Thursday, 24 May 2012 07:01

Good Reads Author Special 24/05/12

Written by Leire Ariz and Ziemowit Jóźwik

This week, two of E&M's best writers share their favourite European reads. From blog posts to essays, it can be anything that amused them, worried them or got them thinking about Europe.


Ziemowit Jóźwik

"The nation (...) like a poor cripple at the cross-roads lying"

There has been much discussion about Ukraine in Europe recently. As long as the former "orange princess" Yulia Tymoshenko remains in jail after a politically inspired trial, many European leaders have decided to boycott the upcoming European Championship. The EU-Ukraine rapprochement seems frozen. If you're looking for detailed information on what's happening and what's going to happen in the near future between Ukraine, the EU and - of course - Russia, here are two must-read articles: The Centre for Eastern Studies discusses "The crisis in EU/Ukraine relations surrounding Tymoshenko" and Veronika Pulišová describes Ukraine’s "in-betweenness" ("Between Europe and Russia") in New Eastern Europe.

Reducing the democratic deficit

According to Article 11 paragraph 4 of the Treaty of the EU and Article 24 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the EU, the citizens of the EU have the right to invite the European Commission to submit the proposal of a legal act. As you probably know, since the 1st of April (the date the provisions came into force) several European Citizens' Initiatives have been announced. Perhaps these will be the primroses philosophers have dreamed of: the path towards transnational democracy or the European public sphere? Who knows. In any case, there's one initiative that you should pay attention to. On a blog with the exciting title Recent developments in European Consumer Law I found an article about the initiative "Fraternité 2020 – Mobility. Progress. Europe." It's brought forward by a youth initiative eager to persuade the Commission to enlarge the budget for EVS and Erasmus. We can only applaud and support! (And even though you might have no idea what CESL means and Directive 2008/48/EC might not sound very exciting - follow the blog mentioned above - we're all consumers, whether we like it or not...)

Greetings from the Iroquois of Europe

Finally, an article about something you've probably never heard of: the political traditions of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. A federal state of many nations, cultures and religions that in the times of absolute monarchies was governed by parliamentary assemblies and a king who was elected (by the whole nobility). How was that possible? To discover the interesting stories of the Golden Liberty principle or the intellectual origins of the first European constitution - whose anniversary was celebrated both in Lithuania and Poland a few days ago - I very much recommend "The heritage of Polish Republicanism" by Krzysztof Koehler in the Sarmatian Review.


Leire Ariz

A parable is just a parable!

"Consider a young couple who are contemplating marriage, but unsure whether to take the big step. So instead they decide to test things out by opening a joint bank account." Harvard professor Kenneth Rogoff used this metaphor to represent the European economic union started by France and Germany, in his column in the FT last month. The moral of the story (spoiler alert!) is that the monetary union was predestined to fail without a political union.

I found the analogy amusing, unlike the many readers who posted negative comments, and the many bloggers who toughly criticised Rogoff, including Nobel Prize Paul Krugman, who stated he'd "hoped better for Ken".

The critics said that the story was a cute look at the past, but offered few solutions. Also that it blamed cousin Kendra and the peripheral countries, ignoring the responsibility of the original couple. All fair and very interesting points.

But the most amusing aspect of the discussion was the seriousness with which all these economists took a p-a-r-a-b-l-e, which is far from a policy recommendation (if this is the economics coming out of Harvard, then it is no wonder the world's finances are in a mess!). The most important are not the details of the story, but the overall message that is transmitted: Europe needs a stronger political union. Let's not forget that some of the most important wisdom of our cultures is kept in traditional stories and sayings!

The emotions behind

The brainy article above can be well complemented by the emotions of those who suffer the consequences of whatever measures are being debated. Last week, Spain’s indignados celebrated the anniversary of the 15M movement. Since I keep thinking that the essence of their idea is misrepresented and too simplified, I strongly recommend this short documentary (with English subtitles) by one of my favourites Spanish outlets for this type of coverage: lainformacion.com. Notice that it is a year old and it does not show the latest developments, but the birth of a movement that has spread beyond Spanish borders. Beautifully shot and edited!

The Catholic priest who discovered he was a Jew

One of those real life stories that would make a great movie. It is 1943. A kid is born to a Jewish family in Vilnius (now Lithuania, then Poland), but is given to a Catholic family by his mum, who wants to save him from the Holocaust. Years later, and after having become a Priest, he discovers his true origins… Leaving the involved religions and countries aside, and focusing on the personal story, it is a complex reflection on identity and the way it is shaped when the way we are brought up clashes with our origins.

Last modified on Thursday, 24 May 2012 08:41

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