Tuesday, 29 July 2014 00:00

Good Reads – 29/07/2014

Two of E&M's editors share articles that recently got them thinking about Europe. Diána kicks off by suggesting an interesting interview and also a book review that might just make you look at the news in a completely different way. Then it's over to Edgar, whose picks include an article on the difficulties of observing Ramadan in Norway.

Diána, Managing editor


Little green men with faces

When we read it was 'pro-Russian separatists' or 'Ukrainian rebels' who shot down the MH17 plane flying over their disputed territory, it is often extremely difficult to imagine who those people on the ground are and why they see it as a realistic political option to call their territory The People's Republic of Donetsk.

The fighters themselves often seem to be missing from media coverage. From a European point of view, it can easily seem rather confusing, almost absurd, to be willing to embrace the authoritarian ways of the Russian leadership. This is why an interview with one of the so-called 'little green men' – the imported fighters from Russia – is an immensely interesting read. In the article, Artur Gasparyan, an Armenian-born former fighter, tells us about the details of his service, the complete anonymity of Russian recruitment and the often extremely chaotic conditions of the fighting involved.

Though the interview is not completely clear on certain points – personally, I'm not sure I understood why he was willing to talk and whether his position about Ukraine has now changed – one message comes across plainly: that for many in the post-Soviet world the very category of separate nation states still does not make sense. In their eyes, there are no 'Ukrainians', only 'Slavs'. For Gasparyan and the others still fighting for the Soviet Union, twisting time and space is possible in the present. However alarming that thought may be, this is an angle we need to tackle if we wish to understand what is going on along those borders.

Published in Good Reads
Friday, 18 July 2014 00:00

The morning after the night before

Deutsche Flagge - klein
Photo: Tobias Melzer (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Not even German supermarkets could resist showing their colours


E&M reader Stefan Kreppel gives his personal take on Germany's World Cup win in Brazil.

It’s the morning after Germany won the most prestigious title in the footballing world. I’m sitting on the train on my way to work, slightly hungover. The woman next to me has got herself one of those special issues that newspapers produce on such occasions and is reliving the most important moments of this World Cup for the German team.

The smile on her face reflects the feeling most Germans are experiencing after four weeks of soccer: satisfaction. Having fallen at the final hurdle in the previous four international tournaments, the title seemed long overdue in the eyes of the team, its fans and especially the media. Being the odds-on favourite to win transferred a lot of nervousness to the players, as well as to the people watching the match on one of the countless big screen televisions set up at public venues back home in Germany.

Published in Reader Submissions
Tuesday, 15 July 2014 00:00

Good Reads – 15/07/2014

From the 100th anniversary of the First World War to elections in Slovenia, it's been a busy few weeks for Europe. Frances and Veronica, two of E&M's new editors, share articles that recently got them thinking about the continent. 


Frances, Sixth Sense editor



Something rather important happened on 27 June 2014. Game-changing, one might even say – if you can forgive the buzzword – for a good three million people. Ring any bells? It was during the summit of the EU heads of state, if that helps. Still nothing? All right, I'll tell you: it was the day that Albania was finally granted EU candidate status, some five years after its initial application for membership. And to be honest, I don't blame you if you haven't heard about it. By and large, most English-speaking media appear to have ignored this historic decision. At the time of writing, the BBC has not even updated its country profile on Albania to note that following a recommendation from the European Commission the small Balkan nation has indeed become a candidate for EU membership.


In fact, I only stumbled across one article – published in the English-language section of the Deutsche Welle – that really got to grips what the development means for Albania and its people. That said though, I'm not sure I entirely agree with the implication that Albania does not yet "belong to Europe". Surely to be European means more than simply living in a state where the rule of law is observed. And who's to say Albania isn't already European? Geography is certainly on the country's side; history too, I should have thought. Or are European credentials now measured purely in terms of EU membership? Somebody had better break the news to Switzerland...

Published in Good Reads
Monday, 07 January 2013 23:51

When the New Boss Came to Town

Just a few days before the parliamentary elections on December 9th 2012, the Romanian government quietly passed a controversial emergency ordinance reorganising the National Audiovisual Council (CNA). Far from going unnoticed, as Prime Minister Victor Ponta and his social-liberal coalition (USL) would have hoped, the imposed changes have sparked yet another fiery debate between media specialists, politicians and European institutions.

Facing public pressure, Ponta did not publish the ordinance in the Official Monitor of the government, therefore delaying its full implementation. Instead, he re-sent it to the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Public Finances for “improvements”. This doesn’t mean, however, that the matter is closed. Once the two ministries agree on ways to re-write the text, it will be out of anyone’s hands when and in what shape the document will be implemented, or how unexpectedly it will appear in the Official Monitor. The only person holding that decision is Victor Ponta.

The National Audiovisual Council would become an advisory body rather than a public authority.

One of the most feared changes in the ordinance by the members of the CNA is the one limiting the Council’s power to sanction television and radio stations, as well as programme suppliers, for breaching standards. Presently, the CNA is the only public authority able to take such measures. However, under the new regulations passed by government, any CNA sanction that is contested in a court of law will automatically be suspended until the case is closed – which might take up to two years, considering the length of Romanian court cases. Therefore, the Council would become an advisory body rather than a public authority, and its members would be unable to take effective measures when faced with a breach of standards.

Published in Under Eastern Eyes
Thursday, 22 November 2012 13:18

Good Reads 22/11/12

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."

Published in Good Reads
Saturday, 14 April 2012 14:37

Europe needs Aaron Sorkin

What if Europe had its own version of The West Wing? Could a thrilling fiction show like Sorkin's perhaps make the "behind the scenes" of the EU attractive and understandable for the average European?

When I asked my friends, the answers were all negative: "To begin with, you would need Europeans to speak the same language," or "you would need EU politics to be entertaining in itself," or my favourite, "that would be too American."

It's funny how whenever I come up with an idea based on something that is originally from the US, the argument against it is that it is "too American." After some months dealing with conversations about European identity, I keep noticing how we reject any inspiration from them, but how in fact, we define ourselves as opposed to them. That is, we take peace as our flagship, while the US has a wider acceptance of war; we are proud of our welfare system, as opposed to their "ferocious capitalism." Fine. But none of these will ever mean that we cannot learn from them in those fields they nail. Communication certainly being at the top.

The idea about Sorkin began fermenting last week, when I was disappointed in the lack of headlines about the Spanish general strike in pan-European media. If the issue was big enough for the Wall Street Journal to publish this interactive graphic narrating the struggles of the families in the crisis, why not for Euractiv? I wonder why foreign international media have more coverage of our stories than our own pan-European media.

Outlets like Euractiv or the European Voice mainly cover EU affairs, which does not necessarily mean European news. That is, the pan-European media we have developed so far is not really about Europe, but about the Brussels bubble. Like the institutions they cover, these media tend to be technical and target an elite, but not the general public which needs to be brought closer to the institutions.

While national media often fail to provide in-depth analysis because of their efforts to reach a general audience, pan-European outlets face the opposite problem. They have the right dose of technical and thoughtful analysis, but provide the citizenry with little ground for mutual understanding.

Published in Brussels Bubble
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