The Week in Bloggingportal: It all boils down to Strasbourg

Picture by abhijeetrane (flickr) // Creative Commons BY 2.0

You may have noticed that there was no Week in Bloggingportal last week, which is why I’ll have a quick look at Two Weeks in Bloggingportal today.

The two main questions of the last two weeks were:

These two questions may not appear to be related but given that the notoriously underpaid European Court of Human Rights sits in Strasbourg, just separated from the EP by a bit of water, one may ask if freeing up all that money when giving up a parliamentary seat that 91% of MEPs don’t want wouldn’t actually allow the Union to be more unified when it comes to the defence of human rights.

Maybe the Union should, instead of financing a symbolic travel circus, use some of its money to look at its own maps showing human and humanitarian disasters at its borders instead of wasting money building up fences just because populists in Germany in France are afraid of “the other”, “the other” being people who may come and try to live a better life in a Union that they regard as a destination of hope while some of our politicians want to sell us the Union as a region in decline.

Yes, there is reason for criticism about the EU, and the euroblogosphere has voiced this during the last 14 days:

Some have serious doubts about the liquidity policy of the European Central Bank. Some think in general that the EU system is Brok. For some it’s a matter of the right communication. Others have serious doubts about data protection in the Union, e.g. when it comes to forwarding passenger data. Others see a lack of transparency and industry dominance.

Openness and transparency seem to be a particular issue, whether when it comes to the General Affairs Council or to the disclosure practices of EU member states and candidate countries regarding their anti-corruption reports. And with more and more journalists leaving Brussels, one may be afraid that we’ll get less, not more openness in the future. It seems unlikely that some bloggers meeting the Council Presidency and recording their meeting for the public will change much in that regard.

So yes, one might come up with a report like the one from the Schuman Foundation, talking about crises and threats.

But it’s time to stop weeping, it’s time to stop writing reports about reports that suggest how reports will look like in the future. It’s time to change things, to make things better. The Union and its member states have shown it in the past that it’s possible to move forward and to make bold changes, not just declarations of intention.

You can move countries from being a soviet republic to an EU member state where you can vote via the internet. Hungary and Poland are running the EU Council during 2011, and despite appropriate criticism for their internal politics (e.g. the media law) will do so as good (and bad) as old member states have done it in the past. Imagine somebody said that two decades ago.

And more: EU Journalists can work across borders to uncover incredible stories of sham marriages in old and new member states. Europe can even move ahead trying to become a civilian power again, even if some commentators deny (falsely!) that this would be a good thing.

We may still argue whether it would be good to have a referendum on staying in the EU or not in the UK. We may continue our political fights on whether Turkey should join the EU or not, whether being in favour is europhile or eurosceptic. But why don’t we instead answer the the two questions asked at the beginning:

Do we need to waste millions of Euros on false symbolic politics while being afraid of putting our money where it could have real impact, changes that would raise human rights and living standards in Europe, its neighbourhoods and beyond?

And while this is not only about Strasbourg, it still all boils down to Strasbourg, because Strasbourg stands for human rights in Europe today as it stood for peace between Germany and France in Europe 60 years ago. I hope that in the future it will stand for a European Union that was ready to move forward to be a force for positive change, giving up the old habits, the old symbols and to invest into positive changes inside and outside its – hopefully open – borders.

That is what I read from the last two Weeks in Bloggingportal. And if you are not, feel free to use the comments to this post or the freedom of speech on your own blog or the central square of your village or town. Please send photos!

Ron



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