Monday, September 28, 2009

German elections - what a disappointment for the young generation!

The election campaign in Germany is over. Three months of luke-warm campaigning between the two outgoing parties of the grand coalition have come to a close. Throughout the campaign, it became evident that a great share of citizens would support Christian-Democrat Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose campaign had little content and was based on her mere personallity. But she was perceived as an honest broker during the financial and economic crisis and people seemed to trust her and wanted her to go on. The CDU got a share of 34% and will be the strongest group in the new parliament, going into an alliance with the liberal FDP. Why so many citizens (almost 15%) voted for the FDP which advocates just those measures which led to the crisis will forever stay a miracle to me.

What really angers me with the election results is not the fact that the Social Democrats had to take their leave. It's also not the fact that the grand coalition is over. What really angers me is the fact that a number of dog-owners and Sunday strollers with two children and a BMW family limousine on their drive just impeded the future of many prospective university students from low-income family. The new government will improve conditions for those who already have money, and make life harder for those who don't.

And what angers me most is the fact that the SPD and the Greens would have given a sensible contribution to the Copenhagen climate change conference. The CDU and FDP parties said that they would definitely continue nuclear power and reverse the exit strategy conceived by the 2002 red-green coalition. The progressive law subsidizing renewable energy sources on public roofs and sustainable heating systems for private citizens were also a product of the red-green coalition and leading into the right direction.

When I scroll through my Facebook newsfeed, I get disappointed remarks from almost all young people that I know. The CDU/FDP government will drive those brainy students out of the country who were already doubting if they could afford the study fees. On the other hand, I'm pretty sure that, if I went into an average rural German city pub, you'd find a lot of very happy people today. They just got the confirmation that they won't have to change their consumption habits for another four years.

Of course, they won't pay the bill in 30 years time. It will be today's young people who will pay the bill. This election victory for the CDU/FDP came at the expense of the future generations of the country.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Chinese in Europe - a glimpse of the future

Trying to familiarize myself with my new home in Milan, I took a stroll around the city and finally ended up in the Chinese district in the north of the city center. Ever since I read that Milan supposedly has the second biggest Chinatown in Europe, I've been very excited to get there and to see what was going on in there. The Financial Times journalist James Kynge believes that China is slowly taking over Italian production of fashion, starting with the manufacture of clothes in China, and ending with outsourcing the design of Italian fashion.

When I got there, I could see that incredible Chinese activity firsthand. Chinese workers, putting huge boxes of clothes into fashion stores, waiting to sell them to the next customers. Chinese men biking across the main road with heavy boxes of clothes loaded onto their bike. Chinese housing agencies, selling and renting out buildings and apartments of the district. And everywhere you see small offices with the label "Import - Export". I couldn't help thinking that they there was an entire city district, working hard to import Chinese products into the European market, and working even harder to export European money back to China. Kynge holds that many Chinese workers came here illegally to work in small jobs and earn money for their families back in China, slowly shifting wealth from Europe to southern Asia. And I could see myself that those workers tirelessly unloading more boxes of clothes were very committed to their job, even on a Saturday evening at 5 p.m.

I'll start surveying that Chinese district a little and try to find out more about it, try to find out why Chinese people came to Europe and how they harmonize with Italians in Milan. I have an inkling that this Chinatown gives a first impression of what the world may look like - maybe not in 20 years, but probably in 50 years time.

I have to admit that I was also seduced by all the cheap stores at the end of my visit, and I went to do my share of shopping. By now, maybe my money will already be invested in import-export businesses in China, fashion production in Shenzhen or maybe in high school and university education for Chinese students.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Blogging for Th!nk2 about it

For the next three months, I will be blogging for the European blogging competition, which is organized by the European Journalism Centre (EJC) in Maastricht. The competition brings together 91 bloggers from the European Union, Brazil, India, China, the US, Kazhakstan and South Africa and will discuss topics relating to the Climate Change conference in Copenhagen in the middle of December. Heads of government will meet in Copenhagen in December to work on a agreement which replaces the Kyoto agreement and aims at reducing carbon emissions and counter global warming.

From January to June 2009, there has already been another blogging competition on on the topic of the European parliamentary elections in June. The blogging competition is held in English and tries to pool national discussions on the European elections or climate change. Bloggers with a background in journalism or politics will share their views and portray the discussions in their countries, so that a veritable European debate can take place.

Until now, it has been difficult to create a common European debate on pan-European topics. National media often report about European topics when they hit the nation-state, and pan-European media like and are limited to an English-speaking elite. therefore uses young people as multipliers in order to break down European topics onto the nation-state level and to bring the national discussions onto the European level.

The first competition has had a remarkable quality of posts, says Anne Autio from the European Journalism Centre. In the second competition, journalistic competence will be put together with scientific knowledge in order to inform, educate and entertain a European audience. To enhance the blog posts, all bloggers received a High Definition Flip Video Camera and are supposed to use them to give insights into public opinion in their home countries.