Is the love affair between China and Europe in trouble?
At the EU pavilion in Shanghai, the sun is shining on the alliance between the EU and the Middle Kingdom. The European Union shares a pavilion with Belgium at the 2010 World Expo. Under the “Movement and Interaction” theme, the presence is positive and dynamic. After Europe Day on May 9, next Sunday the Belgian Day is on the programme. Prince Filip of Belgium will pay a visit to the event.
But will high hopes, positive thinking and royal visits be enough to maintain the marriage between Europe and China? Under the title “How China walks over Europe”, Presseurop picks up the article of Pramit Pal Chaudhuri of the Hindustan Times. The EU became China’s number one trading partner, but the trade deficit ballooned to nearly 170 billion euros — in Beijing’s direction, the Indian editor writes. The Tibetan riots in 2008 and the disappointing Copenhagen climate summit further tainted the happy couple’s pictures.
What can be done? On foreignpolicy.com Jonathan Holslag of the Brussels Institute of Contemporary China Studies wrote that "Europe cannot back up its soft power with hard economic capabilities" in the green debate. The European Commission must better pool research projects scattered through Europe and persuade member states to do more.
The same applies to diplomacy. Europe should speak in one voice and with one mouth. With a clear position and insight in the logic and culture of the Chinese decision makers. The gap is real. And unity is the only answer. It is a necessity, in facing the growing Chinese dragon. Then the love between China and Europe can pick up and become truly passionate.
The Euro dominates the news and keeps setting the agenda op the European Commission
The Euro and the fire in the financial markets dominate the news. IMF fears debt crisis 'contagion', heads Al Jazeera. Greece's financial woes spreading through Europe, the Global and mail runs. Athens domino effect hits Lisbon, headlines presseurop. Et cetera et cetera. The attention is logical and justified. When a house is on fire, the citizens come together to fight the flames. Even when the fire might be the fault of people living in that house, the others rush in to save what can be saved. As happens there, Europe tries to form a chain and stop the smoke,the heat and the devastation. And yes, valuable time was lost, the wind is rising, the barn where the "Pigs" live (an inexcusable term, I must say) is now in danger too.
EU is so much more than Euro and Finance
So "Of course it's the economy, stupid", as cowboy Bill would say. But Europe is so much more than the Euro and Finance. And regretfully the media often seem to miss out on those wonderful stories.
Breughel was right: the work continues
As in Breughel's fall of Icarus, the farmer keeps on plowing, the work needs to be done. Amazing how people seem to forget that. There are so many excellent initiatives the European Commission undertakes, so much good work done is done. But in in the shadows of the flames. The story is where the crisis is. Will Icarus fall or will he land safely? Yet Breughel was right. In the field, the workers labour on. The farmer is in the center of the picture, not Icarus. A visit to the European press room can be refreshing and positive to see the up side of Europe at work. Amazing to see how much Europe is doing. These are the messages from one day: "Cooperation to help refugees", "Support to European inventors", "Clean energy efficient vehicles", "Healthy workplaces", "Innovation awards", "Collaboration with Japan", "Relations with the Caucasus", "More efficient institutions and administration", … .
The list of actions is impressive, so let's not throw out the baby with the bathwater, even to put out a fire.
Have you ever heard of Europeana? It is the ambitious plan to make Europe’s entire scientific and cultural heritage freely available at a single web site. Not just books, but also papers, sound recordings, images, paintings and videos … What an exciting, fantastic tool this can be for schools, scientist and the regular citizen, would'nt you say?
Let's type in 'Derain' in the search field and see what the library offers. Derain was Matisse's colleague painter involved in discovering the art of "Wild painting" labeled Fauvism, so he surely deserves a space in this library. Not bad… today you find 1 text, 456 images, 5 videos and 2 sound bytes. Excellent! Matisse has even 14 video links, one leading to a debate with French book guru Bernard Pivot.
After 15 months, the mark of 10 million documents is approaching, Euronews says. Good news. In an update report, they indicate that France has been the best student in the class by far, adding up to 47 % of the material to the digital library. Germany is second, with 16%, then the Netherlands and the Uk with 8 percent each. In all 5 % of European books are in the database, the report says.
One for all, all for one?
Still, in order to make the engine successful, all European member states have to do their bit, or the database will remain a lesser god in search engine land, falling short to the Google monopoly. Also, the intellectual property rights and the harmonizing of the European royalties are on the agenda and need to be settled.
This seems to be a typical EU story. A great idea, with lots of wonderful positive energy. But without the real commitment of all countries in the EU, many good initiatives fall short of delivering spectacular results they could generate. And with legal restrictions to boot, to further decreasing attractiveness (but all according to the book). Google first moves then looks behind (facing… Europe for sanctions).
Could national and regional pride make it work? Hugo Claus, the Flemish author, poet, screen writer, painter, enfant terrible who died last year does not exist in Europeana, while he has 412.000 hits on Google. The Flemish might want to correct that… And with them all the other nations for their cultural heritage!
As the three musketeers of Alexandre Dumas said "One for all, all for one!"
Lady Ashton, Europe's first foreign policy chief is in for some nasty weather. While the storm Xynthia raided Europe over the weekend, Lady Ashton is facing her own hurricanes in Brussels and in the international arena. As part of typical EU political deal making, the former leader of the House of Lords got a job she was neither hoping nor lobbying for. What for some seemed the best Commission post, now might turn into the worst. 100 days down the road, Ashton opposition seems to be growing.
Of course, it is easier to criticize then to help out or give credit. Jean Quatremer of leftwing paper La Libération in a sharp article cut to pieces the new chief of foreign policy, calling her "Lady Qui?" As always, this well informed journalist and popular blogger-twitterer has a point, and more then one. As do the other knife throwers who see Catherine as a main training aim on the EU target wheel. And yes, foreign affairs requires to travel a lot and be in the field where it matters.
In the Guardian today Ian Traynor writes the first 100 days on the job have not been an easy road trip for Lady Ashton. Not only is her task immense (or impossible). She does not have the ideal track record or reputation to fit the job description in the eyes of the critics. And to top this all, she has to set up and manage one of the most profound institutional changes in the EU of the last years, without the necessary machine to perform the task.
In the last 10 days, 3 key decisions made in her organization further raised the pressure on the Lady: the Portuguese right hand of Barosso was appointed as EU Ambassador to Washington without consulting the member states and a Lithuanian with UK support became envoy to Afghanistan. Her absence at a Nato-EU defense minister meeting in Majorca added to further Brussels and international scepticism.
Can the Lady get a break? This is what her vision documents for the EEAS, the European External Action Service, seem to ask. As critical as anyone can or should be, the fact remains that building Europe is not done by only criticizing it and its leaders, but by showing an open mind and a will to help it build. Don't ask what Europe can do for your country, ask what your country can do for Europe, you might paraphrase the Kennedy catch phrase.
Debate is needed, very much so. But let's make it a civilized sport. Play the ball, not the other player. The image of those who execute dirty tackles is always more damaged then those who are on the receiving end. And the whole European political game looses more credibility. The Farage attempt of comment on President Van Rompuy is a good example of this. The President did not dignify the attack with a direct response, but this sunday in a TV interview on Belgian VRT TV program 'de zevende dag" called it 'pittyful'.
What happened to the flair of British phlegm? Where is the legendary fair play and the fine art of British understatement? William Osler describes phlegm as "coolness and presence of mind under all circumstances, calmness amid storm, clearness of judgment in moments of grave peril, immobility, impassiveness." We wish it in strong doses to Lady Ashton and also to those who wish to disagree with her.
The EU observer, an online initiative started in 2000 by Danish journalist Lisbeth Kirk is an interesting read for all who follow the EU. Debate is needed more then ever to fuel the EU democracy and keep society, politicians and citizens alike, vigilant and involved in the debate on and development of European affairs.
Wikipedia says on the EU Observer it has a clear emphasis on human rights, transparency, anti-corruption, environmentalism and the democratisation of the European Union, which marks it out from its competitors such as the European Voice, Euractiv, Europolitique and The Parliament magazine.
It is a truly useful reference tool, a place to go when you want to know what's going on where in Europe's decision rooms. And more and more also to find out who thinks, feels and says what about this lively household.
A series of independent blogs are worthwile to take a peek at, from varied followers of EU affairs.
- NeighbourhoodBy Nicu Popescu
- Europe not EUBy Bruno Waterfield
- Europa-Transparent By Hajo Friedrich
- Behind the ScenesBy Honor Mahony
- Brussels and beyondBy Ole Ryborg
- A View from the Outfieldby Peter Sain ley Berry
- Vive l’EuropeBy Tobias Gräs
- Poland in the EUBy Dominika Pszczolkowska
- Merchant of VeniceBy Roberto Foa
- Belarus ReloadedBy Maryna Rakhlei
- State of the UnionBy Jamie Smyth
- The DiggerBy Stephen Gardner
- WatchdogBy Brigitte Alfter
- GeopoliticsBy Alexandros Petersen
- Ukraine and Post-Soviet Space By Olena Prystayko
- Safer CitiesBy Gemma Galdon Clavell
- Feeding the habitBy Nick Jacobs
You can be positive, doubtful, critical or even negative on European affairs, but at least speak up based on insight, with facts and figures. Ce qui se conçoit bien, s'énonce clairement… the better an idea is conceived, the clearer it will be expressed!
Marketing with a 'clin d'oeil'… A translation service wants to catch the eye of international clients in an original way… they created a haiku-website where the Haiku-making head of the EU tribe seems to create your Japanese wisdom poem on demand…
You fill in a web address and the site makes an automated haiku. When the thought mechanism gets stuck, it proposes a haiku in Dutch.
For www.eurolynx.eu, I received the haiku below, well adapted to the view from my window…
Wintery and white
I'm in love with the snowflakes
A fleeting romance