Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Interacting with politicians? It's possible

Germany is just struggling with a question of German-Polish relations. It's about the appointment for a cultural foundation that works on remembering European reconciliation after the second World War. The Chancellor wants a Polish-hostile CDU politician to sit in the commission; our Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle is against her appointment.

Inspired by a discussion on the news portal tagesschau.de and by Conor Slowey, I wrote an email to the minister, trying to give support. What was I thinking? Maybe my email is one of tens of thousands that arrive in these days. Maybe not. Maybe the foreign minister does not get a lot of popular feedback, apart from newspaper comments and articles. And these, as we all know, come from journalists in the high political echelons that are remote from the common people. So I thought a little popular feedback might be a good think. Never expected to get a reply. But today it came, certainly written by his deputy staff rather than himself.

Dear Mr Feldhof,

thank you for your email on 6 December 2009 and for the support that you expressed. I was very happy to receive it.

As the German Foreign Minister, I have to represent the interests of our country. One of them is to increase relations with our neighbors. To me personally, it is an important point to project the profound relation that Germany has with its western neighbors to Poland as well. ... I will continue to support this direction.

Again, thank you for your email and your support. Personally, all the best to you.

Guido Westerwelle

(my translation)

It doesn't sound like a standard answer they send to all their respondents, does it?

I believe that everybody with the courage to voice his opinion can reach someone in political life. We just have to start writing emails.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Due respects to Herman van Rompuy

The new President of the European Council is changing the tone. For the first time, only the heads of state and government were allowed at the table of the European Council. Foreign ministers were banned from the room, as were all political advisors. What used to be a big circle of delegations sitting opposite each other now became a very cosy setting. The heads of state didn't need their TV screens any more to see their counterparts as all 27 convened at the same table in the middle of the room, writes Le Monde. It probably goes too far to say that Herman van Rompuy assembled his "cabinet" for the first time, but the new Council President has definitely made an impression on the country leaders.

His first tones are absolutely pro-European. Van Rompuy sees himself as a federalist, not shy of using the "f-word". In his speech at the dinner on Thursday, he clarified that he sees the European Council as a working institution, not a talking institution. "We have to focus on taking political decisions rather than our traditional conclusions", he said (my translation).

Next Tuesday, van Rompuy will fly to Spain to talk to Zapatero about the Spanish Council presidency - and to make it clear that he is in charge now, according to Le Monde.

My dear hope is that Van Rompuy will continue on this way and disprove his critics. Many thought he was too diplomatic and would not take position. Now, he will be judged by his achievements. Let us hope for the best!

Friday, December 11, 2009

French blogosphere organizing a No Sarkozy Day on March 20th 2010

The French press hasn't picked it up yet, the Italians were quicker. This article was in La Repubblica yesterday. After the success of No Berlusconi Day in Italy, organized through Facebook, French bloggers are up to do the same.
Their actions were less successful when they tried to mobilize people against the candidacy of Sarkozy's son Jean for the principal administrator of business district "La Défense". Yet, after public outrage was voiced through the media over weeks, Jean Sarkozy decided to drop his candidacy.

All the best to the French bloggers in organizing the protests! As the country with the biggest demonstration culture in Europe, France should be able to pull off a decent protest on March 20th.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Football and politics - an analogy?

I don't often go to watch football games, but today I did. Inter Milan - Rubin Kazan. Champions League. Interesting game. Inter won 2:0.

What I found just as interesting as the victory was the observations I made about the fans. The fans were the perfect barometer to show when the game was going well and when it was not going well. A Milan player lies on the ground, tries to defend the ball against two attackers, manages and plays it further. Applause, standing ovations. Another player has the ball, shortly before the penalty box, he could shoot it!! but he misses - a Kazan player takes the ball. Resounding whistles in the entire stadium.

Within a split second, the fans see the situation, understand it and react upon it. They become active and state their opinion. Why does this not happen in politics? You see that a minister screws up (my favorite at the moment is German education minister Annette Schavan, refusing to understand why German students would protest against the run-down university system), and within minutes of the press conference, thousands of protest emails block her mailbox, thousands of comments are posted on her homepage. It's not reality, is it? Instead, people leave it to the media to give opinions and directions.

But why leave it to the media? I'm not waiting for the media report to judge if the Inter guy really got fouled or not. I curse the referee if he doesn't call it. Instantaneously. And I'm pretty sure it really was a foul - if that gives my team a nice free kick.
If it is possible to form a wave of protest for a penalty or a free kick that wasn't given, why is it not possible for a more equal society? For fair immigration procedures without discrimination? For better pay of interns?

Sometimes football is described as politics on the grass. But maybe it's farther away from politics than it would seem...