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Why fair pay policies are needed to stop the East European brain drain

By Blog Admin, on 5 December 2013

Flags MakóA significant proportion of the EU budget is spent on research grants to encourage research and innovation across Europe. Although this funding is vital, there is Michael Galsworthy argues a substantial East-West divide which is encouraging a ‘brain drain’ from Eastern Europe.

Within the European Union there is an East-West gap, in health and innovation. The gap is widening because eastern European member states (such as Poland, Romania, Latvia, Hungary and Slovakia) are winning a tiny proportion of science grants from European central funding.

Scientist salaries and jobs have hit rock-bottom following austerity measures, not only in eastern Europe but also in many southern member states. Scientists are fleeing westward, fleeing out of the EU, or just out of science. Although the main funding body European Commission is now working to help, its current policies on salaries may be causing a brain drain.

As the EC prepares its research and innovation pot of €71bn to be awarded competitively under the “Horizon 2020” programme, it is also preparing additional programs to help struggling regions restructure to be more competitive for that money. However, the most powerful medicine for the recent cocktail of grim circumstances may be a simple principle: Equal pay for equal work.

Eastern Europe has huge scientific potential, but getting there from where we are now will require smart actions at the EC, national government and grassroots levels.

How bad is the situation? With regard to winning a share of central funds, the EC’s own impact assessment of health-related research found that the 12 newest member states participated on only about 6% of projects. Worse, they took home only 2.5% of the total funds collectively. Compare this with the original 15 member states with 78% participation and 85% of funds (the rest of the funds went to participants outside the EU). To put this in context; the original 15 member states had received 34 times more health research funding, a difference that cannot be explained by their 3.8 times larger population nor even their 12.8 times greater contribution to the EU budget. Other areas of science show similar patterns.

So what is in place to help poorer member states under Horizon 2020? Unfortunately, acknowledgement of a crisis and plans to tackle it are largely missing in the standard documentation. You have to call up the right people in the EC and connect the dots. (more…)

Ukraine: Provoking the Euromaidan

By Blog Admin, on 3 December 2013

Far-right activists have been infiltrating the protests in Ukraine and provoking  police and demonstrators to violence reports  Anton Shekhovtsov.

The U-turn on the Association Agreement with the EU by the Ukrainian government has sparked the most massive social protests since the ‘Orange Revolution’ in 2004. Unlike the ‘Orange revolution,’ however, the new protests, named ‘the Euromaidan,’ have been marked by the government’s disproportionate use of violence against the non-violent protests. The authorities have been making use of paid instigators who infiltrate the protests and then start attacking the police to provoke a ‘retaliatory’ suppression of ‘violent protestors.’

1 December was a day of blood and violence. The Ukrainian opposition had planned a peaceful protest against the brutal beating of several hundreds of protestors, the day before, by 1,000-2,000 members of the ‘Berkut’ special police unit. However, the gathering of hundreds of thousands of people was overshadowed by the clashes on Bankova Street leading to the building of the Presidential Administration, where the Berkut held the line against an extremely violent 200- strong crowd.

Media reports at first referred to this hardcore group – many of them masked – as ‘unknown activists;’ unknown because nobody knew if their actions were, in fact, sanctioned by the opposition. Since the opposition had specifically renounced any use of violence, the media soon started to refer to these men as ‘provocateurs.’ They threw flares, smoke bombs, Molotov cocktails and stones at the police, beat them with chains, fired tear gas, and brought up an excavator to break through the police cordon.

The police did not respond, stood their ground and used megaphones, urging the troublemakers to stop. Some other protesters, later joined by businessman and politician Petro Poroshenko, understanding the deliberately provocative nature of what was happening, tried to calm things down, which only resulted in fights between protesters. Eventually, the violent crowd again started attacking the police. This time, the police were replaced by the Berkut troops, which dispersed the crowd severely beating dozens of people including 40 Ukrainian and foreign journalists. Guilty or not guilty, everybody in the wrong place in the wrong time was beaten up. The opposition’s leaders, Vitali Klitschko (UDAR) and Oleh Tyahnybok (far right Svoboda) themselves went to Bankova Street to urge the troublemakers to join the peaceful protests on Maidan (Independence Square).

Who were these troublemakers? (more…)

Serbia-Kosovo agreement: political breakthrough or jobs for the boys?

By Blog Admin, on 25 April 2013

Kosovo Police

Photo:Valdete Hasani CC BY-SA 3.0

The widely hailed agreement reached betweeen Serbia and Kosovo entrenches the power of clentelistic elites and is no real cause for celebration argues Eric Gordy .

 The agreement signed last Friday between Serbia and Kosovo has been widely interpreted as a major breakthrough. In some respects it is, as it paves the way for resolution of a dispute over the status of the northern municipalities in Kosovo and for both countries to forge their paths to eventual membership in the European Union. In other ways it does not, as it comes too late and does too little to fundamentally alter the situation.

The agreement responds to a gesture made by outgoing prime minister Vojislav Koštunica when Kosovo declared independence in 2008, when he established parallel institutions of government and law enforcement in four municipalities along Kosovo’s northern border where about 40% of the ethnic Serb population is concentrated.

The move had two purposes: 1) to create an electoral base for his Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS), which was otherwise marginal and Belgrade-centred, and 2) to place a long-term obstacle in the way of any eventual agreements about Kosovo’s status.

The government that followed him, nominally opponents of Koštunica, left his parallel structures untouched in the vain hope of expanding its own base to encompass parts of the scattered “patriotic bloc”. It was only with the return of right-wing parties to power in 2012, paradoxically, that some movement occurred: they saw in an eventual agreement with Kosovo a chance both to satisfy powerful international political actors and to marginalise their potential competitors in the Church and on the far right.

So after fourteen years of waiting and five years of negotiation, what does the agreement involve? According to the unofficial text (no official one has been released, so everyone has been using the version published by the Kosovo paper Gazeta Express, it is mostly an agreement about the establishment of lobbies and the employment of personnel. (more…)