Thursday, 22 November 2012 13:18

Good Reads 22/11/12

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This week two E&M editors 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.


Velislav, Diaphragm editor

The EU deserved the Nobel Peace Prize...

Recently, the EU as an entity, and respectively each of its some 500 million citizens, has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. According to Tim Judah, who has been covering the Balkans for the past two decades, this was well deserved - the EU as a laureate was the "right choice at the right time." While admitting that it is facing considerable difficulties at present, he emphasises its significant security achievements – not only is a war between its Member States now unthinkable, but it has been central to the slow reconciliation between ex-Yugoslav Balkan countries. Citing the foreign ministers of Croatia, Macedonia, and Georgia - all countries that still look up to the EU - he makes a well argued case...

Or perhaps not?

The Economist on the other hand, is more suspicious about the achievements of the EU. The Charlemagne column stresses the current economic turmoil in the eurozone, subtly mocking the committee's choice - "Note that it does NOT win the Nobel Economics Prize."

While it is true that other actors like the US or NATO also aided many of the EU peace and security accomplishments (post-conflict resolution in the former Yugoslavia immediately comes to mind), it was arguably the Union itself that played the key role in subsequent events. It facilitated former Eastern bloc countries in their transitions and accession, and European integration of the Western Balkan countries is nowadays commonly seen as the only way to stabilise security in the region. And in the end, speaking as a European citizen, does it not feel at least a tiny wee bit better to be awarded a microscopic fragment of the Nobel Peace Prize?

Britain boggles at the budget

Perhaps as a surprise to some, a few weeks back, stranded Tories voted with Labour in the House of Commons on a demand a cut in the EU budget. John Palmer at The Guardian argues, nonetheless, that this was neither realistic nor wise. The chances of Cameron negotiating with the 26 other Member States for anything more than a freeze are virtually nil. Even though talk of a future British exit may seem far-fetched at this point, this will certainly marginalise them in Brussels even further. What is more, it would be against the UK's best interests not to reach an agreement on the multiannual financial framework 2014-2020 now, when each country has a right to veto. If negotiations fail, the budget will then be decided on an annual basis, and will be accepted by a qualified majority (55% of the votes, representing 65% of the population). Hence, if Cameron fails to secure a compromise deal, the British may easily be outvoted in subsequent annual budget discussions, which would probably lead to the UK being more and more sidelined in EU affairs.


Catarina, Baby editor

Sharing the blame

The European economic crisis is no news for us, but there is always something happening in a lost corner of Europe that might spark new discussion. Last week it was Portugal, with a video produced by a politician / TV commentator (only in German/Portuguese). The goal was to show Angela Merkel, during her five hour visit, how much Portugal deserves economic forgiveness.

The 4'55 video, that was also meant to be screened in Germany (but was wisely refused) shows, among other things, how Portugal has been a good "son" and how they have tolerated German economic misbehavior before.

This video is a great example of how to put a country in the EU spotlight. However, I do feel a little bit embarrassed, especially because I'm Portuguese, when this video fulfills its aim by means of blackmailing and putting the entire responsibility on one country (Germany) for the extremely negative economic and social period it's going through.

The EU is definitely in its darkest period and media coverage might not have been of great help. The example of Greece demonstrates particularly well how fellow EU countries have been producing biased media coverage. But it's not a one way crime and poor countries, like Portugal, may have themselves been telling wrong versions or very nationalised versions of an European truth. Definitely not an example of transnational journalism!

Movies rather than rain

November in my dictionary means rainy days and the documentary season. Therefore, I recommend the IDFA festival. The International Documentary Film festival of Amsterdam is one of the leading documentary festivals on the world and every year it brings an amazing buzz to the city. Imagine two weeks full of daily activities, with more than five screenings a day in several cinemas around the city (I recommend the Tuschinski cinema, one of the most beautiful cinemas I've ever seen), and where directors, producers, wannabe directors and wannabe producers meet up to show their work and to partner up for future projects (if you are interested in developing a documentary, you should definitely attend one of their workshops). Add to this a lot of enthusiastic fans from the Netherlands and all around the world, and then you'll get IDFA, definitely one of my favorite events on this city and a very special time of the year.

This year I definitely want to see two films, "Lovebirds – Rebel Lovers in India"  and "The world before her". Both are centered in India and confront issues like sexual and women's rights, and you can easily understand, my field of interest. "Lovebirds" dwells around stories of couples that decide to marry for love, against their family's wishes, and th  "The world before her" is about the competition Miss India and the strict regime of beauty care that these girls go through just to transform themselves into modern Indian women and to climb the social ladder.

USA v. EU - different perspectives on feminism?

According to the news, Britain has been invaded by the newest American TV phenomenon, "Girls." I have to confess, I have myself surrendered ONCE to this HBO miracle, mostly influenced by my male friends' opinion. You've read it right, a girl that started watching a sitcom called "Girls" because her (male) friends said it was the funniest show ever, groundbreaking themes and THE real portrait of 20-something hip modern girls.

I'm not sure whether this show presents the voice of a generation (as the author claims), or how pleased my feminist side is with the way young women are portrayed on screen. However, it's good to finally see two things in a commercially successful TV show: a not so good-looking main actress and the representation of sex as it is: it can be good, but it can also be bad and you can end up in bed with a guy who's a jerk.

Among other issues I have with the show, "The Guardian" has a good point criticising "Girls" and their almost fully white cast and how Britain may not be instantly seduced by this lack of multiculturality.

However, I do think it's a good show that has all ingredients to be a hit in Europe. But please, my dearest female audience, don't let yourself be mislead by this once-upon-a-time reality. And boys, girls are a little bit more normal than in this show.

Last modified on Thursday, 22 November 2012 20:51

If the Editorial team had an actual office it would have to stretch from the corner of Britain to the edges of Spain, Sweden, Germany and beyond. (With frequent trips to America too) .  The term 'from the editorial office' then, is very much a figure of speech. 

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