luni, 15 decembrie 2008

Europa Panel

Cu ceva timp în urmă, mai precis între noiembrie 2007 - februarie 2008 am participat la un focus group internațional inițiat de cel mai important ziar din Olanda - NRC Handelsblad - pe tema politicilor Uniunii Europene: Europa Panel. Ideea era simplă - moderatorii puneau o întrebare și vreo 7-8 persoane (selectate de ziariștii de la NRC Handelsblad) din diverse țări răspundeau la ea. Iată întrebările și răspunsurile mele (în engleză):

What kind of policy should the EU have towards Russia? Focus on human rights, or trade?
Generally speaking, there shouldn't be a choice between human rights and trade. Not for Russia, not for any other country in the world. However, if we speak about trade with Russia, we probably think about gas.
Early 2006, the Russian energy company Gazprom forced Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova to pay sharply higher prices for natural gas, and envisaged to negotiate new prices for Eastern European countries. Although many would say these increases could be linked to the Kremlin's political games - on a seller's market such as gas supply - the truth is that these new prices only reflect an extensive control of the Russians towards their own natural resources and an attempt to get more money for the same product. Soon, this trade policy will probably hit the EU (especially Eastern and Central Europe countries), but its impact will be, in my opinion, only positive. The use of new, alternative sources of energy will be speeded up, research will boost, and other suppliers (e.g. Algeria), will emerge.
Nevertheless, all EU countries must have a coherent attitude and build their individual trade strategy on the same basis. And, last but not least, EU's potential to support human rights in Russia should clearly move beyond seeking agreement on general commitments for the sake of a lower gas price!

What are you willing to do to help prevent climate change?
Now that in Eastern Europe summer is hotter and winter turns slowly into a milder season - it is crystal clear that something's wrong. The climate issue seems to escalate into a crisis, and the only obvious way in which the average citizen can do something is to reduce its daily well-being. This is certainly bad news for someone who just started to experience the joys of consumerism. However, I am certainly willing to do less of some things that I didn't do before - flying planes and eat non-organic food, for instance - or giving up my hopes of ever driving a 4x4 in favour of a state-of-the-art, EU-compliant bicycle. "Return to the simple things", some will probably say. Unfortunately, it is much more complicated.

Next week the government leaders will sign the treaty of Lisbon that came instead of the European constitution. Also on the 21st of December the Schengen-area of free movement will be expanded with nine new members states. Is Europe 'finished' now? Are we there?
Europe - fortunately - is not, geographically speaking, a land with clear boundaries. It is a concept, a framework, and a standard. It should remain also an open space of freedom, in constant expansion.
As we will travel freely from Lisbon to Vilnius, we should always bear in mind that Europe is not there, yet. It still has a long, long way to go - over the mild hills of Serbia, the rich vineyards of Moldova, and the fascinating coastline of Turkey. And, who knows, perhaps crossing the rough paths of the Urals...

The year 2008 will be all about the primaries and presidential elections in the US. There is a lot of attention in European media about the campaigns and candidates. Does it matter for the members of the European Union, who becomes the next president of the USA?
The United States are, as always, important for Europe. The world's well-being and stability - in general terms - depend so much on Americans. It does matter, of course, if the next president of the United States will be a Baptist Minister, a Mormon, a woman or an African American. Nevertheless, what does really matter is what will be America's policies and actions regarding Iraq, terrorism, Africa, climate change and - last but not least - Europe and Europeans. Americans may consider these elections a historical moment if Barack Obama or Mrs. Clinton wins the elections. We, Europeans, already had such breakthrough events in our own countries. Hopefully, the new president will be much more open and trustful towards the EU's policies and reflect a bit on the European model.

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