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Vote Match EU 2009

by pereulok Wed May 27th, 2009 at 04:48:27 AM EST


Through The European Magazine - Cafe Babel, I have received information of the "Vote Match" project, a dissemination project that aims at promoting European thinking in European citizens.

By answering a set of agree/disagree questions, the test establish which European Group within the European Parliament fits better with one´s own political/pan-European views.

I think it can be interesting for you all in two ways:

  1. Taking the test, and see what happens.
  2. Evaluating the test, and giving an opinion on whether the questions selected are relevant enough, there´s some issue missing, etc. etc.

I consider most of the pro European citizenship initiatives I know fairly uninteresting, but this one attracted my attention.

See test and results at Vote Match Europe 2009

Comments >> (24 comments)

Sponsoring Romania

by pereulok Sat Apr 25th, 2009 at 04:53:30 AM EST

During my last days in Romania there was a lot of debate on the change of country slogan: "Romania, simply surprising" has recently become "Romania, the land of choice", although only temporarily, until the national tourism brand will be ready.

A silly change, a silly issue? Well, nothing is so silly when talking of such a lucrative industry as tourism, that implies also decisions on the strategy and discourse of a country when it decides to promote itself, and that is clearly underdeveloped in Romania. I'm sure that any of us who have lived a little bit over there, and our visitors, will agree at least on that.

Nothing is so silly when:
  • The new slogan was launched in a concert of Bosnian Goran Bregović in Mamaia. OK, maybe a manele concert would have not been a right start, but they could have been chosen some fine local artist to become the voice of the campaign... By the way, it is funny for me that they chose a Balkan singer, no matter how great he is, as in Romania, certainly a crossroad, they stress the "Latin" heritage, forget the Slavic and Turkish ones and reject to be considered "Balkanic". Little Paris wants to be considered not only European but part of the heart of Europe. God knows what the hell that heart contains, though.
  • The national tourism brand, financed by European Funds (FEDR, POS CCE), will cost a lot, 75 million of Euros. An international auction has already been launched (or maybe I should say at last, because that funding started to be operative by the beginning of 2008), and the company in charge will be selected during the spring. A lot of money, and, so I heard by the radio, a previous story of dubious actions related to this contract, not exactly corruption but what in Spain we call "amiguismo" ("friendshipness").
National tourism brand? What is Romania nowadays? What does Romania want to be?

A few weeks ago I was in Constanţa while Romania and Serbia played a World Football Cup qualification match there. I don't pay much attention to football, but when I bump into a match (and its supporters) in that way, I usually pay my compliments, so I did watch this match on TV (Romania lost). What I noticed is that during this match the Romanian footballers wore a T-shirt with the logo of ALL the sponsors printed on it, not the clean one that is sold as merchandising, where only Adidas logo on it, not the clean one that was used last year at the UEFA EURO 2008.

There are quite a few, so the footballers looked like multi-purpose banners. But the sponsors, that can be checked also at the Romanian Federation of Football, are also quite significative:

  • Adidas. Sport clothes.
  • Ursus. Romanian brand of beer, controlled since 1990s by the breery SABMiller plc.
  • Raiffeisen Bank. Austrian Bank with a wide presence in all Central and Eastern European countries.
  • Pepsi. Refreshing drinks.
  • Dacia. Romanian brand of cars, currently part of Renault group.
  • Carrefour. French supermarkets that are spreading all over Romania.
  • Samsung. Corean brand of electronic equipment.
  • Gilette. Shaving razors.
  • Bigotti. Italian brand of clothes.
  • Konica Minolta. Photographic cameras
I would stress four of them: Ursus, Raiffeisen Bank, Dacia and Carrefour. Romanian flavours, financial markets, cars and hypermarkets. Modern, transnationalised Romanian consumer society. "National pride" (national team) supported by foreign investors, through their own brand or through Romanian ones they control.

But I suspect that if I take a deep look into other countries' symbols of pride, I would also find interesting situations...

Crossposted from Este-Sudeste

Comments >> (3 comments)

Changes in Bosnia?

by pereulok Fri Mar 13th, 2009 at 03:50:36 AM EST

I heard yesterday that the military operation in Bosnia is going to end, giving way to a civilian mission. There was an informal agreement being made on that at EU level, at some summit, that would be soon ratified. And the news continued, congratulating EU and Spain (it was Spanish TV) for the role played, and also considering the actual role of Bosnia in shaping the EU (and Spanish) concept of humanitarian military mission.

An then I wake up today, I browse some media as usual, and I read the comments of RFE/RL, that focus on other issues, with a less optimistic approach, even in the title:

Don't Envy The Next High Representative In Bosnia

So I thought to open a thread on Bosnia... I have the general knowledge of the issue that a newspaper-reading person in Europe has, but I´m sure people around here have interesting views to share...

Comments >> (38 comments)

Where to go?

by pereulok Sun Mar 1st, 2009 at 05:58:03 AM EST

I was reading today the blog of a Romanian friend, a post on the crisis and the day-to-day possible attitudes towards crisis. Well, to tell the truth, it was a post on despair, on "what can be done", an attitude that have many Romanians nowadays... I don't know if it's a feature on national political culture, like the Russian "shto delat" (что делать, that means "what is to be done"), or something that suits the times of political apathy, but I would define Romania as a country with a deep social depression. As a group, as as individuals, situation and feelings are lively, is just what I says. Kind of despair as a people.

Anyway, my friend offered a pair of options, in question marks, as they're not clear. One of them was: "where can we emmigrate?"

I thought that's a very good example on the Romanian socio-political attitude: as nothing can be done, let's leave the ship and save ourselves.

But she's quite right, isn't she? Where to emmigrate? Not to Spain, this year. Can anyone anywhere leave this ship?

Comments >> (8 comments)

Internal Displaced People in Europe

by pereulok Fri Feb 6th, 2009 at 04:45:48 AM EST

The IDMC (Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre) of the Norwegian Refugee Council has just published a new report PROTRACTED INTERNAL DISPLACEMENT IN EUROPE: CURRENT TRENDS AND WAYS FORWARD (January 2009). There´s currently 2,5-2,8 million people in that situation in Europe, according to IDMC data.

Internal Displaced People (IDP), people that has been forced to move (in mass, very often) within the boundaries of a state. These people, already in a sad and difficult situation, have the dubious honour of being second-class refugees (even amongst refugees there are classes): not having trespassed a boundary in their run, they are not, in fact, considered refugees under international law (that´s why the IDP terminology was created), and many protection charters don´t deal with them, many organisations forget them. Until very recently, ACNUR (United Nations Committee for Refugees) didn´t have IDPs within its mandate, and even now, the mandate is not as wider as the mandate regarding refugees. A similar fate is the one of people that suffer prosecution from their sexual option... As that is not included in the definition of human rights of the Universal Declaration (writen in 1948, when that wasnīt an issue that had reached social or political significance yet) the international protection is equally weak...

The existence of IDPs usually is a sign that something is happening, something has happened that haven´t been properly solved, something is up to happen... Something that, if only invoves IDPs and not refugees, governments and international organisations can more easily dismiss... It´s sooooo useful for our nice selective foreign-humanitarian EU external policy...

from the diaries - by afew

Read more... (9 comments, 523 words in story)

My national wise (wo)men of the 20th Century

by pereulok Wed Jan 28th, 2009 at 05:53:03 AM EST

I was reading a story from the Polish Sci-Fi writer Stanislaw Lem (you know, the writer of Solaris), and, as always, enjoying the high amount of philosophical, ethical and social elements underlying in science fiction. And thinking how strange for me was to be fond of a Polish writer... As someone I know would say, Poland isn't within my "surrounding countries", culturally speaking. That means that cultural background one get in Spain in High School years (the important ones for this), regarding not only literature but also history, focus in Europe, but Europe ending at the old Iron Curtain, getting Anglo-Saxon when you add US and sort of Spanish-speaking adding Latin America. If you ask me, Northern Africa and other parts are still not at that level, becoming part of our background only as "complaint areas" (areas where things happen you go to demonstrations to fight against).

So I wrote a Polish friend congratulating her for having such a wise man within her co-citizens... And we exchanged some e-mails on other wise Polish people.

So... I thought of proposing you a small, braimstorming post to promote recent wise men and women...

  1. 1 Not more than 5 names.
  2. Living in the 20th Century

Read more... (50 comments, 380 words in story)

Seismic Risk Management in Bucharest

by pereulok Mon Jan 26th, 2009 at 05:34:24 AM EST

The Municipality of Bucharest is one of the capitals with the highest seismic risk in the world, suffering the impact of the earthquakes generated in the Vrancea seismic source, at 150 - 170 km epicentral distance. Historical information over one thousand years suggests a rate of 2-3 damaging earthquakes per century. In the 20th Century, there have been four major Vrancea earthquakes: 1940 (7.7 Mw); 1977 (7.4 Mw); 1986 (6.9 Mw); 1990 (7.1 Mw).

The 1940 earthquake led to a first regulation of the Ministry of Public Works for earthquake resistant design (1943). On 4th March 1977, 21.20 local time, a 7.4-magnitude earthquake occurred, killing 1,570 people in Romania, and injuring around 11,000. The damages affected around 33,000 buildings and more than 700 factories, and were estimated by World Bank in two billion US dollars. Bucharest was severely affected: the earthquake caused the collapse of 32 buildings of 8-12 storeys, killing 1,424 people (90% of total casualties in Romania), while about 150 old buildings of 6 to 9 storeys were strongly damaged, many of them being subsequently demolished.

The earthquake especially affected tall (more than 6-7 storeys plus 2-3 setbacks) reinforced concrete buildings built in Bucharest historical centre before 1940, on the soft soil of the city centre characterized by a long predominant period of ground vibration (1.4-1.6s), and designed without earthquake requirements. However, cheap concrete shear wall constructions built after that date were also damaged, showing the inadequacy of 1940 regulation with regards to the actual earthquake threat in the area. Thus, anti-seismic construction requirements were raised; after 1989, the anti-seismic regulation was reviewed again, ruling out some unsafe building types still being built until that date.

The 1986 and 1990 earthquakes took place at noticeably different depths than the 1940 and 1977 earthquakes, and caused no remarkable damages in Bucharest; however, the risk of seismic catastrophe remains high, given the collapse probabilities of the existing pre-1940/45 buildings. In Bucharest there are 180-200 apartment blocks of this kind, with more than 27,000 inhabitants. In fact, only 40% of the population of Bucharest live in safe ductile buildings built after the 1977 earthquake: 1.2 million people are subject to different degrees of risk in case of earthquake.

Thus, anti-seismic policy, that has received constant support by international organizations and development agencies -World Bank funding and technical assistance from the Japanese JICA), is an important issue: amongst the prevention actions, the rehabilitation programme of Bucharest historical centre is one of the critical ones.

Promoted by DoDo

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ROMANIA - Electoral promises, the aftermath

by pereulok Tue Dec 23rd, 2008 at 12:52:21 AM EST

During the electoral campaign, huge, irresponsible promises were made. Now, it´s the new government's task to try to make them true (or, as a local journalist-showman, Micea Badea -In Gura Presei-, said the other night, to start the "yes but no" discourse).

Most of these promises were related with raising salaries to teachers, doctors, policemen... The raise of salaries for teachers beginning in October 2008 was approved by the Parliament in September. I wondered then:

  1. How the hell a responsible Parliament could make a promise compromising a budget, the one of 2008, that has received approval in January, and, with no extra incomes, no extra money to allocate to that raise.
  2. How the hell a responsible Government will be able to fit that salary raise in the next budgetary period, 2009. No doubt that salaries in Romanian education are low... However, no doubt either that Ministry of Education budget can´t easily handle such a raise (forget absolute numbers, let´s talk about the relative weight of the promise: a 50% rise, let´s not forget that).

So I'm now leaving Romania for Christmas, and at last found data answering my two hell questions:

  1. The raise from October was possible by transfering money already allocated for educational infrastructures (10% of the Ministry's total budget) to that raise. As a result: a) Ministry cannot pay some works already performed, but had not been invoiced before October. b) Ministry cannot begin pending works, school renovation, etc. And by the way, teachers have not received all the promised money yet (bureaucracy...)

  2. Inflation has been quite high in the last semester of the year; the RON/EUR rate in September was 3.6, more or less, and by the end of the year we have almost trespassed the psycological barrier of 4 RON/EUR. So well, if the tendency continues, maybe it will be able to raise the salaries after all... With no effect on teachers' welfare.

If you can´t have both, what's more important for education, good facilities or content teachers? Difficult decision... But there´s no need to promise anything if you´ll be having none. Think before talking. Make numbers before promising.

Crossposted from Este-Sudeste

Comments >> (3 comments)

Three Paradoxes Of Post-Soviet Moldova

by pereulok Thu Jul 17th, 2008 at 04:26:29 AM EST

I probably am the laziest "collaborator" of ET, but anyway I´ll continue my strategy if there´s no complains :)... That is, quoting some articles I find interesting and see if there´s comments and views...

This one is about that unknown country, Moldova (who knows sth from Moldova, please raise a hand, even in Romania or Russia, wine and little more is known).

Three Paradoxes of PostSoviet Moldova
Source: RFE/RL (www.rferl.org).
July 05, 2008
By Andrei Brezianu

Read more... (27 comments, 613 words in story)

Roma are Europe's Least Popular 'Neighbours'

by pereulok Tue Jul 15th, 2008 at 08:46:18 AM EST

Eurobarometer Survey, 1 July 2008. Summarized by Open Society Institute (LGI)

People of Roma origin are considered the least desirable neighbours in the European Union, a survey released in Brussels on Tuesday showed. According to the Eurobarometer survey of almost 27,000 EU citizens, 24 per cent of Europeans said that they would feel "uncomfortable" having a Roma neighbour, with half of them saying they would be "very uncomfortable." That figure is more than double the number who would not like to live next door to a homosexual, and four times more than those who would feel uncomfortable living next door to someone of a different ethnic background, the report said.

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Panorama of the EU

by pereulok Mon Jul 14th, 2008 at 02:25:06 PM EST

I'm doing a test on EU knowledge this week, so i'm browsing a little bit europa.eu, although I do know they will be asking things like "which of this articles talk about codecision" or "how many representative have the Committee of Regions". Who knows, maybe I'll be able to get some data into my clumsy head...

Anyway, there had been a long time I hadn't read the "EU abc" (http://europa.eu/abc/). And well, found the Panorama of the EU quite interesting, so life-is-beautiful... Here it is, some too easy EU marketing for you to complain of... if you feel like too, of course. We are in Summer, after all!

Read more... (3 comments, 369 words in story)

Dreaming on US help: a movie genre?

by pereulok Sun Jun 8th, 2008 at 06:13:03 AM EST

Hey, I´d like to get some help from you to try to do a movie listing.

I watched a few day ago a Romanian movie I liked a lot, California Deamin' (Nesfarsit), by Cristian Nemescu. This film, whose director was killed in a car accident before finishing production, won a Cannes award (Un Certain Regard) in 2007.

What's the film about? Romanians use to say that in 1945 they were waiting for Americans to come, but Russians came instead, and stayed. So, what happen when, after 50 years, in 1999, a group of American soldiers on their way to Kosov arrive to a lost village in the middle of nowhere?

This film reminded me of a Spanish classic, Welcome Mr. Marshall, shot in 1953 by Luis García Berlanga. Another painful comedy on a little village that prepares to receive the visit of Eisenhower during its first visit to Spain, as they have heard that the he´ll pass by the village
(Political context footnote: Ike's visit meant the end of the post Civil War Spanish international isolation, because of the fascist origin of the dictatorship, and the creation of the first US -later NATO- militare bases in Spanish territory. Not having participated in IIWW Spain was left out of Marshall aid and investment programme to postwar Europe).

Both films are terribly funny, terribly painful, terribly historically significant, showing a lot on external perception of "American Dream", "American way of life" and so on...

So I have started to think that it can be even a "minor genre" on similar movies... I came up, for example, with Everything is Illuminated, Liev Schreiber, 2005, which I think shares some features with these other two films, with very funny scenes based on Ukrainian sterotypes on American people...

Help me out with more recommendations, please!

Comments >> (10 comments)

Sharing fast food wisdom

by pereulok Sat Jun 7th, 2008 at 09:55:58 AM EST

Fast Food = cooked food that you buy in some kiosk to be eaten on your way...

  1. In St. Petersburg, in Koroblestroyteley Street, they have the best kebabs (Shaorma) in the world... Maybe because those where the first ones I tried, when I was 19 (b.G.: before Globalization arrived to Spain), and were eaten with appetite and in good company.
  2. In the Netherlands you can insert a coin in a machine and get a Coke, a coin in another one and get a chocolate bar, and then a last coin in a third machine and get a hot hamburguer... Not very tasty, by the way, with some Dutch "touch" in the sauce that didn't convince me at all. I would advice to get three chocolate bars instead and wait to reach some place and get a proper meal.
  3. In Britain Fish&Chips' fish is too greasy and quite disgusting... Chips fried in that same oil, I don't know why, taste very good, though, specially after pub crawling (half pub crawling in my case)! And, by the way, kebabs are much spicier than in other places in Europe I've been in... The Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi influence, I suppose.
  4. In Italy you can get a piece of pizza in every corner, Pizza al Taglio, and it costs differently depending on its weight. On kebab local specificities, I'm afraid, I don't know... But food at an Etiopian cafe is worth trying! (Although it's not fast food in that case...).
  5. In Romania fried chips are served INSIDE the kebab, all together with the meat, vegetables and sauce.
  6. In Madrid we get huge sandwiches filled with fried squids!! ("Bocata de Calamares")
  7. I´ve been told that hot dogs at Christmas market in Hamburg are gorgeous.

I would love to know your views on fast food delicatessen... Very useful and tasty information-sharing :)

Good appetite!

[editor's note, by Migeru] Cross-posted from Este-sudeste

Comments >> (34 comments)

Forgotten conflicts in Europe: Crisis Group report on Abkhazia

by pereulok Fri Jun 6th, 2008 at 07:55:20 AM EST

I just read the title of a recent report from Crisis Group on Abkhazian-Russian-Georgian conflict:

Georgia and Russia: Clashing over Abkhazia
5 June 2008
Moscow and Tbilisi need to cease military preparations in and around Abkhazia and cool their rhetoric lest their increasingly dangerous confrontation bring war to the Caucasus.
(full report)

It´s nice for a (once upon a time meant-to-be) social researcher to see that her papers don´t get old, yet I would like mine about Abkhazia, written in 2002, to become rubbish... Itīs so sad to feel like an expert of an issue I havenīt paid much attention for 4-5 years (time enough to many new generation phones and so on to get into the market...)

Because the date could as well have been 2003, or even 1998... Abkhazia, a non-recognized state since 1991, a non-state, a failing state, a puppet state... Lost in a mess of poverty and ethnic-cleansing, survival economy and local mafia, local low-intensity war ("clashes") and regional (and even international, in the context of the links of islamic extremism and Chechen radical groups...) power politics. A case to remember that is, sadly, forgotten. Just information now and then on crisis peaks, having more to do with bargaining in Georgia-Russia relations than with real change in the nature of conflict and situation.

Read more... (15 comments, 364 words in story)

PostCommunist, NeoEuropean elections: some thoughts on Romanian local elections

by pereulok Tue Jun 3rd, 2008 at 03:40:09 PM EST

I've been living in Romania since last February, trying, amongst other things, to understand the national political system, ideology, civic culture... It's quite complicated (and risky) to draw opinions on any country's social life, being new, being an outsider. Anyhow...

This Sunday (1st June) there were local elections (first round, second round when needed, as happened in Bucharest, will be held on 15th June); national elections will be held in the Autumn.

That means that I have suffered a colourful election in a city split into 6 municipalities, every one with its mayor, plus a general mayor to be elected. Imagine that one side of the Thames is ruled by one chap, and the other side by other... That's Bucharest. Now, imagine you have to decide on the future of the bus that links both riversides... That's Bucharest.

Read more... (40 comments, 715 words in story)

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