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The press often portrays the European Union (EU) as a remote, almost foreign authority which makes decisions and forces them on its member states. As a consequence, it often fails to portray the power of the member states in the EU decision-making process.
This debate involves two concepts: supranationalism and intergovernmentalism. Supranationalism refers to a large amount of power given to an authority which in theory is placed higher than the state (in our case this authority is the European Union). Intergovernmentalism focuses on the importance of member states in the process of creating EU-wide regulations.
“The debate involves two concepts: supranationalism and intergovernmentalism…”
In order to explore these notions in more detail, let’s go back in history.
The traumatic events that happened during World War II led Europeans to think about ways to prevent another war from breaking out. This reflection resulted in the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1951, establishing the European Coal and Steel Community (ESCS). Coal and steel are two major materials needed to build heavy armoury and therefore wage wars, so sharing those assets would theoretically block any intra-European wars. Political peace and its social benefits were to be achieved through economic partnership.
Nowadays, as the chemical attacks which recently took place in Syria prove, steel and coal seem outdated in the field of war.
In order to stay competitive and promote growth, the EU has gained decision-making power, and some laws are now taken at an EU-level and then imposed on member states. This supranationalism is different from what happened when the ECSC was created. Most of the time the Community required unanimity from all member states – an intergovernmental method.
We are back to our focus: supranationalism and intergovernmentalism.
As a whole the EU is the largest economy in the world and it is a unique political organisation combining supranationalism and intergovernmentalism.
The European Parliament and the Council of the European Union are two of its supranational bodies. To put it simply, after a vote, the majority result wins and all member states have to implement the decisions that have been made.
On the other hand, this mechanism is pondered by some regulations applying intergovernmentalism in some fields such as: taxation, the accession of new states, and the common foreign and security policy. When it comes to those areas, unanimity is required and no one decision can be forced upon a state.
In order to make a partition between supranationalism and intergovernmentalism, the Treaty of Maastricht, signed in 1992, introduced the principle of subsidiarity.
This principle states that the EU can only take actions when it is most relevant for it to do so. Thus, each time when discussing a new regulation the EU must prove that this decision would be more effective if taken at the EU-level than at a national level (and by doing so, the EU dismisses any claim that it would take decisions for instance only for the UK, France or Italy).
Yet, this does not happen without any problems. When it comes to energy, even though joining our forces seems sensible because it makes the EU more competitive, therefore leading to growth and the creation of jobs in the long term the case of Germany and the Netherlands have recently shown the negative short- and medium-term effects of such strategies. Recently, Germany overproduced electricity and exported massively to the Netherlands where, as a consequence, some energy producers became obsolete and had to lay off some workers because they could not afford to pay them anymore.
The economic aims of the EU have overpowered its political and social ones, but this situation is more complex than it seems. Economic achievements go hand in hand with social development, and in a globalised world social benefits are still acquired through economic growth.
It is therefore wise to ask yourself: Should the EU as a whole be more efficient by gaining more power (supranationalism) or should each country’s interests come before the EU’s even though this could reduce this country’s influence in a globalised world?
“Are globalisation and the EU flattening our differences and turning us into relatively similar human beings?”
This will surely lead you to wonder: Are globalisation and the EU flattening our differences and turning us into relatively similar human beings thus losing our diverse cultures and traditions?
A question I will try to answer in my next column.
Paul is from France and graduated in British and American Literatures, Civilisations and Linguistics from the Sorbonne (Paris) spending the last year of his undergraduate diploma in Edinburgh, Scotland. A Euroculture student from September 2011 to July 2013, he studied at the Universities of Strasbourg (France), Udine (Italy) and Pune (India). He is curently working at the French Chamber of Commerce in Great Britain as Publications and Communications Assistant. His interests go from EU politics and Franco-British relations to Scottish Civilisation and Gender Studies.
The European Parliament offers a space for dialogue to politicians with different backgrounds and perspectives. It provides a forum for them to debate constructively their ideas, because they have to work together within a common group.
The European Union (EU) consists of different cultures, countries, nations and languages. It is diverse and this diversity reflects the multitude of political systems, working in accordance with their own rules and regulations.
France, for instance, is a unitary semi-presidential republic. Indeed, in contrast to a federation pulling together different political units and a federal government coupled with more local governments (like Germany or the United States of America), France has one constitution effective across its entire territory. It is semi-presidential because the President shares her or his power with the Prime Minister.
The United Kingdom (UK), in comparison, despite being also a unitary state, is a Constitutional monarchy. Currently, its head of state is Queen Elizabeth II and the country is governed under a body of laws, and not a constitution. To complicate things, the process of devolution gave Scotland its own Parliament, and Northern Ireland and Wales their own Assemblies.
“For example, a unitary semi-presidential republic and a Constitutional monarchy exist together in the EU…”
Several national political parties, classified according to their positions on economic and social issues, can be gathered in European-wide political groups. Currently and until the next European Parliament election in 2014, nine different political groups are present in the EU Parliament.
A strategic choice must be made: national parties must decide whether their elected Members of the European Parliaments (MEPs) should join a European political group in order to gain size, supporters and votes. If they do not, the MEPs fall into the Non-Attached Members, the ninth political group – marginal and therefore often more boisterous.
Thus, the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats group is presently made up of the Party of European Socialists and three unaffiliated national parties. Within the Party of European Socialists, the French Socialist Party and the British Labour Party work together.
French culture is famous for its anti-Americanism. The word liberalism in the XIXth century was used to refer to the Orléanist movement wishing for the return of a monarchy after the French Revolution. Given that the 14th July is the French National Day associated with the storming of the Bastille, and consequently the Revolution and the end of the monarchy, it is clear that ‘liberal’ had negative connotations for the majority of the French population.
“It was no surprise when De Gaulle vetoed the entrance of the UK into the EU…”
This mind-set surely influenced modern French politics, and it was no surprise when De Gaulle vetoed the entrance of the UK into the EU both in 1963 and 1967, describing the UK as ‘America’s Trojan horse’ and thus hinting atthe indirect entrance of liberal American ideas.
Last week, coming back from work, I was reading the Metro in the tube. Non-surprisingly, I stumbled across a Eurosceptic article. It presented the EU project to introduce a tax on financial transactions, and the EU proposal to cap bonuses paid to bankers to 100% of their base salary (or 200% if shareholders approve):the article referred to both as ‘stupid’.
On that very same day, a French company moving its headquarters to London did not allow my work division to publish an article on the matter. The former knew that if this information came out publicly, the French media and the majority of the public opinion in France would strongly criticise that move, immediately assuming it must have been motivated by the wish to pay less taxes.
Two visions – worlds apart.
It has often been repeated that there is no major left-wing party in British politics. On the other hand, despite criticisms from French voters over the centrist or rightist policies the French government has put into place since its election, the French Socialist Party is a left-wing party in the country where education is free.
All this gives us insight into why it is hard, at first, to imagine the French Socialist Party and the British Labour Party working together in one group.
Yet, the Party of European Socialists is what the European Parliament provides.
“The European Parliament offers a space for dialogue…”
The European Parliament offers a space for dialogue (as opposed to criticisms and condemnations) to politicians with different backgrounds and perspectives. It provides a forum for them to debate constructively their ideas, because they have to work together within a common group.
It is clear that petty criticisms based on the form of the debate rather than its content exist in EU politics.Nevertheless, this happens much less than in national politics, due to the scale of EU politics and its diversity forces for cooperation and discussion.
My European Union, through one of its legislative bodies: the European Parliament, theoretically allows 377 MEP, 9 different European-wide groups representing more than 100 national political parties to express themselves and thus as many different inputs and ideas.
Paul is from France and graduated in British and American Literatures, Civilisations and Linguistics from the Sorbonne (Paris) spending the last year of his undergraduate diploma in Edinburgh, Scotland. A Euroculture student from September 2011 to July 2013, he studied at the Universities of Strasbourg (France), Udine (Italy) and Pune (India). He is curently working at the French Chamber of Commerce in Great Britain as Publications and Communications Assistant. His interests go from EU politics and Franco-British relations to Scottish Civilisation and Gender Studies.
‘Eurobubble’ is a web mini-series, which unveils the lives of young European Union (EU) professionals. What lies ‘inside’ the Eurobubble then?
As the capital of the European Union (EU) institutions, Brussels has always been an attractive place to work for many Europeans and non-Europeans alike; including not only “Euroculturalists” studying MA Euroculture but also graduates from other fields of study. It offers many possibilities to start a career in EU affairs and has the highest percentage of foreigners in the whole of Belgium. With the recent economic crisis in Europe, it seems that it is becoming all the more attractive as a place to work for young graduates and professionals from all over the world. The fact that a high percentage of fellow MA Euroculture graduates are seeking to start their career with a traineeship in one of the EU institutions or in an EU-affairs related Non Governmental Organisation (NGOs) is just one example.
At the same time, there are many stereotypes about life in Brussels, the most common being that all EU professionals (or ‘Eurocrats’, as they are more commonly called) and also EU-related professionals, for example in NGOs and consulting agencies, are geeks who are often underqualified and overpaid. This brings up the question of whether these stereotypes are true and what life in Brussels is really like. One of the best, most recent and more original attempts of answering these questions and providing a ‘view behind the scenes’ is the web mini-series “Eurobubble”, which was initiated by a group of young European professionals and originally started out as a blog.
“Eurobubble? For young Eurocrats and EU-affairs professionals, life takes place in a city within a city…”
The title “Eurobubble” refers to something which many people who have lived or are still living in Brussels can clearly identify with without the need for explanation. For young Eurocrats and EU-affairs professionals, life takes place in a sort of ‘city within a city’, which is limited to contact amongst themselves. It rarely involves local Belgians, and from the outside is seen as a picture difficult to define and even harder to understand – something which equates to a “bubble”.
At first glance, the web mini-series simply portrays the lives of young Eurocrats in Brussels from an ironic perspective and shows all kinds of daily experiences, including job hunting, attending meetings and conferences, finding love, and going out in the evenings. The story is told from the perspective of one young graduate, it begins from the moment he moves to Brussels searching for a new job. His role is played by the main producer and screen writer of the series, Yacine Kouhen. The audience is never told the protagonist’s name; instead, he is simply called “the Policy Officer” after his job title.
“There is a certain peculiar life style and rituals that make life in the Eurobubble worth living…”
At second glance, however, what becomes apparent is the fact that there is a certain peculiar life style and ‘rituals’ that make life in the “Eurobubble” worth living, helping to establish a common feeling of belonging. Most young professionals who come to Brussels have a common interest in working in an international environment, and getting to know people from all over the world. Many of them speak more than one foreign language and, as shown in one of the “Eurobubble” episodes, have spent at least one semester as an Erasmus student abroad. Yet it is not only their common past experiences and education which help them to integrate more easily into this ‘city within a city’. They also share the feeling of being foreigners in Brussels who are disconnected from the rest of the city and ‘normal’ Belgians (those born Belgian); and the mini-series truly exceeds in capturing this particular mood.
Furthermore, most of the young Eurocrats start out as trainees in one of the EU institutions, or as interns for one of the many NGOs and lobby organisations which have established themselves around the institutions. “Stagiaires” (the French word for interns), as these interns and trainees are commonly called in Brussels, often have to make ends meet with a low or non-existent salary in a city where the living expenses are amongst the highest in Europe and the rents are often (and sadly) somewhat disconnected to what people can actually pay. A recent outcry against unfair internship conditions took the form of a number of demonstrations under the name of “sandwich protests”. These protests were organised by Brussels interns this past July and unveiled the fact that, for their lunch, many interns are forced to gather free sandwiches from conferences and events due to their insufficient or non-existent salaries.
What is indeed left for these young “Eurobubblers” is a great number of activities, the most important of all being “pluxing”. “Pluxing” involves a weekly meeting of stagiaires and young professionals for happy hour on Thursdays at bars in the Place du Luxembourg PLUX, right behind the European Parliament. According to ”Eurobubble”’, “pluxing” is not only about getting to know new people, flirting, and asking for phone numbers, but also about networking.
“Because of networking, one is never more than three degrees separated from a potential new employer…”
At the same time, of course, what makes life in Brussels worth living is the possibility of starting a well-paid career and finally leaving the ‘stagiaire life’ behind. Many young professionals dream of meeting someone through the many opportunities of networking, be it at a conference or at PLUX, and finally making their way into one of the EU institutions or NGOs. “Eurobubble” even states that because of networking, one is never more than three degrees separated from a potential new employer or an important personality who could help with getting a well-paid job.
“However, there are exceptions to this rule…”
Having already completed two internships in Brussels, I can agree that “Eurobubble” provides a good, entertaining, and funny overview about what daily life in Brussels as a young professional or stagiaire is like, and how it resembles a life in ‘a city within a city’. However, one also has to take into account that there are exceptions to this rule. A sense of belonging to a certain place can happen through various other experiences one connects with that place. These are usually more personal and might be less related to the general shared experiences of “Eurobubblers”. An individual might, for example, connect their sense of belonging to certain favourite spots they have discovered in the city, such as cafés or bars, sights or museums, or simply the flat they are living in. Moreover, they might even go so far as to leave the “bubble” and get to know locals from “outside the bubble”. In this sense, one can argue that it is possible to work in Brussels as a European professional but connect to what is happening outside of the “Eurobubble”.
After the release of the last episode of the web-series last month, the producers of “Eurobubble” published a call for contributions and stories on their website and Facebook page in order to create a more fleshed-out series next year with the help of a collective writing team. That said, it will be interesting to see what “Eurobubble” still has in store, considering that stories can come both from personal life and serious politics.
Susanne Wander is from Germany, where she completed a BA in European Studies at the University of Passau with majors in Political Science and English studies as well as a semester abroad in Wales and an internship in the European Parliament in Brussels. She studied Euroculture at the University of Groningen (the Netherlands) and the University of Göttingen (Germany) and completed an internship with the NGO European New Towns and Pilot Cities Platform (ENTP) Brussels. Her interests include European identity and politics, especially in the context of transatlantic relations. She loves travelling and living abroad but is also deeply rooted in her German home region of Franconia. This is also why she is convinced that it is possible to combine regional and national identities under a shared European identity.
The Museum of European Cultures emerged in 1999 from the Museum of Folklore and the European section of the Museum of Ethnology. The collection counts around 250,000 objects. Its small exhibition can be seen as an introduction to European cultures for new MA Euroculture students or as a revision for “Euroculturalists”.
Does European identity exist? The question has come up thousands of times during the MA Euroculture Program, but maybe only a few people know that there is a museum dedicated to it. I am not talking about the Parlamentarium, the Visitors’ Centre of the European Parliament inaugurated in Brussels which presents different exhibitions on two topics, EU institutions and EU integration, but about the Museum of European Cultures in Berlin. The latter is an ethnographic museum, which is part of the Dahlem Museums, and thus of the National Museums in Berlin. The Museum of European Cultures emerged in 1999 from the Museum of Folklore and the European section of the Museum of Ethnology. The collection counts around 250,000 objects. Its small exhibition can be seen as an introduction to European cultures for new MA Euroculture students or as a revision for “Euroculturalists”.
The itinerary of the permanent collection “Culture Contacts. Living in Europe” indeed explores the cultural contactsand cultural diversity from the nineteenth century until today. A Venetian gondola from 1910 symbolically leads the way. It represents trade, migration, travel, and cultural identity. The exhibition begins with the theme of “migration”. The Earth is described with the words of the German historian Karl Schlögel as a “planet of nomads”. A big plastic Doner Kebab, dish introduced in the 1970s by a former Turkish “Guestworker”, is taken as symbol of cultural contacts through food. Borders: What do they stand for? What is their meaning?
“The Earth is described as a planet of nomads and a big plastic Doner Kebab is taken as symbol of cultural contacts through food…”
Another section is dedicated to cultural localisation and folklore. Typical textiles from Spain, Czech Republic and Greece are exhibited. But also music such as the traditional songs from Sardinia can be heard. Besides the “Gondola” another means of transportation – the beautiful hand decorated “Carretto Siciliano” – a Sicilian cart, stands there. Furthermore, funny cartoons show the stereotypes of all the different nationalities in Europe. The exhibition also warns about the phenomena of populism and conflicts.
On the wall the photographs of the German artist Sabine Von Bassewitz, part of her collection “Unisono”, show the gatherings of different kinds of people with the same passion, standpoint or affiliation, thus exploring the meaning of community. Communities are in fact the kernel for cultural production and cultural interaction. A similar exhibition on communities could be found at the Museum of Cultures of Basel, Switzerland. Another artist, the Berlin fashion designer Stephan Hann, investigates the issue of transnationalism. He presents a particular dress named “Europakleid”, which is made of pictures, maps, textiles, and items of different origins in Europe.
“Communities are in fact the kernel for cultural production and cultural interaction…”
The Museum of European Cultures also dedicates a section to religion, in particular focusing on Christianity and Islam. It exhibits Nativity scenes from Poland, France, Italy, and Germany along with votive paintings, but also Ramadan calendars. The interactions between Muslims and Christians are highlighted. The last room is dedicated to the huge mechanical Nativity scene from the Erzgebirge.
Through a scientific lens the permanent exhibition presents different items and topics, and prepares the table for discussion. On 2nd August was the inauguration of the temporary exhibition “I’m not Afraid of Anything”, which comprises ofone hundred portraits of European youths from Portugal, Moldova, Romania, Italy, Iceland, Germany and the United Kingdom, accompanied by interviews that were realised by Edgar Zippel. What are their dreams? What are their fears? Are they the same as yours?
“You might find inspiration for your IP paper, Master’s Thesis or a topic for an interesting talk with friends…”
If you are a Euroculturalist, you probably won’t remain astonished by the exhibition but it is still worth it. Do as I did: go there with another MA Euroculture colleague or maybe a friend outside of the Euroculture-bubble;maybe you will find inspiration for your IP paper, Master Thesis or just for an interesting talk that you could lead with a friend who does not know anything about it. The museum poses questions. So what is your opinion about European identity?
Museum of European Cultures
Student price 4 Euro
U-Bahn U3 (Dahlem-Dorf), Berlin
Bianca Rubino, Exhibition Editor
Bianca is Italian with Swiss roots. She studied BA Humanities for the study of Culture in Modena, Italy, and went on Erasmus to Malmö, Sweden. She studied in the University of Groningen and the University of Strasbourg as part of her MA Euroculture Programme. She did an internship at Interarts, based in Barcelona, Spain, in the field of cultural project management and cultural policy. Currently, she is participating in European Voluntary Service (EVS) Programme in Romania. Her interests are anthropology, sociology, artistic and cultural life and institutions, cultural management and policy, and many more. She has the smallest feet a girl ever had.
I land in the centre of Europe. A small airport welcomes me back home.
When I think of my country, I always picture a charming lady. She has an entangled past to share with travellers.
Long ago Belarus used to be part of a huge powerful country, which comprised of Poland, Belarus and Lithuania. The state was the second one in the world that adopted a Constitution in 1791, and was recognised as a cultural and military centre of Europe for many centuries. A huge part of that culture remained forgotten and silent for a long time, but now it is slowly waking up from the period of integration with the other 14 soviet states, which affected several generations of the state’s culture.
A small shuttle brings me to the closest metro station. Just a while ago, all the station names were dubbed in English to make it more convenient for travellers. The other two main languages you will find are Russian and Belarusian. They both are equivalent, according to our Constitution, but people are using Russian more these days. When parents have the option to choose education for their children in one of the languages, Russian becomes more prevalent due to the Customs Union and the economic relations between Russia and Belarus.
“Belarusian definitely shares more roots with the western languages than Russian.”
Belarusian, in fact, is markedly different from Russian. I remember one time when I stayed in Warsaw, to my surprise after several days I started to understand the language and could say simple sentences like “No, I am not getting off the bus now”. Compare the words “paper” in English and “papera” in Belarusian with “bumaga” in Russian. Belarusian definitely shares more roots with the western languages, and proper Belarusian speech is very hard to comprehend for Russian speakers.
I get off the metro in the middle of Minsk, at its only ancient part – Nemiga. The Second World War destroyed the city and it was all rebuilt from scratch in 1944, modelled in line with the best Soviet architectural traditions. My great-grandfather used to tell me that when standing on one edge of the city he could see quite far – there were no roads or high buildings to block the view at all. Walking along the Svislach River, I look at the row of ancient remains of Troitskoye Predmestye (Trinity Suburb), where the families of famous Belarusian writers like Kupala and Bogdanovich once lived; these days the sight attracts brides and girls who crave for a new Facebook profile picture.
“The Second World War is a huge part of the history of the country…”
The Second World War is a huge part of the history of the country. From 1941 – to 1944 the country was occupied and people kept fighting as they could: in cities and in forests. There are many remarkable monuments from that period. Visit Brest Fortress, for instance, where you can read the words written by a dying soldier “I’m dying but I won’t surrender. Farewell, Motherland. 20.VII.41” , which really makes the blood in your veins freeze. Another breath-taking place is Khatyn, which until 1943 was a typical Belarusian village to the northeast of Minsk. On 22nd March 1943 it was burnt to the ground killing all of its inhabitants. There were many villages that, just like Khatyn, were never rebuilt after the war.
The post-war Soviet period was a very controversial and difficult time for the culture of the country. Nevertheless, even with all the Soviet drawbacks, the government managed to save the country that was destroyed by the war. Many famous factories and plants, schools and universities opened during that period.
“The Soviet Union disappeared from the map. The predictability of life disappeared together with it.”
The state has changed a lot in the past 20 years. The Soviet Union disappeared from the map. The predictability of life disappeared together with it. Borders fell down. There were many possible ways of development for the country to choose from, a huge variety of things to do and to believe in.
As I walk along the river to my apartment, I see many people on bicycles. Belarusian people are slowly letting their identity show. There are many festivals and sport events which are held in the city, and I am very happy to be part of the huge Erasmus Mundus community of Belarus.
Two German guys ask me for directions, and I am glad to show them around. Many tourists come to the country to see the main lakes: the lake Narach, which is the largest lake in Belarus, and the Braslau Lakes, a unique lake system that attracts fishermen from all over the country.
“Foreigners sometimes get scared of our ‘strong’ currency, but…”
From a local grocery shop, close to my apartment, a loaf of bread costs 8,000 Belarusian Roubles; 1 Euro amounts to 11,500 Roubles. Foreigners sometimes get scared of our ‘strong’ currency, yet after getting a breakfast for less than a Euro, it is funny to realise that all the Belarusians are millionaires!
I finally reach my flat and sit comfortably on the bed with my laptop. I look at the smiling faces of my European friends on Facebook. Many of them keep saying that visiting Belarus is very hard due to the strict visa policy between the European Union and Belarus. I would respond that this paperwork is possible to do if you want; and it can never keep friends apart.
“Belarus, a young country with blue lakes for eyes in her early twenties again.”
Belarus is now in a beautiful transition period from its post-Soviet state: a young country with blue lakes for eyes in her early twenties again, looking for her identity and trying all of the new opportunities she has ahead. So if you are open to breaking stereotypes, you want to see some very atypical architecture and to explore a new culture – you are more than welcome to Belarus. We will meet you, show you around, and definitely have the craziest nights after eventful days.
Nadezhda Fomenok, Contributing Writer
Nadezhda is a senior year private international law student, living in Minsk, Belarus. From 2011 to 2012, she studied in Bilbao as an Erasmus Mundus exchange student. This experience helped her develop new interests, among which are the culture of the European Union in the view of integration and how Belarus could be a part this process. Nadezhda dreams of successfully graduating from her course in 2014 and finding her own way in the big world. In her spare time she reads Paulo Coelho and sketches her greatest ideas.
How can European-level democracy work in reality? How should it relate to the established national political spheres and identities in Europe? How can a European political sphere be established?
As a Euroculturer, you will have certainly come across these and other questions on the legitimacy of the European integration process. The following article presents how European-level political foundations concretely work with these issues – and how you can perhaps contribute to their projects as an intern.
Daan Hovens │ firstname.lastname@example.org
Political foundations exist on both the national and the European level. They are organisations that are allied to, but independent from, political parties. The size, functioning and societal impact of political foundations varies widely, but their core tasks are usually based around political education, in the broadest sense of the word. This includes, for example, organising seminars, conferences and public discussions, as well as disseminating publications, launching websites and running social media accounts. With some political foundations, tasks can even go as far as political consultation, international development cooperation, and distributing education and research scholarships.
“The core of political foundations’ tasks are usually based around political education, in the broadest sense of the word.”
Political foundations are almost entirely financed by public money, which should make it possible for them to work quite independently and based on the political ideology they identify with. Due to this independence, political foundations can help to insure that a variety of ideological perspectives is represented in the public sphere, and that citizens’ political education is not dominated by only one single ideology. Since political foundations also contribute in engaging citizens in general, some people view these foundations – at least in theory – as crucial elements in the establishment of a democratic political culture.
Why European-level political foundations?
Yet, in different national contexts, citizens and authorities have different ideas about the added value of political foundations. As these foundations are mostly financed with public money, their size differs widely across countries. Perhaps not surprisingly due to its 20th century history, Germany stands out as a country where political foundations are strongly subsidised by the state and therefore relatively powerful.
Concerning European-level political foundations, the European Parliament has financed such foundations since 2008. The motivation behind this seems obvious as the European political sphere is still weak while European-level decision-making has become ever more meaningful for the daily lives of EU citizens. The main goal of European political foundations can be defined, in other words, as to bridge the often experienced ‘gap’ between the EU and its citizens.
“The main goal of European political foundations is to bridge the ‘gap’ between the EU and its citizens.”
Naturally, Eurosceptics could put this in a different perspective: questioning the assumed ‘general interest’ of establishing European-level political foundations, and criticising the legitimacy of European-level foundations having an impact on the national political sphere. On the other hand, Eurosceptics can also make use of the right to establish European political foundations in order to spread their own ideological perspectives. This has already been done in the shape of, for example, “New Direction, the Foundation for European Reform”.
How much should ‘Europe’ spend on European-level political foundations?
Still, legitimating the use of public money – and more importantly, how much public money – to subsidise political foundations can be a sensitive issue in current European debates. In reality, although the budget of European political foundations has gradually increased since 2008, this financing is still limited to a maximum of about 4 million euro – the amount received by the political foundation allied to the largest political group in the European Parliament (the centre-right European People’s Party). This is more than the money that, for example, the Dutch authorities spend on their national political foundations, but it is only a fraction of the annual subsidies received by the German centre-right Konrad Adenauer Foundation, which is more than 100 million euro.
“Although the budget of European political foundations has gradually increased since 2008, this financing is still limited to a maximum of about 4 million euro.”
An advantage of the limited budgets is that they encourage European foundations to cooperate with national foundations, which could bring the political discussions on both levels closer together. A disadvantage, on the other hand, is that due to the strongly differing national circumstances, national foundations from states that spend much money on these foundations (such as, as mentioned above, Germany) might hold a rather powerful position within the European networks this way, as the possibility of carrying out certain projects could become financially depending on their willingness to cooperate.
“Another criticism comes from the fact that the current system may help, in other words, to conserve the existing power division.”
Another criticism towards the financing system of political foundations comes from the fact that the amount of public money that a foundation receives depends on the size of the foundation’s affiliated political party in the European Parliament. This means that the current system benefits the spread of ideological perspectives of parties that are already well-represented in the Parliament, whereas it is more difficult for new and smaller parties to present their ideological perspectives in the public sphere. The current system may help, in other words, to conserve the existing power division. Yet, it seems difficult to come up with a financing system that appears fairer, as the current situation can at least be legitimated by the outcome of supposedly free and open democratic elections.
What concrete projects do European political foundations work on?
“Let’s have a look at some of the projects carried out by these foundations to tackle the questions…”
Another way to tackle the question of the legitimacy of spending public money on European-level political foundations is to have a look at the concrete projects carried out by these foundations. I will name three examples of projects here that I have contributed to myself as an intern for the Green European Foundation (GEF) in 2012.
First of all, GEF runs a website called the “Campaign Handbook”, on which it gathers campaign experiences of (mainly) European Greens and NGO actors. Together with some theoretical information on how to set up an effective campaign, this serves to inspire and help anyone who is interested in becoming politically active – especially in those countries where Green issues do not play a prominent role on the political agenda.
Secondly, GEF organises an annual seminar, the so-called “Toolkit for the European Green activist”, which brings together young Green activists from all over Europe for three days of workshops, discussions, interactive classes and guided tours in Brussels. The idea behind this is to make young activists with different national and regional backgrounds more aware of the functioning of European-level decision making, as well as their own opportunity of engaging in this decision-making process. Within this context, the annual seminar can also serve as a potential for young Green activists to set up a European network.
Lastly, GEF regularly organises expert seminars, for example a seminar on “Populism in Central and Eastern Europe”. Since populist parties have become quite prominent in several European countries in recent years, it can be useful for Green actors throughout Europe to exchange opinions on whether one can speak of this recent populism as a truly ‘European’ (or perhaps rather ‘Western European’ and ‘Central/Eastern European’?) phenomenon, and to exchange experiences on how to deal with the political challenges that Green parties face when dealing with populism. With these goals in mind, the seminar is mainly aimed at an academic audience, as well as certain people involved in Green politics. After the seminar, a publication reflecting the input and conclusions from the seminar discussions is made publicly available by GEF.
If you are interested in different European-level political foundations and if you want to know more about their activities – and perhaps even look for the possibility to work as an intern there – you can find the websites of all thirteen European political foundations via the following links:
During the first 18 years of his life, Daan practically lived on the Dutch-German border (just slightly at the Dutch side), in a village called Tegelen. Having this in mind, it may not come as a surprise that he has studied Euroculture and German. Besides that, he has a background in Scandinavian languages and cultures, which he decided to study out of his love for films, music and languages from Northern Europe. Daan’s two Euroculture Universities were – for obvious reasons – Göttingen and Uppsala, and he also did a research track at Osaka University. The internship for the Green European Foundation in Brussels was Daan’s first work experience after graduation.”
In the spring of 2006, I was accepted to the MA Euroculture programme in Poland. Childhood memories suddenly took over me: my Mom playing Chopin – ballad, nocturne, waltz and mazurek (mazurka). Music filling the house. A lovely cake with a similar name, full of walnuts and raisins baked by my Granny. This specialty, consonant with Polish dance, is an integral part of Polish cuisine. These memories are my first links to Poland. The flavour and fragrance of the cake turned the music of Chopin from a subject of aesthetic addiction into an integral part of home warmth and comfort. Amusingly, other memories are also connected to those gustatory and odoristic aspects. I remember the taste of Polish strawberry jam and oatmeal biscuits, szarlotka, trickled pastries and other Polish dishes. Our grandmothers knew how to cook them because, due to similarity of circumstances, they appeared in Uzbekistan together with Poles. We have bright sun, generous nature, and an abundance of fruits, vegetables and berries. For that reason, wonderful fruit and berry aromas of Polish cosmetics, popular in our country, felt close and familiar.
“I remember the taste of Polish strawberry jam and oatmeal biscuits, szarlotka, trickled pastries and other Polish dishes. Our grandmothers knew how to cook them…”
My childhood memories about Poland are fragmentary, chaotic, irregular. Books on the shelves: Adam Mickiewicz, Henryk Sienkiewicz, Jerzy Stawiński, and brilliant aphorisms of Jerzy Lec. I remember the movies of Andrzej Wajda, fine faces of Polish actors, perfect beauty of actresses: Beata Tyszkiewicz, Ewa Szykulska, Barbara Brylska with delicacy, culture and healthy dignity always impressive in their characters. Incidentally, these features carried to the point of absurdity had frightened us in Russian operas where Poles were portrayed as vain, arrogant people.
Besides Chopin, Poland has other famous brands, reflecting the scope and depth of the scientific, artistic and spiritual potential of the Polish nation. Copernicus, John Paul II, Krzysztof Penderecki: graduates and honorary doctors of Krakow’s Jagiellonian University which supplement the city’s list of brands. And this was the university where I was going to be studying.
“Krakow…Copernicus, John Paul II, Krzysztof Penderecki: graduates and honorary doctors of Jagiellonian University which supplement the city’s list of brands.”
The childish joy I experienced through my acquaintance with Poland is hugely strengthened in Polish restaurants, delicious food distributed by someone’s generous hand in open air cafes. The hospitality, warmth and generosity of Polish people make you feel as if you are surrounded by your closest relatives.
Wonderful Polish homemade food
“Living in Poland, be prepared to gain extra weight.”
In Poland, you are invited to homes, you are surrounded with care and love every minute. For that reason, it doesn’t take long until you perceive Poland as your second home and get excited every time you hear a Polish word uttered.
Living in Poland, be prepared to gain extra weight. Hanging out with friends is intrinsically combined with delicious café experiences. And in Krakow it becomes an addiction. Probably, the most famous Polish specialty worldwide is pierogi(variation of dumplings). These yummy stuffed pies amaze you not only with their number of fillings like mushrooms, buckwheat, berries, strawberries … but also colours. I have never tried such beautiful and colourful pierogi in all my life! Polish soups are also a special part of the menu. The most traditional and remarkable to me is zurek, which is usually served in freshly baked bread. This rather substantial combo often turns out to be your meal of the day!
If you are in Krakow for Tłusty Czwartek (Fat Thursday), you will have the chance to try fabulous local donuts, pączki, filled with rose petal jam. Once again, a return to childhood! My Granny made rose petal jam as our garden was full of roses! The best place for pączki is Rynek Główny (Main Market Square), where the largest number of donuts is distributed. You are too late? Don’t worry! You can try this dessert in one of Krakow’s numerous coffee houses along with excellent hot chocolate, kawa(coffee) or herbata (tea). The selection of herbata will surely amaze your imagination. It may contain all types of berries, herbs and even flowers from local forests. It was in Poland that I tried blueberries for the first time, and they immediately became one of my favourite berries. In Krakow, you buy berries, fruits and vegetables not only in shopping malls but also from farmers’ markets (in Uzbekistan we know them as bazaars). For that reason, food in Poland has a wonderful taste that you always think about.While travelling between cities of Poland you can admire the beautiful farms that produce the food you can then enjoy.
“Poland is famous for its desserts…Also, amazingly, the Poles even add poppy seeds to pasta!”
Poland is famous for its desserts, especially szarlotka, sernik(cheesecake) and makowiec (pastry with poppy seeds). Amazingly, the Poles even add poppy seeds to pasta! Even having lived in a warm country, I have never seen poppy seeds in such huge quantities as in Polish cookies. Szarlotka in Krakow is also worth trying! It seems quite unusual to me. First, it comes warm, while we serve it cold. Second, the apples were thinly sliced, while in my country we usually slice them in rather large pieces. It tasted fabulous, in candle light and accompanied with kawa!
Luckily, I also experienced winter time in Krakow, when I saw beautiful Christmas decorations and ate carp, kiełbasa (sausages) , several types of zapiekanka(bread roasted with mushrooms and cheese), wonderful smoked cheese (oscypek) with jam as well as flavoured ginger breads. Don’t miss the local liquor based on honey, mied, along with Żubrówka (vodka with herbs), which are both are available in shops and restaurants.If you favour a vegetarian diet, bar sałatkowy(salad bar) Chimera at ul. Św. Anny 3 will be a true discovery for you, with the best choice of vegetable and fruit salads.
“Lastly, it is of crucial importance to know wonderful cafés…”
As a student, it is of crucial importance to know a wonderful café in the old part of town: Massolit at ul. Felicjanec 4. Massolit has a great choice of books in English which you can read in the café while sipping herbata. Books can be either bought or exchanged.
Several years have passed since I graduated from Jagiellonian University but the warmth and hospitality of the people, and the charm and ancient spirit of the city and university remain in my heart.
Suzanna Fatyan, Contributing writer
Suzanna is from a city of Oriental fairy tales – Samarkand in Uzbekistan. She studied English language and literature in Samarkand State Institute of Foreign Languages for BA. In 2008, Suzanna graduated MA Euroculture from Jagiellonian University in Krakow and Deusto University, San Sebastian. Suzanna works as tour guide in Samarkand, writes blog for Uzbek Journeys in Australia and travels as much as possible.
Marseille, a lively multicultural city and ancient Greek port, still continues to live from the sea. Walking from the Gare St. Charles, you can already feel it: the sound of people out in the streets and the view and smell of the sea… Marseille-Provence 2013 has extensively worked on this dimension to make its programme’s Arianna’s red string the Mediterranean indeed.
Culture is not the first word that comes to mind when thinking about Marseille: the second largest city in France, notoriously unsafe and dangerous, especially according to the French media who have recently reported several incidents of gun shootings. This is why the title of European Capital of Culture provides Marseille and the surrounding area of Provence, including the towns of Aix, Arles and Aubagne, with a significant opportunity to change its image.
Marseille, a lively multicultural city and ancient Greek port, still continues to live from the sea. Walking from the Gare St. Charles, you can already feel it: the sound of people out in the streets and the view and smell of the sea… Marseille-Provence 2013 has extensively worked on this dimension to make its programme’s Arianna’s red string the Mediterranean indeed. And so it was, on 12-13 January 2013, that a full year of performances, exhibitions and cultural events and exchanges saw its start.
The first step to plunge into Marseille-Provence 2013 is to visit the Pavillon M (Pavillon de Marseille): this centre is open for the entire year and in it you can discover Marseille and Provence through videos, maps and interactive devices. In the building, it is also possible to collect information about the programme of Marseille-Provence 2013 and, when needed, buy tickets. Pavillon M is situated in the area of the Vieux-Port, a small harbour overlooked by Notre-Dame De la Garde from one of Marseille’s hill tops. The Vieux-Port,characterised by numerous touristic restaurants, can be pleasant for a walk, for shopping at the fish and flower markets, and for enjoying the view of the boats anchored there. For the occasion of Marseille-Provence 2013, an interesting mirror canopy has been built and animal-shaped sculptures have been collocated in the main quay.
The city harbour has been central to the immense urban renovation of the city. From 1995, renewal started with the private and public initiative of Euromed (Euro-Mediterranean project). In fact, Marseille-Provence 2013 counts upon several new cultural infrastructures built or remodelled by prominent architects. Some worthy of mentioning are the Mucem (Museum of Civilisations from Europe and the Mediterranean) by Rudy Ricciotti, the Villa Méditerranée by Stefano Boeri, the Frac by Kengo Kuma, and the J1 Hangar by Catherine Bonte which will offer a new shape to the harbour. Unfortunately at the moment, this vision is slightly hindered by the on-going construction sites, still there even three months after the launch of the Capital of Culture.
The above-mentioned J1 Hangar,from where it is possible to enjoy a beautiful view of the Cathédral Notre-Dame de la Major, is already accessible and utilisesa space of 6000 m2 for exhibitions and other events such as performances. Until 18 May, it will host the exhibition “Mediterraneans. From yesterday’s cities to today’s men”, an itinerary narratingthe history of the Mediterranean through the histories and descriptions of eleven port cities (Troy, Tyre, Athens, Alexandria, Rome, Al-Andalus, Venice, Genoa, Istanbul, Algiers and, of course, Marseille). The exhibition combines historical objects and recent video-interviews reporting on different topics, and revolves around history and current societies trying to understand what it means to be Mediterranean today. Bravely someone has already offered her answer, writing in the guest-book: «I feel fully Mediterranean, thank you for this new identity. Julie».
Walking from the centre to the periphery of the city, another very interesting cultural infrastructure is La Friche Belle de Mai, which has also benefited from the Euro-Mediterranean project. Situated in its namesake neighbourhood Belle de Mai, this former tobacco factory was turned into a cultural centre in 1992 and, after two years of further renovation, it has reopened. It’s an impressive multi-purpose space open for exhibitions, ateliers, theatre, shows, cultural activities and cultural organisations’ offices. Here you can also meet friends for a glass of wine or dinner, teenagers can skateboard, and parents can bring along their children to play in the outdoor spaces which include small gardens.
La Friche Belle de Mai hosted until 31 March “Ici, ailleurs” (“Here, Elsewhere”), an exhibition which brought together thirty-nine artists from the Mediterranean area, showing sculptures, paintings and photography. Two of those artists have taken part in the project “Les Ateliers de l’EuroMéditerranée”, which consists of residences of artists in unusual places outside the cultural field, aiming to support contemporary creation, shape a new artistic production model, and involve new audiences.
Marseille-Provence 2013 offers around six hundred events throughout the year. In the coming months, interesting events such as the exhibition “Le grand atelier du midi”, the “Transhumance” performances, and the festival “This is (not) music” are waiting to be experienced. The investment undertaken for Marseille-Provence 2013 is surely visible through the new buildings, or new uses of old ones. The biggest challenge will be to insure the long-term effects of cultural and social directives which refer to the city and to the Mediterranean as a whole: will Marseille-Provence 2013 be a turning point for Euro-Mediterranean cooperation?
Bianca Rubino, Exhibition Editor
Bianca is Italian with Swiss roots. She studied BA Humanities for the study of Culture in Modena, Italy, and went on Erasmus to Malmö, Sweden. She is now enrolled in MA Euroculture , which she studied in the University of Groningen and the University of Strasbourg. She did an internship at Interarts, based in Barcelona, Spain, in the field of cultural project management and cultural policy and is now back in Strasbourg to finish her MA thesis. Her interests are anthropology, sociology, artistic and cultural life and institutions, cultural management and policy, and many more. She has the smallest feet a girl ever had.
Exporting creative industries is important in boosting a European city, but the EU is still ignorant of such potential asset. The ‘creativity’ sector includes architecture, audiovisual products, cultural heritage related services, design, music, performing arts, publishing and visual arts.
María de las Cuevas Linares│email@example.com
Do we have to see the world only through the eyes of ‘McDonald-isation’ or ‘Nike-isation’, or may Europe contribute to it with its own culture? Exporting the European lifestyle and cultural products could have an economic impact in terms of employment and GDP growth, and it would be a way to show the world that the EU is full of ideas and creativity.
Who says that the EU is not creative? In fact, the EU is a key player in the global exports of creative goods with nine member states in the list of the world’s top 20 exporters in 2008, headed by Asia and the USA. Although our rivals are much more confident, Europe is still faring well: Germany is in third place, followed by Italy, the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Spain and Poland. Nevertheless, it should be noted that the EU has been losing its reputation in ‘creativity’ since 2002. In 2008, Germany was the top developed-economy exporter of both Performing Arts and Publishing & Printed Media; Italy was the top exporter of Design, while the UK, France and Germany featured in the top five exporters of Visual Arts. Creative-goods exports from the EU in 2010 represented 36% of the total value of creative-goods exports worldwide.
Exporting creative industries is important in boosting a European city, but the EU is still ignorant of such potential asset. The ‘creativity’ sector includes architecture, audiovisual products (film, radio, television, video games and multimedia), cultural heritage related services, design, music, performing arts, publishing and visual arts. The frontiers between culture, business and technology are even more blurred. Nevertheless, they are still underestimated in relation to their positive effects on growth of the economy of a country, a region or a city.
A 2012 report by the European Expert Network on Culture (EENC) pointed out that “Europe – like other parts of the world – is becoming a society of the intangible, whose main raw material lies in the ability of its people to create and to innovate. There is a need for a new approach to the sector’s distinctive features, recognizing the creative industries as traded industries”. The Eurostat Cultural Statisticsreport in 2011 shows that in 2009 the EU-27 exported more cultural goods to the rest of the world than it imported, recording a trade surplus of around €1.9 billion. The main products exported were books, works of art, antiques, newspapers and DVDs.
The Eurozone is more than ever linked to creative industries, culture and innovative mind. Currently, there’s a shift from manufacturing sectors to innovate solutions, while the cultural sector is being recognised as “a driver of growth fundamental to overcome the financial crisis” by the European Commission. The Commission considers that the cultural sectors are “sectors of the future and a sound investment for our well-being”.
The eruption of the world financial and economic crisis in 2008 provoked a 12% decrease in international trade. However, the world exports of creative goods and services continued to grow, reaching $592 billion, more than double its 2002 level, indicating an annual growth rate of 14% over six consecutive years.
Rethinking of ideas, artists, originality and innovative solutions are all features in the creation of new societies. The EU in the 21st century, as set out by the ‘European 2020 Strategy’, should be governed by smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. This Strategy provides the targets – fixed by the Commission – to be met in 2020.
María de las Cuevas, Junior Editor
María is a Spanish journalist. Her home University is University of Deusto and host university, University of Strasbourg. Her plan after finishing MA Euroculture is to work in the cultural field to promote the access of new audiences into social inclusion and to enhance the power of creativity in the society. She is enjoying the city of Strasbourg and is very exited about the forthcoming research track at the University of Mexico. She loves writing and reading, meeting new people and going around with her bike.
I’m not really fond of cooking. Don’t get me wrong, nobody likes eating more than I do! I just hate the preparation process. And being an Italian abroad doesn’t really help, as people usually have high expectations of my cooking skills.
For this reason, during the past couple of years, I have collected a few traditional and easy-peasy recipes that are perfect for a lazy person like me, who sometimes feels the pressure to fulfil a certain national stereotype.
Bruschette (pronounced [bruskette])
1 or 2 cloves of garlic
Oil, salt and basil
Given the fact that this is an easy and quick-to-prepare appetizer, I do not find it necessary to specify the quantities. Just go with the flow.
Toast the bread. Cut the tomatoes into small cubes, finely chop the garlic; add oil, salt and basil and mix everything in a bowl. Spread on the toast.
Only now, while writing down the recipe, I realise how incredibly simple this is. If I can do it, so can you!
Spaghetti alla carbonara
Ingredients (4 portions):
150grams non-smoked pig’s cheek bacon (in Italian: guanciale) – just to be meticulous, this is what the original recipe requires. However, it might be a bit hard to find it outside Italy. In this case, you can either use smoked steamed pancetta or usual bacon (but don’t say it to any Italian chef – they’ll probably be horrified as the “real” carbonara is made with “real” guanciale. Oh, whatever…)
100grams sheep’s milk cheese (in Italian: pecorino) – this might be hard and expensive to find it outside Italy. If this is the case, use Parmesan cheese instead (and again, don’t mention it to any Italian chef…!).
5 eggs – the trick for the amount is very simple: one egg for each portion, plus one for the pot. In this case, cooking for a party of 4, you will need 5 eggs: 4 people + 1 pot, high-level calculation!
End of the ingredients. That’s it, nothing more. No onions and, for my grandma’s sake, no cream! Grazie.
While cooking the pasta in abundant, salted water, cut the guanciale into cubes and fry it in a pan until crispy (there is no need to add oil or butter as it will cook in its own fat – mmm, greasy!).
In a bowl whip 4 egg yolks and 1 whole egg, add cheese and pepper, and finally add the fried guanciale.
Once the pasta is ready, put it in the bowl and mix with the egg-cheese-pepper mixture. And here is the essential part that usually, in my personal experience, disgust non-Italians: the eggs must not be cooked! Yes, we eat raw eggs in Italy, so what?!
NB: this dessert should be prepared the day before being served and kept in the fridge.
250 grams mascarpone
3 spoons of sugar
Ladyfingers (a.k.a. Savoiardi – Italian biscuits)
A couple cups of coffee (espresso would be best)
In a bowl mix the mascarpone and sugar. Separate the egg yolks and egg whites, but keep both! Add the 2 yolks to the mascarpone and mix again until uniform.
In another bowl whip the egg whites (with an electric mixer: do you remember? I am a lazy person!). Once done, add the whipped egg whites to the mixture of mascarpone and gently amalgamate.
Quickly dip the ladyfingers in the coffee and arrange in a layer on the bottom of a pan. Just make sure that the ladyfingers don’t soak up too much coffee and get too moist. Spread half of the mascarpone mixture on top of the layer of ladyfingers. Repeat everything with a second layer of dipped ladyfingers and the remaining mixture. At the end, add a third layer of dipped ladyfingers and cover it with cocoa powder.
And, there you go! A quick and easy Italian dinner that you can prepare for a casual gathering, or if you want to demonstrate your Mediterranean cooking abilities.
A word of advice: if you want to combine the dishes with a beverage, I would suggest a dry white wine – from Italy, of course!
Born in Italy, Laura fell in love with and lived in the UK as a teenager. Then, she turned her interest in Britain into broader passion for traveling and discovering. She holds a BA degree in European languages and cultures from the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, with a year as an Erasmus student in the lovely city of Gothenburg, Sweden. She started the MA Euroculture in September 2012 at the University of Groningen and is currently overcoming her shyness with the French language in Strasbourg. Her interests lie in cultures, sociolinguistics and ethnology, sociology and gender studies. She is particularly fascinated by the phenomena of nations and nationalism, stereotypes and… the human brain! Lazy and feminist at heart, Laura misses skiing and her dog, who is waiting for her in Italy.