The Patrimony

In politics, everything is relatives

Tag: EU

A million Erasmus babies

by fpman

Besides stimulating cooperation in the field of higher education and, as part of that, studies abroad, the Erasmus Programme is the European Union’s attempt at social-engineering a transnational European class of open-minded, pro-European integration, multi-lingual, mobile, and high-achieving people, possibly the future leaders of the continent (the program is running since 1987 so we may still have to wait to see).

As a bonus, the European Community Action Plan for the Mobility of University Students (ERASMUS stands for that, though it is also reference to the medieval Dutch scholar Erasmus) may also lead to the birth of children with a fully transnational identity, from parents who have come to know each other while spending time abroad with the Erasmus scholarship’s support.

Recently, a study prepared for the European Commission showed that over a quarter of program participants may have found their future partners like this, and the Commission presented this by leaping to the conclusion that this may have resulted in one-million babies

(Never mind that “alternative cost” matters here as maybe not these babies but other babies, from other people, may still have been born if the Erasmus pairs don’t come together.)

Italian novelist Umberto Eco is quoted in the article accounting of the report’s findings. He seems overjoyed as European intellectuals often are when it comes to the subject:

“I call it a sexual revolution: a young Catalan man meets a Flemish girl – they fall in love, they get married and they become European, as do their children. The Erasmus idea should be compulsory – not just for students, but also for taxi drivers, plumbers and other workers. By this, I mean they need to spend time in other countries within the European Union; they should integrate.”

Methodology may be a problematic aspect of the European Commission report. The article mentions that it is based on “interviewing” 88,000 students although it is of course not sample size but random selection that is important in determining whether survey results are representative. And for that one has to have a well-defined population in the first place, e.g. students who have done the Erasmus program but not much else prior to that, perhaps (to filter out those for whom the Erasmus experience was not Transnational Experience No. 1). This is all significant as at the European Commission they seem to have arrived at the one-million figure for Erasmus babies by projecting that from the finding of how many former Erasmus students had partners of a different nationality. Anyway, here is the original report. I haven’t had the chance to go through all of its 227 pages yet but there is no mention of the words “children” or “babies” in there.

At least it may be confidently proclaimed that the Erasmus program is really beneficial to many.

The reason why I was recently reminded of this article (albeit it is of relevance to this blog in any case) is the ongoing search for answers as to how the Islamic State finds such a wide audience that is listening to its message, even in Europe.

Now imagine Umberto Eco’s quote with a major twist.

“It is a revolution (um, actually, it even has sexual aspects: beyond things like this, there are all those wannabe jihadi wives who travel there, too): a young French jihadi meets a Syrian jihadi or a young Saudi jihadi meets a British jihadi and … they get married (with or without “love” as such). And they become… (take a guess) as do their children.”

It may feel as twisted as this re-interpretation by Perfect Circle of the Beatles’ Imagine but the Islamic State is indeed nothing less than a competing integration project. It is in competition not only with the EU of course but with everything else in the post-colonial, formerly Euro-centric game of states, borders, inter- and supranational institutions, citizenship and human rights. Its effectiveness as an integration project may pale in comparison with the European project, and it alienates many in the process. But that is still a relevant dimension of measurement right there.

How many Islamic State babies are there by now? This could be an intriguing question.

Question of the day: where, within one’s network of human contacts, is there place for a Gazprom lobbyist?

by fpman

Contrary to what some people may think, in the title I am asking an open question, having just read this article from RFE/RL. It concerns primarily decision-makers, of course, and not the ordinary person.

The article points out that EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (“EU foreign policy chief”) Federica Mogherini has a spokeswoman, Catherine Ray, who has a husband, Thomas Barros-Tastets, who in turn happens to be working for a company called G+ which has Gazprom among its major clients (G+ deals with Gazprom in the value of 300,000 to 350,000 Euros per annum).

Does this help Gazprom? Is it significant related to this that Federica Mogherini, before she took office, was thought by some to be too understanding towards Russia?

One obvious question that has to be asked is if Thomas Barros-Tastets’ work was kept a secret throughout the vetting process which saw wife Catherine get the job of spokesperson. And the answer is apparently it wasn’t. Mogherini as well as others knew.

Of course, for her part, Mogherini then takes even more responsibility for this, in case there’s anything wrong with this. Which is not easy to tell.

Some in the Commission have what seems to them an easy answer. Margaritis Schinas, the chief spokesman for the European Commission says:

“(Catherine) Ray is charged with speaking on Africa, Latin America, and Gulf countries. Fellow foreign affairs spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic speaks for Mogherini on European affairs, including Russia. We therefore do not believe there is a potential conflict of interest with…Ray’s duties at the commission.”

While we cannot determine the answer to the above questions really (especially to the question of whether Catherine Ray’s position helps Gazprom), we can safely tell that Margaritis Schinas is using a flawed argument above. Gazprom, which used to be the Soviet Ministry of Gas back in the day, does not have interests only related to Russia but as a profit-making venture and as a State-Owned Enterprise (majority-owned by the Russian state) it has complex economic and political interests related to almost every continent, the Gulf countries being the most obvious example of this. So in the end this is still kinda interesting.

Propaganda, from dawn till Tusk

by fpman

In the context of some serious political campaign struggles in Poland in 2005 it came to be revealed, upon much dirtier allegations, that Donald Tusk, who was then leader of the Polish opposition, did have a bit of a skeleton in the closet problem. His grandfather briefly served in the ranks of the German Wehrmacht during WWII. Even this much could have hurt Tusk, given how Germany treated Poland during the world war. But a deeper look into the matter uncovered that his grandfather was forcibly recruited by the Germans in mid-1944 after serving as a (forced) railway laborer first. Mitigating circumstances, surely.

Tusk says he only learned of all this after he came under attack related to this from political forces to the right of him on the political spectrum in Poland (the camp behind the Kaczyński brothers’ Law and Justice party). This is how he spoke of this:

“I have nothing to regret, it’s my family’s biography. As a historian and as a man, I prefer to know the painful truth over a pleasant lie.”

Tusk went on to become Polish Prime Minister (2007-2014) and eventually President of the European Council – he will only take office in December, but his selection was announced at an August 30 European Council meeting.

On various, by all appearances Russia-friendly, English-language sites (see here [niver85.tumblr.com, September 2] and here [tigr.net, September 5]) that effectively function in this context as echo chambers for a propaganda machinery, there very quickly appeared a different version of Tusk’s past, however, accompanied by what was claimed to be photo proof of that version being the truth (with no references as to where the information regarding this was coming from).

According to the “creative” version, Tusk’s grandfather was even happy to serve in, well, not simply the Wehrmacht but the SS rather… To back up the allegation, even a photo was provided showing a young man in the driver’s seat of a car full of SS officers – and the young man appears remarkably similar to Donald Tusk. The similarity cannot be denied, that is for sure.

One Russian-language source spreading the SS narrative is this livejournal user who is referencing a 2005 report by Novye Izvestia that, as part of legitimate reporting of political developments in Poland, cited allegations of grandpa Józef’s SS past that came from Polish sources at the time and which were eventually discredited – though the livejournal post in question is from September 6 and thus cannot have constituted the basis for the above quoted English-language pieces on the subject. Seemingly independently from this, one chain of sources that can be followed backwards is this string of pages, from here [Zarya Novorossii/Dawn of Novorossiya, September 5] to here [Ridus.ru, September 3]. The text in this case is the one that appeared at tigr.net in English, cited above. And finally, independently of these, there is a post here, from 2011 [oper.ru] that already uses the photo purportedly showing Józef Tusk.

As it often happens, even some fringe media in Central-Eastern Europe who are otherwise interested mostly in the chance of breaking through to masses of random readers with a sudden scoop off somewhere, anywhere, transmitted the story. So did the proudly “politically incorrect” Czech news portal Stalo se, at the URL http://www.stalo-se.cz/?=21028 (no longer taking you to their original article), on September 4.

Here are the manipulative pairs of photos disseminated through the above mentioned echo chambers.

The one from Stalo Se:

ManipulativePairingOfPhotos_TuskAndAnSDmember

The one from this Tumblr page:

ManipulativePairingOfPhotos_TuskAndAnSDmember2

And where this gets really interesting is if you, seeing the SD insignia on the uniform of the officer sitting in the back, go to Wikipedia’s page on the World War Two German Sichereitsdienst (SD). There it is that you find the original of the WWII photo used against Donald Tusk and his grandfather. Here’s a screenshot of the Wikipedia image as it appears there once you click on it:

Tusk_WikiSDimage

The caption says: “Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-380-0069-37, Polen, Verhaftung von Juden, SD-Männer.” It is also added that “This image was provided to Wikimedia Commons by the German Federal Archive (Deutsches Bundesarchiv)” and “Created: September 1939.” Nowhere does it mention who these people are.

So how does one stumble upon a photo like that, showing a man, apparently from 1939, who would accidentally – and rather perfectly from the point of view of propaganda needs – resemble Donald Tusk himself so much? This is a great mystery from the magical world of Eastern Europe where devoted propagandists operating in the shadows often invest a significant number of working hours in such projects.

The one source to which I was able to eventually trace back the association-by-allegation of the above photo, showing unnamed individuals, and Donald Tusk’s grandfather is… a bunch of unknown individuals in the town of Wrocław who handed out flyers to people there some time in May 2010. Their flyer had the above photo on it, and the question of whether the person in the driver’s seat is Józef Tusk. The same flyer was also spreading conspiracy theories related to the Smolensk crash of April 2010, targeting Poland’s current president (since August 2010), Bronisław Komorowski. Komorowski is from Tusk’s party – Platforma Obywatelska or Civic Platform – and any propaganda targeting him as well as Tusk at the same time must have been spread by the political rivals of Civic Platform. Which most likely implies circles close to the Law and Justice Party that lost its leader, President Lech Kaczyński, a month earlier – in the Smolensk crash.

Ironic, isn’t it? Some Russian sources are now spreading a lie that was once spread by some of the most anti-Russian political forces in Poland.