December 23, 2009

European referendums

Inspired by the Swiss minaret ban, a reasonably unpleasant German group is trying to force a pan-European referendum on banning minarets. Apparently

The Lisbon Treaty, which has now entered into force, contains a provision for referenda subsequent to the collection of one million signatures in favor of the measure in question. Just how such a process might work, however, has yet to be sufficiently established.

If that's true, surely we're about to be deluged in referendums? A million signatures on a European level is nothing. It's the kind of number Greenpeace could collect without breaking a sweat, for instance, let alone any party organization.

I can't find much trace of it in the Lisbon Treaty (but the treaty is massive, and I have no idea where to look). The closest is this delightfully vague and toothless provision:

Not less than one million citizens who are nationals of a significant number of Member States may take the initiative of inviting the European Commission, within the framework of its powers, to submit any appropriate proposal on matters where citizens consider that a legal act of the Union is required for the purpose of implementing the Treaties. The procedures and conditions required for such a citizens' initiative shall be determined in accordance with the first paragraph of Article 21 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. [article 8A.4]

June 17, 2009

Busy week in Berlin

Maybe it's because I'm leaving, but Berlin seems even more politically alive than usual at the moment. Today, tens (hundreds?) of thousands of students have been on the streets, as part of a week-long strike against attempts to privatize and charge for education.

The government response has been, rather pathetically, to call them 'behind the times'. Bleating that markets = modernization = good was pretty shaky at the best of times, but now it seems positively ludicrous. And the students' demands are much saner:

  • Self-directed life and learning
  • Free access to education, and the abolition of tuition fees, training fees, and childcare costs
  • Public financing of the education system, without corporate influence
  • Democratization of educational institutions, and strengthening of their self-government

I went along to support the Berlin demonstration earlier today, and found myself strangely weepy. I don't know if they can win, mind, given the current hopelessness of the SPD and the rest of the European centre-left.

From a more radical corner, the squatting scene is headed for a busy week. One place is due for eviction tomorrow -- and then on Saturday comes something more ambitious -- a massive, and pre-announced, attempt to squat the currently disused Tempelhof airport. It sounds insane, but I'm gradually coming to see the logic of it. Turning an abandoned space into a temporary hippie playground appeals both to my head and my heart.

November 25, 2008

By the way, part of the reason for the dearth of posts is that I'm also writing:

  • At Metblogs, about Berlin
  • At Eurozine, reviewing French journals for the fortnightly review, and doing occasional translations
  • At Livejournal where, as always, most posts are friends-locked

All that remain here are the dregs; the posts too dull, too long, too confused or too obscure to go elsewhere. Appealing, eh?

In cheerier news, I've finally got round to half-reviving the comments; I'm hoping OpenID will give me at least some hope of weeding out the spam.