It is easy to say that all politics and all government is bad and should not exist. Well, how about murdering your neighbour because there was no law to prohibit killing a neighbour? Or would you like your wife, sister, or daughter to be raped because there is no government to enforce a law that says it is a crime?
Most of my American friends who oppose president Obama have said that they want less government. I tend to agree with my friends. Not only America but most countries in the World need less government.
We Europeans need either less or more powers to be handed to a European government. If the European commission wants to get more to say about, we need a democratic union, whereby all of the present 27 member countries are all but states. It would be democratic but probably not politically correct, far less possible to achieve.
I do not even remember the name of the guy who is supposed to be the president of Europe. Why should I? He has nothing to say and nothing to say about.
I do know that I like president Obama. That guy I trust :-)
Do you think you do not have time to vote in the election of the European Parliament? Think again!
Web based surveys where voters can compare their views with those of parties have been around in Finland for years. I have never given the turnouts any consideration when actually making up my mind but I have nevertheless taken all the surveys available. I take it as a form of entertainment.
I did two Finnish surveys on the election of the EU Parliament earlier today and received mixed results as expected. For a moment ago I detected (via StoiBär) a German survey which I thought would be cool to take for comparison. It caught my eye right away that the German version gave less options: just yes, abstain or no. In the Finnish queries the options were more diverse: completely or partialy in favor or against and abstaining.
The German questions were also more of an extreme nature. Some of them were more or less unrealistic as well. No party would seriously suggest that Germany should step out of the EU or abandon euro and reintroduce the German mark. At least I as a voter would not take such a party seriously.
For some odd reason, you are only allowed to compare your results with eight of the 29 participating parties at a time. This is what I received when comparing with the eight parties currently represented in the European Parliament:
Adding the Pirates (which I would vote for in Germany) and removing CSU (which I would definitely not vote for) I got this result:
As I said, not a very adequate image of my actual preferences. Great entertainment, just the same.
Tags: hillary clinton
It may not be such a big deal that Hillary Clinton accidentally referred to EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana as “High Representative Solano”. And we should probably not pay much attention to the mishap of calling European Commission External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner “Benito”, as in Benito Mussolini. These things just happen, no fuzz about it.
Secretary Clinton is absolutely right to point out that the American democracy has “been around a lot longer than European democracy“. After all, democracy has only been “around”, as it were, in Europe for about 2500 years. Even a child would understand that 2500 years is much less than the 233 years of democracy in America.
Clinton also had some fresh and interesting views about the ideal number of political parties in a democratic society:
I have never understood multiparty democracy. It is hard enough with two parties to come to any resolution
I bet she would prefer just one party. Then again, that model has been tried in parts of Europe with not so good results.
Hillary Clinton did indeed speak words of wisdom in Brussels. The European climate must have a stimulating effect on her brain. All of us remember her earlier experience in Bosnia where she landed under sniper fire.
Tags: energy, gazprom, romano prodi
Estonian MP Marko Mihkelson refers to the Russian paper Kommersant which suggests that the outgoing Italian prime minister Romano Prodi is going to be offered a lucrative job as a board member of the company projecting to build the pipeline South Stream. Gazprom director Andrei Miller is going to meet Prodi in Rome today.
Gerhard Schröder was unable to resist the temptation when he was ousted as chancellor of Germany by the German people. Buying up Prodi would be even a fatter catch for the government run Russian oil mafia. Not only is Prodi a former Italian PM, he is also a former president of the EU commission.
I hope that Mr. Prodi is not for sale. It would be a serious blow for anything even resembling a common EU foreign and energy policy. Romano Prodi is rich enough as it is and he can make all the money he needs without selling his integrity to Russia.
Update: Prodi has apparently refused the offer. I am glad to note that not everybody is for sale.
According to the Guardian, the British government are proposing a massive collecting and storing of personal data about travellers to be adopted as EU legislation:
Passengers travelling between EU countries or taking domestic flights would have to hand over a mass of personal information, including their mobile phone numbers and credit card details, as part of a new package of security measures being demanded by the British government. The data would be stored for 13 years and used to “profile” suspects.
The British government also want the same system to be applied to sea and air travel within EU.
Personally, I would not mind but that is mainly because I have neither a credit card nor a cell phone. Would I still be eligible to travel?
Tags: economy, euro, france, nicolas sarkozy
France has been reminded by other euro zone countries that the French government need to respect their commitment to balance the budget by 2010. President Nicolas Sarkozy responds, however, that this “might not be possible” before 2012.
In other words, Sarkozy wants other euro zone governments to cut that much more of their public spending in order to allow France to spend more. That “might not be possible”, some other governments could say. I would.
Tags: Tony Blair, web petitions
I almost never sign a web petition, no matter whether I like the idea behind a particular petition or not. Web petitions do not echo the opinion of the general public, they just reflect who is able to generate more web traffic for (or against) a cause than somebody else. Petitions are seldom written so that I could support every word in them: people can often reach same conclusions for totally different reasons.
Also, I do not believe that the intended recipients of web petitions take them as an expressed opinion of the exact number of persons that appear to have signed a petition. There is seldom any convincing authentication of signatures. Open-ID could be used more often than it is used but would the organizers of petitions really be interested in proving that the signatures in their petition are real?
I am not at all enthusiastic about the perspective of having Tony Blair as the president of EU. He made a long career as the PM of Britain but I think that most of his outstanding achievements happened during his first term. I also think that the best thing he could have done would have been to step down rather a year before than a year after the latest election in Britain.
If somebody wants to boost their web ego by collecting a million signatures to this web petition that is fine with me. Only, they will have to do it without my signature. I find that just stating that I am against Tony Blair as the president of EU makes more sense than signing that petition.
Besides, I do not even regard Blair’s ingagement for the Iraq war as the most important reason for having somebody else as the president.
via Margaret Marks
Tags: latvia, schengen
Martin-Eric was in the twin town of Valga/Valka at the Estonian Latvian border when the Schengen treaty enlargement took effect at midnight Friday. He has posted a comprehensive description of the last hour of the old border procedures and the first hour of border freedom.
The first time I was in Valga/Valka was late 1990’ies. The mid town border crossing point (picture) was then open for Baltic citizens only. The Estonian border guard would have allowed me to pass but her Latvian colleague checked with his boss who said no way.
I had to take a walk of good two kilometers to the international transit point outside mid town. The road I walked was practically on the border which was only marked with a sign. I could have jumped the border without a problem as no border patrols were to be seen on either side but I wanted a stamp in my passport. Besides, I did not want to risk getting in trouble on my way back to Estonia.
Ironically, I only got an Estonian stamp that time because the Latvian border guards had none to issue. I did get a Latvian stamp as I returned to town a year later so I have that old passport among my dear souveniers. Incidentally, that very same passport also has the last stamps issued in Berlin both from Checkpoint Charlie and Friedrichstarsse Railway Station when the Brandenburg Gate was opened and East German border guards no longer stamped the passports.
As I was less than enthusiastic to walk back and forth between mid town and the international border point I decided to stay overnight in Valka in the only very modest hotel in the Latvian side. The hotel was run by an elderly lady who spoke fluent Estonian. She told me that she had lived near Pärnu for decades during the Soviet occupation. During my stay she was the only person I was able to communicate with in Estonian. At that time Russian would have been a useful language to command, very few people in town spoke any English at all.
When I returned to Valga/Valka in August 2004, both Estonia and Latvia had recently joined the EU. The mid town border point was open for all nationalities which speared me from a five kilometer walk to get to exactly the same point. The formalities were somewhat easier than before. Latvians checked my documents when I was entering Latvia and Estonians in the other direction. A double check in both directions was performed earlier.
At that time I did not stay overnight and did not even go to see if the old lady was still running the hotel. I just went for a couple of beers near the border. I had changed 100 Estonian crowns which is around 6 €. That money bought me two pints in the pub and eight bottles to take with me back to Estonia which almost qualifies to free beer.
I had considered celebrating the lifting of border barriers either in Tallinn or Valga/Valka but unfortunately I had other matters to take care of. The twin town is the closest open land border to Helsinki. Since there are no longer any formalities, I am certain to return there sooner or later.
On a more frequent basis I am going to notice the benefits of the Schengen treaty in the harbours of Tallinn and Helsinki where lines for the passport control no longer exist. But that is nothing compared to the relief that a number of Estonian families in Suve street in Valka are experiencing. They have the rest of their life in Estonia but their houses were left on the Latvian side of the border when Estonia and Latvia regained their independence. Now they are able to legally cross the border at the most convenient spot rather than taking a long detour through the official crossing points.
Poland, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Hungary, Slovenia, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Malta joined the Schengen visa area last night and borders were lifted off
The Schengen area is going to be enlarged with another nine countries on 21st December 2007. On Friday Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia and Malta are to join the single visa area of hitherto 30 countries. Systematic border controls for travellers within the member countries are abolished.
Personally, I expect disembarking ships in the harbors of Tallinn and Helsinki to be faster.
Here is a Reuters news clip on the topic.
Hans-Jürgen Schlamp and Markus Verbeet write about EU regulating the daily life of citizens in Spiegel Online International. Without going in to the broader context of the topic I would like to pick one of the examples used to illustrate these regulations: the question of so called child-safe cigarette lighters. I incidentally wrote about child-proof lighters in my Finnish blog in July as the Swedish paper SvD reported that the Swedish government intends to bring in legislation about the lighters.
What is a child-safe cigarette lighter? I quote Schlamp and Verbeet:
Under an European Union regulation that goes by the code K (2007) 1567, as of March 11, 2008 only “child-safe” disposable lighters will be approved for sale in the EU. But first the lighters’ “child safety” must be demonstrated in a test laboratory. Under the regulation, a lighter is deemed acceptable (that is, child-safe), if no more than 15 of 100 kids aged less than 51 months manage to light it.
The main concern I expressed in my Finnish blog was that the everyday life of a smoking adult may become somewhat harder if technical obstacles are introduced to lighting a cigarette, an action that I perform 30-40 times each day. I have lots of unpleasant experience about so called child-proof packages of toxic substances such as solvents and cleaning lotions. Many of these packages tend to be quite adult-proof as well.
Lighting a cigarette in a windy weather may sometimes be hard enough as it is. I do not know about Brussels but November storms here in Helsinki may sometimes be harsh enough to make outdoors smoking something which requires skills of a pyromaniac to get started with. These child-secured devices may make it totally impossible to smoke outdoors same time as smoking indoors is prohibited in most public places.
Another quote from Schlamp and Verbeet:
But even the bureaucrats sometimes have their doubts about their own basis research. Now they warn that even a lighter labeled as “child-safe” in the future is “not necessarily safe for children,” adding that lighters should continue to “be kept out of reach of young children.”
Which brings me to my other point. No responsible parent would leave a box of matches within reach of an infant. So why would they leave a cigarette lighter accessible by a child?
Sales of tobacco and smoking products (lighters included) to minors is prohibited by law at least here in Finland. Since children are not in a possession to get hold of a cigarette lighter provided that their parents take elementary efforts in that direction, there does not seem to be a plausible reason to make lighters harder to use. Unless, of course, the issue of adult-proof lighters is another plot of the almighty anti smoking lobby.
There is an interesting interview with the Estonian president Thomas Hendrik Ilves in Spiegel International. (Thanks for the link, Jaanus!) The interview was published as early as 26th June but somehow escaped my eye. However, it is by no means out of date.
I’ll give you two quotes for tasters:
Ilves: Sometimes we need someone to hate, a concept of an enemy. A year ago it was Latvia, nine months ago they deported hundreds of Georgians from Moscow and searched for schoolchildren with Georgian names, and now it’s our turn. Why? The fear is that true democracies will show the Russians that the philosophy of a “guided” democracy is wrong. If Western democracy, with freedom of the press and the rule of law, functions in Estonia, Ukraine and Georgia, then the argument that it cannot function in Russia, merely because they supposedly have a different culture, simply doesn’t hold water.
SPIEGEL: How should the EU deal with Russia in the future?
Ilves: We must abandon the myth — which some people in Germany have propagated — that Russia is a large democracy. It simply isn’t. I believe that would save us some illusions. We will need a pragmatic relationship with Russia, because it supplies most of Europe’s natural gas.
President Ilves very elegantly strips off many of the myths about Russia among the so called old EU member countries. It is refreshing to read thoughts of a top politician delivered in plain language where things are called by their proper name. It pays off to take the time to read this interview.
Tags: culture, film
I happen to have written about incidents of censorship by YouTube these last couple of days. The orgastic promotion video has gotten more than 3 million hits and 665 comments. It has been favoreted by more than 3000 users. I do not think they would appriciate it if YouTube were to apply their double chastity standards on this clip.
via Janne Saarikko
As Germany handed over the EU presidency to Portugal a few days ago, I for one made a deep breath. None of the fears I had with the German presidency were materialized during the six month period. No new restrictions to freedom of speech in the web were decided. And what is most important, Ms. Merkel had a firm grip on maintainig unite EU positions in relationship with the Putin dictatorship in Russia. She also handled the Polish twin brothers Kaczynski dragging their feet in the voting system issue in almost an elegant manner.
Now that Portugal has taken over the presidency, I was wondering if there would be a valid reason to be conserned as a citizen of the World Wide Village. As it turns out, the Portuguese Prime Minister, presently also presiding over the EU council, Mr. José Sócrates seems to have trouble with understanding that freedom of speech in the web is not a matter to be regulated in his personal convenience. A quote from Meinparteibuch.org spells it out:
Howdy, what’s going on there in Portugal? Just a few days before he took over the presidency of the European Council, José Sócrates has filed a defamation complaint against the portuguese blogger Professor António Balbino Caldeira, who is publicly asking questions about the Prime Ministers 1996 licentiate degree in civil engineering from “Universidade Independente” since the year 2005.
The former Portuguese Prime Minister became the President of the EU Comission. Does not look like there would be even the slimmest chance that the same thing would happen with this Prime Minister.
Let us keep an eye on this guy. He might otherwise succeed in shutting us up before we have a chance to sneeze.