Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Stalemate in the UN Security Council. A New "Cold War" with Iran?

by verchenceto Wed Mar 29th, 2006 at 11:27:04 AM EST

"It has taken almost a decade for us to comprehend the true nature of this new threat. Given the goals of rogue states and terrorists, the United States can no longer solely rely on a reactive posture as we have in the past. The inability to deter a potential attacker, the immediacy of today's threats, and the magnitude of potential harm that could be caused by our adversaries' choice of weapons, do not permit that option. We cannot let our enemies strike first."

George W. Bush


September 17, 2002

Read more... (5 comments, 2525 words in story)

The Great Farce Called Ice Dancing

by verchenceto Sun Feb 26th, 2006 at 02:16:36 PM EST

It's been known forever that a sport where the winner is chosen by a jury is not a sport at all. Not because there is something wrong with the sport itself, but because of the way the medals are distributed.  The judgement might be highly subjective and it might differ any time the board of judges is replaced by another. In figure skating, by default, the winning-medals spots are reserved for the so called "great powers in figure skating." The maximum the others can get is the fourth place. As a result, it is no wonder that the Olympic medal arrangement for ice dancing in the Turin Olympics is exactly the same as it was in the World Ice Dancing Competition in 2004.

The Bulgarian ice dancing couple, Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviski, who are third on the world list of the International Skating Union, were ritually beheaded in the Turin Olympics. Denkova and Staviski performed a breathtaking dance program, but the jury delivered a lesson on effrontery and shamelessness.

The Bulgarian dance couple was stripped of two points because they exceeded the limited time for one of the dance elements. "Every element in our performance has been measured with the rhythm of the music. It is not possible to make such a mistake. We danced extremely clean. But, either way, we would still end up with the fifth place," Albena Denkova, commented after the jury's verdict.  The absence of Bulgarian lobby in the International Skating Union has left the Bulgarian ice dancers alone against everyone else.

For those of you that have seen the competition, congratulations, you have become spectators of one more paradox in this sport. Denkova and Staviski have been forever in the ice dancing elite. But when it comes to ratings and medals, the Bulgarian couple is no longer on the list. And the answer to this paradox is simple. We, the Bulgarian people, know what lies beneath, but the others do not. This is why I want to share it with you, so that at least the members of this online community understand why those great ice dancers never earn what they deserve. On the World Ice Dancing Competition in 2004 the first place belonged to them and everybody, but the jury, admitted it. However, the gold medal went to Navka and Kostomarov. The claims of some Bulgarians from some small country with a "single skating rink" have infuriated the boss of the Russian Federation, Valentin Piseev.  During the cocktail following the competition, he has said to the chairman of the Bulgarian Skating Federation, Mrs. Evgeniya Kurnolska: "If you are not satisfied with the second place, you are never going to be among the first three." And, true, this is how it went.  Humiliation after humiliation followed, but Denkova and Staviski only became better and better. With the ambition to prove that they are the best, they have turned ice dancing into an extremely tough sport, and they have made a revolution in its history. Nevertheless, as years pass by, no one would remember the champions from the Turin Olympics, but the robbed couple on fifth place who shook to the core the audience with their performance in Palavela hall.

The decision of the jury to award the gold medal to Navka and Kostomarov produced a great deal of commentaries. The New York Times commented "The Russian couple won the gold medal, although they performed without a mistake only the free style dance." The Salt Lake City 2002 Olympic champion, Guendal Peizera stated publicly: "The biggest harm was done to the Bulgarian couple; they were deprived of what they deserved. They were astounding in their free style dance. The Russian couple, Navka and Kostomarov, was supported by the jury." The French commentator noted: "Denkova and Staviski were the best on the ice, and their program was the most elaborate with the hardest elements. The final result might be forgotten, but they will stay in the hearts of the people. "Another Olympic champion, Ilya Averbuh also publicly stated "They were the only couple whose elements I forgot to count, because I was totally mesmerized by their performance." The Lithuanian couple Margarita Drobyazko and Povilas Vanagas stated in an interview after the competition: "Denkova and Staviski deserved the gold."

The problem is not in the fifth place of Denkova and Staviski, nor is it in the penalty of two points. The trouble is that a handful of people, calling themselves a jury, demonstrated once again that this sport should not be practised. They gave just a fourth rating for the complexity of a performance, which was far more difficult than the others. Only the Bulgarian and French couples performed a lift without hands- one of the most complex combinations. Still, the jury rated as average a dance that made the audience in Palavela hall hold their breath while watching, and explode in applause afterwards.

 Yet, Denkova and Staviski have always been the moral winners in the competition with "the great powers". This is seen every time when they step on the ice and perform their magnificent combinations, and it is known by all the experts in the field. The excitement of the audience is the best example of the excellence of those great dancers. It is just that the jury never awarded them what they deserved, except for the Gran Prix in Tokyo. Nevertheless, the true fans of figure skating around the world recognize and appreciate the incredible talent of Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviski.

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Public opinion could delay EU entry of Romania and Bulgaria.

by verchenceto Mon Feb 20th, 2006 at 11:55:33 AM EST

A couple of days ago, I read the following article in the EU Observer:

Public opinion could delay EU entry of Romania and Bulgaria

16.02.2006 - 17:42 CET | By Mark Beunderman

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - France and the Netherlands will take their enlargement-wary public opinion into account when deciding on the option of a one-year delay on Romanian and Bulgarian accession, diplomats say.

European enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn warned last autumn that the European Commission would delay scheduled 2007 accession by one year if anti-corruption and judicial reforms fall short.

The commission's formal recommendation is due in May.

But diplomats told EUobserver that public opinion will be "a factor" for both France and the Netherlands in handling the delay option, despite the official line that timing depends purely on meeting EU standards.

"No country can disregard public opinion," one French contact said.

French and Dutch citizens' uneasiness over enlargement is widely seen as one reason why they rejected the EU constitution in referendums early last year.

Realistic option?
The accession treaties signed by Brussels with Bucharest and Sofia contain a clause with the option to delay the 2007 entry date until 2008, if accession preparations are insufficient.

But not all European diplomats estimated the option of entry postponement as realistic.

"Something extremely serious would have to happen for accession to be delayed," said one of them, as this would send a "very negative signal" to the region.

Another contact indicated "There is a high probability that the commission will issue a positive opinion" in its May report, pointing to an upbeat non-public interim document by the EU executive currently circulating in member states' representations.

On top of this, France has traditionally been an ally of Romania, and could opt instead to massage its public opinion over other planned enlargements in the Western Balkans and Turkey.

The French parliament recently adopted an amendment to its constitution, securing a popular referendum on every single enlargement after Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia.

Safeguard clauses
However, Paris and The Hague might still use Romania and Bulgaria's delay option in the accession treaty as a means to press for tough safeguard clauses if the countries enter as scheduled in 2007.

Also in the event of EU entry next year, the accession treaties provide for an exclusion of Romania and Bulgaria from participation in specific EU policy areas - primarily justice and home affairs and parts of the internal market.

"The real question is not when the countries will become members, but what sort of membership they get," said Marin Lessenski, an analyst at the Institute for Regional and International Studies (IRIS) in Sofia.

Bulgaria might well get excluded from judicial co-operation in the EU, Mr Lessenski indicated.

Gergana Noutcheva, an expert at the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS), said that Bulgaria "could have done more" in reforming its judiciary since the commission issued a warning last autumn.

"There has been talk about reforms, but there has been little real progress. They could have passed constitutional amendments changing the immunity of magistrates, but the judiciary has proved very resistant," she added.

Delay: a good idea?
Policy experts disagree on whether the one-year delay option is a good means to help the two states meet EU standards.

Ms Noutcheva said "keeping uncertainty on the entry date is a good thing because reform in these countries has always taken place under external pressure."

But IRIS' Mr Lessenski stated "a delay would cause a political crisis [in Romania and Bulgaria] which would rather lead to a stall of the reforms."

Katinka Barysch, policy expert at the Centre for European Reform, said the effect of entry delay would be hard to predict.

"The EU generally has more leverage to exert influence when a country is outside, but in this case, the countries would know that they would enter a year later anyway, so there's no real stick."

Being a Bulgarian citizen, it is more than frustrating for me, to come across such commentary.

Idiocy # 1:  

"France and the Netherlands will take their enlargement-wary public opinion into account when deciding on the option of a one-year delay on Romanian and Bulgarian accession, diplomats say."

Since when the Dutch and French public opinion is allowed to decide on my country's future.  The one-year delay of Bulgaria and Romania is a momentous step and, therefore, much more important factors should be taken into account when making such a decision.  What is more, in my view, public opinion is not reliable and should not be considered trustworthy, especially when making such a vital political decision. We all know that the general mass of people, the crowd, is not politically aware and knows little, if not nothing, of policy-making. How is it then justifiable to let people who are not politically sensitive to take political decisions? Politics is for politicians. They are the people that are entrusted with decision-making functions. True, public opinion is a powerful force. Unfortunately, the public is, more often than not, poorly informed, politically speaking, and cannot therefore make an educated decision. It is not my fault, or the fault of Bulgarians and Romanians, that French and Dutch citizens are uneasy over enlargement. There is no such thing as "uneasiness" mentioned in the Copenhagen Criteria, isn't it? Let me strengthen my point further: I believe that referenda are the silliest way ever devised to conduct policy.

Idiocy # 2

"Also in the event of EU entry next year, the accession treaties provide for an exclusion of Romania and Bulgaria from participation in specific EU policy areas - primarily justice and home affairs and parts of the internal market."

Jeeeez! What is wrong with you people? Well, yes, Bulgaria could have done more. Every EU country could have done more prior to accession. No EU member state is faultless in meeting EU standards. In fact, some of the FOUNDING members often break the laws that they themselves have created. This is why the Court of Justice is up to its chin overwhelmed with cases. If I am not mistaken, Article 3 of TEC explicitly states that the activities of the Community shall include a system ensuring that competition in the internal market is not distorted. Well, tell me, how on earth, Bulgaria would be excluded from participation in parts of the internal market but, somehow, competition would not be distorted? As I see it, this situation is in breach of Art. 3.  But, you respectable EU politicians know better. It is not your first time breaking a law.

Don't get me wrong, I am optimistic about the EU, I am also a European Studies student, and I do think that the European Union is a great idea.  But I also believe that there are some things which are profoundly wrong within the European Community. I am also aware, that it is impossible not to be this way, especially when it comes to politics.  But I also know that the Bulgarian people would be deeply disappointed with the EU, if the one-year delay clause is implemented. We did a lot, and it might not be enough for EU citizens and politicians, but it is a precedent in Bulgarian modern history. As the Bulgarian foreign minister recently put it, "In Bulgaria, miracles happen in the last minute. But they do!"

Comments >> (57 comments)

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