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Regarding this:

 

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2004814/Is-bird-Is-plane-No-Superman-friends-painted-Soviet-statue-Banksy-Bulgaria.html

it seems to me that most comentators have misunderstood the intention of the artist. I don’t think you’d go to such lenghts to poke fun at an enemy long dead (communism). It seems more like an ironic look on how we have traded in one enslavement with another-in the Bulgarian case trading the brutal Communist Dictat with the insiduous American pop culture.

 

Could be wrong of course ūüėõ

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If you are someone who believes in Europe, maybe the most annoying thing you ever have to deal with is foaming at the mouth Euro-sceptics.  I read recently in another blog a very good characterisation of the three main ways one can interact with the concept of Europe.

The First is to be a Europhile Рone who is a rampant federalist and furthermore feels that the EU is fine and dandy as it is right now.  I am not one of those.

The second is to be that creature most foul, the rabid Euro-sceptic who hides delusions of grandeur and xenophobia behind the facade of concern for democracy. That is not to say that there are not serious and legitimate concerns about the EU’s democratic credentials-it is only to point out that the motivations of Euro-sceptics merely use these concerns as a pretext.

The third way to interact with Europe is to be a Reformist.  That is to say, one who recognises the many deficiencies within the EU, but also one who believes in the potential of the Union and furthermore believes that Europe is a better place united. Such a person would engage with the problem and work to create the Europe that the sceptics claim they would like to see.

I can understand national pride-as someone in possession of preposterous amounts of it I can empathise with anyone who dislikes the notion of Brussels dictating policy to their National Governments. Which is why I am also not a full on federalist-I would like to see the EU take on the character of a state with its own military and singular president but not to the exclusion of those things existing at the National Level and outside of Brussels control.

To see Brussels as a dictating power is to comprehensively misunderstand the way the EU works-which is not surprising in the case of people who spend their time raving about how the EU controls the shape of cucumbers.  The Union and its legislative process is based on consensus. It involves MEPs, Commissioners, Ministers and Heads of State of all member states working together and largely trashing out a consensus which is acceptable to all. In this way, all Member States benefit and move forward.  The harsh reality of the world is that with the rise of China, India and Brazil as well as a resurgent Russia (not to mention established economic powers such as Japan and the USA) individual EU member states cannot compete on their own. If one is concerned with what is best for their nation then they should also be concerned with making the EU a stronger world power as that is the best way to advance our collective interests. No, the UK cannot compete with other world powers on its own anymore. Neither can France, not even Germany.

There is a long list of things that need to change in the EU-a clamp down on lobbying, increasing transparency in the institutions, combating corruption in Parliament, the Commission and other institutions, reducing the EU’s Byzantine levels of bureaucracy. These things can only change through positive engagement. The approach of the Conservative party, much like the approach of all Euro-sceptics is to shout and scoff from the sidelines-offering nothing of worth to the process but still demanding to be heard. For example, the Tories decision to join the CSR-a group of alleged xenophobes and racists – has turned them into a politically irrelevant rabble within the EU.¬† As someone who holds the Conservative party in extremely low regard, I see that as their natural place, however as a Democrat I feel that they are betraying their supporters by letting their emotions cloud their judgement and allowing themselves to be taken out of the political process in Europe almost completely.

By way of explanation, the European Parliament operates on a party system, not a national system. The main “parties” are the EPP (think moderate Conservatives), S&P (think SocDems¬†or Labour) and ALDE¬†(Think LibDems-¬†but a lot¬†more influential). The Tory MEPs¬†however are in the European CSR group which¬†are the ¬†European version of UKIP¬†and the BNP’s¬†unholy lovechild.¬† They are paid about as much attention too.

To partisan minds, the very concept of political compromise is a sacrilege. This fundamentalist and simplistic viewpoint is dangerous and hopefully on its way out in Britain. The logic among much of the electorate seems to be that it doesn’t matter if you elect a bad government, as long as it’s a strong bad government.¬† At the risk of sounding like Nick Clegg, that is not a grown up way to do politics. It is also not the way to advance national interests or to tackle the legitimate issues with the EU.¬† Lifting the proverbial drawbridge and rowing Britain towards the US will serve no purpose-not only is the US a waning power but they bring the UK little tangible benefit besides that of nostalgia and are likely to cut Britain adrift the second it serves their national interest.

Rabid Euro-scepticism is pointless – Euro-reformism is the way forward for anyone who wants to improve the EU or to improve their nation’s fortunes in the long-term. The difference between the two is coincidentally much like the difference between being a mere politician or being a statesman. One is interested in cheap political point scoring and the other in getting things done for the benefit of the people-guess which one is which ūüėČ

Many pages have been written (or typed) about the unenviable position of one Nick Clegg. Many pundits feel he is now so toxic that it is only a matter of time before he has to call it quits and fall on his sword to save the party. These people have missed their guess in spectacular fashion.

Underestimating Clegg is up there with the most unwise things to do in current British Politics. A bit over a year ago, the man was a political nobody-today he is the Deputy Prime Minister¬† and second most powerful man in Westminster. He did this off the back of three televised debates-not too shabby for a virtual unknown. In so doing however he showed that he has political skill at least equal to David Cameron, who is pretty slick by anyone’s standards (his policies notwithstanding).

Certainly, Clegg has benefited from the fact that his party actually has a raft of good policies which he was able to talk about at those debates . Furthermore, I want to make it clear that for all his virtues (and regardless of the oppinions held by contless armchair political pundits across the land-he has many) he is too far on the right of the LibDem spectrum for my personal liking. Be that as it may, the fact remains that as far as the public is concerned Nick Clegg IS the Liberal Democrats. Removing him will not clear the taint since it has long since seeped through to the rest of the party in the minds of voters. What is necessary from a LibDem point of view is to carry out a detoxifying of our very own.  Clegg seemes to have gotten this as this article shows:

http://www.politicshome.com/uk/story/16981/

Despite the unjustified visceral hatred of all things LibDem felt by many, sorting out the LibDem image over the course of this Parliament should be an easier task than the one Cameron faced when he took over as Conservative Party Leader. The reason being that Cameron had the task of presenting a thorughly horrid Tory party as a new soft and cuddly Conservative unit. He has done so admirably. If you can make the public somehow forget the horrors of Thatcher and how generally distatestful most Tory policies are, then I would put money on the public forgetting the Tuition fees fiasco.

Something which aids in this respect is that while Tuition fees generated a lot of hype it is a comparatively small field-it affects students and their parents but at a relatively low level. Raising debt is an abstract concept. The Tories demolishing the NHS is very real and it affects literally everyone at a most basic level. This is why Clegg’s road to redemption begins now. According to the news today, Clegg and the LibDems in Parliament have obviously started to take the fight to the Tories over the NHS. Andrew Lansley’s reforms are a complete train wreck and a vile attack on one of Britain’s cornerstone institutions. More importantly, the public have realised this and have their eyes wide open on this one.

The more the Tories defend the plans, the more damage they will take when the LibDem and Labour MP’s inevitably vote them down in the Commons. Regardless of what select Tory bank bench MP’s might like to imagine, the post local elections LibDem caucus has nothing at all to lose and will now make the price for its votes be worth its weight in gold-as it should have been from the start. The fact is, the NHS bill will not survive if it has the marketisation bent that the Tories want. Therefore it will either be a changed bill and the Tories will hate it (as the NHS will remain immune from market forces) or it will be scrapped alltogether.

Either way this presents the opportunity for a big win, but more importantly it presents the opportunity for Clegg & Co to do what they entered the coalition to do-keep a leash on the Tories and ensure they dont completely destroy the state in favour of their big business pals before the end of this Parliament. The public has been too cruel to the LibDems and Clegg, but save the NHS and he will be well on the way to save himself and his party.

Charity on the right

Hi all,

just thought i’d point out the little banner on the right here which generates hours of ARV treatment for ¬†AIDS sufferers in Africa-if you could all take a minute to do the activity required by the sponsors it would be great-usually they’re pretty straight forward.

This post will (or might) sound like a giant truism, however maybe if enough people point out one of the EU’s main problems…someone will one day listen?

In terms of cumulative economic power, the EU is technically ahead of the US. It is the world’s biggest market, everyone’s favourite trading partner, the biggest donator of aid and has the most votes in most¬†Intergovernmental¬†organisations such as the WTO and UN security council since it is represented individually by its¬†member¬†states. And yet, all this potential does not translate into the EU dictating policy on the world stage or into it being a veritable superpower. Much though EU leaders may deny that they desire this, it is very naive to believe them or indeed to believe that this is not what is necessary. Divided European Nations can no longer call the shots on the world stage. Together, its a whole different ball game.

The biggest¬†obstacle¬†to the EU moving forward in this sense is that it has taken the shape of a¬†bureaucratic¬†Hydra with each head saying a different thing at different times and no communication in between. Post Lisbon, we have the absurd situation of the EU’s “voice” being represented by the President of the Council, President of the Commission, the High representative (or at least it would be, were Ashton doing her job) and vociferous Member State leaders (eg Sarkozy). Lets not forget that Parliament has a President too and he likes to pitch in here and there.

Clearly, Euro-skeptics abhor the notion of the EU acting as one, so they can look away now. If the EU is to be taken seriously, it needs a singular and coherent response to serious world events. This can be achieved by taking several much needed steps:

1. Firstly, there needs to be only one person with the title of “President” of the EU. While I have nothing against Van Rompuy, his position is entirely unnecessary. His functions should be given over to the President of the Commission who could quite reasonably be expected to chair Council meetings successfully. If we ever get to the position of having the Commission President be directly elected then that would lend some more democratic legitimacy to the whole system.

2. Following from point 1, the President and High Representative need to work out a way not to step on each other’s toes by following the example of how this is done at state level-the Foreign Minister (read High Rep) can respond first to ensure a timely intervention but the main,¬†consolidated¬†position will be laid out by the President. That way it will be clear who one should “dial when calling Europe”.

3. Individual Member State leaders should stop trying to make their policy sound like the official EU position. This has mostly been a problem since Sarkozy appeared on the scene and hopefully the problem will vanish if he is (hopefully) booted out of office in France.

If steps are taken in these directions, one can only hope that we will avoid a repeat of the EU’s shambolic response to the Middle East revolutions.

The more troublesome side effect of this Super-National level split personality disorder that the Union is suffering from is that not only do the EU’s different leaders present and¬†disorganized¬†front, but they are all pushing in different directions internally. ¬†The Council President is the most neutral and so possibly the least damaging influence-though through doing nothing wrong he’s arguably causing greater harm as he should be using his position to reign in the excesses of clowns like Sarkozy who are exclusively interested in posturing in order to get re-elected. ¬†It is of crucial importance for all of Europe that these issues are sorted out as soon as possible.

And here comes the rebuttal. My reasons for opposing Turkish membership of the EU are many-some are personal, some are general. Some emotional, some completely logical.

The first issue is practical and while it may attract accusations of prejudice I urge you to think and then jump to conclusions. The European Union is an agglomeration of European States-this much we all know. Over the centuries these states have beet at war with each other and have had (and arguably still have) bitter differences over certain issues. Yet, they come together almost seamlessly as one. How is this possible? The reason lies in the fact that as different we may be from each other, we are a lot more alike in Europe than we are different. We share joined histories, culture, religion, often habits, traditions and even many of our languages have a common root. Whether the reader would like to admit it or not, Turkey shares none of these with its European neighbours. Of what history it shares, it is almost exclusively in the form of conquest or attempts at conquest.  I will not allow this to boil down to an issue of religion (even though that invariably plays its part) as what I am seeking to establish is much further reaching than that.

What makes Europe one-a coherent body ¬†is precisely this bond of familiarity which runs through the very fiber of European culture-a thing not shared by Turkey. To be certain, Turkey has a fascinating and rich culture of its own-but it is radically different to ours. There is nothing wrong with being different, however introducing a culture so radically different into the EU will undermine the EU’s common¬†European¬†voice and spirit. It would be no small introduction either-with Turkey’s population they would instantly become one of the strongest voices in Parliament, while their economic and military strength would give them similar influence in the Council. This would be like no other accession-much more similar to a hostile take over. Even though I do not feel Turkey bears any current hostility to the EU, their¬†presence¬†itself would corrode the EU, through no fault of their own. Considering expansion has to stop somewhere, why should the EU absorb a state which is much more similar to the Middle East than it is to Europe? Because it controls a sliver of land in Europe? A lot of important things are at stake, things not to be sacrificed at the altar of Political¬†Correctness.

The second issue is Cyprus. A brief explanation of the facts is necessary for the uninitiated. Currently Turkey occupies a part of the¬†sovereign¬†nation of Cyprus, which is an EU member state-the are occupied is also known as the¬†unrecognized¬†“Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”. That the TRNC is not a¬†recognized¬†state is a fact, the reason for its illegal status being the manner of its creation. To cut a long story short, due to international law agreements between Greece, The British Empire and Turkey at the time of¬†Cypriot¬†independence, Turkey had the right to bring troops into Cyprus to maintain the conditions for Turkish¬†Cypriots¬†agreed at the time of¬†Independence. During an incident, Turkey exercised that right. Their troops are yet to leave. To be certain, they have no right to be there, nor do they have the right to create a state within the borders of the republic of Cyprus, which is why the TRNC remains illegal and unrecognised. This much is legal fact and beyond contestation, much though the Turkish side still insists on disputing it. Therefore, the present situation is that Turkey illegally remains in military occupation of an EU member state. ¬†To even contemplate allowing Turkish membership while this remains the case defies all common sense and logic. In fact, was the EU leadership not so spineless, they should have applied their collective political and military power to evict Turkey from Cyprus a long time ago, if nothing else as a pre-requisite for starting accession talks.

The final reason for opposing Turkish membership is tied into the previous and it is also influenced by personal emotion, though that should not detract all its worth, since I feel it raises a valid point-the emotion borne purely of Bulgaria’s historic experience with Turkey which most EU member states could not claim to have had. Throughout it’s history, Turkey has yet to show that it¬†deserves¬†to join the European bloc on the grounds of both foreign policy and morality. Not to say that EU member states are not responsible for horrific¬†atrocities-they are. However in Turkey’s case, their repeated¬†aggression¬†and atrocities have been¬†targeted¬†at Europe itself and it is disingenuous to disregard this while considering the issue of accession. It is a historical fact that Turkey (as the Ottoman Empire) has spent the larger part of its history either occupying or attempting to occupy European states. ¬†In fact it would not be wholly unfair to say that, business arrangements with France and Britain notwithstanding, the vast majority of interaction Turkey has had with Europe prior to WWI has been through the sights of a rifle or at the tip of a sword. That current financial convenience dictates it would be better for Turkey to join, does not mean that all this should be ignored. People seldom change, countries even less so. Given the warlike nature of European states, this could perhaps have been overlooked (if one was so minded) had it not been accompanied by¬†atrocities¬†carried out against European member states-most notably Greece and Bulgaria.

To be fair, were we considering German accession afresh, I would have sounded a similar caution after WWII-however it is worth noting that while Turkish crimes have not reached the sheer insanity of Nazi Germany, their horrors have come steadily through the centuries, showing not a moment of madness but rather a steady attitude of contempt for decency when foreign nations are concerned. What is more of a worry is that this attitude persists today, evidenced by Turkish treatment of the Kurds, the Armenian genocide ( for which in fact, the word was invented), as well as their attitude to the Cyprus situation. It is my view that Turkey is yet to show that it has truly moved on from its dark past and until it does, it does not belong inside the EU.

I have chosen to separate this into parts for clarity, so do not despair reader-it might not end up being that long!

The issue of Turkey’s future/possible EU membership has been a matter of interest for me for a long time. Before I delve in it would be best to come clean-as I am Bulgarian I am by no means impartial here. I also have quite a few Greek¬†Cypriot friends which doesn’t help either. ¬†I should also admit that presently my mind is made up-instead of discussing pro’s and cons out loud I will seek to explain in writing my opposition to Turkish EU membership, not in the least so that I may refer others to this post instead of having to explain it every time ūüėČ

First, I will note that I see the many and serious benefits to the EU of Turkey joining the block. ¬†Firstly, Turkey has a vibrant and growing economy which will be beneficial to the EU, with a lot of the strong MS economies currently stalling. Also in the same vein, Turkey presents a huge market to EU companies and enterprise which could be further explored after Turkey’s potential accession.

Secondly Turkey is strong in many ways. Most obviously it controls one of the largest military forces on the planet which will boost the EU’s defense capabilities and its hand in “assertive negotiations”. With the Turkish military as part of the combined EU forces (I¬†realise¬†that the EU is not one single force, however the collective potential remains) the Union will be able to lay a much more serious claim to the title of Superpower. In uncertain times, this is important. Turkey is strong in other ways too. Anyone who has followed the antics of Turkey’s flamboyant (and often ridiculous) chief negotiator knows that Turkey is not afraid to assert itself and say exactly what it means-something much lacking from the MO of the EU’s Western Powers.

Admitting Turkey into the EU would also send a powerful diplomatic message and be a shrewd strategic move. By admitting a moderate and secular muslim state the EU would simultaneously negate accusations of racism and show that the west can engage constructively in partnership with the Muslim world.

All these are strong motives for allowing Turkey to join the EU. However as mentioned earlier, even so I am against this. In Part 2 I will explain why…

Initially I wanted to start a blog to document my experiences in Brussels, however since I am back now , the more pressing domestic issues will come first.

Foremost among those of course is the AV referendum and local elections which happened recently.  It takes no great powers of deduction to see that the public is furious with the Liberal Democrats. That I will argue however is incredibly unfair. Let me make one thing clear-I am a student and the LibDem tuition fee policy was very important to me. Furthermore I am a left winger so I distrust the Orange book liberals within our own party, simply because I distrust and dislike most things that start leaning towards the right.  The fact is that the tuition fee U turn was a complete disaster in every way-the policy itself was horrific-not only was it regressive, it will also work to increase the deficit, not reduce it. It was the ideological bastard child of neo-Thatcherite elements in the Tory party. What is more, the contrast between the LibDem election campaign focus on this policy and the way in which it was ditched, left a sour taste in my mouth. Make no mistake, Clegg will pay for this debacle on way or another, most likely with his leadership.

BE THAT AS IT MAY, the vast majority of people now lining up to bash the LibDems and Nick Clegg over this have absolutely no right to do so. If everyone who is now suddenly outraged and who marched in the student marches had voted LibDem last year, we’d have a lot more MPs and would have been in a much better position to get this policy through. If you had no promise made to you, you cannot have been betrayed. Therefore I will accept that LibDem voters have every right to be outraged but anyone who has not voted LibDem, can jolly well mind their own business as far as I am concerned-one does not have an automatic right to pass judgement on things which does not concern them-and if you did not vote LibDem on the back of LibDem promises on tuition fees then the Uturn is not your concern and you have no right to be angry about it.

Furthermore, it takes a special amount of political immaturity to punish a party for making compromises in government in order to deliver a strong government for the benefit of everyone-especially when the abhorrent policies the public is railing against are all coming from the Tories-had we not been in government to keep a leash on them,it would have been far, far worse. What this teaches politicians is that it does not pay to make grown up decisions, because the electorate will punish you for it. ¬†I say nothing to the core Labour vote or the core Tory vote. I am only incensed by the people determined to “kick Clegg”. This attitude is incredibly short sighted and unwise. If you are unhappy with what the government is doing you should go for Cameron, not Clegg.

Saying all this, Clegg and co have made many, many mistakes.  The way they conducted the 2010 election campaign clashes badly with what happened after. The overtly rosy relationship with Cameron and chums was a bad move in my eyes-they should have been clear from the start about what they are happy with and what they are not. Lastly, they should not have allowed Tory policy to be put in place at all if it was not in the Coalition agreement-because this is not a Conservative government, it is a coalition government. It is high time the LibDem leadership realised this and started taking a hard line against the Tories.

The title of this post applies both to the LibDems and to the electorate as a whole.  For the Liberal Democrats, the mistakes with the tuition fee policy and what is more, the mistake in allowing ourselves to become a shield for the Tories to hide behind while they implement their despicable policies has led to this defeat in the local elections and furthermore it allowed the AV vote to be tainted by association and lost for a generation.

For the electorate, and mostly for the floating voters, allowing themselves to be shortsighted enough to vent their anger at the LibDems when the problems stem from the Tories will leave them with more Conservative counselors, an unfair voting system which elects majority Tory governments on a minority of the vote and with more damaging Tory policies. All in all, a bad week for progressive politics in the UK-you can judge who will suffer from it more however.

Dear Everyone,

welcome to my blog! By way of introduction, my name is Emile and I am a law student at the University of Surrey, as well as a Liberal Democrat party member and activist. I have wanted to start a blog for a long time, ¬†prompted by my time in the Brussels political machine-and finally I found a blog provider that is easy to set up and doesn’t drive me nuts while trying to work it!!

So here I will lay out my thoughts on current events, mostly for my own benefit, but if anyone enjoys reading it then great!

There is also a charity clicker on the side, which goes to help HIV infected children in Africa, so click away my good people, click away ūüôā

Yours Truly,

Emile

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