Do you know who won the Olympics in London in terms of the medal count? If you think it was the United States then think again. In fact, the winner by medal count at the last Olympics in London (as well as earlier) was the European Union! Invincible athletes of the Member States of the European Union jointly achieved 305 medals (92 gold, 104 silver and 109 bronze), while their American counterparts collected a total of 104 medals (46 gold, 29 silver and 29 bronze) (more information here and here). Even when translated into number of medals per capita, Europe remains in the lead with one medal for each 1.7 million citizens, where the Americans won one medal for every 3 million citizens.
So, you know that the European Union is an Olympic superpower. Now read what makes Europeans so very successful in sports and in what ways we work together to create a healthier and more sporty continent.
Europe is again under shock. During a journey to that promised Europe, that for many African who don’t have anything to lose and that most probably represents the promised land, a lot of people drowned. Around 950 people were on the boat that on Sunday sank between Malta and Lampedusa, and another 200 on the boat that sank on Monday near the Greek island of Rhodes. Some of them were rescued, but the vast majority will forever remain in the Mediterranean. Based on the data of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) the Mediterranean took last year 3.279 people, while until the 19 April of this year already 1.600. For how much have this number to rise, that Europe (the EU and its Member States) will react?
April 1st marked the third anniversary of the beginning of the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI). Even if its implementation was foreseen already in the Lisbon treaty (which entered into force in 2009), the enforcement of the ECI was postponed until 2012. The ECI was presented as an important instrument for EU citizens, that would allow them to influence and directly shape the EU legislation. What did the ECI really bring and can we be satisfied with it?
Recently, top EU leaders announced the establishment of the Energy Union. This should be the creation of an integrated energy policy for the entire European Union, which is currently lost somewhere between environmental policy, competition, industry and climate change. Before us is a period when a number of important decisions will be taken in the field of energy. The Informal Energy Council scheduled for next week will also see Ministers of the Member States discuss this new initiative. Therefore, I suggest to look at some key information and basic concepts to shed some light on the matter.
It is usually thought of the European Union capital city as a faceless conglomeration somewhere between France and the Netherlands, where heaven exists for bureaucrats that write incomprehensible legal and technical texts, and communicate with citizens in a similar style. Brussels is rarely considered for what it really is; probably a very unique place not only in Europe but in the world and very much comparable to Washington DC. Brussels is much more than just a beehive of officials. It is the center for political events in Europe and one of the most important places for lobbyists from different Member States. Brussels is certainly not impersonal or empty. Brussels are people, students, trainees, lobbyists, politicians, NGO workers and officials.
Lately, we have been hearing a lot about quantitative easing (QE) in the media. However, as this is a rather specialized topic, most people, even some economic press readers, do not have a clear notion of what QE is. That is why my friend Grega invited me to write this post for his blog. He said he needed someone to explain QE for dummies. Thus, I did not have to worry about a title anymore!
This year marks the 11th anniversary of the big “Eastern enlargement” when 10 countries from Central and Eastern Europe, who have in common an undemocratic past, become part of the EU. The “Big Bang” enlargement has been followed by two smaller ones, with the last in 2013, when Croatia joined. After the 2004 enlargement, some were talking about an “enlargement fatigue”, which is apparently still persisting. Even if there are still some countries in the waiting room, the enlargement is on hold for at least the next 5 years. Can this be considered still as a simpton of the “fatigue” or an actual stop?
On Monday, the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, surprised by a statement that the European Union should respond to the growing aggressiveness of Russia by uniting the military capabilities of its Member States based on the model of NATO. According to Juncker, a man dedicated to further integration of European countries, the EU can at this time no longer remain credible if we are not willing to make sure that we can protect our values by an armed force. Reactions of Member States were varied. But, can we imagine that one day there may be a future in which the European Union will be defended by soldiers with blue and gold flags on their uniforms? Perhaps. At the moment, when Putin’s Russia is increasingly flexing its muscles, and the Islamist regime of Daesh is becoming increasingly widespread in the Middle East, it could be a right time for EU Member States to move forward and unite their troops under one roof.
One question remains, however. Would an EU army, modeled on NATO be the best solution?
Last Friday premiered the third season of the series House of Cards. For the first time since the series began, I can legally view it at the same time as in the US, where the series comes from and also at the same time as in France, the UK, Ireland and other countries where Netflix is available. However if, for example, I would decide to return home to Slovenia, I couldn’t access to the service, even though I paid for it. To exaggerate, it is as if I would buy a book in Belgium and it would be confiscated at my arrival at the airport in Ljubljana, just because this book is not sold in Slovenia. The only difference is that the second thing is forbidden, while the first is still allowed. But why?
It would be hard to find another trade agreement that has ever been under such media spotlight than Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is at the moment. But that is understandable as TTIP is much more than just another preferential trade agreement project: it aims to link the world’s two biggest economic entities. TTIP, for which negotiations between the European Union and the United States began in 2013, is presented as an ambitious and comprehensive partnership.