Archive for the ‘EU’ Category

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A quick note for European day of languages.

In Culture,EU,Uncategorized on September 26, 2012 by shaneheneghan Tagged: , ,

Today is European day of languages. The goals of this initiative are:

  1. Alerting the public to the importance of language learning and diversifying the range of languages learnt in order to increase plurilingualism and intercultural understanding;
  1. Promoting the rich linguistic and cultural diversity of Europe, which must be preserved and fostered;
  1. Encouraging lifelong language learning in and out of school, whether for study purposes, for professional needs, for purposes of mobility or for pleasure and exchanges.

As an Irishman and a proud Anglophone studying a master’s program in English and French in Poland, I felt it would be no harm to comment.

English is a lingua franca like no other before it having much more impact and resonance, thanks mainly in recent years to the spread of new communications technologies. On paper, therefore, one could conclude that to be born an Anglophone is quiet a stroke of luck. Happy days! One need never learn another language.

But to think like this is to do yourself a disservice. There is a general scientific consensus forming that language learning has multiple health benefits and children raised bilingually are better at multi-tasking. In other words, in my not-so-scientific opinion I believe multilingualism opens a part of the brain that otherwise could be left dormant.

Personally, I can testify in favour of this. I am studying through French again, for the first time in over seven years and as I take some baby steps in forming opinions and viewpoints in a different language again, I remember that I think and view the world ever so slightly different “en francais”.

I also feel something between jealousy and awe of those who experience this more regularly than I do.  These days, I regularly witness people form far more coherent opinions on topics ranging from Marxist Leninism to supranationalism in their third or fourth language than I ever could do in my first.

Today, we look at our continents diversity through the medium of her tongues. We see challenges and opportunities as we see through any other lens when looking at Europe. For an Anglophone, this is similar to looking at the situation in many other ways, which is to say one can get an unnerving sense of detachment.

Choice of language is important. Those that know me best will be aware of my more than underlying disdain for the use of American English on my side of the Atlantic.  You can tell so much from someone’s subtle choice of words. It often betrays their influences and loyalties to a similar extent to something like their body language. Getting to grips with these vagaries in another tongue can often help you appreciate previously unknown aspects of your own language and culture.

I am disturbed by the growing gap both cultural and linguistic, between the British Isles and the mainland. At best, I believe it will lead to a lack of influence for Britain and Ireland at a European level and at worst I predict it may lead to rising unfounded euro scepticism.

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Reporting the euro

In EU,Euro,Media on February 21, 2012 by shaneheneghan Tagged: , , , , ,

This entry does not seek analyse the current crisis at the heart of the currency. Rather, it is a look at how the media are dealing with it.

The process of European integration, despite being decades old, has always been thought of as something ever so slightly mysterious by commentator and citizen alike. A knowledge of the workings of one’s system of government at a state level has always been a given but an understanding of how the European stage works is usually seen as expertise.  This obviously and very dangerously leaves room for some rather sloppy journalism. Combine it with your workaday hack’s inclination for hyperbole and ignorance shall always win.

In our current crisis, we are constantly being told that the euro currency area is both intellectually and financially bankrupt. This is not entirely accurate. Whilst it is true that the debt to GDP ratio of the eurogroup is 86%, a good 25% higher than it should be as stated in the Maastricht treaty, it is also notable that the same ratio for the US$ area is a whopping 101%. Whilst questions are occasionally raised about the US economy, one never encounters anything near the same level of scare mongering about the greenback. The problem even to the under initiated here is not the level of debt, per se but the structures in place to handle it.

Most shockingly of all in coverage is the near total lack of good news stories surrounding the euro. The fact that the Chinese are switching large amount of their investments from $ to € passed the Irish media by completely until the Chinese heir apparent visited in the past week. The currency’s continuing expansion continues to evade the press as well. Estonia had a very smooth transition from the Kroon earlier this year. Their neighbours Latvia and Lithuania remain committed to joining. Denmark’s new PM has said she is in favour of holding a referendum on membership whilst Iceland’s finance minister has said he is in favour of the Nordic isle joining soon after EU accession.

The current situation is unprecedented but should have been anticipated. The proposed solutions in the fiscal compact can go a long way towards finding stability but I must correct those that say it is a radical and new set of rules. Most of the provisions in the text are to do with the implementation of the existing rules in the Maastricht treaty, the currency’s founding document, signed and passed into law democratically 20 years ago this year.

“Doom porn” is popular in these tumultuous days. When I see headlines such as “10 days to save the euro” in reputable broadsheet newspapers, I fail to see how their assertions can either be accurate or helpful. Though I’m sure they sell papers. I find it interesting that a lot of the more balanced coverage I see comes from non-English language sources. The English language media, particularly in Britain and the United States may have an agenda here, particularly when the increasing lack of diversity in media ownership in these territories is taken into account.

To those that hold such an agenda, might I remind you that the overwhelming majority of economists see a lengthy future for the currency, even if Greece and other peripheral states are forced out. Propagating an idea that the whole thing shall go down the drain leaving 17 disparate economies all on their own all of a sudden for solely ideological reasons is ill informed and less than helpful.