Sunday, February 24, 2013

Those who rule shape the way we think. But with what criteria?

If we look back to the whole history and civilization of the human race, we will sadly realize that it was created by the few. The elites, the ones with the money, power and in a position with their ideas, ambitions, interests, values or vision to shape the destiny of the rest of us. 

By doing both good or evil they have influence human history, while the rest of us just followed or were used. We were the workers, the fighters, the soldiers, the consumers. Most people need to be guided, they want a leader. To be told what to do and how to live their lives.

Our values, culture and ideology as a nation or a group of nations are the result of centuries of wars and struggle between our nation's elites with those of the rest of Europe. Currently all western media and elites have an agenda. They promote the policies or agenda they see best, but it is not necessarily the ideal one for all states. 

Our western elites are dominated by USA and the North-Western rich powerful European countries. After WW2 our hemisphere is dominated by their values and cultural heritage which is predominantly Anglo-Saxon and protestant. That is why they always promote the American or British agendas, and now the Scandinavian one since the other two failed (in the Economist, the Scandinavian model was found to be the new role model for the rest of the world). But this crisis started in America for example by their irresponsible and incompetent economic policies, yest no one underlines this fact strongly enough.

Somehow the world focused on Greece as if it was their fault for the crisis; talking about propaganda! What they are not saying is that all western economies are in deep trouble. France is broke according to its Finance Minister, Britain is just about hanging, Japan is dubbed the Greece or Asia and the American economy is in tatters. If it wasn't for the wars they keep creating to feed their arms industries thus helping their economy their economy would be long collapsed.

The protestant ethos that many are so proud of is actually what feeds this type of capitalism that we are experiencing that always wants more profits and more wealth no matter what. It is not in everybody's heritage to act like that. If you go to Nepal you will see some of the happiest people alive and they do not accept the western capitalist system. 

They big powers of the West instead of paying up, they force the smaller "peripheral" economies to clean up the mess and force their people to suffer. No you do not pay for other countries' mistakes by bailing them out, you invest in them. The loans you give them are not tax free, they will have to be repaid with high interest. In other words you will make a profit out of the PIGS mistakes and misery.  

Europe was rebuilt after WW2 by America. The Marshall plan, created the Europe that we know today, either you like it or not. In exchange for a country to become part of it, it had to follow certain rules and reform its economy according to what the lenders, in this case the Americans, saw as more suitable and profitable according to their agenda. 

In other words, Europe as it is today was designed by the Protestant Anglo-Saxon ethos and way of thinking or the Soviet for the other half. That is why some countries feel more comfortable following some policies that are being promoted by the "West" and some others can not. 

 And there is of course the issue of propaganda and scapegoating some countries to make sure the current capitalist system always prevails and the protestant ethos remains dominant in the western hemisphere.

With all goods that it came out of the Marshall Plan, it certainly had some certain side effects that Europe is left to deal on its own. While it had to open its economy, follow the American model of society, become multicultural, capitalist, market based economy, European countries had also to end colonization and in general totally transform their economic model.

But the agenda of the USA is based on their culture and way of seeing things, that is Anglo-Saxon and protestant. So countries with the same heritage are finding more easy to adapt and adopt, whilst others just follow. And all criteria for a "competitive" economy are according that ethos. In other words it is unequal.

Agencies judge a society according the ability to create growth and money for their investors, not according their values or cultural heritage. Tough one might say, but the agenda of the USA and in extension Europe and the rest of the "Western World," is one sided and does not fit all countries.

When we criticize Capitalism, it does not necessarily mean that we support communism or we ignore the horrendous damages that it brought upon Europe. Rather we are trying to reform and reconstruct the capitalist system to be more fair and suit all.

I am sure that you will agree that as it is right now, it is not working, not for everybody at least. Capitalism is in crisis, and how best to reform it, than stripping it down to the basics and cut lose anything that does not work?

What I would love to see, is a shake up of European politics. Europe should form its own policies that will apply but also be influenced by all nations and their heritage. We should start doing business differently and if we want to change things, we change them by working together. Not by forcing the poorer southern or eastern states comply with what is the dominant ideology in doing business.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Should European citizens be happy about the ESM?

While the European people are suffering from the ongoing economic crisis, they look up to their leaders for a solution. They want to stop living in austerity, losing their jobs, seeing their incomes shrink. 

They want a better, secure future for them and their children. They wish to be able to make plans and provide for their families. But who listens to them? 

Europe's leaders seem to have lost touch with their citizens reality. People need real solutions and fast. We are forcing a whole generation of European young people into a dead end. So what is our leader's response to our needs? 

Well one of these "solutions" was the launching of the ESM (European Stability Mechanism). It is an international organization located in Luxembourg, which provides financial assistance to members of the euro-zone in financial difficulty. The ESM was established on 27 September 2012, and will function as a permanent firewall for the euro-zone with a maximum lending capacity of €500 billion. 

It will replace the two existing temporary EU funding programs: the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) and the European Financial Stabilization Mechanism (EFSM). All new bailout applications and deals for any euro-zone member state with a financial stability issue, will in principle from now on be covered by ESM, while the EFSF and EFSM will only continue to handle transfer and monitoring of the previously approved bailout loans for Ireland, Portugal and Greece.

In other words Greece, Ireland and Portugal can not have their debt weights lifted right now. Only Spain, Italy and any other country that hasn't received a bail out package so far, will immediately benefit from this. Greece will be able to join only if they fulfill the austerity plan and return to the markets. So there is no soothing for the poor Greek folk in their troubles, for the foreseeable future.

The very establishment of such organization clearly shows where Europe is heading. Our leaders' agenda is not finding solutions to our problems or proceeding with real reforms. In Greece for example the public has experienced only severe cuts and reduction of their incomes. Real reforms like those needed in the taxation system have never occurred.

Even the IMF has apologized to Greece, because apparently their estimations were wrong and the cuts imposed on the country too severe! So instead of helping the country, they have actually pushed it in deeper recession. But there is no schedule to reverse the cuts or lessen the burden for the Greek people. Was it a genuine mistake or is there an agenda behind it?

If the IMF that is part of the Troika can make such tragic "mistakes" that have a huge impact on the fortunes of European people, can they be trusted? Despite the huge sacrifices that the Greek, Irish, Portuguese and other nations had to make, the crisis is only getting worse and there is no end to this tunnel.

Currently Spain and Cyprus are in talks with the Troika for loans that will allegedly help them come out of their difficulties; or will they? If what happened to Greece is going to pass without any consequences for the people who made these mistakes, then is the Troika acting for the best interest of the European citizens?

We are witnessing the greatest financial experiment in the modern history of Europe. Austerity seems to be unavoidable for European states. It is clearly an agenda, not a solution. Our leaders are trying to change the way we work, the way we live, think of our future and our expectations. Europe is being redesigned for a new reality; but what will this new reality going to be?

That is confirmed by the very establishment of the ESM. Because every new country that wants to be part of this plan and avail of its benefits, it has to accept austerity and the regulations coming from the IMF. In that way our governments legitimize austerity all over Europe from now on!

While I totally understand and support that the euro-zone needs to be stabilized and the debt crisis contained, I do not think that the solution is imposing austerity on the weaker states. Our leaders seem to think that the only way to deal with the problem is by pleasing the creditors and giving full control to bankers and unelected officials. 

All the drastic plans in Europe to save our economies occur in the financial sector only, not in the political. Clearly that sector is easier to change, but in this way we are only finding temporary relief to our woes. Every suggested "solution" is an experiment that when fails, the European people have to deal with the consequences. 

So should I be happy that our leaders have agreed to establish the ESM? Well it provides easy access to loans and help to states in need, but with huge costs and conditions that come from people who made serious mistakes at least once, as the Greek case shows.

The only good thing about it I find,is that now our leaders will have overseers to forbid them making irresponsible financial choices. Once under the watchful eye of the Troika, there is little room for mistakes or excuses. Now if the Troika's solutions are of any real help, that is another issue. Ideally, I would not support for each state to surrender its economic sovereignty. But since we are all in the Common Market and use the same currency, there is not much of a choice.

As the crisis deepens, it will most likely drag more and more European states into it. They will have the reassurance of the ESM for support, thus austerity is here to stay in our continent. But what will happen if the states that lend want to lend no more? When a core of rich countries support all others, this will inevitably create frictions in the EU and that is in no way helping the European integration.

Instead of dealing with the shortfalls in each country's economy and Europe's as a whole, we put them on life support. How can this be of any benefit for the European economy? With ESM or without it, our continent is in deep trouble and it needs reforms.

So far we have seen only the kind of reforms who bring misery to the ordinary European population.  How can we built Europe on such policies that do not gain the support or approval of the people, they are not necessarily for their benefit, rather the benefit of the global economists and bankers?

Monday, February 11, 2013

A very predictable new EU Budget for 2013.

After nail biting negotiations of the EU Council to agree on the EU Budget 2013 that will transform EU's policies and finances for the next 10 years, the budget was agreed. Now it is up to the European Parliament to vote for it and approve it, in order to come in effect.

In the current economic climate it would make sense to cut the budget, and I understand people who want to see this happen. If countries are struggling, they need all the funds they can find to keep their economy afloat.

And of course the EU budget must reflect the reality that Europe faces. If there is a shortage of money, business can not go as usual for the EU and its institutions either.

But it is also irresponsible to follow a populist line if the funds can be found from doing what it needs to be done and the reforms that are needed, instead of grasping the easier solution of cutting the EU budget. Is saving the Banks more important for example?

In my opinion the EU budget should stay the same or even increase, in order to be able to invest in all those projects and programs that will make some difference in the future of Europe.

Having said that, the EU budget must be overall reformed and countries that were not contributing as much, is time to start giving more. Instead of relying on subsidies, these countries must be encouraged to invest and become more industrialized, become richer like the “core” EU economies and start giving their share.

Thus a more harmonized European economy is needed. The “core” countries will lose out a bit, but at least they won’t moan all the time of contributing too much and “sustaining too many freeloaders” as many British Euro-skeptics have put it.

If there is a more harmonized European economy, then it won’t be necessary for some countries to contribute more in the budget or others less. It will be fair, and the squabbles between the states of who gives more or less will stop.

So we will be able to increase the EU budget and invest in all the spheres that will be beneficial for all European economies. But I think that it will be the “core” countries that will object more to such thing.

Also the priorities of the budget will have to change. Where and how the money is spent, will be decisive for Europe's future, economy, unity and integration. We need to spend more in spheres that we haven't been until now.So far the budget was rather "predictable" and that does not change much Europe's future I am afraid.

From what we read from various sources reporting on the debate that took place and the matter that it did, this summit has showed once again, that our heads of states and government have no vision for the future of Europe. "They do not understand the need to provide the EU with sufficient resources to give Europeans a future.  All we have is a market made of vetoes, cuts, rebates and long term austerity." (as noted by Pietro De Matteis, co-President of the European Federalist Party, in an official statement).

One EU diplomat complained that Van Rompuy had adopted crude tactics in which he bought off individual member states with "gifts" while cutting EU-wide infrastructure projects such as the Connecting Europe initiative. "Growth has been the victim of the bazaar," the source said. (source:

I find this shameful not from the side of Mr. Van Rompuy, but the very need to bribe some members in order to come into an agreement shows the real state of the "Union." Every state still thinks on a national level and by bribing them, the EU officials only kick the can down the road. Any "solution" under such climate can only be temporary.

The draft budget 2013 freezes future expenditure: the increase of commitments (i.e. tomorrow’s payments) is at the level of inflation (2%). It also freezes the Commission’s administrative budget at well below inflation level, while cutting its staff by 1%, the first step towards the goal of a 5% reduction of staff in 5 years.
At the same time, it proposes a 6.8% increase in the level of payments.

This contributes directly to growth and jobs in Europe. The EU budget must meet its contractual obligations of current and previous years vis-à-vis the Member States and other recipients.

€62,5 billion in payments are devoted to job friendly growth in Europe. A particular effort has been made towards the Research framework Programs (€9,0 billion, 28,1% increase on 2012), the Competitiveness and Innovation Program (€546,4 million, 47,8 % increase), structural and cohesion funds (€49bn, 11,7 % increase), life long learning (€1,2 billion, 15,8 % increase). (source:

Personally I am disappointed that Agriculture is still taking up almost one third of the EU's expenditure. A single sector of Europe's economy occupies one third of its budget. Is that wise? It is encouraging though that more funds will be directed towards innovation and education, thought not enough if you ask me. And of course it remains to be seen how many states will actually fully implement these decisions and how.

Will these funds be able to get Europe not just out of the current crisis, but prevent any future similar crisis from happening and help stabilizing and harmonizing Europe's economy? I think not. It looks to me that this is not in our leaders' agenda. All they seem to want is to deal with the current crisis quickly and do not disturb or alter the current status quo of the continent.

I understand that they need to keep the balances between the interests of their country, the lobbies in the country who support them, the European interests and the lobbies that work on a continental level. But if they want to be seen as the hero of the day and remain in Europe's history, they should be bolder and agree on a budget that will be decisive.

Instead they seem to care in keeping the critics back home happy and  safeguard theirs and their party's prominence in national politics. Sadly, European leaders still think "nationally." How can we ever achieve an agreement on a budget or any solution for Europe in this mind-frame?

So for the next 10 years we can expect no real change in Europe, apart from a soothing effect on the crisis; until the next one of course. European leaders do not think for the long term. Change and any progress in our continent happen with a tortoise pace, while changes in the world happen with a hare's.

Unless European leaders can outsmart the global changes with the patience and confidence of a tortoise, Europe's future is uncertain. Hopefully our generation will be able to witness the results of their decisions and judge them accordingly.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Racism in Israel: but what if it happened in Europe?

While the World is shocked by Berlusconi's ridiculous claims recently, giving support to Mussolini and his fascist regime, somehow the same outrage does not focus for an incident happening in Israel! In the article posted with a link above, we read that Ethiopian immigrants were subjected to mandatory contraceptive injections, effectively amounting to forced (if temporary) sterilization according to news that broke out last weekend. 

Yet somehow, the state of Israel seems to escape once more the global community's condemnation or action against its immoral policies. Note that I mention Israel and not "the Jews", as my criticism goes directly to the Israeli state and government, not the Jewish ethnic group.

The article above uses the Nazi atrocities committed on the Jewish nation as a parallelism and an example. Such practices the article claims, echo the birth control practices of the European Eugenics and of course the Nazis. Many readers reacted badly.

But I believe that the best way to criticize them is to remind them what has been done to them. Why not? They bring the "race" card and the Holocaust each time someone speaks against them. If anything else they should be an example to all of us on human rights, not do similar things to others.

They should be in the front line on making sure such outrageous things do not happen again in our planet, but not only against them but on any ethnic group. They should never ever do to others what it was done to them. That is the best way to honor all those who died and set an example for the rest of us.

If what is said in the article is true, then it is simply shameful and it must be reported and criticized. Every other country is criticized for its mistakes: Greece for its economy, Turkey on its record on human rights, Britain in its stance in the EU, all former colonial European powers for the atrocities they committed during the colonization era.

No one should escape criticism when is in the wrong and it should not matter if the country that must face the music was once the victim. Each country can be the victim at one point in time and the aggressor at another. Each time it must be dealt accordingly.

So if this is true I think that the international community should intervene and make sure Israel complies. Imagine if such practices were happening in Europe? Imagine if Germany, Sweden or other European countries practiced what Israel is practicing on the Ethiopians?

The whole international community, the Africans and the Israelis themselves would be up in arms about it. And so now they should be for Israel. I do not hate Israel, I am once again terribly disappointed in them. If they break human rights then who should we use as an example to defend them?

Friday, February 1, 2013

Cameron's dangerous bluff!

In the aftermath of the long awaited British PM David Cameron's speech on the future of the British EU membership, one would think that another front has opened on the uncertain future of the EU. Or has it?

Reactions came fast from many of Europe's leaders but also from businessmen from Britain and elsewhere. They all criticized Mr Cameron and warned of the potential consequences that a "Brixit" would have on the country's economy.

"We need a UK as a fully fledged member, not harboring in the port of Dover," the European Parliament's President Mr Martin Schulz said. "Renegotiation is a two-way process where no artificial deadlines can be imposed by one side," he added. 

Many already commented that his speech is actually a bluff. A trick to make the British voters stay with him and his party, instead of joining the ranks of UKIP that for the past few years has been more vocal on Britain's EU membership.

And I have to agree. I personally found Mr. Cameron's speech very predictable. What else could he do? The voices demanding for reconsidering Britain's EU membership were becoming ever more vocal for the past few years. The country never had an easy or comfortable relationship with Europe, but since the financial crisis the British "euro-skeptics" found a lot of fertile ground to sow their seeds.

Not just Britain's but overall the European public opinion have started questioning their country's EU and euro-zone membership and that is not necessarily a bad thing; for too long the European population has been complacent and passive on European politics. 

The bad thing is that this crisis allowed the rise of many nationalist and far right groups and encouraged the rise of nationalism across Europe. And since Britain was always one of the least supportive nation for the European project, it is understandable that people that always advocated a withdrawal of Britain from the EU could now put pressure on the British government by gathering support from the public.    

Mr Cameron really had no choice, he had to listen to his people's calls and give them an option. But I strongly disagree with what he said, the way he said it. His speech was very carefully crafted to keep all sides happy, but it was not convincing. 

It was clearly populism to claim that he is not an "isolationist" and he wants the best for Europe. "The best for Europe" is what the collective decisions of all EU member states conclude to, not just what the interests of one of its members dictate. 

And if Britain continues its long tradition of bashing Europe and its involvement in it, it certainly will going to find itself isolated. Even the American President Mr Barack Obama called for caution on the UK's ever growing wish for a withdrawal. 

If Britain wanted the EU to be a success it should stop opting out of every policy they disagree with and be more engaged and proactive. Europe needs Britain but not only for the financial support as the Brits believe. If the three European powers (Germany, France and Britain) cooperated closely instead  of constantly bickering and be stuck in the post WW2 era, then the EU would be a success. 

Britain could be an invaluable asset for the union if it decided to play the role it should have and not always place itself miles apart from the rest of the Union. Yes there are numerous challenges to be faced and dealt within the EU and with every state joining they keep increasing. But the UK is not patient and it does not play its cards right. 

Instead of getting frustrated of not getting its way and for the slow developments in the new states, it could engage more in influencing and speeding those changes. And by doing that they could gain more allies and a sphere of influence in Europe. 

Perhaps they think that Europe is not interesting anymore or they have nothing to gain from it. But where will they turn when their old colonies seek to go their own way? 

By promising a referendum by 2017 Mr Cameron may have gained votes and the support of most British public, especially the ever increasingly euro-skeptic one. Instead of allowing it to slide into UKIP's circles, he gave them a promise that will make them looking forward to something. Perhaps securing their votes. 

"If I am Prime Minister, there will be a referendum,” he vowed; and that betrays his true intentions. A clever move? Perhaps yes for his and his party's future. But if the people vote to leave the EU, he will go down as the President who did the unthinkable. And history will judge him.

He will have to deliver, otherwise his and his party's reputation and future career are at risk. If nothing changes in Britain and in Europe by 2017, then the outcome will be most likely negative according to the current trends and the UK will have to leave the Union. 

The In/Out approach is very dangerous. The public can be so easily influenced by the wrong factors. My experiences in Ireland during the Lisbon Treaty referendum confirm that. The public when asked a "yes or no" question, usually the real answer that the public want to give is somewhere in between. But they are not given the "between" option. And when they lack all the facts they tend to vote negatively. 

With years of being brainwashed by the British media of all that is wrong with the EU and never with the rights, then I do not see how this referendum can be won. And it is a pity, because Britain's youth is far more "pro-European" that their parents and grant-parents and they are going to be the real "victims" of a British exit from the EU.

Cameron's criticism of the EU of having "too many institutions," is so lame. The EU has so many institutions exactly because all EU member states want to safeguard their national interests. And to try to balance all interests, the EU is having to have so many complicated laws that need the so many institutions to make sure they are kept.

If the EU member states passed on more powers to the EU and followed all EU legislation that they signed, there wouldn't be necessary to have so much bureaucracy in the EU. A "heretic who has point" like Copernicus he may wish to present himself, but in this case he hasn't.

Yes the EU has many problems and it is not perfect. But the problems come from the member states and their inability to agree or their reluctance to give more powers to the EU, something that Britain is most guilty of. Thus Mr. Cameron's "heresy" can not lead to anything constructive, thus there is no point to it. 

Mr Cameron was careful not to present himself as "anti-European."  A trend that grasps many British euro-skeptics lately. In order to gain support or avoid any criticism, they want to be seen a real "pro-Europeans" that are just trying to secure the best interests of the European nations. That translates of course to the best interests of Britain. 

The UK can not speak for all states. The interests of the majority of the smaller EU states is to belong to some kind of lose European federation. So if Britain wants out it is in its very right to think so, but they should not try to push their agenda on to others and present it as "common."

He also hinted that the EU should cooperate, or it will lose out of Britain's departure. Sure it will but threatening your "partners," does not win you their support. Europe needs Britain for sure, but also Britain needs Europe. The attitude of "give me what I need or else," is not a sign of "pro-European-ism" and a diplomatic approach to find a solution.

Britain is just playing its last card to avoid being "sucked in" a European federation and having to compromise the interests not of its people, rather the elites of the City of London. In all its history with Europe it was trying to do just that, so Cameron really does not have much choice than to try to satisfy his country's elites. Or at least try to avoid the criticism. 

A lot can happen until 2017 and until then I hope the British and the European elites will come with a plan B to deal with any outcome. If Britain goes ahead with the referendum that will most likely be lost, judging from the current public opinion trends, Europe will be in an uncharted territory. Never before such an important European state decided to leave the Union, but it will definitely not  spell the end of the EU. 

It will just open a new chapter.