More acountibility for MEPs: Ana Canhoto in European Portraits

Via Verde in Portugal - photo by Xuaxo, Wikimedia Commons

Via Verde in Portugal – photo by Xuaxo, Wikimedia Commons

An academic in the marketing field, specialising in Digital Marketing (amongst other areas), I met Ana unsurprisingly on an online forum. We connected over our common interests, and kept the conversation flowing on several social networks, not in the least her blog, which is a must read for anybody in digital marketing. Ana leads the Marketing MSc at the Oxford Brookes University, and also lectures as visiting professor in several other European Universities.

What does the EU mean to you?
To me, the EU means freedom of movement and feeling part of something big.

As a kid, I remember traveling with my parents between Portugal and Spain – crossing the border was never a good experience, as there would be lots of questions, document checking, car searches… Now, it is so easy to move between countries, and that has really encouraged us, as a family, to travel, meet new people and try new things.

I also feel more connected with other EU citizens, when we meet in Europe or when we meet in other parts of the world, because we have this big experience and identity in common.
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Beyond the stereotypes: Ruben Martinez in European Portraits

Ruben Martinez: Football fanatic and more - photo courtesy of Ruben Martinez

Ruben Martinez: Football fanatic and more – photo courtesy of Ruben Martinez

With a keen eye for the unusual, Ruben is a talented journalist who made a documentary thesis about a subject not many people know about, or want to talk about. He was working on it in Latvia, and that’s where we met and formed an instantaneous friendship. He’s currently building out One Nil Up, an online magazine about Baltic football he co-founded.

What does the EU mean to you?
The concept of EU has several meanings for me; from the political point of view, it is a failed project. However, in other regards it has eased many things for citizens of the EU state members, meaning traveling, education and other such opportunities.
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Ten Faces of Innovation by Tim Kelley – book review in five tweets

Ten Faces of Innovation, signed by Tom Kelley himself

Ten Faces of Innovation, signed by Tom Kelley himself

A short while back, I received a signed copy of Tom Kelley’s book The Ten Faces of Innovation. This is my review of it, in five tweets.


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Make an EU Senate: Andreas Klein in European Portraits

Andreas Klein on stage at the Freedom Film Festival Riga

Andreas Klein on stage at the Freedom Film Festival Riga

Strengthening democracy is one of the goals of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. And that is exactly what Andreas has been doing for a while now. In different places in Europe. I met Andreas while we were both living in Riga, and had the great pleasure to see him in action on a Baltic conference he organised with the aim of strengthening democratic institutions in the region. Andreas also initiated the Freedom Film Festival in Riga.

What does the EU mean to you?
First of all, the EU means freedom to me: freedom to travel without borders, freedom to study at numerous universities throughout Europe, freedom to choose the place where I want to live and work and raise my family. Secondly, it means to me solidarity with our friends and partners in Europe. And thirdly, it gives me a great feeling of security and safety for me and my family, especially since the world is witnessing what happens around Europe’s neighboring countries.
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Manchester is not just about football: Ivana Sendecka in European Portraits

A surprising side of Manchester - photo courtesy of Ivana Sendecka

A surprising side of Manchester – photo courtesy of Ivana Sendecka

With her aptly titled blog Inspiring Shipments, Ivana has been creating waves and inspiring many people since 2009. I got to know Ivana as an enthusiastic colleague on a corporate social network. She left the company, and went on to do many great things. She’s the founder of the Next Generation of Leaders in Slovakia movement and is one of the 40 Under 40, Young Leaders of Europe for 2014. She calls herself a confused citizen of the world with a Slovak passport, who grew up in Slovakia and ived and worked in Dubai and Bratislava. Currently she does the most important job in the world: being a mum to her lovely son in Manchester. He is half Slovak, half English.

What does the EU mean to you?
The EU means I carry a purple passport around airports without a need to stop at border checks, when in Europe. The EU means fI can move countries freely. The EU means the chance to be paid better, when you have the courage to leave homeland.
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Florian in European Portraits

Florian from France - European Portraits

Florian from France – European Portraits

A Frenchman living in Japan, Florian has a strong opinion on what democracy should be like. He defends his opinion with fire, but also with an open mind and a willingness to listen to others and their opinions. I met Florian in the discussion forums of the MOOC Understanding Europe, and even though his opinion often differs from mine, I value his insights very much. I also think it’s good for this series to present different points of view, and I’m very happy Florian wanted to share his thoughts.

What does the EU mean to you?
To me, the EU is as much an opportunity as a hindrance.
An opportunity when it can spread good practice, rationalize transport and trade links, expand the single market and opportunities for corporations and citizens alike. In that respect, the 2004 enlargement has been a huge success.
A hindrance when member states cannot act in some areas where they want to, because the EU has the competence in that area, and the EU is blocked by its slow and/or weak decision making. To me, the most tragic example of this is the continued importation of Chinese goods falling short of EU norms (toxic toys for our kids probably being the worst), or artificially cheap through the cheap financing Chinese state-owned enterprises enjoy (when there are no outright subsidies for production and exportation…). The French government has repeatedly alerted the commission about this, but any action has been blocked by countries which fear trade reprisals (primarily the Germans: they are those who export the most to China).
I think member states should retain much more leeway to act, especially when the EU doesn’t apply its own standards…

What’s your (tweetable) vision for the EU?
A confederation of sovereign nation states, with harmonization in all areas to minimum common denominators acceptable to all states.
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European Portraits – a selfie first

In 7 weeks, voting will start for the European Parliament. This directly elected EU institution plays a big role in the daily life of Europeans. But how much do we really know about Europe? And what does it really mean to us. I’ve asked a couple of people to share their thoughts on it, which is resulting in a nice – and still growing – collection of portraits of Europeans. I hope that through these portraits, together we can share an idea of what Europe means to us, what it can mean to you, and eventually give you a basis to exercise your democratic rights and vote in the European Parliament elections in May. Today, I’m kicking off this project with a selfie.

Unexpected green along the river Ruhr

Unexpected green along the river Ruhr

A 40-something European, Arjan currently resides in Germany. He has also lived in Latvia, France, and of course his Native The Netherlands. He’s a consultant helping businesses make sense of new methods and technologies, and use those to get better results. He has recently published his first book of poems.

What does the EU mean to you?
For me, the EU means opportunity, but also a sensible way of addressing issues we’re facing. Traveling, living and working where you prefer is one example. Criminality, environment protection and consumer protection are other areas that need more than nation-bound institution to take care of them. And then there is peace. I think the main thing that the EU means to me, is that it brought peace to Europe.
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Getting to know Europe a bit better

In eight weeks time, we have elections for the European Parliament, the most democratic EU institution. But, how much do we know about this institution? And the candidates and parties we are voting for? Well, I believe a free and independent media landscape, focused on the European level (and not on the national level) is critical for this. That’s why I’m building a list of websites that report on, or create debates and discussions about the EU, how it works, who the players are etcetera. This list was originally started in a forum thread of the excellent MOOC Understanding Europe. If HEC and professor Alemanno decide to run it again, please enroll. It’s definitely worth your time, especially if you are an EU citizen.

Anyway, now for the list (and if you have suggestions, please let me know!):

Newspapers/magazines

Blogs

  • EUROPP – blog from the London School of Economics on European politics and policy

Useful websites

  • VoteWatch – how have MEPs voted in the European Parliament
  • FactcheckEU – statements from politicians and more about Europe examined on their factual basis. Very useful.
  • Debating Europe – debates about Europe and the EU
  • Venture Village – anything about startups in Europe

10 things you can do to be happy

Pure happiness: Homemade cookies

Pure happiness: Homemade cookies

Today is International Day of Happiness, to celebrate the fact that happiness is a fundamental human goal. Here are ten things you can do to be happy. Today, tomorrow, anytime. Have a great #HappinessDay!

1: Give people compliments
Start with the ones closest to you: partners, children, parents, siblings. Then move in to neighbours, friends, colleagues. Seeing the people in your circles be happy, will make you happy.
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