Interview with Don Meliton Cardona Torres; famous diplomat and ex-ambassador from Spain in Denmark.

Don Meliton Cardona Torres was an ambassador of Denmark from Spain and famous Spanish diplomat; he used to be ambassador since year 2008 till 2010. Also, was an assistant manager of Saharan Africa and international advisor and lawyer in Ministry of Justice. He can speak Spanish, English, French, Danish, Arabian and Russian. Studied the course of Law in The University of Zaragoza and became to intervene in diplomacy since year 1981. He was represented in many diplomatic issues in Russia, Morocco, Cuba, Mauritania, and Mozambique. He was born in Palma de Mallorca, 2nd of November, year 1944.

I decided to contact with Don Meliton Cardona as he is a good friend of the friends of my family, also a great example for me as a great man who studied and worked hard and made a fantastic carrier as an ambassador, a diplomat and very warm person. I was very interested in the experience of Don Meliton and in the issue of a Spanish diplomat working in Russia as Spanish person, who knows Russian. Also, I was interested in the topic of carrying a specific mission in Denmark. Don Meliton explained me very well his experience of living and working in Russia, being an ambassador in Denmark and also spoke to me about his ideas to prove an access to diplomatic activity for a younger people.

This interview was made via e-mail in the morning of 7th June 2013, in Madrid, traduced from Spanish to English.

Mr. Melitón Cardona Torres

 

1.      Dear Meliton Cardona, you were taking part in diplomatic representations in Russia, how were the representations? In what way did they affect the relations between Russia and Spain?

 

I was a general Consul in Moscow between 1998 and 2001. The only thing that called my attention is that my country (Spain) showed a poor interest to the Russian Federation and that it keeps doing the same, so it continues being a problem for me…

 

2.      Could you tell me about your job as general consul in Moscow? Is there anything special of working with the Russians and to live in Russia, or is it really the same?

 

My work consisted basically in reorganizing a Consulate that wasn’t working as it should do and facing the challenge of sending 300.000 visas per year. I finally obtained it, to a great degree, proving the process and also arranging the access to a Consulate and its suppressing intermediaries.

 

3.      Was there any type of obstacles or difficulties being a general consul in Moscow; did you like Russia in general? What opinion do you have about this country, as a country of great contrasts?

 

I didn’t have specific difficulties, because the Department allowed me to continue a policy of contracting very flexible employees. Russia is a country of big contrasts, it is a true. At human level, I liked Russia very much. In fact, this is what I mostly liked. At political level, it keeps on showing authoritarian reflexes and an absolutist conception of the power that, certainly, is feminine in Russia.

 

4.      Spain is European country, but Russia it isn’t, are there any direct differences between Russian foreign policy and Spanish foreign policy?

 

Of course there are. Russia is a partly European country, and Europe would be right in having this in mind. The Russian foreign policy is based on a coherent and professional exterior service. The Spaniard is not.

On the other hand, Russian Federation is a big power, comparing to Spain, as an average power, so the foreign policies of both countries have different motivations…

 

5.      What actions should do Russia to improve their relations with other countries, what type of diplomacy or what type of goals, should Russia have? Any useful methods?

 

I think that Russia should increase the public diplomacy, but the deepness of the problem is that, as everyone knows, the foreign policy is an extension of the interior, and the interior one must still improve a lot…

 

6.      You have been the ambassador in Denmark, and the person in charge of ‘An exterior service for the XXIst century’ presented in November, how difficult the mission was? Was it successful?

 

It was a frustrated attempt of rationalizing the Spanish exterior Service basing it on the indispensable beginning of a unit of action.

 

7.      In one of the articles, I read that you have some ideas about diplomatic carrier and the access to the system of diplomacy of nowadays. In what is it based the reform, which you propose, that it is necessary to perform towards a system of access to the diplomatic carrier?

 

Basically, it is based in replacing the demand of the French language with any other, like German and countries under German Security Council. Therefore, emphasizing more on the juridical knowledge as well as the knowledge of economy and marketing.

 

By Anastasia Markina

7th of June, 2013.

Interview with Roland Gladushenko, British-Latvian political student, Labour Party activist and former case worker for Rachel Reeves, shadow chief secretary to the treasury. By Joe Wood

The following interview is an exchange between myself and British-Latvian political student Roland Gladushenko. Away from university Roland is a Labour Party activist and former case worker for Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves. Roland is a keen amateur commentator on European affairs with a particular interest in federalism, banking integration and eastern European enlargement. In this interview we will discuss Britain’s future within the single market and the problems facing enlargement of the EU.

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Joe: Mr Gladushenko first of all thank you for taking time to answer these questions, I was wondering if we could start by having your thoughts on the ‘British’ problem within the EU. Why now?

Roland: The biggest and most important reason is so that David Cameron can throw this idea into the next election cycle. Promising a referendum after the next election is seen within the Conservative Party as a vote winner especially as they have been losing votes to UKIP. Secondly it is thought within the government that a British threat to leave the EU will give the UK more power in negotiations about the future of the EU and the direction the government wants to take it in.

Joe: So this is mainly a tactical ploy by David Cameron? There is no real threat of a UK exit?

Roland: In David Cameron’s mind, I would imagine, no. However there are numerous back benchers in the Conservative Party who are hoping this could lead to a British exit.

Joe: How is this seen on the continent? Do they take this threat seriously?

Roland: Relevant threat yes however, as a significant change in the Union no. Many people on the continent see the UK as only a part-time member there is of course a general will that the UK will stay but nobody is prepared to give concessions to keep the UK. Of course this is seen differently across the different member states. There is a general view within the French political elite that an unconstructive Britain is more damaging than not having the UK within the Union. The Germans on the other hand would see a British exit as far more damaging.

Joe: Why do the Germans fear it? Why is their opinion on Britain in such conflict with the other members?

Roland: Germany does not want to be left as the only large EU member defending liberal economic policies which the British have been defending in Brussels. Throughout its existence the EU has had a balance of power between the more economic liberal North and the more social democratic South thus Germany’s opposition mainly derives from the fact that Britain’s exit would undermine this balance.

Joe: Ok slightly shifting the parameters of this discussion. The UK has always been the biggest supporter of EU enlargement and recently there has been a flurry of interest coming from the Balkans in joining the EU. How is this continuing enlargement seen across Europe?

Roland: Well I would like to share with you a quote by Catherine the great cited by Barroso who said ‘the only way to defend my empire is to expand it.’ Enlargement is seen by many of the EU leaders as the only way to keep Europe safe and prosperous. For example the accession of Croatia to the EU in July is keeping and promoting stability in the Balkans.

Joe: But is this support for enlargement really uniform across the EU? An enlargement involving Turkey has certainly been a controversial topic in recent years.

Roland: The short answer is no. Support for enlargement in the western Balkans is very much based on the small populations as well as our experience with the wars in the Balkans. So I do not think the accession of a country of 80 million who will be amongst the poorest in Europe will be on the agenda in the short to medium future.

Joe: Ok so looking further down the line, is a Turkish accession to the EU inevitable or are the limits of the EU on the shores of the Bosphorus?

Roland: This is largely still unknown and will depend on the developments within Turkey in the next decade. Firstly we still haven’t resolved the dispute over northern Cyprus and perhaps more importantly there are still major doubts regarding Turkey’s legal system and its protection of minority rights in particular.

Joe: Ok I would like to change the subject due to some breaking news coming in on a topic I know you are very interested in. Latvia’s sovereign credit rating has been upgraded by the S&P to BBB+. About time?

Roland: Yeah it has been a long time coming. Many have predicted that this would happen straight after the commission’s recommendation to the council regarding Latvia’s adoption of the euro. Even during the Eurozone crisis the rating agencies believe that euro membership is still increases financial stability, especially in small and open economies. I would expect Moody’s and Fitch to follow shortly.

Joe: Ok final question where do you think the future of the EU lies? Is it doomed to failure or will the current crisis strengthen the case for integration?

Roland: Throughout the last 60 years every single crisis Europe has faced has been followed by an acceleration of integration. I do feel that due to the current circumstances and the magnitude of that acceleration it will be more challenging than the crises we have had in the past. However in saying that, there are reasons to be optimistic that we are moving forward with the establishment of the ESM (European Stability Mechanism), with the signing of the fiscal compact and creation of the banking union. There is now a general recognition in Europe that the further economic and political integration of Europe is necessary to safeguard our future interests.

Green: “The Monetary Union Was Problematic From The Offset”

The Eurozone crisis has crippled the region since 2009, despite recent signs of potential improvement, many believe that the crisis is very far from being over. Even global banks have not been able to divert themselves away and are not completely safe. If we look within the countries themselves, the majority of them are suffering huge increases in unemployment rates.

To help me understand the Eurozone crisis and to see what it means for the future of Europe’s economy, I met Jordan Green (MSc Business Economics) in Madrid for some British Tea and to discuss the aforementioned matters.
How serious is the Eurozone crisis?
Jordan: This is a very serious issue, absolutely everybody needs to be paying extremely close attention to the markets, whether that is the creditors of struggling countries or the policy makers Europe- wide. Why is that so? If a solution is not found will continue to lead towards what could possibly be the most damaging financial crisis ever seen in Europe.

Will we see a break-up of the EU?
I do not think so, i think that if we were going to see a break up then it would have happened already, what we have seen is the countries trying to stick together and pull through in unison. A break up of the euro also comes with certain risks that in my opinion, not even Germany could afford to take.

In your opinion, what have been the key causes of the crisis?

You know, everybody would love to be able to pick out point in time and say yes, that is where the problems began. Sadly it does not work like that. The crisis has been a fairly complex issue and there are various root causes. One thing i am certain about is that the monetary union was problematic from the offset. The frameworks that were first laid down by the union caused a lot of issues. Another possible cause is the difference in competitiveness between some of the members within the union, for example Spain and Portugal are barely competitive within the Eurozone.

With this recession seemingly lasting forever, what are we doing wrong? Do you think we can learn from other currencies in order to overcome the crisis?
I would like to point out that it is not just the Euro that is experiencing problems. In fact in the US in 2007, they were feeling the effects of recession before we were here in Europe. As i mentioned earlier, the design of the Eurozone is flawed. The financial crisis that struck the world has revealed them flaws although every day it seems as if we are realising more and more flaws.

"The sooner that we change the fiscal policy, the sooner we can hope for some improvement."

“The sooner that we change the fiscal policy, the sooner we can hope for some improvement.”

With unemployment sky-high in the countries within the Euro, do you think it would be logical to tackle that issue first? As opposed to always concentrating on the financial issues.

The sooner that we change the fiscal policy, the sooner we can hope for some improvement. There is most definitely political and social problems within Europe that need addressing if we are to stand any chance of overcoming the financial crisis. Sooner or later we have to line up with the rest of the world and adapt new styles.

Is this the end for Europe? We are fast being caught by the Far East and South America. If we were to be caught, do you think that Europe will ever be able to regain its place as a world leader?
This is a very serious issue. I do not think that the current crisis will be the end of Europe. We are powerful enough to be able to bounce back. The world would benefit from a stronger Europe.

Recently, there have been some suggestions that the Euro may not be too far away from recovery, what are your thoughts on this?

Honestly, I do not think that we should gain too much hope from these stories, while there are still countries struggling such as Italy, the Eurozone would need a huge improvement all round to be able to steer clear of recession just yet.

The president of the European commission said this week that austerity has reached its maximum, with this in mind, is it time to reduce efforts?
I would not say so, some countries need extra help in areas where others do not, for example something needs to be done about the unemployment in Spain. However, in the end yes, debt levels need to come down.

What has been your verdict on Angela Merkel’s leadership throughout the crisis?

I like her style, she seems to always aim to find a consensus and she never ignores the smaller countries. Whenever I have seen her speak she always has her facts exactly straight. Personally, I would love to see her one day become president of the EU.

By Sean Farrell

Flood holds Germany its breath

(by Saskia Schink)

Hurricanes, tsunamis, floods – these are natural disasters, we hear regularly about from all around the world. Even in Europe there are every now and then such disasters, and even if they do not suppose the same dimensions, the suffering of those affected is as large. Germany currently struggling with heavy flooding in many areas, which let the memories come up to the ‘Elbe flood of the century’ in the year 2002. On the social networks, such as Twitter or Facebook, citizens organize themselves to help in the affected areas.

With the founder of the Facebook page “Hochwasser in Brandenburg” I have talked about the current situation and his assessment about it. Out of respect for his desire for anonymity he is appointed in the following interview just as Mister K.!

Brandenburg

Brandenburg

Mister K., according to information provided by the Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg (RBB) the forced evacuation of the town Mühlberg/Elbe was arranged at noon today after the Elbe crest reached the town. How is the current situation there and do you know how many people have complied with this request?

According to my information from some firefighters there, they have given up the fight. The volunteer fire departments and the German Armed Forces have ended the mission by 18 o’clock and go back to their stations. How many people complied with the request, we do not know.

Meanwhile the press published precise figures and said that about two-thirds of the inhabitants have left the city after the case of disaster was declared. The police ensure that no unauthorized persons enter the city and make plundering. The dyke systems will be backed up makeshift to avoid any major damage to the houses.

It is thus calculated with dyke breaks which will cause some damage in the city. As perhaps generally known the Household insurance usually does not cover any costs for damage caused by flood. Remain those affected now sitting alone on their costs or will there be some support? From politicians, etc.?

According to the politicians who are on the spot they have assured support to the victims, but as we know the politicians, they will not help in my opinion. Ultimately, most people will be stuck with the cost and even have to pay for themselves. But a lot of people offer to help on Facebook. So many people who want to help, I have never seen; even people sitting in a wheelchair try to help and  give information to the fire department.

So bravely fight the flood helpers: Ronald Zeiler (48) shovels sand bags in Halle.

So bravely fight the flood helpers: Ronald Zeiler (48) shovels sand bags in Halle.

Where you just broach Facebook, I am thereby become aware of you. As how important you see the role of social networks in such a time of crisis?

Due Facebook and other virtual media, it is of course very easy to share information and it is also faster than the radio and the TV. In my opinion it is the second best support you can offer; we can provide coordination and assistance there.

Some of my friends have participated in precisely these Facebook appointments and went to other cities to help in filling sandbags there. How is the current situation in other cities of Brandenburg, for example Cottbus or Frankfurt / Oder?

Cottbus currently has some problems, but there the level values ​​are stable. At the Spreewald the catastrophe alarm has been triggered and many places are impassable. The Neisse River calms down towards Guben. I can not say what it looks like in other cities currently.

The Spreewald is a protected biosphere reservation and it is one of the most popular destinations in Brandenburg. But it is currently prohibited by proclamation of case of catastrophe, to drive with all types of boats on the entire channels and Spree-branches.

In Brandenburg, there are next to Frankfurt / Oder few other cities that are close to the border with Poland and are affected. Do you have information on measures of mutual assistance and cooperation between German and Polish authorities and aid workers?

Because I live near Guben/Gubin (Note by the author: Guben / Gubin, as well as Frankfurt / Oder, is separated only by a river from Poland.) I can say that both sides, Germany and Poland, try all to keep the dams. At the moment, the level of Neisse River drops.

Then a few final questions: Mister K., how do you evaluate personally the current situation in Brandenburg? And how do you see the prospects for the next few days? Is a similar extent as the Elbe flood of the century in 2002 expected in your opinion?

In my opinion the situation in some cities is really dramatic. However, the media tell so much, that people already panic when they turn on the TV. A similar extent as in 2002 will not be in my opinion.

Brandenburg’s Minister President Matthias Platzeck admonishes to rest, there is no reason to panic, but the situation should be viewed with healthy caution.

Summing up, the German population has indeed to face with a flood disaster that already also called first deaths and damaged houses, but it will probably not have the same dimensions as 11 years ago. This is particularly due to the measures taken after this flood of the century, which for example includes the construction of protective walls and dykes, but also due to the timely interventions and meetings of precautions by the population.

(Interview performed at 07.06.2013)

Interview with Svitlana Petronyuk

By Roman Koshivka

Spain is one of the leading countries by the immigration rates in the World and the population now by 10% consists of immigrants. So, I thought it would be interesting to interview a person who came to Spain and lives in Spain long enough and ask how he or she sees it.  Thus, this is the interview with Svitlana Petronyuk, Ukrainian woman, who came to Spain 10 years ago. Back at home she finished university at a faculty of foreign languages, used to work as an English teacher at a middle school in her home town.

On the question why did she moved to Spain (which happened 10 years ago) she smiles and answers that, probably, because of the same reason as all the people  move to another country – in search of better life. Now she lives in Madrid with her husband Borys and 8 years old son Eugeniy and works as a yoga and pilates instructor.

However, she says that conditions for a young family in Spain could be better. Youth is not likely to get a mortgage credit from a bank and may experience financial difficulties without any help from parents. And the expenses of a family are usually higher than its average income. Of course, if you work hard, you will get through, but Spain is a country where both of the parents in a family have to work.

When she just came in here she planned to stay for two or three years, earn some money and then return home. “But as you stay here, learn the language, get used to your new life you change your plans,” Svitlana says. “Of course, a person can never become fully integrated. If you come to a country being a grown up formed individual, you will always keep your mentality and the way of thinking. You can be interested in the culture of the new country, accept and like their traditions, but you will always be in to some level connected with your home. A person can never completely change him or herself. But I never felt discriminated or somehow spurned.” She has a lot of both Ukrainian and Spanish friends, speaks Spanish fluently, often, when she is able to, visits art exhibitions and theaters. And, also, she makes a contribution to the development of Ukrainian culture here in Spain working as a school teacher at a Ukrainian school in Madrid every Saturday. Her son goes to a normal Spanish elementary school and visits the Ukrainian one every weekend as well.

However, she sees a big difference between the Spain now and the way it used to be ten years ago. “The life here has changed dramatically during the last decade: first of all, the economic crisis had its effect. Many of the immigrants from Eastern Europe were forced to return to their home countries as most of them worked on construction sites and many of the projects were stopped, so they lost their jobs. Most of those Ukrainian immigrants who left, unfortunately, do not want to change their habits, improve their professional level, they just tend to work more hours. And the overall situation in here has changed: the salaries are getting lower, the prices are increasing. Also the prices on education used to be so low that students from all the Europe, especially from UK, came here to study,.  Now, education, art, cultural becomes unaffordable for the middle class.”

I asked her what does she like more about Spain in comparison to Ukraine. “First of all, the mentality. They are less about material goods than Ukrainians. Our people usually think only of the wealth gaining and try to earn as much money as they can, seems like they are gathering a capital for 5 lives in advance.  Spanish people know how to live. They be10062013693lieve that if they work, they have right to spend their money as they want, they can enjoy the moment, rest, travel. However, the economic situation now is forcing them to change somehow.  Secondly, it is the weather. Days are brighter, sunnier which makes you happier and more cheerful.  Thirdly, people in Spain have much better manners; they are more respectable and tolerant. Also, I have never experienced or heard about any racial or national discrimination in Spain. This is probably one of the best counties in Europe in terms of the attitude to the immigrants, no matter where they are from and how do they look.” She believes this stems from history, as many of Spaniards used to work abroad in the times of Francisco Franco regime.

She does not build any specific plans for the future yet, but definitely she would like to stay in Spain. “Maybe I would like to change my job – not completely, I like to do what I am doing – but maybe improve myself professionally . I cannot imagine my life anywhere else, I am used to Madrid, the city gives many opportunities for personal development. Even though Spain is experiencing some hard times now, it is a very good place to live.”

Spain & Croatia: Double comparative interview

Written and done by Sergio Serrano Pérez

 

The two people I have interviewed are one of them, Mr. Neven Pelicarić, he is the Croatian Ambassador in Spain and the other one is Mr. Rafael Mateos Yuste, who is the major of Navalmoral de la Mata, a village located in the autonomous community of Extremadura, in the mid-west of Spain. With these interviews I want to compare the different situations of both countries, one of them an EU member since 1986, and the other an ex-Yugoslavian country, which the 1/7/2013 will be part of the EU as its 28th member; the 2nd ex-Yugoslavian country in the EU after Slovenia.

Mr. Neven Pelicarić started his career during a war, in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, being one of the youngest people, if not the youngest one, working there. After that he became the first Croatian diplomat with career send abroad, to New York, in between 1992-1996. Then he was designed as UN general sub-director. Later, in 2000 he was sent as 2nd leadership to the Croatian bilateral mission in Vienna, coming back to Vienna in 2004; being the Political Affairs Sub-Director for a while and, after that, ambassador and set as Minister’s Chief of Staff. Then, during 3 years he was UE General Director and Political Director of the Ministry. In 2009, he was sent to Spain as the Ambassador of Croatia here.

Taking into account that the country is going to be part of the EU the next month, the interview was mainly focused on Croatia and also the crisis. Croatia started the career to enter in the EU in 2000 with the candidacy to the Stability and Association Treaty signed in 2003; obtaining the following year the status of candidate for joining to the EU. In between 2005-2011 the negotiations took place and then a ratification process. For Croatia, the EU is an umbrella for safety, economy… and also a ‘coming back home’. ‘We can think about the EU as a house with 27 rooms, some bigger, some smaller; Croatian now joined a very small room (…) and now, it is going to be a house with 28 rooms. And it is true that now the roof drops but outside, it is raining; so, it is better to be inside with leaks, covering ourselves together, than to be outside’. The Balkan country is also going to adopt the common currency, the euro; nowadays you do not have the option, but you have to adopt it sooner or later and Croatia is expected to adopt the euro in two or three years from now on.

The entrance of Croatia is meaning to be something positive for Croatia, which will be able to use cohesion and structuration funds. According, also, to the words of the Ambassador, Mr. Pelicarić, Croatia is going to be more attractive to foreign direct investments; taking into account that it is a safe country, in international currency and loan markets. This is a peak in the Croatian race of getting closer to European and Euro-Atlantics associations; Croatia is a NATO member since 2009. Although Croatia wants firmly enter to the EU, as the Ambassador has just said, the Croatian population does not agree totally. In the last referendum made in the EU issue there they reach a 66’7% supporting them; however, the total participation was a bit less than half of the total population of Croatia. The problem, told by Mr. Pelicarić, is that Croatian population is very changeable; when everything goes well, they are pro-European, whey it does not, they are not.

My other interviewed is Mr. Rafael Mateos Yuste, major of Navalmoral de la Mata, exclusively dedicated to the political career since 1979; year when he presented to the local elections as the number two in the list for UCD (Unión, Centro y Democracia) in the village and in that legislature first deputy mayor. Then, he became part of AP, which is now PP (Partido Popular) in 1983. During the period 1983-1995 he did not present to elections but he was regional parliamentary in the Asamblea de Extremadura (regional assembly). In 1995, PP won the elections being him first deputy mayor again, the following elections PP won but did not enter in the local government because of an agreement between PSOE and an independent councilor. Since 2003 PP and Mr. Mateos Yuste govern Navalmoral. He was also in 2000 deputy in Courts and Assistant Representative in the Commission of the Pact of Toledo and has been in different charges in the provincial, regional and even national executive uninterruptedly since 1983.

This interview was more focused in the economic impact of the crisis in Extremadura, which is one of the autonomous communities less affected by the crisis and also, and unluckily, in words of Mr. Mateos, the only one in convergence or ‘objective 1’ in Spain. As he said, the economic problems Extremadura is suffering are due to the management of the previous regional government (PSOE). The region has been governed by the PSOE during seven legislatures; in the first six ones, with Rodríguez Ibarra as President, the debt was of 1000 million € and only in the only legislature with another President in the Junta, Férnandez Vara, that debt raised until 2400 million € in just four years, a 150% more. So, when PP entered to the regional government in July 2011 with J.A. Monago, the budget was gone.

Me with Mr. Mateos, Mayor of Navalmoral de la Mata

National adjustment has also affected the region but much more less than the regional ones; mostly were focused on infrastructure, as a consequence there is the EX-A1 (road) unfinished, it connects Navalmoral with Monfortinho (Portugal). However, the most affected aspect was the welfare state. Also, as the population in the region has heard, many health care centers in places with 100 people living there in order to rationalize the expense. Extremadura, on the contrary, has not suffered the same nonsense thing than in other Spanish regions, like some airports that are in the middle of the country without any use, as Mr. Mateos says. He hopes that we soon continue with investments on roads and the AVE (high speed train). On the other side of the coin, we have agriculture and industry due to its importance in the region and to the almost inexistency respectively. According to him, in Extremadura we should focus our attention to fields but more in the transformation of agricultural products.

Now, it is when both interviews “collide” in terms of the nature of the question asked. Both in Balkan Peninsula and in Iberian one, independence problem are taking place: Kosovo and Catalonia respectively. Both cases cannot be considered as similar according to Mr. Pelicarić, Kosovo has crossed a situation of human rights violations and war; people could not go to school and were not allowed to certain jobs. They were living in a non-democratic regime during 90 years within Yugoslavia. Croatia is helping Kosovar institutions, with an excellence center in Zagreb. The main difference in this with Spain is that Croatia does recognize Kosovar independence, after a couple of weeks since the declaration in front of The Hague Tribunal; however the problem of Kosovo, which is especially with Serbia, should be solved between both governments.

The main difference between Catalonia and Kosovo cases is the one aforementioned; Kosovo has suffered a war, Catalonia no. In the case of Catalonia, people were allowed to go to school, having whatever job… not as in the Balkans with the war last century. But, for Spain, Catalonia in a kind of headache the country is suffering. The region is, in absolute terms the one with the highest debt, after the first term 2013, 50489 million €, 250% higher comparing it with the one from Madrid. ‘It is an absolute mistake, apart from an illegality, the sovereignist derive Mr. Mas, President of the Generalitat is carrying out, which, since my point of view, does not beneficiate Catalonians’; in words of Mr. Mateos. Being the most ancient nation in Europe, and after 500 years, they are pretending being equals but a bit more than the rest of Spanish and according to our Constitution, all of us must be equals. According to the words the mayor told us during the interview, Catalonia has been bleeding Spain dry comparing themselves with other attempts of independence even with Kosovo; something not available because as the Croatian Ambassador Mr. Pelicarić said, both situations are far from one another and it is not possible trying to compare both of them.

Now asking them about a common feature for the whole Europe and the EU: the economic crisis and its possible end; none of them could give us a specific answer to the question, of course, none of them is an economist. For example, in the case of Spain, according to Mr. Mateos, we are watching the light in the end of the tunnel, but we do not know how much time we would watch it. We would need to reach an unemployment rate of 9% as in 2003 to ensure that we are out of the crisis. From the other interviewed, we are on the good way, the measures each government is establishing in its country, are yielding benefits.

The last point in both interviews was the economy of each country, its strongest sectors and its weakest ones.

In the case of Spain, according to Mr. Mateos’ testimony, the promotion of youth employment and helping SMEs. Also reaching a bank union in Europe would be useful in order to achieve again stability in Spain. The country need also not to think just in domestic consume, but more in exports which in the last moments have risen so it is now more competitive. Following those premises according to Mr. Mateos we would be able and we must “escape” from the crisis.

However, in the case of Croatian economy, the situation is not much more different than in Spain, in economic terms. As in Spain, Croatia has suffered a property bubble, not as bigger as in the other country; but there are many apartments and buildings already built but with nobody in them. Another aspect of the Balkan country was its important industry, destroyed during the war by bombing them. The loss in Croatia GDP was huge, 150% lost. As Mr. Pelicarić mentioned as a way to compare it and make us have a clearer idea, ‘the earthquake and the tsunami in Japan, something quite serious which affects the whole world, direct loss in Japanese GDP was of 7%, and Japanese government is going to carry out a 20-years-reconstruction-process to reach the same level’. The loss in Croatia because of the world was 150% of GDP and they had to reconstruct 132 thousand of destroyed homes. Another sector affected is shipyards that lost a considerable amount of money and they are now privatized.

On the other side, one of the strongest sectors, in both countries, that increase is tourism. Croatia attracts 3 times more tourists than population the country has (4300000 people), and people there, the government and also the Ambassador of the country in Spain, that it could go in the same way that it is going now to get close to the end of the crisis. Spain, on his own, attracts 150 million tourists approximately per year and Croatia last year attracts 12 million tourists.

Another important aspect in economy is SMEs which now need that its credit flows again. In Croatia, SMEs are something quite new because previously only handmade enterprises were available, and they need to develop within the society. This is something similar as what Mr. Mateos says that in Spain, where SMEs are not as new as in Croatia, we need to help SMEs in order to stimulate our economy to come out of the crisis.

So, basically, we are in front of two countries which are not very different at all, in economic aspects we share the importance of some sectors like tourism and SMEs. In both regions there have been problem with the independence, or attempt of in one of the cases, even we cannot compare them due to the different background each of them has. The only thing in which both states are more different is that, currently, Spain in an EU member and Croatia is not; however, this fact will change by 1/7/2013.

 

HOMOSEXUALITY IN THE EU AND EUROPE

HOMOSEXUALITY IN THE EU AND EUROPE

By Sean Farrell, Joe Wood, Saskia Schink, Roman Koshivka and Sergio Serrano

 

France is the ninth country in Europe, and the seventh EU member, to approve the same-sex-marriage law since the Netherlands in 2001. However, despite the fact that most of Europe recognises the legal union between same-sex-people, there are still many differences between regions. Europe is one of the world’s most developed continents but is it as liberal and socially developed as people think? Should the EU be intervening on this issue, forcing the other EU members into following the same steps taken by Spain and the Netherlands?

The ‘I do’ between Vincent Autin and Bruno Boileau in Montpellier means that same sex-marriage is no longer just a pipe-dream in France but a fact. The wedding was conducted by Hélène Mandroux, mayor of the town, who pronounced: “Vincent, Bruno, this day, you have dreamed it, we have dreamed it, and today, this dream is becoming true. We are living, you are making us living an historical moment. (…) Your history meets this day the one from a whole country, the one from a society which progresses, which fights against all the discriminations. (…)To those who would not understood, I remind them a sentence from Benjamin Franklin, ‘A nation can sacrifice a bit of their freedom for a bit of security do not deserve either one thing or the other and end up losing both of them’”.

Unfortunately, Europe has still has a very colorful map in terms of homosexuality as the Spanish LGTB union published referring to a program in Cadena Ser; there are still too few countries with legal same-sex-marriage, mostly EU countries plus Norway and Iceland.

In Poland, the Government started a “prosecution” against the children TV program Teletubbies because it “promoted homosexuality” and they are worried that it could have a negative effect on the Polish youth. The Polish Government has also proposed laws to lay off teachers who promote homosexuality in schools. This is not but another excuse to continue with the prosecution against homosexuality in the country by the national Government.

In Europe, countries such as Belarus, Russia and Ukraine do not even ban discrimination, something unbelievable in 21st-century-Europe. In Russia, the fact goes further, the mayor from Moscow, did not allow a gay parade for being “satanic” and criticised some European nations which: «bless marriages between people from the same sex and introduce in primary schools the manuals of sexual education, which act as a mortal moral poison over the clean children’s minds».

Of course it is the decision of each country decision but, the EU can help in creating a more equal Europe allowing homosexuals in all countries to marry and adopt children. The EU approved a text condemning homophobia and insisting all its members to protect the LGTB community from discrimination and pursue equality.

We need to develop on homosexuality because we are not tolerant at all. There are still many close-minded people that cannot believe that this “crime against humanity” could be true. That is homophobia, whose definition is: an extreme and irrational aversion to homosexuality and homosexual people. Fear, not hate; homophobic people are not but afraid of LGTB community for being something “new”; they have always lived quite well living in a “prehistoric” past. If a person likes same-sex-people and wants to marry and become parents, who cares? We have freedom of choice and freedom of thinking according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. So, if LGTB community does not discriminate straights; why do straights attack and discriminate them? That has a name: egoism and also intransigence; the population has still a considerable mental block that it cannot evolve more than it is.

gaydar