Portfolio blogger

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The UK and the EU

I cannot let the week-end go without commenting on the speech of David Cameron on the EU. He wants to reform the EU or at least negotiate an "extrawurst" , special conditions, namely participating in the common market but have no other obligations, in particular repatriation of powers, mainly on areas where the U.K. has different traditions from the continental ones. A more flexible, more competitive and more democratic EU - who wouldn't agree? But there is a contradiction: if powers have to be repatriated because the EU is not democratic enough, is this necessary if the reforms succeed and it will be democratic? The powers the EU acquired were delegated by unanimous vote of the member states. It seems most states see the reason of today's problems in insufficient co-operation and not in too much power in the hands of the EU (which is not a bodiless monster in Brussels but the elected governments and also elected MEP-s), Cameron may have an uphill struggle. But he promised a referendum only after he will have agreed on a new type of membership of the UK. What can this new type of membership be: a two-speed Europe where Britain is in the slow lane (and then revenges by leaving the EU for being left in the slow lane? Oh no!). What is the new, more democratic EU going to be? Cameron mentions that the main role should go to national parliaments (not instead of the Council where he and his colleagues have the say, but instead of the European Parliament) as there is no united "European Demos" As there is a united UK demos (don't forget, it is not Britain as not only Scots and Welsh, but also Irish from Northern Ireland constitute its "nation". This model deserves some thought, maybe next week. What is the more flexible EU going to be: "cherry picking" was already refused and is also due to create a total chaos. My favourite scenario: A democratisation, cost cutting and competitivity actions - and maybe also some more flexibility can come out of the negotiations about economic governance and banking union, at least the conclusions of the December European Council point to a direction where serious limitations and tailor-made solutions will replace the "one size fits all" approach initially planned - are already in progress. The UK can keep its opt-outs and maybe generalise them or put them in a nicer light. And then he can say: I have succeeded in reforming Europe and our relation to it so we can stay. By the way: The UKIP wants a referendum now. What would be of the party if the UK would exit the EU? Not just Nigel Farage would lose his well-paying seat in the EP (where, as we have heard , he is also paid for a committee membership where he never works, but the party itself would use his whole basis of existence. Whom would they defend the independence of the UK from? There is a party in Luxembourg which remained a party after its program has gone by keeping to the ideological (populist) base, but I doubt the UKIP could find a similar agenda.

Tidbits about Hungary

Hungarian members of the European Parliament, accompanied by some Slovaks and Romanians (the list is not available, I wonder which group they belong to and whether they are all of Hungarian origin) and a Belgian submitted a request to present three Hungarian dog species on the "Solidarnosc" esplanade which is between two lines of buildings of the European Parliament, a pedestrian area, featuring huge screens and posters for the Parlamentarium , the EP's neew visitors' centre and other European events like the Sacharov prize and also demonstrations (last time against the Common Agricultural Policy by Belgian Dairy farmers). According to European Voice (see reference above) which reported about the request, there are strict standards for events on the Esplanade, so it is not sure, the show will take place. By the way: due to the revamping of the numbers of MP's for each member state due to the Lisbon Treaty (the number of MEP's has to be decreased), Hungary, with a little less than 10Mn inhabitants has 21 seats, while Sweden, with 9.5, has 19. So what about powerless new member states and colonies?

Friday, January 18, 2013

An "example" of press freedom

One of the important opposition on line portals has exhausted its resources and announced that it will suspend and eventually finish its activities. Galamus announced that they are only producing debt since two months and the support received since their first call mid-December was not enough. The portal was radically left-leaning liberal and some associated it with Ferenc Gyurcsány, the ex-prime minister who tried to stop indebtedness with austerity against the resistance from its own party and also the forceful actions of allegedly right-wing FIDESZ, who wanted to explain the people that no austerity is necessary and torpedoed healthcare reform and study fees for universities through a referendum. It is not subject of this post to evaluate his activities and views, but the portal Galamus was not associated with his person and did not operate as the "house media" of his tiny party (he parted the Socialists). An important piece of media freedom is breaking down. This is the second time the portal is in difficulties, readers saved it the first time, and they also introduced a sort of "subscription" although the portal remained open. Thus, apparently, the subscription system did not work. I also sent them a subscription like I am subscribed to another paper, Élet és Irodalom, or in short "ÉS" Life and Literature in English, a clearly liberal, intelligentsia-oriented, high level paper, which offers subscription to its electronic edition (saving paper and being also more affordable), but as there only some articles can be read without subscription, I do not forget to renew it. Back to Galamus: a reader opened the space for "12 angry men" by sending himself 1Mn HUF (about 3 600EUR) - 12 times this amount would cover one year of operation. But smaller amounts from more people can also help. So maybe we will succeed again. I sent some money again and I also call my readers if they can afford to do it: IBAN: HU25-1070-0419-6649-3934-5000-0005 Galamus csoport. There was another magazine, more for the young and cheeky free-thinkers: Magyar Narancs , Hungarian orange. For readers who do not understand Hungarian, as a consolation that they cannot read these papers I explain at least the title. It is clear that in Hungary it is not possible to grow oranges in the open air. The Communist system in the fifties tried this, of course without success. A film A Tanú (The Witness) - made in 1969 but screened onlyn a decade later - has as one of the adventures of the hero to lead the farm where they succeed in producing an orange. Just before presenting it to the big party boss, however, his children ate up this rare delicacy (I think I don't have to explain the political importance of this - Cuba produced oranges which were only good to squeeze out their juice but not to eat directly.) Nad thy put a lemon in its place. When the big boss tried the "orange", the hero could not otherwise but say: this is the Hungarian orange - "a little yellow, a little sour, but ours". Have a nice week-end!