As I got to do updates on some Wikipedia articles for work, I got excited and I proudly announce I am the starter of the Wikipedia articles on the Portuguese Institute for Development Support and AICEP Business Development Agency. Now, you know the rules…

These are two YouTube classics: Zeitgeist Addendum [1h59] and HOME [1h33]. Go on, it doesn’t hurt to watch.

Cashew nuts are the solution, because currently it represents in its cheapest form more than 90% of the country’s exports and because economic development leads to poverty reduction. Watch on YouTube: Cashew harvest reaps small bounty for Guinea-Bissau

Drug trafficking is the problem, because it makes political stability harder to achieve thus keeping most foreign investment away. Watch on YouTube: Tiny Guinea-Bissau a big player in drug trade

The current best solution to poverty reduction in Guinea-Bissau / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The puts it simply:  

“…in some ways, Brazil outclasses the other BRICs. Unlike China, it is a democracy. Unlike India, it has no insurgents, no ethnic and religious conflicts nor hostile neighbours. Unlike Russia, it exports more than oil and arms, and treats foreign investors with respect. Under the presidency of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a former trade-union leader born in poverty, its government has moved to reduce the searing inequalities that have long disfigured it. Indeed, when it comes to smart social policy and boosting consumption at home, the developing world has much more to learn from Brazil than from China. In short, Brazil suddenly seems to have made an entrance onto the world stage.”

I started this blog nearly a year ago by commenting on the rather disappointing website (now changed) of Portugal’s main agency for the promotion of the internationalization of the Portuguese economy – AICEP, and on general aspects related to institutions and good governance (read). Still on Portugal, I dedicated a post to the efforts the country is making to take a leading role in the renewable energies industry (read). A report analysing possible areas of cooperation between Portugal and each one of the Portuguese-speaking African countries was here published too (readin Portuguese). 

Turkey’s troubled EU accession was here discussed in two different moments, from a pessimist (read) and from an optimist (read) perspective.

A day listening to Brazilian music led me to write about Brazil’s path to development as seen by the country’s samba-rap musicians, relative to the academic researchers (read).

The book ‘Cod: the fish that changed the world’, offered to me as a present, proved to be not only enjoyable but also an insightful journey through the history of a fish that actually changed the world. It resulted in a post because the book shows one face of the disruptive impact of raising consumption on the sustainability of the planet (read). 

In another post I comment on the impressive numbers behind bottled water consumption as well as a clever idea on how to fix that problem (read); the the decision of Shell to stop investing in wind energy was also commented but from a CSR perspective (read).

Overall, and unfortunately, not so many visitors passed by, and not that many comments were generated. Such is understandable given the irregular character of the blog. All that will change soon, as the focus will be readjusted. 

I hope to see you around.

Abstract: The opposition to Turkey’s EU membership is often based on the country’s vast population, their wrongly publicized religion, their unconsolidated economy, their uncertain politics, their critical geographical location and their stereotyped culture. I argue that those, with few exceptions, must be seen as dynamic, thus prone to inevitable change. Given that today’s Europe is a pool of variety and ideas that represent our major competitive advantage in the world, the future, in a context of increasing globalization, will require even more of Europe’s efforts. Turkey might prove to be the essential ingredient to Europe’s sustainability.

In varietate concordia is the Latin for “United in diversity”, and it was adopted as the European Union motto in the year 2000



View over Istanbul

Concentrating on the risks Europe has at hand regarding Turkey’s EU membership keeps us from looking ahead, to the future of EU and of Turkey itself. Broadly and irrefutably speaking, things change. And as is often the rule, change means improving. Since the coal and steel era things have been getting better in Europe and the community is now a prosperous region “united in diversity”. Turkey has also changed impressively. If one looks back to the 1920’s Ottoman Empire and compares it to the modern Turkey, the change is unbelievable. I believe there are no reasons to assume that things will stop changing and improving. So I ask, what is preventing EU of courageously assuming and committing to its role on Turkey’s change? The answer is often based on the following: Turkey’s vast population, their wrongly publicized religion, their unconsolidated economy, their uncertain politics, their critical geographical location and their stereotyped culture. I argue that those, with few exceptions, must be seen as dynamic, thus prone to inevitable change.

Turkey is a large country of approx. 70 million people. Population growth estimates clearly point out that Turkey will be the most populated country of the EU. That is hardly changeable, but solely, poses no major threat. The commonly perceived risk comes out of a combination of that vast population with the current EU rules that take population size into account for the voting process, but those rules are not perpetual. The vast Turkish immigrant communities have contributed to Europe’s growth and today are an example of good integration. If the future of Europe passes by a Constitution, that should guarantee in a comprehensive manner the protection of the interests of all the European citizens.

Turkey’s major religion is Islam. But generally religion is a vague concept and Islam has been especially prone to erroneous interpretations that distort its meaning and, with the help of sensationalist media, severely harm its image abroad. In addition, being religious or being identified as “Muslim” doesn’t mean the same to every individual, which obviously also applies to Christianity and other beliefs. It is important to be aware and keep in mind the differences among Islamic countries, and doing so, one must position Turkey by the tolerant edge. Moreover there are differences within each country and that is especially obvious in Turkey: between different regions, but most importantly between different generations. The educated Turkish youth is well informed and tolerant and that is the trend underlying Turkey’s future on the topic of religion.

Turkey’s economy has deficiencies but those have been changing and improving. Turkey has reached sound macroeconomic stability and is part of so called emerging markets. Although the modern infrastructure of the western part of the country is hardly comparable to the impoverished east, EU should look beyond the cost of setting the grounds for Turkey’s development and focus on the shared benefits of an enlarged integrated market.

The political panorama in Turkey is unstable and multipartite but, as in the European Union, demonstrably dedicated to the well-being of their citizens. Turkey is gloomed by many unresolved issues of great significance. For instance, the Kurdish minority still claims the recognition of an own cultural identity, the Alevi communities insist on the religious minority status while Cyprus remains divided. These and the incidents related to the power struggles between the Islamic and secular blocs keep hindering developments in the EU accession negotiations. The military, extended politically through the nationalist CHP party, has demonstrated to be a threat to the quality of Turkey’s democracy. Nevertheless, Turkey is a recognized democracy and as long as Turkish people want it to be, and they demonstrably do, then the future is optimistic.

Turkey’s complicated location, bordering countries such as Syria, Iraq or Iran, is often seen as a drawback of Turkey’s membership to the EU due to the great importance that security preservation has to its citizens. In fact, if we think beyond the cost of setting an appropriate border control, extending the boundaries of EU that far represents an opportunity to increase the long term safety of the European citizens by means of increased control and monitoring. Furthermore, Turkey’s location is an important asset to secure Europe’s energy future, making the connection to the sources of the Caspian Sea.

Finally, there is still to mention the Turkish culture. It can be seen as one of the most rewarding aspects of Turkey’s membership to the European Union. Today’s Turkey inherited much of its vast history of multiculturality and diversity, visible throughout the country and in its people. Many examples can be given: a visit to Istanbul’s Dolmabahçe palace is a tour around Europe in excellence handcraft and the palace’s architecture has elements of Baroque, Rococo and Neoclassic traditions, blended with Ottoman art; The Turkish Constitution is based on that of France, Germany and Italy; The Turkish language, spoken by more than 70 million people, traces back to Central Asia, and is today spoken in small scale throughout the Balkan and Eastern Europe, a result of the western expansion of the Ottoman Empire, and among substantial immigrant communities; The Ottoman gastronomy is worldwide famous and greatly admired. The popular döner kebab is part of Europe’s popular food culture, having gained a singular place in Germany’s national menu; and Turkish music is very much appreciated all over Europe, from Pop to the Classical.

For anyone who takes the chance, Turkey might represent one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of intercultural exchange within Europe, and certainly contribute to widening the horizons of the European citizens. Today’s Europe is a pool of variety and ideas which represent our major competitive advantage in the world. The future, in a context of increasing globalization, will require even more of Europe’s efforts and Turkey might prove to be the essential ingredient to Europe’s sustainability.

Este estudo procura analisar a actual importância e a dinâmica das relações entre Portugal e cada um dos cinco PALOP. Dada a limitação do presente relatório a um máximo de dez páginas, a forma escolhida para ir de encontro ao objectivo do estudo foi identificar e explorar uma questão pertinente para cada um dos PALOP nas relações com Portugal.

Angola: Qual o potencial da cooperação entre Portugal e Angola no sector das energias renováveis?
Moçambique: Quais as implicações da adesão de Moçambique à Commonwealth para a Comunidade dos Países de Língua Portuguesa e para as relações com Portugal em geral?
Guiné-Bissau: Qual o potencial da indústria de caju e que papel pode Portugal ou a UE assumir na sua implementação e desenvolvimento?
Cabo Verde: Quais os efeitos do estreitamento de relações entre Cabo Verde e a UE, e qual o impacto nas as relações bilaterais com Portugal?
São Tomé e Príncipe: Qual a relevância, eficácia, eficiência, impacto e sustentabilidade da Ajuda Pública ao Desenvolvimento (APD ou cooperação) de Portugal a São Tomé e Príncipe?

Relatório completo: Relatório de Estudo: Portugal e os PALOP

Apparently, Shell announced it will stop investing in wind energy. The reason is simple: it is not profitable enough. That may be true on narrow terms, on the accountant’s fact sheet, but I ask: have they talked lately with their marketing people or with the one’s struggling to give the oil giant a greenish look? If a firm discredits the good intentions behind CSR, at least it should give some credit to its Business Case [the Business Case of CSR]. Given the increasing global awareness about climate change,  I wonder if Shell calculated the cost of managing a socially irresponsible firm on the long term.

Read the rest of this entry »

“The European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI) announces the 2009 prize for excellence in development research. The prize, worth €1 000, will be awarded for an essay on an issue of development studies in any field of the social sciences submitted and written by a postgraduate student from an EADI member country or attending a programme at an institutional member of the Association.”

Read more in the official website or check out others in the Linking up section of this blog.

Atatürk banner, Ankara

There are two reasons why following news on Turkey’s EU accession is quite an easy task.
First, it is a slow process. Turkey wrote an unsatisfactory application to the EU in 1987 which according to Wikipedia was immediately turned down on the basis of its poor economical and political situation, bad relations with Greece and their conflict with Cyprus (or so to say Greek Cypriots). The request was accepted seventeen years later, so at the end of 2004 the negotiations started. As we enter 2009 Turkey has surely more money (a larger burden of IMF loans too), but in the political arena coups are still fashionable (e.g check out on Ergenekon), the relations with Greece are not the greatest and the problem with Cyprus remains. But that’s just part of the story.

Second, it’s very much about a few standard statements from the country’s political power. One of the latest from the PM Erdoğan was that accession to the European Union was a top priority and that he hoped his country would move closer to that goal in 2009.

I would be glad to read that their top priorities were to solve the damned Kurdish issue, to make Islamists and Secularists have çay together, to end the denial of 10 million Turkish Alevis and to make history on the last divided capital: Nicosia/Lefkoşa, Cyprus. It seems to me that Erdogan’s recurrently publicized hope (EU) would then be a matter of writing a proper application and wait Brussels to type it in the computer.

But why isn’t this process following this sequence?, i.e. first tackle the old ghosts and then get the EU membership? Maybe because these problems – the Kurdish issue, the Islamist/Secularist divide, the Alevis and the Cyprus dispute – are far greater and historically heavier than anything related to the European Union. Solving them would mean a different identity and would imply a great deal of loss or defeat for the Turks.

Is the membership to a complicated bloc that isn’t sure of wanting Turkey around more important than Turkey’s territorial integrity or even, than Turkey’s identity as carved by Mustafa Kemal a.k.a Atatürk? Maybe yes, maybe not. There’s a complicated trade off between identity and EU membership that, in my opinion, is what Turkish politicians are trying to reach, slowly, at the cost of their future generations.

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