Sustaining European growth and integration within the current EU context

Continuing to enlarge the European Union’s borders, expanding its political union and introducing new policies and agendas to extend the relationships between EU countries should and is a political priority. But how can the Commission and the governments of each member-state continue to work towards its evolution when the people are not driven or in support of the “grand idea” anymore?

This article is not intellectual or hard to follow – plain simple ideas and reactions. It works better like this, for the reader to grasp what I am trying to express. Please continue reading and let me know what you think.

Our democratic procedures ensure that the people select who sits on the driver’s seat and I believe all Europeans have great democratic values. Unfortunately, governments have lost their touch with the people, the status quo is being challenged by, mostly young, Europeans who are beginning to question their support and faith in the European institutions and governing.

In a world where people are more interested about what Kim Kardashian wore or didn’t,  a large group of citizens seems to want governments that work for them, for their benefit, with minimal civic engagement. South and Mediterranean Europeans have woken up after an austerity storm and have, in reaction, engaged themselves and pushed for the most obvious, contrasting, radical ideas and parties.

Citizens had lost interest in the commons and the political landscape, many of them because they were finding: understanding the way government works, within the European Union, impossible. But with every crisis comes civil engagement and here’s where pro-European politicians lost the game. In a Europe (EU) where the “poster boy” is the greater european economy – when the economy is in trouble, the EU is in trouble.

The ideals that were once part of the dream or plan for a united, peaceful and prosperous union of states have been brutally sidelined while the big star “THE ECONOMY” is prioritised. Let’s not sidetrack and talk about the global economy, interconnected economies and globalisation – we all, more or less, grasp those concepts and their realities and understand why “THE ECONOMY” is important.

But the European Union is made up of the worlds wealthiest nations – even Greece, Spain, and Portugal yes. The EU is the largest economy in the world. The EU could build on its potential, continue to work towards its “united in diversity” motto and build a super-state that inspires security, trust and world cooperation. Not everyone can live like the 1% of the 1% but the EU can sustain great living standards.

In their paper, submitted to LSE, George Petrakos, Andrés Rodríguez-Pose and Antonis Rovolis argue that economic growth within the EU could always generate new inequalities. But surely, such inequalities could be manageable and with the right will, both political and from the people, we could be heading towards a much more successful union.

Europeans must be ready to give up their nationalistic ideals, must accept that we live in inclusive times where traditions and cultures blend and create new phenomena. We should be able to accept that as the world ages, if we want to lead we need to set our priorities straight: the political integration of the member states, the cultural integration and cooperation between European citizens should be on top of that list. Continue expanding the single market, the eurozone, the fiscal union, our energy relationships, our common educational standards, research, healthcare and yes, even our military and our space exploration. And of course, all these require finance, strong economies. But we must ensure that the priority is not the economy but rather that our ventures, our ideals and our policies drive the economy and by association, its importance.

There are no PIGS, or Mediterranean, or South, or Northern or FrancoGerman European nations, either we are a European Union or we’re not – and there’s so much potential if we were to be.

This is a lot to process, because I keep on contemplating about the matters at hand and I haven’t released any of these thoughts into the wild in a long time. I began writing mainly for myself to set order to my thoughts. There’s a lot of information and thoughts on here, and everything is arguable and debatable. So I’m happy to hear your thoughts on the comments below, on Facebook or on Twitter.

Promised hope returns as Greece votes Left

In his speech following yesterdays election, Prime Minister-elect Alexis Tsipras sailed between big promises of European unity, national reconstruction and reforms and policies that will help Greece and the EU move towards a more prosperous relationship. But how many of its promises can the leftist party accomplish?

Syriza and Alexis Tsipras have promised to work on what they have identified as 4 main pillars for their national reconstruction plan. The party wants to rebuild “the welfare state, restoring the rule of law” and create “a meritocratic state.” Alarmingly, China, a Communist State, is the most meritocratic state that comes to mind. This is what possibly reminds us of Tsipras’ beginnings as a communist youth leader who also protested against globalisation.

The Greek public was split. The outcome of the election speaks of a people who do not believe their government was working and voted for a government that will work within the lines of the previous one; but that will give different results. This, will be extremely tough.

I asked yesterday, in a post embedded at the end of this article, who would answer serious questions about the future of Greece and its role in the EU. Tsipras, easily won this election after having capitalized on the failures of previous governments to please the public. He walked into these elections a sure winner. So we make no mistake, Tsipras is not our Gandhi or our Mandela. He is not even our Obama. He’s a passerby.

We’re still far from forming a government that is willing to work for the reconstruction of the Greek  identity and that will restore the foundations of Hellenism and reconfigure them for the twenty-first century. We are very far from electing officials with a vision for this little, but great country.

But, one thing is true, hope has returned to Greece. Greeks hope that some steps can be taken to better their lives right now, because this was a vote of “I can’t take this anymore”.

It is true, that Greece and the Greeks have a lot to offer to the their country and to the world, and it is not lack of potential that hasn’t allowed Greece to push through. But the world has a lot to teach and give to Greece and there has never been a better time for that. This government has to realise that it has to work within the global political framework, not arrogantly oppose it.

Let’s hope that the Syriza-lead government will not disappoint and hope that Greeks, Greece and their European partners can continue to work together in the building of the Union for a better tomorrow for Greece, Europe and the world. A sense of hope has returned, can you capitalise on that Mr. Tsipras?

The Return Of The Parthenon Marbles To Athens A Hitlerian Agenda?

They were stolen from Greece in the 19th century by, Thomas Bruce, or as Greeks call him “Lord Elgin“. Since 1836, the Greek government has fought, through diplomatic missions, for the return of the Parthenon marbles and it has been remained the most important disagreement between the two countries, Greece and the United Kingdom.

The Parthenon Marbles, or Elgin Marbles is a collection of ancient Greek sculptures that used to decorate the Parthenon and other buildings of the Acropolis in Athens. Today, they are part of a great exhibition on Ancient Greece, at the British Museum, in London, where Boris Johnson is currently Mayor.

Since Athens completed the construction of its Acropolis Museum, new petitions and new campaigns have been started to claim back the stolen marbles, that now have a home, waiting for them, in Greece.

And now, Boris Johnson, adding fuel to the fire, said  “Where were the Nazis going to send the Elgin marbles? To Athens! This Clooney is advocating nothing less than the Hitlerian agenda for London’s cultural treasures.” as an answer to Clooney’s, Murray’s and Damon’s backing of the return of the marbles to Greece.

An open poll currently shows that 80% of people asked believe the marbles should be in the Acropolis Museum in Greece (Feb 12th, 2014). Efforts for their return continue, with “Bring Them Back“, currently the most prominent campaign for their return, leading the way.

Another, open, poll on the Guardian, shows that 68% of their readers agree with the return of the Marbles to Greece.

Another, open, poll on the Guardian, shows that 68% of their readers agree with the return of the Marbles to Greece.

Leading political figures, internationally recognised Hellenes (Greeks) and thousands of people around the world, including actors like George Clooney have now backed the project for the return of the stolen marbles, so when Boris Johnson describes that campaign as a “Hitlerian Agenda”, he is insulting all the Greeks around the world who wish to see the marbles return home, he is insulting all the efforts of the Greek Government, Greek artists, and Greek public figures and he is proving once more, incapable of controlling what he says.

Further Reading: The Greeks gave us the Olympics. Let them have their marbles | Elgin’s behaviour would be absolutely unacceptable today

Article Written by Christos Floros for Urban Times

eReaders for a better world

The rise of eBooks within the industry is phenomenal and we are quickly redefining the book into that of the untouchable and digital kind. As a consequence eReaders are becoming commonplace across the world; in homes, schools, offices, and in new types of libraries. It will make accessibility to eBooks massively increased and improve opportunities for everyone. People underestimate the power of content, and certainly take it for granted. I am hoping that 2014 will highlight the significance of eReaders both locally and globally.

Charities such as Develop Africa and Worldreader have recognised how important eReaders are in building a better life for those in countries such as Africa. Reading is essential for everyone to have a good education and the ability to function in day to day life. Although not all technologies installed into Africa have been successful, the mentioned charities have the potential to be key in ending the severe poverty-stricken parts of the continent by going to the source of the problem – a lack of education. I couldn’t imagine my spare time without a book or online recipe hunt, and am beginning to understand how much of it I take for granted.

eReader devices have more potential than the printed book. They can be used to access a number of titles without the need to wait for shipment. Content builds on knowledge which helps to teach the building of sustainable homes, how to filter water, gives new cooking skills, and allows an understanding of the politics in the reader’s country. Accessing this LEDC’s market, although not profitable, will open the opportunity for more publishing based charities to emerge and produce appropriate content. If enough awareness is raised maybe more government funding will be ploughed through the publishing industry to make such projects financially possible. So it won’t hurt mentioning this on Twitter. Everybody needs an eReader, and I hope everyone gains access to one within 2014. #eReader4everyone.

Christmas Miracle Stops Wars – Brings Peace and Wealth for All

Yesterday’s celebrations have just finished. It’s December, 25th, 2013 and gifts are everywhere. On this very special day, the world is reading, watching and hearing a tremendous number of unbelievable but real information.

Indeed, on this festive day, civil war in Central Africa has stopped all of a sudden. Muslims and Christians have decided to bury the hatchet . From now on they will be living alongside each other peacefully.

It seems like Santa has decided to prove his generosity like never before.

And other breaking news coming from Syria: Dictator Bachar El-Assad has returned the power to his people. He announced that he will be no more the head chief of Syria. A Government of technocrats and society actors will be taking the lead until a democratic election will be organized. He added that he will give back all that he took from Syrians and spend the rest of his life in Jail. His family will do the same. He finished his announcement crying and left the press conference handcuffed.

People couldn’t believe what they were hearing. It seems like Santa Claus has decided to prove his generosity on this day like never before. Some called it the work of God, a Christmas miracle. But whatever it is called, no one would have imagined that . And the « Thing » seems to continue its work all day long.

BBC, CNN and all television channels broadcasted live from Wall Street something that has changed the world. Warren Buffet, Bill gates and Larry Ellisson, 3 of the richest men in the world whose added fortune is estimated to 158 billion dollars, decided to share their wealth with every man and woman in this world. After that there will be no more poverty, no more gap between rich and poor. Because from now on the world is divided in two: rich people and richer people.

After these incredible news, most of radical or extremist groups have announced that there is no more reason to fight since everyone is now rich and can change his life. Even Muslims, Christians and Jews have decided to stop fighting claiming that through these miracles we have seen a message by God; that everyone has to stop fighting and start living peacefully with all the other humans .

What an amazing day! In 24 hours all problems have been solved . Humans finally agreed on most subjects and more importantly accepted each others opinions. No more racial discrimination. All the extremists have agreed that a black man is not an under-man!  It’s a MIRACLE, even if no one agrees on its origin (We have to keep at least one disagreement, after all we are only human.)

Everything is finally okay!

Every end of the year with our celebrations in these festive times we all seem to think that all the problems are going to vanish like a miracle. That is obviously not true. So please, instead of promising ourselves that we will stop smoking – lets promise ourselves that we will do more for each other and that we will fight each issue, each one of us with his own abilities, to make our world better. Maybe I’m dreamy but I’m also optimistic and I strongly believe in Mankind.

Would you die for your country?

This is a provocative article; read at your own discretion.

John F. Kennedy said that war would exist until that distant day when the individuals who claim the right to refuse to perform military service, on the grounds of freedom of thought or conscience, enjoy the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does. Wars seem to be the norm on this planet, but why exactly do we continue to fight them, who do we fight for and what idea of a country are we fighting to protect?

In his “Why We Fight, and Why We Shouldn’t” piece, former US representative Ron Paul wrote: “On the contrary, pursuing this war endangers our security… and motivates our enemies to join together in opposition to our domineering presence around the world.”

Who do we fight for? Do we die for the people of our nation? Most states today are multinational – have we become more allegiant to sovereign states than nations? Why fight for a state, why fight to protect your country? Face it, it’s not great. There is poverty, homelessness, extreme differences between rich and poor… You’ve probably never stopped to ask a homeless person in your city how he feels so do you actually care?

above: A relevant segment from a Fox News debate. 

Can you imagine dying to protect artificial borders which over the years have separated nations and families? Would you die to protect your country? Would you be willing to be paid to kill, in another country, so that one day big firms may establish oil production stations in that country? Why are all the real men and women of our countries fighting in foreign grounds while the described as hippie-nerds are back here running charity shops or a simple bike shop?

What reason do we have to keep on fighting? The only logic to war is to be stronger than your enemy in case he wants to attack you, which is a stupid logic seeing as it makes your enemy adopt the same logic – an eternal arms race. We don’t bring peace and freedom of opportunity by fighting wars. We may need a military and we may need soldiers to defend our borders but when it comes to “defending the interests of our country” that’s no longer defending anything, that’s sugar-coating “attacking other countries to benefit ours” and when they say ours they mean the few that will exploit the results. Wars were never fought for the people, they were fought for the people who order them – for thousands of years wars are fought by soldiers not by kings. Would you die for your country? You can’t, you can only die for the interests of someone within.

Ignorance in the Media Deriving directly from the ignorance within us.

Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Have you ever wondered how the media chooses what to write about and what to cover? To answer that we have to go back and define what the media means to the world today, which is nothing. The media has become, in the mind of the people, a constant blubber at the back of their head, it is a money-making business there to serve the interest of those more powerful and influence public opinion in their favour.

So we’ve defined that the media is evil. What are we? Let’s face it, nobody wants to open BBC and read about poverty, wars and destruction every day. We say that we have the right to the pursuit of happiness. We’re human, we want our lives to be good, full of happiness, we want better than what we have, we want to improve, we want to create our own families, accumulate wealth, spend, earn, spend… We do charity once or twice a year, we think that we sincerely care about the problems of the world. At different times around the year we feel more human, especially during the Christmas period, we feel like touching those affected by poverty and wars.

But these wars, poverty – these issues don’t arise every festive season – they are there, every day some people fight and work to help the millions of, no billions of people who live below the poverty line – a poverty line that only sounds like something to us, to them it’s their reality.

But we couldn’t possibly want to hear about it every day, we have our own problems, yes our first world problems, our family problems, our relationships. We have problems, we do. All problems are important, and the closer a problem to us, the more important it becomes.

Is it our fault that some of us made the better choice to be born white, in a middle-class family in Europe? Of course, we never chose, so that argument is invalid. So we never chose, we didn’t choose to be born into our families, and while we may be descendants of our parents, nothing in this world is guaranteed for us.

We live in a world without guarantees, in a world of unfairness – but it is up to us to define what we want to be. If we wanted to care more about the world, the media would have to react more to the real issues, the global issues, nobody would care about BBC’s article “Are christmas trees getting worse?”. What if people started travelling to help, in mass, what if we were free to find new ways to help – but I’m jumping ahead, you see, first we have to be interested.

the media can define public opinion but the media can also be defined by public opinion We can’t blame the media for what is in the media, we need to change our interests, we have to start showing we don’t care for Made in Chelsea or Boris Johnson’s IQ. If we want to learn more about North Korea, Poverty in Africa and India, homelessness in our streets, we need to begin caring about these things so sincerely that we start acting.

We are the drivers of change, the media can define public opinion but the media can also be defined by public opinion, we’ve seen it happen, it can happen again on a greater scale.

We are the ignorant ones, we choose to focus on our lives because we are human, but if we want to better ourselves and build a greater future than any previous version of the future we need to define what we want, and our media needs to portray an actual image of the world, a cruel image of smiles within death, of hate between one kind – then we can change. But don’t blame the media, the fault lies within us. Who know’s what we could achieve if we saw the world for what it is.