Eurovision 2016 – Grand Final Preview

Its Eurovision week!!! Its just two days to the First Semi-Final on Tuesday followed by the Second Semi-Final on Thursday. So I am a tad excited! (That may be an understatement). Check out my previews of Semi-Final 1 and Semi-Final 2

So its time to look at the automatic qualifiers for the Grand Final which takes place on Saturday 14th of May. They will be joined by 10 acts from each of the Semi Finals. So who are the automatic finalists? They are our Host’s Sweden and the Big Five contributors to the European Broadcasting Union, Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom. Only Sweden’s place in the show is known and it will be Friday before the running order for the Final will be known. Sweden will perform 9th on the night.

So lets take a look at the songs we will definitely be seeing next Saturday.

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Je Suis Charlie

2015-01-11 13.13.22

Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love. – Martin Luther King, 1958

French Presidential Election, 2012

Nicolas Sarkozy, a watermark was present that ...
Nicolas Sarkozy, a watermark was present that said « Photo : Jean-Louis Aubert ». (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With so much focus on the US Republican Race we seem to not notice the election over on the mainland that will have more effect on us then the result of that election. I am of course talking about the French Presidential Election. The first round of voting is on April 22nd. The current President, Nicolas Sarkozy, faces 9 opponents in his hope of re-election.

Those running for the Presidency are:

  • Nicolas Sarkozy (Union for a Popular Movement UMP)
  • Francois Hollande (Partie Socialiste PS)
  • Jean-Luc Mélenchon (Left Front)
  • Marine Le Pen (Front National )
  • François Bayrou (Democrat Movement MoDem)
  • Eva Joly (The Greens)
  • Philippe Poutou (New Anticapitalist Party)
  • Nathalie Arthaud (Workers’ Struggle)
  • Jacques Cheminade (Solidarité et progrès)
  • Nicolas Dupont-Aignan (Arise the Republic DLR)

Much of the focus is on the main front runners, President Sarkozy and Francois Hollande. They are the two expected to make it through to the second round on the 6th of May.

The campaign is providing some interesting ideas, with a wealth tax, withdrawal from the Schegen zone and renegotiation of the Fiscal Compact all being brought up despite the financial difficulties that France is in.

France who was recently downgraded from its AAA has a big problem with its public finances. While it is not as in dire straits as Italy or Spain, it is something that it does need to keep an eye on. With its public debt standing at 90% of GDP and public spending reaching 56% GDP, France is trying to have it all without income to support it.

This of course is going to be the big issue facing the next French President. How France can continue to have a Swedish style social welfare system while not bringing in enough taxes due to manufacturing moving abroad due to uncompetitive pricing and while its population continues to show distrust for the free-market.

The next President is going to have to break a lot of promises if they want to avoid France being the cause of the next Euro crisis.

9 EU states want a Financial Transaction Tax

European Union
European Union (Photo credit: ana branca)

Nine Eurozone members want the Danish Presidency of the EU to speed up its work on a directive on a Financial Transaction Tax (FTT). While there is much opposition within the Eurozone and wider EU to such a tax, the nine countries intend to use the community method to allow them to use the EU institutions to set up and administer the tax and allow other countries to join while not holding them back.

The nine countries are:

  • France
  • Germany
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Spain
  • Italy
  • Finland
  • Greece
  • Portugal

The inclusion of Greece and Portugal is interesting as they are in receipt of an IMF/ECB/EU Bailout while Italy and Spain haver been teetering on the edge for some time.

There is opposition to an EU wide tax mainly from the UK and Sweden with Poland and Ireland also voicing unease about the plans, so do not expect these countries to join up any time soon.

The letter comes at a time during the French Presidential Election where Nicolas Sarkozy has placed a lot of faith in such a tax to win votes at home and is of course implementing the tax in France with or without the other eight countries.

Taxation remains an unanimous decision at the Council of Ministers under the Treaty of Lisbon, so even if one country opposes there will not be an EU wide tax on financial transactions.

#EUDay: Schuman Declaration

Photomontage
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On the 9th of May each year we mark the Anniversay of the Schuman Declaration. This declaration made by French Minister for Foreign Affairs Robert Schuman in 1950, set the basis for what would has become the European Union.

61 years later and with the EU at a crossroad due to the financial crisis and the lessening impact it has around the world, it its only right we look back at the declation which started it all and remind us of why we are here.

World peace cannot be safeguarded without the making of creative efforts proportionate to the dangers which threaten it.
The contribution which an organized and living Europe can bring to civilization is indispensable to the maintenance of peaceful relations. In taking upon herself for more than 20 years the role of champion of a united Europe, France has always had as her essential aim the service of peace. A united Europe was not achieved and we had war.

Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity. The coming together of the nations of Europe requires the elimination of the age-old opposition of France and Germany. Any action taken must in the first place concern these two countries.
With this aim in view, the French Government proposes that action be taken immediately on one limited but decisive point.

It proposes that Franco-German production of coal and steel as a whole be placed under a common High Authority, within the framework of an organization open to the participation of the other countries of Europe.  The pooling of coal and steel production should immediately provide for the setting up of common foundations for economic development as a first step in the federation of Europe, and will change the destinies of those regions which have long been devoted to the manufacture of munitions of war, of which they have been the most constant victims.

The solidarity in production thus established will make it plain that any war between France and Germany becomes not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible. The setting up of this powerful productive unit, open to all countries willing to take part and bound ultimately to provide all the member countries with the basic elements of industrial production on the same terms, will lay a true foundation for their economic unification.

This production will be offered to the world as a whole without distinction or exception, with the aim of contributing to raising living standards and to promoting peaceful achievements. With increased resources Europe will be able to pursue the achievement of one of its essential tasks, namely, the development of the African continent. In this way, there will be realised simply and speedily that fusion of interest which is indispensable to the establishment of a common economic system; it may be the leaven from which may grow a wider and deeper community between countries long opposed to one another by sanguinary divisions.

By pooling basic production and by instituting a new High Authority, whose decisions will bind France, Germany and other member countries, this proposal will lead to the realization of the first concrete foundation of a European federation indispensable to the preservation of peace.
To promote the realization of the objectives defined, the French Government is ready to open negotiations on the following bases.

The task with which this common High Authority will be charged will be that of securing in the shortest possible time the modernization of production and the improvement of its quality; the supply of coal and steel on identical terms to the French and German markets, as well as to the markets of other member countries; the development in common of exports to other countries; the equalization and improvement of the living conditions of workers in these industries.

To achieve these objectives, starting from the very different conditions in which the production of member countries is at present situated, it is proposed that certain transitional measures should be instituted, such as the application of a production and investment plan, the establishment of compensating machinery for equating prices, and the creation of a restructuring fund to facilitate the rationalization of production. The movement of coal and steel between member countries will immediately be freed from all customs duty, and will not be affected by differential transport rates. Conditions will gradually be created which will spontaneously provide for the more rational distribution of production at the highest level of productivity.

In contrast to international cartels, which tend to impose restrictive practices on distribution and the exploitation of national markets, and to maintain high profits, the organization will ensure the fusion of markets and the expansion of production.

The essential principles and undertakings defined above will be the subject of a treaty signed between the States and submitted for the ratification of their parliaments. The negotiations required to settle details of applications will be undertaken with the help of an arbitrator appointed by common agreement. He will be entrusted with the task of seeing that the agreements reached conform with the principles laid down, and, in the event of a deadlock, he will decide what solution is to be adopted.

The common High Authority entrusted with the management of the scheme will be composed of independent persons appointed by the governments, giving equal representation. A chairman will be chosen by common agreement between the governments. The Authority’s decisions will be enforceable in France, Germany and other member countries. Appropriate measures will be provided for means of appeal against the decisions of the Authority.
A representative of the United Nations will be accredited to the Authority, and will be instructed to make a public report to the United Nations twice yearly, giving an account of the working of the new organization, particularly as concerns the safeguarding of its objectives.

The institution of the High Authority will in no way prejudge the methods of ownership of enterprises. In the exercise of its functions, the common High Authority will take into account the powers conferred upon the International Ruhr Authority and the obligations of all kinds imposed upon Germany, so long as these remain in force.

 

France and its Non-“French” Residents

France is a bit of bother in the last week. Firstly there is the expulsion in mass of its Roma Residents, which has gotten France into trouble with the European Commission. Then the French Senate voted  to ban the Niqab and Burka.

France could be brought to the European Court of Human Rights, if the French Constitutional Court upholds the ban.

This is not setting a good example in my opinion. The French are showing their intolerance of the “the other”. While I disagree with Commissioner readings “holocaust” comment, I think she has a point, she just used the wrong word.

France is heading down the wrong path. Its mass expulsions of Roma reminds me of the excess’s of former Dictators like Idi Amin, whoo expelled over 800’000 asians from Uganda in September 1972.

The fact that France is expelling nationals of another Member State is also a worrying thought.

One the issue of the Niqab and the Burka. While I am not a fan of those items of clothing, I think if a woman thinks she needs to wear them to follow her religion or be part of her culture and heritage, then she should be free to wear them. She should not be forced to wear them.

This episode again highlights the intolerance that ignorance breeds. If people were more open to learning about others. To understanding why they wear these veil’s then there would be more tolerance and understanding.

The laws to ban these and the expulsion of the Roma are all knee-jerk reactions that will ultimately backfire. I hope the see French see sense and do the right thing.

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[Eurovision 2010] Final Preview

The modern logo was introduced for the 2004 Co...
Image via Wikipedia

So it is time to have a look at the final five entries in this years Eurovision Song Contest. It is time to look at the big 4 and last years winner. I will be marking these out of ten, as there is no prediction to make!

SpainDaniel Diges “Algo pequeñito” (Something Tiny)

This is less poppy than Spains normal offering and it is growing on me. I love the circus theme to the video and it is influenced in the video. 7/10

NorwayDidrik Solli-Tangen “My Heart is Yours

There has been some comparisons between Norway and Ireland this year and I think that is misplaced as Niamh’s song is so much better. I find this to be a very boring ballad. But ballads are everywhere this year so it will pick up a few points. and more fiddles at the end… hmmm… 4/10

United KingdomJosh Dubovie “That Sounds Good to Me

The UK haven’t had a whole lot of good luck recently at Eurovision, so this entry is a nice song. Its easy listening and one to tap the foot along with. It could do well also. 6/10

FranceJessy Matador “Allez Ola Ole

France went all experimental for a while and then went back to basics. This year they are entering a fast paced dance song, that will be heard at the world cup I would say! (no handball grudge here btw) Its a cool song. 8/10

GermanyLena Meyer-Landrut “Satellite

All I can say is this is in my top two songs this year (Denmark is the other one). This is an amazing entry from Germany, and Lena is an amazing singer. This song has already gone platinum in Germany. I love it, its catchy and has a good chance of winning this year! 10/10

So that is all the songs looked at. I can go back to concentrating on politics and other issues here until 22nd of May when the Semi-finals begin. In the mean time if you are a eurovision fan, head over to ESCIreland.com where you will find lots more Eurovision news and opinion.

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3 More Acts Chosen for Oslo [Eurovision 2010]

Lys Assia and Dima Bilan @ Eurovision Song Con...
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So we have a few more acts chosen for the Eurovision Song Contest 2010 in Oslo.

FYR Macedonia have chosen Gjoko Taneski ft Billy Zver & Pejcin with “Jas Ja Imam Silata”. I am not sure what to make of this song. It sounds like a bit of a rock ballad to me, until the rap bit. As I hate rap, this song doesn’t impress me

Malta have gone with Thea Garrett who will sing “My Dream” in Oslo. This is a ballad, it goes back to tradition of Maltese entries. Thea is a great singer and could do well if people swing back to ballads this year.

Slovenia have just chosen Ansambel Roka Žlindra & Kalamari with “Narodno zabavni rock”. This song tries to mix old and new. Brings back memories of Eurovisions of old at times. Its a bit of fun, but not a joke entry!

France has selected the singer it is sending to Oslo, and the lucky person is Jessy Matador. They will announce the song on the 5th of March.

This week will see Spain, Turkey, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Latvia select their entries.

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“Unelected Brussels bureaucrats make up to 80% of laws” – eh No It Don’t

During the Libertas Campaign against the Lisbon Treaty and probably during the Euro-Elections we will hear the statistic that “Unelected Brussels bureaucrats make up to 80% of laws”. This claim was echoed by Marine Le Pen of the French Le Front Nationale who said on BFM TV

« 80% des lois qui sont  appliquées et qui sont votées par les députés sont en réalité seulement enregistrées parce que ce sont des directives européennes » (80% of the laws which are applied and which are voted by the deputies are actually only recorded because they are European directives)

Generation Yes recently undertook some research to look at that claim in relation to Ireland. They say it is “completely false” to say that. They analsyed Acts and Statutory Instruments from 1992 to 2009 to test the claim. These are their results.

Of the 588 Acts, 114 contain at least one reference to European legislation (19.39%). Of the 10,725 Statutory Instruments, 3,050 contain at least one reference to European legislation (28.44%). Of the total of Irish legislation from 1992 to 2009, then, only 3,164 out of 11,313 Acts and Instruments contain any reference whatsoever to European legislation – 27.97%.

….

Looked at year by year, it can be seen that in no year does the amount of Irish legislation in any sense ‘containing traces of EU’ rise as far as 50%.

For the full research see their Fight the Lies page. I would assume it would be a similar figure for France.

As usual the eurosceptics stoop to misinformation to try and confuse the electorate.

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Union for the Mediterranean, what is it?

There has been alot about the Union for the Mediterranean (UM) in the news lately, but I am unsure of what it will do. The idea was first mooted by Nicolas Sarkozy, during his election campaign, as an alternative to Turkish Membership of the EU. This led to Turkey opposing the idea, but on being told it would not be an alternative, Turkey lent its support.

So who would be prospective members of the UM?
the french had to back down to plans that it would only compromise EU states bordering the Med, due to oppistion from Germany and other states who were uncomfortable with EU funds being spent where they had no say. So the UM would compromise the 27 EU member states (do I really have to list them?) plus the following countries taking part in the Barcelona Process (That could be another post, but I’ll just give the Wiki Link!)

*Algeria
*Egypt
*Israel
*Jordan
*Lebanon
*Libya
*Morocco
*Palestine
*Syria
*Tunisia
*Turkey (EU Candidate)

What are the aims of the UM?

Under the original plans, members would form a regular council under a rotating presidency (similar to the current EU model) dealing with energy, security, counter-terrorism, immigration and trade. French nuclear expertise would be exchanged for North African gas reserves. The Mediterranean and European Unions would work together and share some institutions, including a common judicial area to fight corruption, terrorism, organised crime and people smuggling. Many plans for institutions (eg Mediterranean Investment Bank) were dropped as the project was scaled down due to European reaction to the proposals.

My Opinion on the UM
Personally, I dont see the point, and see it as (at first) a French proposal to gain dominance in the Med. It is/was a way for France for securing Gas Reserves in exchange for Nuclear Expertise. I also see this as an overlap with the Arab Maghreb Union (Members: Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia). This will creat a myriad of organisations in the Med, instead of building on the Barcelona Process (or Euromediterranean Partnership). I’m not sure how this one will pan out. Personally I dont see it as a positive thing for either Europe or the Med.