Monthly Archives: September 2008

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.

European Parliament votes on ‘Telecoms’ package this Wednesday!

The first reading of the so-called Telecoms Package will take place this Wednesday at 11h30am in the European Parliament. The main problem with the directive is the following: Originally the initiative aimed at regulating the market of  telecommunication companies but, due to some intense lobbying by some big media companies,  it now also contains proposals regarding some very controversial copyright issues. Le laquadrature du Net has a good summary of all developments surrounding this initiative.  The following  amendments contain some problematic provisions such as:

Feel free to join the campaign that lobbies for a more open internet. All updates can be found here and as a RSS feed here. (everything is also available in French, German and Spanish). They also provide you with important lobbying advices for the remaining 24 hours before the vote: a very helpful example of a phone conversation with an MEP, a list of ‘incorrect’ arguments, and obviously some nice blog banners:

Save the European Net !

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”.

Ireland: Post Referendum Research Findings

The long awaited report on the underlying causes of the No vote on the Lisbon Treaty in Ireland has been published.  You can read the complete report here: “Post Lisbon Treaty Referendum Research Findings (.pdf)

Here some key findings:

  • The main reason for abstaining in this referendum was lack of understanding/knowledge (46%), which is far in excess of any other voluntary or circumstantial reason given for not voting.
  • Much of the Yes vote is underpinned by a strong general feeling of pro-Europeanism rather than Treaty specific motivations.
  • Twenty-six percent of No voters mentioned Treaty specific elements that were of concern to them.
  • The main reason cited for voting No was ‘lack of knowledge/information/ understanding’ at
    42%. There can be little doubt that this emerged as the primary reason for people voting
    No.
  • At a wider level, an EU knowledge deficit is clearly present which has undoubtedly contributed to the No vote.  Knowledge of EU institutions and how they work appears to be particularly low.  The difficulty of advocating a referendum that is based on the premise of institutional reform in this environment is apparent.

So, the report suggests that a lack of knowledge/information/understanding was the main reason for the referendum outcome: At the same time there seems to be little willingness to do something about it:

  • Despite not having a good understanding of  how EU institutions operate, there was fairly limited appetite for additional information, particularly among younger group participants. Few felt that they would realistically take the time or go to the bother to inform themselves in any great detail. Older group participants (those aged 35+), were more open to learning more and felt that if the EU  was going  to become more important to Ireland then it was important for them to be better informed.

Let’s have a look at the ‘issues’:

  • ‘No’ voters were far more likely to believe that erosion of Irish neutrality, end of control over abortion and conscription to a European army were part of the Lisbon Treaty, revealing key cracks in the debate.
  • Loss of Commissioner was also a common concern on the No side.
  • When asked directly, respondents cited the issue of protection of workers’ rights as being
    “very important” more often than any other issue (of a defined set of issues) relating to
    Ireland and the EU. Retaining control over public services in the future was similarly cited.
  • Concerns over specific aspects of the Treaty loom large, particularly perceptions of an erosion of neutrality, the Commissioner issue (which many do not seem to properly understand), Corporate tax and to a lesser degree abortion.

Well, the report clearly did not come up with any surprising results. Most of it has been debated over and over again. So I will not get into the debate whether referendums are useful (hint: they are not!) or whether the Lisbon treaty is too complex (hint: yes it is!) or whether the EU is a big conspiracy theory (hint: it is not).

However, one question is of course still the same: What to do now?  – A new referendum on the same text? No new referendum and a parliamentary ratification followed by an referendum on one or two treaty issues? A new EU treaty and negotiations from scratch? A kind of “Irish Protocol” that addresses the problematic issues despite their irrelevance? The report only suggests that any new vote on an unchanged document would have a negative result again.

The only certain fact is the existence of the “EU knowledge deficit” which is probably a widespread problem everywhere in the EU. I think this is a structural problem that needs to be addressed on different levels: The EU should be included in school curricula and there needs to be a better media coverage and reporting of EU affairs. Of course local, national and European politicians need to explain the role of the EU with more honesty. At the same time the EU needs to engage more people in debating European issues, some institutional reforms would also be helpful … Ok, enough wishful thinking for today!

European Youth Media Days 2008

This looks like an interesting event for journalists and bloggers. At the moment the programme looks still a bit general, but who knows, maybe it turns out to be exciting … Here is the official announcement:

“Shape the future of European journalism”

“New media. Open minds. From 15 to 17 October 2008, the next generation of European journalists meets at the European Parliament in Brussels for the second edition of the European Youth Media Days. The gathering of 200 emerging journalists, hosted by the European Parliament and organised with the support of the European Youth Press, promotes a broad discussion and networking on European issues, confronting and provoking with diverse perspectives and realities. Apply until 24 September on youthmediadays.eu.”

Check the programme here.

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!