lunedì 28 luglio 2014

One hundred years ago: the Great War

It was exactly one hundred years ago, on July 28, 1914, after the declaration of war of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to the Kingdom of Serbia, following the murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, that WWI broke out. A cruel conflict which destroyed the whole Europe during four years, involving British Empire colonies, the United States and Japan. Also called the "Great War", World War I was, up to that date, the largest and bloodiest conflict ever fought in human history. 
Italy, my country, which entered the war only one year later (on May 24 1915), was one of the parties (along with France, Germany and the Ottoman Empire) with the highest death toll, having lost  at the end of the conflict the 3.49% of its population. Who is writing this post lost his great-grandfather, Giuseppe Castelli, right in the bloody Piave river battle. Most likely, I would have never met him, but my grandmother was not even a year old when she lost him, as she often told me with tears in her eyes. 
Despite Marinetti and the Futurists described the war as the world's only hygiene, conflicts imply great consequences. It is undeniable - as our ancestors usually remind us- that war is just misery, pains and poverty. 
And yet, today, July 28, 2014, one century after that conflict broke and 75 years after World War II, we witness the shame of war and misery in many areas of the world. From Middle East to Ukraine, the most silly and unnecessary conflicts continue to spread on the world map, proving that history taught us nothing at all. 
As a matter of fact, there is poor international media coverage on the issue today, although this conflict will always be a big wound in the history of mankind. 

For all those who died in the trenches in 1914/18, for all those who lost their beloved ones and a piece of their lives in that terrible conflict, and especially for those who continue to suffer the pain of unjust wars nowadays, my thoughts and those of this blog.


sabato 24 maggio 2014

Europe goes to the polls. But once we have made Europe, we need to make Europeans.

When a few months ago, walking through the Paseo de la Castellana in Madrid, I saw a big poster in the nearby of the Permanent Representation of the European Commission, where it was written on: "European Year of Citizens 2013", I asked myself: did anybody notice it? Of course, almost none did. Even a watchful eye like me, who quite often pays attention to this kind of issues, did not notice the existence of such an initiative entirely dedicated by Europe to its citizens. On the contrary, the only thing we would probably be able to remember is how many taxes and quirky laws come from Brussels, while the European Year of Citizens is completely ignored by most of the  people. And why is that? The reason is simple: nobody ever thought about creating a European citizenship identity since Europe has been projected. But there's something else. If the word Europe is only able to bring to one's mind words like bureaucracy in a century in which people needs rules to be simplified, it is clear that there are some communications problem on the ground. If Europe can only remind you of an incomprehensible "eurocracy", in times when people demands more transparency, there is obviously something missing. One more example. Does anybody know that on May 9th each year, at least since 1964, we celebrate Europe Day? I bet almost none does. 

From last Thursday, all 28 EU countries were called upon to elect a new European Parliament, a House of Representatives from across the continent, which will have the task of electing the new Commission and approve the EU budget for the next five years. However, if we ask people on the street who were EU Commission Presidency candidates, I doubt that any of them knows the answer.

Few people really know that Europe impacts on national legislation is very high. Some figures suggest that about 70% of the rules passed by our national parliaments are European laws translated into local legislation.

Turnout at the European elections (1979-2009)

With such a scenario, with a growing presence of European issues in our daily lives, it is no longer possible to minimize EU polls to second level elections, thus fomenting the turnout. We cannot let those who constantly highlight how bad is Europe win these elections, while those that should tell us how beautiful is Schuman, Spinelli, Adenauer & Monnet's intuition remain silent, by focusing on minor issues.

We need to start again from how we educate new generations. Telling the younger what Europe is, and especially what was our continent before the EU was set up. I think this is the simplest thing to do if you want to avoid the collapse of one of the most interesting political projects in the history of our continent. 


venerdì 31 maggio 2013

Report cards in Brussels

Is austerity over? This was probably the question all around the world public opinion after an evaluation on the EU-27 current situation by the European Commission was released on Wednesday. The outlook gave waivers on the budget rules to some of the most important economies in the EU. France, Spain and Poland saw an extension by 2 years of the deadline to reduce budget deficit to 3% of GDP, while Portugal and the Netherlands only obtained a one year deadline extension. Good news came also for those countries that were under the Commission surveillance for excessive deficit, among them Italy. Rome is no longer in the excessive deficit procedure (EDP) started by Brussels in 2009. Also countries like Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania were set free from EDP after accomplishing their objectives. Actually, as shown in the chart below, only six countries out of twenty-seven had no excessive deficit. 

Wednesday news from Brussels means austerity lowered the deficit and budgets are bettering, though in the XXI century Europe you cannot have everything. The employment emergency is indeed the other side of the coin, together with production levels and the whole EU GDP which in the first quarter of the year went down 0.1%, which means no growth at all. German budget cuts and restrictions philosophy proved wrong and EU current recession demonstrates that deficit adjustments on their own cannot stimulate growth. 

Certainly, governments bond spreads with German bund are definitely better than were a couple of months ago for Greece (765), Portugal (404), Spain (285), Italy (261) and Ireland (215). But this does not mean the emergency is over. Unemployment rate and EU biggest countries domestic product show how deep the recession is in our continent. For this reason, Brussels warned France and Spain to pursue new pension and labour market reforms, while UK was urged to speed up its cuts, although the positive outlook on the GDP for the next years. But with no ambitious plan to deeply reform the Union, these look like sterile recommendations. Things thus standing, it seems that the worst is yet to come.