A Europe in question

An article from Ovi magazine

Only weeks before the European Elections, when European citizens elect their representatives into the common parliament, Europe celebrates Europe Day. This is a day that reminds all Europeans of the fundamental principles of the European Union, of peace and solidarity. The European principles guarantee a decent standard of living for all European citizens; they promote economic and social development. The principles also embrace environmental and regional differences. At least that is the theory, or perhaps what Schuman thought on May 9th 1950, when he deposited his declaration of a united Europe.

In May 1950, Schuman’s declaration seemed the next natural step for a Europe that was in ruins after an exhausting world war. The war had turned Europe into a battlefield for over five years, and left it without a youth only two decades after WWI. Financial competition was the new world reality, and the only way to deal with this was to unite forces. The European countries had the necessary industrial power to stand between the two giants and perhaps make a third pole in this game. A pole that could guarantee democracy and freedom – after all, the continent had learned the hard way what it meant to be without both. But yet again that was all in theory and the problems started very early.

First was the French veto against UK membership, because of its name – something which by the way should apparently be the same case now with FYROM. Later the competition between Britain and France caused more problems, with additional in and outs from the third major European player, Germany. Still, the EU continued to expand, including Greece and later Spain, Portugal and the Scandinavian countries. In 2009 we have 27 member states, with more waiting in the hallway for their full membership.

The aims of the EU were also questioned. For a long time Britain wanted a relaxed financial and commercial cooperation, with independent foreign and defence policies, while France, Italy and Germany wanted a more tightly knit relationship, like in the case of the United States of America. The unity has often been tested over the years, and one of the worst moments was during the last decade, when Iraq was invaded. Later the union expansion created tension, with ten new member states being added to an EU which was not prepared for such a massive expansion so quickly. This is an obvious crisis. There are other crises, which aren’t that apparent, such as the competition between the USA and Europe, the currency wars, and most importantly the industry wars, which have caused a lot of casualties on both sides.

The European Constitution remains another thorny issue, with only the top of the iceberg showing. Behind it are a series of other issues, mainly made up by the lack of coordination between the major players; a lack of EU leadership; and members with strong agendas that often conflict with the aim of a united Europe. Of course the general economic crisis and the dramatic unemployment rise don’t help much either. And yes, individuals form part of the problem as well, and in this case I’m not talking about Europe’s clown, Silvio and his family dramas.

First there is the European official leadership, Mr. Barroso, who often confuses his loyalties between the American administration and his real bosses – the European citizens. His Commission has become a bureaucratic monster that ignores the needs of the European citizens. Secondly there is a European Parliament that adds an unbelievable amount of meaningless legislations to the lives of people who have no clue why. This is part of the reality, but having said that, I don’t mean that there is no real work going on, especially in the Parliament. But everything they do is ruined by the executive parts of the Union taking over, such as the Commission President or the Council of Prime Ministers.

The European Parliament has voted on a series of laws aimed at protecting and defending democracy and human rights, but unfortunately politics, national agendas and geopolitical interests have often put an end to these. Euro-bureaucracy has become the worst enemy of euro-unity.

And the European Elections show exactly what the European governments think about a united Europe: for most of the European governments, the election is a good chance to promote their own work and on the same time measure their popularity.

What’s next? Well, Europe is suffering from an identity crisis, and it has to rebuild – or better rediscover – the aims of the union. Perhaps the European citizens need reassurance that the principals are still there. The citizens need to know that the European values still exist to protect and defend their interests and prosperity. Instead of having a Europe full of questions, we need a United Europe inspiring confidence and security.

By Thanos Kalamidas


Perhaps a cancer in Europe

An article from the Ovi magazine

There is something that I have often emphasized, that Africa or south-east Asia are very far away in our minds, much more than they are in reality, and we have connected the embarrassing acts of our times, like human and drug trafficking, with these corners of the earth. The connection is not entirely unfair since a lot happens and there are states like the dictatorship of Myanmar that champion human and drugs trafficking; actually, the dictators of Myanmar hold the record in both ‘sports.’

There is a saying that the camel can see the other camel’s back better than hers and somehow I have the feeling that the same comes to Europeans, we can see the ‘camel’s back’ with the African countries but we cannot see it when it happens with a country inside the European borders, a country that has been accused more and more from NGOs and organizations for human trafficking, women and children and an uncontrollable drugs trafficking. The accusations go as far as the prime minister and his inner circle, or better, say his family, since governing and family has become the same thing in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Actually, more and more countries talk openly nowadays for the situation in this country and what will happen after Kosovo will be recognized as a new democracy.

FYROM has a lot of open issues with Kosovo whether they like or not and the whole dispute with Greece, while they know that they are wrong it has nothing to do with the reality that their state is in serious dangerous to fall in non-existence in the next ten years. The borders with Kosovo are not very clear and the Albanians have dreams about the land – lands that don’t include the name FYROM. Does Nicola Gruevski, FYROM’s prime minister know all that?

Of course he does and what happened during the elections between the Albanians in FYROM was enough to make him worry, that’s why he has turned to blind nationalism, that’s why he threatens all around. But the thing is for how long this policy of self-delusion is going to continue and not to forget the other element of the equalization that keeps him in place of the Bush administration. You see, I was really careful not to use the Americans because with the end of George W. Bush administration a lot of the mysterious plans in the Balkans are going to be terminated. The word ‘mysterious’ was accurate since nobody knows what this temporary, yet best in size, American army base is doing in the area.

Suspicions? A lot! After all, the American secret services have proved often in the past that they can cooperate even with the devil himself if that serves their interests. Perhaps between Kosovo and FYROM is based the alternative, even darker Guantanamo. Perhaps the American secret services can pretend to be blind when women and children are sold like slaves and drugs change routes. Perhaps it serves when the responsible traffic policeman behind all this is accidentally the prime minister’s favorite cousin and head of the secret police. Perhaps in exchange he turns a blind eye for all that happen with the rumored planes that land with prisoners. Perhaps all the talking in the Albanian villages in FORUM is not lies! Perhaps this country is doomed by its own actions and choices.

That would explain Gruevski’s rush for FYROM to become a member of NATO and that would explain Bush’s support, CIA interest and Rice’s hysterics. When Greece vetoed this membership I’m sure it had no idea of what would soon come out, perhaps there were rumors but now these rumors have expanded into reports that increasingly become more chilling and the way Gruevski practiced democratic elections last month reminded more of a dictatorship and one of the worst kinds.

The dramatic thing is that this all happens in Europe not Africa, not in south Asia and the hypocrisy of the whole thing is that Gruevski will dare the coming December to apply for an EU membership. EU was pretty sensitive when Austria elected for chancellor somebody known for his extreme-right opinions, now is time to practice this sensitivity with FYROM showing to Mr. Gruevski that there is no place for his kind in Europe and all the human and drugs trafficking is a total embarrassment for the EU and must stop yesterday, this cancer that has grown in Europe must be terminated now!

A letter to a failed EU

An Article from the Ovi magazine

Dear Mr. President of the European Union, dear Mr. and Mrs. Commissioners and dear Mr. and Mrs. National representatives of the 27 nations in the European Parliament, I know you have been really busy with the relationship between the EU and Russia and constantly worrying about who is going to be the next president of the USA, so you have missed something basic: European citizens are being led to bankruptcy fast, here and now, and you haven’t done anything to prevent it.

In the name of European Unity and a better future we saw you all hurrying an expansion from 17 countries to 27 without preparing both, not the 17 neither or the 10 new ones. Poland did fantastic negotiations trying to take the best from Europe ignoring – and this is not Poland’s fault – that what they took and what they negotiated somebody has to pay for and in this case it is the citizens of the European Union, including the Polish citizens who became overnight the other members of this union. Ironically, part of these things that their government earned supposedly for them they now have to pay themselves. How? The glorious V.A.T. of course!

Careful, I’m not against the European expansion, on the contrary, I believe that the European Union should include every single European country to be considered a real European Union, after all the things that unite us are much, much more than the things that separate us; and I hope the missing countries like Serbia and, yes, Russia will also join soon. Regarding Turkey, I have my objections which have nothing to do with religion or my personal origins – something that has been wrongly pointed before – , but with the fact that Turkey is not a European country and if we make Turkey a member of the EU then there is no reason for not accepting Morocco and Egypt who would love to become members of the EU, or Israel and replace the UN with EU.

Turkey can have a special economic relationship with EU but this where everything should stop. And be careful, here I’m not judging how close or how far away Turkey is for what Europe points as criteria for a candidate member regarding democracy, human rights, respect to others and many more unanswered issues.

But to return to our theme, at the same time the European Commission was hurrying into an unprepared expansion they were also establishing a common currency, the Euro. What they were dreaming of was a currency that could bring a balance between Europe and the USA that would, firstly, help the exports that were suffering over the last few years and help the passage between people and products inside the European Union. Obviously missing again the greediness of an uncontrolled market full of multinational companies, with no organized protection for the consumer in fear of inflation with a result the consumers, the citizens of this union find themselves with prices increasing locally from 20% to 100%.

Approximation, that’s the name of the crime because it was a crime. Something that cost 89 cents with the old national currency in a period of months became one euro. And then most of them with excuses like the cost of adaption to the new currency have increased the prices another 20%.

The cost of life for a family with one kid where both parents must work – this is another failure of the system – suddenly became sky-high because, aside from the supermarket bill, the cost of land followed to make it sometimes impossible to cope with the rent or a loan that would really match the needs of the family, which was then followed by poor salaries and the blackmail of unemployment. The choice of the word was correct; unemployment has been used often from the employees as blackmail for pathetic and low salaries with the cover of the states.

In the name of the profit of the shareholders, companies fire hundreds of workers. I’m sorry but this is crossing the line, because some fat ass makes money sitting on his sofa eating hamburgers and he didn’t like the amount of the profit he did that evening hundreds of people lose their job. Am I a cynic? How far am I from the truth? This was supposed to be the union of the European citizens, not the union of the multinational industries and companies with the European citizens as the cheap labor.

The oil prices were the final hit. The increasing oil prices have become the next excuse of increasing all the prices from 25% to 50%. All the prices, from the milk I get from the supermarket to the shoes got higher in one night. The excuse? Oil prices! So the supermarkets want to tell me that they were totally empty last night and they filled their shelves this morning but due to the cost of oil and because the trucks that brought them those products this morning, please don’t forget this small detail, everything happened this morning; they had to increase the price of milk. Of course my salary remains the same! Again I suspect all has to do with a greedy market and stock holders you missed to control or put some rules on their games.

What can you do? Are you seriously asking me? When you applied for the damn job, when you asked for my vote you had read the job description and you had assured me that you were going there to protect me and help me. Well you failed and you screwed me! Because in the beginning I had to use my credit card but things kept getting more expensive and my salary the same, so I had to take the loan and things kept going more expensive and the time came for the payback you told me that the law says that … I lose my house!

You failed to protect the simplest elements that give every citizen of this union a life with dignity, you failed to protect the European citizen of the visual enemy, a greedy multinational market that you were oblige to control. You led people to poverty and I’m sorry to say you are fully responsible for that. All my life I believed that you shouldn’t ask what the state does for you but what you do fir the state and I was thinking the same about the European Union since I strongly believed that this union of people and effects was there for our common prosperity. But that meant that you would fulfill your side of the deal and you failed me, so don’t expect me now to do my part.

Actually, at this moment, my worry is not what I’m doing for the state but if my kid will find food on the table and I feel insecure in the world you have create for me and my child!