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  1. Paris is one of the biggest cities in Europe with a long story to tell. Most of the time it will be a love story, but you might not fall in love with the City of Love at the first glance (most French people do not like it either). My first time in Paris was in 2013- two short days just to get my visa for my European Volunteer Service in FYR Macedonia, and I did not fall in love with the city. Two years later and I was back for a longer spell. Paris was the destination of my first internship. I had not chosen the city, but rather was sent there with no other option. 


    I was in Paris during the attacks. Luckily not ‘“there”, but I was not far away. A terrible night and an awkward week that left Europe in shock by what happened on November 13th. Paris was not Paris.  A desert city on Saturday, a city frightened by any rumble-tumble on Sunday and a suspicious city commuting during the week. For a moment Paris was not the City of Lights, was a city of darkness. No one expected that, no Parisian has ever seen their lifestyle attacked. The city recovers, but it does not forget.

    The Conference of the Parties 21 (COP21) was held in the suburbs of Paris where an historical agreement was achieved. Paris was Paris again. The French capital was again leaving its mark on world history. While the auspicious agreement has been ratified by almost all member-states of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), this is still not enough.

    Being Portuguese, I have to refer two more historical events. For the first time in Portuguese history, a President of Portugal celebrated the National Day outside of Portugal. Portugal’s National Day is a day to celebrate Camões, but also the Portuguese communities who live abroad. Paris, being home to more than one million of Portuguese citizens and descendants, was the right city to celebrate the date. The other historical event to take place in Paris was Portugal beating France to win the UEFA European Championship for the first time in their history.  One of my happiest days in Paris.

    While these are historic moments that made my stay in Paris different, I had other great moments- the big metropolis has always something happening: festivals in the streets, music at museums, Christmas lights and markets, amazing gardens, and shopping everywhere. Something that cannot be missed, however, is sitting on a terrace with French wine and a cheese board overlooking the daily life of Parisiennes.

    Paris is also home to the well-known Louvre, where you can get lost for hours and are still not able to see all the rooms. And do not try expressing admiration for I. M. Pei’s Glass Pyramid that has stood outside the museum since 1989- the French deteste it, just as they did the Eiffel Tower after it was built for the Exposition Universelle in 1889. But can anyone now imagine Paris without the Eiffel Tower? No, we cannot. The Eiffel Tower is now the city’s lighthouse that makes the nights of Paris even more beautiful.

    Paris is also a city of small and nice places. Around the Marais or Montmartre you will find unique neighbourhoods with special stories that will make you feel like you are no longer in a big city. La Villette has the modern spirit of the city, while the Île de la Cité preserves the origins of Paris. Small parks in the middle of the city like Buttes-Chaumont, Montsouris and Monseau are the perfect escapes for a picnic or a run. If you are brave enough, it would be worth running  from the Louvre to La Défense, crossing the Tuileries, Champs-Élysées and the Arc de Triomphe.

    If you are going to Paris you cannot miss The Orsay Museum and the Pompidou Centre, the amazing French crêpe in front of the Cité Internationale Universitaire, and squares like Place de la Contrescarpe and Place du Marché Sainte Catherine are the ideal place to enjoy a glass of wine. The Place de la République is also a mandatory stop, and has been the place of many demonstrations and memorials. In the Canal Saint Martin you will find the perfect places to brunch after having partied the night away in one of the many clubs in the vicinity..

    Paris is still not one of my favourite cities but, after one year living as a Parisien, I have to confess that it is not that bad.  As the famous Portuguese Poet, Fernando Pessoa, said once about Coca-Cola “primeiro estranha-se, depois entranha-se” which means "at first is strange, then it becomes entangled”. This is how I feel about Paris. I did not liked the city when I first arrived, but I learnt how to like it, and I must admit that now I kind of miss it.




  2. “As the world expected (and feared)”, Erdoğan won the referendum last april, sweeping new constitutional powers to the Turkish President. More than a victory of the “evet” campaign or a victory from both the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) -the two main parties supporting the yes campaign., this was a victory of Erdoğan himself.Yet it was not the victory that he expected. The Erdoğan’s pyrrhic victory was not worthy of big celebrations with just a difference of 1.4 million votes, not allowing the President to show to the West that he has the support of all Turkey’s population.

    Instead, what we see from the referendum results is that Erdoğan was not able to ensure that a big majority would give credibility to his presidential ambition, even with all the State resources used by the yes campaign (leading to an unfair campaign). Turkey is now a country even more divided, the opposite of what the President asked for. Turkish people during the campaign were very polarised and is predictable to stay like that during the near future. 

    Referendums are not to be compared to the general elections, but an inevitable comparison has to be done. If we compare the results from the referendum against those from last elections in Turkey, the AKP and MHP together lost more than 4 million votes. While the opposition parties such as the Republican People's Party (CHP) and the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), who supported the “hayir” campaign, scored 6.5 million votes more, still Erdoğan claims that got more Kurdish votes than before.It is safe to say that he lost popular support in all big Turkish cities.

    This does not mean that people have lost trust in Erdoğan. The referendum was about regime changes, not about political parties. Despite the huge support for AKP since 2002 elections, a 48.7% of the Turks who voted did not wish a presidential system for Turkey, which gives more power to the President, without checks and balances, just as autocratic regimes work. I believe that the true reality about the AKP’s support will come up with the elections in 2019.

    The CHP and the HDP will have to show that they are charismatic enough to keep the votes from the referendum and also be able to minimise the polarisation. The role of the Kurds in the following election will be important. If the HDP is not able to cross the 10% threshold, the AKP would get more seats, leaving the Kurds and other minorities in a more complicated situation, worse than the current one, where many of the HDP lawmakers have been imprisionedand Kurdish mayors have been replaced by AKP trustees.

    Under the AKP rule, Turkey has changed from a secular democracy with strong ties with the West, to a conservative Islamist autocracy with increasing ties to the East. Erdoğan during the first mandates as Prime-minister was able to stabilise the Turkish economy and started a peace process with the Kurds, in foreign affairs the AKP government improved the relations with the European Union and turned Turkey into a model for the new Arab world, after the Arab Spring.

    Nowadays Turkey is still an emergent market, not only because of its strong economy, but also because of its growing soft power in international affairs: Turkish Embassies and the TIKA cooperation projects have been growing all around the world since AKP took power. Erdoğan’s response to the Gezi Park protests mark a switch in how the international community turns its eyes on Turkey. From a model leader, Erdoğan started to be criticised for his increasing authoritarian power, which have gradually intensify after the coup attempt on July 15th, putting many of their old allies in jail and creating new enemies within the West.

    The relations with the European Union had their ups and downs, nowadays it is a complicated relation with Erdoğan calling Germany and The Netherlands Nazis and challenging the refugees agreement with the EU, even proposing an EU referendum regarding the accession process that has been paralysed for years. Turkey, as a member of NATO and its strategic position at the European doorstep, is a State that cannot be left aside by the EU. Erdoğan knows that and will keep playing with the West until he can secure new friends around the world.

    The recent decision from the Council of Europe to reopen a monitoring probe into Turkey over concerns about democracy and human rights, just after the referendum is to be taken with caution. Relations with the EU will worsen and is one more signal that Turkey's bid to become an EU Member State will remain frozen for years until the Turkish Republic respects the rule of law. This will push Turkey even more close to Russia, something that NATO would not like to see as Turkey represents the second military force of the alliance.

    Turkey has now only one leader, stronger than the former Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, father of the Turks, that was able to end the Ottoman Empire and establish a Secular Republic, unfortunately a new Sultan might be just around the corner. Erdoğan got what he wanted, but instead of a united Turkey around him, he has created a divided Turkey. The battle during the referendum was also between Kemalists and Erdoganists, with Kurds (and other minorities) in the middle, which represent three of the most important factions in Turkey.

    How will they manage to live under the same regime? We do not know that, but in the upcoming years we will see how they will be living side by side, while their President polarises their homeland even more. The crackdown against Kurds has already started, but it will be more complicated for Erdoğan to turn against the founder of the Turkish Republic. Unconsciously or not, he might have already started a clash with the Kemalists.

    Secular feelings and Kurdish identity in Turkey are still strong, and might give a surprise in the next Presidential elections. After the referendum, the CHP was able to change the focus from secular to justice, showing the lack of justice that Turkish people is facing since the failed coup that plunged the country into a state of emergency. The opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu started the “Justice March” in Ankara, after one of the CHP members was sentenced to jail. Kılıçdaroğlu, or as he is currently known “Gandhi Kemal”, has been followed by thousands of people to Istanbul, only using signs with the word “adalet”,meaning justice in Turkish.

    More than a regime change, the referendum was about the future of Turkey and its people. The majority has chosen to give more power to Erdoğan, which the West has to respect as it was the will of the Turkish, but now more than ever Turkey’s destiny is in Turkish hands. The “Justice March” is a good example on how Turkish people can, by peaceful manners, join forces against the increasing authoritarianism of the President. Turkey can still be a role model for the world and have a booming economy, respecting the rule of law. Or, Turkey can become a hell for journalists and opponents, a country where human rights and democracy are no longer respected with a shrinking economy. It is not (only) up to Erdoğan to decide the future of Turkey, Turks still have the power to vote and they are the ones who will decide the future of Turkey in the next elections.

     



  3. On  July 15th 2016, what was supposed to be another normal Friday in Turkey became the night of a coup attempt. A group of militaries took their guns, and with the help of aircrafts and tanks, they blocked bridges, airports and streets all around Turkey. While jets were attacking the Turkish Assembly, the Turkish militaries entered in the national Turkish television (TRT) and made a statement declaring a nationwide curfew. 

    What was supposed to be a coup to depose Erdoğan ended a few hours after as a failed military coup, mostly due to  the civilians from different political and non-political spectrums who joined forces to stop the militaries on the streets. The coup attempt brought Turkey into a state of emergency, which after one year remains latentand arguibly has a causal relationship to several Human Rights violations.

    July 15th has been proclaimed  a public holiday to celebrate the “Democracy and National Solidarity” and several events are planned in Turkey, but also at Turkish Embassies around the world. Erdoğan will lead the “National Unity March” from the 15 July Martyrs Bridge (former Bosphorus Bridge), renamed in honour of the 248 people who died that night, andlater the President will give a speech at the Turkish Assembly at the exact time the military attack took place last year.

    This was not the first coup in Turkey’s history, militaries are the cornerstone of Atatürk’s secular order in Turkey. It can be argued that when a Turkish government pushes the regime into conservative politics, the militaries make sure that the government sticks back to the the secularism rule implemented by Atatürk. Erdoğan was aware of this and since his first years as Prime-Minister he was able to reduce the power of the militaries in the politics.

    All Turkish political parties showed their disagreement just after the beginning of the military operation, but  Western leaders took time to condemn the Turkish coup. Personally, Western leaders might not agree with Erdoğan’s views, but they should? not support this antidemocratic way of unseat an elected leader.

    Turkish President did not lose time and asked the United States of America to extradite Fethullah Gülen, who has been accused of being the leader of this plot against Erdoğan since the beginning of the coup attempt. Gülen, who is the founder of the Hizmet Movement, currently known as FETO and considered a terrorist organisation by AKP supporters, keeps denying his involvement in the coup attempt. At that time the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, answered Erdoğan’s request by stating that the US will not do anything until Turkey shows concrete evidence of the Turkish cleric implication in the coup.

    One year has passed and Gülen still lives in exile at his big house in Pennsylvania, and Erdoğan has not been able to give the US concrete evidence to incriminate the cleric. Gülen and Erdoğan were friends until the Gezi Park protests in Istanbul, after that some corruption scandals involving AKP members came to lightand some of the accused were Erdoğan’s close allies and family members.

    The Hizmet Movement used to be a big force in Turkey.However, after the coup attempt they saw their influence in Turkey vanished, as their schools, universities and newspapers were closed down and their members, imprisoned. More than 100,000 government employees were dismissed from their duties due to connections to FETO and over 50,000 are stillpending trial , accused of terrorism support, including also some HDP lawmakers by their suppose links to the PKK.

    Some sources also claim that a Kemalist faction inside the Turkish armed forces was behind this coup attempt. I believe this makes better sense, as militaries are seen as the guarantee of the Secular republic that has been threatened by Erdoğan. But why would the Kemalist militaries attack the Turkish Assembly that was founded by Atatürk? Without any conclusive investigation, the President keeps accusing Fethullah Gülen and the members of his organisation as the responsible of the coup attempt against him.


    Turkish democracy may have survived to last year’s military coup, but justice is facing hard times in Turkey. Since the coup attempt, Turkey lacks “proper” justice for the thousands of journalists, academics, lawmakers, teachers, judges and civil servants who remain in jail without any indictment in sight. In June, the main opposition started a march for justice in Ankara after one of its lawmakers was imprisoned. The march for justice was able to gather people from outside CHP who want the end of the state of emergency and an independent judiciary and fair trials for the detainees.

    With the recent referendum, which gives power to the President to appoint judges, an independent judiciary in a clime of state of emergency will be hard to find in Turkey in the near future. Politics might have divided Turkish people, but justice is now a major concern to the majority of the turkish people. I am truly convinced that in a democratic way, Turkish people united can change Turkey’s troublesome trajectory defending justice, as they did it to defend the Turkish democracy during the 15th July night.


     



  4. Since Brexit there has been much made of the rise of populism. There has been a perception that populism is on the rise across Europe since the financial crash of 2008. Much of the media reported on Brexit, UKIP, the rise of Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, Marine Le Pen in France and Norbert Hofer in Austria. But is populism really on the rise in Europe or has it had its last hurrah? 

    The media has been reporting an increase of populist movements in European member states. If Nigel Farage, Nigel Lawson, Michael Gove and many others on the anti -European side are to be believed, then Brexit was the first step to dismantling the EU. Populism has come in many guises over the centuries.[1]

    A modern definition of populism was offered by Cas Muddle of the University of Georgia in 2004 who defined it as the people against a corrupt elite. He described this as the “thin ideology” which can be bolted onto a “thick” ideology such as socialism, nationalism or racism.[2] Nigel Farage, Marine Le Pen, Geert Wilders and others have described themselves as nationalists fighting for the ordinary people against multiculturalism, immigration and Europeanism. These particular political figures would like to see the dismantling of the European Union.

    Over 2016 and 2017 there have been a number of elections and referenda- the Swiss referendum on citizenship, the Austrian Presidential election and Finnish local elections have all taken place. But one of two seismic political events in Europe in recent times was Brexit. In the UK, David Cameron decided that it was time to have a referendum on the leaving the European Union. Of his reasons we can only speculate. Some have argued it was to placate eurosceptic Conservative MPs, eighty-one of whom had, in 2011, led a backbench rebellion to vote in favour of an EU referendum despite a three-line whip. Arguably, Cameron had never expected to win an outright majority in the 2015 general election, and the pledge for an EU referendum was therefore a means to bring about the most temporary of party unities- one that would be dropped immediately once in coalition.There certainly wasn’t an overwhelming public demand for a referendum. There wasn’t an incremental increase of UKIP MPs putting pressure on the Tory Government or the previous Labour one. There were no serious demonstrations in the streets. There were no security threats from France or Germany, Britain’s historic enemies. There was no imminent economic collapse. Despite all these things not happening, Britain held the referendum anyway and the Leave side won… just.

    Since June 24th, we have read about Le Pen of the National Front, Wilders of the Freedom Party, Alternative for Germany and 5 Star in Italy, just to name a few. We have seen reports of how populism is on the rise across the whole of Europe. The European Union is under existential threat.[3] We’re going to destroy the EU say some.[4] Really?

    In the UK, Vote Leave triumphed in England by 6% and in Wales by 5%. They lost in Scotland by 24% and in Northern Ireland by 11.6%.  Across the UK as a whole Vote Leave won by a slim margin of 3.8 per cent.[5] It’s hardly a landslide. The areas where Vote Leave won its highest percentage of the vote were some of the most deprived areas in the UK.[6] Areas such as Stoke, Stafford and Sunderland are suffering from Tory austerity, eighties privatisation, zero hour contracts and the gig economy. Vote Leave argued that the people in those areas have been left behind by globalisation[7] and it was all the EU’s fault. However, though people voted to leave the EU, it didn’t mean they support a populist party.

    In March 2017 there were two Parliamentary by-elections in Britain- one in Stoke-on-Trent and another in Copeland. UKIP did not win either of these seats. UKIP polled fewer votes than the Liberal Democrats in Copeland and were beaten by the Labour Party in Stoke on Trent.[8] UKIP is supposedly on the crest of the biggest wave they could ever have, but they still can’t capitalise on this success. Before the recent 2017 election, UKIP had contested six general elections with a total of 2,321 attempts at getting a candidate elected. Only Douglas Carswell of Clacton and Mark Reckless of Rochester and Strood had succeeded and both left the party.

    UKIP does not send any representatives to Westminster, Holyrood or Stormont. Holyrood and Stormont are elected under a proportional representative system and they still fail to get elected. The only chamber in which UKIP has members is the Welsh Assembly where they have six members from the list. Maybe they peaked. But the recent British General election would seem to indicate that they have collapsed completely. Following their electoral performance, UKIP’s fourth leader, Paul Nuttall, resigned.

    The electoral failure of UKIP goes against the perception that secular nationalism or populism is on the rise across Europe. UKIP’s difficulties on the electoral front have been mirrored across the continent. Geert Wilders of the Dutch Freedom Party was presented as the right-wing candidate who was going to become the largest party in the Dutch Parliament and free the Netherlands from the tyranny of the EU.[9]

    The victorious party was VVD, or the Liberal Party. Led by Mark Rutte, they won 33 seats, compared to the 20 seats taken by Wilders’ PVV which are being sidelined by the rest of the Dutch Parliament.[10] There are 150 seats in the chamber. Other parties to gain seats in this Dutch election are the Christian Democrats, the Greens and D66 (Liberals). These parties are pro-European. If the seats of all the centre/centre left parties are added together they have 85 seats.[11] The pro-European vote increased from 2012.

    The turnout at the Dutch election was 82%- the highest for 30 years. Wilders wanted the Dutch people to come out and vote. They did. Wilders may not have been on the receiving end of an electoral drubbing, but the Dutch people did vote against him and his populist ideals. The Freedom Party only polled 13 per cent of the overall vote and has not reached the heights of 2010 when they won 24 seats. In the words of German Chancellor Angela Merkel it was “a very pro-European result” and a “good day for democracy.”[12]

    There have been five further major political events in the EU since June 2016: the Swiss referendum on citizenship; the Austrian Presidential election; the Finnish municipal elections; the French Presidential election; and the British General Election. 

    Switzerland held a referendum on easing third generation immigrants’ path to citizenship. Immigrants have to be living in Switzerland for 12 years before they can receive citizenship, and their children do not receive automatic citizenship rights even if they are born in Switzerland. The changes were to make the path to citizenship easier for third generation immigrants. The right-wing party, the People’s Party, objected to these changes on the grounds of cultural dilution and the potential of trouble makers entering Switzerland. The People’s Party stand for tightening controls on immigration and gaining citizenship, and were accused of being anti-Islamic during the referendum.[13] The Swiss people voted in favour of the changes to allow the path to citizenship being simplified and rejected the People’s Party stance on citizenship and immigration.

    Austria held the final round of voting on electing the President. The President’s office is largely ceremonial and does not hold power of foreign affairs and other high political issues. Nonetheless the President’s office is still influential on the domestic front. The candidates in the run-off were Alexander Van der Bellen, a pro-European and the anti-European Norbert Hofer, who wanted to hold a referendum on the European Union membership. The final was due to take place in May 2016 with Van der Bellen winning by 0.6%. Due to irregularities in the postal vote the Austrian Constitutional vote ruled that the final round should be rerun. The December rerun was tipped to be a similar result with Van der Bellen winning by a narrow margin. While the Austrian people selected Alexander Van der Bellen for a second time, the result was not the same. In December’s rerun Van der Bellen won by 7.6%. Hofer’s votes were down by nearly 100,000.

    Finland held their municipal elections in April this year. The anti-European party, the Finns Party was swept aside in the results. The Finn’s Party vote was reduced by 3.5% to 8.8%, with a loss of 425 seats.  The openly pro-European parties polled 88% of the vote.

    There are many media outlets who claim that the EU is about to collapse, but we’ve had similar stories in the past regarding the single currency. “The Euro is days away from collapsing”; “the single currency is coming to an end”[14] were the choice headlines of the day in 2012. The Euro is still around despite all the pessimistic reports of the time. The real litmus test for the European Union was the recent French Presidential election. The two main candidates in the race were Emmanuel Macron of le Marche and Marine Le Penn of the National Front. Le Penn went into this election in buoyant mood with Brexit and her continually increasing popularity in the polls. However recent electoral history was not on her side and it continued in that vein with her hopes being crushed in an election that changed the landscape of French Politics.

    Le Penn succeeded in getting through to the second round where she faced the newcomer Emmanuel Macron, who convincingly defeated her. Macron, with 66 per cent of the vote,[15] took the Élysée Palace and became France’s youngest President with a party which was less than one year old and never having held elected office before.

    Since then the National Front’s vote has tanked just like UKIP’s as they won a meagre seven seats in the recent National Assembly elections. This is not Presidential level support. The NF has gone from winning 34 per cent of the presidential vote to the smallest party in the National Assembly in a matter of weeks. On the other hand, Macron’s new party, now rebranded Le Republique en Marche (LReM), has succeeded in winning an absolute majority with 361 seats in the National Assembly. Just a few short months ago LReM and the NF were Presidential rivals.

    Just like the NF in France, the populist parties across Europe have disappeared off the radar now that the elections have passed. These parties do not have any discernible power, they do not have policies of substance nor do they have the charisma to maintain their presence. Had Le Penn won the French election the EU would have been in danger, regardless of the pro-European vote in other countries. But she didn’t win and probably won’t in the future. The rise of Populism across Europe was exaggerated by an out of date form of media and the EU’s existential crisis was misleading and overstated. In fact, the opposite has occurred as Europe’s capitals (with the exception of London) are now discussing deeper integration fiscally and militarily.

    Macron is an unabashed European and supports the European Project. Though he does say the Union needs to be reformed. Some of his reforms include a central budget for the Eurozone and a parliament for the Eurozone. This would require deeper and further integration between the nations of the EU if they are approved. There has been movement on the military front with the sanctioning of a budget which will allow the EU to procure military equipment for the first time. The EU has also set up a military headquarters earlier in the year. It is a matter of irony that the event that was perceived as the catalyst for destroying the EU, Brexit, may now be the event that triggers the road to Federalism.

    The UK was a consistent opponent of a European military as the British saw a European force as unnecessary duplication of NATO.[16] With the recent election of Donald Trump to the office of President of the USA and his uncommitted stance to NATO, Europe has decided to move forward with the creation of a European military. With the recent conflict in the Ukraine it has become clear that the military powers of Britain and France are no longer real military power. The EU stepping forward and take on a more pro-active role on this front.

    Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission President speaking in Prague at the unveiling of a new multi-billion Euro plan to help fund European Defence research, “I see the tide turning.” He was referring to the growing support for military co-operation in Europe’s capitals, specifically Paris.[17] European leaders are due to discuss defence plans at summit in Brussels on 22-23 June 2018, ironically on the anniversary of Brexit. France, Germany and Italy want to look at ways that they can integrate, finance and collaborate more on the military front.[18]


    Angela Merkel after the recent G7 get together declared that the USA and UK are no longer reliable allies and that Europe must control its own future.[19] Merkal and Macron are now seen as the new Franco-German axis to drive the continent forward. But Merkal faces her own electorate in September. The Alternative Right for Germany is likely to win seats in the Bundestag for the first time. Under a proportional representative system this was probably inevitable. The AfD stand on a German nationalist, anti-Islamic and economically liberal platform, but are unlikely to win enough seats in the Bundestag to cause concern. They are likely to gain seats from the list vote. But will it be Angela Merkel or Martin Schulz who will be Chancellor? It is most likely to be Merkel and with her stance on asylum seekers, immigration and the EU being polar opposite to that of the AfD, and Merkel’s re-election will be the final nail in the coffin of the so-called populist movement in Europe.

    Over the past year much has been said about anti Europeanism, populism, Brexit, Frexit, Oxit and every other (e)xit. This period is the last hurrah of populism- its dying squeals, the final heaving of a jurassic attitude.  The younger generations want to travel and study abroad, experience new cultures, broaden their horizons, learn a language and (god forbid) marry a foreigner. It is doubtful that these populists will get to do any real or lasting damage to the EU. 

    In the recent British election, the Conservative Party was on the receiving end of what the British called an “electoral kicking.” The Tories were so arrogant that they went into an election to gain a larger majority and ended up losing the slim majority they did have. It’s also being dubbed the “Revenge of the Young.” The polls suggest that the younger voters in the UK are more pro-European than the elder generation and that they are angry and frustrated with being ignored by the political system. The British Election the figures suggest that younger voters turned out in higher numbers than usual.

    Euroscepticism may have won the day in England and Wales but is has not prevailed or gained power in other parts of Europe. Europe has come out of this period in-tact and stronger than ever. There has been an increase in the pro-European vote across mainland Europe, an unabashed pro-European elected to the French Presidency and the continued popularity of Angela Merkel has dispelled the so-called Threat of Populism in Germany.

    On the economic front the Eurozone countries are now experiencing an upturn in fortunes. The GDP of the Eurozone is expected to grow by 1.7% this year and unemployment has fell to the lowest level since May 2009.[20] At the peak of the economic crash, unemployment in the eurozone was 12.1%. It is now at 9.5% for the nineteen nations in the eurozone.[21] Macron is looking to reform the French economy and with his experience in the Finance Ministry and his previous career he should be able to initiate reforms, what those reforms look like only time will tell.

    If Merkel wins the next election, which it looks like she will, then she may relax the austerity measures in the southern states, mainly Greece. There has never been a time where austerity has created economic prosperity. During the Great Depression of the 1930’s both the UK and the USA cut their budgets. Over the next ten years both countries stagnated economically. It was not until FDR’s New Deal and Britain re-armed for war did either of these countries come out of recession. Spending money gets a country out of recession. If the austerity measures in Greece are relaxed then Greece may begin to prosper, making the Eurozone stronger. The economic future of the EU is looking up just as “Great” Britain begins talks to leave the bloc.

    The EU will come out of this period stronger and more unified than ever before and a lot more confident in its future negotiations. Not sure how that will work out for the UK in Brexit talks. Apparently, according to Farage, they need us more than we need them. And what about Populism? What Populism?

     



    [1] John Lichfield, “EU referendum: Would Brexit destroy the European Union?” The Independent www.independent.co.uk 21st June 2016.

    [2] The Economist Explains, “What is Populism?” www.economist.com, 19th December 2016.

    [3] Daniel Boffey, “Rising Euro scepticism ‘poses existential threat to EU’” The Guardian Newspaper 3rd March 2016.

    [4] John Lichfield, “EU referendum: Would Brexit Destroy the European Union?” The Independent Newspaper, 21st June 2016.

    [5] BBC News – referendum results.

    [6] Mike Kelly, “North East unemployment still the worst in the UK,  figures reveal” The Chronicle Live, 20 July 2016. 

    [7] Kate Allen, “Theresa May makes plea the those ‘left behind’ by globalisation” The Financial Times, 20th September 2016.

    [8] Andrew Sparrow, “By-elections: Labour defeated by Tories in Copeland, but win in Stoke” The Guardian, 23rd February 2017

    [9] Vickie Oliphant “Now for Nexit: Geert Wilders says FIRST job as PM will be to call a EU referendum” The Express, 9th February 2017.

    [10] Matthew Weaver, Claire Phipps, Alexandra Topping, Hanna Yusuf, “Dutch elections: Rutte starts coalition talks after beating Wilders into second – as it happened.” www.guardian.com, 16th March 2017

    [11] Matthew Weaver, Claire Phipps, Alexandra Topping, Hanna Yusuf, “Dutch elections: Rutte starts coalition talks after beating Wilders into second – as it happened.” www.guardian.com, 16th March 2017

    [12] Matthew Weaver, Claire Phipps, Alexandra Topping, Hanna Yusuf, “Dutch elections: Rutte starts coalition talks after beating Wilders into second – as it happened.” www.guardian.com, 16th March 2017

    [13] AFP News agency, “Swiss referendum on citizenship after anti-Muslim row.” www.aljazeera.com, 12th February 2017.

    [14] John Lichfield, “Review of the eurozone in 2012: A crisis of debt and identity” Independent, www.independent.co.uk. 22nd December 2012.

    [15] Murdoch, J. Ehrenberg-Shannon, B. Wisniewska, A. “French Election Results: Macron’s Victory in Charts”, www.ft.com, accessed 20/6/2017

    [16] Muller, Robert. “Warning of U.S. desertion, EU chief calls for European defense”

    [17] Muller, Robert. “Warning of U.S. desertion, EU chief calls for European defense”

    [18] Muller, Robert. “Warning of U.S. desertion, EU chief calls for European defense”

    [19] Yew, L.K. “Macron and Merkel can make Europe great again”

    [20] Allen, K. “Brighter skies over Eurozone as growth and employment pick up” www.guardian .com, accessed 19/6/2017

    [21] Business News “Eurozone Unemployment Falls to more than a 7 year low” www.thestar.com, accessed 19/6/2017



  5. The Mediterranean has, since the dawn of humanity been a hub of controversy, history, progress, and passion. Jade Jagger had once stated that: “I love the Mediterranean for the fact that winter is over in a minute, and the almond blossom arrives in January.”However, the Mediterranean holds far more potential than early blossoms, it has been a hub of interconnectedness in which every individual member state is intertwined with each other yet fully independent with its own history. Such is the case with any number of combinations between individual member states of the Mediterranean, whether that is Portugal and Malta, or Greece with Spain, each holds an individual piece of history that ties it with each other member in creating factually everything modern civilisation stands on. The aim of this essay is to analyze aforementioned relations, and look into bilateral relations and agreements between two of the aforementioned states, namely those of Greece and Malta from the beginning of the Second World War till the joint European membership of today.

    In Primis, the Hellenic Republic and Malta have been intertwined for myriad years in antiquity.  Malta was used by the Greeks as commerce, maritime pursuits, and competition against the Phoenicians. There is no clear historical depiction of how the Greeks managed to come to the island, with a plethora of opinions ranging from the notorious story of Odysseus and how the five years spent under the company of the Goddess Calypsos and her cave was actually in Gozo, Malta, which was according to Dr.Economakis, the first contact between the two populations, which also explained the Greek name which Malta was baptized under, the name of Melite, deriving from the word honey in Greek, later transformed to what it is  today, Malta. (Malta.com)

    This is based on the traditional theory of liberalism, of which the relations of Greece and Malta are prime examples. Liberalism argues that economically intertwined and democratized nations will work together socially and economically without going to war. This idea originates from Adam Smith in response to mercantilism and argues that the market should be free of government regulation, and the pursuit of material self-interest, would maximise the wealth of a society. As will be discussed later, both nations have greatly profited from economic liberalism.

    Greece was particularly vocal about the Maltese islands becoming a part of the European Union. In a state visit and during a press conference with Maltese Prime Minister Fenes Adami, Costantine Simitis stated that: "Greece's belief is that the European Union's enlargement would be decided during the first half of 2003, when it would hold the Presidency of the Union. Of course we will face some difficulties, but we will do our best to overcome them, since we want the southern part of the European Union to be stronger than it already is. And that is the reason why we [would like] Malta and Cyprus [to] join [the] EU." Greece, and Simitis was very vocal of the Maltese and Cypriot entry into the European Union convinced that Greek relations with the aforementioned countries would pressure Turkey into changing their attitude towards Cyprus, and potentially due to their joint history in the future be able to block Turkish claims to more islands, or even accession in the European Union. By having ensured public support by a number of countries Simitis went on to do an extremely dangerous diplomatic maneauvre by stating that with the accession of Cyprus and Malta: “Our aim is to establish good neighbour relations with Turkey, based on the implementation of international law. That is why we supported Turkey's attempts for becoming a member of the Union. As a result, this has not only advantages, but obligations for Turkey in the field of human rights, on its relations with its neighbours and on Cypriot affairs. It is our government's priority, as it is for all Greek governments, to find a fair and enduring solution for Cyprus. It is also our priority to ensure the continuance of the negotiations regarding Cyprus' entry to the Union."(CE review,2015)

    Since 2004, Greece placed an Embassy in Tax Biex and accredited its first Ambassador to Malta, while prior to that the Greek embassy in Rome was accredited to act both for Italy and Malta. Similarly, Malta in return has also placed an embassy in Athens and two honorary consulates in Piraeus and Thessaloniki. The two countries also share membership of the European Union and of Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean. Historically, they are being tied by far more as both the Hellenic and Maltese front against the Axis powers of 1939, held a common target, Mussolini’s Italy. Both countries fought gallantly, honoured by after war statements, such as Churchill referring to Malta as: “The greatest mistake of the Axis in the whole war in this theatre,”and to the Greek resistance with: “Greeks don’t fight like heroes, heroes fight like Greeks.”Despite the fact that both countries did not fight side to side against the Italian invasion, they both fought braver than ever against Fascist Italy’s aim to carve new Holy Roman Empire, both through a trilateral cooperative measure offered by the British. When the Allied forces commenced an invasion of Southern Europe, which resulted in the Italians deposing Mussolini a prolonged battle for Italy took place between Allied and German forces, and as the strategic situation changed in south-east Europe, British troops returned to their bases in Greece and Malta. (Historynet, 2015)

    Furthermore, the two countries engaged in a series of bilateral relations, historically all of which have been based mostly on the strengthening of the commercial trade, scientific and technical cooperation, cultural, economic, industrial, police and taxation agreements.  This long history of economic reliability can also be reflected from the recent visit of the Greek President, Mr.Papoulias and the press release that followed, notably referring to a number of bilateral enhancements based on the historical past by stating that: “our economic cooperation can and should be a major part of our bilateral relations. We wish to strengthen the cooperation between Greek and Maltese investors. Our economic cooperation can rise to higher level in spite of the difficult times. We hope that our bilateral trade will increase....We look forward to welcoming a high number of Maltese citizens who will wish to spend their holidays in Greece. Our cultural cooperation is equally important. Greek language and civilization are taught at the Maltese higher education establishments and I wish to assure you that we will continue to support every initiative at aiming at the promotion of our cultural cooperation.”(Press Release, Gov.mt)

    Notably, the first bilateral agreement between Greece and Malta was signed prior to both of the countries entry in the European Union, namely the Commercial Agreement of 1976 which ratified and regulated trade between both countries. A realistic agreement, made in the midst of a turbulent time for Malta and international relations, only two years after Malta became a Republic being integrated by an international arena swallowed by division between two systems of governance. In the same year both the Bilateral Agreements on Scientific and Technical Cooperation and Cultural Agreements were signed.  As was aforementioned by the press release by Mr.Papoulias, these bilateral agreements aimed where spices used to only formally ratify the agreements between investments, financial regulation and cultural sharing, within the framework of respect for each other homogenous existence. This was further enhanced when in 1992 the Greek government financed for a park to be build in Malta in honour of Ioannis Papafis. (Ministry of foreign Affairs.gr)

    Moreover, following the Detente in Europe, and for the first time in the midst of the Cold War where countries such as Turkey, Malta, and Greece, for the first time formed joint chambers, a plethora of further bilateral agreements followed. With the progressive institutionalization of economic relations the two countries recognized that their economic relations, in general, could be upgraded and intertwined further in a manner that is consistent with the common interests, views and aspirations of the two countries. The Agreement on Economic, Industrial, and Technical Cooperation has also been ratified by Egypt, making it an excellent trilateral agreement with the framework of Euro-Mediterranean Partnerships. Mostly, these agreements facilitate the movement of goods, the ability to enhance economic trade relations, air transportations, and food products such as fresh, frozen and processed juices and mineral waters. (Historynet,2015)

    Notably, Malta and Greece have both emphasized the importance in 2004 of signing an agreement within the European boundaries of avoiding double taxation.  It was sought as important to encourage the aforementioned growth of international trade within tangible goods as well as that of financial services. This agreement, to this day remains in force and is expected under no circumstances to be removed. The Maltese government has highlighted that not only with their Greek partners, but with every partner who has signed and ratified this agreement Malta will continue to encourage growth. Double taxation relief is a form of a tax treaty, which of course, means that business from all the ratified countries would be ratified and taxed in the least taxed country.  These deals are extremely prosperous for Malta, considering the levels of low taxation the government has managed to hold in comparison with the current Greek taxation of 23 per cent. This pivots the economic strength in terms of investments towards Malta’s side, allowing, factually Greek investors to declare their incomes in Malta rather than Greece in order to pay the least possible tax.(FinanceMalta, 2015)

    Finally, both countries have agreed on specific police agreements. Most of these agreements have been signed and ratified in the latter years, i.e. 2001-2004 signed in Valletta and involves the general cooperation with regards to civil protection, cooperation in attempts to prevent and respond to the effects caused by disasters and major accidents, calling for a cooperation in crisis management like the current refugee question, drug issues, and a joint civil protection cooperating unit that functions, not necessarily between the offices of Europol and Interpol within the member states per se, but as an independent unit that enables further cooperation, particularly in matters of tax evasion, and money laundering. (MFA.GR,2015)

    In conclusion, the fundamental point is that both countries have had a historical interconnected problems, ties, and solutions, however, when it comes to recent history both have used each other as a pivot of support for some form of gain. Greece used the Maltese succession as a pivot of power over any potential Turkish threats, and Malta thus used the momentum to gain financial empowerment over Greek investors. Both agreements however proved to be extremely unstable, as the issue with Turkey has seen no resolution, and tomorrow’s Greek government could decide to turn the Hellenic Republic to a tax safe heaven with 0.05 per cent taxation.

    However, there have been a number of historical ties in terms of bilateral and trilateral agreements, prevalent from the Second World War. Despite the fact that the Hellenes and the Maltese did not fight side to side, they both fought side to side with the British, and the British needed both nations to win the Mediterranean.

    There also appears to be a significant cultural recognition of each other’s state.  As Mr.Papoulias mentioned in the Press statement, it is considered the ultimate form of honour for the Hellenic Republic the fact that the Maltese schools are teaching Greek culture, and philosophy. Ultimately it is seen as the highest form of human interaction and teaching it to another nation is considered, philosophically the highest recognition of ethics. Philosophically there is no higher compliment.

    As such most agreements are based on a financial and entrepreneurial corroboration. With the exception of a few technical agreements such as the Agreement on Air Transportation, both nations basically interact with each other through Soft power, ie, building a Greek Park in Malta, welcoming Maltese tourists in the Hellenic islands, and the financial sector, as per examples, tax standards,  financial co operations, joined investments, and so forth. Notably, at this point relations have not been affected despite current Prime Ministers Dr.Muscat’s demands that Greece should pay back the Maltese or that it could not be saved under any circumstance.[1] There is a threefold reason to why the Hellenic Republic has taken the aforementioned statements very lightly. Firstly, the Alternativa Demokrattika, shut down these statements by referring to the Greek problem as a European problem that should focus on helping the people not spend bailouts on forced equipment by Germans and the French.[2] Greece also has a very limited number of allies within the EU, and could not afford losing Malta, turning a blind eye.

    However, and to conclude, under normal economic circumstance both countries hold excellent relations with each other as investment hubs, and culturally collaborative centers, and that is dominant from the bilateral agreements shared between them, all in good faith, the Mediterranean way. 

    References:

    The Race to Malta. 2015. The Race to Malta. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.historynet.com/the-race-to-malta.htm. [Accessed 06 November 2015].

    ADDRESS BY H.E. THE PRESIDENT OF THE HELLENIC REPUBLIC MR KAROLOS  PAPOULIAS  TO  H.E.  THE  PRESIDENT  OF  THE  REPUBLIC  OF MALTA DR GEORGE ABELA Available at: https://gov.mt/en/Government/Press%20Releases/Documents/pr140244c.pdf. [Accessed 06 November 2015].

    Πολιτικές Σχέσεις - Η Ελλάδα και η Μάλτα. 2015. Πολιτικές Σχέσεις - Η Ελλάδα και η Μάλτα. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.mfa.gr/missionsabroad/malta/bilateral-relations/political-relations.html. [Accessed 06 November 2015].

    Maltese historical civilisations: greeks, phoenicians, romans, arabs. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.malta.com/en/about-malta/history/maltese-historical-civilizations. [Accessed 06 November 2015]

    Malta Double Taxation Treaties . 2015. Malta Double Taxation Treaties. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.financemalta.org/double-taxation-agreements. [Accessed 07 November 2015].

    CER | Greece: Prime Minister supports Malta's EU accession . 2015. CER | Greece: Prime Minister supports Malta's EU accession. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.ce-review.org/01/19/greecenews19.html. [Accessed 07 November 2015].

     



    [1] Greece must repay debt, extending repayment period negotiable – PM - MaltaToday.com.mt. 2015. [WATCH] Greece must repay debt, extending repayment period negotiable – PM - MaltaToday.com.mt. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.maltatoday.com.mt/news/national/48894/greece_must_repay_debt_extending_repayment_period_negotiable__pm_#.Vj3JBmu6LK8. [Accessed 07 November 2015].
    Muscat on Greece: We need a solution, but not at any price - timesofmalta.com. 2015. Muscat on Greece: We need a solution, but not at any price - timesofmalta.com. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20150712/local/muscat-on-greece-we-need-a-solution-but-not-at-any-price.576316. [Accessed 07 November 2015].

    [2] Stop playing the machos with Greece, AD tells Joseph Muscat, Simon Busuttil - timesofmalta.com. 2015. Stop playing the machos with Greece, AD tells Joseph Muscat, Simon Busuttil - timesofmalta.com. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20150709/local/stop-playing-the-machos-with-greece-ad-tells-joseph-muscat-simon.575917. [Accessed 07 November 2015].



  6. The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (F.Y.R.O.M) calls itself ‘Macedonia’, but Greece rejects the name as, it asserts, implies a territorial claim to the northern Greek province of Macedonia .Greece has also denounced F.Y.R.O.M for claiming ancient Greek history in order to justify its claim to the name Macedonia. The country’s Former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski had caused a national outcry in Greece when he renamed airports and motorways after Alexander the Great. However, the current political situation in F.Y.R.O.M has caused the resignation of Former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski the country has been facing a long-running political crisis that has divided the country, entering a new phase for the country regarding its future existence as a nation, state, country.

    Early parliamentary elections were held on 11 December 2016, as part of an agreement brokered by the European Union (EU) to end the protests against the government of Nikola Gruevski. The demonstrations were sparked by the wiretapping scandal involving high ranking politicians and security personnel. From 20 October 2015, a transitional government was installed including the two main parties, VMRO-DPMNE and the Social Democratic Union(SDSM). According to the Przino Agreement signed in mid-December 2015, Gruevski was required to resign as Prime Minister 120 days before the elections. However, neither VMRO-DPMNE nor the SDSM won enough seats to form a government, even with the main Albanian party (DUI) which lost much of its support because of its long association with VMRO-DPMNE. Instead the balance of power was held between two new Albanians parties, BESA and the Alliance for Albanians which campaigned on a platform of enhanced rights for Albanians in what they argued was a state run primarily in the interests of the Ethnic Slavic Macedonian majority.

    President Gjorge Ivanov refused to give a governing mandate to a diverse coalition of political parties whose state objective is a stronger status for the large Albanian minority. Unable to form a government without the help of BESA and the Alliance for Albanians, the main Albanian party turned for help to Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama who summoned the leaders of various Albanian parties to a summit in Tirana. What emerged from the summit was a joint delectation which set out their conditions for entry into government with either VMRO-DPMNE or SDSM. The declaration demanded that F.Y.R.O.M would be redefined as a binational state comprised of Ethnic Slav Macedonians and Albanians, rather than Slav Macedonian Nation-State with an Albanian Minority. Also the declaration demanded the official use of the Albanian language everywhere in the country, not just in the Albanian majority areas, revision of the flag, anthem state symbols, Albanians involvement in a resolution of the dispute over Macedonia’s name with Greece, implying also abandoning the name Macedonia.

    Eventually the leader of SDSM, Zoran Zaev obtained the presidential mandate to form the new government on May 17. This happened after a dramatic violent episode in parliament on April 27. The United States and the EU also exerted pressure on VMRO-DPMNE and on the President Gjorge Ivanov to remove any blockades. On the 31st May 2017 the Parliament voted Zoran Zaev as the new Prime Minister and his Social Democrat-led coalition government, consisting of a coalition with two Albanian parties’ ending months of political uncertainty. The bulk of the new cabinet comprises 17 ministers proposed by the alliance led by the Social Democrats, SDSM. The largest Albanian party, the Democratic Union for Integration, DUI, which controls ten seats, has appointed six and the Alliance for Albanians, which has three MPs, has appointed two. BESA, the second-largest ethnic Albanian party, decided not to join the new government and not to vote for it despite initially supporting the new majority. However, BESA said it may support some of its policies. During his speech, Prime Minister Zaev presented the program of the new government, saying that joining NATO and the EU will be a priority in the following years. However, the obstacle for the country to join NATO and the EU is the long ongoing name dispute with Greece over the country’s name ‘Macedonia’. (3)

    The new Foreign Affairs Minister, Nikola Dimitrov, said that the country is willing to change its name in order to overcome Greece’s objection and become a member state of NATO(1). According to the Financial Times, the minister Dimitrov said his country will consider new proposals on its provisional name so that Greece can lift its 2008 NATO veto regarding F.Y.R.O.M’s membership in NATO. “I will ask Greece to reconsider what kind of neighbor they want, do they want a stable, friendly country that offers hope for democracy and justice?” said Nikola Dimitrov in an interview to the paper. “If we are a good neighbor, then hopefully political forces in Greece will realize this is a historic opportunity," he added.

    Are we seeing a “new momentum” for solving the name dispute? (2) Definitely the political crisis in F.Y.R.O.M which brought a new government shows positive signs for name dispute to solve. The Greek government sees the new Skopje administration as a more co-operative partner and the EU’s enlargement Chief Johannes Hahn said that the formation of a new government in Skopje, ending a two-year long political crisis there, could lead to a breakthrough on F.Y.R.O.M’s name dispute with Greece. Prime Minister Zaev said after meeting NATO head Jens Stoltenberg that “all possible options” were being considered, including to join NATO under a provisional name and to negotiate a lasting solution with Greece later on. F.Y.R.O.M split from the former Yugoslavia in 1991 became a UN member in 1993 under the provisional name the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (F.Y.R.O.M). The country wanted to join the EU and NATO under the name the Republic of Macedonia, but Greece has blocked its accession talks for over a decade on grounds that it implied a territorial claim to the Greek region of Macedonia. The country’s former Prime Minister, Nikola Gruevski, had antagonized Greece via nationalist rhetoric, but Prime Minister Zaev new policy is to end that.  Prime Minister Zaev said after meeting NATO head Jens Stoltenberg that “all possible options” were being considered, including to join NATO under a provisional name and to negotiate a lasting solution with Greece later on.

    No doubt from both sides the signs are positive, it is a historical moment for this long-going name dispute to finally come to an end, and the small state in the central Balkans to seek prosperity and stability rather than sinking in isolation due to nationalist and irredentist  rhetoric’s from the former government. The new Prime Minister Zoran Zaev seems to understand that primarily it is to his country’s benefit that the dispute with Greece comes to an end, as it is it the only way for future membership to NATO and the EU which would bring prosperity and stability to the country. Also the current Greek Government seems to understand that it is the best chance they will get to solve this issue, so that irredentist ideas and falsification of Greek history would come to an end. Above all a solution serves to the benefit of the Balkans, as a stable F.Y.R.O.M means a stable region.

    _____________________________

    (1)http://www.ekathimerini.com/219158/article/ekathimerini/news/fyrom-willing-to-consider-provisional-names-so-as-to-overcome-greek-objections 

    (2)https://euobserver.com/enlargement/138199 

    (3)http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/macedonia-parliament-approves-zaev-s-new-govt-05-31-2017 

     

    See also: The Macedonia name dispute: Will it ever be solved?  

  7. Six centuries ago Portugal discovered the world, now it is time for the world to discover Portugal

    Six centuries ago Portugal discovered the world, now it is time for the world to discoverPortugal is one of the oldest States in the world, its recognition as Nation State dates back to the 12th century, but still some people do not know where it is, others think that it is a province ofSpain.With 771 years of monarchy, 60 years of them under Spanish control, and 107 years of Republic which will be celebrated later on this year, as well as 48 years under a dictatorial regime, Portugal has a long history to tell and looks forward to writing an even brighter future.

    Such a small country in the Europe’s West coast with just over 10 million people, Portugal is full of great personalities. Just to name a few, Portugal is the home country of two Nobel prize winners, some of the best football players (Luis Figo and Cristiano Ronaldo) and one of the best coaches (José Mourinho). Portugal is also home to one of arguably the best Epic poetry by Camões “Os Lusíadas”, whose death Portugal celebrates as the National Day. Artists like Paula Rego and Joana Vasconcelos, architect Siza Vieira, and movie director Manoel de Oliveira are examples of Portuguese who have “conquered” the world in their own way.

    Having a Portuguese, Durão Barroso, as the former President of the European Commission, Portugal is a proud member of the European Union, being one of the most pro-European countries in Europe. Furthermore, Portugal is a NATO founder member and a member of an intergovernmental organisation where Portuguese speaking countries come together to show the importance of the Portuguese language in the world, called the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (Portuguese: Comunidade dos Países de Língua Portuguesa; abbreviated as CPLP, occasionally known in English as Lusophone Commonwealth. Despite scarce resources, Portuguese diplomacy has made it possible for Portugal to actively participate in International Organisations, such as the election for the UN Security Council held in 2011 competing against Germany and Canada.

    During the so-called Eurozone crisis, Portugal was notably affected, and the country made it to the news for the worst reasons: debt crisis, high unemployment rates, high interest rates, scandals involving banks and sovereign bond rating down. With a tremendous effort, the Portuguese people were able to push back Portugal from this great recession that strongly affected its small economy. Last year and since the end of the Estado Novo regime, Portugal achieved for the first time a public debt of 2.1% of the Portuguese GDP.Thanks to this, last month, the European Commission decided that Portugal was no longer in breach of the bloc’s budget rules.

    It can be argued that the so-called economic crisis changed the Portuguese people´s way of thinking. New ideas emerged in the economic and political system, from a country seen as traditional and conservative, Portugal is now a country where innovation and creativity are the modus operandi, without of course forgetting its long history and traditions. I argue that the crisis has been an opportunity for the Portuguese people to rediscover themselves and the country where they were born. Portugal is now back in the newspapers and televisions for being a country of opportunity and beauty.

    The recent advertising campaign made by “Visit Portugal” features a country of infinity natural and historical beauties that travellers “can’t skip”. The charm of the seven hills in Lisbon, the 2017 Best European Destination Porto, the world-renowned Algarve and the unknown Alentejo region and the “Norte and Centro de Portugal” with its historical villages, not to forget one of the best sustainable tourism destination, the Azores as well as the flower island Madeira.  All of these are Portuguese regions which are being discovered by new and old travellers. Tourists now see Portugal as a land where traditions and innovation live together through its narrow historical streets.

    Portugal is not only a place for tourism. Portugal is a country full of opportunities. The Web Summit, organised for the first time in Lisbon in 2016, showed the world how the Portuguese capital is trying to become one of Europe's Silicon Valley, competing with London and Berlin. Startups from all around the world are looking to Lisbon as a great place to move or expand their business. ThePortuguese footwear industry is one of the best examples of how traditional enterprises with the know-how were able to innovate during the crisis - now they are one the most innovating and creative hubs in Portugal.

    Portugal is also currently performing well in other fields. In the beginning of June, Portugal was considered the 3rd most peaceful country in the world according to the Global Peace Index 2017, ranking 3rd out of 163 countries.In football, the famous Cristiano Ronaldo is still beating records, the Portuguese national team won the UEFA Euro 2016 in France against all the odds, and was placed in third at the FIFA Confederations Coup Russia 2017. On diplomacy matters, Guterres was elected as the new United Nations Secretary-General and furthermore, other Portuguese were also elected for important posts such as Monica Ferro (UN Population Fund Chief of Geneva Office), Jorge Moreira da Silva (Director of the OECD's Development Co-operation) and Aldino Campos (member of the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf).

    On May 13th, the Portuguese catholic community celebrated the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fátima, with the two days visit of the Pope Francis to Fátima, one of the most important religious places in Portugal. While the Pope was leaving Portugal, the Benfica supporters were celebrating another football league championship in Lisbon, and last but not least Salvador Sobral won theEurovision 2017 in Kiev on the same day. For the first time, Portugal won the Eurovision contest with a “music that actually means something” and captivated the whole Europe.

    The 13th of May 2017 will remain a historic day for Portugal as the day that Fátima, Football and Fado took place in the very same day, those were the three pillars used by Salazar to keep the Portuguese population quiet and alienated from the regime politics. Portugal is now a new country, where much has changed since the Estado Novo regime, and Portuguese people want to show that Portugal is no longer an old fashioned country anymore.

    It can be argued that Portugal has been a sleeping beauty for many years. However I believe that the crisis meant an awakening and the country is now ready to play an important role in the world where success stories are needed.The Portuguese people just need to keep their feet firmly on the ground, and sustain their trust in themselves. The world, and even the Portuguese people, now understand that Portugal has more to offer than just a beautiful sunny day in Algarve.Of course there are a lot to be done, butthe world is already watching Portugal, do not let them down and make it worth it!

    Go and discover Portugal, its people and history, with your own eyes, but be aware of "15 Things You Need to Know before Travelling to Portugal".

     



  8. Surfing, chatting, online shopping are among our everyday activities. We use everyday computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones, by spending a considerable part of our time online for various reasons. Many of us depend on digital services to stay in contact with family and friends or to search for a hotel, restaurant or even to check our bank accounts. It’s the digital era!

    It’s true that digital tools have made our life simply, convenient and smarter! The European Commission took advantage of the new reality by developing the Digital Single Market. A brand-new sector of the European Single Market that that was announced in May 2015 and covers digital marketing, e-commerce and telecommunications. It aims to open up digital opportunities for people and business and enhance Europe’s position as a world leader in the digital economy. The Digital Single Market strategy includes 16 specific initiatives, that can create opportunities for existing companies and startups. These initiatives can also contribute into creating jobs and transform our public services. 

    The first achievement of Digital Single Market is the abolishment of mobile roaming charges in the EU. From 15 June 2017, roaming charges in the European Union are no longer apply. “The European Union is about bringing people together and making their lives easier. The end of roaming charges is at the foundation of the EU’s Digital Single Market and it’s another step towards building a united and sustainable European digital society, accessible for all our citizens”, stated the President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani, the Prime Minister of Malta Joseph Muscat and the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker.

    The second step is going to be held in May 2018 and it will establish a set of EU rules on data protection and privacy in electronics and communications. As of May 2018, the EU will also be equipped with its first ever common cybersecurity law to help keep network and information systems safe in all member states. 

    What about the current digital performance amongst member states?

    The Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) is an index that tracks digital performance and the evolution of EU member states in digital competitiveness. According to DESI 2017, the most advanced digital economies in the EU are Denmark, Finland, Sweden and the Netherlands followed by Luxembourg, Belgium, the UK and Ireland. Romania, Bulgaria, Greece and Italy have the lowest scores. DESI index, takes into account five different dimensions: connectivity, digital skills of human capital, use of internet by citizens, integration of digital technology by business and digital public services. Let us not forget the European champions in Digital Public Services in 2016. Estonia, Finland and the Netherlands are leading, while Romania, Hungary and Croatia are lagging behind.

    The data-driven economy will include a number of important policy areas such as digitizing industry and services (FinTech, connected cars), high performance computing, artificial intelligence, modernizing public services, digital skills and healthcare. The EU has to ensure that data will flow across borders and that will be accessible by all European entrepreneurs. Digital data is an essential resource for economic growth, competitiveness, innovation, job creation and societal progress in general.

    The European digital society will definitely benefit from the Digital Single Market. New health services and health monitoring, smart cities and modern e-Governance will be only a few aspects of a new digitized European Union.


    79% of Europeans go online regularly. Are you ready for the new digital era? What’s your opinion?

    _____________________

    Sources:

    Image: http://www.haptic.ro/tag/digital-single-market/

    Shaping the Digital Single Market - https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/policies/shaping-digital-single-market

    European Commission – Statement - http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_STATEMENT-17-1590_en.htm

    The Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) - https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/desi

    Creating a digital society - https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/policies/creating-digital-society



  9. In view of the talks under the auspices of the UN to resolve the Cyprus problem, OneEurope discussed with Yiota Hadjikosta, a law student at the University of Nicosia, about her opinion on various issues around the issue. Yiota takes part in various actions that promote the reunification of the island and shares her views and vision for the future in an interview with Leonidas Asimakopoulos. 

    1. When did this round of talks begin and how much is it expected to hold?

    This particular effort began almost three years ago. The election of Mustafa Akinci was seen as a new opportunity that should not have been missed, as compared to his predecessors, you are considered to be more ambitious and supportive of the Bi-Zonal/Bi-communal Federation.

    2. What is the difference between this round of conversations from previous rounds?

    As I said, the election of Akinci was and still is an opportunity itself. For the first time, the election of two Leaders with a common vision for Cyprus coincides.  After various ups and downs, all sides now feel that we have reached the end point. The difference today is that for the first time Turkey as a Guarantor Power claims that the existing guarantee system in Cyprus can not be left. The fact that Turkey today stands against Cypriot Republic alone is a small victory.

    3. Would the inhabitants and the "government" of  the Occupied North be able to leave behind the Turkish identity that has been cultivated to them?

    Here I have to disagree. I do not think Turkish Cypriots have also a Turkish identity. I would say that they are against to be identified as Turkish. Many times they have been the first to react against Turkey and against the role Turkey is trying to play. Turkish Cypriots believe that after the 1980s they were more mature and have been more ready for another future. Clearly, they are heavily dependent on Turkey because of the non-recognition of the Puppet state, but I insist that the Turkish identity has never been virtually cultivated, except in very few cases.

    4. Is the Greek Cypriot side ready for an association?

    I think people are more ready than the politicians believe on both sides. Young people, pupils and students have been involved in bi-communal programs, many have Turkish Cypriot friends. So I think the people in both sides are more ready than we think.

    5. What is the biggest barrage of negotiation about the guarantees status or about property issue?

    Theoretically, for me, the issue of achieving a solution is the sense of security and the status of guarantees, and this is because  both communities should feel safe. Clearly, the existing system can not be maintained, and this is why people involved with the Cyprus Issue have been gathered in Crans Montana. On the other hand, allow me to believe that the debate on guarantees and security will also show the true intentions of all parties, not just Turkey. 

    6. Has any suggestion been made regarding the name change of the State or has a proposal been made on how to govern a single Cyprus?

    Of course not. First and foremost, it is important to find a common code of understanding between the parties and to come up with this effort somewhere. It is also clear that the Republic of Cyprus will continue to exist as a fully recognized State both in the EU and the UN. Now, as far as the administration is concerned, we still do not have any information, since the Security and Warranty issue is important.

    7. What would Reunification change in the economy of the island?

    A lot! And I'm sure of that. First of all, the geographical position of Cyprus and its climate make it unique. Between three continents Cyprus can and should be a Peace Pillar. Due to our climate and position, as well as the security that the island provides, the economic part of the solution and especially the economy will develop. Cyprus has already begun drilling in its EEZ and has signed a deal with economic giants. Also conditions of cooperation with states such as Israel and Egypt can only positively operate. A United Cyprus, therefore, able to exploit its natural wealth would be the best economic solution, and I mean not only natural gas but all kinds of natural wealth.

                             

    8. Why do the inhabitants of Nicosia appear more receptive to a solution to the Cyprus problem?

    I would not say that. Each city lived a lot of events before 1974. Just Nicosia, during the coup and the Invasion, together with Kyrenia, were the ones who lived them more vigorously. The coup d'état against Makarios was at the Presidential Palace, while the Invasion began as a result of the crusade in Kyrenia. The people of Nicosia have, and today, have the misfortune to live in the only divided capital in Europe. It's hard to know how to walk in Old Nicosia and be within a hundred meters of roadblocks. It is difficult for us every morning to wake up with the view of the flag of Pentadactylos. Besides, Nicosia also have more contact with Turkish Cypriots.

    9. What is considered to be the most sensitive problem in order to accept a possible solution?

    A sensitive issue for me personally is to return to our villages. Even if I do not give back my village I would like to go to find my grandfather's bosom, who is missing. Missing too is a big blow to everyone. Altogether with the 1619 Greek Cypriots, there are also 500 Turkish Cypriots. I believe that Turkey has helped more, by opening, for example, In some military areas, then it would be a good step.

    10. Have you ever visited the Occupied side of the island? If so, how did you feel?

    The truth is that the first time I went was just opening the roadblocks in 2003. But I was only 9 years old. I remember that I went with a jersey that had the Greek flag on it. I considered it an act of reaction. Certainly, after years, I realized that such acts do not make Turkey to leave the island.

    11.Have you ever been back again since then?

    Yes! It took me about 12 years to do it. I had met a Turkish Cypriot in an event. We started talking. He was from Famagusta. It was then that I realized that beside me they were not aliens but people like me, young people with the same concerns and worries for the future. I felt it was the time I had to move away from nationalism to reality. Today in 2017 I go as often as I can. I have many friends on the other side of every age.

    12. What's your own vision? Why does a young person want the solution of the Cyprus problem so strongly?

    Nice question... At first I grew up in a refugee home. My mother lost her father and her cousin, like my father, the uncle who was like his second father. It is very sad that you can not learn the fate of your people (I come from Tumbus, which is the airport of the North and Assya where in the half of it the traffic is forbidden). My parents were almost getting married. They did not pretend to enjoy their home. As you can see when other children were reading the fairy tales to sleep, me or my mom told me stories from their village. Today my parents are too old. This is what scares them, they do not want to die while being refugees but they wish to see their home again. Maybe it's more for them that I want a solution so strongly. It is clear that there is only gain for every inhabitant of the island and for the generations to come in particular. 

                                

    Thank you.

    Photos by Yiota Hadjicosta and Leonidas Asimakopoulos



  10. In the aftermath of the 2008 economic crisis that affected all Portuguese people, Portugal has had good moments that will always be remembered. For instance, the election of the new President, the very optimist Prime-Minister who is able to keep a minority government with the support of the left parties represented at the Portuguese Parliament. Moreover the victory of Portugal in the Euro 2016 as well as at  the Eurovision Song Contest 2017, The end of the financial crisis together with the fact that Portugal is no longer in breach of the bloc’s budget rules, mark some good news/highlights for this small country during the last years. 

    Unfortunately, on Saturday 17th of June, just one week after Portugal’s National Day, the good moments were put an end to. Portuguese people faced one of the greatest tragedies during Portugal´s democratic history. Every summer, Portugal faces vast wildfires. Habitants from small villages in the countryside are used to live surrounded by the fires, putting their own lives at risk while trying to protect their lands but this June 17th marked  an unusual day. The high temperatures (over 40 degrees celsius), low humidity rate and dry terrains because of almost no rain during the last months left the Portuguese lands under alert.

    The dry thunderstorm that was felt in the centre region of Portugal started the biggest wildfire that Portugal has ever seen. The Portuguese authorities are still trying to understand the origins of the fire that started at Pedrógão Grande region, they said that was provoked by a lightning in a tree, but locals have a different version. They will need time to investigate what really happen, but Portugal will not forget those tragic days and solutions have to be found to prevent next tragedies like this one.

    It took four days and help from Spain, France and Italy to stop the Pedrógão Grande wildfire. A tragedy that took the life of 64 people and left more than 130 injured. Most of the deaths happened in the first day, when people were trying to run away from the fire but they were caught in the flames, dying inside of their cars. Portugal that is used to live with wildfires during the summer time, was shocked by the intensity of this wildfire and decreed three days of national mourning.

    The Portuguese authorities did a disastrous management of this tragedy, services that were not ready to act, some even did not work, fake news about the fall of an airplane used to fight the fire and the non-authorisation of the entrance of Galicians firemen in Portugal to help in the fight against the flames. These facts show the lack of coordination and preparation of the Portuguese authorities due into a certain point to the lack of investment in the firefighting corporations and in forest rangers, that government after government were not able to promote.

    Portugal is one of the world's leading countries in paper production, due an increasing of production the vegetation of the Portuguese territory has been receiving more “outsiders” in detriment of native trees. Oaks, cork oak and holm oaks have been replaced by pines and eucalyptus (the last one used by the pulp and paper industry). Those trees, in opposite to the native trees, are highly flammable and can easily provoke uncontrollable fires, as the one in Pedrógão Grande region.

    Desertification and depopulation are another problems affecting the countryside of Portugal, less than half a century ago agriculture was a rich sector but the lack of interest by the young in agriculture is leaving the small villages of Portugal without people capable to cultivate the fields. They now prefer to live in the big cities and work in their own office. Entire villages are being emptied of people, only the old people remain there, as they are not able to cultivate the land, their villages are surrounded by wild forests which are a big danger during the Summer wildfires. 

    During each Summer Portuguese governments have been saying that something needs to be done, unfortunately politicians tend to forget their promises, and when they came back from their summer holidays they start discussing other matters and forget the tragedies that Portuguese people have been living Summer after Summer. The Predrógão Grande tragedy is not easy to forget, political parties finally recognise that something needs to be made in order to prevent similar tragedies. 

    The Predrógão Grande wildfire, might have started by natural causes, showing that we have to take the climate change seriously, but extreme weather events should not be used as an excuse when during years the fire brigades and forest rangers faced lack of investment. The political parties have to face the real problems of the Portuguese countryside, they should look to a long term politics that will bring sustainability and balance to the Portuguese ecosystem, rather than to look to short term politics that will give them some votes in the next elections. New laws are about to be discussed at the Portuguese Parliament that hopefully will bring a greener future to Portugal and prevent such tragedies as the one in Pedrógão Grande.