EU: Stop the Generosity!

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

On Twitter, it’s always possible – if you’re obsessed enough to keep a close eye, or are at least blessed with serendipity – to pick up the occasional golden nugget that passes everyone else by. Like this one, for example:

Reding
Viviane Reding is one of the EU Commission’s Vice Persidents, but her specific remit is Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship. It would therefore appear that she is doing a bit of freelancing beyond that portfolio, not that that phenomenon is unknown among EU Commissioners.

What’s remarkable here instead is her message, as appeared a few days ago in the relatively obscure business paper Deutsche Mittelstands Nachrichten (or “News for German Medium-Sized Firms”). Are you worried about poor people from elsewhere in the EU (read: Romania and Bulgaria) coming to your countries to “steal” jobs and freeload on your social welfare provisions? Reding asks. Well, the real problem here, she says, is those “generous welfare systems” themselves: cut them back, she says, and problem solved! Moreover, the problem would be solved by the member-states doing what they should do – i.e. cutting back – and not by the EU, whose problem it isn’t anyway.

Now, this is something new. Indeed – although Ms. Reding would undoubtedly deny any connection – it’s something that philosophically is straight out of the contemporary American Republican Party, whose partisans in Congress have done rather well lately to reduce food stamps (i.e. food assistance) and cut off extended unemployment benefits for US citizens. But, back in our European context, those Western European social welfare edifices, built up over the decades since the Second World War, are usually immune to criticism – at least from those outside the national borders. (more…)

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Bulging in Bulgaria

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

Now that the warm weather is upon us (at least in much of the Northern Hemisphere; actually, consistent with the name of this blog, I’m mostly talking about Europe), are you on the lookout for the latest “in” beach partying-spot? Stern, the German newsmagazine which has always chosen a rather more risqué tack than its more establishment competitor Der Spiegel, has your answer.

Party-Urlaub am bulgarischen Sonnenstrand: Auf allen Vieren nach Hause: Sonne satt, billiges Bier und Party bis… http://bit.ly/h2Tft1less than a minute ago via stern.de Favorite Retweet Reply

It’s about Bulgaria, specifically a seven-kilometer stretch of coastline on the Black Sea, south of the coastal city Burgas, that’s apparently quite the rage. At least until you look at the name of the article’s author, Milena Mileva*, and realize that the piece – entitled Heading home on all fours – was likely written in Bulgaria and pressed onto the popular magazine’s pages through some sort of non-disclosed commercial arrangement.

That sort of thing wouldn’t raise an eyebrow in Bulgaria – though you’d think it would in Germany – but beyond the endemic corruption the place clearly has much else to offer the vacationer: beaches of pure white sand and clear water, sunny days, picturesque mountains in the background, and cheap, cheap prices (e.g. €1.20 for a large beer). This has been true for decades, nay centuries, and in Communist times many East Bloc comrades, especially from the DDR, would regularly troop down in their Trabants to this bit of coast for much the same reason. (more…)

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