change quickly the day after the regime falls; this could become a long-term alliance of inconvenience. If this happens it is very probable that Syria will become, in the long-term, a failed state mirroring Somalia; a state in which the civil war is still present, despite the regime falling over twenty years ago. There is a glimmer of hope, however, as recent polls carried out by the International Republican Institute show, that most Syrians identify with the political systems of the U.S., France and Turkey. Though this poll only covered a small sample, it does show that there is a chance for democracy at the end of this treacherous battle. But whether Syria will be able to mirror Spain and find democracy after civil war is thought to be “far too optimistic” according to Michael Weiss, Director of Research at the Henry Jackson Institute, “at best at this point, it will probably resemble [today’s] Iraq.”

One more very realistic outcome of the Syria situation which is rarely mentioned in the media is the idea of the country being ‘balkanised’. This happened at the end of the Yugoslav wars in the 1990s and saw the country broken up along ethnic and regional lines. If this were to happen it would see the north of Syria becoming the Kurdish part, although it is unlikely Turkey would allow this. It is evident that there is no way of knowing exactly which path Syria will take. Despite this, however, there is one thing which is very obvious – how the EU acts from now, how the world acts, will affect the future that Syria takes. Although it is impossible to see into the future, it is easy to look into the past. The internatinoal community must examine actions taken in countries which dealt with similar situations in order to try and learn how best to deal with the Syrian situation, and most importantly, the day after.

23 The Alpha


lo p m e nt C o m m it te e o n D ev e

A BAR OF CHOCOLATE FOR EVERYONE Stefan ZoriÄ?ić reminds us that not everyone is in the same fortunate position never having to go to bed hungry or thirsty.

I

n a world of a constantly growing population, many less developed countries have difficulties feeding their citizens. They face the daunting task of having to feed more with less. This is especially difficult for sub-Saharan African countries as well as certain Central Asian countries, where a lack of infrastructure and the majority of the country living in severe poverty further worsen the situation.

24

Pa g

e

Is

su

e

0

Looking at Europe, a lot has changed over the past centuries: the industrial revolution, finding the cure for bacterial infections, penicillin, and


increased hygiene all over the continent. Especially Penicillin clearly led to a faster growing population. In the middle ages, at around 1350, the population was estimated to be 370 million. Today, according to the United States Census Bureau, the world population is estimated to have reached 7,046 billion people. Verlyn Olson, the former Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development of the United States, took a closer look at this development and explained that the world’s population did not reach 1 billion until 1800, then it took just 130 more years to increase to 2 billion in 1930, and the current figure is at 7,046 billion, accounting for a 340% increase in a period of just 80 years. The discovery of Penicillin has been key to this development. Especially molecular and biological science and engineering helped the developed nations to ensure access to food and drinking water for their citizens, e.g. the US is only able to feed a growing population thanks to a boost in productivity: total U.S. crop yield, tons per acre, has increased by more than 360% since 1950. Yet, the question remains if this is the right approach: are we jeopardising our natural resources? Are we only producing more to satisfy the needs of a capitalist market? Dr. Milica Petrović, lecturer at the Agricultural Faculty of Novi Sad University believes that “it

would be great if we could manage both profit and fulfilling basic human needs for food and water, but taking care not to jeopardise our fields and natural resources, since taking care of them will also give us more fertile land. Fertilising fields can lead to both a rich harvest and damage land, which might even mean that one would be unable to grow crops there any longer.” Unfortunately, at the moment not everyone can get a piece of chocolate. Not everyone can drink water, nor can they eat on a regular basis. So how could we increase agricultural productivity to sustainably feed a growing world? With further industrialisation acres are often turned into building land, the remaining farmers are exploiting every inch of their fields, yet this is not enough. What is the role of the private sector and the state in all this? Will deregulating the market lead to more productivity or rather further exploitation of our natural resources? The EU in large parts managed feeding its population without GMOs, mainly authorising them for animal feeds only, yet raising the productivity to the needed level. Can the EU be considered as a role model for others, especially developing countries? Rather than imagining a malnourished child think, about a happy and healthy child, possibly even with a delicious bar of chocolate. We have the opportunity to save lives, so let’s do it.

25 The Alpha


re a nd Ed uc at io n tu ul C n o e te it m m o C

ALL DIFFERENT, ALL EQUAL? “All of us do not have equal talent, but all of us should have an equal opportunity to develop our talents”. ports

Célia Poncelin supJ.F. Kennedy’s vision and

dreams of every citizen having a fair chance to build a career.

I

ndeed, the term equal opportunities should not be interpreted literally since some children are born, like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with a real talent for music, while others, like Oscar Pistorius, are born to be a role model, which he became for many when he participated in the Olympics in 2012 as the first double leg amputee. This is a striking example of the equality of opportunities. According to Friedman this term could be defined as: “No birth, nationality, colour, religion, sex, nor any other irrelevant characteristic should determine the opportunities that are open to a person – only his abilities.” Nowadays, while the EU is welcoming 1,4 million immigrants per year and would ideally even welcome more, the issue at hand is to ensure their integration into our society. But whose responsibility is it: the European Union’s, the societies’ they immigrate to, or the immigrants’ themselves?

Pa

26

ge

Is

su

e

0

Most of the integration objectives formulated by the European Union are nothing but a dead letter. Has now come the time to overcome national objections and formulate a strong European vision? Showing real political will could e.g. encourage local initiatives in their isolated efforts. The impact of the citizens is often marginalised and


their role underestimated. Schools too often reflect our society and show clear evidence of segregation. Most of the students with migration background are gathered in schools in their neighbourhoods, which especially in big cities means that there is hardly any diversity in the student body. Thus town planning and student allocation should be rethought since it sets the vicious circle in motion: students face problems at school, are then stigmatised, which leads to frustration and a likely reproduction of these inequalities. Should the EU tackle the problem at one of its roots and try to co-ordinate student allocation mechanisms despite having no competence in this policy field? Deborah Orr from the Guardian suggested that “offering the greatest opportunity to the least advantaged” would be a solution. This could be very simple, as Nicolas Précas, the director of the Departmental Direction of Social Cohesion, points out. He believes that Europe could play a major role in the integration of youth with migration background by offering them the possibility to take part in exchange programmes. This would be a way to better understand the country they live in by sharing their way of life with somebody else. Is the real problem the image that we have of migrants? It seems that they are not always welcome. Indeed, a survey among citizens in 23 countries by Ipsos showed that 52% think that there are too many immigrants in their countries – in Belgium, the United Kingdom and Italy these figures even reached 70%. Despite our economies’ dependence on immigration due to recent

demographic trends, especially with the total fertility rate being at 1.5 children per woman, many citizens are excepting immigrants to take on jobs no one wants while not being afraid to accuse them of stealing their jobs. This negative image of immigrants often leads to their stigmatisation. Nicolas Précas elaborated on this further by pointing out that allowing for more diversity of the student body often has the effect that parents from more fortunate socio-economic backgrounds are trying to send their children to other schools, afraid that this diversification will affect the quality of their children’s education. Shouldn’t we rather try to benefit from this wealth in order to grow as a continent? Our societies are characterised by the need to succeed. Nevertheless, this often proves to be particularly difficult for immigrants despite them not lacking the will to do so. Children with migration background are often expected to improve their family’s social status, implying that they should go further in their studies than their parents or grand-parents did. However, often they cannot live up to theses expectation since schools pass on a Manichean vision to their students: either one succeeds or one does not. Thus, the marks obtained define a person and receiving a bad mark means one is ‘bad’. Should we not also interpret this as an encouragement to work harder? Does failure to not meet the standards in the beginning mean no success at all? Let’s work on a real dream for Europe and give a fair chance to every citizen, regardless of their origin, to make a career based on their talents and dedication. 27 The Alpha


e r Eq ua lit y nd e G nd a s ht ig R s n’ e C o m m it te e o n W o m

THE RIGHT NOT TO MAKE A CHOICE Camille Dugay Comencini explains why women should not have to

choose between a career and their personal life and how changing deeply rooted societal attitudes is key to achieving this goal.

“B

osses may stop employing women as maternity rights increase”. This is the first article I read this morning, browsing the internet to know what has happened in the world since yesterday. Quoting from the article by Martin Beckford, Social Affair Correspondent for The Telegraph: “Employment lawyers […] say the increased burden on companies, particularly small ones, may mean they simply choose not to employ women because of the high cost of keeping them on should they have children.”

Pa

28

ge

Is

su

e

0

There is no need to deeper investigate the content of the article and the adequacy of the measures adopted in the UK for maternity leaves in order to understand the contradiction here. This brief sentence highlights how, far too often, as a

woman you are asked to choose between your career and your personal life, stressing how unfair cultural and social structures currently are. This is what Valeria Fedeli, expert in gender equality in Europe for the Italian trade union CGIL, points out when asked to explain the contradiction between the high number of female graduates and the few relevant positions they occupy on European boards. “It is simple. Women are less likely to be employed because of the social expectations we have on them”, she says. “They are not directly discriminated by the companies but it is important to highlight that this discrimination exists, even though it is in an indirect form.” Valeria then moves on to explaining how the main obstacle to women occupying highly im-


portant positions both in the private and public sector are employment criteria.” If the main criterion keeps being reliability over time, then of course women are disadvantaged. This relates to the position that, in today’s Europe, it is socially attributed to women to be mothers and social carers. To the eye of the employer, they will, at a certain point, have to chose between their personal life and their job and therefore are not considered reliable over time.” Changing cultural habits is very difficult and problems arising from the perception of a social role will not be resolved overnight. Some concrete measure have, however, already been taken and can further be improved along with the adoption of other innovative policies. First of all, it is necessary to tackle companies and their employment criteria. As Irem Tumer, chairing the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, has pointed out, the EU has already adopted some targeted policies, such as a 40% employment rate. However, the Member States could support those measures more sincerely if governments, for instance, gave incentives to companies employing women and men equally or at least without under representing one of the genders. It is then the social expectations on women that need to change. As the EIGE (European Institution for Gender Equality) Review of the Implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action: Women and the Economy states, reconciliation between work and family life is one of

the main conditions for equal participation in the labour market. However, one could argue that it is not reconciliation Europe should be talking about and Valeria Fedeli supports this by further pointing out that “When the EU uses the world reconciliation, this automatically only includes women. What we need is to create an idea of a shared responsibility when it comes to social care and family responsibility.” Both genders should be taken into consideration. This includes mothers as well as fathers and leads to taking into account measures, such as paternity leaves and adapting offices or companies to meet the needs of parents. It is beyond our means to change an attitude that has evolved over centuries. It is, however, important to realise that this point of view is the underlying reason for issues like the salary gap or the discriminating practice of undated resignation letters. Is this the society we, European citizens, want to live in? The economic crisis is too often mentioned as a good reason to temporarily remove gender issues from the political agenda. Including the female labour force to use its full potential is a key solution in our way out of the crisis. It is crucial to understand that gender equality is not only a moral responsibility, but needs to be a priority for a sustainably developing modern Europe in the 21st century. Europe needs women.

29 The Alpha


e C ha ng e C o m m it te e o n C lim at

DEEDS, NOT WORDS – IT’S GETTING HOT Laura Pérez-Galdós

expounds

the

main

problems of global agreements on climate policies and explores the solutions available to combat climate change.

W

hat would happen if the average temperature of the planet rose more than 2 degrees Celsius? What if the progressive increase of carbon dioxide emissions cannot be averted? What consequences will further acidification of the oceans bring about, what if the sea levels rise even more, what if natural disasters get harsher and more intense?

Pa

30

ge

Is

su

e

0

All these are questions to which the answers are what I would never want to see coming true. Climate change is a real problem rather than a myth, and apparently we still have not fully realised it. Trying to find a global solution to the problem, it seems like the most difficult aspect is to agree on how to tackle the issue at hand

exactly. One of the most heated debates revolves around the question of how to share the burden: while developed countries are not willing to sign up for any agreement which does not impose emissions reduction targets on developing countries, these in turn claim that it is not fair on them having to pay for the consequences of the developed countries’ environmental misbehaviour. Despite all these completely legitimate arguments on fairness, if we cannot reach a globally accepted solution, fairly or unfairly, we will jeopardise our planet. There are also doubts about which global regime can best frame global climate change negotiations. Do we need new institutions to


finally assume full responsibility? However, the biggest problem remains that what we currently have does not work. The amount of tangible results compared to the very numerous conventions, meetings and hours that have been put into discussing the topic is simply insufficient. Some climate change related entities, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), have their work magnificently divided into different specialised sections prepared to deliver. Although there are some who clearly state that new organisations are required, why not making sure the already existing institutions work? As part of the solution “making effective what we already have is essential, but I am convinced that, although it is a drastic change, a global government is necessary, a sole entity with executive powerâ€?, says Dr. Fernando MolinĂ­ from the Autonomous University of Madrid. Regardless if the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) provides the most appropriate forum or if negotiations should proceed in a more flexible and decentralised manner, decisions on burden-sharing, the type of commitments and the time-frame will need to be made soon. However, bettering the current approach is not enough; we also need to find more innovative solutions. Here, science offers a wide range of

possibilities, the so-called Climate Engineering (EC) embraces the most widely discussed current concepts of modifying climate to curtail harmful effects of global warming, an example of which is Solar Radiation Management (SRM). This consists of reflecting away a part of the incoming solar radiation by placing objects, socalled space sunshades, in a solar orbit, or of placing micron-sized particles in an Earth orbit to reflect solar radiation once it enters the atmosphere. If we further want to reduce our green house gas emissions, technological progress and thus investments into areas like energy efficiency will be crucial. In addition, alternative energy sources are often too expensive for commercial usage due to a lack of government subsidies. Last but not least, we also need to address the issue of adaptation. Clearly, it is neither technology nor imagination to develop and design new systems to mitigate the effects of climate change that we lack, but political will, devotion and a real compromise. The European Union has for several years been engaged in this struggle, what may be reflected in its climate policy. Now, as one of the world leading political forces, it has the means and the duty to take that first step nobody else desires to take. To achieve significant results, though, it needs the rest of the world to join in. And this needs to happen soon.

31 The Alpha


rc h a nd En e rg y a se Re y, tr us d In n o C o m m it te e

EX ORIENTE LUX FAILING EUROPE = EUROPE FAILING? Panaghiotis Kalaïdhopoulos elaborates on what Europeans entrepreneurs can learn from the East and questions whether this is really where the light comes from.

E

ntrepreneur remains French in origin, France, though, and numerous countries throughout Europe still observe entrepreneurship as a wobbly activity at a steadily declining rate. Either a problem of mindset, consolidated inflexibility or a consequence of the often misconceived menacing ‘chinasation’ of world markets, stagnancy calls for action, in the same time that the East is unprecedentedly flourishing. Indeed, how can the Eastern paradigm illuminate us?

Pa

32

ge

Is

su

e

0

Beyond the rising star of Chinese development, whose context is rather easily justifiable, a quick shuffle of the respective European reality would prove most beneficial to the pursuit of the western turn to the East. And illumination shall thus come.

Intriguingly, the idea of launching a business has for quite long not been embedded into European culture. In fact, a society which would historically despise a fool, or a risky entrepreneurial failure, would not be a breeding ground for risk-taking at all. What is more, it takes low taxation on capital gains, supportive stock markets and policy initiatives to support enterprise for a sustainable market-orientated economy. With the EU actually providing scarcely half of the above, one needs not be a genius in order to discern and confirm the turn to the cheaper, and thus more competitive, East. Indicatively, manufacturing labour costs in China and India were only 4% of the respective United States’ costs for 2009. So, what about those staying back, in a Europe plagued by the Crisis? The question returns ever tenaciously. Is the liberal Europe of laissez-faire entrepreneurship and dynamic capital to maintain this compact economic orientation or to abide by the rules of the necessity of a new status quo, in the light of the crisis and the gradually aggravating issue? Alles oder nichts; oder beides! Everything or noth-


ing, in other words. Or maybe both, against the fear of failure? In a first reading, European liberalism as a historically established norm in the Union cannot consent to anything less but superlative freedom and choice for the private will, individual or collective. Freedom, hence, for the entrepreneur to go wherever and do whatever they desire, as long as this core liberal principle is not itself endangered. So, yes, in vitro, the cheap, sustainable East is indeed accepted as a new vibrant entrepreneurial hotbed, while Europe seems to genuinely fail. It saves a lot, plus, there is a good amount of money flowing back in Europe ex Oriente, mainly in the form of big-scale investments in European – Western – fields of interest. Developing, easy and, above all, cheap. The cheaper, the better, besides – as long as there is something back home. But what? ‘Potential’ seems to be the keyword back in Europe, where SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) overly constitute 99% of the business sector and qualify as a promising crisis re-

covery tool if suitably dealt with. To this end, they can still develop significantly and counter the hitherto unbalanced leaks to the East, with regard to both qualitative – education, product quality, domestic employment regeneration and regional (re)development, all in Europe – and quantity criteria; they almost monopolise European entrepreneurship. Even more, on the other hand, the underdeveloped East serves well, it does not act well, as, although it develops economically, growth is being invested upon the work and effort of citizens disproportionately underdeveloped in comparison to the market they are associated to. For whom the benefit, then? Do we afford to act decisively? Beyond the unknown, it takes a lot to walk the path of light, wherever it comes from. The East will not unconditionally solve any structural problem of European economics. Nonetheless, it opens a great perspective into a constantly changing future, while, in a sea of uncertainties, it lies solely within Europe to plan its own further course and prove unreservedly thriving. Que sera, sera.

33 The Alpha


The Alpha


Issue 0 of The Alpha