A History of Cypriot Multiculturalism

This post is part of a series on the Cypriot financial crisis.
Cyprus has been representing for centuries what the European Union aims towards: to be a place of free movement and neutral identity, a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural community. Cyprus has been a place of multicultural and multiethnic exchange for centuries. Two articles, “Ports of Call” by Sharon Kinoshita & Jason Jacob and, “Noi Siamo Mercatanti Cypriani” by Sharon Kinoshita, analyze Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron (1350c) in order to make a claim about medieval Mediterranean connectivity and cultural exchange. Their work suggests that proclaiming oneself a “Cypriot merchant” in the 14th century Mediterranean came with a vague and indefinite connotation about who this person actually was in terms of his religious, cultural and “national” identity.

In Boccaccio’s Decameron Cyprus was a place of connection and accommodation, a crossroad for ships and merchants of many nations, languages and religious affiliations (Kinoshita & Jacobs 183). The island was a true center of trade where maritime routes from Latin Europe met the land routes coming from central Asia, the Indian Ocean and beyond. By the turn of the 14th century merchants, bankers and ship owners from Genoa, Pisa, Venice, Florence, Piacenza, Ancora, Padua, Barcelona and Provence and their businesses were thriving on the island. Everyday, from dawn to dusk, one could hear “the tongues of every nation under heaven” in the ports of Cyprus. With its francophone kings, its majoritarian Greek-speaking majority, Italian merchant colonies and its Arabic-speaking Levantine Christian communities, its visiting Provencal and Catalan merchants, Cyprus was a multilingual, multiethnic and multi-religious place (Kinoshita 50).

The story of Saladin in Boccaccio’s Decameron exemplifies the vagueness of the Cypriot identity. Saladin, Sultan of Babylon (Cairo), disguised himself as a Cypriot merchant, traveling from East to West, at the time of the Crusades, to gauge the West’s level of preparedness for the upcoming Crusade (Kinoshita 44). On his way, he arrived in Pavia, Italy and met townsman Masser Torello. Having been asked who he was, Saladin did not want to reveal his true identity, fearing persecution for his religious and ethnic affiliation as a Muslim Babylonian. The anonymous “Cypriot merchant,” that is a recurring figure in Boccaccio’s Decameron, served as a plausible disguise for Saladin as it was a term that was deliciously vague (Kinoshita 49, 50).

To be a “Cypriot” at the time of the Crusades was to be ethnically anyone. “Cypriot” was a symbol of peace and friendship, bridging the differences between the East and West. You could have been an Egyptian, a Greek, an Italian, a Spaniard, or a Frank but you could call yourself a “Cypriot” and acquire an overarching international status. But the “Cypriot” in Decameron was not only a symbol of vague and indefinite identity. Cyprus allowed Saladin to choose “Cypriot” as a “nationality” suggesting he was arriving as an ally and friend.

Boccaccio’s image of the Cypriot is relevant today. Due to the unceasing movement of immigrants, asylum seekers, entrepreneurs and soldiers over their land, Cypriots are accustomed to intercultural exchange. In 1946-49, under British colonial government, 51,000 Jews from the Balkans and Eastern European countries immigrated to Cyprus and lived in refugee camps there. In the early to mid-1980s many affluent Arabs (mostly Lebanese and Palestinians) came to Cyprus following the collapse of Beirut. These business people utilized the infrastructural, tax and offshore incentives that Cyprus had to offer to develop their own businesses (Demetriou & Trimikliniotis 2005: 9). Cyprus accommodated asylum-seekers from Nigeria, Cameroon, the Palestinian territories, Iraq, Iran, Syria and Pakistan throughout the second half of the 20th century and beginnings of the 21st century. Russian Pontians came to Cyprus as permanent residents from the former Soviet Union in the 1990s. With a total population of approximately 1 million people, the island is now filled with immigrants from many different countries. Trimikliniotis and Demetriou (2005) show that 80,000 immigrants from Greece, the United Kingdom, Russia, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Vietnam, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania lived in Cyprus in 2004, which is equal to the number of Turkish Cypriots. British, Swedish and other Northern European retirees reside today in its picturesque villages. British and American soldiers work at their countries’ military bases on the island, along with the United Nations multiethnic units that have guarded the buffer zone since 1964.

Blumenfeld-Kosinski, R. & Petkov, K. (ed.) (2012). “Noi Siamo Mercatanti Cipriani. How to do things in the Medieval Mediterranean.” Philippe de Mezieres and His Age. Piety and Politics in the Fourteenth Century. Brill: Leiden – Boston.

Kinoshita, S. & Jacobs, J. (2007). “Ports of Call: Boccaccio’s Alatiel in the Medieval Mediterranean.” Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, 37:1.

Demetriou, C. & Trimikliniotis, N. (2005). “Active Civic Participation of Immigrants in Cyprus.” Country Report prepared for the European research project POLITIS, Oldenburg.

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The “No” of Cyprus

This is the first out of a series of four pieces written about the Cypriot financial crisis.

On March 19, 2013, the members of the Cypriot Parliament were called to make a decision that could have changed the lives of Europeans forever. The Parliament was asked to accept or reject the bail out plan set by the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund (Troika). The plan would dip into the depositors’ bank accounts to help save the Cypriot banks from bankruptcy. Αs many economic analysts said, the proposed imposition of a levy (“haircut”) of 6.75% on bank deposits less than 100.00 euros was an unprecedented event in the world’s economic history. While large groups of protesters gathered outside the Cypriot Parliament waiting for the result of the vote, Spanish protesters gathered in Madrid knowing that they could be next with a possible imposition of a levy of 0.2% on their bank deposits over 100.00 euros.

The unanimous rejection (the “No”) of the haircut by the members of the Parliament had no impact whatsoever on whether the European bail out plan would eventually be implemented or not. To the surprise of the Cypriot citizens the Troika eventually imposed the closing of Cyprus Popular Bank, one of the country’s largest, costing account holders 4.9 billion euros and proceeded with the haircut of 60% on bank deposits over 100.00 euros for deposites in the Bank of Cyprus.

Then, Cypriots, albeit in a state of shock, seeing their life savings, their pensions and their businesses vanishing in front of their eyes, instantly invented various support mechanisms in order to deal with the upcoming shortages: the power supply company reduced its monthly fees; the telecommunication authority provided free telephone service for April; doctor Eleni Theocharous established a temporary nursing unit to provide free health care; bakeries decreased the price of milk and bread. Α Day Long Solidarity Concert with title “People for People” took place on April 1st  to collect food supplies for the poor (video). Think tanks, comprised by civilians, are currently being formed to find innovative ways to reclaim democracy and facilitate future everyday economic exchanges.

The Cypriot “No” was a reminder that the European community breathes (perhaps its last breaths) at the Community’s periphery. According to Costas Douzinas it “was the first formal rebuff of austerity, something that the obedient governments of southern Europe had not dared” (The Guardian). The parliament’s “No” cost the Cypriots one of their biggest banks, even though as many have argued the bank would be lost regardless; yet it affirmed their faith in democracy and European solidarity regardless of the financial cost. Little did the common Cypriots know about the existing divisions within the E.U. in which the individual democratic decision-making processes of nations are, since the Lisbon treaty, subject to the authority of the supranational European Commission.

Posted in European Union, history | Tagged

Cyprus and the European Union: A Savior and its Double

On March 19, 2013, the members of the Cypriot Parliament were called to make a decision that could have changed the lives of Europeans forever. The Parliament was asked to accept or reject the bailout plan set by the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund (Troika). The plan would dip into the depositors’ bank accounts to help save the Cypriot banks from bankruptcy. Αs many economic analysts said, the proposed imposition of a levy (“haircut”) of 6.75% on bank deposits less than 100.00 euros was an unprecedented event in the world’s economic history. While large groups of protesters gathered outside the Cypriot Parliament waiting for the result of the vote, Spanish protesters gathered in Madrid knowing that they could be next with a possible imposition of a levy of 0.2% on their bank deposits over 100.00 euros.

The unanimous rejection (the “No”) of the haircut by the members of the Parliament had no impact whatsoever on whether the European bail out plan would eventually be implemented or not. To the surprise of the Cypriot citizens the Troika eventually imposed the closing of Cyprus Popular Bank, one of the country’s largest, costing account holders 4.9 billion euros and proceeded with the haircut of 60% on bank deposits over 100.00 euros for deposits in the Bank of Cyprus.

Then, Cypriots, albeit in a state of shock, seeing their life savings, their pensions and their businesses vanishing in front of their eyes, instantly invented various support mechanisms in order to deal with the upcoming shortages: the power supply company reduced its monthly fees; the telecommunication authority provided free telephone service for April; doctor Eleni Theocharous established a temporary nursing unit to provide free health care; bakeries decreased the price of milk and bread. Α Day Long Solidarity Concert with title “People for People” took place on April 1st  to collect food supplies for the poor (video). Think tanks, comprised by civilians, are currently being formed to find innovative ways to reclaim democracy and facilitate future everyday economic exchanges.

The Cypriot “No” was a reminder that the European community breathes (perhaps its last breaths) at the Community’s periphery. According to Costas Douzinas it “was the first formal rebuff of austerity, something that the obedient governments of southern Europe had not dared” (The Guardian). The parliament’s “No” cost the Cypriots one of their biggest banks, even though as many have argued the bank would be lost regardless; yet it affirmed their faith in democracy and European solidarity regardless of the financial cost. Little did the common Cypriots know about the existing divisions within the E.U. in which the individual democratic decision-making processes of nations are, since the Lisbon treaty, subject to the authority of the supranational European Commission.

A History of Cypriot Multiculturalism
Cyprus has been representing for centuries what the European Union aims towards: to be a place of free movement and neutral identity, a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural community. Cyprus has been a place of multicultural and multiethnic exchange for centuries. Two articles, “Ports of Call” by Sharon Kinoshita & Jason Jacob and, “Noi Siamo Mercatanti Cypriani” by Sharon Kinoshita, analyze Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron (1350c) in order to make a claim about medieval Mediterranean connectivity and cultural exchange. Their work suggests that proclaiming oneself a “Cypriot merchant” in the 14th century Mediterranean came with a vague and indefinite connotation about who this person actually was in terms of his religious, cultural and “national” identity.

In Boccaccio’s Decameron Cyprus was a place of connection and accommodation, a crossroad for ships and merchants of many nations, languages and religious affiliations (Kinoshita & Jacobs 183). The island was a true center of trade where maritime routes from Latin Europe met the land routes coming from central Asia, the Indian Ocean and beyond. By the turn of the 14th century merchants, bankers and ship owners from Genoa, Pisa, Venice, Florence, Piacenza, Ancora, Padua, Barcelona and Provence and their businesses were thriving on the island. Everyday, from dawn to dusk, one could hear “the tongues of every nation under heaven” in the ports of Cyprus. With its francophone kings, its majoritarian Greek-speaking majority, Italian merchant colonies and its Arabic-speaking Levantine Christian communities, its visiting Provencal and Catalan merchants, Cyprus was a multilingual, multiethnic and multi-religious place (Kinoshita 50).

The story of Saladin in Boccaccio’s Decameron exemplifies the vagueness of the Cypriot identity. Saladin, Sultan of Babylon (Cairo), disguised himself as a Cypriot merchant, traveling from East to West, at the time of the Crusades, to gauge the West’s level of preparedness for the upcoming Crusade (Kinoshita 44). On his way, he arrived in Pavia, Italy and met townsman Masser Torello. Having been asked who he was, Saladin did not want to reveal his true identity, fearing persecution for his religious and ethnic affiliation as a Muslim Babylonian. The anonymous “Cypriot merchant,” that is a recurring figure in Boccaccio’s Decameron, served as a plausible disguise for Saladin as it was a term that was deliciously vague (Kinoshita 49, 50).

To be a “Cypriot” at the time of the Crusades was to be ethnically anyone. “Cypriot” was a symbol of peace and friendship, bridging the differences between the East and West. You could have been an Egyptian, a Greek, an Italian, a Spaniard, or a Frank but you could call yourself a “Cypriot” and acquire an overarching international status. But the “Cypriot” in Decameron was not only a symbol of vague and indefinite identity. Cyprus allowed Saladin to choose “Cypriot” as a “nationality” suggesting he was arriving as an ally and friend.

Boccaccio’s image of the Cypriot is relevant today. Due to the unceasing movement of immigrants, asylum seekers, entrepreneurs and soldiers over their land, Cypriots are accustomed to intercultural exchange. In 1946-49, under British colonial government, 51,000 Jews from the Balkans and Eastern European countries immigrated to Cyprus and lived in refugee camps there. In the early to mid-1980s many affluent Arabs (mostly Lebanese and Palestinians) came to Cyprus following the collapse of Beirut. These business people utilized the infrastructural, tax and offshore incentives that Cyprus had to offer to develop their own businesses (Demetriou & Trimikliniotis 2005: 9). Cyprus accommodated asylum-seekers from Nigeria, Cameroon, the Palestinian territories, Iraq, Iran, Syria and Pakistan throughout the second half of the 20th century and beginnings of the 21st century. Russian Pontians came to Cyprus as permanent residents from the former Soviet Union in the 1990s. With a total population of approximately 1 million people, the island is now filled with immigrants from many different countries. Trimikliniotis and Demetriou (2005) show that 80,000 immigrants from Greece, the United Kingdom, Russia, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Vietnam, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania lived in Cyprus in 2004, which is equal to the number of Turkish Cypriots. British, Swedish and other Northern European retirees reside today in its picturesque villages. British and American soldiers work at their countries’ military bases on the island, along with the United Nations multiethnic units that have guarded the buffer zone since 1964.

Multiculturalism in a Post-Democratic Society

Today, it seems that the Northern European countries’ financial goals stand above the decisions of individual nation-members, especially those in the South. This is apparent from the eradication of the sovereignty of the member states after the approval of the Lisbon Treaty (2007). The E.U.’s Lisbon Treaty replaced the unanimous voting system, that used to give equal voting power to all state-members, with a majority vote system in which the most powerful nations hold a stronger vote within the European parliament.

The bankruptcy crises in Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece – as well as the role of the European commission in restructuring their economies – unearthed a crucial feature of the E.U.: its role as an organization that commands the restructuring of financial systems of the periphery, and that subsequently imposes a version of an old-new economic model, known as ordoliberalism, according to which the markets need to be regulated.

The Lisbon treaty signaled the inauguration of a post-democratic European community. The treaty came as a replacement of the rejected European constitution by Dutch and French voters in 2005 and by Irish in 2008 and as previously said moved the decision-making process away from individual member states. Under this new set of rules the nations can pass their own laws but as members of the E.U., their decisions are subject to the European Commission’s authority. In this post-democratic Europe, the Cypriot Parliament was called on March 19, 2013 to accept or reject the bailout plan of the Troika.

The disappointment with the European Union’s dysfunctional and post-democratic practices is now sensed intensely in Cyprus. The entrance of Cyprus in the European Union in 2004 had reconstituted the lost multiculturalism and reignited the movement of peoples and trade that Boccaccio talks about. It restored Cyprus into that which it had been: a place for everyone and for all peoples.

A Savior and its Double

Cyprus parliament’s vote wasn’t the end of the Cypriot financial adventure. In order to understand the dynamics of Europe and Cyprus in regards to the bailout plan, let’s turn back to another story of the Decameron, that of Alatiel and Cypriot Antigonos.

This story portrays the Cypriot as the savior of the beautiful Alatiel, wandering in the Mediterranean, sexually violated by a number of men. Alatiel, the daughter of the sultan of Babylon (Cairo), dispatched from Alexandria to be wed to the Muslim king of Algrave (Portugal), is shipwrecked on the island of Majorca. There she is rescued by a nobleman, Pericone of Visalgo, who seduces her. After his death, Alatiel passes from one man to another – including two Genoese ship owners, the prince of Achaea, the duke of Athens, the prince of Constantinople, the Turkish emir of Smyrna and a Cypriot merchant. Eventually, in Famagusta of Cyprus, she is recognized by one of her father’s former retainers, Antigonos, who is ready to return her to her father (Kinoshita & Jacobs 163). But Alatiel tells Antigonos that, “I would have preferred for my life to have ended that way [at sea] rather than to have led the life I have lived. And I think my father would wish the same thing if he ever found out about it” (Kinoshita & Jacobs 184).  She expresses the wish that she had never been saved from the shipwreck. Antigonos, in spite of Alatiel’s acknowledgement of her altered status as a woman, decides to save her. He provides her with a fictional cover story to explain away her long absence: that all this time she lived with the nuns of the convent of San Cresci in Valcava. Antigonos himself supplements the story by saying that she lived a virtuous life with the nuns and she displayed a praiseworthy behavior. Thus, Alatiel is restored and returned to her origins due to Antigonos’ good will. The sultan, who is very pleased, rewards Antigonos and sends him back to Cyprus (Kinoshita & Jacobs 185).  Despite being violated by many men throughout her travels, Alatiel now appears as a virgin. The Cypriot Antigonos restored her fictional virginity and modest behavior. In this Boccaccian story the Cypriot does not denounce or punish the evils of the sea, the pirates, the princes and dukes, Alatiel’s violators. Instead, he maintains the status quo and restores the lie of her virginity.

By reading the story of Alatiel and Antigonos, with the Cypriot financial crisis in mind, one might tend to think of Cyprus, the one currently in need of financial aid, as Alatiel. The story, however, presents a different angle. The Cypriot is not the victim but the savior. Though it may seem paradoxical, Alatiel – the tortured and violated woman who realizes her self-canceling existence, cannot be other than Europe, suffering manifold financial crises, popular protests, divisions amongst its members and violations by its authorities. The European project that had to do with the eradication of injustice and conflict within the European continent, and the establishment of an environment of solidarity among its nations was the lie that the Cypriot parliament came to restore. Like Antigonos, the parliament supplemented the fictional cover story of Europe as a multicultural community that treats all nations equally and respects their democratic parliamentary decisions.

The contemporary Cypriot “No” to European authoritarianism carries the burden of Boccaccio’s soteriology with the Cypriot as the protagonist in the preservation of the status-quo, even-though Europe/Alatiel ask for the cancellation of their existence.

The instinctive “No” of the Cypriot parliament had more to do with Cypriots’ deep historical consciousness of incessant colonization and subordination, more recently to the British and the Ottomans, rather than with their material existence as an economic entity in the neoliberal world. Like Antigonos, Cyprus – which accounts for two tenths of a percent of the European GDP – takes on the symbolic burden of the lie to save Alatiel’s life (i.e. E.U). The tragedy of Antigonos is to be found in the minute detail of the sultan’s gifts: in the harsh Mediterranean world of competitive trade and piracy, Antigonos returns Alatiel to the sultan, not so that he can receive gifts but so he can be the heroic savior [σωσίας], meaning both “savior” and “double.”

Cyprus is both the EU’s savior and counterpart. While the E.U. offered a form of financial salvation to Cyprus through the bailout plan, Cyprus offered a more meaningful ideological salvation to the European Union through its rejection of the bail out.  Cyprus’ “No” had more to do with what was a righteous decision not only for the Cypriots but for the idea of the E.U. Immediately after the parliament’s meeting on March 19, its president, Yiannakis Omerou, said that the parliament’s decision would, in a way, protect the other countries of the E.U. from the implementation of a similar haircut policy of bank accounts with less than 100.00 euros. In rejecting the plan, despite of the destructive economic consequences that followed, Cyprus helped to preserve the European project’s most important value, solidarity.

Perhaps, what remains to be saved now are the remnants of the European Union project. The Cypriot “No” was a voice crying for such a saving.

Listen more on NPR : The Cypriots’ New World Marred with Uncertainty

Works Cited

Blumenfeld-Kosinski, R. & Petkov, K. (ed.) (2012). “Noi Siamo Mercatanti Cipriani. How to do things in the Medieval Mediterranean.” Philippe de Mezieres and His Age. Piety and Politics in the Fourteenth Century. Brill: Leiden – Boston.

Kinoshita, S. & Jacobs, J. (2007). “Ports of Call: Boccaccio’s Alatiel in the Medieval Mediterranean.” Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, 37:1.

Demetriou, C. & Trimikliniotis, N. (2005). “Active Civic Participation of Immigrants in Cyprus.” Country Report prepared for the European research project POLITIS, Oldenburg.

Posted in economy, European Union, history, literature

Celebrating 30 Years of Bundestag Presence: A Tally of the Greens’ Impact

CES Faculty Associate Andrei S. Markovits and U-M alum Joseph Klaver cordially invite you to a book signing event SUNDAY, MARCH 24, 2013 from 3-5 pm in the Kalamazoo Room, Michigan League to celebrate the publication of Thirty Years of Bundestag Presence: A Tally of The Greens’ Impact on the Federal Republic of Germany’s Political Life and Public Culture. The book is co-authored with Joseph Klaver, (Political Science/German, 2012). The Green Party turns 30 on March 6, 2013.

THIRTY YEARS OF BUNDESTAG PRESENCE: A TALLY OF THE GREENS IMPACT ON THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF GERMANY’S POLITICAL LIFE AND PUBLIC CULTURE

On 6 March 2013, it will be thirty years since quintessential representatives of the European counterculture, major players in the venerable New Left, the very embodiment

Photo by Peggy W. Jensen

Photo by Peggy W. Jensen

of the famed sixty-eighters—in short, perhaps the most powerful symbolic vanguard of the conclusive finality of the hegemonic bourgeois culture that dominated all public life in capitalist countries since the Victorian age—danced the night away at the Stadthalle in Bad Godesberg celebrating their triumphant entry into the Bundestag while invoking a new age in the political topography of the Federal Republic of Germany and—by extension—in all similar places of advanced industrial capitalism ruled by a liberal democratic order. The Age of Aquarius had finally departed from the campuses of Berkeley, Columbia, Paris, and the Free University of Berlin—not to mention the stages of New York’s Broadway and London’s West End—and entered triumphantly a platform that really mattered: that of the very heart of political life of one of the most important actors in the global order of the modern world, the Bundestag of the Federal Republic of Germany, Europe’s economic hegemon, repeated and self-congratulating world champion of exports, a self-proclaimed economic giant that insistently touted itself—contrary to all reality—as a political dwarf. Incidentally, while in virtually all previous instances of the Left’s history, innovations emanated from Europe and were then transplanted both in theory and practice to the United States, in the case of the New Left—an all-important ingredient for our story—the reverse was clearly the case. No German (or European) New Left would have emerged without key aspects (both strategic and tactical) of America’s Civil Rights movement, including freedom riders, sit ins at lunch counters, and Martin Luther King, as well as its black power variant (Malcolm X, the Black Panthers), and, of course, sex, drugs, and rock and roll, with the latter receiving particular pride of place. One simply cannot understand the beginnings and core characteristics of the European New Left without names like Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, the San Francisco sound of The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin and her pals in Big Brother and the Holding Company, and Quicksilver Messenger Service, to name but a few. The electoral victory of Sunday, 6 March 1983 rendered this motley group of politicized hippies into uncontested debutants in—nobody dared say it quite yet—the ESTABLISHMENT!

For the complete text, go to http://www.aicgs.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/GAI14-30-Years-Greens2.pdf

For more on Andy S. Markovits go to http://www.andreimarkovits.com/

Posted in history, memory | Tagged , , , ,

CES End of Semester Luncheon: What does the European crisis mean for European Studies?

There has been, of course, no single “European Crisis” in the past several years.  The banking crisis that spread from the United States to Europe in 2008, and the sovereign debt crises that spread from Greece to Portugal and Italy after 2009 are different from the punctured real estate bubbles and bank bailouts that tripped up the Spanish and Irish economies during the same period.  Together, however, these concurrent crises have revealed how fragile the idea of a united Europe is in the present, both as a monetary union and as a political ideal.  Many have asserted that the answer to the current problems faced by the Eurozone is “more Europe” even as new fissures have opened up between the North and the South, making it difficult to imagine what kinds of policies or institutions might make “more Europe” possible.

Many economists have not been able to resist an “I told you so,” pointing out that Europe is not and has never been an “optimal currency zone.”  Political scientists point out that we should not expect democratically elected leaders of sovereign nations to spearhead costly measures to preserve Europe when their own voters would bear the brunt of those costs.  Together, such diagnoses have led some to the depressing conclusion that the only thing holding Europe together at this point is the assumption that the short-term costs of a breakup are higher than the costs of continuing to muddle through with the current policies of fiscal consolidation and budgetary austerity.  Meanwhile, there has been no shortage of historians who have pointed out the similarities between the present moment and the 1930s, when the democratic nations of Europe failed to contain the effects of similarly bewildering economic crisis, with fatal consequences for all.

At CES’s End of Semester Luncheon, a distinguished panel of experts from the University of Michigan’s faculty will discuss the on-going crises in Europe from the perspective of their respective disciplines.  What do economists agree on, and where do they disagree in their analysis of the current situation?  How has the present crisis changed the story that historians, political scientists and specialists in European constitutional law tell about the trajectory of European integration in the second half of the twentieth century?

Please join us at CES’s End of Semester Luncheon on Tuesday, December 11 at 12-1:30 pm at 1636 International Institute.  Speakers include James Adams (Department of Economics), Dario Gaggio (Department of History), Anna Grzymala-Busse (Department of Political Science), and Daniel Halberstam (Law School).

Posted in economy, European Union, faculty research, history, law, politics, uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

French and German Consuls coming to U-M: Partnership and European crisis will be focus

“The Challenges Facing Europe: A French-German Approach.”

The Center for European Studies at the University of Michigan is pleased to welcome Christian Brecht, Consul General of Germany, and Graham Paul, Consul General of France, to discuss “The Challenges Facing Europe: A French-German Approach.”

The visit comes at an opportune moment. The Nobel Committee recently announced that the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to the European Union, in recognition for its past role in fostering a lasting peace between France and Germany, two countries that were at war three times between 1870 and 1945. Next year will be the 50th anniversary of the 1963 Elysée Treaty, which commemorated the reconciliation of these two nations after the Second World War. Signed by President Charles de Gaulle of France and Chancellor Konrad Adenauer of the Federal Republic of Germany, the treaty also recognized the fruits of postwar Franco-German cooperation, work that had resulted in the creation of the European Common Market in 1957. Without the cooperation and support of the French and German governments, the process of European integration would never have begun nor would it have proceeded so far.

The EU’s Nobel Peace Prize is an incitement to renew this effort. Today, Europe faces political and economic crises that threaten to put a halt to the process of integration that began in the postwar years. For the first time, European governments are contemplating the possibility of taking a step back, of making Europe smaller rather than larger, of less Europe rather than more. At such a moment, continued Franco-German cooperation is essential to the process of rescuing the vision of a harmonious and united Europe.

November 8, 4:00 PM. 1636 International Institute/SSWB, 1080 S. University, Ann Arbor

Posted in economy, European Union, history, politics | Tagged , , , ,

Eurozone Crisis from an Italian Perspective

CES welcomes back Lucia Tajoli, associate profesor of economics at the Politecnico di Milano. Professor Tajoli will give lecture in the Conversations on Europe series  titled “Eurozone Crisis from an Italian Perspective,”  today at 4 pm EST. (Live Stream)

“The ongoing Eurozone crisis has hit Italy severely, and the country is now under acute economic and political stress. Italy has been compared to other EU countries at the center of the crisis, such as Greece and Spain, but in spite of some common traits, the origin and development of the crisis in each of these countries have been quite different. Because of the differences in the underlying economic structures, the causes of the current Italian problems (such as slow economic growth, high public debt, high youth unemployment, etc.) are deeply-rooted, and the crisis only exposed many of them more clearly. Even if relevant differences among EU countries persist, the difficulties in solving these issues are arguably similar across Europe, and mainly political. The answer to the crisis requires the political will to put forward both national reforms and coordinated and joint policy interventions at the EU level. In the past, the determination to maintain its role as one of the “founding members” of the European Union helped Italy to implement policies that were unthinkable in ordinary times, in pursuit of tighter European integration, and shocks worked as catalysts in the process, both for Italy and for the EU as a whole. If this will once be more the case, a way out of the crisis can certainly be found.”

Lucia Tajoli is associate professor of economics at the Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering at Politecnico di Milano, where she teaches Economics and International Economics. She is also a visiting scholar at Bocconi University and University of Michigan. Professor Tajoli is a senior research fellow at the Istituto di Studi di Politica Internazionale in Milan, a member of the Scientific Committee of the European Trade Study Group, and of the Italian Trade Study Group.

Posted in economy, European Union, faculty research, uncategorized | Tagged , , , ,

Stuffing the IRA, avoiding the penniless cousins

Germany gets a bad rap (it’s hard to talk about the problems in Europe right now without getting onto German elites’ sins of omission or commission from Kohl onwards). But think about Germany from the point of demographics, which makes the vehemence of German opinion a little more sensible. Germany (like Austria, the Baltic States, Italy and a few others) is on a serious downward demographic trajectory, as is nicely argued in this post. It is an ageing society, with a very low fertility rate and limited immigration or immigrant integration, and it is about to tip into Japanese territory, when the lack of demographic growth diminishes economic growth.

Plenty of Germans can see an identity between their personal situation- that of a person who is soon to retire but still has too much debt- and their country- full of people who are soon to retire, and who collectively have too much debt. What does such a person do? Stuff the IRA with every penny available, pay down debt, obsess about house prices and interest rates on savings accounts… and avoid the penniless cousins who always need a loan.

Posted in uncategorized

Film director Agnieszka Holland Visits U-M. By Marysia Ostafin

Agnieszka Holland

Agnieszka Holland

The Copernicus Endowment for Polish studies, CREES, and CES welcome Agnieszka Holland to the University of Michigan for her first visit. Her recent film In Darkness was nominated earlier this year for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, and tomorrow, she will deliver the Annual Copernicus Lecture October 10, 2012 at 5 pm in the Michigan Theater. Her lecture will be followed by a free screening of In Darkness.

Agnieszka Holland graduated from the Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (FAMU) in 1971 where she studied with Milos Forman and Ivan Passer and took part in the events surrounding the Prague Spring (including six weeks of imprisonment by the communist authorities for her activities). Returning to Poland, her film career took off when she collaborated with Andrzej Wajda and Krzysztof Zanussi, winning prizes and accolades for her films at the Cannes Film Festival in 1980 (Illumination), and the Polish Film Festival and Berlin International Film Festival for Fever (1980). She emigrated to France in 1981 and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film in 1986 for Angry Harvest. Her career continued to accelerate with directorial achievements such as Europa, Europa (1991), which won a Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination; The Secret Garden (1993); Total Eclipse (1995); Washington Square (1997); The Third Miracle; and Copying Beethoven (2006).  She also directed television series for HBO and several episodes of The Wire, Cold Case, The Killing and Treme. Her screenwriting career includes classics such as Kieslowski’s Blue. She just completed a series for HBO about the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, and is setting her sights on WWII hero, Jan Karski for her next film. Karski was a courier for the official Polish underground army during the war who brought news of the Holocaust to political leaders in the West.  Please join us in welcoming Ms. Holland to Michigan!

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Conversations on Europe with Natalie Bakopoulos

Conversations on Europe with Natalie Bakopoulos

Yesterday, novelist Natalie Bakopoulos delivered a talk on the current crisis in Greece and its consequences, heightened nationalism, concerns about immigration and security, in the Conversations on Europe series. In her own words Natalie gave us a new perspective as an essayist: “I am not an economist or political scientist or historian, and  today I appear before you as an essayist.  As Montaigne coined it ‘an essay is a try, an attempt’ and so is as this that I offer you these words today: about fraud and authenticity, about uncertainty and identity, about inclusion and exile, about poetry and truth, and of course how all this relates to my beloved city of Athens.”

Video of this lecture available at http://youtu.be/2yWmZ9hRL7Q

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