Since February 2009 , this blog and Huib's 3 other Euroblogs are together at:

- In Europa Zu Hause [DE]
- L'Europe Chez Soi [FR]
- At Home in Europe [EN]
- In Europa Thuis [NL]

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Neocon Hawks are coming to the UK and Holland

Ros Taylor writes about politics for Guardian Unlimited and edits the Wrap, a digest of the daily papers. She is my favoured British journalist. Her daily “wrap” of UK-press was my first email-based news source. Objective, funny, independent and straightforward.
Look at her portrait, more Brit, you die. The Wrap, downloaded daily on my fragile ISDN connection, often made my (lonely) day at the dying away of the nineties and the grey start of the 3rd millennium…

Here is what she writes today on her “Guardian UK politics” blog about the latest instance of US neocons-penetration into “Old” Europe. (I wrote about an “American Enterprise Institute” (an important frontshop of the neocons in Washington) excursion to Holland, here , July 6, 2005):
Inside the hawks' nest

By Ros Taylor / UK politics 12:52pm
Old neocons never die. They rebrand and carry on. So the London launch of the Henry Jackson Society and its Project for Democratic Geopolitics at Westminster tonight - by invitation only, natch*) - is an event worth watching, not least because it has the backing of two men very close to David Cameron**), the MPs Michael Gove and Ed Vaizey.
Much of the HJS's statement of principles could have been written by Tony Blair - who, as I write, is making very similar points to the Commons liaison committee as they question him about Britain's policy in the wider Middle East. The Society "supports a 'forward strategy' to assist those countries that are not yet liberal and democratic to become so. This would involve the full spectrum of our 'carrot' capacities, be they diplomatic, economic, cultural or political, but also, when necessary, those 'sticks' of the military domain."
The society has made its home in Peterhouse, one of Cambridge's more old-fashioned colleges, and takes inspiration from the eponymous Democratic US senator who died in 1983. Initially an isolationist, Jackson became an advocate of a tougher stance against the Soviet Union and of American intervention in Vietnam - sticking by the latter view even when most of his party turned against it. He was also a civil rights supporter and campaigned for environmental protection.
Richard Perle[to the right on the photo,with former Bush speechwriter David Frum HR], one of the Pentagon advisers credited with persuading George Bush of the case for invading Iraq, worked for Jackson and is one of the Society's patrons. The list of patrons reads like a roll call of hawks: William Kristol ***) of the rightwing Weekly Standard, the former Nato commander General Jack Sheehan and the ex-CIA director James Woolsey, among others.
The supporters include a smattering of spooks, diplomats, Times journalists and grandees whom recent events have treated badly: David Trimble, Colonel Tim Collins, Irwin Stelzer (another Cameron fan) and the former head of MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove.
So far, so neoconservative. Still, it would be wrong to gloss the HJS as simply an apologist for the Bush administration. It is certainly anti-UN (believing that "only modern liberal democratic states are truly legitimate, and that any international organisation which admits undemocratic states on an equal basis is fundamentally flawed") and it is certainly pro-Nato, but it calls for the EU to maintain a "strong military" of its own - albeit under British leadership. Significantly, the pro-EU former minister for Europe, Denis MacShane, has signed up. So far, the society has concentrated on Middle Eastern democracy (and, yesterday, the Guardian's "shame" in "pandering" to Noam Chomsky). Human rights abuses in China, touched upon by George Bush during his visit, get less attention. But although it looks and feels Blairite, the HJS is preparing to move on. For those curious about just how neoconservative a Cameron-led opposition would be, the society will be worth watching.
*) “natch” (slang) means: “naturally” (HR)
**) David Cameron is one of the candidates for Tory leadership in the ongoing elections for that position in the UK (HR)
***) Bill Kristol is son and heir of Irving Kristol, (god)father of the neocons (see: Irwin Steltzer “Neoconservatism”, HR)

In Holland, we have the Hague-based “Edmund Burke Stichting” [Edmund Burke Foundation] chaired by Professor Kinneging (Leiden) and led by dynamic Bart-Jan Kruyt. A series of two articles in the September issues of the Amsterdam weekly ‘De Groene Amsterdammer’ revealed the ways of financing this enterprise through American sponsors (notably the medics giant Pfizer).

Poor Burke: upset by the French Revolution of 1789-1792, he struggled for a more controlled democratic process. Never ever he could have imagined that his name would be abused by those wooden-shoe philosophers, in order to position themselves for a….. (you’ll never guess) ….Revolution. A conservative and authoritarian revolution, prepared by Spruyt, hoping that the wild post-Fortuynist debate in the Netherlands would destabilise the existing order of “monarchy, politics and patronising” so far, that his neocon young rebels would be able to take over.
This went too far for the Dutch Patrons of the Burke Stichting (among them former prime Minister Dries van Agt), so they collectively resigned, leaving behind aforementioned Kinneging as sole patron. Pfizer also, transferred its Spruyt-subventions to an European Free-Market Foundation based in Brussels. So far, only a dissident member of the Dutch conservative liberal party VVD, MP Geert Wilders, associated himself with Kruyt and his Burke Stichting. This crackpot “Liberal Jihad” protagonist had himself shown around in the USA last year (by the Burke Stichting), where the real neocons loathed his xenophobic views on Muslims. (Real neocons like you find them in the Weekly Standard, do like fundamentalists and are convinced that believers, even Muslim believers, are the backbone of a disciplined society.)
Under Kruyt however, the Dutch Burke Stichting has no alternative but to associate itself with the xenophobic fringe in Dutch politics, so we may expect that the real neocons will soon establish themselves in Holland by means of another foundation, bearing another historic name, (why not John Harris?), and spread the Word along the lines of London Times' colomnist Irwin Steltzer’s prescriptions.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Huib on Urban Travel: Liverpool URBACT 3:15/11

Huib on Urban Travel: Liverpool, Tuesday evening 15/11/05

URBACT: European City Networks Energised!

Once upon a time…, 15 years ago, we started bringing together countries and cities, their governments and their authorities, their officials, their neighbourhood regeneration professionals (project team leaders and –members) and representatives of the local voluntary sectors. And scientifics: spatial planners, sociologists, architects, community social psychologists, economists etq. Few people from the private business sector, but even they were present. But what happened all the time at big international meetings like the one I participated in yesterday and today? Discussions were badly structured, information was inefficiently shared, practitioners were not heard. And that, in spite of extensive preparations in the shape of exchange visits, mainly by local professionals and inhabitants’ representatives, monitored by scientific staff. Those mini-scale meetings, trainings and exchanges were a greater success than we could hope for: people who felt isolated, and were marginalised, suddenly discovered colleagues and fellow-believers in emancipation-by-doing. A learning process started there. Big official European meetings created more frustration than inspiration.

Great 19th century Liverpoolers looking down on the URBACT meeting in the megalomaniac St.-George Hall on the acropolis of that city…

The dominating structure (or the lack thereof) of this cooperation was: the Network. A network can be anything. Anything between a mafia and an information exchanging ring of university researchers. Now, under impulse of the French City policy people, Eurocities and other pre-existing networks, the City networks have been energised into real-life laboratories of collecting, refining and codification of urban knowledges. This was done by URBACT: a Paris secretariat linked to the Délégation Interministérielle à la Ville (DIV, located in Saint-Denis) that coordinates systematic, but polymorphic, knowledge-generation through monitored trajectories of exchanges between cities from all EU countries. Many of this pre-existed: Quarties En Crise, Eurocities thematic networks, comprehensive scientific researches. But is was too dispersed, too ad-hoc, too soon forgotten.

Today, I participated in a working group, where different thematic networks reported midway about their findings on the subject of citizen participation in local public management. For one network (the Rome-led PARTICIPANDO), this is a main theme, for the others (immigrants, IT-communication, young people, security, business, etc.) it is an essential part of their thematics. This exercise in “cross-network” exchange turned out to be extremely fruitful and to-the-point. I will report about this participation subject, especially in its relation to policy and management decisions, in a larger document, to be published on my website .
Our Dutch pride: the EUKN web-based urban knowledge treasure was well represented. (Fleur Boulogne of the Dutch Home Office explains EUKN to a visitor).
Urban research veteran Claude Jacquier (CNRS, Grenoble) is a fine internationally-oriented researcher and teacher.

Mr. Bob Ledsome, outgoing president of the international URBACT Monitoring Committee and leading official at the British Office of Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott contributed about a too-little known aspect of UK urban market-driven policy: its care for sustainable communities. (No photo).
I discovered quite a few fellow-Dutchmen and –women, like Cleo Pouw and Benji de Levie from Rotterdam, who contributed expertly to this European forum, not to speak of Maarten van Bemmelen, a really internationilised Rotterdammer, living in Spain, who is an expert of the URBACT Secretariat. Without their contributions, the European Union as a caring governmental body about cities, would be different and surely not be better off than now.

By mid-2006 the different thematic trajectories will result in documents, training courses, information exchange systems and many other tools for the urban regeneration workers. It is a shame, that, just now, the European Union (DG Regional Development) is more and more taking leave of its policy of support to urban interventions. Urban policy is turned into a subtheme, without much enforcement, of regional massive investment, as far as the planning for 2007-2013 by the actual European Commission is concerned. The managing and steering role is relocated to one or more national governments. In the budgetary proposals, no funding is earmarked for cities. And, given the budgetary deadlock between governments, all financing is stalled anyhow.

Cities are the only imaginable locations for a web-based competitive knowledge society as was projected in the 2000 Lisbon objectives. If cities are left alone, in favour of monster subsidies to international agro-industries and big farmers, datafarming will emigrate to China and India and the big European urban agglomerations will turn into 21st century Bombays, Calcuttas and Rio de Janeiros. URBACT proves, now already, that a relatively small investment into cities, may produce an enormous added value, provided, the money is spent on emancipation, on people.

Goodbye to Liverpool. Plane early tomorrow.
Your urban traveller goes to Amsterdam, next Thursday.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Huib on Urban Travel: Liverpool 2 13/11

Huib on Urban Travel – Liverpool 2 13/11/05 17h41

No wonder, that the Liverpool waterfront resembles bombed German cities! It was heavily bombed itself by the Germans during the ‘Blitz’ 1940-41.
Queen Victoria’s monument in the City centre was, at a given moment, the only construction that still stood on the Liverpuldian hill.

Only now, 65 years later, some parts on the slope of the hill that is turned to the Merseyside are being renovated or rebuilt with (horrible) new developments.

The seaports along the river Mersey, with their proud and opulent nineteenth century warehouses, the Port-Of-Liverpool-Building like a Babylonian palace and its two Sisters (Cunard Line and Liver Assurance) and the Albert Dock with rosy pillars all around – they escaped destruction, apparently.

I went around on foot, this afternoon, saw a Blitz Museum, a Beatles Museum and a Museum of the Liverpool People. In bookshops, I learnt of the tribal origins of the city (‘Scouse’), and saw, how Irish it has become. Chinese live in a Chinatown ghetto.
Along the river walk is a monument for the many seamen who perished during the convoying to and from the United States in the First and Second World Wars. To the left of it, is a Belgian monument, commemorating the same for Belgians, to the right a Dutch one, but –of course- for the Second War, alone.

Huib on Urban Travel: Liverpool Sunday 13/11

Huib on Urban Travel. IBIS Hotel Liverpool, 10h44 GMT
A whole, long, dull English Sunday to spend in a poultry cage of French inspiration.

Liverpool. Liverpool!

Beatles and Soccer. Such interesting people at the University and so close to Manchester (but never mention that here! It is like mentioning Amsterdam in Rotterdam, Hamburg in Bremen, Nancy in Metz).
Loony Left in Toxteth neighbourhood. As close as London comes to the Atlantic. Former Slave traders at the shores of the Irish Sea. Welsh to the left, Scots to the right, Irish in front and London in the back.

Yesterday night arrival at John Lennon Airport. Taxi to hotel (photo).
I do not complain about the hotel. It is the best you can get on my budget, if you want to stay close to the Convention Centre where the URBACT conference starts tomorrow. It has decent, but minimal, accommodation for both its target groups: families and commercial representatives.

I guess, I am of the latter category. Somewhat lost among the weekend enjoying families. The families, couples, wedding guests and I – we are located in the City Centre, near the old sea-port. At some distance, I see some roofs and towers of intact commercial, financial and cultural palaces, dating from about a century ago.

On the foreground: this typical post-modern waterfront redevelopment landscape that came into being during the eighties and the nineties of last century. Characteristics:
  • Most of small constructions (houses, small workplaces, shops) razed, only the narrowness of roads and their winding remembering them;

  • Bigger constructions, like nineteenth century warehouses, with their brownstone facades renovated and transformed into flats, small enterprise-breeding centres, or, like the location of tomorrow’s URBACT Conference, hotels or convention centres;

  • Relation with the harbours and de waterfront is often tiny or non-existent;

  • New constructions are in concrete and metal and do not relate to the remnants of the original urbanisation (car parking – see photo).
This kind of urbanisation recalls so many German City centres, where all, or much of, the less resistant buildings have been destroyed by bombing during WWII.

To the individual pedestrian visitor (me), this always feels uneasy. Every moment fearing to get lost.

At the same time, I feel relieved, when I recall the utter depravity of these locations, when I visited them 20 or 30 years ago. Rats had taken over the valley of port installations in Glasgow, the London Docklands resembled a third world country and everywhere in Europe, abandoned waterfront warehouses had become places of marginal, an very often illicit activities, surrounded by dangerous wastelands. Amsterdam, Genoa, Lisbon, Dublin, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Bremen, Cadiz – to mention a few. It is –undoubtedly- much better now. Governments and local authorities have found ways to engage private initiative to bring about this transformation. Sometimes by means of heavy state- and semi-state investments (Bordeaux, Amsterdam, Bremen), sometimes by selling out the best parts to big international property investors (London Docklands).

What I regret, and what I see as a failure of us, social medics of deprived urban areas, is, that we have not been able to save, integrate and make sustainable, most of the creative, young and innovative economic and housing projects, founded by squatters of those abandoned buildings, mostly because of their scale, that did not correspond to the globalisation scales. But also, because of their low capital intensity (as they were in their beginnings) and their lacking, too often, of an integrative insertion into the social and economic life of the inhabitants of surrounding neighbourhoods.

We could have federated the self-managing waterfront initiatives on a European scale, exchange experiences, learn from each other and, maybe, get a specific EU funding. We could have integrated them as a principal participant into the local Development Societies (Enterprises) that came into being as ppp’s at the end of the eighties. It was to be expected, that within a market of quick-profit seeking capital, they would not survive. In the best cases they have been bought and have lost their innovative capacities. In the worst, they went under in the it-bubble, or were forcibly relocated. In the artificially created local development part of the market, where sustainability was (or was intended to be) a leading criterion, many more of them could have survived and grown.

Europe’s Waterfront areas like this one in Liverpool would have looked different, now. And we would be more advanced on the road to meeting the Lisbon objectives…

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Do not gloat at France's suburbs - tomorrow it will be your problem...

Today, I posted a comment to Matthew Turner's posting on the A Fistful of Euros Blog on the French suburban events of the last 14 days.

AFOE has been desperately looking for independent, non-mainstream, opinions on the suburban rage in France. There is perhaps a need for people who are connected to the southern half of the EU at afoe. Turner takes a denigrating commentary in the London Daily Telegraph as an occasion to ask attention for another way of looking into those events, i.e. considering them primarily as an outrage coming from people who feel that they have been betrayed by authorities who promised them integration into French citizenship and the respect that goes with it.
Here is my comment, leaning on Olivier Roy's opinion article in today's New York Times:

Dieu merci! Finally, AFOE lives up to its usually balanced views on what happens in Europe and in the World. Of course, what happens in France since 13 days, is no islamic, nor even ethnic, conspiracy to destabilise the French state or the European Union.

Olivier Roy, writer of an authorative book on the Western roots of islamist radicalism("Globalized Islam" in its English translation), analyses as follows what is happening, today in the OpEd contributors section of the New York Times (09 Oct 2005):

” …the reality is that there is nothing particularly Muslim, or even French, about the violence. Rather, we are witnessing the temporary rising up of one small part of a Western underclass culture that reaches from Paris to London to Los Angeles and beyond.”

And Roy continues:
“They express simmering anger fueled by unemployment and racism. The lesson, then, is that while these riots originate in areas largely populated by immigrants of Islamic heritage, they have little to do with the wrath of a Muslim community.”

Solutions, i.e. emancipatory trajectories, exist and have proven their viability, in France and in other parts of Europe, but they are not market-driven (although they drive the market, create new ones) and they take usually more than 5 years of intervention into the areas by independent task-forces. This kind of destructive and hopeless rebellions will continue to occur, in Europe and elsewhere, as long as generations of people are being socially marginalised, because of their temporary uselessness in the actual industrial conditions. Roy:

“Just look at the newspaper photographs: the young men wear the same hooded sweatshirts, listen to similar music and use slang in the same way as their counterparts in Los Angeles or Washington. (It is no accident that in French-dubbed versions of Hollywood films, African-American characters usually speak with the accent heard in the Paris banlieues).”

They are, what was called in the 19th century the “Lumpen Proletariat”, i.e. those who destroyed from time to time new machines that needed less human labour, in their own workplaces. Nothing new under the sun. Roy describes this as follows:

“Nobody should be surprised that efforts by the government to find “community leaders” have had little success. There are no leaders in these areas for a very simple reason: there is no community in the neighborhoods. Traditional parental control has disappeared and many Muslim families are headed by a single parent. Elders, imams and social workers have lost control. Paradoxically, the youths themselves are often the providers of local social rules, based on aggressive manhood, control of the streets, defense of a territory. Americans (and critics of America in Europe) may see in these riots echoes of the black separatism that fueled the violence in Harlem and Watts in the 1960’s. But the French youths are not fighting to be recognized as a minority group, either ethnic or religious; they want to be accepted as full citizens. They have believed in the French model (individual integration through citizenship) but feel cheated because of their social and economic exclusion. Hence they destroy what they see as the tools of failed social promotion: schools, social welfare offices, gymnasiums. Disappointment leads to nihilism. For many, fighting the police is some sort of a game, and a rite of passage.”

In France, at least theoretically, exists (like in the U.S.A.) an egality of citizens by law. Elsewhere, this notion is less clear. In Holland, for instance, full citizenship has been made dependent on “integration”. But, those who fulfill the conditions and actually f e e l integrated, are, like in France, not accepted as such, in spite of their efforts. This capture within a no-win situation, causes rage and nihilism. From an economic view on sustainability, a relatively small investment into coordinated support of social emancipation, should be considered as an extremely sure and beneficial expense.

But, every time these kind of rebellions happen, authorities launch expensive window dressing programmes of huge investments into local hardware and/or into security measures of a repressive kind, that irritate the inhabitants, destroy local small economic initiatives and are abandoned midway for other priorities. Leaving behind people who feel all the more frustrated and destroying any social networks and local knowledge and know-how that may have been accumulated.

These problems of modern economy are too sensible to be left in the hands of people who are motivated primarily by their short term political ambitions, like Sarkozy in France. Nor to his rightwing opponents, who are only motivated by a desire to get rid of this populist, and not to seek a sustainable solution to this “fracture sociale”, although (as an editorial in “Le Monde” pointed out two days ago) this fracture sociale was a top priority of presidential candidate Chirac in 1995.

More sensible policies are being proposed by local mayors, left- and right-wing confounded, and one can only hope, that they will be heard, this time.

Posted by: Huib, Brussels at November 9, 2005 10:31 PM
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