A few days ago Jovan wrote about Gabriele Marranci’s blog. When I was in Singapore I had a chat with Gabriele about xenophobia in Italy, and to my surprise he told me that the main xenophobic party, Lega Nord, which is part of the current government, has recently upgraded Chinese immigrants to being as dangerous as Muslims. I had thought that in the last few years Muslims have become the unchallenged embodiment of the dangerous Other. This does have its flip side, though. At a conference today in Amsterdam I heard a paper by Gargi Bhattacharya denouncing Britain’s criminalization of forced marriage as a step to stigmatize Muslims/South Asians further. But, commenting on her paper, anthropologist Jacob Rigi reminded us that “slavery” (combatting which was one of the rationales for the legislation) really does exist; just look at all those trafficked Chinese. In other words, even those in the academia who are sensitive towards “security talk” about Muslims may not be so critical when the same type of rhetoric crops up with regard to other migrants.
A huge round up follows:
"The EU should review its perception of what Russian outward-looking economic policies stand for," argues Maria Ordzhonikidze, secretary-general of the EU-Russia Centre, in a January publication.
More than a million people took to France‘s streets on Thursday to protest the government’s economic policy. Europe’s press comments on the general strike in France, its causes and its significance.
It’s been five days and we almost missed the new fun EU Tube video. While it’s no Chemical Party or Romanticism in European Films, it is a well done clip. The challenge this time again is to identify all the film references. Resident film expert Rob completed this task in about 15 seconds… scroll down for his answers.
An array of global problems is pressing on the European Union in the first weeks of 2009 – from the crisis of the global financial system and a threatened worldwide economic slump to the fallout of the Gaza war and the annual Russia-Ukraine dispute over energy payments. The union’s ability to address all these is shadowed by its continuing internal paralysis over planned reforms to the way the EU works. But what makes these priorities even more challenging for the union is that for the six months beginning on 1 January 2009 its presidency is held by the Czech Republic – a country with a weak and divided government and a state president bent on halting and if possible reversing European integration.
Pierre Bonnard (French, 1867-1947), The Dessert, 1940 Pierre Bonnard’s Luminous Late Interiors Featured in Metropolitan Museum Exhibition
Jan Rovensky: As the Czech Republic takes the helm of the EU Presidency, domestic disputes and party politics promise to "spice up" Prague’s six months in office. Yet, Czech discrepancies concerning the Lisbon Treaty, American radar installments and Afghanistan may serve to emphasize the need for a common EU foreign policy.
The next European Commission may feature as many as twenty new faces this autumn, as most of its current members are expected to leave the EU executive on their own initiative or as a result of changing national political contexts.
Europe’s innovation and research policies were designed for developed Western European countries and do little to help boost the developing economies of the Union’s eastern members, according to Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek.
The European Commission has decided to exclude GPlus, a prominent Brussels consultancy, from its voluntary lobbyists’ register for failing to disclose the identities of all its clients.
"There is a major opportunity for EU-US relations to improve under the new [Obama] administration," write European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS) director Álvaro de Vasconcelos and others in a January EUISS report.
Recent EU initiatives to connect with citizens "probably failed", but recent calls from the European Parliament for a structured dialogue between the EU institutions and civil society are "a very positive sign," Social Platform President Conny Reuter told EurActiv in an interview.
The reflection group established by EU leaders to ponder the Union’s future is yet to decide whether it will do its work behind closed doors or "go public" by asking for contributions via the Internet, the group’s President Felipe Gonzalez said yesterday (21 January).
The European Central Bank (ECB) has lowered its prime rate to two percent in reaction to the worsening recession in the Eurozone. The European press discusses the move, which is also meant to forestall the threat of deflation.
Amid the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, resurgent violence and war in the Middle East, a row between Russia and the Ukraine over gas supplies which left Europe freezing, and skyrocketing expectations for
the first Afro-American US President, EurActiv asked European Commission director generals to spell out their hopes for 2009.
A "mind-shift away from traditional communications" is required if Brussels-based public affairs professionals are to embrace the potential of blogs and other online tools to help "break the cycle of one-way communication," Helen Dunnett, eCommunications manager at the European Crop Protection Association, told EurActiv in an interview.
[…] all eyes were on the new president of the European Council, Czech prime minister Mirek Topolanek. Outlining his priorities for the next six months, he surprised MEPs by announcing that if a referendum were held on the Lisbon Treaty in the Czech Republic, the Czechs would reject it like the Irish.
He described the treaty as average and “somewhat worse than the Nice Treaty”
On 15 January 2009 an exhibition opened on the premises of the European Council in Brussels to mark the beginning of the Czech Republic’s six-month presidency of the European Union. The authors were, until the day of the launch, believed to be twenty-seven artists from each of the EU’s member-states, but media attention and political turmoil in Bulgaria forced the true – and single – author to declare his hoax on 13 January. It turned out to be the well known Czech conceptual artist, David Cerny.Dessy Gavrilova is founder-director of The Red House – Center for Culture and Debate in Sofia, Bulgaria
The citizens of Bulgaria have long forgotten that art could be a political force. It used to be under communism, but lost its importance since the change of 1989 and after. Now, at the beginning of 2009, art again matters in this country.
Andreas Umland: It appears that in the near future, the European Union monitors will systematically observe the flow of Russian gas to Europe at the Russian-Ukrainian border. Thus, the EU seems to be helping to ease the Russian-Ukrainian confrontation. Or is it?
The Amsterdan Court of Appeal has ordered the criminal prosecution of Dutch MP Geert Wilders (you know, the Fitna guy). I do not have time to elaborate on this right now, but I thought the Court’s argumentation (see first link) makes for some nice debating material. Two snippets:
The Dutch right-wing populist Geert Wilders will be prosecuted for making statements critical of Islam, the highest court in Amsterdam ruled on Wednesday. The European press discusses how far freedom of opinion should extend.
Hundreds of immigrants broke out of the refugee camp on the Italian island of Lampedusa to protest their living conditions. Now the Italian government wants to set up a new immigration facility for identifying and deporting illegal immigrants. Europe’s press comments on the plans.
The EU wants to discuss the taking in of detainees from the controversial Guantánamo prison with the United States. The European press discusses this offer of aid to Barack Obama and the reactions of individual countries.
EU foreign ministers failed to overcome divisions on accepting inmates from Guantánamo Bay, taking the gloss off Europe’s stated desire to use Barack Obama’s presidency as a launch pad for better transatlantic ties
by Katinka Barysch
On January 20th, Russian gas started flowing again through Ukraine, after a two-week shut-down that had left people in South East Europe freezing and factories idle. The relief across Europe was palpable but the confusion about what happened is still there.
Despite their best efforts and some encouraging employment figures, most EU countries have not lived up to the challenge of keeping Europe competitive in the l
ong-term, the EU executive found on Wednesday (27 January). The bloc’s goal of becoming "the world’s most dynamic knowledge-based economy by 2010" is thus no more than an "illusion", experts noted, especially in the wake of the financial and economic crises.
The European Union spent €2.4bn last year on "biased information campaigns" to "promote itself and its central aim of ‘ever closer union’," alleges a new study by Open Europe, a UK-based think tank. But the report’s findings were denied by the European Commission, which said it "makes no apologies" for supporting schemes such as the Erasmus student exchage programme.
by Centre for European Reform
by Charles Grant
One Frenchman, Jean Monnet, invented the European Commission, and another, Jacques Delors, was its greatest president. Yet the French are increasingly hostile to this Brussels institution. Those who spent time in France during the 2005 referendum on the EU constitutional treaty will remember that the No campaign was fired up by the belief that the Commission had become too ‘Anglo-Saxon’ (ie, economically liberal). Since then anti-Commission sentiment seems to have grown in France, at least to judge from the discussion at the recent ‘Franco-British colloque’, an annual gathering of politicians, journalists and business leaders from Britain and France.