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1 November 2012

Interesting – I am no expert on EU relations but is Labour’s daft move to join Tory backbenchers to try to cut EU spending merely crude troublemaking or a sign (as the BBC Analysis radio programme this week suggested) that Labour may be rethinking the Europhilia that has characterised its last few decades?

27 August 2010

I have long known one of the UN’s key prerequisites to help reach the target Millennium Development Goals is that developed countries should donate a paltry .7% of their GNP to aid projects (at present nearly all fall well short of this). I just found out (via the Economist) that there’s another even more ambitious but contrasting target. It seems that poor old NATO is suffering because most of its member nations are not spending up to the 2% of GDP target it has set for military expenditure. Would it be too much to ask that countries reach the .7% aid target first?

14 January 2009

An Italian 20 year veteran of the European Parliament shares his thoughts and memories. Here’s something I would love to have seen:

In 1979, Mario Capanna, leader of the Partito di Unità Proletaria, spoke in Latin as a protest, and was answered in Latin by a delighted Otto von Habsburg, son of the last Austro-Hungarian Emperor, and deputy for the Bavarian csu for twenty years.

11 February 2008

Thanks to a BBC programme, Costing the Earth, I just heard about Desertec, a proposal to provide 10-25% of Europe’s electricity via solar power panels in the deserts of North Africa. What I thought was particularly impressive is the claim that the solar panels could provide a three-fold benefit for these African nations. They’d sell the power, of course, but they would also get desalinated water (because this is needed to run the power plants) and they could grow crops in the shade of the giant mirrors! I always thought that the problem with remote electricity generation like this would be the losses in transmission over long distances but the people behind this concept claim that by using High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) these losses would only amount to 10-15% of the power generated.

I have no idea whether this would be feasible, technically, politically or economically, (one critic says it would cost 0.15-0.20 euros per KWh – about double what we pay for power currently) but it sure sounds appealing on the face of it.

11 September 2007

The EU has agreed to give up trying to force Brits to use the metric system. Without that pressure I fear my son will still have to learn about an archaic, illogical system of measures long past its sell-by date as well as metric. I remember being the first generation to learn metric in the UK and being told it was the future. And so it is – except here, it seems!

20 December 2005

Seems everywhere I look there is news about how revenge corrodes the soul and how the ‘good guys’ often act badly.

Historical papers revealed by the Guardian in the last week told how during and immediately after WWII, Britain ran interrogation centres that sounded as bad as anything the Gestapo came up with. One in Germany that starved and tortured prisoners first targeted Nazi party members or former members of the SS then by late 1946…

suspected Soviet agents. Some were NKVD officers – Russians, Czechs and Hungarians – but many were simply German leftists. Others were Germans living in the Russian zone who had crossed the line, offered to spy on the Russians, and were tortured to establish whether they were genuine defectors.

By a depressing irony, “Of the 20 interrogators ordered to break the inmates of Bad Nenndorf… [six] were mostly German Jewish refugees who had enlisted on the outbreak of war.”

The revelations of the previous week were even more disturbing. During and after WWII, a torture centre was run in London – the “London Cage”. The fact that those tortured appear to have been largely SS men and those accused of war crimes does little to excuse the brutal conditions there.

And now by an odd coincidence Spielberg is about to release a film – Munich – about Israel’s decision to hunt down and assasinate the killers of 11 of its atheletes at the 1972 Munich games (reviewed here).

All of this makes one think about the way that things seem to be going both here in the UK and in the US where torture may now be illegal but evidence obtained under torture may be OK and where peaceful protesters against military recruitment are attacked by police.

Also see my earlier post-Abu Ghraib musings on a similar theme…

But hopefully with that out of my system I can return to our regularly-scheduled Xmas cheer!

30 May 2005
Filed under:Current affairs (Europe) at12:11 pm

My (French) wife turned out yesterday to vote for the European constitution but in vain. I can understand the French nationalists opposing it for similar reasons to those of our own anti-Europeans, but the idea among the Left that the constutition should be renegotiated to include more of a “social dimension” is just wishful thinking, and the idea promoted by old Left unions and right wing politicians that we should shut out the workers of the nations of central and Eastern Europe to protect our own jobs is both immoral and wrong-headed. Of course, it goes without saying that voting against the constitution to spite Chirac is equally misguided (since all major parties agree that the constitution should have gone ahead).

The constitution has plenty of weaknesses but if renegotiations did take place and in the unlikely event the result did pull the constitution further in a ‘social’ direction, it would be even less likely to be passed in Britain.

I can’t put things much better than the Guardian’s recent editorial:

For all the anger about liberal Anglo-Saxon economics, the text does not include economic prescriptions that are any different from those in the Treaty of Rome in 1957… the text does improve on the botched Nice treaty and delivers significant improvements to the EU’s rickety institutions. It certainly makes more sense to have a full-time president of the EU, to give it strategic direction and continuity, than to go on with the musical chairs system … It is a good idea to have a foreign minister to boost Europe’s faltering global role. It makes sense to reduce the use of national vetoes to avoid gridlock, to slim down the European commission to streamline delivery and to give more powers to the European parliament. It is good to have a charter of rights.

All of the above seems now likely to be lost or delayed or weakened.

5 March 2005

I hadn’t realised this inegalitarian idea rightly mocked when it was touted by Forbes in his US presidential bid has been gaining so much leverage. The Economist points out Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Serbia, Ukraine, Russia, Georgia, Slovakia and Romania have introduced them.

30 September 2004

But does it have to be the clownish conservative Boris Johnson? In France they have a serious politician blogger, “Dominique Strauss Kahn”:http://www.blogdsk.net/

20 July 2004

A European pundit, Thierry Chervel, complains that key European newspapers and ‘cultural journals’ are not available online and suggests this impoverishes Europe’s public sphere. To prove his point he cites the failure of an initiative by Jurgen Habermas, who wanted to launch his “Kerneuropa -initiative” against the Iraq war and the “new Europe” via various European newspapers:

He published his own article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and assigned his colleagues to the Suddeutsche Zeitung , to the El Pais and in the Corriere della Serra. None of these papers however published the articles online. An interested intellectual in Madrid, Paris or Berlin would have had to go the main train station and purchase four newspapers from three different countries. A few days later, the debate was quickly forgotten.

Had Habermas invested a few thousand Euros to build his small website, had he published his article and those of his colleagues simultaneously in English, the sensation would have been big.

Well, it is not clear that this would have happened (and it seems that Habermas’ statement “actually is available online”:http://www.faz.net/s/Rub117C535CDF414415BB243B181B8B60AE/Doc~ECBE3F8FCE2D049AE808A3C8DBD3B2763~ATpl~Ecommon~Scontent.html), but the general point is an interesting one. It would certainly be nice if the major non-English=language European newspapers and magazines published their articles online for free and translated them into English – it would give a much broader perspective to the online audience but is unlikely to happen, alas.

Mark Liberman “posted”:http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/001168.html his own interesting comment and critique about this article asserting (correctly I suspect) that the root cause of this problem is not so much economic conservatism on the part of European newspapers but a larger “Internet illiteracy” on the part of many mainstream European intellectuals (including Thierry Chervel who does not have a website of his own). Hopefully this will change over time…

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