A European Summer

Emily Lapworth

This past spring I traveled outside of the United States for the first time in my life. I was on my way to Freiburg, Germany to spend four months in the IES European Union Program. I chose this program because of my interest in international politics and travel, and this opportunity afforded me a lot of both. I learned more about the EU than many European citizens know and I traveled to 13 different countries. It was an amazing experience in every aspect. I made great friends and had lots of fun traveling and visiting cities like Rome, London, Copenhagen, and Tallinn. I went sledding down an entire mountain in the Swiss Alps and I went hiking on the cliffs of the Mediterranean Ocean in Cinque Terre. I visited the UN in Geneva, the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, the Reichstag in Berlin, and even interned at the European Parliament in Brussels for a month.

My internship was probably the most exciting and interesting aspect of my study abroad experience. I lived in Brussels for a month and went to work at the European Parliament in the office of Zita Gurmai. Mrs. Gurmai is a socialist member of the European Parliament (MEP) from Hungary whose main interests are women’s rights and gender equality. While compiling information for Mrs. Gurmai’s visit to the U.S., I realized that gender issues are basically nonexistent in American politics right now. I also learned that socialism is a legitimate political ideology in Europe, and although it is a dirty word in American politics, many democratic positions are closer to socialism than democrats would care to admit. Europe as a whole is further left on the political spectrum than the U.S., although many social programs that Europeans take for granted are in danger of being cut by austerity measures. The Socialist & Democrat Party (S&D) that Mrs. Gurmai belongs to is strongly opposed to these cuts.

Continue reading “A European Summer”

IGS Conversations: The International Debt Crisis

This fall IGS will be hosting “IGS Conversations,” a series of panels on the hottest current world issues. Global leaders and IGS seniors will the share the stage as they analyze the pressing issues of our times.

Our first discussion panel is scheduled for Wednesday Oct. 26, 2011 at 7 pm and will focus on government debts and their effect on the faltering world economy.

Are the United States and Europe bankrupt?  What can be done about the international debt crisis?  What happens if the European Union can’t bail out Greece – or Italy, or Spain?  As the world economy teeters, should governments be cutting back or spending much more?  And what effect does fear itself have over faltering economies of the West?

We are honored that Mr. Kent Lucken, a managing director with Citigroup, will join us for this conversation.  As an international banker Mr. Lucken has extensive experience in global finance but he also knows European politics well.  In his past career as a U.S.diplomat Mr. Lucken served in several embassies in Europe and is familiar with the roots of the continent’s economic crisis.

Joining Mr. Lucken will be our own Craig Elman and Adina Weissman, both recently returned from studying abroad in Europe. Craig, a double Economics and IGS major, will speak briefly on the debt crisis in Spain, where he studied for a semester, while Adina, a double major in economics and psychology, will talk about the intersection of public perception and economics in the debt crisis in England.

It all happens next Wednesday, October 26th in the Mandel Humanities Center Reading Room, up on the third floor.  Come at 6:30 for pizza and informal conversation, then enjoy the panel and discussion from 7 pm on.

The “IGS Conversations” series is being managed by Joshua Cracraft, a PhD candidate in History who is also IGS’ Assistant Director for Academic Programming.  Please do get in touch with Joshua (cracraft@brandeis.edu) if you have ideas for future conversations.

London Calling, Yes I was There Too

Bryan Flatt

I spent the semester of Spring 2010 working for Taylor Hampton Solicitors, a small law firm in London, England. We received a lot of phone calls and emails from concerned people at our office. Most of them were pulling at strings – people looking for attention, crazies with conspiracy theories, tipsters with no backing – but we followed up on every claim we could in case there was a bite on the other end of the line. During my four months, I got to experience some of the big bites but it was just after I left did the whole world realize that my last bite would end up snapping the line.

Taylor Hampton Solicitors specializes in media law and is located in the heart of London’s legal center. The lawyer I worked for at the firm was named Mark Lewis. Since mid-June he has been quoted in hundreds of publications all over the world. Why? He is one of the first, and one of the largest solicitors (a type of lawyer in the UK) working on the News of the World Phone Hacking case. His paramount case is that of the family of Milly Dowler – the 13-year-old girl whose phone was hacked while she was kidnapped and eventually found murdered. It was the case that brought down Rupert Murdoch’s historical tabloid ‘The News of the World’ and set into motion a chain of events that experts allege may eventually bring down Murdoch himself. Continue reading “London Calling, Yes I was There Too”

Do You Hear The People Sing?

Erica Hope

Protestors Arriving In Paris Square

For the past week, Israel has been covered in posters hypothetically asking, “Where were you on September 9th?” encouraging people to attend the “Million Man March”.  I will be able to proudly respond that I was one of 50,000 demanding social and economic justice in Jerusalem in solidarity with around 450,000 people protesting across the nation. To put this in perspective, this is roughly 8% of the population, or equal to 17 million Americans protesting at once.

Instead of recapping the origins and the goals of the social justice protests, sometimes dubbed j14th in honor of their July 14th beginning, you can read my first post on the topic. It also links to more substantial articles.
Many who support and analyze the movement viewed yesterday as crucial: Due to the escalation in the south the much-anticipated Palestinian bid for statehood at the UN this month, and heightened tension with Turkey, security concerns are once again first page news. Many predicted that the movement would quickly prove unsustainable under these conditions.

Continue reading “Do You Hear The People Sing?”

Another Side to the War in Libya

By Tess Raser

Every year millions of people come to Italy to see the Vatican, Renaissance art, and UNESCO sites, and to eat fine cuisine. I studied abroad, in the southern Italian island of Sicily (the largest in the Mediterranean). People come here for the beautiful beaches, Mt. Etna—Europe’s largest, most active volcano – and again, of course, the food. These people are tourists.

However, there is also another new group coming to Italy these days, especially to Sicily. Most of the people in this group are not Catholic or even Christian and have little interest in making a pilgrimage to the Vatican. Many of them did not study Botticelli and Michelangelo in school and are not flocking to the Uffizi in Florence. These people are immigrants and refugees. Before I came to Sicily, I had an interest in immigration in Italy because I took a course on modern Italian culture at Brandeis before going abroad. Immigration is a new phenomenon in Italy as Italians, specifically Sicilians, emigrated to other countries. The Italian government does not know how to deal with immigration and because of this does not have as many restrictions against immigration as other European Union countries do (e.g. France and Switzerland).

With all of this information in mind, and curious to learn more, I decided to volunteer at a center for immigrants and refugees in Catania, during my free time. At the center I taught Italian to the newest arrivals. At first, in February, most of my students were from western Africa, countries like Mali and Senegal.  But then the war started in Libya.  Due to my close proximity to an American military base I would often hear and see helicopters headed toward Libya that was relatively nearby. The second experience I had of the war was one rainy day when I had two new students. The two new students were 17 year old girls of Eritrean descent. They spoke a bit of English and were relieved to have finally found someone else at Centro Astalli that could speak a common language. They also felt comfortable around me because of my age and my familiar East African appearance. Continue reading “Another Side to the War in Libya”

Spain after the economic crisis

by Craig Elman, writing from Madrid

Spain has been experiencing very rough after-shocks since the economic crisis, even worse than that which occurred in the United States.  The unemployment rate has spiked up to 20%, double its natural rate of unemployment (which happens to be equivalent to the U.S.’s current unemployed rate under the crisis).  I live in Madrid, and everywhere I go I see the effects of the crisis: people begging on the street, and even approaching people and pleading for a helping hand.  It’s a terrible site to see. 

The government has also decided to increase the age to receive pensions (from 65 to 67.5 I believe) in order to increase working hours and reduce the public debt.  Although balancing the budget is one of the most essential macroeconomic policies that a government should tackle during a recession, there are several potential adverse effects that could follow.  Social unrest and protests in Madrid have been occurring because the government is essentially cutting benefits for the next generation of elderly people. 

Spain has also become extremely energy conscious and green as a result of the crisis (which happens to be the one positive effect coming out of the crisis).  Spanish households have recently transitioned to more energy-efficient lighting, for example, and the government is trying to reduce motor vehicle emissions by cutting the costs of public transportation and making it more accommodating to the public.  Germany has offered a helping hand during Spain’s crisis, and German chancellor Angela Merkel has agreed to help Spain’s economic advisors to the government.  She has also offered to employ Spanish engineer students in Germany who will be looking for work soon. 

While this helps to alleviate the problem of unemployment in Spain in the short run, this is, in my opinion, a poor choice for Spain in the long run.  Economic growth requires technological innovation, and without a new generation of engineers, Spain’s economy would suffer dire consequences. 

There have also been debates about whether or not Spain should forego the Euro and return to the peso, since the crisis has hit other European countries on the Euro as well.  However, abolishing the Euro would create fewer incentives for foreign investment within Spain (I’m not too clear on the Economics behind this, but I have been told that this is a possible adverse outcome).