Conversation 2: Questions Regarding the Union of European Nations (Part 2)

Disclaimer: the contents featured in the following conversations do not necessarily reflect the author’s opinion.

Two winters ago, overheard in a café somewhere in the north…

Daughter in law (D): I can’t believe those beggars (shakes head). How can they can stomach using their own children to beg for money even during cold, winter months? The parents should be reprimanded, and the children be taken to foster care. And if they don’t want it, then they should go look for jobs.

Mother in law (M): I know. Most of them are Romanians or Bulgarians. Worse is, they form groups of 3 or 4 and pick pockets! I don’t want them here.

D: You know that’s not a politically-correct thing to say, right?

M: I don’t care. They shouldn’t be here. Mind you, I’m talking about the beggars and the pick pockets. Those who are working should stay. But the rest should be deported. They don’t contribute to anything here.

D: Still…

M: No, you listen to me. My friends and I always see a beggar at the entrance of a supermarket back home. She’s there everyday from morning until past midday. So one day, one of my friends offered her to work as a domestic aid. Guess what she answered?

D: Obviously she said she didn’t want to.

M: Exactly! the nerve! I felt really indignant. I wasn’t able to help myself so I told her, “Oh, so you must really be more comfortable begging, rather than exerting extra effort and getting a job, huh?”. She stared at me and I had to keep on walking. I was so mad.

D: I wonder why they don’t want to work. I mean, even if we conclude that it’s more comfortable to just stretch out your arms for people to drop coins in your hands… a job is still more stable, not to say secure choice for the person and his or her family.

M: Me? I wonder why they don’t just beg in their own countries. Romania and Bulgaria are already part of the European Union. They are already receiving funds to develop their economies and to subsidize low-income people. Why would they choose to come here when they could easily stay at their homes and receive government aid? Much like the people in this country, who refuse to be under-employed because their lives are more comfortable in their houses while they receive unemployment allowance…

D: Well, if you put it that way… if they chose to come here despite of what you just pointed out, then the easy answer would be that, the funds don’t reach to where they should. That is to say, those who manage the funds must be pocketing it for themselves.

M: Isn’t a clean, transparent governance part of the requisites to be an EU member?

D: Yes, but the markets promised by those countries are far more important for the Union. You know? so certain countries are more or less assured of having people buy their goods.

M: … (makes a face)

D: So, are we ordering more coffee or what?

*-*

It was the beginning of summer 2016 and four friends were riding the InterRail en route to Brussels…

Friend 1 (1): What just happened yesterday?

Friend 2 (2): Oh f*ck, the Brits voted Brexit, that’s what happened! silly fools…

Friend 3 (3): Tell that to them. I’m sure they feel even superior, if possible.

Friend 4 (4): Oooookay, no need to insult or cause any offense to anyone…!

2: As much as I respect you, I must say, your people are crazy, guillible, a**holes! Ha-ha! I’m sorry, I’ve never been this entertained since last year’s Eurovision…

4: Well, in the defense of my people, I should say, “We know what we’re doing”. But really, I don’t think we do. So yeah, you must be on to something there! Haha!

1: That’s like a big, fat slap on EU’s face, don’t you think? That’s like a really, really bad break up… no, no! It’s the promise of a very ugly divorce…

3: So much for a “union”…

(Everybody snickers)

3: I’m very curious as to how Brussels would manage this situation. I mean, how will the EU stand as a strong competition for other economic blocks when its nations appear divided?

2: You’re in a shrink’s mood today, aren’t you? Could you take a break? We’re on holidays!

4: No, no, wait… she’s right. If you look at it, the EU needs more than all the super glue it could collect to present a united, well, presentation.

1: To project, dude! to project… we’re on holidays from school, not from using our brains…!

4: Yeah, whatever…

2: Hey, the shrink might be right. Just this morning I heard from the radio about how different Northern Europe is to Southern Europe. And not just character-wise, mind you.

1: Now that you mention it, well yes, it makes sense. And wasn’t that the argument of those who were anti-single currency advocates? that basically the difference in the standards of living, reflected in prices, could do more harm than good for those entering in the single currency zone?

3: Actually I wanted to point out the difference between the left-wing Europeans and the right-wing ones. You know, those who want to steer the Union towards a Superstate versus those who aim for Federalism… It’s not enough that all politicians and decision-makers want a better Europe for the Europeans. They have to map out how to achieve that.

2: Yes, we know. The spenders versus the austere ones.

3: Well, you have to spend SOMETHING to guarantee a minimum, decent quality of life for the citizens!

1: Or you could save up for the rainy days…

3: BUT WE ARE IN THE RAINY DAYS!

4: Yeah, well, you can aaaall relax, as there’s no point in arguing. The left-wingers would soon be outnumbered anyway, if not banished from Brussels…

3. So basically you’re saying that we’ll be better off scratching our balls?

4. Or scratching it for each other, if you’re so bent over helping your fellowman.

2: Heeey! I’m the tactless brute of the group! Don’t take that away from me!

*-*

Early autumn last year, an uncle and nephew take a walk in a park…

Nephew (N): I’m really excited! Soon I’ll be living in a different country, with an interesting job… even if the pay’s not the best, at least I get to have this experience.

Uncle (U): Good for you. I hope you meet a nice girl and settle down.

N: I’m not going there to find a bride! But I heard the women are pretty over there…

U: Yes they are. So don’t get married, just hook up with as much girls as possible. He he!

N: (Blushes) Anyway, I feel kind of sad, though.

U: Well, homesickness is normal. But I guess your mother would visit you every month so no need to be sad about missing her! (snorts)

N: No, I feel sad because all through my student life, I was a scholar. All my school expenses were paid for by the government. And now, the thought of “serving” another country makes me feel bad for ours. I really wanted to give back.

U: Hm…

N: Anyway, one thing is to feel bad because of that. Another is to feel awful when I realized that only capital and goods can truly freely move around EU. Movement of labor is still very much restricted.

U: I’m listening.

N: This system is giving young people like me very few choices. Either stay in your country and be bored out of your wits as you’ll be unemployed. Or, go find a job somewhere else in the EU, where you’ll have a theoretical “advantage” above applicants from countries outside of it.

U: There’s the choice of working outside the EU.

N: Yes, but the point is to be closer to home.

U: Okay. Go on. Why do you say the movemet of labor is restricted?

N: For starters, I met recruiters who prioritize candidates from local universities. WHY? Anybody could be just as good as their locally-produced graduates.

U: What else?

N: I heard that I won’t be receiving my social security card for sure at least 6 months. So whatever health expenses I would have during the waiting period, I’d have to shoulder myself. Why? I mean, I can understand if it’s a month, if they want to wait for my tax. But 6 months? I’m an EU citizen!

U: Hmp!

N: I mean, sure, they’d reimburse me for the expenses but it wouldn’t be automatic, I’ll have to wait for some weeks. I really don’t understand. All this would simply discourage foreigners to work in their country. Meh… but, wouldn’t it be more enriching if labor markets were more open?

U: Enriching for some, not all. Especially not for the politicians.

N: Are you changing the subject again because you want to talk about politics and complain about that long-haired guy?

U: Listen. Whenever there’s an initiative or a feasible idea which is good for the general population but is not being implemented, that is because the politicians wouldn’t get anything from it. Think. What would garner more votes? a promise to open up the labor market and toughen the competition for all job applicants? or perhaps a promise to protect and prioritize national workers against “invaders”, threatening to “flood” the labor market with their offer of “cheaper” salaries?

N: Hm…

U: Believe me, if you were a citizen of your future new home, you’d be offered a permanent contract. But you’re not, I mean, you can’t influence elections over there. You mean nothing to the political class.

N: Oh well! I guess the good news is that I could be returning home soon, huh?

U: Not if you find a girl to marry, you won’t! (winks)

-The end-

Click here to read Part 1 and here to read Conversation 1.

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A Few Questions for the Leaders of the United European Nations (Part 1)

Putting on the “developmental economist” hat, Colorfulifesite asks a first set of questions with the hope to determine how inclusive is the EU of its citizens in implementing the European mission and reaching its vision.

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Image courtesy of: Wikipedia

The European Union is currently faced with an economic crisis, a migration/refugee crisis and perhaps just recently, an identity crisis following the Brexit. During this moment of distress, doubts and skepticism, what is being done to unite the people of the different European Union countries?

A very important catalyst for unity is patriotism; and it rises from each and every countryman’s heart when any aspect concerning his nation is being threatened. Perhaps most of these feelings stay just like that, without being converted into an action of any sort. But the people are strengthened, they are inspired and in their own little ways they make the best of what they have to contribute to the mitigation of the said crisis.

Another factor that unites a population is pride. The American patriotism is partly based on their pride over being the superpower of the modern world (Thanks to the Yankees winning the civil war, progress and efficiency were stimulated!).

The French are also demonstrating a great example of patriotism and pride. And why should they not? They are bound to, and by, the victorious eradication of the monarchy, which paved the way to constructing the great Republic that they have now.

The examples mentioned above were obtained through victories in wars. Perhaps the EU could set a “first” by uniting the people in this period of nonbelligerence? Wouldn’t it be worth considering to strongly promote rescue missions, development and cooperation collaborations, international aid and other peaceful interventions executed under the name of the EU? this way, Europeans could take pride in identifying themselves as citizens united towards the mission of achieving social, economic and political justice…

* – *

As a response to the Financial-turned-Sovereign-Debt Crisis, “the EU and its member countries have been strengthening financial sector supervision”.

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Image courtesy of: http://www.currencynewstrading.com

The immediate response to the economic crisis consisted of rapidly setting up financing facilities for euro area countries experiencing severe financial problems. This measure not only solved the urgent needs of some countries to repay their debts, but it also boosted the morale of financial markets thanks to the projected effort towards a more stable euro area.

Complementing this initative is the creation of 3 European supervisory bodies, namely the European Banking Authority, the European Securities and Markets Authority and the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority “to ensure that banks are better capitalised, behave responsibly and are able to lend money to households and businesses.”

The aim of course, is to protect people’s deposits and void forcing the taxpayers to carry the burden of a bank’s failure. At the same time, financial markets were calmed down even if their confidence has yet to be regained.

Institutionally, the problem seems being dealt with. But what mandates are being issued* to encourage governments to educate their citizens with basic financial concepts, risks and opportunities?

After all, the trigger of all this was the disaster in the American banking sector, brought about by the careless granting and obtaining of mortgages. Basically anyone who could write his name was granted one (or more!) of these. Even then, the ordinary people’s financial illiteracy caused them to take on more credit than they could actually repay. The situation was bound to be unsustainable from the start. Hence, the fallout.

When the crisis broke in Spain, many people who deposited their faith (no pun intended) on participating preferred stocks were buried even deeper into the pit. Mainly, they did not know what they were signing up for, the moment they were handed this product. Although this event was heightened by and did not cause the country’s financial crisis, it shows how the best way a person could protect himsef is through information. The capacity to discern right from wrong, logic from fantasy, facts from sales pitches and so on, is still the best defense**.

* – *

This could be a personal impression but, did Brussels seem more engrossed with the Greek (as well as the Spanish and Portuguese) financial crisis than the problems with migrants and refugees?

The question refers to the apparently disproportionate attention, analysis and media coverage as to “why”, “when” and “how” both crisis came to be. When the news about the Greek “mess” came to light, immediate investigations were done to discover the root causes of this salvajada.

The same could still be done with the current human crisis: we already know what the “pull” factors are in the grand scheme of things. Studying and informing about the “push” factors would be more useful for everybody- from policy makers to ordinary people. 

Greece, Spain and Portugal were under very tough scrutiny during the worst moments of the financial crisis. In the same way, the countries of origin of migrants and refugees could also be the object of close examination to learn what reasons motivate their population to leave.

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Image courtesy of: openeurope.org.u

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Thank you in advance for your thoughts, corrections, suggestions and questions.

 * Accession to EU was conditioned by several convergence criteria such as capping the inflation rate (as % of growth), the public sector deficit and government debt (both as % of GDP). These criteria pressured the candidate countries to work towards compliance, with strong and at times adverse consequences to the ordinary people’s quality of life during the period of adaptation. Similarly, the European authorities could agree on a decree obliging country members to better educate their citizens (or at least any adult who makes use of financial services) in financial matters.

** Even something as basic as knowing that return rates on investments are directly and inversely related to the risks would already be a big help. See: http://www.investopedia.com/articles/fundamental/04/061604.asp for more information.

Sources:

  1. http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/European_Union.aspx
  2. http://ec.europa.eu/economy_finance/explained/the_financial_and_economic_crisis/why_did_the_crisis_happen/index_en.htm
  3. “The Observer view on Europe’s migration problem”, available at: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jan/24/mass-migration-problem-europe
  4. “EU leaders must finally begin to address the root causes of the migration crisis”, by Stephen Booth and Pawel Swidlicki, available at:http://openeurope.org.uk/today/blog/eu-leaders-must-finally-begin-to-address-the-root-causes-of-the-migration-crisis/
  5. Lessons from Spain and Portugal in the European Union after 20 years”, by Sebastían Royo, available at: https://www.cairn.info/revue-pole-sud-2007-1-page-19.htm
  6. “El Engaño Masivo de las Preferentes”, El País, available at: http://economia.elpais.com/economia/2012/09/13/actualidad/1347534473_888418.html
  7. http://ec.europa.eu/echo/refugee-crisis_en
  8. http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/home-affairs/what-we-do/policies/european-agenda-migration/index_en.htm