Features » Magazine Roundup


Magazine Roundup

Nepszabadsag | The New York Review of Books | Prospect | Gazeta Wyborcza | Le Nouvel Observateur | L`Espresso | The Spectator | Al Ahram Weekly | The New York Times

Nepszabadsag, 22.06.2005 (Hungary)

George Schöpflin, Hungarian Euro MP and professor of political science in London, is critical of Tony Blair's European politics: "I can say from my own experience that the British feel no obligation towards Europe. They have a very pragmatic approach: what can we get out of it, what's in it for us? That's it. The idea that being European means something above and beyond this is secondary, incidental, or even detrimental." Schöpflin believes Blair's criticism of the economic policies of Germany and France is valid but that "he tries to translate everything into the language of economics and business in order to syphon off as much political content as possible." For the British, says Schöpflin, their budget rebate is "no longer just a question of money: it has become a symbol. It forms a significant part of the EU membership of Great Britain."

The New York Review of Books, 14.07.2005 (USA)

With their no to the European constitution – and above all to continual expansion – the French and the Dutch have done a great service, according to a true realpolitik believer, William Pfaff: "The EU is not an international aid or development agency; it is not aimed at reforming humanity or reconciling civilizations (or for supporting American foreign policy and global aims, as some Americans would like it to become).The Dutch and French votes reflect the intuition that the first obligation of any political society, whether national or multinational, is to itself, its own security, integrity, and successful functioning. The European Union has to be a success in order to have a constructive influence on others, and this is what has seemed in jeopardy."

Prospect, 01.07.2005 (UK)

"The constitution is dead, long live the constitution!" Even after the French and the Dutch no, American professor of politics Andrew Moravcsik still believes the European project is alive and kicking. "Far from demonstrating that the EU is in decline or disarray, the crisis demonstrates its essential stability and legitimacy. The central error of the European constitutional framers was one of style and symbolism rather than substance. The constitution contained a set of modest reforms, very much in line with European popular preferences. Yet European leaders upset the emerging pragmatic settlement by dressing up the reforms as a grand scheme for constitutional revision and popular democratisation of the EU."

Larry Siedentop, Gisela Stuart, John Kay, Sunder Katwala, Charles Grant, Philippe Legrain and Michael Maclay are more sceptical. (A pity though that only US and British writers were asked for their opinions.)

Gazeta Wyborcza, 25.06.2005 (Poland)

Political scientist and President of the Stefan Batory Foundation in Warsaw, Aleksander Smolar illucidates in an interview the crisis between the founders of the EU and the new member states. "The EU was always an open space, without clear borders. But today the members of 'old Europe' are rebelling against this. Many people in Western Europe have the feeling that we entered a safe and wealthy house last year and behaved as if we were doing someone a favour – without showing respect for those that built the house and are now paying for its upkeep. And then there's our politicians who want to explain to the old inhabitants what a modern economy is, and accuse them of egotism. It's important to remember that we are their distant cousins, whom they didn't know existed until recently, and whose history and geography they first have to become acquainted with."

"Paradoxically the new conservative Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad could contribute to a democratic revolution. With the expected increase in repressive politics, the opposition will unite and all the dissatisfied people will take to the streets", liberal student activist leader Abdullah Momeni, tells the magazine in an interview. In his opinion, neither a new revolution nor a US military intervention makes any sense. Both would cost thousands of lives. The reformers should focus on building a civil society, which would demand its rights from the ruling government, as in the Ukraine (!).

But Russia is also a cause of worry. For political scientist Lilia Schevtzova, the centralisation of power leads to both political responsibility and the assignation of guilt concentrated on President Putin. And the economic monoculture that has made Russian into an oil state a la Nigeria, along with the tendencies for state monopolisation in the gas sector for example, do not bode well. Add to that the failed social policy. Events like in Kiev are still improbable, but the system is wavering, says Schevtzova. "The monopolitical-corporative system only functions when you have all of the following: a central ideology, a readiness for state repression, a social acquiescence to this repression and isolation from the outside world. If one of these elements is missing, the entire system rocks. The fact that people in the Kremlin are looking for new enemies and resorting to Stalinist rhetoric attests to growing disquiet in the government."

Le Nouvel Observateur, 23.06.2005 (France)

French philosopher Jean-Pierre Dupuy explains in an interview why he associates natural with political catastrophes in the 20th and 21st centuries. Asked whether the two can be associated at all, he answers: "Comparing the two doesn't mean confusing them. My book ("Petite metaphysique des tsunamis", Seuil) is a short introduction to modern philosophy dating from the 18th century, which I see as haunted by the question of evil. All the major catastrophes, natural and moral, have provoked earthquakes in our way of representing evil. I trace these 'tsunamis', pointing to their differences as well as what they have in common. Auschwitz is the pinnacle of intentional evil, but the word we use for the horror means a natural catastrophe: Shoah."

L`Espresso, 30.06.2005 (Italy)

Moroccan author Tahar ben Jelloun criticises Palestinian prime minister Mahmoud Abbas, who has once more sanctioned public executions of Palestinians who collaborated with Israel. For Jelloun, the abolishment of the death penalty is a sign of civilisation. "Progressive Arabs have always believed that Palestine must set a good example, and above all distance itself from the other states in the region that are mostly led by politicians who abhor democracy and govern with feudal methods."

The Spectator, 25.06.2005 (UK)

In Swahili they're called WaBenzi: the African leaders who like to invest international aid money in armoured stretch Mercedes S600Ls. On the occasion of the British debt cancellation for the poorest countries of the world and the new spate of Live 8 concerts, Aidan Hartley shows looks at the close ties between aid money and Germany luxury cars. "It doesn’t have to be like this. Africans themselves have always seen the WaBenzi as the symbol of Africa’s ills. The first martyr for the cause was Thomas Sankara, the Burkina Faso president who forced his ministers to swap their Mercedes for Renault 5s. He also made them go on runs. Sankara was overthrown and executed in 1987 by Blaise Campaore, who is still in power today."

Al Ahram Weekly, 23.06.2005 (Egypt)

Tutankhamun is making headlines again: There are exhibitions, CT scans and reconstructions of his facial features. Jill Kamil looks at the events that led to Howard Carter's discovery of the youthful Pharaoh's tomb in 1922 becoming a political event: "Egypt was riding a wave of nationalism when Carter made his discovery in the Valley of the Kings only four years after the end of World War I. A constitutional monarchy was about to be declared, and it was therefore inevitable that the discovery of an intact royal tomb would be drawn into the political arena. It was a possibility of which Carter seems to have been unaware." He was convinced he could determine what happened to the find, distribute exclusive reporting rights and escape the demands of the French-dominated authorities. The worst mistake of all!

The New York Times, 26.06.2005 (USA)

In the New York Times Magazine, Michael Ignatieff discusses America's mission of spreading democracy in the world. Various American presidents have attempted it, in Germany, Vietnam and Eastern Europe. A noble enterprise, but one that can lead to conflicting results, as George W. Bush is now seeing. "It is terrorism that has joined together the freedom of strangers and the national interest of the United States. But not everyone believes that democracy in the Middle East will actually make America safer, even in the medium term. Thomas Carothers of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, for one, has questioned the 'facile assumption that a straight line exists between progress on democratization and the elimination of the roots of Islamic terrorism.' In the short term, democratization in Egypt, for example, might only bring the radical Muslim Brotherhood to power." - let's talk european