Greece: citizenship for children of immigrants?

In between trying to deal with one of Europe’s worst economic crises and a crippling series of strikes, the Papandreou government in Greece has introduced a new immigration law. It would allow the children of immigrants to apply for Greek citizenship, provided that

(1) their parents have lived legally in Greece for at least 10 years, and
(2) the child has completed at least three years of schooling in Greece.

By one estimate, over 250,000 children and young adults would qualify for citizenship. As many as 100,000 of those may be of voting age.

This is a huge, huge deal. In order to understand why, you have to understand the odd position of immigrants in Greek society. Continue reading

A bit of Balkan kabuki

The Bulgarians arrested Agim Ceku last week! But then, after a couple of days, they let him go. Serbia is upset.

Who is Agim Ceku, and why should you care?

Well, Agim Ceku is a very important Kosovar Albanian. He was an officer in the Yugoslav army and then, after 1991, he was a commander in the Croatian Army during their war against the Serbs. Then, after that, he was chief of staff of the Kosovar Liberation Army during the 1999 Kosovo War. Later, he was Prime Minister of Kosovo. He’s sort of retired now, or at least politically in eclipse, but he’s still one of the most important political figures in Kosovo.

The Serbs say he’s a war criminal. They have indictments against him for various horrible acts, including genocide. They tried him in absentia for some of them, back in 2002, and convicted him to 20 years in prison. They’ve managed to get an Interpol warrant for his arrest. So, Interpol member states are supposed to assist in capturing Ceku and, if necessary, extradite him to Serbia.

There have been several attempts to do this. None have yet succeeded. The most recent was last week, when Ceku visited Bulgaria. He was stopped at the border, then detained, while a Bulgarian court considered whether to hand him over to Serbia. After a couple of days the Bulgarians decided no, they weren’t going to do that, and Ceku went free. The Serbian government has expressed outrage, outrage! Ceku is still in Bulgaria but should be heading back to Serbia soon.

So why should anyone care? Continue reading

A good/bad time to stop having babies

Here follows a bit of demographic speculation. It’s guesswork right now, but we’ll know in a year or two if I’m right.

Interesting Fact #1: birthrates tend to drop during recessions, and the drop tends to correlate with both the severity of the recession and the speed of its onset. The current recession is looking to be a bad one, and it happened pretty quickly, so we can reasonably expect a sharp drop in birth rates. I say “expect” because it hasn’t happened yet — human biology being what it is, we won’t see the first effects until nine months after most people became aware of the recession. This summer, more or less.

— Makes sense, right? Babies are expensive; more to the point, babies limit your options. They make it harder to move to a different city, change careers, stop working for a while. When times are hard and uncertain, babies become a luxury. For individuals and families, a recession is a good time to put childbearing on hold.

However…

Interesting Fact #2: all across Communist Eastern Europe, birth rates declined slowly through the 1970s and ’80s… and then crashed after 1990, dropping to very low levels and staying there through most of the decade. In some countries they bounced back a bit, in others not, but in almost all cases there’s a big “birth gap” from about 1991 until at least 1997, and often later. This is in contrast to, say, Germany or Italy or Greece, where birthrates declined more smoothly.

Put these two facts together, and there’s a problem. Continue reading

Georgia, Bulgaria and the Second Balkan War

So, the Second Balkan War.

Unless you’re a history buff, or Bulgarian, you probably don’t know about this. And that’s fine. Unless you’re a history buff, or Bulgarian, there’s no reason to. Still, I think it might have some relevance to recent events.

Short version: back in 1912, Bulgaria, Serbia and Greece teamed up to attack Turkey. They won. In fact, they won big, grabbing huge slabs of territory from the hapless Ottomans… but they couldn’t agree on how to divide their spoils. The disagreement got so sharp that just a few months later, the Bulgarians tried to resolve it with a surprise attack on the Serbs and the Greeks.
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27, 491m.

Since I doubt anyone of the afoe crew will be anywhere close to a computer when it will happen later tonight, this little announcement about the latest and probably last EU-enlargement in a while will have to do for the time being.

At midnight, Bulgaria and Romania will become members of the European Union, increasing the Union membership to 27 countries and 491million people – despite numerous remaining doubts about the countries’ ability to cope with the administrational demands of the EU and the imposition of special obligations and limitations, especially regarding the free movement of labour. Thus, as with the big Eastern enlargement in 2004, some commentators have called this enlargement-round a “second class” enlargement.

Still, that the countries’ accession has caused almost no public debate is probaly a consequence of the limited economic impact the two countries can possibly have, despite low labour costs. In 2004, Bulgaria’s and Romania’s GDP was a mere 0.2 resp. 0.6% of the joint EU-27 GDP.

Then again, on New Year’s Eve, all glasses are half-full and figures like the ones just mentioned only indicate a significant growth potential. Happy New Year!

A Fistful of Evro?

I see from EurActiv that the Bulgarians are runing into some linguistic trouble over the single currency:

The country has expressed concern over the differences between Bulgaria’s Cyrillic and the EU’s Latin alphabets, in response to renewed European Central Bank (ECB) demands that ‘euro’ be spelled and pronounced with a ‘u’ and not a ‘v’ as Bulgarians wish (‘evro’).

(Strictly speaking of course the argument is whether or not the Bulgarians should be allowed to continue calling it the “евро”, not the “evro”, as nobody plans to use the Latin alphabet for the word.)

Nobody seems to have noticed that in Greek the word ευρώ is also pronounced “evro”. Those who are more familiar with ancient rather than modern Greek (which is probably the majority of those outside Greece who have bothered to think about this issue) will have assumed that the word is pronounced with only one consonant rather than two.

Anyway, it’s not as if other languages are uniform. If that Latvians can say “eiro” and the Maltese “ewro”, the Bulgarians should be allowed their spelling, and not be made to go down the road of the Slovenes, who are forced to use “euro” officially but continue to use “evro” unofficially.

Wikipedia has a page about this. (Of course.)

Elections: Bulgaria

Bulgaria has a Presidential election this weekend. There’s no question who’s going to win, but there’s still some nail-biting suspense.

Why? Well, the current President is former Socialist Georgi Parvanov. (“Former” Socialist because the Bulgarian President must not be affiliated with any political party.) He seems to be a decent enough fellow. The Bulgarian Presidency doesn’t have a lot of power, but Parvanov looks good, says all the right things, and has generally acted Presidential. Earlier this year, he acknowledged that he’d “cooperated” with the State Security Service back in the days of Communism; perhaps because he was quick to admit it, nobody seems to hold it much against him.

Parvanov is reasonably popular. He’s not considered brilliant, but he’s energetic, peripatetic, and constantly in the public eye. (There’s a joke that if you want to see him, build a doghouse, and he’ll show up to cut the ribbon.) So, he will almost certainly win the election this Tuesday.

But. Under Bulgaria’s election law, Presidential elections go to a second round if (1) nobody wins 50% of the votes cast, or (2) 50% of eligible voters don’t turn out. Parvanov will probably get well past 50%, but low turnout seems likely — in the last national election, only 42% of the voters showed up. So there will probably be a second round.

This raises the interesting question of who’ll come in second.
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Bulgaria Says “Thanks, But No Thanks”

Over at TYR, I argued that the explanation of the Ukraine-Russia gas dispute was an effort by the Russian side to break up the European gas customers as a negotiating block by exploiting the conflict between the transit states (like the Ukraine) and the customers (like Germany). This gave rise to further discussion down-blog right here on AFOE, in the comments to this post of Tobias’s, where this was said…

I think he was trying to play off the customer states against the pipeline states, in order not to deal with a European monopsony. Unfortunately, the pipeliners and customers were rather induced to hang together rather than swing separately, and he backed down in order to prevent the point of payment being moved to the Russian-Ukrainian border, which would have effectively put the Ukraine in the EU for gas purposes.
Posted by Alex at January 5, 2006 10:50 AM

“I think he was trying to play off the customer states against the pipeline states”

Interesting theory, but how do Moldova and Armenia fit into this. The former was cut off and the latter has been badly threatened?
Posted by Edward at January 5, 2006 11:02 AM

Armenia – rather different case. The pipeline/customer thing doesn’t apply (AFAIK), but as Armenia is a small customer relative to Russian gas production, the relationship is very different. No need for anything complicated, just a shakedown for more cash.

Moldova – interesting question. It’s not on the way to anywhere is it?
Posted by Alex at January 5, 2006 03:32 PM

“It’s not on the way to anywhere is it?”

Not that I know of. It just seems to have been……forgotten.
Posted by Edward at January 5, 2006 03:43 PM

It seems Moldova is sitting on the pipeline to Romania and Bulgaria.
Posted by Oliver at January 5, 2006 03:53 PM

That’s it, then: a power grab for control of (or at least cheaper rates on) two export lines, by trying to play off the customers against the pipelines. Armenia was pure opportunism.
Posted by Alex at January 5, 2006 04:43 PM

“It seems Moldova is sitting on the pipeline”

“That’s it, then: a power grab”

Fascinating! This certainly gives plausibility to the idea that they were going for control of the landline installation. The issue now is how will the customers respond.
Posted by Edward at January 5, 2006 09:28 PM

Now, though, we may be about to find out. Bulgaria has been faced with a demand from Gazprom very similar to the one to the Ukrainians, and it seems they’ve given them the brushoff in much the same way. A very similar logic applies, as Bulgaria is both a transit provider (it’s odd how this Internetworking terminology creeps into what is after all a discussion of networks) and a fair-sized gas customer. The Russians seem to have been of a mind to use the latter fact to force changes on the former, and the Bulgarians have adopted an identical strategy.

Which would predict a settlement in double quick time, if we’re right.

Austria Would Prefer Not To

Earlier this year, Eurobarometer started asking members what they thought about future EU expansion. The results (which can be found here, as a pdf) were pretty interesting.

52% of Europeans support membership for Croatia, while only 34% oppose it. (War criminals? What war criminals?) And 50% support membership for Bulgaria. But only 45% support Romania coming in. Which is a bit embarrassing, given that the EU has already firmly committed to Romanian membership, even if it might be delayed for a year.

Still, the Romanians can take comfort; they’re well ahead of Serbia (40%), Albania (36%) and Turkey (dead last, with 35% of Europeans supporting Turkish membership and 52% against).

Where this gets interesting — in a Eurovision-y sort of way — is when you start to break it down by country.
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