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Italians disassociate themselves from their PM

Silvio Berlusconi shaking hands with George W....

Image via Wikipedia

The Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is famous for many things including being the richest man in Italy, owning AC Milan, and having a penchant for sun-beds. He is not however known for his tact. In fact, he usually hits the international headlines following one of his numerous gaffes, the most recent of which was to refer to US President elect Barack Obama as “giovane, bello e abronzzato” (young, handsome and tanned).

For some Italians, this last gaffe is the final straw on the donkey’s back; they are sick of their country being associated with  their Prime Minister’s “jokes” and have set up a website called “I’m Italian and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is not speaking in my name“.

Just to remind anyone who is not familar with Mr Berlusconi’s famous “sense of humour”, in recent years, he has hit the headlines for:

Rebecca

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November 11, 2008 at 11:33 am Leave a comment

Annoyed Icelanders attack Gordon Brown via the Internet

Gord...

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

A group of Icelanders have got together and made a website www.indefence.is that criticises British PM Gordon Brown for having used (or abused…) anti-terror legislation to freeze Icelandic assets.

The website’s key message is the simple and not entirely unreasonable “Icelanders are not terrorists”. The title tag of the website is “Darling I’m not a terrorist”, which is a dig at British Chancellor of the Exchequer (Finance Minister) Alistair Darling.

In the first 12 hours of the website’s existence, 20,000 Icelanders had signed the on-line petition (that’s 7% of the population!). Bear in mind that Iceland has one of the highest rates of internet use in the world with around 84% of Icelanders using the web.

The website also contains a series of “postcards” which are in effect photos of ordinary Icelanders with signs saying things like “I am not a terrorist Mr Brown” and “Who are you calling a terrorist? Look what you’ve done!”.

Anyone who has been following the financial crisis will know that Mr Brown has justified his freezing of Icelandic assets on the grounds that the Icelandic government was not doing enough to prevent its struggling banks from collapsing and taking with them the deposits of thousands of British investors.

No-one would argue that Iceland had a problem with its banks; they had foreign liabilities of $100 billion in a country with a GDP of only $14 billion. But using anti-terror legislation against a peaceful Nordic country that doesn’t even have an army? It does sound a bit far-fetched and certainly not the purpose for which the legislation was created.

It will be interesting to see how far this web campaign gets, in particular:

  • How many Icelanders sign the petition
  • What media coverage the website gets outside of Iceland, particularly in the UK
  • Whether any NGOs/human rights activists or opposition politicians in the UK take up the case of the clearly mis-labelled Icelandic people
  • Whether any lawyers work out how Iceland can sue Gordon Brown for defamation of national character
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October 24, 2008 at 12:26 pm 2 comments

Europe to lead Web 3.0?

Outside the European Commission

Image via Wikipedia

This is indeed the aim of the European Commission which has just launched a public consultation on web 3.0 “the internet of things” (IoT). The consultation is part of the Commission’s preparations for a communication on IoT which is due to be released in the 3rd quarter of 2009. According to the Commission the communication plans to “propose a policy approach addressing the whole range of political and technological issues related to the move from RFID and sensing technologies to the Internet of Things”.

So what is Web 3.0 and can the European Commission really be at the cutting edge of it? According to Wikipedia, Web 3.0 is “the term used to describe the evolutionary stage that follows Web 2.0”. That as much as probably obvious to most. The term Web 3.0, also known at the “semantic web” was first coined by Tim Berners-Lee who created the internet in 1989 while working at CERN (European Organisation for Nuclear Research). Nova Spivack a proponent of Web 3.0 who also prefers the term “semantic web” describes Web 3.0 as an attempt to overhaul the internet so that it actually understands the infinite amount of information contained within it and can make links between it. An Internet with a brain perhaps?

The ideas about what Web 3.0 will consist of include:

  • ubiquitious connectivity e.g. broadband for mobile devices
  • increased interoperability of web services
  • “intelligent applications” i.e. the use of artificial intelligence to develop web applications that “almost think like humans”

However, Wikipedia goes on to say that there is as yet no agreement on what the next stage of internet evolution will be….

The European Commission would like Europe to be at the cutting edge of the next evolution of the internet, which is no doubt why it is trying to get into the game early with the recently launched consultation. The policy documents published with the Consultation include a Communication on Future networks and the Internet and a staff working paper on early challenges regarding the Internet of things. It will be interesting to see who responds to this consultation and in particular if it attracts the key protagonists of Web 3.0.

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October 7, 2008 at 12:23 pm 4 comments

Bloggers for health tourism?

On 2 July 2008, the European Commission released its long awaited proposal for a directive on cross-border healthcare. The proposal, whose full title is “directive on the application of patient’s right in cross-border healthcare” is designed to clarify the right of EU citizens to obtain healthcare outside their Member State of residence and be reimbursed for that treatment. Clearly a proposal of great interest to the general public (we all use healthcare services don’t we?).

Almost immediately after it was published, some actors and the media were referring to it as a proposal on “health tourism”, although the proposal doesn’t actually create any new rights, it merely clarifies those that already exist (through European Court of Justice rulings). Publication of the proposal was originally planned for December 2007, but was postponed at the 11th hour (after journalists had received embargoed press materials). The Brussels rumour mill reports that the delay was due to certain Member States requesting changes to the text due to concern about the cost of increased cross-border provision of health to their healthcare systems. For an overview of the new directive and its likely implications, please see the FH Brussels briefing on the proposal.

So what does the blogosphere say on the proposal?

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August 12, 2008 at 12:40 pm 2 comments

The EU-US healthcare divide

EU: Universal healthcare rules

In the EU, we take it for granted that pretty much everyone gets access to healthcare regardless of their ability to pay. Our healthcare systems are designed to provide universal coverage regardless of ability to pay and you’ll be hard pushed to find people who question that principle, even if many of us might criticise the systems themselves.

This means that on-line debate and blogging about healthcare in the EU examines specific issues such as healthcare recruitment and health technology assessment and looks at broader topics such as healthcare reform including how to make health systems more responsive to the needs of individuals (more “consumer driven”), it’s difficult to find anyone seriously suggesting dismantling universal healthcare in Europe.

(more…)

August 13, 2007 at 12:47 pm 2 comments


About this blog

A blog on politics, policy, public affairs and communications in Brussels and the European Union. The blog is written by the team at Fleishman-Hillard in Brussels. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect those of the company or its clients. You will find the contact details of our team at www.fleishman-hillard.eu

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