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(Author’s note: I was writing this article during the summer so it might not be perfectly new but the points I make remain)

The election of François Hollande as the president of France has been an important turning point. He is a Head of State who is openly anti-austerity has been negatively portrayed by The Economist magazine’s article, which called him “rather dangerous”.

The election of François Hollande has been a sign of a current trend in Europe that is going against austerity.  Austerity across the EU is now in its third year almost. Some countries are feeling the pain of austerity, especially the PIIGS, which have all had to be bailed out.

With all of its current problems, the last thing Europe needs right now is a complete move away from austerity and fiscal tightening to a more expansionist monetary policy and more borrowing. These policies are, among other reasons, what caused the current crisis in the first place.

First of all, with the exception of the PIIGS, no real cuts are taking place or have actually taken place in Europe. The graphs on this blog post of an economics think-tank in Slovakia show that in reality no cuts took place. The only thing that happened is that the rise of government spending decreased. But it is still increasing nevertheless so there is no real austerity. In some EU countries governments were actually spending more than they had before.

The public across Western Europe was upset about the austerity and many politicians claim that it doesn’t work. What is really felt, however, is not the pain of the austerity since there isn’t really any, but the pain of the continuation of the economic crisis. The recovery of economic activity in 2010/2011 was largely due to expansionist monetary policies across Europe. Governments spent a giant amount of public money immediately after the start of the 2008/2009 crisis to stimulate the economy. But this kind of Keynesian stimulus only works as long as the government money keeps flowing. With every government dollar that flows into the economy the threat of high inflation increases.

Now, years later when governments started to cut public spending so that they do not run up huge public debts the economies are starting to slow down and the global outlook isn’t rosy. This has mostly manifested itself in fears of the so-called “double-dip” recessions.  These “artificial economic revivals” did not last and genuine economic recovery will not arrive easily.

In short austerity isn’t working because it hasn’t really been tried out. Germany and France have huge public debts, although still incomparable with the PIIGS.  There is one country in the EU, however, that has resisted this tide of “no real austerity” or “just a bit of austerity”. The Baltic state of Estonia has been making headlines around the world in being the “prime example” of austerity. Estonia is the only country in the Eurozone that is experiencing an economic growth, is having a budget surplus and its debt is actually decreasing. No other Eurozone country has all of these three things happening at the same time.

Estonia has felt the real pain of austerity. However, throughout the years the country’s inhabitants got closer together and got through the tough times. The politicians cut their wages by around 20% in order to persuade the public to go through with the tough fiscal tightening measures. Now the economy is recovering and it has very good prospects. Estonia adopted the Euro in January 2011 when no other country even considered joining the common currency union.

Estonia is the only country in all of Europe, which meets the economic criteria of the eurozone and the political and military criteria as a NATO member. The World Bank has graded it as the 24th country in the world in the ease of doing business ahead of France and Italy. Estonia’s economy might face problems in attracting FDI because of being right next to Russia, which is the reason why it was eager to join the North Atlantic alliance in the first place.

Estonia deserves a lot of respect and praise for its sacrifices. With a population of just roughly over 1 million, is certainly is a dwarf when compared to the biggest and the oldest EU members such as France or Germany.  The Estonians have chosen the “hard way”. After a tough and painful crash and a recession in 2009 and 2010 the country looks ahead to a highly potential bright future.  They haven’t decided to borrow more money for which they would have had to pay for later and which would have hurt much more than the austerity they went through.  Estonia’s Baltic neighbors: Latvia and Lithuania have chosen a similar economic policy as a way to sort out the crisis.

In a way, the two opposing ideas in the Eurozone are whether it is better to chose an immediate crash which is then followed by a real recovery or pursue a mild long recession made possible by more spending and borrowing which only gives the temporary impression of recovery. Estonia chose the 1st way which is tougher and certainly less attractive with the public.

Estonia should be an example for the European Union since it is one of the few countries that actually did try austerity as a way out of this crisis. It should also serve as an example in NATO, having kept all of its membership requirements.

These days this “new” EU member (having joined in 2004) is showing the right way.  The “old” members such as Italy, Spain, Portugal or Greece are facing grave problems. Germany and France, which are currently leading the way out of this crisis, have huge public debts and do not lack problems. Why should they have all the credibility?

Perhaps once in a while a “new dwarf” should be listened to or respected and given just as much credibility as the “old giants”. 

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THIS IS MY 1ST POST IN THE SLOVAK LANGUAGE, ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED AT MY SLOVAK BLOG AT HNONLINE.SK: http://moje.hnonline.sk/node/11709

V druhej krajine za Atlantikom v Severnej Amerike, na ktorú sa občas zabúda (ÁNO, je to Kanada) sa schyľuje k voľbám. Francúzski Kanaďania pôjdu k urnám 4. Septembra po veľmi rušnej jari a rušnom lete.

V súčasnosti je pozornosť veľkej časti sveta upretá na USA a na ich prezidenské voľby. Kampaň je v plnom prúde a Republikánska Strana na čele s ich kandidátom Mittom Romneym mala minulý týždeň veľký zjazd alebo konvenciu (Convention).

Nie všetci ale vedia, že neďaleko na sever od USA a blízko New Yorku alebo Washingtonu DC sa schyľuje k iným voľbám.

Francúzsky hovoriaca kanadská provincia Québec sa chystá k voľbám. Na tom by nebolo nič dôležité alebo zaujímavé, ak by však tentokrát neľlo trochu aj o budúcnosť celej Kanady. Voľby sú zaujímavé aj kvôli tomu, čo ich vyvolalo a aké sú hlavné volebné témy a otázky.

Voľby boli vyhlásené súčasným premiérom Jean Charest-om v stredu 1. Augusta. Zhodou okolností sa v ten istý deň v noci v najväčšom meste tejto provincie, v meste Montréal, (ktoré mnohí v SR poznajú vďaka klubu NHL Montréal Canadiens) konal nočný protest (začal 20h30 a skončil po polnoci), presnejšie pochod, veľmi hlučný pochod proti vláde toho istého premiéra.

Tento nočný protest, ktorého organizátormi sú väčšinou študenti sa v noci 1. Augusta konal už po 100. krát.

Áno, čítate správne! Už po 100-tý krát! Noc 1. Augusta znamenala 100 dní odkedy študenti v meste Montréal a v celej provincii Québec chodili do ulíc každú noc a protestovali. Proti čomu presne?

Celé to začalo vo Februári 2012 keď niekoľko študentských organizácií z mnohých fakúlt univerzít v provincii Québec začali protestovať. Najprv šlo o jednoduchý protest proti plánu vlády zvýčiť školné v univerzitách, ktoré miestna provinčná vláda dotuje.

Vačšina študentov majú ľavicové tendencie a sú prísne proti zvyšovaniu poplatkov, ktoré podľa nich znižujú prístup ku vzdelaniu, ktoré oni vidia ako spoločenské dobro. Québec má zo všetkých provincií v Kanade najnižšie školné, tým aj najdostupnejšie vzdelanie a na to sú študenti a mnohí obyvatelia hrdí.

Plán vlády zvýšiť poplatky tak vyvolal nevôľu nielen študentov ale aj širšej populácie. K študentom sa pridali odbory a mnohí iní ľudia, ktorí sú buď nespokojní so súčasnou vládou alebo sú proti zvyšovaniu školných poplatkov.

To čo začalo ako protest študentov prerástlo na celospoločenské hnutie, ktoré otriaslo nielen Québec-om ale celou Kanadou. V mesiacoch Apríl a Máj 2012 dosiahli nepokoje najvyššiu úroveň a násilnosti, boje s políciou, zatknutia, policajné sirény, helikoptéry a rozbité výklady boli na dennom poriadku. Po tom čo vláda so čtudentmi odmietala rokovať alebo zrušila rokovania, ktoré prebiehali a po tom čo premiér študentov otvorene urážal začali koncom Apríla nočné pochody, ktoré sa konali každú noc.

Monhí študenti prirovnávali toto hnutie k hnutiam v arabskom svete, k Arabskej jari, a dávali mu názvy ako “Printemps Québécois” (Quebecká Jar), “Printemps Érable” (Javorová Jar) či “Printemps Étudiant” (Študenstká Jar).

Jean Charest sa snažil situáciu otočiť tým, že prijal drsný až nedemokratiský zákon, ktorý silno obmedzoval akúkoľvek demončtráciu či protest. Polícia ho však niekdy nevyužila a mnohé supiny a organizácie obhajujúce ľudské a občianske práva odsúdili tento zákon.

Neuspel, stal sa totiž úplný opak. Namiesto upokojenia sa všetko zhoršilo. To čo bolo iba niekoľko zatknutí za noc a niekoľko malých bitiek s políciou a zopár rozbitých výkladov za zmenilo na ešte hlučnejšie nočné pochody, ešte násilnejšie bitky s políciou, horiace autá, ešte viac rozbitých výkladov, niekoľko zranených a oveľa viac zatknutých.

Veľká Cena Kanady Formuly 1 v Júni 2012 v Montréali bola takmer narušná protestujúcimi.

Hnutie bolo jednoznačne ľavicové, až protikapitalistické, protivládne, akési pokračovanie hnutia Occupy, proti korupcii súčasnej vlády (Premiér Jean Charest je obvinený z viacerých korupčných afér a jeho ministri si vraj podávajú ruku s Mafiou, jeho vláda dlho odmietala akékoľvek vyšetrovanie), ženské a iné sociálne hnutia, environmentálne hnutia ale aj to čo mnohí dúfali, že v provincii Québec pomaly umiera: separatizmus alebo ako to volajú oni: “Souverainisme” (Suverénizmus).

Nakoniec premiér Jean Charest aby mal akúkoľvek šancu byť zvolený vyhlásil voľby na 4. Septembra. Toto hnutie, ktoré prešlo provinciou je vraj rovnako veľké ak nie vačšie ako v 60. rokoch keď podobné hnutia prechádzali celým západným svetom.

Súčasné voľby odrážajú všetko proti čomu alebo za čo toto hnutie demonštrovalo. Jedna politická strana PQ (Parti Québecois – separatisti), sa pridalo na stranu študentov a celého hnutia. Očividne z toho dosť aj profitovali, kedže sú na prvom mieste s 32% hlasov. NIe sú jedinou stranou, ktorá hlási odlúčenie od Kanady ale dve strany PLQ, kam patrí Jean Charest a CAQ, ktoré sú za zachovanie provincie Québec v Kanade majú spolu takmer 50% hlasov.

Mnohé návrhy a vyjadrenia PQ a ich predsedkyne Pauline Marois znepokojujú anglicky hovoriacih Kanaďanov alebo tzv. bilinguálnych v provincii Québec a mnoho Kanadských denníkov a politikov sa vyjadrujú znepokojene. PQ však ubezpečuje, že nemá žiadnu radikálnu agendu a bude brániť práva jazykových menšín v provincii (kam patrí aj angličtina).

Predsedkyňa Pauline Marois mala v meste Montréal príhovor na predvolebnom zjazde jej strany PQ, kde pôsobila veľmi sebavedome a vyhlásila všetkých Québecois aby ju volili. Keďže sa v súčasnosti v meste Montréal zdržujem tak som sa tam išiel pozrieť a vidieť a počuť to celé bolo zaujímavé. Ja ju volám “Iron Lady z Québecu”.

Jej prejav bol v rovnakom čase keď Americký Republikánsky kandidát Mitt Romney podával svoj vlastný prejav v meste Tampa na Floride.

Pre mnoho Kanadských novinárov a aj novinárov v meste Montréal sú tieto voľby síce len provinčné ale sú osudné pre celú Kanadu.

Ako častokrát v minulosti aj teraz je provincia Québec rozhodujúca pre osud celej Kanady alebo aspoň pre celkovú politickú situáciu a stabilitu v nej.

Poznámka: Čo najskôr budem môcť pridám linky a zaujímavé zdroje a tiež fotografie z demončtrácií v meste Montréal. Tiež sa budm snažiť napísať článok o výsledku volieb, o vzťahoch medzi provinciou Québec a zvyškom Kanady a o výsledku volieb.

Dúfam, že vás tento môj článok zaujal a poskytol vám nové informácie najmä o Kanade a provincii Québec.

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Back in October 2011, I wrote a rather long and very critical blog post about how Slovakia’s Government collapsed. In that post I partly blamed the EU Bureaucracy for that collapse.

(So in a way you can consider this Part 2 or a Following of that post. You can read it here.)

Since then, many months have passed and the early elections held past week-end confirmed what everybody knew. The current pro-market and very courageous government is out and the old one is back in. Although only one of the 3 parties is.

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Slovakia’s former  Prime Minister Robert Fico is back. His left-wing social democratic party replaced the previous center-right coalition of 4 parties that were known to be very pro-market and progressive. They were appreciated in Brussels, Berlin and Washington DC. Fico’s party has received over 44% of the votes (over 1 million votes) and has more than 50% of the parliamentary seats. This means that they can govern alone as one party without a need for a coalition partner.

This is interesting, scary and exciting  news for Slovakia.  Many, however, say that it is very bad, because since 1989 we haven’t had a single party in power (Before 1989 it was the Communists). But it still isn’t the same. Back in the pre-1989 times we had no such thing as an opposition. This time there is one and it is in a democratically elected parliament. Luckily enough, Fico does not have a constitutional majority as does Viktor Orban in Hungary. No one single party should ever have that much control. But Slovakia in its democratic history has always had at least 3 or 4 parties in a coalition. Never a single one. That’s why so many political commentators in Slovakia and in Europe are worried.

In the past in years from 2006-2010 when Robert Fico was the Prime Minister for the 1st time, he was in coalition with 2 other parties. Those two were involved in  most of the scandals. Some hope that Fico’s party won’t do as badly as his previous partners did. This will only be found out in the future.

Fico has a high percentage also due to the fact that many voters from the other parties decided to vote against the right-wing parties that are involved in a big corruption scandal known as the “Gorilla”. (Click here to read the Economist’s article about it). So a 45% vote is not genuine. His preferences are high because the preferences of other parties are low. Fico’s party always obtained more percent in every other election gradually  since 2002, (2002: 13,46%; 2006: 29,1%; 2010: 34,79%; 2012: 44,41%) but this is his peak and I predict that from here he will go only lowerBut he will not go away easily. The Right will have a tough job to do if they want to get back in power.

The Slovak Right, in a way,  killed itself. It has partly itself to blame and that is why Robert Fico can govern alone. Let’s hope that this “Slap in the Face” or this “wake-up call” will bring the right-wing parties closer together  will finally force them to get their (excuse my language) “shit” together. Many people who should have left a long time ago, stayed in power, among them Mikulas Dzurinda the former PM and FA Minister. He will always be remembered as a reformer and the man who put Slovakia into the EU and NATO. I respect him for that. But he will also be remembered as a man who did not know when to stop and partly weakened the Right and eased Mr. Fico’s return to power.

Many young in Slovakia are skeptical and very critical to say the least, and I look at this with caution too. Having just one party in power is dangerous. It is democratic but still can be dangerous. Yes in the US there is, or a couple of years ago in the UK, there was a two party system where one party rules the 51%+ majority. But in those countries this system has existed for quite some time and democracy has also been there for longer time.

Nevertheless, at the same time, this is also an opportunity for Slovakia. I think either of the two things will happen: Either Robert Fico with his party will truly do as they wish and he will leave Slovakia in a worse shape and with lots of new scandals. Or, Mr. Fico in order to try to be reelected will try not to lose the public’s trust. But here the opposition’s activity is crucial. Although it is small it must be a fierce opposition and must check the government every single time. One more reason or one more way for the Right to come closer together. Investigative journalists and media are also important. They helped uncovered the scandals of all previous governments. This time they must be even more vigilant.

Finally, I respect Robert Fico, people voted for him clearly after all. Although I’m not a big fan of “social state” or big government economic policies and I don’t always think that progressive tax is legitimate, I think that in these difficult times it could be applied. But, I would insist on returning to a flat tax once economic growth is restored, unemployment is lowered and poverty is lowered as well. I do agree with him that a higher VAT Tax that was proposed by the Right will actually hurt the poorest.

However, I still am cautious of Robert Fico for his populism, the way he criticized the media and  some of the scandals that involved his previous government.Let’s not forget his stance towards Hungary.

Finally, let’s hope again that he won’t become like Vladimir Meciar (Slovakia’s 1st PM and an autocrat) to whom he is often compared to or like Hungary’s PM Viktor Orban. Now he and his party will have the entire responsibility. They won’t share it with anyone else. If anything goes wrong Fico and his party will be the only ones to blame. This  should make him govern more carefully and hopefully also more responsibly especially with the budget.

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Here are links to articles that have wrote about the election result, in case you’re interested: The Economist, Washington Post, NY Times.

Finally, as always I added a cartoon from Slovakia’s Newspaper SME that shows the election result. (The 5 tiny guys rolling the carpet are the heads of the 5 other parties that got into the Slovak parliament, they are rolling it for Robert Fico, the giant winner whose social democratic party’s color is Red, thus the red carpet)

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