Europe Network World Politics

Just thoughts

Tomorrow I’m flying to Warsaw. Since June, I’ve been training Polish civil servants on EU negotiations for the Polish Presidency in the second semester in 2011. I won’t tell you about my impressions at this moment. I’ll do it when the training is finished at the end of January 2011. At this moment, it is mixed, though more positive than negative…

In the meantime, France is melting down, or so it looks like. Would the government concede or the demonstrators become tired of so much protesting? I’d bet for the second. Sooner or later people will have to go back to their jobs, to consume and ignore the neighbour…this is not 68 anymore. This has negative – e.g. no further debate about the appropriateness of the economic measures or a path to change of economic model – and positive – e.g. defeat of the most conservative forces in the left (which are, I reckon, quite powerful in France (and arrogant too!)) – effects. Europe is trapped in this false dilemma between neo-liberal recipes for our economic predicament and old, reactionary social policies, which are based on the actual exploitation of a big part of the human population and natural resources e.g. cheap oil price, low salaries, authoritarian governments…

A new narrative, discourse is necessary. A discourse that’s brewing, and it’s actually there, but that needs (1) leadership and (2) momentum i.e. the right generation to support it. This discourse is based on simple ideas: (1) Big truths do not exist = nobody is 100% and always right, (2) we only have one planet, (3) we are what we are = we should solve our own problems, each and everyone of us, (4) everything is connected.


‘Visca España!’: the new brand for a diverse Spain?

When Spain won against Germany in the World Championship semifinals, a sports newspaper published in Madrid, As, headlined its front page with a ‘Visca España!’ in recognition of the origins of game played by ‘La Roja’. This is quite a symbolic expression of integrative definition of Spain.

Abroad, by all nationalities, I’ve been asked any times whether I wanted an independent Catalunya from Spain. I’ve always replied with a ‘it depends on how you define Spain’. If you define it as a centralized nation-state where other cultures other than the Castilian are marginalised from its identity, I definitely don’t want to be part of it. But if you define it as an integrative entity of diversity, where language, culture, actions, emotions and thoughts from its ‘pueblos’ (communities) are respected at the same level as the Castilian (for example when Catalan would be taught in Spanish schools as part of our rich patrimony, worth protecting and promoting), then yes. I want to be Spanish. Identity is not a static thing. It moves and changes with history. We contribute to its definition. For this we need leaders that pull us in one direction or the other. It’s up to us to choose these leaders.

Today, there is an interesting article in El Pais about the effects of Spain’s achievements in the World Cup, the use of ‘Visca España!’, the fact that the game style is from Barcelona and Spain’s brand.

Europe Politics

Politics is about people, not parties

© ?

Young Europeans do not want political parties in their lives. Only 4% of young people (15-29 year olds) participate in a political party or trade union (on Euronews (2:02 mark) from Eurostat statistics). This is a clear figure of what young people want or do no want. Political party politicians and their acolytes would quickly blame the education system, capitalism, the television or even the Playstation for the lack of interest in politics of young people. They are blinded by their group thinking and narrow perspective of what politics is. Politics is not only, and not even mainly, about what political parties and their representatives (the so-called “politicians”) do. This fact, many people, including young people, know very well. I recommend the party people to go one night around bars in any city or town in Europe, to listen to what people are talking about. They talk about politics beyond political parties and their captive public institutions. They will be surprised to hear that there is political life outside the party. For politics is mainly about people and what they do, and not about organisations of any kind. That is why we need to reform the system to give chances to those who want to talk and participate in politics, but do not want to be captive of an organisation that has its own interests, often different than the interests of the rest of us.

Europe Politics

Why not? Catalonia’s independence seen from Europe

mapa_catalunyaWhen I left Barcelona for the first time in 1998 to go to Paris, Catalunya was rarely known as a place where identitarian feeling was strong and culture thriving. Very often, my language, Catalan, was known as a Spanish dialect and our claims of autonomy taken lightly, as part of our folklore, in comparison to the violent separatist movement in Basque country.

In all this time since I left my country, more than 10 years, things have changed. News about what Jose Ortega y Gasset called “the Catalan problem” (el problema catalán) have regularly appeared in international media. Something I was not accustomed to. At the same time, a Catalan government more assertive in claiming the position of the Catalan language, and in extending the presence of Catalunya around the world came into power in 2003.

Europe Information Politics Technology

From Russia with Twitter (and my blog) in defence of our online rights

This week is ending. I’ve been (still I am) in Moscow for a week of teaching at the MGIMO, as I do every six months. On the academic side, no big changes or problems – well, besides a drunk student who told me in front of the rest of the students that “this year everything is changing”, for I will have to start teaching in Russian (!), because he couldn’t understand English and my subject interested him very much (ignoring the fact that there was very good simultaneous translation!). I took it as a funny anecdote anyway, similar to the email I got last year from the worst-translator-ever, who was complaining that he got fired because of me.

The big news for me are that while I was in Russia, I could do politics in Spain. I could participate as a blogger and citizen in the massive online protest against the surreptitious provision included at the end (and some say in the last minute) of Prime Minister Zapatero’s new Ley de Economía Sostenible (Law for a Sustainable Economy), currently being read by the Spanish Parliament. This provision modifies the Spanish Information Society Law passed in 2002. It creates a new Commission for Intellectual Property (Comisión de Propiedad Intelectual) in the Ministry of Culture. And, according to the interpretation I concur with, it gives to this Commission powers to shut off a website or online service infringing intellectual property rights without judicial intervention. This set off a viral fire on the web in a matter of hours. Twitter was the main conduct through which this increasingly candescent political momentum ran. The morning after the law proposal was presented to the Parliament, a (still) unidentified group of “journalists, bloggers, professionals and creators” had written a Manifesto for the defence of the rights of Internet users (Manifiesto en defensa de los derechos fundamentales en Internet).

Europe Information Politics Technology

Spanish Manifesto on the rights of Internet users

A group of journalists, bloggers, professionals and creators want to express their firm opposition to the inclusion in a Draft Law of some changes to Spanish laws restricting the freedoms of expression, information and access to culture on the Internet. They also declare that:

1 .- Copyright should not be placed above citizens’ fundamental rights to privacy, security, presumption of innocence, effective judicial protection and freedom of expression.

2 .- Suspension of fundamental rights is and must remain an exclusive competence of judges. This blueprint, contrary to the provisions of Article 20.5 of the Spanish Constitution, places in the hands of the executive the power to keep Spanish citizens from accessing certain websites.

3 .- The proposed laws would create legal uncertainty across Spanish IT companies, damaging one of the few areas of development and future of our economy, hindering the creation of startups, introducing barriers to competition and slowing down its international projection.

4 .- The proposed laws threaten creativity and hinder cultural development. The Internet and new technologies have democratized the creation and publication of all types of content, which no longer depends on an old small industry but on multiple and different sources.

5 .- Authors, like all workers, are entitled to live out of their creative ideas, business models and activities linked to their creations. Trying to hold an obsolete industry with legislative changes is neither fair nor realistic. If their business model was based on controlling copies of any creation and this is not possible any more on the Internet, they should look for a new business model.

6 .- We believe that cultural industries need modern, effective, credible and affordable alternatives to survive. They also need to adapt to new social practices.

7 .- The Internet should be free and not have any interference from groups that seek to perpetuate obsolete business models and stop the free flow of human knowledge.

8 .- We ask the Government to guarantee net neutrality in Spain, as it will act as a framework in which a sustainable economy may develop.

9 .- We propose a real reform of intellectual property rights in order to ensure a society of knowledge, promote the public domain and limit abuses from copyright organizations.

10 .- In a democracy, laws and their amendments should only be adopted after a timely public debate and consultation with all involved parties. Legislative changes affecting fundamental rights can only be made in a Constitutional law.

translation taken from Cory Doctorow’s

Europe Information Politics Technology

Manifiesto en defensa de los derechos fundamentales en Internet

Ante la inclusión en el Anteproyecto de Ley de Economía sostenible de modificaciones legislativas que afectan al libre ejercicio de las libertades de expresión, información y el derecho de acceso a la cultura a través de Internet, los periodistas, bloggers, usuarios, profesionales y creadores de Internet manifestamos nuestra firme oposición al proyecto, y declaramos que:

1. Los derechos de autor no pueden situarse por encima de los derechos fundamentales de los ciudadanos, como el derecho a la privacidad, a la seguridad, a la presunción de inocencia, a la tutela judicial efectiva y a la libertad de expresión.

2. La suspensión de derechos fundamentales es y debe seguir siendo competencia exclusiva del poder judicial. Ni un cierre sin sentencia. Este anteproyecto, en contra de lo establecido en el artículo 20.5 de la Constitución, pone en manos de un órgano no judicial -un organismo dependiente del ministerio de Cultura-, la potestad de impedir a los ciudadanos españoles el acceso a cualquier página web.

3. La nueva legislación creará inseguridad jurídica en todo el sector tecnológico español, perjudicando uno de los pocos campos de desarrollo y futuro de nuestra economía, entorpeciendo la creación de empresas, introduciendo trabas a la libre competencia y ralentizando su proyección internacional.

4. La nueva legislación propuesta amenaza a los nuevos creadores y entorpece la creación cultural. Con Internet y los sucesivos avances tecnológicos se ha democratizado extraordinariamente la creación y emisión de contenidos de todo tipo, que ya no provienen prevalentemente de las industrias culturales tradicionales, sino de multitud de fuentes diferentes.

5. Los autores, como todos los trabajadores, tienen derecho a vivir de su trabajo con nuevas ideas creativas, modelos de negocio y actividades asociadas a sus creaciones. Intentar sostener con cambios legislativos a una industria obsoleta que no sabe adaptarse a este nuevo entorno no es ni justo ni realista. Si su modelo de negocio se basaba en el control de las copias de las obras y en Internet no es posible sin vulnerar derechos fundamentales, deberían buscar otro modelo.

6. Consideramos que las industrias culturales necesitan para sobrevivir alternativas modernas, eficaces, creíbles y asequibles y que se adecuen a los nuevos usos sociales, en lugar de limitaciones tan desproporcionadas como ineficaces para el fin que dicen perseguir.

7. Internet debe funcionar de forma libre y sin interferencias políticas auspiciadas por sectores que pretenden perpetuar obsoletos modelos de negocio e imposibilitar que el saber humano siga siendo libre.

8. Exigimos que el Gobierno garantice por ley la neutralidad de la Red en España, ante cualquier presión que pueda producirse, como marco para el desarrollo de una economía sostenible y realista de cara al futuro.

9. Proponemos una verdadera reforma del derecho de propiedad intelectual orientada a su fin: devolver a la sociedad el conocimiento, promover el dominio público y limitar los abusos de las entidades gestoras.

10. En democracia las leyes y sus modificaciones deben aprobarse tras el oportuno debate público y habiendo consultado previamente a todas las partes implicadas. No es de recibo que se realicen cambios legislativos que afectan a derechos fundamentales en una ley no orgánica y que versa sobre otra materia.

Europe Politics Technology

2014: el día después de la música

Aute dice que la música se acabará en cinco años. El 1 de diciembre de 2014 tendremos que darle a la lata de atún para tener un poco de ritmo en nuestra vida. Excepto si el gobierno decide hacer alguna cosa al respecto, afirma Aute, quien se ha vuelto el mejor amigo de Loquillo. Ignacio Escolar ha escrito un post excelente en su blog al respecto. Mientras, el artículo en El País sobre los cinco años de lloriqueo de un tropel de músicos ha recibido en estos momentos 1764 comentarios, y muchos de ellos de gran calidad.

Sobre el tema, hace casi dos años escribí en mi blog (ya difunto) Blog of Change un post en inglés titulado “The social benefits of online piracy“. Así que he decidido traducirlo y crear un post con el mismo titulo en castellano.


DG employment thinks Wales is a country

This is strange. Reading the post “Released documents contain nothing controversial” from Martin Rosenbaum’s blog Open Secrets, I got to know that the contact form of European Commission’s DG Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities includes a list where you have to select your country. And that the list includes the usual suspects: EU Member States + Liechtenstein + Iceland + Norway and…WALES! I am puzzled, is there any reason why Wales is considered a country at the same level as the rest by DG Employment? Any of the staff related with the design of this form is from Wales by any chance? Do you know the reason?

Europe Politics

The Men (woman?) of Europe


Today and tomorrow, European “leaders” are meeting to discuss among other things the Treaty of Lisbon. Among the most interesting stuff, they might talk about who is going to be the first President of the European Council, quite an important position in the new institutional configuration of the European Union. The also might discuss who is going to be the next High Representative/Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of foreign policy/external action of the EU.

Among the men being talked about to be nominated as President is Tony Blair. Yet, it is not going to happen. I would rather say that T Blair is used by the British to get another man in another, perhaps more relevant, job, that is, the second one of High Representative. One person will be from the right and the other from the left or put it differently, one from the conservatives and another from the socialists. My money is on two people that have many of the conditions I reckon are important to have to be selected: being members of one of the big two European coalitions of parties, being or having been in office, being in good relations with most of the leaders around (and perhaps being men, though this condition is a tricky one). These two are Jean-Claude Juncker for President of the EU and David Miliband for High Representative. The first has said that he would be interested, the second has been tipped as a possible candidate.