24. January 2013
by Heidi Beha
The election year in Germany is on: The parliamentary elections in the northwestern Bundesland (federal state) Niedersachsen marked a thrilling start on Sunday. The opposition coalition won only one deputy ahead. The result reminds a basketball score. 69:68 seats for the Social Democrats and the Green Party. Angela Merkel’s CDU which was in power together with the Liberal Democrats, FDP, lost 6.5 percentage points. Despite expectations that the FDP will not even manage the five per cent hurdle they performed very well. Achieving almost ten per cent they got 1.7 percentage points more than five years ago.
18. January 2013
In one of the previous blogposts my friend Ksenia described our debate in Hamburg concerning Katyn case recognized by European Court of Human Rights. Her remarks related mainly to a historical aspect of that crime. As I am a lawyer, legal side of the debate was equally important to me.
Just to stress the facts – in September 1939 Red Army invaded Poland with a backstabbing blow for the Polish army still fighting against the prevailing German forces. The Soviet Union encountered only some resistance from the scattered Polish army and together with the Nazis managed to divide Poland as it had been formerly agreed in a notorious Ribbentrop-Molotov pact. Between 20000 and 30000 Polish officers were imprisoned in NKVD concentration camps and executed in 1940 with a shot in the back of their heads in Katyn forest, Mednoye, Pyatikhatki and other still unknown places. After Hitler’s invasion on the Soviet Union and the discovery of mass-tombs, Germans were blamed for this slaughter by communist propaganda.
15. January 2013
Once upon a time, the European Union was considered an entity in charge of addressing market failures from a strictly technical perspective. The pursuance of the internal market was something about harmonising pipe standards and the like – a business for the technocracy and independent agencies. Time has shown that the EU exceeded this regulatory nature. Most obviously, the EU budget clearly benefited identified groups of people (farmers, inhabitants of depressed regions and perhaps researchers). Slightly less obviously, the functioning of the internal market promoted the interest of transnational companies and middle class mobile citizens over SMEs and those who don’t have the resources to exercise their right to free movement. Finally, more hidden perhaps, the Euro crisis has provided the EU with the powers to control the sound finances of its Member States, and even established the possibility of unlimited fiscal transfers between Euro countries.
08. January 2013
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London shrank faster than any other financial centre in the world – and, ironically was much harder hit than Germany. It almost felt as if I was personally being punished for having left my country when it was down! Technically, I could have gone back home. In practice the free movement of labour is not without restrictions. My beloved restriction measured 180cm and spoke French. I chose to stay in London, taking part in the merciless rat race for ever-fewer jobs. In the UK, graduate programmes more than halved their intake. Many firms stopped recruiting altogether, posting on their websites the infamous “Unsolicited applications will not be accepted.” The Milk round hit a dry spell. Initiating young people into the labour force, training them up, paying them a salary? These were now unaffordable luxuries.
07. January 2013
In one occasion, Aung San Suu Kyi said: “The true development of human beings involves much more than mere economic growth. At its heart there must be a sense of empowerment and inner fulfillment.” That made me reflect on how much of my focus in 2012 was on the economic crisis in Europe and on its effect on different countries and groups. Many discussions with colleagues – from different fields and professions all around Europe – ended with a conclusion that mostly even more disappointment, fear and frustration emerged due to societal dissatisfaction with the different measurements taken by their governments. It was an economic crisis, but not just that. Faith was lost.