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Posts Tagged ‘EU’

In praise of India

Today the 9th EU-India summit has kicked off in Marseille. As a student of South Asian affairs I would like to mark this event with a little reflection on India as one of the great hopes for our world in the 21st century.

When I arrived at SOAS to study politics I had to decide which region in Asia or Africa I wanted to specialise in. I had lived in China for two years so I already had a relative head start on East Asian history so that seemed like the safest choice. However there was something about South Asia, and specially India, which intrigued me, cultural pluralism.

India is home to 1.13 billion people, 21 official languages, 1,652 dialects and a vast number of different religious groups. India is so heteregoneous culturally that is hard to understand how such a vast country with such a tumultous history has been able to stay united and democratic since its independence for 61 years. The answer to that question is constitutional patriotism. The idea that the Indian nation, formed by all Indians without exception, is rooted in a set of common democratic values. In the privacy of his home one can follow his customs but once out in public a set of common rules are followed so to guarantee equality and social harmony. That unspoken value of respect and sacrifice for the common good shared by all Indians is what has kept the nation together and what fascinates me about this country.

But that’s not all, together with that sense of social responsibility comes one of political responsibility. Despite high economic growth during the years of BJP rule the lack of redistribution of that wealth was punished in the ballot box by India’s rural communities that put the Congress Party, and the current PM, Manmohan Singh, in power. India has kept growing but its people has let the political class know that the Chinese model of fast growth with complete disregard for its social impact isn’t going to happen there.

India’s past and present isn’t perfect. Poverty and social conflicts still exist within and the Kashmir and northeastern conflicts still cast a shadow over the future of the country. But a country that is able to elect a Muslim President and a Sikh PM, despite the fact that 800 million out of 1 billion of its citizens are Hindu, is to be admired and its unity in diversity celebrated.

And what issue is more important today to us in the West, at a time when our societies are becoming culturally more plural, than to build a common identity that belongs to us all but at the same time respects and celebrates our rich cultural diversity.

Europe can learn a lot from India and it is time for us to have a serious look at a country that despite all its defects and challenges is emerging as probably one of the most stable and admired nations in the new world order.

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Eurobarometer and the Lisbon Treaty

Some weeks ago I argued in this blog that the rejection in Ireland of the Lisbon Treaty was the result of bad campaigning by pro-Europeans. The latest EC’s Eurobarometer seems to corroborate my argument.

According to their analysis the Irish government didn’t take the campaign too serious. The results are quite shocking:

– 52% of those that didn’t vote did so because they didn’t fully understand the issue.

– 32% of those that voted NO in the referendum did so because they didn’t understand the issue.

– When asked which campaign was more persuasive, 81% of NO voters and 57% of YES voters said the NO campaign was. In overall numbers the YES campaign was preferred by 16%, while the NO campaign was preferred by a whopping 68%.

– Finally, when asked at what point did voters made their minds up on the issue 55% of them said in the last week of the campaign against 10% who had a clear opinion when the referendum was announced. Therefore the campaigns were crucial to influence voters.

This Eurobarometer special certainly deconstructs arguments on both sides, pro and anti Europeans. Pro-Europeans that claim that Bertie Ahern’s resignation and scaremongering on the side of the NO campaign, irrational causes, were the main causes of the rejection of the Treaty should rethink their stance. And euro-sceptics who argue that the Irish population doesn’t want more integration have been proved wrong. Only 5% of those that voted NO cited their opposition to a more unified Europe, in fact most of the reasons given were related to Ireland’s influence within the EU and them, together with ignorance of the issue as the main cause, took the bulk of the NO vote.

As I’ve said before , the relationship between citizens and the EU isn’t a love affair anymore. Pro-Europeans will have to start taking seriously their campaigning if the EU is to keep up as a world player in the future.

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