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Saturday, 19 February 2011 12:07

Live from Budapest

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Matt, Sixth Sense Editor, is reporting live at the Open Forum weekend in Budapest, organised by Citizens of Europe.

The sign that greeted me as I arrived at Budapest Ferihegy airport proclaimed 'Budapest welcomes the EU presidency.'

I thought that was an odd way to greet an E&M reporter, especially a sign that covered the whole side of a large 11 storey building! (And I hadn't realised they knew I was coming...) But the circle of stars on a deep blue background was a welcome sight of familiarity. Perhaps I should have read the end of Ziemowit's first blog more carefully; I had left the UK without learning any Hungarian... 

2011 is the European year of volunteering and this weekend Citizens of Europe are hosting an Open Forum in the European Youth Centre of Budapest. The weekend will be spent exploring questions of what is good/bad volunteering? How do we get people to motivate themselves and others? And why do people volunteer anyway? My role is to participate, to report and to prepare for the large conference in May, where E&M will be the official media partner for the five day event in Landau, Germany.

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Photo: Matt Shearman
View from the Europe centre.

After arriving late in the evening, I was quickly taken into the heart of Budapest on 1970s metro trains (pictures coming...) to experience the local beer, Dreher. Walking into a chic bar, far from my expectations of an edgy cool city, we were advised that we'd 'feel more comfortable downstairs'. The middle aged men in suits turned round and we knew the waiter was probably right. 

0.5L of beer, less than 3 euros, helped the conversation flow and my Dutch, French and other colleagues quickly moved onto jobs, interests, passions and Europe. It turned out we'd all lived in Berlin at one point or another. And sitting back, its nice to know that even in a new city, the furthest East I've ever travelled, everything feels vaguely similar.

I think my European horizon has just moved eastwards... 

Saturday, 19 February 2011 10:18

The Summit Kicks Off!

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We have already been greeted in the Chancellor’s Suite with a glass of wine (or two) when we’re welcomed into the first talk of the Warwick Economics Summit (WES).I’ve just been promised a weekend extravaganza by the Summit coordinator, andconsequently I’ve decided that I will indeed sit back and relax. (I’m a bit scared that I’ll be a little too relaxed here at the back, after all it is Friday night and we have been given free alcohol. )

But I actually cannot sleep through this, despite the dimmed lights here at the back ofthe Ramphal lecture theatre. Somehow the WES has found a set of people capable of making economics - even on a Friday evening - interesting. After one hour I have heard about the links between dating and alcohol, and which isbetter: commuting or sex? Tim Harford, or “The Undercover Economist”, promises to illuminate “boobs and booze” – again, after all it is Friday night. Tim has got my full attention.

The Economist’s prominent Editor Daniel Franklin tells us that five dustmen proved to be more right about the development of the world than a set of economists at, that’s right, The Economist. Hmm.

So far the WES is a lot of fun – the proof? At my perfectly placed position at the back of this dimly lit, hot-aired lecture theatre I have so far not seen a single person sink down in their seat and close their eyes (as is, let’s be fair, not unusual at these kind ofevents).

And as this day’s sessions of lectures ends, I already can’t wait to see tomorrow’s speakers. Until then, I would like to leave you with the wise words of Tim Harford: "No matter what you're doing - commuting or having sex.. It's always better with someone else."

Ingvild Skarpeid is reporting live for E&M at this year's Warwick Economics Summit, UK.

Main photo:Andy Chayton, RBS courtesy of Alexander Hogström

Saturday, 19 February 2011 05:33

Live from Warwick Economics Summit

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Can economics explain why I don't have a girlfriend?

The Warwick Economics Summit is one of the largest student-run events in Europe, and takes place at University of Warwick from the 18th to the 20th of February 2011. Participants from over 50 different universities are represented this year, from as far away as Rio de Janeiro and Massachusetts. There is fierce competition between students every year to secure a ticket for the Summit, and this year the tickets reserved for the Warwick students were sold out in only four days!

So - why would anyone sane in their early twenties voluntarily spend valuable time and money to go on a weekend away to discuss - economics? Are the participants at the WES simply a bit crazy about their subject – or even a bit mad in general - or could it be that economics can be fun? In fact, these young students from all over Europe seem to take part in a new, transnational trend: students are crossing borders to share knowledge and experiences as a part of their studies.

400 students representing a wide array of different nationalities will be gathering at Warwick for the Summit, and they will attend a number of talks, seminars, a panel debate and networking sessions with top academics and experts in economics and politics. Equally important, they will socialise and make new friends and contacts from all across Europe and the world.

E&M will be present at this year's Summit as it celebrates its 10th anniversary. We will try to tell you why economics can help you find out why you're single, how (not) to single-handedly ruin a bank and find the links between crime and economics. We will be giving you the hottest, newest insights in economics, the best speakers and the stories of lifelong friendships built during this cold, but vibrant weekend in Warwick.

Ingvild Skarpeid will be reporting live for Europe & Me at this year's Summit.

Friday, 18 February 2011 07:40

The Key to Belarus

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"The European Union holds the keys that could free the Belarusian demonstrators from prison." These were the words that ended Eva Nyaklyaeva's speech in the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee debate on the latest Belarusian election on January 12th.

Eva Neklyaeva, currently living in Finland, is a daughter of the jailed presidential candidate Vladimir Neklyaev, who was lucky to be alive after being severally beaten by Specnaz troops. Vladimir Neklyaev is one of about 700 Belarusians who have been imprisoned because of "destruction and barbarism" as President Lukashenko said after a mass demonstration of about 40 thousand participants which took place in Minsk after the announcement of the election results. According to Lukashenko, he "authoritatively" had to "end the destabilising wars in the country". That was not just an empty promise. All across Belarus activists, journalists are visited and harassed by the KGB. To sum up, the situation of people who are not placing themselves in the fictional 80% majority who agreed for the 4th term of Lukashenko, is not to be envied. 

It was not only the Belarusian democratic opposition who lost the last election. The EU strategy towards the last European dictator also failed. Throughout the whole of Lukashenko's reign since 1994, the EU has tried different methods to deal or cooperate with Minsk. There were better (1999-2000, 2008-10) and worse (1997-99, 2002-04, 2005-08) periods but in general Lukashenko has been playing with the eurocrats as well as with the divided Belarusian opposition.  

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