BullsEye Novâ€™14 / 52nd year / No. 58 / ISSN 2033-7809
The newsmagazine of European Democrat Students
Bringing Solutions to the Skills Gap in Europe
Current Affairs 04 Monsieur Juncker 06 With Ballots and Arms 07 The window of Opportunity is still open 08 TTIP - A treaty at any cost? 09 Europe’s Gas Addiction – Is there a Cure?
Dear Readers, I am pleased to welcome you to a new issue of BullsEye. Under the title “Bringing Solutions to the Skills Gap in Europe” we are focussing on different labour market-related areas in this issue. Some people in politics and society believe that there is not a skills gap in Europe. Rather, that there is a problem of getting the right people to the right jobs. Nevertheless, there are a number of studies show that there is a widespread weakness in literacy, numeracy and digital skills. Other results also confirm an enormous discrepancy between perception and reality. While many educational authorities are convinced that the education systems provide good preparation for a professional career, entrepreneurs criticise a shortage of applicants with the right skills and many jobs remain vacant. I think that we are facing complex challenges and to overcome this crisis, we must take measures, not at least through reforms and innovation. Besides this, we will also be addressing a number of recent developments world affairs. This will include looking into the elections in Ukraine, the need for reform of the pension in combination with the keyword “intergenerational equity”, Europe’s dependence on Russian gas and the student revolts in Hong Kong. We as representatives of the younger generation want to continue to contribute to these discussions and help shape the debates. It’s time to roll up the sleeves! I hope you may enjoy reading.
Silvie Rohr EDS Editor-in-chief
10 A driving force behind European Integration 12 Europe`s Arctic Border 13 The Myth of ... 14 The Balance of European Labour Migration 16 Twiplomacy
Universities 19 The Umbrella Revolution 20 Mind the Gap 22 A Bureaucratic Way into Politics
Reports 24 The Pension’s Dilemma 25 The greatest Waste of All 26 Between Scepticism and a nation based Integration 28 Portraits
Council for Europe 30 Young people building Europe 31
ISSN: Print: 2033-7809 Online: 2033-7817 Editor-in-chief: Silvie Rohr Editorial team: Mindaugas Liutvinskas, Stefanie Mayrhofer, Julien Sassel, Dietmar Schulmeister and David Vaculik Contributions: Julien Sassel, Anna Masna, Jakov Devcic, Mindaugas Liutvinskas, Dr. Martin Pätzold, Mats Kirkebirkeland, Roland Freudenstein, Kim Thy Tong, Silvie Rohr, Florian Weinberger, Daria Krasilnikova, Stefanie Mayrhofer, Hendrik Hall, David Vaculik, and Ivan Burazin Photos: Balázs Szecsődi, Laurence Chaperon, Remy Steinegger, Daria Krasilnikova, Ingo Beller, Rita Modl, Daniel Bueche, swiss-image.ch, private archives, 123RF and Shutterstock Design: Creacion.si Publisher: European Democrat Students, B-1000 Brussels, Rue du Commerce 10 Tel: +32 2 2854-150 Fax: +32 2 2854-141 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: edsnet.eu
The newsmagazine of European Democrat Students
Articles and opinions published in this magazine are not nessessarily reflecting the position of EDS, EDS Bureau or the Editorial team.
Publication supported by: European Youth Foundation of the Council of Europe
Benvenuti a Roma! We are very happy to present the second issue of BullsEye during our tenure as council from right here in the eternal city. The focus of this council meeting will be “Bringing Solutions to the Skills Gap in Europe” as Italy is at the heart of the current discussions. While facing large inflows of immigrants, the country must come up with sound solutions to address the challenges of high rates of youth unemployment. Italy’s universities are among the best in Europe; Bologna is known not just for its excellent food but also for its university founded as early as 1088 and the reform process named after it. Yet we must ask ourselves: has the reform process led to a rise in the number of diplomas that are not valued by the labour market? What must education look like to fit the needs of the labour market? Does every graduate from high school need to study at university or are systems like vocational training a more suitable way to ensure that young people can enter the labour market more easily? At EDS, we have proposed several ideas during the past year, publishing policy suggestions in conjunction with input from Think Tanks, youth NGOs, universities and parliamentarians. Now, we meet to exchange best practice and decide on a strategy to implement our ideas. At EDS, we want to provide solutions to improve the situation of Europe’s young people. How can we influence centre-right politics so that we do not simply perform well in global rankings but create chances for young Europeans? We believe the overall aim cannot just be to ‘produce’ more academics: should we not just try to train young people so that they fulfil the criterion of ‘employability’. What are the core values that they need to be successful for the better of the society and what does a skill set fit for the modern world consist of? We look forward to discussing these questions (and more) with our members here in Rome and hope that you will join us in the search for answers to these questions.
Dear friends of EDS!
With best regards from the entire Bureau,
Eva Majewski, Chairwoman
MONSIEUR JUNCKER Who is the new President of the European Commission?
A NATURAL EUROPHILE Jean-Claude Juncker was born in 1954 in the Village of Redange, a town on the Belgian border. His family was of humble origins – his father was a steelworker- and as most of the Luxembourgers, Jean-Claude Junker had contacts with foreign people as he did his secondary school studies in the Belgian City of Clairefontaine, a very common practice in this area where borders have always been a relative concept, with Luxembourgers having a lot of contacts with their Belgian neighbours living in the Province of Belgian Luxembourg. As there was no Luxembourgish University at that time, JeanClaude Juncker went in France to enrol at Strasbourg University where he studied Law, following the same path of one of the European Union’s Founding Fathers, Robert Schuman. He graduated in 1979 and three years later he was appointed as Secretary of State for Labour and Social Security in the Luxembourgish government on the recommendation of another future President of the European Commission, Jacques Santer. AN EXPERIENCED LEADER From this point on, Jean-Claude Juncker would ascend the hierarchy within the Luxembourgish government. As Minister of Finance, his contributions to the Treaty of Maastricht were fundamental. In 1995, as Jacques Santer was nominated President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker became Prime Minister, a position he would hold for the next 18 years. He also kept the Finance portfolio till 2009. A man of consensus but also conviction, he became one of the most influential people inside the European Council, often mediating conflicts between other countries. In 1996, he was nicknamed the Hero of Dublin by the media after having managed an essential agreement between French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl on the Economic and Monetary Union. Being both Prime Minister and Minister of Finance (a portfolio he gave up to become President of the Euro-
group in 2005), he was often associated with monetary and financial policy, though his main interest was the social integration of Europe, a topic about which he had been working since his first term as Secretary of State. As Prime Minister of a small country, he was faithful to the “national tradition” of Luxembourger leaders in having a firm belief in the European integration process and never being afraid to defend his own values and views on Europe, entering debates with leaders of bigger countries on touchy topics such as Eurobonds. A much appreciated negotiator, his sense of humour is another element of his personality that still makes him the most liked politician in his country, even after 18 years at the head of Luxembourgish government and an inquiry on an alleged scandal involving the Luxembourgish intelligence services. The affair led to the withdrawal of the Social-Democratic Party from the Cabinet, a move that forced him to step back down from office. Leading his party to the 2013 elections, he was able to maintain it as largest party but the Liberals, Social-Democrats and Greens managed to form a coalition, bringing to an end the rule of the Christian-Democrats. A WHOLE NEW POLITICAL PROCESS FOR AN EXCEPTIONAL COMMISSION After the Treaty of Lisbon, article 17 of the Treaty on European Union states in its point 7: “Taking into account the elections to the European Parliament and after having held the appropriate consultations, the European Council, acting by a qualified majority, shall propose to the European Parliament a candidate for President of the Commission.” This article, unlike what was stated by previous treaties, brought a new perspective by asking to take account of the European elections. These few words were going to be the basis of a revolution in the European Union political process, that the results of the elections would determine who would become the President of the European commission. A new European political concept appeared: the Spitzenkandidaten. This interpretation led, with some criticisms from parts of the EU political sphere, to the launch of the first ever European electoral campaign, as most of the European political parties designated a candidate that, in case of victory and with the European Council’s agreement, would be the next President of the Commission. JeanClaude Juncker was elected as European People’s Party candidate during Dublin congress on 6 and 7 March 2014. He soon entered the campaign, against MEPs Martin Schultz (Socialists and Democrats), Guy Verhofstadt (Liberals) and the ticket composed of Ska
Keller and José Bové (Greens). It was the first time that a campaign for the European elections had been conducted at the EU level with candidates campaigning in most of the EU Member States and duelling in debates broadcasted on Eurovision. The candidates reached an agreement that would become very important for the post-elections decisions: the four candidates agreed that whoever would be the winner of the elections, the other parties would support him as the most appropriate person to be designated as President of the European Commission. This agreement was substantial in order to prevent Member States leaders ignoring the Spitzenkandidaten concept. After the elections of the 25 May, it proved true, as a confrontation appeared between the supporters and the opponents of this new approach. The EPP had won the elections (221 MEPs elected) and its candidate seemed to most the person to be designated as the future President of the Commission. However, the fierce opposition from certain Member States leaders (whether the criticisms were against the personality of Jean-Claude Juncker or the Spitzenkandidaten principle), it appeared that his designation would be the only way to avoid an institutional conflict between the Council and the Parliament, at the cost of unanimity in the Council. Jean-Claude Juncker was then designated to form the next Commission on 27 June. From now on, he was facing a new challenge: he had to weigh the demands of the Member States and those of the Parliament. A large number of the potential commission candidates were important personalities in their member states and even at the European level (there were several former or current ministers) and Member States were expecting important portfolios for them. In the same time, the Parliament wished to see more being women represented in the Commission and warned it would not vote for a Commission with a low-representation for women. In the end, the new Commission was elected on the 22nd October even though some of its members were accused of conflicts of interest. In the end, most of the criticisms were overcome and the Juncker Commission, due to its composition and structure (the Vice-Presidents role was reinforced as they will supervise the Commissioners work) seems to be the most ambitious Commission of the last decade. Jean-Claude Juncker and his colleagues have a lot of work to do in order to bring Europe back to growth and this Commission definitely looks able to face all the challenges.
CURRENT AFFAIRS Particularly since the end of the Cold War, it has generally been taken for granted that democracy is the best political system, almost regardless of the circumstances. But the experiences of the past few years have shown that election monitoring is important because elections are the cornerstone of creating a democratic political system. The direct participation in carrying forward and supporting democratic elections is of great importance for EDS, especially in order to prevent the appearance of “pseudo monitors” as have existed in recent years in Russia or China. Those observers endorse any election as long as the candidate or party preferred by the established leadership wins. EDS’s delegations have already observed the election processes in Ukraine and Georgia during the elections back in 2012. 2,321 observers from foreign countries and international organisations were registered in the parliamentary elections in Ukraine this year. The EDS mission to Ukraine, which included 16 registered observers from 11 countries, also monitored the election on 26 October 2014. Free and transparent elections are so important, because it is the starting position for the formation of governmental bodies that will place the rule of law as main principle of their work. Unfortunately, even nowadays violations of law and civil rights during different elections often appear in the countries of the former Communist bloc. “The role of international observation in the transition countries is crucial for fostering free and fair conduct of elections in order to ensure pluralism and freedom of choice of the people. Therefore the governments committed to democratic transformation of the country should not only be open to international missions but encourage the respective international organisations to deploy monitoring missions during elections.” stresses Natalia Mchedlishvili in her role as an EDS Observer from United Young National Movement, Georgia.
earlier in Ukraine, I was almost surprised to witness polling stations which fulfilled mostly all informational, material, technical and organisational criteria - without exceptions”. In spite of the worry that the presence of international observers does not help the carrying out of democratic elections, observers can verify that governments are indeed playing by the rules, which can be important in increasing voter confidence, quelling “sore loser” protests and assisting the international community in assessing the legitimacy of the elections. The importance of observation was also stressed in the presidential election in Romania on the 2 November. Currently having a Social Democrat Prime Minister, according to Transparency International Romania is one of the EU’s most corrupt countries. “Poorly organised in the diaspora, the elections not only proved to be highly undemocratic but also demonstrated with certainty the intention to obstruct the right to vote of thousands of Romanians living abroad, given the fact that this community’s traditional preference is to vote for right wing parties. The polling stations lacked
With Ballots and arms
there are any other deviations from international norms and standards for elections.” – argues Alexander O´Brien from Young Conservative Europe Group, United Kingdom. Most of the EDS observers got the impression that the local staff at polling stations welcomed them warmly. Also, regular voters looked positively upon their presence during the election process. This underlines the fact that international observers share their experience and help Ukrainians and citizens in other countries move towards European standards and values. “EU Member States need to show their interest in the countries of the Eastern Partnership. These countries are at a transitional period and they are trying to implement EU standards to their government and state systems. This time could be difficult for the people as some painful reforms need to be implemented and during this period people may lose their interest in establishing a closer relationship with the EU. Our task is to show that the EU is a better partner for the further development of their countries than Russia.” - said Martin Tokar from Občiansko Demokratická Mládež, Slovakia.
The role of international election observers in the democratic development of Eastern Partnership
Observers are responsible for monitoring the closing stages of the election campaign, the voting process, and the counting and compilation of results in their area of responsibility. Organised in different multinational teams the participants visited a number of polling stations. Each of them was different and adapted to the given conditions of the venues and the electoral districts. Ada Stenstad from Høyres Studenter, Norway also visited polling stations in Kiev. In her view, “Having international observers, especially from a broad variety of countries, may help to reduce violations in the election procedures since we come as unbiased witnesses who may prevent infractions. If the Eastern Partnership Countries wish to ensure a structural and political shift towards the EU, having democratic elections is essential - which international observation could help to establish. As we learned a lot about the method and frequency of election violations which had occurred
voting stamps and booths – given the number of Romanians living abroad, this fact led to endless queues in front of the embassies and thousands of Romanians that didn’t have the chance to vote before the polls closed. It was not an isolated incident; this happened in most of the cities that host large Romanian communities like London, Paris, Munich, Chisinau, Brussels or Stockholm. Although a highly democratic country, Romania finds itself at a crossroads after such an unpleasant event. International observers are needed for the run-off in order to restore a democratic election process” reported Elisabeta Ungureanu, member of Organizatia de Tineret a Partidului Democrat Liberal, Romania. The role of the international observation mission in Ukraine was “To provide an objective assessment, free from any of the prejudices that a domestic observer may have for or against any of the candidates or parties, of whether the elections are conducted in accordance with international norms and standards. In particular, to provide an impartial assessment of whether there are any instances where voters are bribed or intimidated, where ballot papers are improperly included or excluded in the final count, where votes are not correctly and impartially counted, or where
EDS has proved through its own experience that the role of international observation missions is to promote free and fair elections and prevent violations that might occur at polling stations. The remarks and advice of the observers have provided insights into the electoral process. The work of the observers has provided useful knowledge and helped in empowering the young democracies in EaP countries.
The Window of Opportunity is still open Ukraine after the parliamentary elections and the need for reforms
A few days after the Ukrainian parliamentary elections, it is becoming more and more obvious that the results have created the necessary political conditions and the framework for political stability and new reforms which are more needed than ever in Ukraine since its independence in 1991. The clear victory of pro-European forces at the parliamentary elections is yet more proof that the allegations from Russian politicians are just propaganda. The voters in Ukraine have clearly stated their wish that Ukraine should stay on its European pathway towards the EU. Despite this fact there are a number of challenges, which the incoming government has to tackle as soon as possible. Another positive outcome of the recent election is that many civic activists from the Euromaidan movement and former journalists pushed their way into the parliament. A big part of the Ukrainian society set its hope on the activists to help to change the political system from within. The Ukrainian economy is on the brink of collapse and it is important to conduct the deregulation, debureaucratization and demonopolization in order to support the economic recovery. Furthermore it is necessary to reform public services in the context of fighting corruption. The salaries of public servants have to be increased in order to diminish the incentives for corruption. To encourage foreign direct investment, the reform of justice has to be continued and implemented in all regions. The first steps have been completed, but the continuation is also crucial in order to restore the trust of Ukrainians in their institutions, which suffered a blow during the regime of Viktor Yanukovych. The restoration of trust is also of crucial importance when speaking about the function of the political elite in Ukraine. As
already stated above, the parliamentary election has brought new faces without a history of corruption scandals into politics. However, the system has not changed overnight and seventy years of soviet thinking and more than twenty years of corrupt networks under the old political elite have left their mark. Therefore, a bill on the financing of political parties is required in order to minimize the corruption in Ukrainian politics. This reform and more than 80 others have been prepared by the NGO “Reanimation Package for Reforms”, which should be implemented as soon as possible. Before the elections the four pro-European parties - “Block Poroshenko”, “Batkivshchyna”, “Narodniy Front” and “Samopomych” - signed a memorandum stating that they will support those reforms in the legislative procedures after having formed a government. Now they have the responsibility to meet their obligations and to introduce a real change in all parts of the Ukrainian society. However, all this needed reform will not happen if the conflict in the east of Ukraine flares up again. The past few months have shown that it is very difficult to conduct effective reforms while having an existential threat to territorial integrity. Indeed, the opposing parties have agreed on a cease-fire and following this agreement the situation in East Ukraine calmed down smoothly. Nevertheless, every day civilians and soldiers on both sides die. Furthermore, the Ukrainian side is not able to control the border between Russia and the Ukraine, meaning the separatists can restart the infiltration from Russia every day. Hence the new Ukrainian government together with the president has to resume the negotiations with the OSCE, Russia and the separatists in the near future. One important bargaining chip for the Ukrainian side to avoid the long-term secession is to
offer a new decentralized system of governance and a real strengthening of the principle of local self-government. Indeed, president Poroschenko already signed a bill offering more autonomy for the oblasts of Luhansk and Donetsk. Political analysts in Kyiv described it as window dressing. In addition the exclusive treatment of these two oblasts is not a good option, as it will lead to resentment between them and the other parts of Ukraine. The window of opportunity for a peaceful solution of this conflict is becoming smaller and smaller every day. The new government and the President are in a genuine race against the time. They have still the power and instruments to tackle the problems. As a matter of course, Ukraine is reliant on the financial and advisory support by the EU. But the EU and other donors will just intensify the support if the Ukrainian state will move forward. Now after the parliamentary elections there is much more space to move forward than in the last few years.
Jakov Devcic, Konrad-AdenauerStiftung Kyiv, EDS-Alumni
TTIP - A treaty at any cost? The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), also known as Transatlantic Free Trade Area (TAFTA), is going to be an important topic for the forthcoming European Commission. Over the last few months, an intense debate has arisen between the supporters and opponents of an agreement that would bind the two biggest economies in the world: the European Union and the United States. It appears necessary to review the arguments in favour and in opposition to this on-going negotiation. HISTORICAL OVERVIEW Trade rights between the western and eastern shores of the Atlantic Ocean are not a new debate. In 1849, Victor Hugo, while advocating for the United States of Europe, expressed a desire that Europe and America would trade fraternally, bringing benefit to both continents. If these views appeared utopian during the nineteenth century, the European integration process, launched after the end of World War II, gave fresh impetus to these old dreams. Efforts have been made over the last few decades to reach an agreement concerning free trade between the US and the European Economic Community, now the European Union. The failure of the World Trade Organisation’s Doha Round, aimed at lowering tariffs and other economic barriers, boosted interest in a transatlantic trade treaty. Several political leaders asked for an agreement and different committees were created in order to prepare the path for formal negotiations. These actions eventually succeeded in 2013 when US President Barack Obama and EU Commission President José Barroso declared that negotiations would begin. A mandate was given to EU Commissioner for Trade Karel De Gucht in June 2013. The negotiations are ongoing and are expected to finish next year. PROS: AN OPPORTUNITY FOR A WEAKENED EU ECONOMY According to the European Commission and several research institutes, a free-trade agreement between the US and the EU will benefit both parties. The lowering of tariffs and harmonisation of standards are expected to create growth over the coming years, bringing tens of billions to both economies providing a boost of between 0.5 to 1% in GDP. This would mean €119 billion a year in the EU’s case. In other words, each European family would benefit to the tune of €545 from such a treaty. The TTIP would also enable the creation of millions of jobs in both the parts of the treaty. As tariffs and trade barriers are already low in most goods and services traded between the EU and the US, the advocates of the TTIP believe that one of the most important benefits would come from removing tariffs on specific goods that have been a source of conflict in the past. For instance, a very problematic topic is alleged protectionism in State contracts after requests for proposal (especially in defence issues). Supporters of the TTIP claim that conflicts such as the ones that appeared during the United States Air Force so-called programme KC-X (a contract for the procurement of more than 150 air refuelling planes, awarded to Boeing while Airbus plane seemed more competitive and had won the first competition) could not happen anymore.
Another argument in favour of the TTIP comes from of the end of duplication in certain areas of legislation. Theses efficiencies would not at the expense of the citizens’ interests as sanitarian and environmental regulations would still be in force. A very specific argument brought by the defenders of the TTIP concerns the EU’s will to maintain and enforce its own policy on food designations (the EU official brands such as “Protected designation of Origin”, “Protected geographical indication” etc.) used in order to protect specific regional produce. This is an important matter of concern for American food industry as brands such as Parmigiano-Reggiano, Camembert, Feta or Cheddar are used by many corporations. By then, a TTIP would extend the protection of such European brands, mostly used by small-scale producers and consortiums, to the US, bringing more opportunities for exports. Moreover, as the European Commission has stated, sustainable development is fundamental to the agreement. TTIP is therefore expected to meet international environmental and social standards. Europeans hope that the treaty is not going to lower these standards, enabling the EU to reach its energy policy goals. It appears obvious that the prospects and hopes of TTIP concerning economic growth are a big argument in favour of a transatlantic trade treaty. However, a lot of criticisms counter this optimistic view. CONS: TOO MANY UNANSWERED QUESTIONS? Opponents have underlined several problems concerning TTIP and its development. Here are the most important. The first one regards the negotiation process: many nongovernmental bodies and civil society groups have criticised the procedure used for the negotiations and denounced a lack of transparency. It has to be assumed that since trade is an exclusive EU competence (and the EU represents its Member States inside the World Trade Organisation), the commercial policy and the trade negotiations are led by the EU Commissioner for Trade. Concerning the trade negotiations, the European Commission receives a mandate from the Member States that gives political guidance to the negotiator. In the end, the negotiator presents the results and the EU and the Member States decide whether to approve it or not. Karel De Gucht denied there was lack of transparency and claimed that several non-governmental bodies had the opportunity to give their opinions. This argument seems a bit weak as the TTIP negotiation process is based on the standard EU trade negotiation procedure and it is strange that the procedure comes now under fire of critics while it has been used for years in all the
EU trade negotiations. There is fierce criticism for an instrument that is supposed to be created by TTIP: an Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). The ISDSs were created in early trade agreements between the United States and other countries to satisfy the need for an impartial court when investors faced the risks of unfair trials in less-developed countries. Thus ISDSs were meant to protect private investments in foreign countries by proposing an arbitration tribunal, composed of neutral arbitrators, to the contenders. Although most cases brought to ISDS were won by the States, this form of jurisdiction has been criticised as acting in favour of investors, as different cases brought to the North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA) ISDS seem to show. In the last few years Canada has been sentenced to pay hundreds of millions dollars to corporations because, according to the ISDS, Canadian law damaged these corporations. These cases concerned controversial topics such as oil drilling moratoria and patent policies on medicines. Another interesting case arose from the dispute between the tobacco industry and Australia about its neutral packaging of tobacco products policy. Several European leaders have announced that they will refuse any treaty including an ISDS. Another important criticism regards the differences between European and North-American standards. Even though both the US and the EU are considered to be two of the most restrictive regulators in terms of standards, the EU is usually more restrictive than the US. An example comes from the debate around genetically modified organisms (GMOs): US agriculture has become a world leader in GMOs in the last few years whereas the EU has adopted a cautious attitude towards GMOs. Critics of TTIP consider that the treaty would lower European standards and open the EU to many unwanted or low-quality products. CONCLUSION In conclusion, we can say that the debates surrounding TTIP are likely to go on until a draft is presented to the EU and its Member States. Considering the importance of a trade agreement between two of the biggest economies in the world and the interests at stake, it is obvious that the TTIP arouses fierce passions on both sides. Other upcoming trade agreements are considered to be tests before the ending of the TTIP negotiations: a free-trade agreement between the EU and Canada (the Canada-Europe Trade Agreement, CETA) has been negotiated and is considered to be very similar to the expected transatlantic agreement. The CETA’s fate will be a good indicator of the TTIP’s.
CURRENT AFFAIRS With a decreasing income from international oil trade, Russia will undoubtedly turn to one of its other principal riches – natural gas. It should be remembered that during one of the periods of low world oil prices, particularly between 1999 and 2003, natural gas was the main source of income to the federal budget. With this in mind, it is feasible to assume that over the course of several upcoming years the “Russian bear” shall try to further tighten its grasp over the EU, which is already addicted to imported Russian gas. With the relationship between the EU and Russia reaching historic lows only comparable to the situation during the Cold War, the EU’s dependence on gas imports from its eastern neighbour is becoming more and more troublesome. The possible negative effects of this asymmetrical interdependence are properly summed up by the Russian president himself, who is keen on occasionally reminding that “Europe may have to face a cold winter” if the current stance of the Union towards Russia prevails. Even though it is unclear whether Russia would truly make the “next step” and cut gas supplies to Europe (as it did in 2006 and 2009 during conflicts with Ukraine
over gas transition deals), one thing is clear – the EU has to minimize any possible risks associated with gas supplies. The key to this is entering the Russian mindset. The EU should stop having illusions that Moscow will ever agree to kindly accept the rules of the game proposed and embraced by the West. It is high time the EU started looking at the international arena pragmatically, put aside its hitherto idealistic liberal perspective and yes, even turn towards a more Russian understanding of how international politics are done. The emergence of a new Cold War calls for a repeat of the measures applied during that time. The current situation not only creates security threats for the EU – it also opens opportunities for NATO to regain its position in the region, which the alliance abandoned during the rather peaceful period of cohabitation between the EU and Russia of the last 25 years. Coming back to the realist NATO framework does not only mean increased attention to its Eastern European members, having to cope with military provocations of Russia, and increased military presence in the region. Confrontation with an “energy empire” also implies increased NATO involvement in the sphere of energy. It is true to say that the organization does already pay some attention to energy issues – there is even a NATO Energy Security Centre of Excellence operating in Vilnius, Lithuania. However, it is clear that in a rapidly deteriorating geopolitical context, having a think-tank, no matter how effective and prominent, is not sufficient. NATO has to take more responsibility and finally realize, as Russia did quite a while ago, that vulnerability in the energy sector poses a real threat to the safety of the EU as a whole. A “revival” of NATO implies enhancing transatlantic cooperation between the US and the EU, which has been the basis of the alliance since its establishment. The backbone of the this cooperation, without doubt, is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which includes trade in energy resources and raw materials as one of its core elements. With the scales of shale gas extraction increasing and the US regaining its
Europe’s Gas Addiction – Is there a Cure? The recent months have been characterized by substantially decreasing oil prices in the global market. Prices per barrel have dropped to around 80 dollars, something that definitely came as a surprise to Vladimir Putin as the federal budget for 2015 has been based on predictions of oil prices fluctuating near the margin of 100 dollars per barrel. Even though Russia still rests on a “pile of money”, as it has accumulated over 74 billion dollars from foreign trade surpluses due to vast amounts of exports of natural resources, the current trend could rapidly deplete these reserves due to the need to allocate this sum to various state sectors in order to eliminate the negative impact of decreasing budgetary income on social spending and to prevent any possible civil unrest that could endanger the regime itself.
position in the global energy market as a producer and exporter of energy resources, prospects for EU’s diversification of natural gas suppliers are getting brighter than ever. While using liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals, a technology that is rapidly spreading around the globe including within EU member states, the Union could import a substantial part of its gas requirements directly from a key strategic partner, thereby increasing its security of supply and seriously limiting Russian ability to use its dominant position in the regional market. Understanding the possibilities of this cooperation while reducing European addiction on Russian gas is one of the principal aims of the newly elected European Parliament and the European Commission should be seen to be pushing for the TTIP agreement to be reached as soon as possible. It is clear that European politicians will have a tough time convincing policy makers in the US Congress that this kind of relationship, particularly energy cooperation, is indispensable if the West is still to be seen as a common front. One thing is evident though – before trying to reach an agreement with the US, the EU itself must form a unified position concerning the need to reduce energy dependence on Russia. The potential of LNG imports from the US could finally provide the EU with a real alternative to the strategic dependence on Russia. It would at the same time provide new impetus for transatlantic cooperation within NATO and strengthen the alliance in face of a rising “Eastern empire”. The only condition, which still needs to be met, is finding enough political will, above all in within the EU itself. Brace yourselves – winter is coming.
A driving force behind European Integration
A severe and destructive gloom is hovering above the European Continent. The gloom is stretching out its fangs over all countries and makes them cringe. Its name is national debts and it is present in the EU like nothing else. Just recently, France’s debts reached the symbolic mark of 2tn €, making up a total of 95.1% of the GDP. The same is happening in Italy, Spain and many other member states. Even Germany, the strongest economy of the continent, struggles to meet the Maastricht criteria. The impacts of national debt and economic burdens are evident; financial instability, commercial decay and unemployment are the consequences. Although this crisis draws a very cataclysmic picture of the Eurozone, it should not be understood as its destroyer. The European Debt Crisis confronted not only every member state with perilous and damaging challenges, but also threatened the solidarity of the whole European community. This menace also made the countries of the Eurozone aware of how important it is to act in concert, coordinate economic policies and advance European Integration. In order to fight these demanding trends, the Eurozone and the EU member states were forced to develop measures that would stabilize the financial market, ensure economic growth and boost employment. For stabilising and controlling the financial market, it needed to be more monitored and regulated. So the EU set up varied supervisory authorities. The European Banking Authority is one of them and aims to ensure the safety, reliability and stability of the European banking sector. In addition to that it investigates ways to save failing banks without using taxpayers’ money or impacting the general economy. Another, more popular, measure to enforce financial stability was the European Stability Mechanism with its lending capacities of 500bn €. This mechanism soothes the impacts of the crisis and helps national governments on their way to stable markets. This in 2012 by the European financial minister’s instituted project is a huge step towards exercising supranational solidarity. Since stability is a precondition for economic growth to
take place, it was crucial to ensure the stability of the financial market first. Then follow up with programs that would encourage the economy to grow. For this reason the European Parliament and Council adopted the so called European Six-pack Legislation on economic governance. As a result, it strengthened and reformed the Stability and Growth Pact. Its new objective focuses on discovering structural weaknesses and exposing commercial vulnerabilities. In this way it targets structural programs within the member states and wants to correct them, so that any growth is sustainable. In order to frame this whole process, the EU has put forward the Europe 2020 Strategy in which all member states set their own aims for the end of this decade. These aims prioritise smart investments in education, research and innovation, along with a strong emphasis on sustainable grow and poverty reduction. Since every member state has set up their own specific goals, it was required to establish an efficient system of economic governance which helps to coordinate actions between the different member states and the EU. This measure is another huge project which links every member state more strongly to each other and might be a first step towards an Economic Union. Lastly, supranational investments were needed in order to fight the structural problems of various regions. Acknowledging that, the EU leaders launched the Compact for Growth and Jobs in 2012. It stems from EU member states’ desire to address unemployment and tackle structural weaknesses. Therefore, it contains 120bn € for funding various programs like the Youth Employment Initiative which invests in regions with a youth unemployment rate above 25%. Also, the funds are used to deepen the single market by supporting initiatives that strive for completing the digital single market as well as the internal energy market. In line with the Multiannual Financial Framework for the years between 2014-2020 and funds from the European Investment Bank, the EU member states conjointly agreed to use the EU budget
The European Debt Crisis
THEME for the specific task of job creation and unemployment reduction. What all of these measures have in common, is their natural by-product of deepening intergovernmental relations and the solidarity of member states. Never before was the completion of the single market, the EU-wide coordination of economic policies and the supervision of financial institutions as accelerated as through the European Debt Crisis. The momentum of this process is outstanding and in every way unique in European history because it portraits how productively the member states can work together if everyone has the same goals. Especially after the rejection of the European constitution and after the decline popularity of the European Union, it is remarkable and ironic that it took a devastating crisis which endangered the survival of the Union to revive the very spirit of it. Even more remarkable, though, is the progress of the European Integration which has been made since the outbreak of the crisis. All of these very positive developments are contrasted by the rise and popular recognition of Eurosceptic voices which are undermining the successes of the instituted measures. While some are calling for the abolishment of the European currency, others are demanding the withdrawal of economically challenged countries from the EU. These unconsidered callings ultimately stem from the disbelief in the short-term successes of these measures. Their argument is that these countries still have not fixed their structural deficits although they have been given a plethora of both credit and time. According to these critics, they weaken the general stability of the European common market and the EURO. Although the accomplishments of the programs are not admittedly obvious at first sight, they sustainably helped tackle structural problems within the EU and its member states. For that matter, central supervisory authorities, along with a system of economic governance, monitor the stability of the financial markets and prevent further problems while investment programs correct macroeconomic imbalances. In this way, the severe gloom has been a necessary evil that evolved into a driving force behind European integration and compelled a reform and restructuration of the national and EU-wide economic systems.
Dr. Martin P채tzold, Member of the German Parliament
Europe`s Arctic Border
“At approximately 3:00 a.m. CET on 29 October, NATO radars detected and tracked eight Russian aircraft flying in formation over the North Sea. F-16 aircraft from the Royal Norwegian Air Force were scrambled, intercepted and identified the Russian aircraft, which included four Tu-95 Bear H strategic bombers and four Il-78 tanker aircraft. The formation flew from mainland Russia over the Norwegian Sea in international airspace. Six of the Russian aircraft then turned back to the north-east towards Russia, while two Tu-95 Bear H bombers continued south-west, parallel to the Norwegian coast, heading to the south-west. The Russian aircraft continued over the North Sea and Typhoon fighters from the United Kingdom were scrambled in response. While over the Atlantic Ocean west of Portugal, the two Russian aircraft were intercepted and identified by F-16s from the Portuguese Air Force. The Russian aircraft turned back heading north-east, flying to the west of the United Kingdom. Aircraft from the United Kingdom and Norway were standing by and NATO assets on the ground and in the air tracked the Russian aircraft throughout.”
The text above is an extract from the latest press report from NATO on the Russian military activity on Europe’s northern border. During the Cold War NATO aircraft were sent to intercept Soviet aircraft several times each year. After the Soviet breakup, Russian military activity on the European Arctic border faded and was almost non-existent. Unfortunately, since the mid-2000s Russian military activity has again reached the same levels as during the cold war. Russia has not only increased its military presence but also significantly expanded its air force. In this latest scenario, Russian aircraft did not file flight plans or maintain radio contact with civilian air-traffic control authorities. This alone posed a potential risk to civil aviation, as civilian air-traffic control cannot detect Russian military aircraft. But the action itself is both a test for the European military emergency response as well as a Russian message to European nations: “We have bombers with potential nuclear capability that can reach Europe’s major cities”. Securing Europe’s northern border should be as important as securing Europe’s other borders. Considering the focus of recent years on the southern and eastern borders of Europe, many tend to forget that the Arctic is as much part of Europe as the Mediterranean Sea. The EU and its member states should therefore have a stronger focus and presence in the Arctic. Temperatures are increasing in the Arctic and, as one
of nature’s last frontiers the Arctic is vulnerable to increasing human activity. This is in terms of both rising temperatures as a consequence of Global Warming and of increasing military and economic activity. There is a growing presence of non-European nations in the Arctic, as it is estimated to have 25% of the world’s last unproven oil-and gas resources and plenty of mineral resources onshore as well. China and other Asian countries have shown a significant interest in the Arctic’s economic opportunities and resources, and in March 2010 Chinese Rear Admiral Yin Zhuo made the following statement: “The Arctic belongs to all the people around the world, as no nation has sovereignty over it. China must plan an indispensable role in Arctic exploration as we have onefifth of the world’s population”. There are also large economic opportunities in using the “Northern Sea-route” from Europe to Asia. The maritime shipping distance from Shanghai to Hamburg is about 4,000 miles shorter via the North-east Passage than the Southern Route through the Strait of Malacca and the Suez Canal. Today the Arctic border is still characterised as a peaceful region with good intergovernmental cooperation, which can mainly be explained by the “Arctic Council”, the forum for issues faced by the Arctic governments and the indigenous people of the Arctic. The Arctic Council today has eight member countries: Canada, Denmark, Finland,
Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States. In 2013 six states including China and the EU got permanent observer status on the Arctic Council, while other European nations have had observer status in the forum for several years. This is step in the right direction for the continued peaceful and sustainable management of the Arctic’s resources and environment. But why not take it further? In my opinion the EU should become a full member of the Arctic Council. The EU has a strong environmental conscience and a deep respect for the rights of indigenous people. Full member status for the EU would also provide a strong message from Europe to Russia, China and other non-European nations: “The Arctic is an important part of Europe and a natural part of the European sphere of influence”.
The Myth of ...
Hong Kong, Taiwan and the of myth saying China and democracy don’t go together. Eric X. Li is a bit of an internet star. According to his TedX speech on the merits of one party rule in China he confesses that he had been a “Berkeley hippie” before becoming a successful entrepreneur in China. He also says he understood the Western narrative about the “end of history”: U.S. political scientist Francis Fukuyama’s 1990s thesis that liberal democracy, or democratic capitalism, was the inevitable future for all of mankind. But Eric X. Li had been fooled once, he claims, by another narrative about an inevitable future: the Marxist one about socialism. And he spends most of the remaining TedX time on proving how efficient, just and modern one party rule is in China, as opposed to Western democracy – whose economic and political inefficiency he mildly mocks. His central thesis is that liberal democracy is not the answer to humanity’s problems, and certainly unfit to But compare Eric X. Li’s polished (and much rehearsed) speech to this simple demand by a student protester in Hong Kong in the early days of the “Occupy Central” movement: The core statement is directed at all citizens of democracies – “You have free elections, but we don’t. Please help us!” Needless to say, Eric X. Li soon joined the chorus of mainland Chinese officials who labelled the protesters foreign agents and repeated the old narrative about the incompatibility of a modern China with Western democracy. Which is wrong on three counts: First, Taiwan is the living proof that a multiparty democracy can work very well in a Chinese society based on Confucian traditions. True, Taiwan started out in 1949 as a nationalist authoritarian state but turned into a democracy in the 1980s. Ever since then, it has become an excellent example of a democracy for the increasing numbers of mainland Chinese who are allowed to come for visits. Many of them are known to spend hours and even days in their hotel rooms, watching uncensored television and freely using the internet. Second, if Chinese communism was so universally
accepted in mainland China, then why is the regime getting nervous about its own public whenever a visiting politician from the West shows up? Why are there crackdowns on the – already strongly monitored – internet communication? And why are dissidents always summarily arrested or intimidated before such visits? Actually, the myth about the gradual democratization of mainland Chinese society is just that: Xi Jin Ping is reversing the trend and recentralizing power, to the state and within that, to his own person. Hence, there is a nagging fear among Chinese communists that multiparty democracy and the rule of law might be more popular than generally claimed. Third, there actually is no such thing as “Western democracy”. Nor are the values inscribed into the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights “Western values”. There are many forms of democracy, often with specificities rooted in local culture, but they all are based on a few not so complex principles: The rule of law, freedom of expression and other basic human rights, all of which are painfully scarce in mainland China. Just as pluralist democracy, and the
system of checks and balances, these principles of statehood and governance have emerged in Europe and North America. But they are universal and can be shared by all people on the planet. These three points are habitually and even systematically neglected by cultural relativists who claim that as much as Westerners may like democracy, other regions of the world have developed equally legitimate systems of rule (that is, authoritarianism and dictatorship). This notion is deeply inhumane. I would even call it racist. Here is the proof: I’m coming back to the appeal by the Hong Kong student quoted above. Now, she asks me to help her get to free elections. What a cultural relativist implies at this point is that I should address her and say: “Sorry, lady, you come from the wrong culture. Your country doesn’t have free elections, and therefore I can’t help you!” – But I cannot do that, just as no self-respecting person can do that. It is my obligation as a democrat to at least give her moral support. Those who live in freedom are obliged to help those who don’t; that should be an axiom of democratic politics. And to all those doomsayers of the West, and referring to the debate around Francis Fukuyama’s “end of history” I can only repeat the words of Mikheil Saakashvili, former President of Georgia, in his departure speech to the UN General Assembly in 2013: “History may not have ended in 1989, but freedom remains its motor and its horizon!”.
Roland Freudenstein, Deputy Director, Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies
The Balance of European Labour Migration A principle of giving and taking “Freedom of movement for workers shall be secured within the Union“ - as it is defined in the first paragraph of Article 45 of the European law. Since the Maastricht Treaty, the member states have worked hard to deepen European integration at the national level. This includes the laws that are supposed to guarantee and facilitate the mobility of European workers. For some parties and people, the existence of such laws causes unease due to the inequality between the relative economies within the European Union. In particular, populist, but also conservative parties, resort to the issue of increased
labour mobility and provide a direct reference to the so-called “benefit tourism“. With the start of the euro crisis, especially the media began to divide the countries of the European Union between “weak” and “strong” nations and solidify the image of the privileged and nonprivileged in the opinion of the population, an image that is especially prevalent in the discourse on the free movement of workers. Parties, such as Alternative für Deutschland, Front National, Partij voor de Vrijheid, Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs, Vlaams Belang and Lega Nord know exactly how to use this existing uncertainty
in the population to their advantage. During elections, they advertise with Eurosceptic slogans, while focusing mostly on the containment of free movement of workers. Their unilateral perspective allows them to focus on the disadvantages of such a system and to confine themselves to the area of internal security within their own nation. But what are the advantages and disadvantages of the free movement of workers, of which the large and small economies benefit or under which they have to suffer? With the beginning of the Erasmus program, students learned to appreciate the freedom and mobility the European Union offers them. They experience alternative lifestyles, different working methods, but also the mentality and the diversity of the European people. Erasmus shows that it is quite possible to live in another European country for an academic reason. Young people will have the freedom to decide upon graduation, where they want to live and work. They will no longer encounter bureaucratic hurdles, but can enjoy the benefits of a common European economic space. For too long the idea of Erasmus was only focused on academic fields. In the course of the euro crisis, politics has sought exchange programs for trainees or started to provide and to introduce young people to training companies with the idea of counteracting the shortage of skilled labour. This lack of skilled workers will be one of
the biggest challenges for the European Union. This challenge can no longer be seen as a national problem. With regard to the increasing process of European integration, that lack of skilled labour must be seen as a pan-European challenge. Prospective campaigns against the skills shortage should no longer be limited to the individual European nations, but also start playing a decisive role in the pan-European region. It will not be sustainable in the long term it for major economies to attract all those professionals from the small economies, which today are already suffering from a phenomenon known as brain drain as their best and brightest depart for distant shores. One of the most pressing issues of the European Union will be to confront the inequality between the member states. To counter this, member states will need to stay together and develop a common strategy where both today’s weak states and strong states begin to reform their economies. Only the fight against inequality will sustainably develop the European Union and promote the process of integration within its member states. For a sustainable development, labour migration should not only run in one direction: it must go in both directions. Therefore strong economies should not only poach skilled workers, but accept they bear a responsibility to help create the conditions and necessary
infrastructure to enable di-directional movement. We should work towards a situation where not only does a Bulgarian student or trainee acknowledge Sweden as an attractive location to live and to work, but where Swedish academics and professionals perceive Bulgaria’s attractiveness due to improved conditions. As long as people and parties still think of member states as either weak or strong,, it will strengthen the existing inequality of the European Union, whilst providing populist parties the niche in which they are currently situated and which they clearly use to their advantage. Only with a smaller inequality and greater integration in both directions will deprive such Eurosceptic parties of their platform. An important step in this regard is the integration of minorities. They reflect a conflict based on inequality and lack of integration. For a long time both, politics and society had ignored or denied that matter and created a parallel society. Often these minorities were accused of ”benefit tourism“ while emigrating to states with better welfare systems, even though they only make use of the rights, that are legally a European’s due without exception. Today politicians are working on new laws close these loopholes, such as in relation to child benefits, but are neglecting the only sustainable solution for the future generations of these minorities: education.
The European Union needs to face up to its inequality and start to eliminate this disparity through a stronger process of integration process. European labour migration will only succeed if the framework for both small and large economies is designed with the aim of guaranteeing an internal European balance. Only with a balanced, value-oriented and integrated European Union, we will succeed in the effort against the pan-European skills shortage and above all, present the European Union as an attractive work location with a variety and diversity of employers on a high standard for third countries.
Kim Thy Tong
MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF SWEDEN RET.
YOUR GREAT-GRANDFATHER GILLIS BILDT WAS PRIME MINISTER OF SWEDEN, SO POLITICS SEEMS TO BE IN YOUR BLOOD. WHAT ROLE DID YOUR GREAT-GRANDFATHER PLAY IN YOUR LIFE? None, I have to say. That was in what you might call a pre-political era in the late 19th century. Politics in a real sense in our country started later with political parties and universal suffrage. WITH OVER 347 THOUSAND FOLLOWERS, YOU ARE A GREAT PRESENCE ON TWITTER. YOU ARE ALSO HIGHLY ACTIVE ON YOUR BLOG, AS WELL AS OTHER SOCIAL MEDIA CHAN-
NELS. WHY IS SOCIAL MEDIA OF SUCH GREAT IMPORTANCE FOR YOU? It is a superb way of communicating. You can get information out, but equally important is of course that you can follow information, views and developments across the globe fairly easily. IN RELATION TO A NATIONWIDE TEACHERS’ STRIKE IN 1966 YOU HAD YOUR FIRST TV APPEARANCE AS YOUNG POLITICIAN. WHAT INTERESTED YOU ABOUT EDUCATIONAL POLICY? I was chairman of the students’ council at my school,
and then we had to take over some responsibility for running things during the strike. And by coincidence a TV crew came to our school to do something for the evening news. YOU WERE CHAIRMAN OF THE STUDENT ASSOCIATION FMSF AND CHAIRMAN OF EUROPEAN DEMOCRAT STUDENTS BETWEEN 1974 AND 1976. WHICH POLITICAL AGENDA DID YOU HAVE AT THIS TIME? European issues were at the forefront of our work in EDS. Two can be mentioned especially. Freedom, especially for the European peoples on
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the other side of the Iron Curtain, and better cooperation between the centre-right political forces in Europe. At that time, they were seriously split, but our vision was what later emerged as the EPP.
DESPITE THE BOLOGNA REFORMS AND INCREASED MOBILITY, WE ARE STILL SEEING UNEMPLOYMENT AMONGST EUROPE’S YOUNG PEOPLE AND A SKILLS GAP. HAS OUR EDUCATION SYSTEM FAILED?
THE WILD 70S. DO YOU THINK THERE IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE STUDENTS AT YOUR TIME AND THOSE NOWADAYS?
I don’t think that’s the main problem. It isn’t primarily the failure of economic policy to reform and get growth and jobs.
This was certainly a highly political period. 1968 had changed much, and the left was in the ascendancy in many universities. We had to fight ideological battles on a daily basis.
IN 2006 YOU SURPRISED MANY WITH A RETURN TO SWEDISH POLITICS AND WERE APPOINTED AS FOREIGN MINISTER. WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO TAKE THIS STEP?
I was asked, although I was surprised, and initially not entirely certain it was a good idea. Little did I know that I would be there for eight years. THE EUROPEAN ELECTIONS IN 2014. WAS IT A GOOD IDEA TO DETERMINE THE TOP CANDIDATES FOR THE EUROPEAN ELECTIONS? I’m not certain this was done in the best way. I think it limited the number of candidates, and I doubt that it penetrated to the electorate in many countries. YOUR NAME WAS MENTIONED AS A CANDIDATE FOR THE POSITION AS EU’S HIGH REPRE-
INTERVIEW SENTATIVE. WHY DIDN’T YOU TAKE THIS JOB? That was naturally flattering, but I decided that there were other things I could do better. By that time I had attended approximately 130 council meetings on foreign affairs. A NUMBER OF RIGHT-WING POPULISTS IN DID EXTREMELY WELL DURING THE EUROPEAN ELECTIONS. WHAT CAN WE DO? Fight them with a positive vision, which is what they don’t have. And defend the values of our open societies. IN OUR LASTEST ISSUE OF BULLSEYE WE HAD A CONTRIBUTION WITH THE TITLE “MAKE IT OR BREXIT”. IS AN EU WITHOUT THE BRITISH IMAGINABLE? Yes. But it would be a much-weakened EU and also of course a somewhat marginalized UK. This would not be in anyone’s interests. Only the Kremlin would applaud. 1994 Signing EU Accession
WOULD THE IDEA OF EUROPE FAIL WITH AN EXIT OF THE BRITISH? No, but it would be very much weakened. It would affect all countries the one way or the other. EUROPE HAS STRONG TIES WITH UKRAINE, GEORGIA AND MOLDOVA - ALL COUNTRIES CONSIDERED TO BE UNDER RUSSIAN INFLUENCE. ARE WE FACING A NEW CONFLICT? Obviously. We have seen Russia invading Georgia
in 2008 and twice invading Ukraine in 2014. We must come together in Europe to block this revisionism that otherwise will threaten the peace of Europe. WINTER IS COMING. SHOULD EUROPEANS FEAR THE COLD BECAUSE OF THE FEAR OF PUTIN TURNING OFF THE GAS? No, Russia needs the money at least as much as some countries need the gas.
THE EU FACES ENORMOUS CHALLENGES: REFUGEES ARE PUSHING IN FROM THE OUTSIDE AND SUPPORT FOR THE EUROPEAN PROJECT IS DECREASING. WHICH OF THE TWO ISSUES WOULD YOU SAY IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE? It’s difficult to say that the one is graver than the other. We have revisionism in the East, fundamentalism towards our South and doubts in the very heart of our Europe. But we should understand that a fragmented Europe would be a more dangerous Europe with far less ability to meet these and other challenges. And here I believe that EDS can play an important role in stimulating the debate through its different member organizations. That’s an inspiring task. THANK YOU FOR THE INTERVIEW MR. BILDT. WE WISH YOU ALL THE BEST FOR YOUR PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL LIFE AND GOOD SUCCESS FOR THE FUTURE.
The Umbrella Revolution
When I first read the title “Umbrella Revolution” in the media I initially could not figure out, which events this referred to. I personally associate the word “revolution” with paintings showing the Storming of the Bastille or more recently the Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine. Students organising a sit-in in Hong Kong certainly did not fit into this narrative. Looking at the activities of the student organisations, the last weekend of September 2014 can be seen as the time tensions finally erupted after growing for many years. On this weekend several students forced their way into administration buildings after they were denied a meeting with the Chief Executive of Hong Kong over the proposed new electoral law. Their arrest by security forces and the brutality shown was reported widely in the international media. The question of how the former British colony of Hong Kong should be governed existed even before the territory was handed back to China. It has lately received attention from western observers after disputes arose over how the candidates for Hong Kong’s governor, or the Chief Executive of Hong Kong as he is officially called, should be selected. The central government in Beijing proposed a nomination council be created which would select three candidates. One observer described the government’s offer as “a big scoop of Communist ice cream with a small democratic cherry”. This comparison may be true as the Chinese government will use any opportunity to point out that the final decision is made by the people in free elections. The fact that all three candidates might share the same opinion on questions like the autonomy of Hong Kong is nothing more than a coincidence. Of course this is a very favourable coincidence, at least from Beijing’s perspective. The relationship between China and the mere 1,000 km² that make up Hong Kong is indeed very special. Even the official name “Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China” reminds one of that. Therefore the current protests are more of a fight to preserve Hong Kong’s identity and way of living. This is far from the first time that the Chinese government has tried to implement policies, which are,
from the people’s point of view, meant to increase the power of the central administration. Just a few years ago attempted changes to the educational curricula led to massive protests by student and pupil organisations. The strong involvement of students as well as pupils can seen as resulting from the direct impact such legislation would have on them. In addition, the already above mentioned desire to the Hong Kong way of life, also meaning a slightly more democratic society as opposed to the rest of the country, is of course also present among pupils and the youth. From their point of view the proposed changes were intended to bring Hong Kong ideologically closer to the rest of the People’s Republic. The proposed law was finally withdrawn due to the high level of public pressure these changes faced. The experience and self-confidence gained by the students during these past experiences can be seen as another reason for their strong involvement in the 2014 movement. After 2012 student leaders became central figures in Hong Kong’s civil society and were among those arrested on 27 September. One of them was 17 years old Joshua Wang. Although his personal driving forces are highly disputed and some argue that he opposes the central government just for the sake of opposition, his influence on Hong Kong’s civil society and democracy discussions in Hong Kong cannot be
neglected. The fact that personal issues are occupying space in these discussions indicates a desire of some stakeholders to move the focus away from their actual content. Modern media and communications technology make it harder for the government to argue against such basic values as free elections since it is getting easier for people to get information on their own situation from an outsider’s point of view as well as to see how democracy works in the western world. This explains why students and young people are at the centre of developments in the way they currently are in Hong Kong. It is the result of being able to handle modern communications technology and easily interact with likeminded peers all over the world. It is also due to the will to shape and improve the future of society and their country that can be found more often among younger generations, especially among students and young academics. At the time this article is written the situation in Hong Kong unfortunately no longer receives much coverage in western media. As a student organisation I believe we should still keep an eye on the activities of other student movements. Especially when their fight aligns with some of our core values – freedom and democracy. The statement EDS issued at its September Council Meeting shows the willingness of this organisation to follow the fight for democracy globally and also to use our ability to highlight developments we disagree with and in doing so play our part in this battle for free elections, not just in Europe but also around the world. Finally, for those still wondering how the umbrella managed to be the mascot of the Hong Kong democracy movement: Chinese security forces regularly attacked activists with pepper spray during their blockades. To defend themselves the people sitting on the ground used umbrellas as if the pepper spray were rain. The slogan of the Umbrella Revolution became very popular in media although the people involved in Hong Kong preferred to be referred to as a movement. Among these and many other names for this chapter of history, which is currently being written in Hong Kong, my preference is the more polite term “movement”. They were given this name because they even organised to clean up the streets after their blockades. I believe this shows that people are aware they are fighting for a just cause and that they have the feeling that time is on their side as long as they keep up the pressure in their fight for democratic and free elections.
Mind the Gap! As we recover from the economic crisis, 25 Million Europeans are still without a job and young people are particularly affected – in some countries, more than half of them have registered as unemployed. To overcome this, we need policies and actions that support sectors that are important for our economy. Millions of new jobs are expected to be created in the run up to 2020. Jobs will be also available to replace those who retire or leave the labour market for other reasons. Although more jobs and more job opportunities are forecast, the working age population will fall. One of the reasons might be Europe’s potential skills deficit. The European Commission and the OECD released the Report Skills Outlook 2013, a survey that explores adult skills in literacy, numeracy and problem solving for 16-65 year olds in 24 countries worldwide. The survey found that at the global level, Japan is one of the winners, with a high share of the top performers followed by Finland. On the other side the survey shows serious skills weaknesses in many EU Countries. The study suggests that a fifth of the working age population has worryingly low literacy and numeracy skills and a quarter of adults lack the digital skills needed to effectively use technologies. But there are also striking differences between countries. While one adult in five people has low literacy or numeracy skills in Ireland, France, Poland and
the UK, this rises to almost one in three in Spain or Italy. “In all countries, individuals with lower proficiency in literacy are more likely than those with better literacy skills to report poor health, to believe that they have little impact on political processes and not to participate in associative or volunteer activities. In most countries, they are also less likely to trust others”, wrote Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary General. Knowledge has not only a major impact on your own life chances; it also affects society, the political process and other sectors, both on a national and international level. Interestingly, it’s worth noting that large non- EU countries like Canada or the United States did not score very differently from many EU member states.
UNIVERSITIES The results of the OCED report are supported by international research from McKinsey management consultants. This report warns of a mismatch between young people’s skills and the needs of employers. While 74% of education providers surveyed thought that young people were being equipped with the skills for work, only 35% of the employers agreed that this was the case. This result might be shocking. The former European Commissioner for Education and Youth, Ms. Androulla Vassiliou, sees one of the reasons for this development as the prevalence of old-fashioned educational systems: “In Europe the mismatch between what our education systems are delivering and the needs of employers is resulting in a serious skills shortage and damaging the aspirations of Europe’s young people and ultimately, our future prosperity,” she says. What conclusions can be drawn from these facts? The Commission emphasises the necessity of investment at both an EU and national level and refers to the Erasmus+ programme for education, training and youth, which supports projects aimed at developing and upgrading adult skills. Not really concrete and convincing. The McKinsey study demands that it should be easier for young people to study for the skills they need or to go back for re-training. This could include breaking up courses into smaller modules in order to provide greater flexibility. Technology from computer games could be used to help in training, it suggests. In addition digital skills should be taught as a compulsory part of the curriculum, as has been the case in Estonia since 2012. The question is, is it enough to improve some courses or running different programs? The skills gap might be a systemic error, which requires substantial reforms in the educational systems. As mentioned before, Japan is one of the topranked countries in terms of education. The country has a highly developed education system, which is applied to impart a wide and deep range of knowledge. Japanese students are faced with a tremendous pressure to succeed from a young age. Tests are even required for inclusion in recognized kindergartens. The exam stress begins in the bassinet and continues with entrance exams for elementary, middle and high schools up to the examination for the best universities. The competition in schools is extremely fierce. Even in their free time, pupils and students visit private tutors in order to prepare for their exams. It is clear that not all children are able to handle this pressure. A number of students are left behind in terms of performance. However, in the Japanese education system a failure at school is not possible. Therefore, children are shifted further to the next grade without specific support measures.
The extreme pressure also led to undesirable developments. Mass frauds during examinations are not uncommon. On the other side, there is a large number of students with mental health issues. In terms of suicide, the country has twice the rate as the United States and three times as many as the UK. The most vulnerable group for suicide attempts and mortality rates is in the age of 15-24 years. The question is therefore whether the Japanese system of education can serve as a role model. Maybe we should have a look to Scandinavia instead. The Finnish school system is highly respected due to their excellent performance in the first PISA study. In Finland the school system runs differently to many other educational models. The idea of cooperation determines what happens, not the pressure to perform and compete. Learning in small classes, is also a key factor where the focus is on seeing the pupil as an individual. The public school system wants to compensate social inequality as well. Therefore, there are just a few private schools. It should be emphasised that professional educators manage the education system. Also the teachers are well trained and have a very good image in the population. It is of course questionable whether these points actually explain the performance advantage of Finland. There are certainly other aspects that are not directly obvious. But to cut a long story short, one thing should be clearly noted: The majority of the countries must look to improve their old educational systems and make them fit for the modern age. “Policy makers, Educators and business must all break out of their silos and work together more closely to avert what is a growing crisis”, says Commissioner Vassiliou. The theory sounds good, although the insight comes a little late. The measures must be implemented finally.
s c i t i l o p o t n i y a w tic
a r c u a e r A bu
Being a young graduate entering the adult world is a challenge. Being a young artist trying to be independent and not work in a bar is something most cannot afford. I grew up in Moscow, Russia. My childhood had it all: happiness, toys, great holidays in Europe, Disneyland, etc. On the other hand Russia in the ’90s was full of fear which didn’t pass me by – it was a time of growth for the Russian Mafia, usual terrorist attacks on the metro and in residential homes, and drug addicted children just 13 years old sniffing glue in the park under your window. At school I was aiming towards a
business, accountancy or medical degree, learning languages, and seeing the world. As I have grown up my country has developed and changed significantly. Small businesses were freed from the burden of the Mafia. Terrorist attacks stopped. We were aiming for a greater, safer future. As for me, I decided to pursue a degree in Semiotics and Art Theory. It was no longer necessary to choose a job according to its monthly salary but rather find something out of love and passion. On the fourth year of my BFA I took the risk of taking part in an exchange program offered by Lomonosov Moscow State University – an exchange semester in Shanghai. Moving to China was the milestone of my life. Seeing somewhere other than Europe, surviving and figuring everything out by yourself at the age of just 19, in a country where people speak only Mandarin. I had to find a way to eat, to go to hospital, to travel; basically to experience it all outside of ‘greenhouse’ conditions. A common misconception is that in Shanghai the majority of people speak English. Wrong. You cannot buy food at the market without understanding Chinese characters or without speaking Mandarin. Neither you nor seller would be understood. You can forget about filling in forms at the hospital or refusing medical tests, nobody understands you. The best you can do is to trust that no virus will be transferred, because that is the impression the walls and rooms in the hospital give you. My Shanghai experience was not only the point I decided to leave my parents’ home but also the moment I considered going beyond theoretical art and giving creativity a go myself. A small thought of trying it as an artist crawled into my mind. After my undergraduate degree I decided to find a master’s programme outside of Moscow. I got accepted for two different programmes: one in Shanghai on Chinese language and culture and one in Lisbon, a master’s in Glass Art and Science. My final choice was Lisbon. This way I turned my life 180 degrees and moved to a completely different country with a goal of becoming a Glass Artist. That is where all my struggles started. The first and most important thing you have to do as a non-EU citizen is applying for a
student visa. Going through all the paperwork in Portugal and in my home country, I found myself on the border of being illegally inside the EU. I held a tourist visa that was running out and only valid until January. I was counting the days I was allowed to stay without being deported. I was in constant fear of what my future in Europe would look like if I didn’t receive a permit. I have to be honest; this first struggle opened me up to the potential for the kind of personal art, which would reflect my experience with all these bureaucratic issues. So my very first artwork in glass was titled “Bureaucracy vs. Classes”, my first work reflecting all these complications. During my studies I was constantly questioning myself, figuring out my own artistic “style” and how to connect it to my Russian identity. I was advised by my professors not to leave aside who I am and to face my problems in order to create my own unique artistic work. I have been working with symbols of the Soviet system, paying attention to the reaction of the viewer and in a way confronting them with my reality. Something many people outside of Russia fear or prefer to ignore. In 2012 I decided to continue my education in glass in Germany and for that a new visa was required. In order to explain the purpose of my stay at the German Consulate I could count the required number of documents in Kilograms. Bureaucracy was one of the biggest struggles of my first years as an artist. Later on, as I have been working with many Soviet symbols in my art I did not exist in isolation and so responded quickly to the current political situation between Russia and the rest of the world. I responded to the destruction of cultural symbols in Ukraine. One of my pieces, which related to that subject is the work “Caution. Lenin” adapted Communism and introduced it to the Soviet Union and its allies. Removing Lenin became a symbol of disassociation from the USSR, of becoming more democratic and liberal. After the USSR collapsed, the new wave of removing Lenin was rather a sign of not wanting to be ‘post-Soviet’. We saw Azerbaijan removing statues of Lenin in
t r A l a Politic to be forgotten by destroying its symbols. I am part of the generation coming after that, feeling the injustice of my people even on my skin. I am following this line of history and I am not the one to judge. So I have decided to introduce this symbol into my work with a metaphor for injustice. Over the last few years I have strongly questioned my own ideas and what consequences I would face by putting them into realisation. I know my parents sometimes are scared of the way I realise my revolutionary ideas and how it might affect my future. Would I be banned by any of the states, which were the subject of my work? My subjects are bureaucracy, stereotypes and political art. With the political situation in the world right now I couldn’t go to USA, Australia or Japan for my semester abroad. I would be unable to succeed with all the paperwork to obtain any kind of permission. On the other hand my works of art have been exhibited in Portugal, the UK, the USA, Germany, Belgium and Poland. Some of these countries invite me because of my identity and the works I present, the way I react to this world. So what I have learnt is that sometimes it’s not your skill, it’s your nationality that decides your future.
the search for a more European life and Georgia shortly followed. Now it is the turn of Ukraine. One of the latest news events is the removal of a Lenin statue in Kharkiv. Lenin remains a fragile symbol of “Post-Sovietism”. He is overlooking some places, reminding them of the past. Some people prefer to forget, but what does
Lenin know now? He can’t even see what is happening and why people hate him as a symbol. They want the symbol destroyed; they want the symbol not to look at them with this association, telling them that they followed the other line of history. Statues are designed to remind us of the past. Some people want some history
REPORTS In the last century there was no basic state pension. The only so called “pension“ at this time was a persons own family and specifically their children. The younger members from a family worked for their own income and to provide for their parents or grandparents. Nowadays, with more and more people over 65 and a decreasing number of young people caused by a declining birth-rate, a much better health system, better nutrition and working conditions, the current pension
system is close to collapse. The old inter-generational contract that the young working people pay the pension for the old ones is in real danger. As a result in OECD countries, the pensions landscape has been changing at a prodigious pace over the past few years, but regretfully not fast enough. After many years of political standstill, many countries have tried to launch significant pension reforms like higher retirement ages, changes in the way entitlements are calculated or other measures to introduce savings in their pension systems. There are two questions for nearly all OECD countries: how do you ensure that pension systems are financially sustainable and how do you ensure citizens receive an adequate income in retirement? Especially in continental Europe, financial sustainability 1 is the primary concern. It’s difficult to both reduce pensioner poverty and ensure that the costs of pension provision do not become too burdensome for the next generation. The English-speaking countries with a smaller public pension are more concerned with ensuring adequate retirement incomes by expanding the coverage of private pension schemes and raising contribution rates. A major accelerator of pension reform was the economic crisis and the resulting need for fiscal consolidation. For economic stimulus reasons pensioners weren’t affected from benefit cuts, sometimes even seeing their public pension benefits increased. Since 2013, this is no longer the case. Pensions are now also being targeted as part of fiscal consolidation efforts and cuts are ranging from 3% in Iceland to 30% in Italy. One of the most visible reforms to the pension system is the change to the retirement age. The rules for eligibility to retire and draw a pension are very complex. On the one hand, one should try to encourage people to work longer as the population ages. On the other hand, government have often been concerned workers don’t feel vulnerable and that they are unable to continue their jobs to an older age. The normal pension age in nearly all OECD countries is at least 65 or the countries plan to reach that level early. Even a retirement age of 67 is now becoming more common, which wasn’t expected a few years ago. Some countries have gone even further, moving to 68 or 69 years, though no other country has gone as far as the Czech Republic which decided on an open-ended increase of the pension age by two months per year. Still, though many countries allow early retirement without sanctions, only nine countries (Denmark, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Turkey and the United Kingdom) do not allow early retirement in any part of the pension system. Benefits for early retirees are usually cut to reflect the
The Pension’s Dilemma Prospects for a young generation
longer period over which the pension is paid. Still in a few countries the benefit is permanently reduced by x% for each year of early retirement. A reform many countries should undertake is to ease the restrictions on combining work and pension receipts after the normal pension age is achieved, as the extension of the working period will have little influence on people’s financial situation or even give them more money for every year they work longer than the statutory pension age. In order to address shorter-term budgetary constraints, several countries are adopting, or considering, freezes to benefits, in particular for higher-level pensions. Most countries provide exceptions for low-income retirees. It’s good that special pension schemes are also coming into focus, such as those for civil servants or for other groups of the population that still seem to be enjoying more favourable conditions for retirement. Many suggestions for reforms of the pension systems already exist and are just waiting to be implemented. It will be a challenge of balancing sustainability and adequacy for all generations. Governments will be forced to answer tough questions of both intra and intergenerational fairness. As the baby boomer generation retires, pension systems continue to be reformed to prevent old-age poverty, but as well one should ensure that countries avoid the need for further indebtedness. It’s important that costs for pensions don’t increase so much that investments in important things for the youth like health, education, research and infrastructure are no longer possible. At present many young people don’t believe that they will get a pension. In my opinion I won’t receive a pension rate from the state like my grandparents or parents get or will get but I hope that with the reforms and a three-pillar model (state pension, private pension and company pension scheme) my pension in my 70ies or 80ies will be secured without old-aged poverty. I hope that reforms will be implemented much faster to ensure social security. At the moment many of my generation are thinking that intergenerational justice could become better. Many parties and governments too often make politics for the biggest voting groups and unfortunately that is not the youth – time for a change!
Pension at a Glance 2013 - http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/docserver/download/8113221e.pdf?expires=1414 106465&id=id&accname=guest&checksum=D56B6BC067D95CEC7C99D36232769195
The greatest Waste of All Milton Friedman once tried to explain why politicians were bad at handling taxpayers’ money by categorising the way we spend money into four columns. The first one is spending your own money on yourself. If you do this, you will pay close attention to how much something costs, and also to the quality of the good or service you’re purchasing. You become sensitive to both price and outcome. You can also spend your own money on somebody else. You might not care whether or not they’ll be happy and satisfied with whatever you’re buying, but you’ll make damn sure it’s not too expensive. Of course, you can also spend somebody else’s money on yourself. Now, you’re going to have a good time. You’ll go from off-the-rack to custom made, because you’ve just freed yourself from being cost sensitive. However, since you’ll be using what ever it is you’re buying, you’ll make sure to get the best of quality. Which leads us to the last possible way of spending money: the government way. You spend somebody else’s money on somebody else. This means, that when politicians spend tax payers money on an undefined public, they care not about being cost efficient nor about making sure that what they buy meet the criteria of what is demanded. This is why we time after time have to open the paper and read about some project where costs are going through the roof, hospitals being built and never used, grand new stadiums for a sports team that can’t carry their own cost. This is, unfortunately, true for politicians regardless of party affiliation or whether they are socialist, liberal or conservative. The reason for this is that all government decision-makers face the same challenge: spending other peoples money on somebody else. Now, conservative and liberal politicians have one thing that undisputedly speaks in their favour. They want to take less money from taxpayers, and in this regard they have an obvious advantage. The fewer sectors the government gets involved in, the less money they can waste. Conservatives and liberals are also more in favour of tighter public procurement regulation. Just look at your general vote on these issues in the European Parliament. In a way it’s strange that the politicians that are most keen on making sure taxes are high and government’s fat with money doesn’t seem very interested in making sure that government spends that money wisely. Forcing governments into accepting the most cost effective proposal for big government projects is a great way of making sure taxpayers’ money is spent wisely, and public procurement is one way of getting there. However, it doesn’t solve all the problems of waste. The Danish economic geographer Bent Flyvbjerg has investigated this in great depth. His conclusion (in a nutshell) is that government are lousy contractors. For one thing, the people that ultimately make the decisions are not necessarily trained in economics, engineering, geology or what ever else might be needed for, say, a big railroad tunnel. Instead, their decision-making is based on, for example, the demand from local industries, whether or not a particular decision will affect the job market in their constituency and ultimately will this project help with their re-election? Companies know this too well, and they also know that the officials will undoubtedly choose the cheapest offer due to both public procure-
ment laws and because it would be hard to look the voters in the eyes and say they deliberately chose a more expensive option than necessary. So what do companies that really want a certain contract do? They lower their prices, so much so that they’ll know they can’t keep their promise. But this is something that doesn’t matter, since government isn’t cost sensitive. Why? Because they’re spending other people’s money on somebody else. The obvious solution to this is to make sure that government has less money to spend and fewer sectors to spend it in, such as finding more efficient ways to finance infrastructure project and tighter controls to make sure that public procurement regulations actually are followed. But this is just the most obvious example of waste and carelessness with taxpayers’ money. There are also the smaller but more frequent examples that often occur in cities where panjandrums have kept power for too long a time. What usually happens is that these people think of their cities as just an extension of themselves. L’etat, cest moi, to quote Louis XIV. This is a problem that recently has been investigated in Sweden. The Tax Payers Union got tired of seeing minor municipalities wasting money on ridiculous things such as a giant wooden moose, a fog machine on the road leading into Landskrona to “create a mystical mood” and party balloons at a cost of some 15 000 euro for just one government authority anniversary. All true examples. To combat this they instigated The Waste Ombudsman, Slöseriombudsmannen, whom with humour as his deadliest weapon roamed around the country asking politicians, from left to right, how on earth they could justify these expenses. Nobody could. Humour is a weapon used seldom by centre-right parties and policy makers, a field left wide open for the left. But since governments tend to make ludicrous decisions all day long, and politicians spend money like drunken sailors, it’s an effective weapon.“
The European Union has in some extent become a safe haven for politicians who like pork barrel spending and crony capitalism. This is largely because of the lack of political accountability and legitimacy. Media coverage is poor and the elected officials are not very well known in their constituencies. The Common Agriculture Policy and the Regional Structural Funds are, in a large part, just funds for certain politicians to buy voters’ support or the support of special interest groups. Even though every evaluation of these policies shows they increase prices for the consumers, deliver poor value to taxpayers, hinder third world farmers from developing their businesses and create no value for anybody except for the specific companies that receive the subsidies. The common denominator is that all of these policies, large government infrastructure projects, small and frequent wastes of tax payers money and large subsidies all represent policies that departs from sound market economics. This is because the market economy benefits all equally, and nobody in specific, and all pork barrel spending benefits specific people largely, but it doesn’t hurt an individual tax payer enough in order for a large public opinion to form. This has to change, because every taxpayer euro that is wasted is a theft from the people, to cite a Swedish Social Minister from the 1920’s. And he was a socialist.
JAN ZAHRADIL MEP BETWEEN SCEPTICISM AND A NATION BASED INTEGRATION MEP Jan Zahradil was born in 1963 in Prague. He studied at Institute of Chemical Technology in Prague. He is married and has two children. He has been a member of the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) since 1991. Initially, he was elected as an MP to the Chamber of Deputies of the Federal Assembly of Czechoslovakia in 1992. Following this, he became an MP of the Chamber of Deputies of the Czech Republic after the separation with Slovakia. He has been an MEP since 2004. In 2014, he was elected as the first vice-chairman of ODS. Currently is he a candidate of the ODS to the European Parliament.
INTERVIEW WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO POLITICS IN GENERAL? My grandparents and parents taught me to be interested in public affairs, despite their disapproval of the communist regime. The Velvet Revolution was a unique window of opportunity for me to become actively engaged in political and public life. Since my first election to the federal assembly, I could see positive feedback from voters and citizens and was convinced my public activities made sense, were useful and that I should continue into politics. YOU WERE AN UNSUCCESSFUL CANDIDATE FOR CHAIRMAN OF ODS (CIVIC DEMOCRATIC PARTY) IN 2002. WERE YOU NOT EMBITTERED AGAINST ODS? My life-long affiliation to ODS does not stem from party affiliation, but from my own ideas and values. I still firmly believe that ODS has played a constructive role in the conservative-liberal political spectrum in the Czech Republic. In 2002, I became the First Vice-Chairman and formed a very effective working relationship with then Chairman Topolánek. YOU WERE RE-ELECTED AS A FIRST VICE CHAIRMAN OF ODS IN 2014.WHAT WILL YOU FOCUS ON? Twelve years later, I am taking up my duty of the first Vice-Chairman once again and my mission is to create a well-functioning relationship with our new party leader Petr Fiala. I made it very clear in my nomination speech that my first responsibility lies in the European election campaign. All the traditional parties in my country are now facing the rise of populism and our task is to regain our voters’ trust. WOULD NOT BE TOUGH TO LEAD SUCH A BIG PARTY FROM BRUSSELS? It is simply a question of time management. Only a very few members of the European Parliament actually live in Brussels, the majority of us come there to work. Once a month I spend four days in Strasbourg, otherwise I travel to Brussels for several days a week for the committee and group meetings. I was able to manage my schedule back in 2004 in the same circumstances and I don’t find it difficult now. And in case of important meetings we use videoconference tools. YOU BECAME A LEADER OF THE LIST OF CANDIDATES OF ODS IN 2004. WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO RUN FOR ELECTION TO THE EP AND ENGAGE IN EUROPEAN POLITICS? Since the start of my political career, I have concentrated on the issues of foreign and European politics. My interest grew deeper as I worked as the policy adviser to the Prime Minister and in co-chairing the EU Affairs Committee of the Czech Parliament, up to my election as a Member of the EP and the first Czech ever to become the Chairman of the EP political group.
THE 10TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE ACCESSION OF THE CZECH REPUBLIC TO THE EU IS IN THIS YEAR. DO YOU THINK THAT THE DECISION OF BECOMING A MEMBER OF THE EU WAS THE RIGHT ONE? The transition from communism towards pluralistic democracy in all the post-communist countries was fuelled by the ethos of returning back to Europe. People wanted to once again belong to a community of values from which they were isolated for decades by the Iron curtain. From this perspective, our entry in the NATO and EU was an inevitable and positive step. We can enjoy the advantages of the internal market and freedom of movement, which in my opinion is and must remain the cornerstone of European integration. On the other hand, the ODS was the only political party making efforts to start a serious and realistic debate on our EU membership even before 2004. Beside the positive aspects, we were pointing out, there are also several rather negative trends such as the ideology of “ever closer Union” or the process of gradual shift of powers from member states to Brussels in order to prepare ground for creation of a federal super state. Over the past ten years, our policy remains unchanged: we strive for more freedom, less regulation, for a more open and flexible Union. YOU ARE A CRITIC OF INEFFICIENCY IN THE EU. WHAT ARE YOUR CONCRETE PROPOSALS FOR SAVING MONEY? In the Committee on Budgets, the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) has been tabling amendments that would have saved at least 320 millions euros every year. There are a large number of examples of complete wastes of money in the EU budget. The first and maybe most visible one is the Strasbourg circus, which we are trying to call off. And I am proud to say that we have already succeeded in gaining a majority of MEPs in this particular issue - we’ve got most of the Parliament on our side now. Our group has also secured - for the first time of history - a budget freeze, something absolutely inconceivable a few years ago when the rest of the Parliament mocked us just for mentioning the need of austerity and responsible use of funds. In European politics changes don’t happen overnight, but we persisted in arguing and we were proven to be right. FROM 22 TO 25 MAY 2014, ELECTIONS TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT WERE HELD IN THE EUROPEAN UNION. THE CAMPAIGN OF ODS WAS BASED ON PETITION AGAINST THE EURO. WHAT IS WRONG IN THE EURO-PROJECT? THAT DO YOU WANT TO GET THROUGH THE EP? Our “Petition for Keeping the Crown” aims to ensure that the government negotiates an opt-out from the obligation to adopt the euro, a similar opt-out to that held by Denmark or the United Kingdom. While former Czech governments were cautious and did not rush into the Eurozone, the current government has begun making some
irreversible steps and has openly declares its willingness to adopt the Euro. However, the vast majority of Czech citizens disapprove of this step. The EMU has dramatically changed over the past ten years and its form and function dramatically differ from what the Czechs approved in referendum in 2003. Czech citizens clearly do not want to pay others´ debts and abandon their currency. The Czech crown has proved to be a useful tool guaranteeing stability during the recent economic downturn. It has become evident that Euro was designed purely as a political project, ill judged in many aspects, and ODS sees more risks than benefits so far. DO YOU THINK THAT THE AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE EU AND USA ABOUT FREE TRADE IS BENEFICIAL FOR US? Both my party ODS, and the ECR Group strongly support the continuation of negotiations for the TTIP agreement with the United States. In the European Parliament, we have already delivered a number of free trade agreements that will help to break down the barriers in trade between European companies and major economic powers. As a result of it, price of goods will be lower and businesses will be given new opportunities. Since the Czech Republic is predominantly an export-orientated country, it is also to our vital interest to support export and free trade. MAY I HAVE A LAST QUESTION: WHY DID ODS LEAVE THE EPP GROUP IN 2009 AND SWITCHED TO THE ALLIANCE OF EUROPEAN CONSERVATIVES AND REFORMISTS (AECR)? EPP and AECR have very different views on the future of European Integration. EPP is traditionally strongly pro-federalist party. Parties of the AECR believe in more flexible, open and nation based European Integration. Together with my colleagues from the UK Conservative Party we had worked within the EPP during my first term from 2004-2009, and despite the fact that we worked in a sort of “sub-group” called European Democrats, we were basically in the underground, we had no say. It was therefore politically honest and also needed from the point of real influence in the EP to establish a new political group consisting of like-minded parties across Europe.
Katrin Albsteiger (30) is a Member of the German Parliament for the Christian Social Union of Bavaria and has been Vice-Chairwoman of the Junge Union Germany since 2014. She holds a diploma in Political Science, having studied in Augsburg and at the Australian University of Adelaide. Albsteiger’s main political areas of interest are education, Europe and issues relating to the younger generation. The political project to which she would most like to contribute is the end of national debt in Germany. Her journey into electoral politics began when she and her friends formed some ideas for their hometown, which they wanted to put into action. In 2003 Albsteiger became a member of the Junge Union Neu-Ulm and held various positions on a local and fed-
eral level. In October 2011 she was elected with 92% of the vote to the position of Federal Chairman of the Junge Union Bavaria, being the first woman to hold this position. She was elected to Parliament in 2013. She first made herself known to a wider audience at the CSU party congress in 2010 where she spoke against the women’s quota target of the party’s leadership. In her opinion such a rule is unjust and contrary to the principle of free choice. The person Albsteiger most admires is her mother. The political performances she admires the most were the speeches of the former Prime Minister of Bavaria Edmund Stoiber: “That was not only an intellectual but also physical achievement!” in the view of Albsteiger.
Asdin El Habbassi Asdin El Habbassi (27) is a Member of the Austrian Parliament and has been Vice-Chairman of the Austrian Young People’s Party since 2012. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and worked as seminar trainer before his election to Parliament in 2013. El Habassi’s main political areas of interest are education, family and youth issues as well as the economy. His journey into electoral politics began at the age of 16 when he started as a political volunteer. He was active as a pupils’ representative, in the beginning at the Handelsakademie Salzburg and later also on a regional and provincial level. In 2012 he was finally elected as Chairman of the Young People’s Party in Salzburg and as Vice-Chairman of the Young Austrian People’s Party. El Habbassi’s heartfelt wish is that young people and their concerns are taken seriously and that
improvements can be made in education policy. The political project to which he would most like to contribute during his term would be ensuring education becomes the main topic for the future so that every young person gets the best education possible. Beyond this he would also like to make sure Austria finally tackles its debt burden and to give people a reason to trust in politics. “These projects may sound bold, but often you have to set challenging targets to make a difference” said El Habbassi. El Habbassi most admires all of the many committed people volunteering in politics and making democracy possible. In addition he admires the political performance of Austria’s Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, who managed to make discussion on the important topic of integration less destructive and populist but more objective.
Gerti Bogdani Gerti Bogdani (34) has been a Member of the Albanian Parliament since 2009 and is the International Secretary of the Democratic Party of Albania. He has also acted as the Chairman of the youth organisation of the party, Forumi Rinor I Partise Demokratike (FRPD). Gerti’s journey into politics began when he returned to Albania after his studies at the Polytechnic University of New York where he graduated with summa cum laude and was awarded the Outstanding Graduate Award. He has been very actively involved as a founder and leader of the Albanian Students Abroad Network (AS@N) which aims at bringing together Albanians studying all over the world. Gerti first joined the Democratic Party of Albania (DP) in the 2005 campaign and later ran for local office in the 2007 local elections. At the age of 26 he was elected Mayor of District No.
10 of Tirana, making him the youngest mayor in Albanian history and winning a seat that DP now held for the first time since the fall of Communism in Albania. His outstanding work as mayor in the community and especially with young people made it possible for him to run for the Albanian Parliament in 2009 and also lead the youth organisation of DP. Since then he has been very active in international and European politics and has been a member of both the European Integration and the Foreign Affairs Committees in the Albanian Parliament. The political project to which he would most like to contribute is the furthering of the European integration of Albania, a dream held by many young people in Albania both at the time it first became a democracy and today. Gerti’s favourite activity is basketball and stamp collecting.
Gianpiero Zinzi Gianpiero Zinzi (31) is a lawyer, Professor of Administrative Law at the Second University of Naples and also Visiting Professor at the Universidad de Buenos Aires and the Universidad Nacional de La Plata. Having grown up in the Salesian community and an exErasmus student, his course of study and work are continually influenced by these two cultural experiences in his life. Zinzi is studying for a PhD in “Administrative Law, Environmental Protection and the Governance of Territory” and is the author of several academic publications in international law journals. On the political level he has always concentrated his efforts in the area of the Italian centre-right on both the local and national level. He was a board member of the National Youth Council of Italy (FNG) from 2006 to 2009 and for five years he was the national leader of the Youth UDC. He built
the foundations of the youth movement of UDC and he has bred a generation of Italian administrators and young people involved in politics. A few months ago he left UDC but he continues his commitment to an alternative centre-right, which is united, and with new methods and leadership. In his political activity he has been engaged on many fronts. Through the campaign “URG!” (Urge Ricambio Generazionale!) he has promoted the creation of the Local Youth Forum throughout Italy. He also strongly supported the “All Different, All Equal” project of the Council of Europe which aims to raise awareness of the fight against racism. His commitments have also extended to promoting the mapping of territories in the environmental field and simplifying the access and participation of citizens in public administration.
COUNCIL OF EUROPE
Young People Building Europe – 42 years of EYF For more than 65 years the Council of Europe has been one of the pillars of European unification based on tolerance, peace and solidarity. More than that though, for more than 40 years now the Council of Europe has been a leading institution in promoting the work and development of young people and youth rights in Europe. In 1972 the Council of Europe (CoE) established both the European Youth Foundation and the Youth Centre in Strasbourg, probably the most significant and important institutional innovations when it comes to the question of the development of the youth agenda in Europe. Today there are two youth centres, one in the Strasbourg and one in Budapest, about which more will be said later. The structural work of the Council of Europe on youth issues is enacted through the Youth Centres, the Youth Foundation and statutory bodies. Since 1972 the CoE has become the leading supporter of youth activities through various structures, programmes and cooperative endeavours. Before continuing with the story of young people in Europe, a few words must be said about the CoE and its work on youth projects. The Youth Department mentioned earlier is in charge of the development of guidelines, programmes and policies for all levels. It also provides funds for international youth activities and projects. Meanwhile, statutory work and bodies are dealing with by the European Steering Committee for Youth (CDEJ) and the Advisory Council on Youth. The main function of the CDEJ is to foster cooperation between governments in the youth sector and the provision of frameworks for mutual work and exchange of best practices between states as well as the creation of new recommendations. That is being achieved through gathering representatives of the ministries responsible for youth from the 50-odd member states of the CoE. The second statutory body is the Advisory Council on Youth. It is made of 30 represen-
tatives from the NGOs and youth organisations. The Council’s main goal is to provide an input from NGOs in the work of the CoE, thereby ensuring that young people are involved in the work of the CoE. The Joint Council on Youth is being used to bring together the CDEJ and the Advisory Council for the purpose of establishing priorities, sectors and budgets. The final body is the Programming Committee on Youth which is the co-decision body made up of eight members from the CDEJ and Advisory Council. Its purpose is to establish, monitor and evaluate the programmes of the EYC and the European Youth Foundation about which I will say more later. When it comes to institutional groundwork and headquarters there are two youth centres in Europe that are ensuring the flow of the work. One is the centre in Strasbourg founded in 1972 and the other was established in Budapest in 1995 as a base for the CoE’s work on youth issues in central and Eastern Europe. Both are used for the CoE’s work on youth policies and as facilities for meetings, training and venues for youth activities. I personally had chance to participate at an event hosted in the Youth Centre in Strasbourg and was convinced of the importance and success of the work of this centre. When it comes to the supporting the work of young people in a financial way, the Council of Europe is also perhaps the most important institution in Europe. With the European Youth Foundation, young people all across Europe have the opportunity to receive financially support for their efforts. By the priorities that are set and determined, it is ensured that the most important topics that young people will tackle are supported financially and that their goals will be achieved. I can say that it is quite impossible to imagine the successful work of the huge numbers of NGOs in Europe without the financial support that this institution provides. Based on this structural foundation, over 40 years the voice of young people has been heard, their participation ensured and their efforts supported when they have needed it the most. There are many projects launched by the CoE when it comes to youth issues. The “Enter!” project was launched in 2009 and its main goals were the development of a youth policy that responds to the exclusion, discrimination and violence faced by young people. The focus of this project has been the social and economic imbalances that affect young people in disadvantaged neighbourhoods. From 2009-2012 more than 530 people participated in the activities implemented by this project, 33 projects were initiated by the participants and more than 16,000 young people were reached by projects ran by the participants in “Enter!” On top of those previously stated,
the main results of the project were inter-sectoral cooperation inside and outside of the CoE, the adoption of human rights based on social inclusion, cooperation between local authorities, a higher profile for non-formal education and youth work, networking and partnerships, quality development in youth work, innovative monitoring and supporting systems, and generating resources for youth projects combating exclusion and violence. For the period of 2013-2015 the new objectives of the projects were the consolidation of the above results, with the previous work of the project being set as the ”ground zero” for the reference of future work and especially in implementing youth policies at the local and regional levels. The project has been covered by a series of seminars, long-term training courses, thematic seminars and study sessions. The very well known “No Hate Speech Movement” campaign, in which EDS took part of with its “Youth versus Extremism” project also funded by the CoE, is a campaign launched by the CoE directed at curbing hate speech, racism and discrimination on online platforms. Speaking of youth rights and minorities, there is also the very famous Roma Youth Action Plan of the Council of Europe. Young people within Roma minorities face challenges on a daily basis and it is obvious that young people in those communities are face discrimination based on their ethnicity and culture. This is something, which requires a proper response in building a Europe based on tolerance and equality. This project launched by the CoE has provided the right response to that question. These are just some of the projects and campaigns launched by the CoE in its work with regard to youth issues. With the “Think Youth!” monthly newsletter of the Youth Department of the Council of Europe, members and observers are informed and updated with upcoming events and developments in the youth sector. It is clear how huge and significantly important is the work of the Council of Europe when it comes to the questions of youth, human rights, social cohesion and support for young people wanting to build a stronger Europe and a better place. The list goes on of possibilities for young people provided by this institution and the doors that have been opened for us over past 40 years, but the best and easiest way to express this huge success would be that, finally, youth can “Have their say”.
EDS Executive Bureau 2014/2015
Eva Majewski is Chairwoman of EDS. She holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration, Management, and Economics. Within EDS she oversees and manages the work of the Bureau and represents EDS externally. Eva is responsible for the setting the overall strategy for EDS, policy development, and liaising with member organizations.
Ingrid Hopp is EDS Secretary General. She is pursuing a Master’s degree in financial economics. Ingrid runs the EDS Office in Brussels, and takes care of all the day-to-day work. She is also responsible for EDS’ daily communication schedule, with a particular emphasis on the Website and Social Media channels. She also represents EDS externally.
Georgios Chatzigeorgiou was born in Larnaca, Cyprus. He studied Law at the University of Lancaster in the UK and became a Barrister at Law. Georgios is currently undertaking a Master’s degree in Corporate Law. His responsibilities within the Bureau involve fundraising, amendments to statutes and youth entrepreneurship.
Ivan Burazin lives in Split, Croatia where he studied National Security at the Faculty of Forensic Sciences and holds a Bachelor’s degree in administrative law. In the bureau he is responsible for fundraising together with Vice- Chair Chatzigeorgiou and he works as the head of the Social Media Team.
Virgilio Falco is Vice Chairman of EDS, StudiCentro national spokesperson and coordinator of the education committee of the Italian Council of Young. He is studying law in Rome. Virgilio is responsible for updating the website, coordination of the newsletter and all membership enquiries. He is also a member of the Social Media Team.
Mikkel Wrang is studying for a Master’s degree in Law at the University of Copenhagen and has been International Secretary of KS since 2011. Within the EDS Bureau he has responsibility for the permanent working groups, EDS Erasmus, evaluating events and managing the work of the culture and educations committee.
Jacob Dexe lives in Stockholm, Sweden. He studied Political Science at Lund University and currently works at Fores Think Tank with responsibilities for digital society issues. In the Bureau he is responsible for output strategies as well as the Policies for Europe working group.
Vassilis Sakellaris was born in Thessaloniki, Greece. He is studying Mining and Metallurgical Engineering in Athens. Vassilis is serving his second term as EDS Vice-Chairman. Within the bureau he is mainly responsible for the conference resolutions together with Vice-Chairman Gueorg Danielov and for the alumni club.
Georg Danielov was born in Sofia, Bulgaria. He graduated in Political science and is studying for a Master’s degree in Economics. This is Gueorg’s first term as EDS Vice-chairman. He is responsible for the Input policies of the organization and prepares the Conference resolutions for the EDS Council meetings. Gueorg is also Chairman of MGERB.
Anna Masna was born in Ternopil, Ukraine. She graduated with a Master’s degree in Marketing in 2006 and in Political Sciences in 2007. In 2014 Anna was nominated as International Secretary of Ukrainian Youth Forum. As EDS Vice-Chairwoman she is in charge of the events, EDS Alumni club and BullsEye.
25 Years Fall of the Berlin Wall “It takes courage to ﬁght for freedom and it takes courage to take advantage of freedom”
Copyright Daniel Bueche.
Published on Dec 2, 2014
BullsEye is the official newsmagazine of European Democrat Students. BullsEye is published 4 times a year.