Tag Archives: politics

Good news from the European Parliament

Just a short update on two issues that have also been discussed on this blog:

1. What happened with the “Telecoms Package” (that I have mentioned here and here)? It seems that most of the worrying amendments regarding copyright issues (especially the three strikes approach) were not adopted by the European Parliament. A detailed analysis by La Quadrature du Net will be published in the next days. However, it was an impressive example of digital citizen lobbyism. If you read German head over to netzpolitik.org and heise.deEurActiv has a long and rather general article on the whole initiative. But it is true: the Internet is rather quiet about this success in the European Parliament as A Fistful of Euros notes. Bashing the EU is much easier, I guess.

2. And what about the mysterious “blogger regulation” of Marianne Mikko … that actually never really existed in the first place? Well, it was not adopted by the European Parliament (or rather not included in the EP resolution). For more details check out EUobserver and Julien Frisch.

Medvedev and Putin explain the world

Dmitry Medvedev joined Vladimir Putin in interpreting world affairs “in a Russian way”.  Or is it just a ‘lecture’ in international politics for Sarah Palin?

“Just by getting closer to Russia’s borders, NATO is not becoming stronger,” Medvedev said. “…what if Georgia had a NATO membership action plan? I would not wait for a second in making the decision I made at that point.”

Vladimir Putin also tried his best to defend the war in Georgia:

“What did you want us to do? Wave our penknives in the air and wipe the bloody snot off our noses? When an aggressor comes into your territory, you need to punch him in the face – an aggressor needs to punished.”

I just have some objections about “the aggressor coming in your territory”, Mr Putin, somehow that explanation does not really convince me. Apart from that little “twisted fact”, I particularly like the diplomatic language in this statement.

The Russian President has another interesting analogy:

“Immediately after the events in the Caucasus it occurred to me that August 8 was for us almost what 9/11 was for the United States. There were many useful lessons from 9/11 in the United States. I would like the world to draw its own lessons from what happened. The world changed.”

Yes, the world is always changing. Interesting, first the “genocide” label, now the 9/11 analogy, any deeper meaning or just because it is September?  Russia as the victim? And what about these “useful lessons”? I can’t think of ‘many’.

I guess statements like the ones above show that Russia is trying desperately to tell its side of the story. But somehow it always sounds clumsy, undiplomatic, arrogant and based on ‘wrong’ realities (at least in our view). However, any ‘legitimacy’ depends on perceptions abroad. And Moscow is loosing ground there. It becomes obvious that Russia simply has neither the tools nor the allies to dominate a “global information war”.

Propaganda and Satellite Imagery in Georgia

There has been a lot of talk about the role of information/propaganda during the war in Georgia. The question what information is actually correct has been one of the major problems in analysing the conflict. Robert Amsterdam posted a translation of Propaganda 2.0, a good article on the topic (here the original in German).

Via Paul Goble’s blog I discovered some interesting data from UNOSAT, that is the” the UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) Operational Satellite Applications Programme”. Basically they released satellite images that were taken during the conflict in the region. Paul Goble explains the implications:

Satellite photographs analyzed by United Nations experts show that only five percent of Tskhinvali was destroyed during the fighting there but that 50 percent of ethnic Georgian villages were destroyed in that region by Ossetian marauders behind Russian lines, a pattern that undercuts Moscow’s claims about what took place. (…) But these photographs taken over the course of August also call into question repeated Russian claims that the Georgian army had destroyed much of the South Ossetian capital – the satellite photographs show only five percent of its buildings having been damaged — and that Georgian forces had carried out a systematic genocide there.

Human Rights Watch also offers some further explanations here.

I am pretty sure that we will see more of this kind of data in the future, also for other conflicts. Satellite technology has been developed rapidly and quality improved considerably in the last years. And when free services such as Google Earth already show quite detailed images, what about high quality, high resolution satellite images frequently used by governments? Propaganda and the spread of false information will definitely get more difficult.

I also wonder whether the EU Satellite Centre has similar evidence regarding the conflict in Georgia? Never heard of this EU agency? Here the short mission statement:

The mission of the European Union Satellite Centre (EUSC) is to support the decision-making of the European Union by providing analysis of satellite imagery and collateral data. The EUSC is an Agency of the Council of the European Union. It is one of the key institutions for European Union’s Security and Defence policy, and the only one in the field of space.

At least with that in mind the proposed EU “fact finding mission” in Georgia could get quite interesting…

How to explain a political process with a video? (II)

Here we go again. The second part of my little collection of online videos that explain political processes. Indeed, this seems to develop into a little series of posts. (check out the first part here).

This time the topic is even more complex than last time: It is about the conflict in the Middle East. The video was made by Axel Rudolph, a student of media design in Ravensburg/Germany. Here he explains the purpose of the video:

My dissertation, titled ‘Knowledge’ for my degree at Ravensburg College (subject: media design) deals with a virtual TV format that gives current important matters a more visually attractive shape.

It is especially attractive to younger people. One of my goals is to show that education and learning may also have a ‘cool look’. This new look often reminds the viewer more of a TV music video than that of a matter-of-fact history lesson. The sample – to be seen here – gives a 5-minute-explanation of the roots of the Middle-East conflict. It took about 3 ½ months to research this project, write the story book, and prepare the animation graphics.

I think it is a great piece of work that shows how political news can be presented. The combination of powerful visuals, clear explanations and a certain ‘MTV feel’ is both informative and attractive. It actually reminds me of a survey from a couple of months ago that showed that a majority of people that watch news on TV actually don’t understand them. Maybe a video like that one could help…

The traditional Summer break…

… of this blog is now officially over (I hope). Actually a lot of things happened during the “silly season” which is normally August: A war in Georgia. Olympics in China. Obama/Biden vs. McCain/Palin in the US. In Germany Merkel vs. Steinmeier/Müntefering (ok…that was in September). Noteworthy is also the collapsed ceiling in Strasbourg…

Obviously, this is a more than incomplete list, but for me a good task to get into blogging mood again after a long summer break… So what can you expect in the coming months? This blog will hopefully get a new design and a new domain, a new exciting blogging portal will be launched and I will start a new job.

Oh yes, and a few interesting posts maybe. So stay tuned!

The Romanian face of justice

In the aftermath of the report issued by the European Commission on the Romanian justice system and fight against corruption, many comments and interpretations have emerged in the Romanian press . This was to be expected. One of the most prominent debates stirred by the report these days is about the re-confirmation of Daniel Morar as Chief Attorney of the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA). (more here, here and here)

His mandate is due to expire on August 12 and various scenarios have been voiced in the media that all aim at Morar’s replacement.  The Social- Democrats (PSD) want to change the procedural rules that regulate the appointment of the head of DNA. The Liberals, that for a while now have, more openly than not, sided with the Social-Democrats (yes, Romania is definitely not a good case study of political doctrines!), are also opposing Morar’s second term. Fears of being prosecuted for corruption, as well as the quasi-paranoid assumption that the DNA (and implicitly its leader) is a political tool of President Basescu can be traced as the main roots of these positions.

One should not forget that this discussion takes place only few days after the Commission harshly criticized Romania precisely for the politicization of the justice system and fight against corruption. So, as could be imagined, all this political maneuvering is not at all well seen in Brussels. The Commission is probably remembering the case of Monica Macovei, former Minister of Justice, who was also becoming “uncomfortable” for some parts of the political arena, and therefore had to leave her position, notwithstanding the great appreciation and support she had in Brussels.

A clear sign that the Commission has had enough is the declaration made by the EC spokesman Mark Gray on the topic:

We have seen the comments published by the Romanian media, quoting so-called sources in Brussels, referring to the reconfirmation of Morar as head of DNA. Our position is very clear. We expect the reform process to go forwards, not backwards. We constantly emphasized the good DNA results and the importance of institutional stability in investigating files and in initiating investigations in high-level corruption cases. Reconfirming the chief prosecutor will be a test for the renewed commitments of Romanian authorities

Usually the European Commission does not interfere in questions regarding the staffing policy of Romanian institutions. But they do it in cases where they see that there is a real danger of a deterioration. The intervention will, surely, be criticized by the Social- Democrats and Liberals, as biased and outside the scope of the Commission’s mandate. But the Commission probably realised that its neutral approach leaves too much room for interpretation to Romanian politicians.  By putting aside the diplomacy for a moment and calling the facts by their name, the Commission is increasing the pressure on Romania. Controversial as it may seem, this attitude might prove to be the only “mild” weapon the Commission has left before it starts deploying its artillery of sanctions and safeguard clauses.

Written by Anda

How to explain a political process with a video?

The brilliant people at Common Craft just released a great video that explains the US elections in ‘plain English’! If you don’t know their other videos (mostly about internet issues) you really missed something and I strongly recommend them to you. Basically they “make complex ideas easy to understand using short and simple videos.”(mission statement!) But now enjoy “Electing a US President in Plain English”

“Make complex ideas easy to understand” … sounds like the EU needs something like that. Although the EU started experimenting with online videos lately, it still lacks creativity and a certain “online buzz”. Most of the videos about the EU (not only EUtube!) are either pure news reports or have a political motivation. However, one of the greatest problems of the EU is that nobody understands what exactly it does and how it works (which can also explain low turnouts at European elections). Unfortunately EUtube as well as other video producers do not address these issues. Short simple online videos could help people to learn and think about the EU.  Maybe the video on US elections can turn into an inspiration to produce similar videos about the European elections or the EU decision making process …in plain 23 languages!

Obama, Berlin and the world

So what did we expect from Barack Obama’s foreign policy speech in Berlin?  Since Barack Obama is not even the official democratic candidate yet, and obviously not the US President, I think expectations were hugely exaggerated. Apart from that, the following list of expectations sums it up (at least for me):

  1. Great visions for the future of everything: yes.   – Policy details: no, not really.
  2. Great rhetoric: yes.  – Great visuals for his campaign: yes, definitely.
  3. Bush-bashing: no. – And a “Berlin surprise”: Oh yes please.

And what did we get? (You can read the transcript of the speech here)

1. What about “visions”: well, sort of. Barack Obama spoke about many global problems and a lot of shared responsibilities and the need for cooperation. Not more, not less. Of course freedom played a big role (George W. Bush would have said the same!). Also the importance of immigration is something Europe needs to learn! Interesting maybe the issue of nuclear disarmament. I haven’t heard any politician to call for that in the last decade or so. Of course he did not go into any detail (it is election campaign time! not a good time for details). However, the “big visionary moment” of the speech was missing. But considering what could have gone wrong with such a speech, I guess it was OK. But of course symbolism prevails over content in every election campaign…

2. What about “great rhetoric”: First of all, I think the rather short speech was well constructed. The second part was better than the beginning. But I also found that the family background did not really work (maybe he should have started with something else and talked about it later? ). I liked the idea of a “world citizen” (what do you expect with that blog name…?). The delivery was very professional but, again, the big moment was missing. BUT the visuals for the campaign were great (and eventually that matters at the moment): They can suggest that he is respected and hugely popular in Europe (the crowd of 200 000 was impressive, right? ) which might give him some foreign policy credibility in the US. But that depends on the spin of the campaign…

3) Obviously no Bush-bashing abroad which is unthinkable in the diplomatic world. So what about the “Berlin surprise”: Nothing really. Basically he used Ernst Reuter and the Berlin airlift for his speech trying to put it in context with globalisation and global challenges. Not a bad idea. But then again, since expectations were huge I doubt that he could have delivered a real “surprise”. Maybe next time…

Anything else?

Well, from a European perspective we can take note that he knows about the EU and he generally thinks highly of global institutions and international cooperation, which is good to know. But I think the really remarkable thing is the pure existence of this event, a kind of “globalisation of US election campaigning”. I think we will see similar events in the future! As somebody on German TV said “It seems that he is the candidate for the world presidency”.

Update: Here is the video of the speech: