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    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    Estou a tentar compreender o que é exactamente esta iniciativa de TGA, e pensei muito sobre a melhor forma de entrar neste debate. Escolhi seguir o convite do próprio TGA e vou usar outra língua europeia que não o inglês.

    O título que escolhi para o tópico tem um duplo significado. É dirigido à iniciativa de TGA e a esta minha contribuição. Não consigo ainda responder à pergunta para nenhuma delas.

    O forum parece ser uma boa ideia, mas não deixa de estar sujeito às limitações típicas dos foruns de internet. As contribuições tendem a ser curtas e a assumir rapidamente a forma de trocas mais ou menas acesas de opiniões. O meu receio é que sob uma aparência de discurso livre se esconda antes a superficialidade da opinião rápida.

    Escrever em português é um teste. Eu prevejo poucas respostas, talvez mesmo nenhuma. O que diz muito acerca da minha fé na Europa e nos europeus. O que é que isso nos diz sobre a Europa e os europeus?
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    Seileach,

    You make a very good point about the choice of language. TGA did invite us to use any European language. Whilst you are the first to have done so, I don't think that it is a grave reflection upon the EU or indeed the forum. I think that as the initial posts here were in the English language most posters have continued to use that language.

    I had hoped for more languages to crop up here. Perhaps the single language being used here until your post was a demonstration of the way in which many people who live in EU countries are willing to type in a foreign tongue if it facilitates easy communication with their international peers.

    The fact that the forum frequently devolves into banter between posters is unavoidable with this type of system. Perhaps TGA should require the first post in any thread to be a complete essay so that the posts below it become comments upon that essay rather than answers and discussion of the themes raised at the beginning.

    I trust that TGA will appreciate your addressing the initiative more directly than the issues. I hope to hear your input on the issues themselves in due course!
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    Seileach,

    There have been previous posts in Portuguese from jm.iglesias.

    There is ongoing discussion of the requirement, or otherwise, of a common European language in the education thread. As I mentioned the last time someone posted Portuguese I always use AltaVista's Babelfish to do online translations.

    I imagine that the only second language used on this forum is English (to date) and I think that does tell you something about the EU.

    Personally I prefer the conversational posts to those that take an hour to read, refer only to dead people and also don't discuss the story that the EU SHOULD tell.

    Vince,

    "many people who live in EU countries are willing to type in a foreign tongue if it facilitates easy communication with their international peers", interesting point. I heard yesterday from a colleague that one business unit in his company has stopped having telephone conversations with the Indian offshored development team the use but they are going to use Instant Messanging instead.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    My initial point being made, I'll revert to the common language, which is the most sensible aproach. I have no quarrel with certain languages, namely, English, French and German, acting as main work languages within the EU.

    I'm more worried with the inevitability of "banter", as Vince put it. And Gary's preference for shorter "conversational posts" is a good example which strengthens my misgivings. There is a difference between a constructive dialogue and a lively chat. The former is badly needed, as Europe currently faces an ideological paralysis. The latter is widespread in coffeeshops and student halls all over Europe and, in my opinion, futile. It's what I referred previously as the "shallowness of quick opinion".

    So my position at the moment regarding this initiative is one of receptiveness regarding TGA's proposal, which I found one of the first truly constructive contributions to the debate on Europe's future, and of skepticism regarding this debate. I am still to be convinced that Europe really needs another chat room for people to vent their frustration, and that this debate will ultimately amount to much more than that.

    I think everyone should agree that making valid contributions to a debate requires an investment of time an effort. I do, and in order for me to commit that investment, I must first be convinced that it's worth it. I think TGA, and his people, should be clearer about the objectives for this debate and the format chosen for it.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    In my view, if frustration is vented in rational ways, it is useful. We need to be aware of problems in order to find realistic solutions. When dealing with practical subjects such as Europe's future, a brainstorming discussion can be much more useful than lofty essays and super-long public-grant studies that make us harbor theoretical and unrealistic hopes (e.g. in my view hopes for the creation of a Europeanized public sphere without an overarching common language of communication) or month-long sessions of enlightened "brains" (e.g. the constitutional convention, which came up with an unbelievably weak work product as it later turned out in discussions among "ordinary" people).

    BTW, I like the idea of computer translation for people who can't communicate in English. But, clearly, such computerized translation doesn't preserve any of the "cultural uniqueness" that's supposed to be the main purpose of using national languages in a pan-European context. Also, some languages are a tough nut to crack for a computer (e.g. Czech among others - because of its extremely complex inflection rules and very liberal word order rules).
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    Seilach,
    Re: "shallowness of quick opinion". You may be right that the short conversational posts reflect "shallowness of quick opinion". On the other hand I am sure that a number of people who have contributed here actually thought about the EU before they read TGA's article and have probably formed opinions and had ideas over many years. When I read the thread about the death penalty I didn't form my opinion as I typed at the computer, I expressed a view that I've held for more than 20 years.


    oulematu,

    'discussions among "ordinary" people' you are correct that it is the "ordinary" people that need to be convinced of the value/benefit of the current EU and any further integration/expansion. So one thing we can say about the story that the EU should tell is that it must be expressed in ways that "ordinary" people understand and value. No point going on about Enlightenment, "ordinary" people don't care about it.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    By "shallowness of quick opinion" I never meant that people who express quick opinions are shallow. We all expresse quick opinions. And they tend to be shallow, not because they're necessarily frivolous, but because their brevity prevents them from addressing properly any complex issue.

    Quick opinions may have a lot of thought behind them, I grant you that, Gary, but they don't have a lot of thought in them. Because they do not represent the whole of a person's views on a subject, but only a fragment deemed relevant at a given juncure in a debate, made small by time and/or space constraints. There's nothing wrong with that, if you're having a discussion among friends and you all wish to know each others' opinions.

    However, in a debate meant to be meaningful, it can cause discussions to drift aimelessly, even whimsically. Don't just take my word for it. Take a look at the "shared values / wrong issue" discussion and observe how it got sidetracked by an example into a debate about universities. I'm not saying that universities aren't important, but there is another discussion on that subject. I'm just saying not losing track of what's being discussed is more important.

    Another example of the pitfalls of conversational posts is that bipolarisations occur with great ease. It's a natural human trait, to approach issues in pairs, which can easily overcome a debate. This small thread as two good examples. Gary opposed his preferred manner of posting to "that take an hour to read, refer only to dead people and also don't discuss the story that the EU should tell", while oulematu opposed them to "lofty essays and super-long public-grant studies" and "month-long sessions of enlightened brains". Do you really think these were what I had in mind when I spoke against quick short interventions? Is there no middle ground between one-paragraph posts and volume-sized dissertations?
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    Seilach,

    "Is there no middle ground between one-paragraph posts and volume-sized dissertations?" I was saying that quality is more important than quantity. How long do you want our posts to be? Give me a word count I need to hit for a post to be clearly representing the whole of my views on something. Be careful what you ask for though because I will hit that word count :-)
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    Caro(a) Seileach,

    desde já os meus parabéns por ter iniciado uma discussão em português, já que como o Gary London mencionou, ninguém arrisca escrever na sua língua materna. A minha primeira posta foi em português, mas cedo percebi que não ia a lado algum, pois nem os tradutores (como o altavista) servem para a maioria das pessoas.

    Em todo o caso, seguindo o título da sua discussão. Julgo que as propostas do TGA são muito pertinentes. Por 3 razões:

    (i) neste momento há um sentimento de orfandade na identidade Europeia, particularmente na UE - os cidadãos esforçam-se para encontrar pontos de contacto comuns entre os diferentes países, mas a percepção de que existem diferenças substantivas entre os países (no que toca à própria forma de encarar a UE) tem afastado franjas importantes da sociedade, ao invés de unir e convergir, fazendo da diversidade um valor de facto;

    (ii) para o bem ou para o mal, as pessoas necessitam de um referencial, de uma matriz que faça com que se siga numa determinada direcção - a Constituição Europeia seria uma belíssima iniciativa, mas creio que o método da sua elaboração foi o elemento destabilizador que levou ao chumbo numa minoria de países;

    (iii) por último, porque os valores que TGA enunciou são de facto de uma importância fundamental, para termos uma UE/Europa mais coesa, mais solidária, e um exemplo para o Mundo - destacaria a Liberdade e Diversidade, dois valores que nos dias que correm estão demasiado esquecidos.
    ________________

    Now, an English Abstract :-)

    It's really a pitty that few people use their native language in this forum.
    TGA's proposals are undoubtly importnt, for 3 main reasons:

    (i) Europeans are struggling to find common points between them, but the quest for an identity blocks in the differences found;

    (ii) People need a reference, something to guide the way - European Constituition was going to be a good try, but failed;

    (iii) The values TGA appointed are really important - I highlight Freedom and Diversity.

    I advise to read the translation (which turns a mess in the altavista...)
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    Caro(a) jm.iglesias... ^_^

    É caro Seileach mesmo, eu sou um e não uma. Mas a culpa é minha, não é? Há algo de irónico num português que faz posição de se exprimir na sua língua nativa escolher um username gaélico... ^_^

    Mas era mesmo a afirmação duma posição. Que tipo de debate teríamos se todos se exprimissem nas suas línguas nativas? Eu seria incapaz de responder a uma mensagem escrita em polaco, sueco ou grego...

    Obrigado pelo seu apoio, de qualquer maneira. Para já, estou a seguir o meu próprio conselho,a ruminar as minhas ideias para apresentar um comentário fundamentado à excelente proposta de TGA. O exemplo é a melhor escola!
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008 edited
     
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    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    Gheryando:

    «For instance China also has very many dissimilar languages. . But. . Each Chinese can say the standard spoken Chinese. Our European also needs a standard spoken Chinese»

    China is country and nation. Europe is a region, with many different countries and nations, and EU is a political and economic union...

    BTW, just an example: In Spain you have different official languages (I remember at least 4: castelhano, basco, catalão and galego...). Go to Catalunha and ask for the "standard spoken spanish"...
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    China, could, in many aspects be compared to Europe. They were only faster than us and united quicker. A Beijinger would not understand anything when going to Shanghai or Hong Kong. My point is that we need a common language, at least officially, while still keeping our local languages, just like China. There is simply no other way other than the Star Trek simultaneous translation tool that every human gets implanted in their ears.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    China should never be compared to Europe. I don't much like Europe but I like China much less. At least our governments are legitimate and membership is based upon peaceful agreement and not upon the threat of destruction by a big army. There are no similarities other than the fact that both are run by inaccessible and unelected people.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    Gheryando:

    EU has already 3 official languages... Of those 3 german is the most spoken in europe. I don't want to start this discussion again...
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    Dear Jm.Iglesias. I know German is the most spoken in Europe, in fact its my first language and I would be more than happy if all of you had to learn it but facing reality i accept the practicality that the English language is to most young Europeans. It is simply the language that someone (from my age group 19-29) will be able to speak across Europe. Why not make that official? To be honest, I dont really care what language it is. In fact, it could be Latin. Since Israel revived a dead language, why can't we? Also, Latin was already once the lingua franca of Europe. My point is that we need to be able to communicate to each other in some language, otherwise Europe will be difficult to unite.

    Dear Vince, the fact that China has a different government system than a liberal democracy has nothing to do with them using a common language. Using your aversion to their system of government is not a very good reason for disliking their system of having one common language. In fact, there are over 50 minority groups in China and the Chinese constitution puts them on the same level as the Han majority. Many of them have different languages, religions and scripts. In fact, the Chinese currency has...let me check...6 different scripts on each bill. How many does the Euro have? China is as diverse (if not more) than Europe but they still use a common language based on the Beijing dialect. P.s. Try governing a developing country of 1300000000 people through the principles of our liberal democracies.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    Gheryando,

    "To be honest, I dont really care what language it is. In fact, it could be Latin" exactly.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    If it's not English, then I'd want it to be Latin.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    Again: you already have 3 official UE languages. Isn't that enough? And of those 3, you just have to learn one...

    China: it is a country, with minorities, ok.
    EU is not a country, nor it's members "minorities"... BTW: how many minorities has France...?
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    jm - let's skip the language discussion for now. But can you just explain what you factually mean when you say that the EU currently has 3 official languages? Doesn't it have approximately 23 official languages?
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    what he means are the three working languages of the EU institutions.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    As far as I know it's pretty much different for different institutions and purposes. The linguistic regime of the institutions is very chaotic overall.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    Right, but the three working languages are German, French and English. No need to discuss the result of 2+2.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    jm,

    How would you feel about there being 3 official (common) languages of the EU (not just the institutions) that were taught to all European children?
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    I agree, but what would you do to a minority child that speaks Catalan as first language and has to learn Spanish as a second language because Catalonia is in Spain? In my area of Italy schools are bilingual and English is taught from lower school on nowadays thereby teaching people three languages. (albeit not the 3 official ones). Three are possible, but four or more will be limiting to the curriculum. How about everyone learns English and then chooses another language.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    My proposal would be that all people and business should be guaranteed the right to use English in official communications in all EU member states as well as at the EU level. Now, if we're saying that people and businesses will be able to use English, French and German (as they choose in THEIR sole discretion), that sounds absolutely ideal and marvellous. I'm just a little bit concerned how those member states (some of which boast extremely incompetent beaurocracies) will ensure in practise that each relevant beaurocrat who deals with the public (e.g. tax officials, other government officials, municipal officials, policemen, judges, immigration officials, ...) and each relevant form is available in all these languages. Therefore, as an initial step, I would be willing to compromise on 100% billingualism between English and the local language (or in some case languages) in all official business. That in itself would be a huge achievement compared to what we have today.

    In addition, member states should be forced by the EU to abolish certain purely formalistic language barriers (e.g. the inability to use Slovak in official business in the Czech Republic although Slovak is perfectly intelligible to Czechs and although Czech can be widely used in Slovakia).
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    I don't think we need be so afraid of multilingualism. Hunter-gatherers in Amazonia and Papua manage multilingualism without any problems, it's embarrassing that we, the oh so civilised Europeans can’t.

    I defend a multilayered approach. Central authorities would communicate in one of the three work languages, but should be prepared to communicate with national authorities in any of the twenty-plus official languages. National authorities should be prepared to communicate with those who contact them in any of the local languages as well as the twenty-plus official languages; local language should be defined to include the official language, minority languages, and immigration languages. Citizens and immigrants, on the other hand, should be offered the possibility to learn with ease any of the local languages as well as the twenty-plus official languages.

    This sounds complicated, but it’s not. It just requires some effort. But shying away from that effort is tantamount to throwing away the diversity goal. Which, I should add, is being rather ignored in this debate, which has been overly centred in global solutions which apply to all EU space.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    "Hunter-gatherers in Amazonia and Papua manage multilingualism without any problems," they surely have the same priorities as we do, right? What I mean is that you can't compare stone age people to the modern world. We have school curicula, we have schedules, a complex system, time limits and the next season of Survivor is just around the corner and not to be missed. Who wants to spend their days learning 6 different languages in addition to an already tight curriculum?
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    Seileach, your proposal is absolutely unworkable in practise. Please refer to my previous arguments in this respect.

    As regards the diversity argument, you seem to espouse an "inter-state" concept of diversity (i.e. diversity among member states, even if it means barriers to free movement of people). Unlike what you claim, I'm not against diversity but I propose "intra-state" diversity (i.e. my focus is on individuals' freedom - and by extension willingness - to move to other member states, which will strengthen diversity "within" member states because many different people will live together). In my view, my concept of diversity is more suitable in our globalized world and is more in line with the original purpose of the EU's founding fathers. Your concept of diversity correponds to a policy of sealed borders. It sounds almost absurd - what you're suggesting in effect is that, in the interest of preserving national diversity, the EU should have a policy of creating barriers for people to take advantage of the single market. Are you suggesting that EU's goal should be to create a situation as if the EU did not exist at all?
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    Gary London, sorry for my late reply:

    the 3 official languages of EU are already mandatory in educational curriculum in Portugal... I think I told this before. You always have english from primary school, and in preparatory school you choose another optional language (usualy french or german, although spanish is getting popular).

    Personally I think it would be a good decision to teach children those languages, in every country. But it should be a national decision, in each country.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    I have to agree with seileach, except in one point.

    No problem having everything involving EU on the 3 official languages (and not just one...).

    But, bottom line, you need to have translation to every of the existing languages. In my opinion, that should be work of national governments and not of EU instituitions.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    If the EU can't even agree on English as a language of communication, then I'm in favor of abolishing the EU (subject to certain very limited functions of a free trade zone) because it's just a waste of time and resources. If all individuals and businesses have to use the local language in other member states and deal with local rules written in local languages, then I don't see the point in trying to harmonize those local rules. In such case, we don't need to write or translate most EU rules (perhaps only parts of the current agenda of DG Competition as well as a few international agreements - e.g. the Brussels Treaty, to replace the current Brussels Regulation - and I agree those should be translated at the cost of member states' governments as and when those governments deem such expense useful).
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    Oulematu:

    I'm going to repeat this over and over, and over: a language (specially in Europe...) is not just a way of communication. It's the blueprint of a country, a state of identity and national proud. And you have 27 different EU countries... repeat, again and again: 27 DIFFERENT countries.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    jm.iglesias: Great! I'm so happy! It sounds like the free trade zone is a good compromise that we can both agree on. And so can many other Europeans, I suspect. You will be pleased to hear that the free trade zone will not threaten the member states' languages, identity and national pride and no nasty super-culture will be imposed on us. I will be happy to realize that most EU regulations will be discarded and most EU beaurocrats as well as those national beaurocrats whose main task is to implement EU regulations will be laid off and decision-making will be streamlined. It sounds like a good compromise. Maybe we should write a joint letter to Angela Merkel to let her know that the EU constitution is a bad idea? And an e-mail to TGA telling him that his web site is turning out to be superfluous?
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    oulematu,

    I think that you have just decided that we need a multi-component EU. A pick-and-choose EU. Where varying degrees of integration exist but each European country can benefit as much as it chooses to. Those that choose to implement the super-culture can do so. Those that choose to have a free trade relationship can do.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    Gary London:

    I think you're forgetting one important point: who wants that "super-culture"?

    Because various studys tell us that europeans want to move in the opposite way, towards a multidiversity EU...

    Seems to me that it will be difficult to implement a "super-culture" (whatever that is...), when nobody approves it... I think we still live in a democracy. For now...
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    jm,

    Well I do :-) It isn't really important who wants what structure, just that the EU is flexible enough to cope with total integration to minimal integration and everything in between.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    As long as the EU can sit at one table with the US, China, Russia etc. I don't care what policies they have. It would, however, in addition to being practical, also increase economic growth, if suddenly people everywhere in the EU could move anywhere and not fear a language barrier. I am in favour of having all documents in two languages (at least). The country's national language and english. This should also be valid for officials, police etc.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    GaryLondon - a free trade zone doesn't equal to the multi-component EU. The variable-geometry Europe is a bad idea - it would be messy and would bring more confusion than advantages. Can you imagine the hassle for everyone involved if each member state were to be involved in different areas of EU cooperation?
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    oulematu,

    You mean like some having the Euro and others not? Or some being part of Schengen and others not? It isn't a hassle is it really?
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    Well, the single currency requires a very close integration and coordination of economies which is currently lacking which presumably creates all kinds of problems for the euro-zone economies.

    Currently, there's only a very limited number of these exceptions. (Another one is Denmark in certain aspects of the judicial cooperation in civil matters). The point is that each such exception significantly increases the complexity of EU's functioning. Should these exceptions cease to be seen as exceptions and should the EU accept the multiple geometry as the main principle of its organization, the whole system would become unworkable. I mean just imagine that only 15 countries would recognize each other's dentist degrees whereas only 8 countries would allow the free passport for mutual funds and 12 other countries would opt out from the freedom of movement of capital whereas only 19 countries would adhere to the VAT scheme. It would be really difficult to even ascertain what rules are applicable in other member states, not to mention the complexity of dealing with the specific problems arising in all possible combinations of scenarios. Member states could not easily learn from each other's best practises and ECJ rulings affecting one member state would not be easily applicable to other member states. Such a system would essentially be equivalent to having 27 fully sovereign countries not associated in the EU that choose to coordinate some of their policies via international treaties on an entirely ad hoc basis.