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Some Thoughts about Events in Norway, Famine in Africa, Financial Crisis and More…

July 26, 2011

Dear Readers,

Well, I am back in my office in Strasbourg after two weeks of vacation and while I’m trying to clear my desk and struggle through the work that has piled up (although admittedly the vacation period makes things somewhat easier), my thoughts keep wandering to what’s going in the world.

The past few days the media has been dominated by reports and articles on what happened in Norway. While analysts and writers have tried to write about the events by often referring to immigration and rising extremist tendencies – the fact, however, remains that the daughters, sons, brothers, sisters, friends or countrymen of some people lost their lives when Anders Breivik fired his gun. The Norwegian judicial systems is, at least based on press reports, planning on accusing Mr. Breivik of crimes against humanity, which could lead to a 30-year prison sentence. This makes me wonder about the cost of human life and about righteousness. In one of today’s newspapers, there was a reference to Scandinavian literature about disillusioned men – it would indeed seem that fiction in some way becomes reality, and if this is the case then this makes me wonder why and how this happens…

While Norway tries to come to terms with what happened, reports about famine in the horn of Africa keep reaching our ears with images of children dying. How does a mother with several children decide which children she feeds and which she leaves to die? The rapidly growing population and the severe drought have also suddenly made the concept of foreign policy much larger. This is something I run into while doing my job in diplomacy, since all of a sudden we don’t just talk about wars and frontiers, but also about food, agriculture, science, climate change and so forth. I also sometimes wonder how statesmen and diplomats manage to digest everything.

In the light of what is going on in Norway and Africa, the on-going financial crisis seems all of a sudden be overshadowed by the rest. The EU is struggling to find ways to deal with its sore spots in this field by aiding those countries that need assistance – and also trying to avoid a domino effect. In the U.S. the President and Congress are also trying to find a way to hash out a budget deficit deal. Here in France, the Cour des Comptes has just published its evaluation on Elysées spending, praising the more stern financial management, but also stating that there is still room for improvement. A possible extensive financial crisis and its consequences would still have far-reaching effects.

On a more positive note, my colleague and I will be attending the graduation ceremony at ENA on Wednesday. I always experience a certain sense of humbleness when I enter the gates of one of France’s most prestigious schools. At the same time, one can almost touch the intellectual atmosphere of the place, while the faculty remains – despite their distinguished backgrounds – in many ways reachable.

It is also good to note that Strasbourg’s partnership ties with the U.S. are more and more manifold. Last week some young American musicians were interviewed about their exchange with the Strasbourg conservatory. Art is probably never purely national and transcends times and frontiers, and not just art but culture itself. Therefore, I embrace the on-going discussion in France about cultural diversity and look forward to seeing more of it.

We would very much like to read your thoughts about whatever comes to your mind, so please write to us. I also hope that you are all enjoying the summer – even though it’s been somewhat rainy and cool…

Cheers

Tiina Bieber

 

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