Media – Web, December 2013

“Thousands more Greeks have unregistered their cars as the new year draws nearer. They said they could no longer afford to pay a motor vehicle tax with their real earnings having shrunk tangibly amid austerity. 

Long lines of people were forming again on Monday in front of local tax offices across Greece as many car owners in the debt-stricken eurozone nation wanted to unregister their vehicles to avoid paying a motor vehicle tax in 2014.”

“For young people 2013 begun with the sobering reality that 5.5 million 15-25 year olds were unemployed across Europe. We are the generation bearing the brunt of economic crisis brought about by our governments’ current high carbon growth model. For the first time in a hundred years, young Europeans are expected to have a lower standard of living than our parents. Consistently young people are removed from public discourse, from intervening in democratic institutions and the media.

Our generation is having to reimagine prosperity and security in the face of the unprecedented threat of climate change - while our governments and the institutions of the European Union remain locked into short-sighted decision making. They are content to stay within the closed circuit of boom and bust economics, their vision limited by political election cycles. Thinking short-term confines politics to little more than maintaining business as usual. Europe’s politics no longer has the capacity, let alone belief, to make choices that deliver for the needs of its people”.

“A study of Irish press coverage of austerity between 2008 and 2012 conducted at University College Dublin confirms that the media have been relentless cheerleaders for austerity. The case is so overwhelming that it may even surprise proponents of austerity. The full report is available here (or from this author by email).

Ireland has distinguished itself among European countries by implementing austerity at the outset of the current crisis, while a number of other governments reacted by first enacting Keynesian stimulus packages, in parallel to bailing out their banks, before turning to austerity. Austerity might be good for elites, but it attacks ordinary people by cutting government spending on social services, health care and welfare.” 

“While some might argue that the EU, together with the International Monetary Fund and European central bank, the so-called troika, have offered important financial assistance, there is no doubt that the economic  adjustment  programme  imposed  on  Greece  has  paid little or no attention to the environment. In fact, during these challenging times  of  fiscal  austerity,  Greece,  Portugal,  Spain and  Italy  have  witnessed  major  rollbacks  in  their  environmental  policies  and  legislation  –  as  documented  in  WWF’s monthly  crisis  watch  bulletin  –  with  the  EU  doing  next  to nothing to uphold its once global leadership role in environmental policy.

Now is the opportunity for Europe to do away with the failed development paradigm of the previous decades and become a true leader in forging more sustainable, living economies for the future. And Greece itself is in dire need of such a new vision and future."

“A few months ago the centre-right free-market think tank New Direction – The Foundation For European Reform published a critical examination of how the EU spends an estimated €7.5 billion on NGO funding. 

Two further pertinent criticisms are made in the paper. Firstly, it decries the fact that the interests of the NGOs chosen for funding do not map, proportionally, to the interests that citizens have. The interests of citizens are identified by the amount that they privately donate to charity. The think tank would prefer that at least 60% of NGO funding comes from private citizens, thus ensuring that the EU only funds NGOs which enjoy popular support. It is argued that this would promote a greater spirit of civil participation as NGOs look to their fellow citizens for funding rather than go cap-in-hand to the EU. Secondly, the report is critical of the fact that most EU funding goes into wealth-consuming causes such as the environment and overseas aid rather than wealth-creating activities such as research and industrial development.”

“Romania's lower house of parliament rejected revisions to general mining legislation on Tuesday that could have enabled Canada's Gabriel Resources to proceed with plans to build Europe's largest open cast gold mine. …Hundreds of protesters gathered before the vote outside parliament as well as in the northwestern city of Cluj, chanting "Save Rosia Montana" and asking lawmakers to vote against the mining changes.”

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