Tag Archives: european union

European Unity and its malcontents

I couldn’t agree more with the essay “Why America should care about the collapse of European Unity” by British historian Simon Schama. Read it first, but otherwise I will quote the last paragraphs:

Although it’s natural in brutally hard times to retreat back to tribal encampments encircled by walls of tariffs and fences against immigrants, this atomization of economic and political purpose needs to be resisted, on both sides of the Atlantic, if we are not to slide into another deep and dark age of violently angry populations and dangerously combative posturing.

Whether we like it or not, we are all—across the oceans and continents—entangled in a common destiny, perhaps more than ever in the entirety of the world’s history. We share the same predicament of a physically degraded planet; we are bound together—the Chinese bondholder and the American debtor; the Greek insolvent and the German banker—in the troubles of a common human home. Turning one’s back is not an option; it will merely guarantee that one day it will be stabbed by the mischief of history. To let the worst off sink is to make it harder for us all to swim. Better to hearken to John Donne: “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent … If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were …; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls …”

You know the rest. Take it to heart.

The great economic shift

What does this mean? What we are seeing is the shift of economic power from the United States & Europe to markets elsewhere, and especially China, India and parts of the Middle East are in good shape to reap the rewards.  However, since the system is built around the countries of the G7 with the US as the main motor of worldwide consumption, co-operation between all countries is needed, or else the rise of protectionism will amplify the current situation.

I wouldn’t be surprised if in case the crisis lasts long (hopefully not) China ends up bailing the US so that its own economy can keep on growing…

What a difference…

When I moved to Finland to study in the summer of 2000, 8.35 Mexican pesos used to buy one euro (the Finnish markka, still legal tender, was already pegged to the euro, and transition to banknotes would happen one and a half years later).  A non-EU student like me needed to show he had 30,000 markka (5,045 euro or 42,000 pesos of August 2000) for his living expenses for the year in order to be granted a residence permit.  I had to sell my car and got some help from my parents to reach that sum, but it seemed a better proposition than continuing studying at a private university where the tuition per half year cost 50,000 pesos (5,990 euro or 35,600 markka of August 2000).  Furthermore, I didn’t need to pay tuition in Finland.

Today’s rate is 19.1 pesos per euro.  Furthermore, a non-EU student now has to demonstrate that he/she has 6,000 euro every year in order to be given a residence permit, so my present-day equivalent would need to get 114,000 pesos every year to be allowed to come to Finland to study (a 271% increase in almost 9 years!).  The Finnish Parliament is also evaluating the possibility of adding tuition fees for non-EU students.

I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t expect many Mexican students coming here anytime soon.  I guess it was a matter of timing.

European Day of Languages

The funniest part of this event is that I probably understand more about Europe and Europeans than your average person hereabouts. After all, I’ve studied their languages and cultures for many years, and have lived here for a few.

There were two very interesting tidbits for me when they had this stand in Kamppi: I could read and understand more than 8 squares in this poster, which was surprising, and I was able to fill their test on European languages with full marks in under 2 minutes… and I’m not even European.

Two unrelated stories on immigration in Europe

  1. The European Commission has unveiled a plan to copy the American "green card" scheme to attracked skilled immigrants to Europe.  While it sounds interesting, I would really like to know what it means in practice, since as we know in the end the individual member states decide how to apply the Commission directives.  It would be a good idea, but I'm still sceptic as it could encounter too much opposition from anti-immigration politicians, even if of course business leaders clamour for it.  Question number two is how would a plan like that affect the naturalisation of said foreign citizens.  People worrying from a brain drain should see what happened with India and China: their people left mostly for the U.S. and came back with experience and capital to improve their original communities.
  2. A video was released of a Spanish man attacking an Ecuadorian immigrant in Barcelona because "she was an immigrant".  Thankfully this man is now under prosecution.  I started wondering how many of these attacks go unpunished. (via Alt1040)

Happy Birthday!

It may sound stupid because I'm not even European, but it sure has made my life easier. Easier travelling, comparable prices, GSM roaming
charges going down, meeting Erasmus students, the lack of barriers for my fiancée to join me in Brussels and lower inter-bank fees are some of the little and not so little nice details in which the EU has influenced my life.

I hope it doesn't upset the Finns when I say that one of the reasons that I chose Finland instead of, say, Sweden when I was thinking about studying abroad was that it had already been decided then that it would use the €uro.

Pity very few in Europe actually care.