Pushing back populism, Europe takes the lead

Pushing back populism, Europe takes the lead

by Ingemar Pongratz

A lot of things have occurred during the summer and it is still only July!

The first signs of change came in my opinion from Austria, where the far-right candidate for the presidency was defeated rather clearly by an independent candidate. The new Austrian President is Alexander van der Bellen, Independent.

Importantly, the vote was rather clear, close to 54% of the population vote for him and clearly defeated the FPÖ candidate. Of course, you can argue that 46% of the votes went to a xenophobic political movement, but at least he did not receive the popular vote.

The next blow against populism, xenophobia and far right ideas came in the Netherlands, where the far-right candidate received less than 15% of the popular vote. This means that more than 85% of the Dutch population voted for parties where fear for immigrants because of their religion is not the key factor. Still I argue that 15% of the public vote is still too high for a political movement that preaches fear and division but again the numbers are going down.

The latest (final?) blow against populism came in France where the public voted against the far right party and elected President Macron. As politician he is completely untested but managed not only to win the presidency, but also to rally the French to elect a completely new type of government ensuring a massive support in the French Parliament as well.

Together with other European Leaders, in particular the German Chancellor A Merkel, these two leaders have created a front that speaks against ignorance and populism, the way we see it today in the USA under Mr Trump or in the UK.

Hopefully, the momentum against will continue and grow further in coming elections is Germany and other European states. Certainly, at this stage, the numbers are looking rather promising…

Hopefully we see a new trend, where we can hope for a better future for our children…

Utsikt av Madeira

Utsikt av Madeira

Mirror mirror on the wall…

Mirror mirror on the wall…

By Ingemar Pongratz

Well this has been an interesting week. I live in Sweden, a small country in the north with less than 10 million citizens. Based only on population, I guess that Sweden is a small country, but many reason have allowed Sweden to have a strong voice on the international stage, reason such as a well developed industry, well developed Social security system which includes free Health care and education for everybody and many other.

However Sweden seeks collaboration with other regions and this makes us stronger.

Therefore the current decisions by Donald Trump and other politicians who seek to insulate themselves from the rest of the world is so strange and simply counterproductive.

 

Why would you, on purpose, try to make your voice in the world smaller?

Why would any nation, on purpose, try to isolate itself from the rest of the world?

And how can you actually believe that any country can actually isolate itself in a connected world and retain a high standing among the international community?

 

Still, this is happing and to make matters worse, the crowds are cheering as countries like the US and UK make themselves more or less insignificant. I understand that there is much opposition both in the US and the UK but still?

In the US we see a president who actually believes he will make America great again through isolation, breaking treaties and obstructing the US justice system?

In the UK we see a government that seems to believe that leaving the European Union without an agreement is better that making an agreement? Don’t they understand that Not making an agreement is an agreement in itself?

Do these countries really think that in a world where economies are more and more interconnected they will be better off by stepping out?

 

Simply incredible…

The Royal Castle in Stockholm by Ingemar Pongratz

The Royal Castle in Stockholm by Ingemar Pongratz

At the same time both the UK and US want to control and influence the free flow of information. In the UK the Prime Minister actually is bragging about this? Simply incredible…

It just does not make sense.

I guess it feels like the children story on Snow White. If you ask your mirror:

“Mirror Mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all” the mirror answers:

Well you because you are the only here. But what the UK and US governments should remember sooner or later the mirror answer that there is somebody else around. And then it was to late, at least according to the tale.

 

So here I believe is the answer. Maybe the rest of the world should treat these politicians and children. Sooner or later they will realize that they have made themselves smaller and less significant in the world.

And while the rest of the world is waiting for them to grow up, the true grown up’s should take care of the reality, following the example the EU and China.

The Royal Gardens in Spring by Ingemar Pongratz

The Royal Gardens in Spring by Ingemar Pongratz

Brexit is upon us!

Brexit is upon us!

By Ingemar Pongratz

So it begins…

The UK Prime Minister Theresa May has officially triggered the Brexit process after the UK voted last year to leave the European Union. The official start of the of the negotiations were activated by a letter from Theresa May to the President of the European Council Donald Tusk and provides a suggestion how the UK would like to go forwards with the negotiations.

The Letter points out that the UK does not strive to remain the in the European Common market and acknowledges that the European Union connection between free trade and free mobility. Interestingly, the Letter acknowledges that there will consequences for the UK.  UK Business and industry will have to follow terms dictated by the European Union but the UK will not be in a position to influence these decisions at all. This is of course a major blow to the ability of the UK to influence European policy. If anything, the chances for the UK to influence its future are reduced.

In my opinion this is a big loss for the UK even before the negotiations have started.

The UK suggests that the negotiation should include discussion regarding a Free Trade Agreement between the UK and the EU. This is of course a priority for both sides but strangely, the letter seems to link a Free Trade agreement with security issues. It also connects free trade with the UK-Irish border and which is even more surprising to the situation in Northern Ireland. Free Trade is of course a tool to promote collaboration among nations, but this is something that works on a long term basis and should not be connected to issues to security collaboration or the UK problem in Norther Ireland. In fact, Northern  Ireland is part of the UK and the peace process in Norther Ireland is UK domestic problem. It feels strange that the EU should consider this issue when the UK wants to leave…

The letter suggests that the EU and the UK should also start the negotiations for a Free Trade agreement, that should be included as part of the deal.

Not surprising, there are many reactions to this letter. Most of the reactions in the EU are focused on the connection between free trade and security and argue that the negotiation process will suffer as a consequence of this connection. The media UK is more divided, and ranges between euphoria to concern. Interestingly however, few newspapers comment on the connection of the UK leaving the EU and the problems in Norther Ireland. I find this to be very strange. Also, the media both in the EU and in the EU do not cover the clear statement that the UK will loose its influence over the future of Europe while admitting that the UK will have to follow EU rules even after Brexit.

Taken together, it seems that there are a lot of areas to disagree upon, which will no doubt make the process long and difficult…

Obviously, Brexit is upon us!

Nacka view by Ingemar Pongratz

Nacka view by Ingemar Pongratz

 

 

 

Will 2017 be the start of the end or end of the beginning

Will 2017 be the start of the end or end of the beginning

By Ingemar Pongratz

This is my first blog entry in 2017 so it will be more a general reflection. There have been a lot of news, for example there is a new president in the USA, the UK plans for Brexit are more clear, and a lot of scary news are floating around. It is certainly very difficult to try to predict what will happen next on the world stage and above all it is very difficult to predict how all the big news from the world will translate to a more personal and family level.

So if the leaders are concerned because there is a lot of uncertainty in the world of politics, well welcome to the club! We are very uncertain too at the family level!

Louise collage by Ingemar Pongratz

Louise collage by Ingemar Pongratz

It is rather strange at the same time to listen to the news. Apparently, according to our government everything is fine and they have the situation under control.

Well how very interesting. So if they know what will happen next and how they will solve the problems why don’t they come up with the news? Obviously, we are not that confident.

Filter of the Rainbow by Ingemar Pongratz

Filter of the Rainbow by Ingemar Pongratz

This is certainly a problem area. Lack of trust. If large parts of the population are not confident that there is a solution for problems and worse, if large part of the population feel that government is trying to hide something, this is a very good ground for populism. And we see the damage that populism can bring, for example in the USA or in the UK.

So what will happen next? The Austrian election was a ray of light where the extreme right wing candidate lost. But large parts of the population voted for him and they are still there.

What will happen in France? The extreme right is on the move in France as well? Will moderate views be able to repeat the example from Austria? Or was that just the exception?

And what will that translate to for us, as a family?

Again uncertainty, the concern that there is little control to manage and handle the future. Here is Sweden we also have the far right moving on, marching ahead and denying the tragedies of the past and shouting about race. How can they have missed the terrible European history?  Really really scary.

Should we be hopeful?

Sky Panorama by Ingemar Pongratz

Sky Panorama by Ingemar Pongratz

 

 

 

Fake news and the democratic process

Fake news and the democratic process

By Ingemar Pongratz

 

The expansion of the internet, the easy access to Social Media and other factors has made it easy to develop homepages very easily and at a very low cost. In addition, commercial exploitation of homepages is rather straight forward and can generate considerable amounts of money for the owners of homepages, specially if the homepage has a lot of visitors.

This possibility has allowed for a new phenomenon, namely sites which provide fake news, to enter the stage.

These are news which primarily sell commercial adds, and thus rely on high numbers of visitors.

red-skies-by-ingemar-pongratz

red-skies-by-Ingemar Pongratz

To obtain high number of visitors these sites use social media to widely disseminate their message, and many times their content is completely fake. Examples of fake news include for example the statement that the catholic Pope endorsed Donald Trump. However, it seems clear that also certain governments have used fake news to influence the decision making processes of different countries, in fact according to US authorities, there may have been several attempts to influence the American elections by foreign powers.

This is a very worrying trend. It is of course very important that the information shared across Social Media channels is accurate and some kind of action or actions need to be taken to reduce and if possible eliminate the presence of Fake News channels.

red-sky-effect-by-ingemar-pongratz

red-sky-effect-by-Ingemar Pongratz

Accurate and true information is a cornerstone for the democratic process and needs to be protected. In addition, the process whereby the problem is addressed needs to take into consideration fundamental rights of the public. After all, the freedom of speech is also a fundamental right and a cornerstone for democracies.

So the solution to this problem is likely to be a time consuming process and will also involve international collaboration between states. So in the mean time, the members of the public and media themselves need carefully source check news to ensure that the information they pass on to the public is accurate ad correct.

red-sky-panorama-by-ingemar-pongratz

red-sky-panorama-by-ingemar-pongratz

 

 

 

What comes after Horizon 2020

What comes after Horizon 2020

By Ingemar Pongratz

old-town-by-ingemar-pongratz

Old-Town-by-Ingemar-Pongratz

The European Frameworks programme Horizon 2020 is still in place and European Researchers are waiting for the future calls of Horizon 2020. We are looking following the ongoing evaluation of Horizon 2020 and waiting to see how the evaluation outcomes will influence the future topics.

 

However, the outcome of the Horizon 2020 evaluation will not only influence Horizon 2020 calls and topics, it is very likely that the evaluation will have alo influence the future European Research Framework Programme FP9.

In fact the European Commission has already provided information on the factors that will influence the future framework programme FP9. The information available makes it clear that there will be three main sources of influence for FP9 in particular:

  • The outcome of the Horizon 2020 evaluation
  • The outcomes of several foresight studies that are currently being performed
  • Analysis of the economic impact of R&D on economic growth

Clearly, the European Commission is determined to ensure that R&D spending is clearly linked to economic growth, and in particular the third point will be critical for the economic investment that the European Union is expected to make on R&D. If the outcome of Horizon 2020 on new jobs and economic growth is considerable it is likely that the European Member States will be willing to invest large funds on R&D.

However, other issues are also going to be interesting, such as how the future FP9 Framework Programme will support European Integration in particular of the new European Member States. Also the role of European Industry in FP9 is going to be interesting to follow. The European Commission has tested a number of new instruments to support European Industry in particular SME. The question is if these instruments will be continued in FP9. Also, we can expect a discussion on how the support for industry should look like. We the Commission introduce for example loans for SME / and Industry partners? This could be an interesting approach that would ensure high SME participation and also secure funds exclusively for industry.

There are many approaches that could be used to ensure that loans for SME could be very interesting for SME’s in Europe, for example interest rates could be low, and re-payment could be flexible.

A lot of possible outcomes….

stockholm-afternoon-by-ingemar-pongratz

Stockholm-afternoon-by-Ingemar-Pongratz

 

Science and populism: should we care?

Science and populism: should we care?

By Ingemar Pongratz

Parkview by Ingemar Pongratz

Parkview by Ingemar Pongratz

The news lately have brought stunning surprises, such as the UK Brexit vote or the recent US election. The outcomes of both these elections came as complete surprises for the vast majority, specially since the pollls and predictions suggested comfortable wins for the either the remain vote (in the UK) or for Ms Clinton in the US. Clearly, the standard approach to polls and prediction of voting needs to be revised and polling institutes need to revisit their strategies. But that is not the purpose of this entry.

The outcome of these elections have given rise to considerable concern regarding the future of science, both at the national level (in the UK and in the US) but also in the global arena. Both the UK and the US are major nations in terms of scientific output so the concern is very natural.

For example, the BREXIT outcome will lead to considerable costs for the UK and in addition considerable reduction in scientific funding (from the EU Horizon 2020 scheme for example). In the long term we can expect that funding for scientific research is likely to go down.

In addition, the UK is heavily opposed to open the UK labor market to EU citizens. This  will lead to reduced access to the EU labor market for UK citizens and of course will reduce European scientific exchange.

In the US, the new president has voiced considerable opposition to climate change and the future of the US participation in the Paris climate agreement is at stake. The future US vice president has several times voiced opposition to scientific views on evolution and the future of US scientific funding is unclear.

It is very obvious that the scientific community is at risk from candidates that we like to label as populistic. However, it is also clear that the scientific community has not participated in the discussions. The reactions from the scientific community come only after the votes are counted and this is something that we need to correct in the future.

Waterfall animation by Ingemar Pongratz

Waterfall animation by Ingemar Pongratz

Scientists need to speak up and inform the public how political trends may affect science and research. In general the scientific community is very quit in the public debate and with few exceptions most scientists remain silent.

I find this very strange and in the long run very dangerous. Lest hope that the scientific community in the future better embraces their role as communicators and educators more actively.

Ingemar Pongratz in Bangkok

Ingemar Pongratz in Bangkok

 

Status nu och i framtiden, helt OK?

Status nu och i framtiden, helt OK?

Av Ingemar Pongratz

Ingemar Pongratz

Ingemar Pongratz

Mycket har hänt och det mesta känns helt omvälvande. I Storbritanien så har Brexit förespråkarna uppenbarligen misslyckats att fa fram ett överenskommelse med övriga EU om att få tillgång till EU inre marknad samtidigt som Storbritanien kan hålla ute EU medborgare. Antagligen inte så konstigt och jag har skrivit om detta på andra ställen. Men det som känns konstigt är reaktionen.

Hur kan ett land som Storbritanien hysa så stor motstånd mot invånare från andra länder? Är det samma fenomen som vi ser i USA där Donald Trump nu kan titulera sig President?

Sol bakom moln av Ingemar Pongratz

Sol bakom moln av Ingemar Pongratz

Det verkar så. Och det är skrämmande, på flera sätt. Det är att det finns stora delar av en befolkning som under lång tid inte har känt sig som en del av övriga samhället och därför röstar på vad som helst som inte har med det etablissemanget att göra.

Det är också skrämmande att se reaktioner på det val som dessa personer gör. Ta som exempel USA. Idag kan vi läsa hur lovar att inte ha med den nya regeringen att göra, och hur dom nästan skadeglatt konstaterar att det inte kommer att bli bättre.

Jag tycker att det är fel och farligt. Oavsett vad vi tycker så måste alla delar av samhället känna sig delaktiga i samhällsutvecklingen. Genom att marginalisera dessa grupper åstadkommer vi antagligen ingenting och i dagen nya samhälle är det förresten omöjligt i alla fall, nu när det finns Sociala Medier etc.

Det har vi ju sett här i Sverige också, där det har bildats parallella kanaler vid sidan om media som jag använder själv. Och tonen där är hårt och rått och fördömande…

En skrämmande utveckling helt enkelt som vi måste vända. Kanske det första vi skall göra är att ta diskussionen med alla tidigt och på så sätt undvika att det senare skapas extremism. Jag tror att genom att tidigt markera så undviker vi att vissa idéer utvecklar sig senare i olika sorters extremism. Kankse. Hur som helst det vi har gjort hitills har inte varit framgångsrikt så nåt måste vi hitta på.

Himmel och Hav av Ingemar Pongratz

Himmel och Hav av Ingemar Pongratz

 

 

More Brexit Developments

More Brexit Developments

By Ingemar Pongratz

We have been reading a lot about Brexit and the process in the UK of leaving the European Union. There has been a lot of confusion associated in this process and wishful thinking. Politicians and others that advocated Brexit were counting on a soft Brexit where the UK would retain access to the EU internal market without the need to open the UK market to the EU in response. The UK wants to control immigration also from EU workers.

However free movement of goods and labour is a cornerstone of the EU. It is this not surprising that the EU did not agree in advance to this point. The UK will not retain free access on a unilateral basis. So after the summer the UK informed that they will start the formal process to leave the European Union in April of 2017. In addition, the UK government has made it clear that they will not open the UK labour market to EU workers and EU products. This will mean that the EU will do the same which means that we are to expect a hard Brexit.

From April 2017 the EU and UK have 24 months to reach an agreement on what Brexit means and in addition they need to agree how to trade after April 2019. So two, not one, agreements need to be drafted and approved.

But what does hard Brexit actually mean. Well first of all EU and UK trade will face export and import tariffs. The UK is a member of the World Trade Organization through the EU. Once the UK leaves the EU their membership to the WTO may be terminated as well. Furthermore Scotland has openly declared that they wish to leave the UK if the UK leaves the EU. This could leave to considerable tension within the UK as well and a possible secession vote.

Also the original plan to bypass the UK Parliament has been challenged by the UK legal system. According to the UK court, the UK Parliament has to be asked in advance and agree before the process of leaving the EU can begin. This will no doubt result in more delays and more uncertainty.

And in fact, the costs associated with Brexit are still unknown. Many enterprises, both foreign and domestic have declared that they will leave the UK if the UK leaves the EU. Also the EU Institutions based in the UK such as the European Medicine Agency will be relocated. Taken together, the UK can expect very high costs and the financial markets have already reacted. The UK currency has lost considerable value already.

Surprisingly, the Brexit outcome has strengthened the EU. The costs of leaving the EU are very high so a number of EU skeptics are thinking differently. Many of the negative voices are now speaking reforms instead of leaving the EU which in time will lead to stronger and more cohesive Union.

But is it worth it for the UK? Are all these costs really necessary to stop a few workers from outside the UK? Countries with even higher immigration rate (compared to the UK) such as Sweden and Germany represent very strong and prosperous economies. So high immigration is not automatically connected to lower economical growth.

I guess that is discussion that should take place.

Ingemar Pongratz is founder of Fenix Scientific AB/ Pongratz Consulting. I help enterprises and universities to apply for funding from European sources. If you are interested to contact me please use the contact form (redirects to fenixscientific.se) or send me an email to:

Ingemar.Pongratz (a) pongratzconsulting.com.

autumn-colours-by-ingemar-pongratz

Autumn colours by Ingemar Pongratz

 

Horizon 2020 och Storbritanniens EU votering

The latest from Ingemar Ponrgatz’s blog:

Horizon 2020 och Storbritanniens EU votering

Av Ingemar Pongratz

 

En månad har nu passerat och Storbritanniens EU omröstning har verkloige skapat en hel del tumult. Effekterna av Brexit som resultat kallas verkar kunna bli rätt stora och omfattande och ingen vet riktigt vad som kommer att hända. Men det är helt klart att mycket kommer att förändras.

 

UK har inte formellt ansökt om utträde ifrån EU vilket kanske inte är så märkligt. Konstigt nog verkar myndigheterna i Storbritannien helt oförberedda på valresultatet. Kanske inte så konstigt med tanke på att det finns en ny regering som skall samla resterna. Vidare har Skottland hotat med att lämna Storbritannien vilket skapar ännu mer förvirring. Enligt de senaste nyheter vill Storbritannien’s regering försäkra sig om tillgång till EU inre marknad innan den formella ansökan om utträde lämnas in vilket verkar helt verklighetsfrämmande.

 

Tillgång till EU inre marknad innebär också att andra länder kommer att erbjudas tillgång till Storbritannien’s marknad vilket var en stor del av motståndet mot EU i Storbritannien. Så risken är att det kommer att ta lång till innan förhandlingarna överhuvudtaget kommer igång.

 

Detta är förstås olyckligt, eftersom det skapar osäkerhet. Storbritannien’s ekonomi har redan tagit stryk och finansmarknaden är orolig. Det brittiska pundet har tappat betydligt i värde gentemot andra valutor vilket naturligtvis påverkar den inhemska köpkraften negativt.

 

För Horizon 2020 betyder denna osäkerhet att brittiska partners möts med skepsis. Ingen vet vad resultatet av förhandlingarna mellan EU och Storbritannien kommer att gå och vilket status brittiska universitet kommer att få. Kommer de att ses som tredje part eller som associerade partners. Ingen vet hur det kommer att sluta. Positivt förstås är att Storbritannien regering har uttryckt att deltagandet i Horizon 2020 kommer att prioriteras vilket är bra för både EU och Storbritannien.

Så mycket lite substans och mycket osäkerhet. Hoppas läget klarnar snart.

Ingemar Pongratz är forskare och entreprenör. Ingemar Pongratz etablerade Fenix Scientific AB och Pongratz Consulting AB. Vi hjälper företag och universitet att söka Horizon 2020 finansiering. För att komma i kontakt med använd gärna vår online kontaktformulär eller skicka en epost till

Ingemar.Pongratz (a) pongratzconsulting.com

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