The very recent results of the EU Parliamentary elections should determine us to reflect on the success of the European project so far. A large proportion of the good results the radical right and left obtained have to do with the frustration and fears that member states’ citizens share in relation to the federalist idea. More than this, the propaganda and mythology associated with the damage that the enlargement waves brought to the Union, especially in security terms are to be ‘blamed’ for the rebellious voting behaviour.
Whenever it comes to discuss about the enlargement process of the EU and the security it brought with it, a strong debate emerges between promoters and skeptics. In this short writing, I will present a few reasons why I consider enlargement to be a policy full of security essence and also why I consider a larger EU as a more stable and safe project. Nevertheless, I am compelled to also share in the view that too much expansion in other political actors’ ‘backyard’ could become a source of bad external relations and regional or international instability.
I will begin with what I call the power of example of the EU. This first argument suggests in short that the EU proved how soft power can replace hard, violent power in achieving its goals. The consequence would be that the world could be a bit safer if the need for military is reduced. Why is that? First, because obviously if non-military action is enough, then it means that violent conflict was absent in the first place. Second, because a reduced use of weapons lightens the armament and security dilemma.
But is the EU a good example of soft power success? With regard to enlargement, the common understanding is that the EU did not force Central and Eastern European countries to join. They have been drawn into cooperation schemes by EU’s power of attraction. Accession to the EU represented a seat at the table of decision-making, access to funds, political legitimacy and economic credibility: ‘membership of this most exclusive European club’. This type of ‘civilian’ power politics can be seen as a pragmatic but peaceful foreign policy, one based on political negotiations, regulations, and economic leverage. One that could truly replace force.
The second argument is that enlargement brought security by handling the neighbouring unstable countries. By adopting the aquis communautaire, these ex-Soviet countries became ‘European’ and were absorbed in a post-modern system characterised by security, transparency and interdependence. Enlargement was intended as a civilizing process, and by moving the level of relations between states from external to internal, actors became ‘domesticated’. The way to achieve this leveling among different member states was done through the so-called conditional accession and through a high level of EU intervention in the national affairs of the applicant countries.
Even the official aim of the enlargement was for Western Europe related to security, prosperity and democracy. There are strong reasons to believe in the success of such an objective, at least when thinking of security. For example, local conflicts based on ethnicity or territorial claims never took place in Central and Eastern Europe, which ought to be applauded more, considering its potential. Moreover, it was NATO that securitized the path the EU enlargement by expanding its protection to Central and Eastern Europe beforehand.
Finally, EU’s Internal Security Strategy projects a future security model centered around judicial and enforcement cooperation, intelligence sharing, border management, integration and solidarity. With countries like Romania and Bulgaria still not part of the border-free Schengen Area, the EU seems to be serious in its intentions to fully integrate members only based on their satisfaction of internal security expectations. Furthermore, the restrictions on the two countries with regard to the free movement of workers are also proof that the EU chose first to create the proper path for a secure final enlargement, and only after 7 years to put together its last piece. Keeping all these in mind, the Internal Security Strategy and the restrictions to new member states, we can notice how the security agenda is being incorporated into the enlargement process to create a safe and prosper Union.
The opposing view is that there is also such a thing as too much enlargement, especially when accompanied or preceded by NATO expansion. As mentioned earlier, the two appear to be going hand in hand. Even if this were not the case, meaning that a military expansion would not occur, the idea that economic power – and its product, an economic sphere of influence-replaces hard power still allows to understand the defensiveness of political actors that could be affected by an enlarged EU. To be more specific I will refer here first to an increase in the military interest of NATO in the Caucasus and the Black Sea Region. Second, I will consider the economic aspects of attracting Ukraine to the EU and issues related to energy diversification that could alter EU-Russia relations.
As stated in the Report on EU’s Security Strategy, under the ENP the EU expresses its strong interests in Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, the Black Sea, and Georgia, as well as famously in Turkey. Furthermore, NATO’ s enlargement policy considers Georgia and Ukraine as future members. Turkey is already part of the organization. This year, Moldova is expected to play an interesting part in NATO’s 10 year celebration of Eastern European expansion. Considering the Cold War history, these movements might appear as NATO-US encirclement to the Russian Federation. There has already been present a strong tension between the US and Russia caused by the placement of the Missile Defense System in Europe, which could go beyond a turning point after the recent events in Ukraine. In this atmosphere sewed with mistrust, any EU enlargement attempt would definitely be perceived as security threat to the Russian Federation, which would ruin security aspirations.
Lastly, Europe is energy dependent and this dependency is increasing steadily. This is a major factor in EU-Russia relations which obviously requires a diversification of sources of supply and transit routes. The alternative to Russian energy could be Azerbaijan’s. The current winning project is the Trans- Adriatic pipeline which replaces the famous Nabucco project. Greater involvement of the EU in the South Caucasus could be seen as an intention to replace Russia as number 1 energy supplier, which could also bring more Russian tough policies on its southern neighbors, thus destabilizing that region. In the case of Ukraine, a free trade agreement is seen by Russia as dangerous to its own market because of a pre-existing free trade regime between the former members of the Soviet Union. Current events in Ukraine show us how the cost for an association agreement with the EU is the grave deterioration of EU-US-Russia relations, which reminds of the Cold War.
To conclude, I would say that achieving international or regional security is the product of good intentions, ideals and prudent calculations. Enlargement of the EU to Central and Eastern Europe is an example of such good intentions and strategic thinking. Stability and order have been brought and maintained so far on the Old Continent. However, European policy-makers and leaders must also keep in mind that other powers in the international system have interests of their own and that history is is still present in the collective memory of nations. Because of this, boundaries to expansion -both geographical and cultural ones – must be put in place. Even if EU’s imperialism is a benign one, as Zielonka puts it in Europe as Empire, the risk to instability and conflict is too great when trying to project too much power, soft one included.
• Cooper R., The new liberal imperialism, Observer Worldview Extra, 7 April 2002;
• Internal Security Strategy for the EU, Council of the European Union, 2010;
• Report on the implementation of the European Security Strategy, 2008;
• Rees W., The US-EU Security Relationship, 2011, Palgrave Macmillan;
• Zielonka I, Europe as Empire. The Nature of the Enlarged European Union, 2006,
Oxford University Press.
• Bbc.com, website: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-25108022
• EU Commission, Memo, End of restrictions on free movement of workers from
Bulgaria and Romania, 2014;
• euractiv.com, website: http://www.euractiv.com/energy/eu-favoured-nabuccoproject-
• NATO, website: http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/topics_49212.htm;
• novinite.com, website: http://www.novinite.com/articles/159230/Capitals+of+US,
• reuters.com, website: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/21/us-ukrainecrisis-
• voiceofrussia.com, website: http://voiceofrussia.com/2014_03_20/US-using-missiledefense-
The Best Handmade Souvenirs from Spain are Just a Click Away
Artisan decorative figurines are one of the most common purchases among the tourists who visit Spain and want to get something special as a souvenir to remember their stay. Spain’s craftsmanship is known throughout the world for the enormous talent behind it, and for years it has prompted tourists to visit the country and purchase ceramic figurines as souvenirs or to complete a previous larger collection of antiques.
But the people fond of arts and decoration who want to get pieces for their collections can’t always come to Spain to buy them. Indeed, lot of tourist can’t bring craft souvenirs back home because they do not have enough room in their suitcases, or because they want to keep traveling before returning to their countries and they can’t carry them around safely. Luckily, shopping is easier now thanks to the Internet, and customers can get products made in other countries from anywhere in the world. What used to require to go to a specific place, look around and ask for prices, and then proceed with the purchase, now is as simple and convenient as entering a website, click here and there and waiting at home for the product to arrive.
The craftmanship field is not foreign to this new concept of shopping. Some companies, especially in the souvenirs’ field, have noticed the needs of the modern public and have wisely approached a niche as specific as this one. For this reason, there are online companies such as Toledogifts which are dedicated to the sale and distribution of these decorative figurines through the Internet. The e-commerce technology offers numerous facilities for the sale and distribution of handcrafts online, which makes posible several websites such may offer plenty of options and fair prices.
Toledogifts has brought internet solutions to a sector as traditional as ceramic and porcelain figures, craftsmanship in general. It is no longer necessary to travel to buy collectibles or anything like that, now all you have to do is go to their website and proceed through the catalog to choose what you like. Their online store stands out for its variety and professionalism. They sell high quality handmade products crafted by Spanish manufacturers, and they ship to any part of the world, allowing the customer to confortably receive the products at home, forgeting plane incoveniences.
The first thing that stands out in this company is its catalogue. Scrolling down the webpage, the user can find a wide range of the most popular craft products from every Spanish region. Thanks to the number of filters and options available -essential tools to speed up the search and, of course, the purchase-, you can easily find what you are looking for.
Toledogifts complies with the standards of online stores to ensure consumer satisfaction. Besides high quality products, they also offer the best delivery service. They take care of shipping in the shortest possible time and ensuring, above all, the proper protection of the pieces so that they are not damage during in the journey. Also, they always guarantee that the price is as close as possible to their real value.
Amog the different great products that can be found on this website, the unique damascenes from Toledo stand out. Damascene is defined as the art of inlaying gold on a soft iron base. Damascenes take their name from the city of Damascus, because it is craft technique which originated in the Syrian capital. Their origins are remote -there are vestiges of more than 1500 years old, and pieces have been found in different civilization, but the Imperial City of Toledo became the world’s largest producer of damascenes.
There are three different styles of damascenes: the traditional and genuine Arabic modeling, where the gold or silver thread is highlighted with chisels; the Renaissance style introduced in the 16th century and which represents floral, animal or landscape motifs; and also the new model called “vistas”, in which the city of Toledo is represented often centred on motifs of Don Quixote, so logically rooted in these Castilian-La Mancha lands. The pieces are beautiful and not so easy to find outside Spain, which makes them perfect for picky art collectors.
Other best-sellers of the webpage are artisan ceramic plates and porcelaine figures. Porcelain is considered a luxury material and is widely worked by artisans in Spain given its moldability property. Porcelain’s composition is kaolin, which provides the distinctive with pigmentation after it’s baked, feldspar and quartz. An artisan creates a clay figures inspired in the given design, providing it with the details that will be seen in the final figure. Afterwards, the artisan takes molds of and pours liquid porcelain in them. When the consistency is adecuate, molds are retired and the artisan will paste, polish, sculpt and bake the final figure.
Top 10 reasons to visit Iceland by car
For a long time Iceland was a well kept travellers secret. It was not the typical choice of holiday, but now this wonderful country is becoming more and more well known for that holiday of a lifetime and a chance to see and do things that you can’t do anywhere else in the world.
And there really is only one way to really experience this wild country properly and that is using car rental in Iceland to explore it for yourself. It is far better, and far cheaper, than trying to take day excursions with the other tourists and so many great adventures can be had this way. Here are the top reasons why touring Iceland’s roads absolutely should be your next holiday without delay.
1.The people are really, really nice
This is absolutely true. Icelandic people are very proud of their beautiful country and very keen to show it at its best to visitors. Other places in the world are known for quite a surly reception, but this is absolutely not the case here. You’ll notice it the second you head of to the car rental in Keflavik Airport. The conversation is easy, and english quite widely spoken which can make travel easier. Of course once you are out on the road exploring for yourself you should absolutely get chatting to the locals as you explore, they often know the best places to visit or eat that simply aren’t available on google or tripadvisor. Local knowledge is key for getting off the beaten track.
2.Iceland is really easy to navigate by road
Iceland is not a huge country, and there is one huge road that traverses most of it for about 190 miles. It is known as the Golden Circle. So this means that you have a great point of reference for when you are exploring. You can easily slip away from the main road to explore into the countryside, and then hop back on the Golden Circle to get to your next location. The roads are pretty well kept here – even the gravel ones, so you don’t need to worry too much about the terrain when choosing a hire car. Unless you are planning to get really off road that is.
3. The night sky is a thing of beauty
The night time is truly beautiful, especially in winter when the nights are much longer. With so little light pollution and the chance to see the aurora borealis this is a sight few people actually get to experience for themselves. Of course to really get the best of this opportunity there is really only one way to do it, instead of a car look at camper rental in Iceland instead and stay out all night. This is especially useful in the summer when the nights are very very short. This way you have all night to enjoy it while snuggled up warm in your sleeping bag.
4. The unspoiled beauty of Iceland
Of course the other great thing about Iceland camper rental is that by getting out of the towns and into the beautiful countryside you can see Iceland how it should be seen as a beautiful, scenic natural landscape. Imagine being able to camp somewhere so inspiring and free from the intervention of man and waking up to the freshest air and sounds of nature.
5. Visiting the villages gives you a real taste of Icelandic life
Most of the population don’t live in the major cities of Reykjavik, Isafjordur and Akureyri. Most life in smaller communities dotted around the country, and bearing in mind how friendly the people are, it is a chance to really embrace a different culture and take part.
6. Get out there and try the amazing fresh food
The great thing about hopping from village to village on your tour is the chance to try real local food. It is not too dissimilar to Scandinavian food, and there is of course plenty of fresh fish available, as well as lamb. You have probably heard of Skyr, the Icelandic cheese a little like yoghurt. Well here it is made into all types of delicious dishes you absolutely have to try.
7. Iceland has so many different landscapes
It is almost magical the different landscapes you can see. From grassy fields with Icelandic horses, to snow covered tundra, from magnificent coastlines to moonscapes and lava fields it is really something quite special and like nowhere else on earth. With your car you can experience all this, jumping out to hike on foot and get close to nature, before driving to what might seem like a completely different world at your next location.
8. You can watch the landscape change before your very eyes
There are volcanoes in Iceland, and the geology is formed on an every moving tectonic plate that is actually causing the country to grow in size by 2 cm every year. Its impressive and by driving up to the Lake Myvatn area you can see where steam is being vented from the heat under the earth’s crust. The volcano fields are also very beautiful, and give a strange quality to the landscape, almost like you have landed on the moon.
9. Take your binoculars with you, the bird watching is fantastic
With very few predators on Iceland, bird populations are able to thrive here. There are so many varieties, and depending on the time of year there is a chance to see many migratory birds too. It is not just birds you have a chance to see, you can also opt to go whale watching too at certain location. Heading out by boat to cruise alongside the magnificent animals.
10. You will feel like you have had the most amazing adventure
There is nowhere in the world quite like Iceland. Heading out on your road trip with nothing but a map and an open heart will help you discover wonders only shown to the few brave enough to get off the well travelled path. You’ll create memories hear that will last a lifetime.
Top tips for renting a car in Malaga
The Costa del Sol is a great choice of holiday destination. With many great places to see, absolutely glorious weather and a chance to enjoy the famous Mediterranean lifestyle it is perfect whether you are travelling with friends, as a couple or with a family.
Whether you are heading to Torremolinos, Marbella, Nerja or the city of Malaga, where the international airport is, the best way to make the most of your stay and give you the freedom to really explore the region is to rent a car. There is a lot of choice for car hire in Malaga airport, so here are some tips for getting the deal that is right for you.
Choose the right car for your group
Thinking about your budget, you can aim for a smaller car, such as the Toyota Aygo or the Fiat 500. Absolutely perfect for solo travel or as a couple.
However if you are travelling as a family, these smaller cars might not be right, especially when you have a lot of luggage to carry. But there are still some very good deals to be had on medium size cars like the Ford Focus or Nissan Juke.
However, if comfort is your top priority, and you want to drive around in style, then consider models like the BMW X5 or Range Rover Evoque.
Don’t forget the extras
You will need to be sure to add on any additional items you might need for the length of your hire. For example, if you would like more than one driver you will need to let the rental company know so that they can be included in the hire and therefore included in the insurance cover.
You should also be sure that you ask for child car seats, and that those car seats meet safety standards. It is often possible to hire a GPS loaded with local maps as well, that can be very handy when driving in a new country.
You should also double check the insurance details. The basic insurance might be great value, but it will usually only cover injury to passengers or theft of the vehicle, and won’t cover any damage. Event the theft cover will likely mean a very large excess will need to be paid. However opt for a package with full cover and excess protection and you will have far great peace of mind.
Book online for better deals and guaranteed availability
There is nothing worse than finally reaching your destination, queuing at passport control, waiting at the baggage collection point and then having to spend ages in a queue for car hire , when all you want to do is go and enjoy your holiday.
If you book online in advance you will not have to worry about all of that. You can simply head to the car pick up point, usually via a free shuttle bus that online takes a few minutes, and then be on your way to enjoying yourself.
Choose a car hire company with good service and 24 hour availability
This can make all the difference to your holiday. There are over 100 car hire companies at Malaga airport, however not all of them are able to offer good prices, good quality vehicles and excellent service.
Also if you are travelling at night, or your flight ends up delayed you want to be sure that this will not cause any problems for your rental. So be sure to choose a company that has a helpline telephone number open 24 hours a day and seven days a week.
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