“Even before it began, Europe’s moment as a major world power in the 21st century looks to be over.” So says Richard Haass, President of New York’s influential Council on Foreign Relations. And you can see where he’s coming from. The “no” votes on the EU constitution in 2005, the subsequent rise of nationalist and centre-right governments across Europe, the grudging bailout of Greece, the fumbled bailout of Ireland and all the sharp divisions exposed by the financial crisis. Europe? What Europe? In any case the Germans have got what they wanted – reunification – and feel increasingly disenchanted with the bargain they had to make to get it – accepting the euro. But that which does not kill us makes us stronger. And if Europe does survive the euro crisis it could well be that its leaders will strengthen economic policy coordination across the EU to ensure there’s no repeat performance – a fresh impetus for the dream of Europe. Pie in the sky? Come to the debate and see what a former French president and five other big hitters have to say on the issue.
Archive for the 'Europe' Category
Nicolas Sarkozy’s decision to order the demolition of gypsy camps across France and to expel many Roma travellers back to the countries where they were born has attracted widespread criticism. So far, French police have deported more than 1,000 Roma to Romania and Bulgaria and dismantled more than 100 camps. A leaked interior ministry document told police to focus on the Roma "as a priority". This behaviour has led to a threat of legal action from the European commission, and comparisons with Nazi persecution of gypsies - some half a million travellers died in concentration camps during the Second World War. But although Europeans have lined up to criticise France, can other countries - and particularly the UK - feel any pride when it comes to our own treatment of travelling communities?
In the UK, where Irish travellers are the largest nomadic group numbering around 300,000, recent research has shown that the average traveller has a life expectancy of about 50 years – some 25 years shorter than the settled population. Infant mortality is three times higher among travellers, and a traveller mother is nearly 20 times more likely to lose her child before their 18th birthday than the UK average. Some see in these facts a manifestation of Europe’s ongoing prejudice against travellers, a form of racism which, they believe, perpetuates stereotypes about dirt, crime and illiteracy, holding back travellers who would like to work or integrate and pushing the community into further isolation.
Others, however, say that travellers must take responsibility for their own plight, and argue that the problems travellers face can be blamed – at least partly – on their failure to educate their children, respect the planning codes, work for a living and obey the law. Beyond such chicken-and-egg arguing - which came first, the prejudice or the exclusion? – lies more abstract questions about whose way of life has primacy. Should the settled community acknowledge that travellers have different attitudes and approaches to home, property, family and ways of life, and make space – physically and culturally – for the travellers to live in their own way? Or should travellers – and their politically correct, over-indulgent supporters - acknowledge that gypsies cannot live on land without planning permission, and that if their lifestyles are incompatible with the world today, they must change them?
In this Intelligence Squared audio debate, barrister David Watkinson of London’s Garden Court Chambers, who regularly acts for travellers and recently fought on behalf of the travellers encamped on the site of the London Olympics, will argue for the motion, maintaining that Britain has badly let down its own travelling community, pushing them into unstable, unhealthy ways of life by depriving them of the space and the legal protection that they need.
The motion will be opposed by journalist Harry Phibbs, who writes for The Mail and is a Conservative councillor in West London, who argues that British and European law is too generous to travellers, who should be expected to abide by the same rules as the settled community – and who claims that Sarkozy’s decision to eject France’s foreign-born Roma is justified.
The CATO Institute's report in 2009 entitled 'drug decriminalisation in Portugal: lessons for creating fair and successful drug policies.
To discuss whether imitating these policies would benefit others is Tim Lynch, who was closely involved in producing the report from the CATO Institute.
Arguing against the motion is Anders Ulstein, the Secretary General of Europe Against Drugs, a European not-for-profit drug policy foundation.
Anti-semitism is in the headlines, after 87-year-old Israeli President Shimon Peres made comments which many people have interpreted as accusing the English of anti-semitism. "Our next big problem is in England,” Peres said in an interview with historian Benny Morris. “There are several million Muslim voters. And for many members of Parliament, that’s the difference between getting elected and not getting elected.” "In England,” he continued, “there has always been something deeply pro-Arab, of course, not among all Englishmen, and anti-Israeli, in the establishment." These comments came after David Cameron compared Gaza to a prison camp while on a visit to Turkey. Though Peres’s spokesman later issued a statement partially retracting his comments, many people do believe that there is a deep-rooted strain of anti-semitism in Britain - and not just in the explicitly racist far right.
Award winning journalist, author and academic Simon Schama compares the tension and sentiment building in Europe and the United States to that prior to the French revolution in 1789. The development from Keynesian policy to that of public sector reductions and brutal cuts in real wages and social services is a delayed trigger for anger at those responsible for the financial mess. He calls it 'a recipe for serious indignation', one that will lead to the reawakening of the long-forgotten issues of local chauvinism and militant nationalism that will feed off a perceived lack of accountability in the EU and United States. Schama ends with an analysis of one of the original 'shock-jocks', Father Charles E Coughlin, who in the Roosevelt era exploited the power of radio to deliver an anti-Semitic, anti-FDR message, and states his belief that the philosophical grandeur of the political elites clouds their ability to recognise the power of these orators.
Has Europe fallen into an "us vs them" mindset? Have Europeans nurtured the perception that Islam is alien to the continent? Do they know what to make of people who don't conform to their Enlightenment values?
Speakers: Tariq Ramadan, Zeinab Badawi, Petra Stienen, Douglas Murray, Flemming Rose
A decade on from Kosovo's declaration of indepence from Serbia, the panel debate whether or not 54 out of the UN's 192 member states - including America, Britain, France, and Italy - were correct to recognise their declaration.
Arguing in favour of the motion are Sir Ivor Roberts, Mischa Glenny, and Dragan Županjevac. Sir Ivor Roberts begins by criticising the US for removing any incentive for a Serbian-Kosovan consensus before their talks had even begun, by telling Kosovo that the US would support it whatever the outcome. President Bush’s argument that this support was necessary to bring stability to the region was also specious, given that Serbia’s democratic government was clearly destabilised by international support for the Kosovan declaration. Finally, Roberts argues that multi-ethnicity has failed in Kosovo, and that temporary partition would be the best interim policy. Misha Glenny argues we must accept the political reality that European countries will not reverse their decision to accept Kosovo’s declaration of independence, but he criticises the flawed process by which this acceptance was made. The resulting confusion caused by European disunity means that Kosovo has not even been properly recognised by FIFA, let alone the UN. Glenny even suggests that the recent territorial adventurism from Russia in Georgia is linked to Kosovo’s treatment: that their actions have been legitimised by the free-for-all created by countries recognising Kosovo’s independence without full agreement from Serbia or the UN. As the only Serb on the panel, Dragan Županjevac wholeheartedly supports the motion. He insists that any recognition of Kosovan independence without agreement from the UN directly contravenes international law. He supports the notion that the ruling on Kosovo is a “toolkit for separatism worldwide”, and draws attention to some often “forgotten” victims of the conflict: the 200,000 Serbians who have been forced to leave Kosovo to live in refugee camps.
Opposing the motion are Wolfgang Ischinger, Paddy Ashdown, and Veton Surroi. Wolfgang Ischinger insists that, with all other options exhausted, Kosovan independence was the only satisfactory course of action remaining. Subjecting Kosovo to Serbian rule once again would have been unthinkable after the horrific events of 1999. Ischinger rejects Ivor Roberts’ support for partition within Kosovo, insisting that Europe must remain true to an ideology that always permits multi-ethnic spaces. Paddy Ashdown argues that there are important parallels between the secession of the Republic of Ireland from the UK and of Kosovo from Serbia: through prolonged misgovernance and finally brutality, both ruling countries lost the moral and practical right to govern. Ashdown strongly rejects the parallels drawn by Misha Glenny between Kosovo and South Ossetia, as well as Roberts’s idea of creating partition in Kosovo. Any attempt to impose mono-ethnic regions in the Balkans will, he says, lead inevitably to conflict and further bloodshed. Veton Surroi brings to bear his personal experience of Milosevic’s regime on this debate; he explains exactly how Milosevic divided up different ethnic groups into first and second class citizens in Kosovo, and how this discrimination even extended into the classroom. He praises the intervention of the UN, who for the first time in the 20th century, actually prevented genocide from occurring.
First Vote: 171 For, 184 Against, 275 Don’t Know
Final Vote: 311 For, 364 Against, 22 Don’t Know
Speakers for the motion are Lord Lamont, Neil O'Brien and Andrew Roberts
Speakers against the motion are Vernon Bogdanor, Sir Stephen Wall and David Aaronovitch
Chaired by Andrew Neil
The panel examine the controversial topic of the perceived culture divide between the West and 'the rest', debating whether or not the West is justified in asserting the superiority of its own values.
Proposing the motion are Ibn Warraq, David Aaronovitch, and Douglas Murray. Ibn Warraq proposes the motion by pointing out some of the bases of western civilisation - rational thinking, self-criticism, the search for truth, the ability to separate cultural and secular values and so on - and how these values have improved the societies that have imported them, such as in China and Japan. His main argument is that Western civilisation respects the rights of women, homosexuals and members of non-western religions, whereas other cultures, and particularly those influenced by Islam, do not. The Qur’an is not, he says, a document that promotes equality. David Aaronovitch argues that Western values may not always be applied very well by all Western societies, but that the conduct of, for example, the British and American governments in allowing imprisonment and torture at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, is not advocated by the majority of the population. Douglas Murray draws a distinction between asserting values peacefully, as in this debate and asserting them violently. He suggests that there are no Islamic governments that Westerners would choose to live under. The West endorses a dialogue, he argues, that is not reciprocated by the non-Western world - if we do not assert our Western values then there is no help for those people suffering civil and human rights abuses in other parts of the world.
Opposing the motion are Charles Glass, Tariq Ramadan, and William Dalrymple. Charles Glass suggests that the West does not so much assert or export its values as 'shove them down people's throats' and that a culture which gave the world two world wars and colonial rule all over the world has no right to assert its superiority. Tariq Ramadan argues that the West asserts its own values because it is scared of losing its 'European' identity, and that, anyway, perceiving 'The West' and 'The Rest' as separate worlds is an historical and scientific mistake. He notes that Western values are often misused in the West, and points to the way immigrants are often treated badly even in Europe. William Dalrymple points out that the concept of 'Western' values is in some way flawed, as they are based on Judeo-Christian ideals, which are not Western at all. The first law codes, he notes, were laid down in Iraq, and the concept of reason originated with Arabic philosophers. The West also perpetrated such historical events as the Spanish Inquisition, and western ideals such as Marxism, Fascism, and Nazism, have caused millions of deaths. By asserting 'western' values, he argues, we are cherry-picking our favourite values and claiming them as our own.
First Vote: 313 For, 221 Against, 207 Don’t Know
Final Vote: 465 For, 264 Against, 18 Don’t Know
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