Monday, July 28, 2008
Voilà! Two weeks go fast, and it's time to leave Portugal and say goodbye to Francisco... Soon I will hit the road again: Lisbon first, then Carpentras, and finally Croatia, for some more days by the seaside with great friends around! Life is beautiful!
Thursday, July 24, 2008
After a long journey linking Brussels and Lisbon, with intermediate stops in Paris and Burgos, I kept heading South and went to the Algarve, where I spent a wonderful week at the seaside with Francisco. Since Tuesday evening I have been relaxing at my parents', in Guimarães, and it has been equally awesome. So, don't expect much from this blog in the next few days. And feel happy for me :)
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Today, at very early hours, this world has welcomed Neringa and Renaldas' son. 3.2kg and 50cm of happiness! The Vaisbrodas' family is happy, and I am happy for them! Long live the prince, and may he always be happy!
Success before holidays!
What a week! On Sunday, as planned, the afternoon was spent in Tervuren, celebrating Renaldas' birthday with nice friends, some food and drinks, and lots of sports! Tervuren's park is a really nice place, and it is a pity that the weather in this region of the world doesn't really allow to enjoy the grass by the ponds more often... On that same day I went to watch « In Bruges » at the movies, and liked it a lot. It was a good reconciliation with cinema, after the very disappointing experience with « The Happening »... Contrary to the latest Night Shyamalan's movie, « In Bruges » is a pleasant surprise, with great actors who deliver a great performance, on the basis of a simple, yet beautiful, clever, funny and sensitive story. The following day, as I have announced already on Saturday, I went back to Strasbourg to hunt signatures for the written declaration on devoting more attention to youth empowerment in EU policies. This time I went with a bigger team of very skilled hunters and the outcome was a huge success: not only we manage to get the 117 signatures that we were still lacking, but we did it even ahead of schedule! It was an unique moment of joy, and a quite rare one too. Achieving a goal is always pleasant, but it is even more so when you do it as a team and therefore can share and multiply the pleasure by and among the team members. Alix, especially, did a great job and deserves indeed all our respect and admiration! And so does Dagmar, not only for the signatures, but also for all the logistical preparations for the expeditions. And Ernest, Mark and Marketa who completed the team and contributed not only with signatures, but also with their good mood, which was an important source of inspiration! But this is not a 6-people success; this is the success of many young people and many youth organisations working together, and shows that when we believe, we plan and work hard and together, we can! Yes we can! Personally, this was the perfect way to conclude my last week at work before going on holidays. I am sure that I would leave for holidays in a slightly worse mood, if we wouldn't have done it; but we did it and, therefore, tomorrow I will leave Brussels behind and will head South, to this place that I still call home, where the sun shines, the temperatures are high, and the beach invites to relax and enjoy. And that's exactly what I plan to do for the next two weeks. With Francisco!
Sunday, July 06, 2008
The World according to China
There has been much discussion recently about how to 'manage the rise of China'. It gives us a sense of control and mastery, and of paternalistic superiority. With proper piloting and steady nerves on our part, the massive Chinese ship can be brought safely into harbor and put at anchor... But isn't it possible that China does not want to be integrated into a political and security system that it had no part in shaping? Might not China, like all rising powers of the past, including the United States, want to reshape the international system to suit its own purposes, commensurate with its new power?
Thursday started with a meeting with European Commission's Vice President Wallström and a pleasant exchange of views on how to increase the voters' turnout at the upcoming European elections, especially among young people, and the participation of young women in European politics; it continued with another meeting with representatives from EU countries' National Youth Councils, to discuss our vision on the future of youth policy in the EU and the next steps of structured dialogue between young people and the EU institutions; and finished with the annual Open Doors' reception at the YFJ offices, which was attended by many, many guests from YFJ Member Organisations, European institutions and other civil society partners, and therefore was a huge success. Friday was much less interesting, as it was spent at a weird meeting with the European Commission's Youth Unit in which, and despite of the fact that its main topic was "structured dialogue", dialogue was impossible due to the shortsighted vision and hard of hearing condition that affect many of these civil servants who seem to be convinced that both "citizens" and Member States' representatives are no less than totally unable to think for themselves and should therefore be grateful to be told what to think and do. It's difficult to remain a convinced European when you go through these experiences too often... anyway, as it happens to nightmares, the meeting eventually came to its end and I could then enjoy a nice evening out, celebrating Inês' birthday first and dancing through the night at Canoa Quebrada afterwards. The consequence was that yesterday was a slow, yet very nice day spent at home, and mostly in the sofa... Today, I will soon go out and enjoy the company of good friends and, hopefully, a bit of sunny weather too. Tomorrow will be time to go back to signatures' hunting in Strasbourg and, then, in one week, I will be finally gone for holidays! I am really looking forward for it!
Thursday, July 03, 2008
What Does China Think?
«The Rise of China is granted by nature. In the last 2,000 years China has enjoyed superpower status several times... Even as recently as 1820, just 20 years before the Opium War, China accounted for 30% of world GDP. This history of superpower status makes the Chinese people very proud of their country on the one hand, and on the other hand very sad about China's current international status. They believe China's decline to be a historical mistake which they should correct». Yan Xuentong, 'The Rise of China in Chinese Eyes'
Very few things that happen in our lifetime will be remembered after we are dead. But China's rise is different: like the rise and fall of Rome or the Soviet Empire, its after-effects will echo down the generations to come. So why is it that we know almost nothing about the thinkers in China who are shaping their country's future? What kind of country are they dreaming of? How do they see their influence in the world? We might know that half of the world's clothes and footwear have a 'Made in China' label and that our economies are inextricably linked with China's – but what do we know about China's experiments with democracy; about its anti-globalisation movement; about its plans to deal with America as its own influence grows across the globe?
If you find this exciting, as I and Renaldas do, then you should definitely read 'What Does China Think?', in which Mark Leonard provides a fascinating and unexpected perspective on the debates raging within China society today and shows us just how radically China's rise will change the nature of our world.
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Western democracy is like going to a restaurant and choosing whether you want a French, Italian or German chef who will decide on your behalf what is on the menu. With Chinese democracy we always have the same chef - the Communist Party - but we will increasingly get to choose which dishes he cooks.
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
Weekend in Cyprus
After three more days of work in Brussels, interrupted by the semi-finals of the UEFA Euro 2008, on Friday I went to Cyprus. As it happened last year with Luiza and Razvan, Marios and Xenia chose the end of June to get married, were kind enough to invite me for their wedding, and I was privileged to be able to share this important moment of their lives. As it also happened last year in Romania, I used the opportunity to see friends and enjoy the local touristic attractions; in Cyprus, it basically means sea, sun and great food! And so the three days went fast, in between the beach in Larnaca, the wedding in Nicosia, and yet more beach in Limassol. The wedding itself was great: beautiful orthodox ceremony in the church, great party at the Hilton, and lots of happiness irradiating from both the beautiful bride and the elegant groom; and for the rest of the time, a lot of very nice moments spent with Nadia, Natasha, Christoforos, Maria and many others. This was my fourth visit to Cyprus, and it confirmed how much at home I feel in there: the sea and the sun help, of course; but it is the people, the good friends I have there, that really makes it special. Ευχαριστώ!
The only real problem with Cyprus is that it is quite far away: the flights are expensive and take quite a long time. Because of the distance and the schedules of the flights, I had to travel the whole night, arrived in Brussels at 8.30m and went directly to work... I managed to survive without making any big mistakes (or so I think), but I feel terribly tired. The weather in Brussels was really great today (one of the most beautiful days I have experienced since I moved here more than three years ago) and I was thinking of going out for a coffee or so and enjoy the nice evening out... but I fell asleep in the sofa instead, and now it is a bit too late for going out. I am sure that as soon as the lousy weather returns, the gray clouds conquer the sky and the rain beats the sun, I will regret it truly... and I am afraid that it will be sooner than any of us would like it to. Anyway, holidays are now approaching fast. And there, then, I am sure the sun will shine!