The Importance of Being EU

 

Georgian Parliament

As I walk by Georgian Parliament on my way to the nearby café in the morning, I notice two flags always flying out front: The Georgian ride and white flag, and the European Union navy blue with yellow stars flag (Georgia is a part of the Council of Europe among other institutions).  When I discuss the position of Georgia in the world, although bordered by nations like Russia and Armenia (to name 2) it is widely proclaimed that Georgia is part of Europe.  Like numerous nations located even closer to the heart of the European Union, the goal here is very much to one day be part of the European Union. Why? Although I don’t usually get a specific answer, the implied answer is a sense of belonging. Perhaps also the goal of achieving the quality of life similar to that which it is thought members of the EU enjoy. Or to make it even more basic, one major reason is to further distance this place from Russia, a nation that is – to put it mildly- disliked.  As part of not liking Russia, there is the goal to make sure the world knows (as well as Russia itself) that Georgia is very much with those guys over there on the other side of the Black sea. No longer a victim of their occupation but standing on its own two feet with its European friends.

 

Now compare this sentiment with that in Southern Europe these days, where people are enraged and disillusioned; not exactly with the European Union, but with their own governments who of course are members of the EU and have presided over, if not played a role in, a massive economic collapse and policy failure.  While some nations in the EU curse their governments for not representing them in what is financially a very troubled union, here we find those outside wishing to get in. With what seems like very different goals, at least when it comes to the symbolic desire to be EU… maybe Georgians would find more happiness in being a member state, even if the economy looks pretty bad.

In the coming days here in Tbilisi, I’ll of course hear more about this bid to be part of the EU and the primary reasons for it. I’ll report back with what I learn.

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ctrp372 Dissecting Dictators

2011 is the year where many observers and so called experts around the world scramble to understand how it is that so many dictatorships suddenly arrived at a crisis. As people take to the streets and battles take place in city squares throughout the middle east, we discover that in fact many of the dictators of these regions have not been well studied or understood.

Natasha Ezrow, Director of the International Development Studies Program at the University of Essex and author of Dictators & Dictatorships: Understanding Authoritarian Regimes and Their Leaders, has written about the important differences between dictators which we now see being played out by how they handle calls for reform.  She also lays out criteria for why types of leaders might flee a country before anyone is harmed, while others would stay til their last breath.

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ctrp367 Reflections on Revolutions

It is a new day in Egypt. You’ve heard about the tools, you’ve heard about the youth, but what happened and what happens in not only the region but in places like the United States.  What do Egypt and the United States have in common and could youth in the US be inspired? And what can be said about Algeria, Iran, and other areas where something big might be happening and what is the nature of that something?

My guest is John G. Mason, professor of Political Science at William Paterson University (the same department and classroom in which I became socially and politically conscious).  He does not claim to be an expert with all the answers on Middle East or North African politics.  What John does know about is asking the right questions and keeping a critical eye on events even in a time when many have taken the focus off of the process now taking place in Egypt and Tunisia.

Liberation Square

Some of John’s recommended sources:

Juan Cole | Tom Dispatch | Courrier International

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45 to 60 Days

The world is fixated on Egypt for the last 7 days and for good reason. However elsewhere in the world things are also changing in different ways and it is important that good journalists and critical minds don’t all converge in one place.

Just over two weeks ago much of the attention in the international press was focused on Tunisia, again, understandable considering the powerful and historically breathtaking images from the streets of Tunis. The departure of the president/dictator was a great victory for anyone who favors an open and democratic Tunisia. The event is hailed as the inspiration of Egypt and possibly a growing list of nations where iron fisted rulers are suddenly scared of what fate may await them.

You’ve heard about these things, but what of Tunisia since January 11? An acting President and a whole new slate of ministers, including a political party and cabinet member that had been banned and jailed under the tyrannical rule of Ben Ali. According to the constitution, in 45 to 60 days from the moment the acting president steps in, an election must be held. At this point no date has been set, but that doesn’t deter the questions of who will run, what parties will come forward, how will they work together in an eventual government, and what will be their program. I‘ve heard analysts say left of center, or islamic left, but I still wonder how it will all play out.

In the meantime there is word of many new freedoms, especially when it comes to the press. This is of course a great and essential development, but it is important in such a critical aftermath of a revolution, when the world’s short attention span has moved on, that critical and concerned observers not sit back and assume all will be well. Part of what ensures this process really takes place and has long lasting value, is that we keep asking questions, and keep up the pressure.

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