Monthly Archives: June 2007

Rewriting history

What is happening at the moment? History (or better the interpretation of history) is more and more used to justify political actions. Nothing really new, but somehow two recent statements were not only shocking but also worrying:

First, the Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski used weird historic justifications for his negotiations at the EU summit last week:

We are only demanding one thing, that we get back what was taken from us. (…) If Poland had not had to live through the years of 1939-45, Poland would today be looking at the demographics of a country of 66 million.

Now, Russian President Vladimir Putin also discovered the benefits of relativism in order to justify his political agenda:

Concerning some problematic pages in our history — yes, they exist, as they do in the histories of all states. We have less than some countries. And ours are not as terrible as those of some others. (…) Yes, some pages in our history were horrible: We can think of the events beginning in 1937, and we should not forget them. But it wasn’t better in other countries — in fact, it was far more horrible.

Recently it became clear that Putin wants to use history and social science in a very ‘soviet way’. In order to reflect the apparent new strengh of Russia he wants to rewrite history to establish a new “national-patriotic ideology”. For a more detailled analysis read Pavel Felgenhauer article in the Eurasia Daily Monitor:

Putin told the teachers: “Many school books are written by people who work to get foreign grants. They dance to the polka that others have paid for. You understand? These books, regrettably, get into schools and universities.” Putin demanded new history textbooks that “make our citizens, especially the young, proud of their country” and reiterated “no one must be allowed to impose the feeling of guilt on us.”

Putin specifically noted that the history of World War II and Russia’s history after 1991 are wrongly interpreted and must be rewritten. Today Stalin has again been rehabilitated as a leader who made mistakes, but still secured victory over Nazi Germany. The 1990s — a decade when Russia was a freer state than at anytime before or since — today is demonized. The pro-Kremlin youth movement Molodaya Gvardia has announced it will be organizing marches in Yekaterinburg and other cities in support of Putin and against the regime’s critics under the slogan, “No return to the 1990s”

Putin’s personal paranoia and anti-Americanism seem to be growing and are increasingly dominating external and internal Russian politics.

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Ready for our EU debate?

Two years and three months after our legendary EU debate in a car between Münster and Louvain-la-Neuve, we are delighted to announce the next round of the fight. This time as an explosive online debate between kosmopolit (in the white corner) and FloNet (in the black corner). The first fight of two rounds will be in German, the rematch in English! So watch this space!

Time: June 25- 26th, 2007

Place: FloNet

Let’s have an argument!

UPDATE 1: Do we need the EU at all? – 1st round now online!

UPDATE 2: Is the EU a ‘superstate in the making’? – 2nd round now online!


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EU summit conclusions

In case you have nothing better to do this weekend, here is a wonderful exercise to make sense out of the EU summit conclusions: Empty your desk, put all former EC/EU treaties on the table, also the constitutional treaty! Now, have a look at the draft IGC mandate (the presidency proposal before the summit) and compare it with the official summit conclusions. I can ensure you that you will need all other treaties to get a basic understanding of the new “reform treaty”. You will also get an idea what was discussed in Brussels in the last days (and nights).

It seems the EU summit produced one of these typical compromises. Most of the innovations of the constitutional treaty (which already was a suboptimal compromise) were saved. However, it is a big step forward for the EU!

But especially Polish and British demands have been included in the new compromise. The striking thing is that both countries already signed up to the constitutional treaty and watered down the provisions in the negotiations leading to the treaty. Both governments managed to flood the IGC mandate with additional footnotes, declarations and unilateral declarations….On the other side, France and The Netherlands (that actually had more reasons to demand changes…) were rather quiet.

The summit was also a diplomatic battle and a big theatrical show with late night veto threats and early morning compromises. The Kaczynski twins were in the centre of attention and managed to postpone the double majority system until 2017. However, there is the danger that the Polish strategy (non diplomatic language + lack of allies + constant veto threats) might backfire in the long run. At least the image of the Polish government is now totally ruined across Europe. Everyone already seems to wait for the next elections….

In sharp contrast to the Polish strategy, Tony Blair managed to get everything he wanted in a very diplomatic way, even though some of the ‘red lines’ were obviously designed to please the press and, of course, to enable Gordon Brown to get around a referendum!

Once again, Angela Merkel managed to achieve a diplomatic victory but for the first time she showed signs of annoyance (with Poland) and isolated Poland during the summit with the threat of calling for an IGC without Poland (this possibility was also mentioned on this blog). Ultimately, this seemed to have an impact on the twins…

To sum it up: business as usual in Brussels. Only that the result is not simple but complicated. Compared with the constitutional treaty, the reform treaty will be even harder to understand for non -lawyers. And last but not least, the debate about the constitution and the reform of the EU is finally over (at least for the next 5 years or so…).

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The Polish square root: “Worth dying for”…?

Fair enough, but certainly not this week!

Intergovernmental Conference (IGC)

These conferences are convened, at the initiative of a Member State or the Commission, by the Council of Ministers acting by a simple majority (after consulting the European Parliament and, if appropriate, the Commission).

So, what exactly do you want to block this week, Mr Kaczynski?

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The logo of the Portuguese presidency

Here we go again: Every six months it is time to rant about the logo of the new EU presidency. This time it is Portugal’s turn and the following official statement gives a high-flying explanation of the logo.

The “Blue flower” is a symbol of today’s Portugal: modernity, harmony, the oceans, transparency and openness to the future.The petals are arranged freely but concentrically, symbolising the individual contribution of each Member State to the joint endeavour of building Europe. The possibility of the symbol adopting the colours of each national flag confers on the Portuguese presidency a constructive image of openness and cooperation with every Member State of the European Union.

OK, sounds good…but does it look good? Judge for yourself:

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Somehow I cannot stop thinking that this logo represents a multi-speed Europe (which might be the result of the pre-summit discussions…). The concentrically arranged petals could symbolise the different degrees of involvement in the EU: ‘core Europe’, ‘avantgarde’ call it how you like it. But (unfortunately) reality shows in this direction: The Schengen agreement, the Euro and the Prüm treaty can easily serve as examples. In the end, EU membership means something else for every member state…. Let’s hope that this is not a bad omen for the next six months and for the new ‘reform treaty’ to be negotiated later this week.

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