European migration statistics: Britons move to Spain, Romanians not to the UK

Bildschirmfoto 2014-02-10 um 17.01.27Only a comparatively small number of Romanians lived in the UK in 2011 when the Office of National Statistics last conducted a nation-wide migration census.

Find the interactive graphic here.

According to data from ten national statistics offices, only 80,000 had emigrated to the United Kingdom, compared to more than two million Romanians living in other EU member states.

Lifting all work restrictions for Bulgarians and Romanians on 1 January 2014 has caused fears that citizens of these countries might move to the UK to claim benefits, with David Cameron calling for limits to the freedom of movement.

Britons themselves make widespread use of their right to live and work in EU countries: Spain’s Costa del Sol and the Balearics attract the biggest number of UK expatriates (400,000), followed by 150,000 living in France and 100,000 in Germany.

In the UK: Germans and French outnumbered by Poles

On the other hand, roughly the same number of German and French citizens leave their home countries to settle in the United Kingdom in company of more than 100,000 Italians and Portuguese.

However, those four nations’ emigrants combined are outnumbered by more than half a million Poles living in the UK.

The most recent ONS figures also show that in 2011, three years before the freedom of movement was extended, just below 50,000 Bulgarians and 80,000 Romanians were granted permission from the government to legally live in the UK.

A far greater number of citizens from these two countries moved to other European countries, with around one million Romanians choosing Italy and more than 800,000 emigrating to Spain.

Bulgarians’ most popular destinations were Spain, Germany and Greece – countries that had lifted restrictions on the freedom of movement, which has come under critic from David Cameron, earlier than the UK.

European Parliament and hacking – a long history

 

The European Parliament is in a continuous struggle to protect MEPs' data (CC Dan Barpus via Flickr)

The European Parliament is in a continuous struggle to protect MEPs’ data (CC Dan Barpus via Flickr)

The hacking of at least 40.000 European Parliament (EP) emails does not appear to be a singular event, but the latest in a series of worrying IT security breaches.

On Thursday, the French website Mediapart reported that an anonymous hacker had accessed confidential emails of MEPs and other staff of the European Parliament (EP).

The attacker described the hacking as “child’s play” saying he only used “ridiculous” computer equipment.

The Austrian MEP Martin Ehrenhauser received a list with metadata of 40.000 emails from different institutions, including the European Parliament and the German Bundestag. According to Ehrenhauser, a connection between the list and the cyber attack is very likely.

The hacking sparked a discussion about how vulnerable the European Parliament is to cyber attacks.

MEPs criticised that the EP was using out-of-date software and did not allow its staff to encrypt their communication.

Security concerns not taken seriously

It is not the first time the EU’s IT services face claims of not doing enough to protect confidential data and communication.

In April 2011, the Austrian MEP Hans-Peter Martin reported to Klaus Welle, the EP General Secretary, that his private emails were accessed from another office within the European parliament.

The European Parliament has not reacted to his report down to the present day, Martin says.

In another case, Heiko Frenzel, author of Sicherheit-Online (security online), wrote in October 2011 that he had contacted the European Commission (EC) to inform them about 40 security loopholes on EU servers.

“The first ten hints, which were sent over a period of time, were simply ignored, some of them deleted unread,” Frenzel said.

According to Frenzel, it took the European institution almost one year, until September 2012, to deal with the breaches.

European Parliament should improve its IT services

EU leaders are pushing forward new legislation to protect citizens’ data amid continuous revelations about the NSA’s spying activities in Europe.

If the EP wants to be taken as a serious negotiating party in cyber security issues, it should, first of all, aim at improving its own IT services and making it impossible for hackers to access confidential data with elementary computer equipment.

European Parliament hacked – attacker describes stealing 40.000 emails as “child’s play”

European Parliament in Strasbourg

Vulnerabilty of EP computers has been know for years, MEPs say (CC United Nations Photo)

A hacker has accessed 40.000 emails of MEPs and other staff of the European Parliament (EP), triggering a discussion about how vulnerable the parliament’s IT systems are to simple cyber attacks.

The hacker told the French website Mediapart yesterday that he succeeded in breaching the EP’s security using elementary computer equipment and “a few bits of knowledge that everyone is capable of finding on the Internet”.

He said his operation was aimed at raising awareness of how vulnerable the EP’s computer systems are to simple cyber attacks.

Today Austrian MEP Martin Ehrenhauser received a USB key with metadata of 40.000 emails, including the subject line, date, sender, recipient and the file name of attachments, Spiegel Online reports.

According to the report, the list does not only contain emails from staff of the European Parliament, but also the European Commission, the German Bundestag, parties and lobby groups.

Although a connection between the file and the cyber attack has yet to be established, Ehrenhauser considers it very likely that the two events relate to one another.

Out-of-date software made communication vulnerable

The breach of the EP’s protection measures, which the hacker described as a “child’s play”, has started a discussion about the parliament’s IT security.

Dutch MEP Sophia in’t Veld said that problems with the EP’s computer systems had been known for years.

Marjory Van den Broeke, the head of the EP press unit, said the IT services were investigating how the attack could happen: “It’s a technical issue, depending on the outcome of the investigation, we’ll see if and what measures should be taken.

According to Spiegel Online, the IT systems in the European Parliament are using old software, with some of the computers running the 12-year old Windows XP.

Jan Phillip Albrecht, MEP and data protection expert, said the EP was using software without knowing if back doors were built in. “We have been campaigning to use open source software for ten years”, he said.

The EP’s IT services forbid MEPs to encrypt their emails, Spiegel Online reports.

While investigating NSA spying activities, the hacking attack shows how vulnerable the EP is not only to big intelligence services, but also to a single hacker sitting outside the parliament building in Strasbourg.

Why Malala Yousafzai deserves the Sakharov human rights prize

Malala survived a Taliban assault

Malala Yousafzai during her speech (CC European Parliament)

Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl who was shot by the Taliban, is worthy of the Sakharov Prize for human rights she was awarded with today.

She did not only keep on fighting for equal education, but human rights in general with her criticism of US drone strikes.

Malala’s life took a dramatic turn when a Taliban gunman stormed on her school bus in Pakistan’s Swat Valley and shot her in the head in October 2012.

The then 15-year old girl survived the assault, but had to spend several months in hospitals after being transferred to Britain where she now lives with her family.

Malala had campaigned for equal education for Pakistani girls by, for instance, writing a blog about her situation for the BBC.

Today she was awarded with the prestigious Sakharov Prize in a ceremony at the European Parliament (EP) in Strasbourg.

“At only 16 years old, she is today the voice of millions of children and teens deprived from education”, said EP president Martin Schulz (full video of his speech).

Schulz said that since the assault one year ago Malala had become “a global icon” in her role as a campaigner and ambassador for equal education.

“I am hopeful the European Parliament will look beyond Europe to the suffering countries where people are still deprived of their basic rights, their freedom of thought is suppressed, freedom of speech is enchained,” Malala said at the Sakharov ceremony.

Malala’s full speech:

In my opinion she deserves the Sakharov Prize because she does not only fight for equal education, but human rights in general.

Although she told the BBC that she was enjoying her education in the UK, she did not shy away from criticising the Western powers because of their role in Pakistan: Most notably, she attacked US drone attacks on Pakistani soil in her book “I am Malala: The Girl who Stood up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban”.

Since 1988, the Sakharov Prize is awarded each year to “exceptional individuals who combat intolerance, fanaticism and oppression“ by the European Parliament. It is named after Russian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Andrei Sakharov.

Former winners of the Sakharov Prize include Aung San Suu Kyi and Nelson Mandela.

EU trademark sparks gamers’ hopes for Fallout 4

Fallout 3 on a screen

Is Bethesda working on Fallout 4? (CC Adam Fagen via Flickr)

The EU’s Office for the Harmonization of the Internal Market (OHIM) does usually not attract much public attention, but a trademark filed last week caused gamers worldwide to speculate about a potential continuation of Bethesda Softworks’ Fallout series.

The rumours started after the gaming website The Vault spotted two trademark applications for the name “Fallout 4”.

The gaming community admitted that Bethesda could have simply filed the trademarks to protect their intellectual property, but said that the video game developer followed a similar procedure before releasing first clues about a previous part of the series.

The Spain-based OHIM is the European Union’s central registry for trademarks and designs for the EU’s internal market. According to OHIM, the organisation has registered more than one million trademarks since its creation in 1996, but mostly legal and business publications report on it.

Fallout is a series of video games set in a post-apocalyptic and retrofuturistic world, which many magazines rated among the best role-playing games.

Lost in translation – the EU’s 24 official languages

The Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1563)

Can a sole EU official language end the translation chaos?

The EU’s 24 official languages make the legislation and administration in Brussels costly and slow, critics say. English or Esperanto as sole working language could be alternatives, but are feared to handicap non-native speakers.

This is a translation of my contribution for the 2013 Day of Multilingual blogging (see German version of this article).

The European Union’s language services translate EU regulations in all 24 official and working languages. MEPs can present their speeches in the European Parliament in any of these languages with simultaneous translation. Furthermore, citizens from all member states can contact EU institutions and receive an answer in these languages.

The huge amount of time and costs for translation has often been criticised as unproductive and unnecessary. Shada Islam from the think-tank Friends of Europe told PRI: “We’re spending too much time and energy on this language issue.”

There are several alternative suggestions:

  • English as sole official language: This proposal seems to be a practical idea, but critics say that English-speaking nations would be favoured.
  • Several official languages: While this solution is widely considered fairer than English as sole official language, criticism from some EU member states would have to be expected. Moreover, the expenditure for administration and translation would be higher than with a single official language.
  • Esperanto as sole official language: The political movement Europe Democracy Esperanto campaigns for introducing the constructed international language Esperanto as sole EU working language. There are only few Esperanto speakers, with optimistic estimations speaking of two million people worldwide.

The key point of discussion is whether a single official language would infringe the EU motto “united in diversity”, which was created to ensure that the diversity of EU member states is thoroughly represented in the European Union.

Would the introduction of English as “lingua franca” end Europe’s cultural diversity? I am inclined to agree with Shada Islam:

„The world is moving fast, the world is moving ahead and we need to be looking at other ways of fostering diversity and inclusiveness. You do really need to have a common understanding and I think that’s where English came in as the natural language that everyone spoke.”

The EU’s 24 official and working languages are: Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish and Swedish.

Lost in translation – die EU und ihre 24 Amtssprachen

The Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1563)

Kann eine alleinige EU-Amtssprache das Übersetzungschaos beenden?

Die 24 offiziellen Sprachen der Europäischen Union machen die Gesetzgebung und Verwaltung in Brüssel kostspielig. Englisch oder Esperanto als “lingua franca” der EU könnten eine Alternative sein, benachteiligen aber Menschen, die diese Sprachen nicht sprechen.

As you have already noticed, I have written this post in German. I am taking part in today’s 2013 Day of Multilingual Blogging, but will make an English version available for you tomorrow.

Die Sprachdienste der EU übersetzten alle EU-Regulierungen in die 24 offiziellen Amtssprachen. Sprecher im Europaparlament können in jeder der Sprachen mit simultaner Übersetzung Reden halten. Außerdem können Bürger aus Mitgliedsstaaten in jeder dieser Sprachen mit EU-Behörden in Kontakt treten.

Dieser enorme Übersetzungsapparat und die entsprechenden Kosten stehen immer wieder in der Kritik. Shada Islam vom Thinktank Friends of Europe kritisierte den Aufwand als kostspielig, unproduktiv und unnötig. Gegenüber PRI sagte sie: “We’re spending too much time and energy on this language issue.”

Es gibt zahlreiche Alternativvorschläge:

  • Englisch als alleinige Amtssprache: Dieser Vorschlag erscheint aus praktischer Sicht umsetzbar, Kritiker bemängeln jedoch, dass er die Kräfteverhältnisse zugunsten englischsprachiger Nationen verschieben würde.
  • Begrenzte Anzahl offizieller Sprachen: Auch bei diesem Vorschlag ist Kritik von Mitgliedsstaaten zu erwarten, die sich benachteiligt fühlen, obwohl er mit Sicherheit fairer ist als Englisch als alleinige „lingua franca“. Der Verwaltungs- und Übersetzungsaufwand wäre wiederum höher.
  • Esperanto als alleinige Amtssprache: Die politische Bewegung Europe Democracy Esperanto fordert die Einführung der erfundenen Plansprache Esperanto auf EU-Ebene. Die Bewegung argumentiert, dass damit kein Land benachteiligt würde. Allerdings sprechen nur wenige Menschen Esperanto: Optimistische Schätzungen belaufen sich auf zwei Millionen Menschen weltweit.

Der springende Punkt der Diskussion ist das EU-Motto „united in diversity“, das sicherstellen soll, dass die Verschiedenheit der einzelnen Mitgliedsstaaten in der EU repräsentiert ist.

Würde die Einführung von Englisch als „lingua franca“ zu Ende kultureller Diversität führen? Ich bin geneigt mit Shada Islam übereinzustimmen:

„The world is moving fast, the world is moving ahead and we need to be looking at other ways of fostering diversity and inclusiveness. You do really need to have a common understanding and I think that’s where English came in as the natural language that everyone spoke.”

In der EU gibt es 24 offizielle Arbeitssprachen: Bulgarisch, Kroatisch, Tschechisch, Dänisch, Niederländisch, Englisch, Estländisch, Finnisch, Französisch, Deutsch, Griechisch, Irisch, Italienisch, Lettisch, Litauisch, Maltesisch, Polnisch, Portugiesisch, Rumänisch, Slowakisch, Slowenisch, Spanisch, Schwedisch und Ungarisch.

Possibility of EU referendums arises in German coalition talks

Referendums reduce policies to "Yes or No" (CC Nils via Flickr)

Referendums reduce policies to “Yes or No”
(CC Nils via Flickr)

Negotiators in the German coalition talks have suggested to give German citizens the possibility to vote on major EU issues in referendums, a move aimed at restoring trust in the EU’s democratic legitimacy.

According to media reports, referendums could be hold when new countries join the EU, when Germany bails out other member states or powers are transferred from Berlin to the European Union.

Similar referendums exist in other EU member states, with Britons voting on transferring powers to the European authorities.

In contrast, Nicolas Sarkozy abolished the necessity of French citizens voting on new countries joining the EU.

Members from both negotiating parties seem to support the suggestion: Conservative interior minister Hans-Peter Friedrich (CSU) and Thomas Oppermann from the Social Democrats (SPD) put forward a paper saying Germans “should be asked directly on European policy decisions of special importance”, the Financial Times reported.

But outside the coalition talks many members of chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU oppose referendums on EU issues. “The proposal won’t see the light of day. We would be reducing ourselves to the level of British policymakers”, MEP Elmar Brok from the CDU told Reuters.

Are EU referendums the way to go?

Many Europeans feel disconnected from the European institutions and complain about a lack of democracy.

Direct democracy would certainly give citizens of EU member states a say about key issues such as new countries joining the European Union or powers being transferred.

However, it cannot replace the mechanism of finding compromises in political institutions in my opinion. I doubt that complicated policies can often not be reduced to a simple “Yes or No” question, but referendums require such questions.

The perceived lack of democratic legitimacy has to be on the agenda of EU institutions, but referendums in single member states should not be the way to solve a European issue. Instead, the discussions should move towards making the existing EU authorities and mechanism more democratic.

European Greens open online primary for Commission President candidates

EP elections wil be held in May 2014 (CC European Parliament)

EP elections wil be held in May 2014 (CC European Parliament)

The European Green Party has started its online primary election of candidates for President of the European Commission ahead of next year’s EU parliament elections – a process that could be distorted by the nature of online audiences.

In the Green primary election European citizens over the age of 16 can vote for one or two of four proposed politicians, who are then going to run as candidates for the President of the European Commission’s office in next year’s European Parliament (EP) election.

The four candidates the Greens have put forward for the primary election are José Bové from France, Monica Frassoni from Italy, Rebecca Harms and Ska Keller both from Germany.

The Greens are the first European party to put forward such a process. According to the party, it is aimed at giving EU citizens a direct say:

„We believe running the Green Primary will help reduce the gap between political institutions and the citizens. Increasing direct citizen involvement can bring European politics closer to the people.“

The flaw of online audiences

However, the unrepresentative online audience could distort the primary’s results.

According to a study, almost 50 per cent of European Internet users are younger than 35 years, a group that accounts for a much smaller percentage of the European population.

Moreover, citizens in some member states use the Internet a lot less than those in others.

The Internet is a convenient platform to reach a big audience, but the European Green Party cannot expect to get a representative result from its primary online election.

In my opinion, the European Greens’ primary can be a model for the future and open a public pan-European debate, with both regional and demographic Internet gaps hopefully closing in the future.

Revolution of the electoral process

Next year’s EP election (22-25 May) is the first one since the Lisbon Treaty, which asked for a stronger integration of European citizens as political actors.

The European Commission (EC) has recommended that the European parties decide on top candidates for the EC President, the highest executive power in the EU.

The EC’s recommendation was based on a survey that suggested that 62% of Europeans think having party candidates for Commission President and a single voting day would help increase dropping turnouts (I wrote about this earlier).

The European people’s party, the biggest party in the current EP, has yet to name a candidate. The second biggest party, the Party of European Socialists, announced last week that Martin Schulz is going to run for them.

The European Green Party’s online primary election runs till 28 January 2014.

Europe’s young generation demands minimum wage for internships

Young Europeans propose measures to fight youth unemployment

Participants of Citizens’ Agora 2013 (© European Parliament)

Young citizens from across the European Union have put forward recommendations to tackle the record youth unemployment. Key proposals include control over a part of the youth unemployment budget, a minimum wage for internships and better recognition of volunteering.

Some 60 young people from different member states came together in Brussels for the Citizens’ Agora 2013, an event hosted by the European Parliament, and decided on several measures (PDF version) to battle youth unemployment.

Although I doubt that a meeting organised by EU authorities can really help Europe’s youth to find a common voice, some of the proposals are definitely interesting:

  • a minimum pay for internships
  • professional guidance and a mentor free of charge
  • mutual recognition of qualifications across all member states (including skills from volunteering)
  • a European-wide, free of charge, language learning system
  • a EU platform providing information about career and training opportunities
  • involve young people in the decision-making process and give them control over a small part of the Youth Employment Initiative budget

The heads of the member states will have to prove if they take the young generation’s proposals serious at the conference on youth unemployment in Paris on 12 November.

In any case, a meeting like this can only be a first step in a discussion about European youth unemployment. I consider it essential that young people are allowed to take part in these discussions because they should have a right to decide on their future. However, young people have yet to prove that they can play a constructive role in policy-making and not only demonstrate on the streets.

Youth unemployment in the European Union is now at a record-high of just above 23 per cent, according to Eurostat figures. In the crisis hit countries Greece and Spain over half of the under 25s are without a job, while only Germany and Austria have youth unemployment rates under 10 per cent.

Video about the Citizens’ Agora (by the European Parliament):

Here are some statements by young Europeans who took part in Citizens’ Agora:

Ricardo Rosas, 22, employed, from Spain: “I think that the EU should push member states to put in place concrete measures for young people who have just finished university and lack work experience.”

Jan Verlaak, 24, employed, from Belgium: “An entrepreneurial mind-set around Europe should be created and the mentalities changed: it’s not only about strict measures.”

Junior Sikabwe, 23 from Denmark, doing an unpaid traineeship: “I don’t think the EU can do something very concrete, but it could set a framework of how to fight youth unemployment. Problems are different in each country. There is no unique solution.”

Guillaume Vimont, a 31-year-old job seeker from France: “The EU must fight against tax evasion and fraud. It represents a lot of money today that could be used for other things.”

Tania Del Sarto, 27, employed from Italy: “The problem is that education is far from the demands of the labour market. We need to change that. Schools in Italy do not reflect real life and real jobs.”

Maria Djurhuus Petersen, 27, employed, from Denmark: “The internships are both a solution and a problem. The EU should try to push countries to provide more useful internships and transform them into real jobs.”

What should the European Union in your opinion do to fight youth unemployment?