Interview to Austrian Embassy Official Worker

Interview to Austrian Embassy Official Worker

On Monday, 23rd June I had the pleasure to meet one of the official workers of the Austrian Embassy headquartered in Madrid, Susanne Escobar. She kindly answered to all my questions proposed but as a consequence of her job, she couldn’t go deeper to the topics. We talked about Austrian perspective as a member of the European Union and as a native Austrian she is married with a Spanish man, so she can understand and analyze both points of view.

 

To start with the interview, as a worker of the Austrian embassy I asked her what main functions they carry out here in Spain. She explained me that the main functions are of different fields (economic, political and institutional) – bilateral relations between both countries within the EU- and on the other hand, they offer all kind of services to Austrian citizens living in Spain (consulates, visas…). It also includes a cultural forum in charge of intercultural exchanges between Austria and Spain. “Relations are excellent right now in all areas” Susanne admitted following, “Austria’s interests are very diverse- from political and economic to touristic and cultural- we are satisfied with current situations”. Good news for Spain after seeing that our neighbors from the North still trust in Spain and the services it offers.

 

Moving towards to the topic that involves the European Union, she confirmed that Austria has suffered the economic crisis’ effects as the rest of the members, facing huge economic losses specially in the building sector since many Austrian companies have partnerships with the Spanish ones and due to the “booming housing” they lost thousands of jobs in that sector. Nowadays the situation seems to be more stable earning high state benefits and society getting back those jobs. She confessed that the current economic situation of Spain, and the still high rate of youth unemployment, is critical, as Spain is “one of the important countries for the common economy recovery”. Young people leaving Spain in order to work abroad doesn’t necessary mean something bad, as the fact that getting new skills and knowledge in other countries is a very enriching experience for them, the negative part of that (from her point of view) is that Spain is losing those qualified workforce and we don’t know how many of them will come back in a future in order to use what they have learnt outside and so, enrich as well the country’s economy.

 

Regarding to the last and remarkable results in the European Elections, the case of Austria hasn’t been different from the rest, although it wasn’t so alarming, the right and extreme right parties have increased both their seats in the parliament. She said that sincerely, the results were not surprising; the country was already expecting those results and the rise of Eurosceptic parties in there and hasn’t been inevitable. Moreover, Austrian population is attentive and follows constantly what happens over there, as a country located in the core of the Union. They are very interested in immigration policies and European foreign affairs, such as Ukrainian crisis. Finally, as a conclusion, I wanted to know which her perspective towards the future of Europe is. She expressed her positivism regarding the future of Europe as a whole: “ the crisis and dangers that we are facing now must only help us to understand that we can just resist external threats if we remain together, preserving our democratic systems, freedoms and our citizens welfare. In this way we’ll be able to improve and develop for the best”, Susanne Escobar.

Caterina Serra

Susanne Escobar

Susanne Escobar

YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT IN EUROPE

Unemployment has always been present in every country, varying always depending on the country in which it is given and the epoch. Youth unemployment has usually been quite low as this new generations are educated to be the best qualified in order to improve and develop our society. However, since the economic crisis harshly hitted Europe, unemployment has gone off, specially the youth unemployment, reaching scandalous and alarming numbers in almost every country of Europe in comparison with the previous situation before the crisis.

The last European elections results should be a turning point for the next European common policies. Population is frustrated and what we have just seen is something that would happen any other place after suffering a huge economic crisis and not seeing short-term reUntitledcovery signals. Although population has little to do with what has happened, Many Spanish people complain about their invidious employment situation and saying that this is a problem in whole Europe. Which in fact, most of the regions which have the highest rates are located in Spain, like Ceuta, las Canarias or Andalucía. But if you have a closer look on the data from April 2014 you can easily see that most of the concerned countries are only in the South or East of Europe. In contrast to this, for instance, Denmark´s unemployment rate reclines 12,4 percent and Austria has only a number of 9,5 percent. Moreover Germany plays a special part in this comparison: With 7,9 percent, it is the country with the lowest rate in the whole EU, although there are many foreigner coming from Southern Europe to work there. It has obvious reasons – a good political system, a high-quality education system and open-minded enterprises. As the level of education is very high in Germany the companies are exposed to hire young and innovative people who just finished their degree.

I think that we complain easily and we prefer to have “bad” solutions that only cover the surface of the problem and be satisfied with that rather than waiting and solving the problem deeply; and rivals feed the anger of citizens with this poor arguments. What is clear is that the EU needs to be renewed; we have to change all bad mechanism that were not working before and prevent new economic catastrophes and I think the next years can be a good time for Europe as a whole, people quickly will calm down their opinions if economic incomes come in their homes. If the European parliament and commission do proper changes and new policies, as they promised, the competitiveness of the Union will increase and so, the competitiveness of each member. We have all necessary tools, means, minds and opportunities, just let’s do it using common sense and thinking that the well-being of one is the well-being of all us at the end. Youth unemployment will decrease in the next years, as some has estimated. Spain will be one of the countries that will notice that, young graduated will not have to move abroad in order to find a job, good quality workers are offering their skills to others, they will be now able to offer them to their own country

As a conclusion, even though unemployment rates are quite high, the situation will be improving in the next few years, recovering from the terrible consequences of the crisis and lowering the youth unemployment by letting place to new generations to accede to qualified jobs.

All Europe looks at Spain

On monday 1st of June and after four decades of reign, the Spanish King, Rey Juan Carlos I, abdicated. It was shocking when the Spanish first priminister, Mariano Rajoy, called a press conference which he did not give any hint of what he was going to announce. When everyone was paying him attention he stated that the King gave him the responsability to announce to the population that he was going to abdicate. When that happened, all Europe looked at Spain.

Imagen

When Angela Merkel got told that the Spanish King abdicated, she couldn’t stop giving good comments about him. She stated the importance of the King in the transition to democracy and the good relations with Germany due to very constructive and deep conversations with the monarch. Hours before, her speaker, Steffen Seibert, stated that Merkel appreciated the King alot and hopes the best for him.

French newspapers have, as well, been following the latest news about the Spanish king’s abdication. Le Monde has reported in an objective way the facts and the reasons that made it happen. It also announced that Hollande and the King maintained a conversation the same day, in which the French President showed his support to him and the rest of the royal family defining King Juan Carlos as the “personification of the Spanish democracy process, who guided his country through the way of civil and political rights” (François Hollande, 2 Jun.) Some French opinion articles suggest that Spanish population reaction has been of surprise by the new but then, quickly assimilated and defined as a “normal decision” due to the king’s age and royal family’ scandals and they show their support to his son, Prince Felipe, next Spanish King.

The day after the abdication, the Italian president, Giorgio Napolitano, called the King to show his personal best wishes and to remember him his “deep and ancient” relations with Italy, the country where the King was born. As Merkel also did, he stated the great importance that he had in the Spanish transition.

The English prime minister, David Cameron, stated that the Spanish King has and always will be a very good friend of England. In addition, the British population are convinced that the Queen will not give up and abdicate eventhough a part of the population would be in favour of it. Some assurements about the the continuing reign of Elizabeth were made by the Queen’s cousin, the Hon Margaret Rhodes or even David Cameron, who said that he is sure that she will not abdicate in favour of his son Charles.

Diversity within ‘The Six’

European Elections have brought some shocking results; the increase in popularity of far-right parties in many countries and the uncertain future and direction of the EU.

The first few European Parliament elections Germany‘s voter participation reached good results: in 1979 it reached up to 65,7% turnout – while it decreased strongly in the last two elections: 2004 only 43% and 2009 up to 43,27%.
In the European elections (25th of May 2014) the German turnout increased up to 47,9% and the CDU won again in cooperation with the CSU reaching 36,3%, followed by SPD with 27,4% and GRÜNE with 10,5%.

The critical AfD party also reached 7%, achieving 7 seats in the European Parliament.

The right-wing and radical parties in Germany gathered a few votes, obtaining only 1 seat, however in some other European countries like France and UK it seems to be a big day for them.

Imagen

Picture retrieved from: http://tinyurl.com/lkwk2pa

The latest results made in France about the next 2014 european elections showed that only 39% of the population was going to participate. Due to the economic crisis, the number of eurosceptics is increasing in this country, bringing for the first time, a victory for far-right parties in the elections. The National Fron (NF) leaded by Marine Le Pen, described as an anti-immigration and eurosceptic party won with a 25,4% of votes while the other two important ones, UMP a centre-right party achieved 21% and the Socialist party (PS) 14,5%.

The failures of Hollande’s political program and the economic crisis that Europe is suffering right now has made right-wing parties lead the first positions on the electoral lists and have strengthened population’s national and protectionist values, rejecting so, any european future project.

The rest pro-european countries suggest that if the results are these ones, an isolated France would be devastating for european economic and social prosperity.

Currently, the 3 predominant parties in Italy are Forza Italia, Partito Democratica and Five Star Movement.

According to a pole made by “Metapolls” between the 2nd the 9th of May, Forza Italia, lead by Silvio Berlusconi, would obtain between 18,2-20.5%, many less points than Partito Democratico, which the poll gives a prediction of between 30,6-33,4%. Five Star Movement, lead by Beppe Grillo, would between 25-27,6%, many more than the oldest party in Italy, Forza Italia. The Final results at the European elections in Italy have been quite similar as the polls have shown through the past days.

Partito Democratico won the elections with a remarkable difference in comparison with the rest, obtaining 40,8%, followed by Five Star Movement with 21,15% and Forza Italia with 16,8%.

These European elections are the first elections held under the Treaty of Lisbon of 2009, which in article 14 points out that the now elected European Parliament is going to elect the next President of the European Commission. [Responsible for the executive organ of the EU.]

Closing the European Parliament elections of 2014, there is only one question left:

Who is going to be the next President of the European Commission?

Racism and nationalism strike again in Europe

With all the problems that are receantly happening all over Europe, nationalist groups are appearing and gaining more and more importance all over the European geography. Groups such as Golden Dawn in Greece are gaining a lot of importance in Greece and many small nationalist parties of different countries have them as a role model.

Imagen

picture: the guardian / ap / Nikolas Giakoumidis

As everyone knows, the European elections are going to be held this sunday and surprisingly, the Greek government will allow Golden Dawn to participate in the European Elections although their leader, Nikolaos Mihaloliakos is in prison due to allegations of him being a member of a criminal organization.As we may think this is a crazy action by the Greek government, Golden Dawn has atleast one representative in each region of their country which can tell us that they are the real winners of the past Greek elections.

As Golden Dawn, the new uprising French nationalist party, National Front, lead by Marine Le Pen, has gained importance after the economic crisis that hit the Eurozone in 2008. In the past French local elections, their support has increased to a 32% in the whole country. This is a controversial fact due to how hard and severe Le Pen’s words are; “we are free to welcome, or not welcome, those who want to come”. With that quote, we can see that non-immigration policies, xenophobia and euroscepticism are the main characteristics of this political party, which defends nationalism and protectionism as well.

According to “Barómetro del Real Instituto Elcano”, the way of thinking of Le Pen has also hit Spain, as the number of Spanish citizens that see ilegal immigration as a threat, has increased. The survey collected data which showed that 21% of the people that got surveyd give more importance to this issue than to changing the domestic and foreign economical policies.

Nationalism does not only happen within countries in the Eurozone, this movement has hit the British Islands aswell. Experts expect that the right United Kingdom Independent Party, UKIP, with its chairman Nigel Farage is going to get around 30 percent of the votes as surveys indicate that the UKIP could become the most powerful party on the island. Their campaign comprises a poster which show the British flag burning because of Brussels with slogans like “Take back control of our country”. His party is completely against the EU and wants the discharge of Great Britain as well as no more immigrants.

Switzerland, the country that has gone the furthest with nationalists ideas, in a bid to restart the negotiations with the European Union after they got frozen due to their immigration policy, will grant Croatian workers to enter their labour market. Although Switzerland is not a member of the European Union and is a major trading partner, European Union fundamental policies such as free movement of people and Jobs within its borders have been accepted by Switzerland under a pact with Brussels.

Cleaved parties in the European Union due to Ukraine conflict

Last Sunday Pro-Russian achieved their personal breakthrough: Eighty-nine percent of the population voted in favour of the self-rule for Eastern Ukraine by the referendum vote. This result as well as the way of voting reboils the Ukraine issue ones more inasmuch as the European Union is not acclaiming this vote and wants to declare more sanctions which cause cleaved parties between its members.

 

The so called third level of sanctions – wide-ranging economic sanctions – are intended to weaken Putin, as Europeans have ruled out the use of military means and use sanctions as their most powerful weapon. But in fact this can only be effective when all the members agree on them unanimously. Levels one and two were no problem because they were primarily symbolic acts – but the latest sanctions would have a strong effect on Russia and therefore also on the economies of the EU members.

Imagen

Picture:alliance / dpa / Anthony Picore

 

This leads to a splitting of the EU into different parties. Because in the last few months, countries such as Lithuania, Luxembourg and Sweden have publicly stated that they will support Ukraine with their military use of force. Raimonda Murmokaite, Lithuania’s United Nations envoy and Olivier Maes, her Luxembourg counterpart defended Ukraines’ right to use force if needed against pro-Russian separatists at an UN Security Council meeting on the 13th April in New York. Also Carl Blidt, Sweden’s foreign minister announced via Twitter: “If illegal armed groups took over police stations and local government offices in Sweden we would use all our instruments to restore order.”

 

On the other hand, the European Parliamentarian, Rebecca Harms, said that she agrees with the paths that the EU is following. She suggested more sanctions to Russia but she is totally against the use of military means from the EU for solving Ukraine’s crisis. Nevertheless the German foreign minister warned that the Ukraine is close to war as Ukrainian troops clashed with pro-Russian separatists a few days ago: “The bloody pictures have shown us that we are just a few steps away from a military confrontation”. As Germany and France are taking the middle position, they don’t want sanctions. But if Putin goes on destabilizing Ukraine, they will support measures. The French president Hollande has no negative attitude towards Russia and its president Putin. He wants to keep their relation of interest stabile.

 

Moreover especially the countries in Southern Europe are afraid of economic costs of a trade boycott. Spain tries to act neutral in this conflict. The Spanish foreign minister, Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, as well as the Italian one, Federica Mogherini, gave importance to restart the conversations in Geneva in order to get national peace in Ukraine and to keep working with Russia to stop this conflict. Garcia-Margallo states that Spain is in favour of the international legality and therefore condemns the separation of Crimea. He explained that Spain fully supports their NATO and EU allies. Additionally Mogherini expressed her hope that the Ukrainian presidential elections on May 25, should allow Ukraine to reform their constitution.