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EU Elections: Cultural, Historical and Institutional Analysis

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© European Union 2014 – European Parliament

For a few days Europe will be under the spell of the EU Parliamentary elections. Polls, analyses, hot debates, a frenzy in the name of democracy. But are these elections even relevant and worth bothering ourselves about? In this paper I will shortly analyse the parties involved, the political programs, the historical significance of direct elections by EU citizens, and finally the institutional context of the EU Parliament. This will be presented from the perspective of culture, history and institutionalism.

Cultural analysis

The first thing we want to do is identify the main category involved in the electoral process, which are the European parties and their political platforms. It is essential to keep in mind that these parties are inspired and created/shaped by the public’s needs and interests.

Parties are not in this sense objective material objects but they reflect subjective worldviews, they are expressions of ideas. There is a relatively long list of diversified EU parties involved in this election but one thing that unites them is them having culturally relevant names. We have most parties calling themselves European versus some national ones, parties claiming themselves to be liberal, free and democratic  versus others who are more conservative, reformists, socialist, or even Christian. Without going into detail into their manifestos, we notice they all share common values which we like to call European.

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Source: European People’s [email protected]

Considering names there does not seem to be any deviation from the mainstream political culture, except the nationalist case and the European Green Party which brings a ‘green’ approach to politics. Green tends to get cultural and political connotations. It brings to mind the idea of a positive future by being associated with a clean, safe environment. Politicians understand the power of colours and most parties are associated with one: the red socialists, the yellow liberals or the blue conservatives. The importance of names and colours that these parties choose are fundamental for the cultural approach which makes high use of symbol analysis.

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Source: Alberto [email protected]

Going into more detail, identity-related differences appear. I will exemplify with the three main parties. ALDE points on open EU market, stronger integration and further enlargement. They promote a federalist identity. PES promotes the socialist movement that economically asks for more state-sponsored schemes for unemployment and higher living standards through living wages. Finally, EPP brings a conservative identity with solidarity, autonomy, responsibility and Christian values. All three main EU parties offer voters different cultural packages, namely a federalist one, a socialist one and a conservative one. The rise of Euroscepticism promotes another kind of culture, a nationalist one which talks of sovereignty and anti-federalization.

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Source: PES [email protected]

To conclude the cultural analysis of the parties, we can observe an underlying common European identity that revolves around concepts like democracy, liberalism or Christianity. However, this common identity diversifies at deeper levels. We observe paths that focus more on values like unity, openness and progress, others on solidarity, responsibility and moderation or other even socialism and scepticism or sovereignty. The cultural approach provides us in this sense with a rich palette of potential futures for Europe.

Historical and institutional analysis

We might take for granted today that the EU has an elected parliament and that it is our inalienable right both to vote and to be a candidate. However, it was not like this until the first elections of 1979, when for the first time the previously appointed Members of the EU Parliament were replaced by directly elected ones. The importance of this opportunity is even further revealed when we understand the idea that lies behind the current institutional configuration of the EU and behind the purpose of this EU Parliament.

The main EU institutions are the Commission which is independent of the Member States and represents the interests of the EU as a whole, the Council of the EU which embodies the interests of the Member States and the EU Parliament that represents the interests of EU citizens. As it is clear, citizens do already have a say in EU affairs indirectly through their elected national leaders that form the Council but what the parliamentary elections provide is a direct saying of who gets to represent them. It is the idea of direct democracy that lies under such institutional configuration.

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Source: Keith [email protected]

Moreover, another historical factor that influences the EU Parliament and the elections is the violent past attributed to nationalism. If we analyse any EU party, we observe that they are mainly a large grouping of national parties that share the same political view. Even if  citizens usually elect representatives of their own national parties, the cross-national structure of EU parties disarms nationalistic impulses. EU parties sit in political groups. In addition to this, in order to prepare for the plenary meeting, MEPs organize in committees that reflect specific issues. This sitting and working structure makes sure that national belonging will not interfere with the interests of EU citizens and will not create nationalistic antagonism.

As we could observe in the previous cultural analysis, there are specific European values that are also behind the EU structure, EU parties and the EU election process. It is democracy, meaning freedom of choice, association and expression. It is also republicanism as institutional control over authorities, if we analyse how the EU institutions relate to one another. However, if we consider the Eurosceptic parties, there is also the presence of the memories of a Europe with bloody history where suspicion among European states was something normal. It is this dark part of history that fuels citizens’ mistrust in Brussels and in the EU project as a whole.

Hopefully, it will be the same bloody history to guide both voters and EU parties to maintain institutions, norms and practices that manage to keep peace on the continent and to develop the EU project with this very aim. If coalitions will be made with far-leaning EU parties, hopefully it will be with the aim to bring effectiveness in decision-making and to ease the deliberative process. No big political concessions should be promised and given to attempts that aim to bring the EU back on the isolationist path.

In conclusion, the upcoming EU elections are the manifestation of a historically induced idea, that of democratic cooperation among European peoples with the purpose of stability, prosperity and eventually peace. The mechanisms inside the EU Parliament require cross-national tackling of obstacles and should put more emphasis on the democratic control of the other institutions.

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Europe

How much money do you need to live comfortably in Spain?

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There are plenty of reasons why you may be thinking about living in Spain: its population is friendly and kind; its climate, especially in the coastal areas, is enviable; its gastronomy is incredible… but, what about its prices? What is the most affordable way to live in Spain?

Perhaps the most important question if you decided to go: would it be better to buy instead of renting a property in Spain. Or yet living in a Spanish residence?

Spanish cities where to live cheap and well

In the geographical variety that Spain presents, we can find many differences in average salaries and the standard of living that reside there would require. The areas of Galicia, Extremadura, Castilla y León, together with Almería and the south of Alicante usually have a lower price of euros/square meter in their homes. The quality of life is really appreciable, but you should know that there are fewer possibilities for business and transports.

The autonomous community of the Basque Country, Catalonia, and Madrid, which have higher than average incomes (normally more than 24,000 euros per year), also have higher prices. However, Madrid has such a wide range of rents that it sometimes makes them cheaper than other countries. 

In addition, and taking into account the tourist seasons, the areas of Valencia and Andalusia are normally a preference when it comes to living in Spain for a while or even spending your retirement. Although day-to-day life can be more expensive than in other areas of Spain, the mild climate and variety of leisure options are often worth it in the long run. 

Whatever your option is when moving to another country, especially if you don’t know its legal system, can be very tiresome. That’s why our advice is to try to contact local agencies (that speak English) to give you fair and fruitful advice. For example, to move to Andalusia, we usually recommend Tejada solicitors

I have already decided on the place. Now what?

Well, if you have already fully immersed yourself in the streets of a beautiful city that we have talked about, what should be your first step?

Decide what kind of stay you want to be in (since your future economic situation will also depend on this: taxes, permits…). You may have already chosen, for example, property conveyancing in Marbella, but it is recommended that you also think about renting a property, because it can be very profitable while you are in your other place of residence.

To sum up, before moving to a Spanish city, decide if you want to spend a little more money per month in exchange for the exceptional conditions that their precious land can give you; secondly, contact a reliable agency that will help you make the best investment and even more, apply for a Spanish residency if you are decided to stay for a long time.

And remember: a move is always a new beginning.

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Holiday in Italy: choose Florence for a break in the winter

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Florence is one of the most visited Italian cities, with over 15,4 million tourists visiting the city each year. Located in the heart of the Tuscany region, this beautiful city breathes history, life and culture among its streets. If you are looking for the perfect location for your next winter holidays, then you should look no further, Florence is the perfect destination for you.

Enjoying the best cuisine

Florence is one of the cities with the richer gastronomy in the world. From traditional Italian cuisine to exquisite wines, the food in this city have everything you may wish for in order to please your palate.  With so many options available, you may be wondering where to eat in Florence. Food critics recommend that you check out the following options during your visit to Florence: 

  • Traditional Italian cuisine: visiting Florence and not tasting original Italian cuisine would be considered blasphemous by many.  Italy has one of the most delicious gastronomies in the world, and in Florence you will be able to taste it at its finest with local ingredients. Restaurants like La Chiostrina or Il Rosmarino will allow you to rediscover Italy by its traditional food.
  • Tasting the local wine: wines from the Tuscany region are famous worldwide as the best in the market, making this region the Mecca of wine lovers. During your visit to Florence you will be able to taste those deliquescent wines in restaurants such as Olio Restaurant or Villa Pitiana Restaurant, or taste it on places dedicated exclusively to wine such as Enoteca Obsequium Firenze or L’Enoteca Sandro Soltani.
  • International cuisine: if you like international cuisine, then you are on luck. The best chefs around the globe have restaurants on Florence. This means that you will be able to taste flavours from all the world without having to leave the city. For example,  you can visit the restaurant El Inca for a taste of Peruvian food, restaurant Com Saigon for genuine Vietnamese cuisine, restaurant Ararat for Armenian and Georgian traditional food, or Dim Sum for refined Chinese cuisine. Discover the world by trying the taste of these countries’ traditional flavours.
  • Taste original gelato: gelatos are the ice cream predecessors, and they have been one of Italy’s culinary specialties for centuries . This traditional Italian cold dessert is similar to ice cream, but has less fat and less added sugar. You will be able to enjoy this amazing treat on the many gelaterias around Florence streets, such as Gelateria Edoardo or Gelateria Dei Neri.
  • Tapas and Street food: these are excellent alternatives if you are looking to make a simple meal with your family. You will be able to enjoy these small dishes in places like Italian Tapas or Rivalta Cafe.
  • Modern cuisine: you can taste the most modern and alternative cuisine in the world in Florence. Restaurants like Alla Torre De’ Rossi or Winter Garden by Caino will bring to your table the sophistication the more delicate palates crave. 

Discover Florence’s hidden gems

Florence is a city with a lot of monuments and museums to discover. However, most people that visit the city tend to focus only on the main monuments of the city, such as Campanile di Giotto or Palazzo Vecchio o della Signoria, and the restaurants near those. Because of that, if you want to experience Florence to its fullest, we recommend you rent a bike

Discovering Florence by bike will grant you access to places away from the mainstream crowds,  such as the Andrea del Sarto Museum (dedicated to this amazing Italian painter) or the beautiful Ospedale degli Innocenti (a 17th-century home for abandoned children which includes some amazing pieces of art done by renowned artists like Botticelli). These are really stunning places you would miss if you stick to the traditional tourist route, causing you a lot of regrets over the missed chance. 

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Working & Travelling In Greece

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Greece is a fantastic destination for many people, and for a number of different reasons. It you are keen to see some of the islands and soak up the sun, then you are in for a truly luxurious and paradisiacal time indeed. Similarly, if you just want to spend some time in Athens and see the major sights, then you will come away feeling refreshed and full of vigour from the sheer history and culture that surrounds you. But Greece is also a great place to consider if you are keen to work and travel at the same time. There are plenty of opportunities which you can grab there, and it is a perfect setting if you are a freelancer looking to work on the go. Let’s take a look at some of the things you might want to consider when you are thinking about working and travelling in Greece.

Your Itinerary

Greece Beach

Even if you plan to somewhat move around at leisure, you will probably still find it useful to have some kind of itinerary to work on. That will mean that that whole side of things has been taken care of, which won’t therefore be too much of a worry or a stress when you are trying to make the most of the time you have there. You can then work away, if you are freelancing, while also moving around as you have determined. You can always move away from this, and it is a good idea to have a kind of loose itinerary, but as long as you have one that is the main thing that matters. It will make working and travelling in Greece much easier and more likely to succeed.

The Technical Aspects

Because of the nature of working on the go, you will need to make sure that you have fully understood everything you need to do in order to keep your lifestyle working smoothly. That largely means looking into the more technical aspects of working on the go, which is something that you might find is easier than you would think. As long as you make a point of finding out how to sync contacts from iPhone to Mac so you can better keep in touch with people, and as long as you know what software you need to have to do your work, you should be able to travel the world and work as you please, so that is something to consider.

The Culture

Greece monument

You will probably find that Greek culture suits working very well, and it might be something that you want to think about in order to make sure that it is really the right place for you. It all depends on the nature of the work. For writers and other creatives, it could be the perfect backdrop, and you might feel that you simply never want to leave. However it is that you approach it, you can be sure that you are going to have a great time like this.

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