Diversity is a Reality

Since the start of the new regional governments of Flanders & Wallonia and the Federal Government the motto of Green has been: It Can Be Different. (Het kan anders). This is because the doomsday picture that the ultra-conservative government continues to paint gives nobody any pleasure. And this is not about saying it as it is. Government builds hope, gives people confidence and makes them believe in themselves rather than sell them depressing and intimidating stories. Things aren’t as bad as they make it look. I believe firmly in the role of public service in giving people perspectives, allowing them some breathing space.

The citizen movement ‘Hart boven Hard’ was founded on exactly these lines just after the summer of 2014 to draw attention to the plight of the common man, which obviously the newly formed regional and Federal Governments would rather not talk about. I know this firsthand as Councillor, of which social policy, the economy and minority rights are part of my portfolio. The individuals who are affected by these austerity measures share the same public transport with me, buy from the same corner shop as myself, are loyal clients of the budget shops, secondhand shops… as myself. We run into each other every day. I feel their pains and sufferings because we are in it together. Above all, as municipal legislators, we are often the ones left locally to clean up the mess made in Brussels by these disproportionate austerity measures.

This is why a Big Parade is being organized in Brussels on Sunday 29 March 2015. It is a parade with 10 heart desires for more social and greener policies. Ostend is giving the parade a special tint. We are setting off earlier, on Wednesday 25 March 2015 with the bike, yes with the bike on a four-day 115 km journey to Brussels. First stop is the beautiful ancient city of Bruges. We’d arrive on bike at 2.30 pm and at 3 pm at the Grote Markt I’m billed to address the crowd on the topic of “Diversity is a Reality” If you can, please join us because I do have a few interesting things to tell us about the fast changing demography of Belgium, of Europe, our changing world, our common humanity… The team Ostend will be joined by colleagues from Bruges and the crowd of bikers will thicken as more will join in Aalst, Gent and other towns and villages in-between until arrival in Brussels on Sunday the 29th.

Get your free badge #hetkananders at 1 pm at the Green Stand in front of the Brussels North station. Mayrem Almaci, the newly elected Green Party Leader will be there in person to receive you.

Finally, if you can’t join us in Bruges to hear the speech and take your copy but are interested, email Keji Safe at admin@collinsnweke.eu for your soft copy or check back on our website later this week to download your copy. Your presence is important. We must send a strong signal to those cutting close to the bones of the poor that there are alternatives to the current inhuman measures. I hope to see you on Wednesday in Bruges and hopefully you can join the Big Parade in Brussels on Sunday.

Best regards

Collins NWEKE | Municipal Councillor Ostend City Council

Real Estate Project ‘The White’ Back in the News

The prestigious project The White on the site of the former Media Center has been taken over by Allfin, a real estate development company. Allfin is 14 years old and has a presence in coastal towns of Knokke and Koksijde. The White was the largest largest private residential project in Ostend  city and would provide for 800 apartments overlooking  the sea. Initiated by Group Sleuyter, The White was launched in 2014 without an application for building permit. Allfin has indicated that it has signed a deal with Group Sleuyter and Belfius Immo for acquisition of an option on the ground. The White has currently contrued will drastically change the skyline of Ostend. Both the Green Party and some neighborhood groups around the site are protesting against the project.

Personal Reflections On Peace

In suing for peace for Nigeria, we are reminded of the mess that high handed military operations have left behind in Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan and other forgotten war zones. In suing for peace for Nigeria, we are encouraged by the success of peace agitations in Hong Kong, we draw inspiration from Aung San Suu Ki’s Burma and the many marches of Martin Luther King, particularly the one in Selma.

Full text of the opening remarks of Collins Nweke at the Peace March for Nigeria held in Ostend, Belgium on Saturday 28 February 2015

My appreciation for my adopted country, Belgium, hit an all time high in April 2014 when news broke of the kidnap of some 270 girls in Chibok, North of Nigeria. I recall that while discussions centred around military intervention and deployment of international troupes to go out there and teach Boko Haram, a decisive lesson, the unique response, characteristic as it were, of Belgium was to send a team of non-military personnel to Chibok on a fact-finding mission, to investigate the the set up of humanitarian operation around Chibok. The whole idea was for Belgian psychologists and medical personnels to provide counselling to the families of the kidnap victims and to stand ready on the ground to provide counselling and medical help to the girls as soon as they are released.

While for some, that action was a drop in the ocean, it was for me strongly indicative of a country with its heart in the right place. Let us also place the situation in its right perspective: Nigeria is 17 times the size of Belgium and Belgium as a country is even smaller than one of the affected North-Eastern States of Nigeria. The Little Brave Belgium was at it again, I thought at some point.

I literally became an adult here in Belgium, having moved into this country in my mid-twenties. Most, if not all that I know today of peace as a concept was shaped here in Belgium. Maybe this is what age does to one but as I hit my 50th this year, I have more faith and confidence in the use of peaceful process to achieve even the most complex crisis. We have seen it at work in our very own Nigeria and elsewhere. After years of military cat and mouse in the creeks of the Niger-Delta region of Nigeria, it was the amnesty brokered by the Yar’Adua Administration that brought some calm there.

Whatever became of the planned humanitarian intervention by Belgium is for me currently unclear but I do have one piece of advise here: Belgium must continue to go the way of peace in helping to bring solace to the troubled region of Nigeria. Nigerians in Belgium have come out en masse today to sue for peace. But more importantly, as you can see from the colourful participation of our Belgian friends, we are not alone in suing and demanding peace. We are supported by a formidable army of Peace Lords!

In suing for peace for Nigeria, we are reminded of the mess that high handed military operations have left behind in Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan and other forgotten war zones. In suing for peace for Nigeria, we are encouraged by the success of peace agitations in Hong Kong, we draw inspiration from Aung San Suu Ki’s Burma and the many marches of Martin Luther King, particularly the one in Selma.

In closing let us draw strength in the legacy left behind by the man, after whom this bridge was named: Nelson Mandela. A bridge binds two separate land masses together. The bridge that binds us is our common humanity and peace is needed to keep it intact. I wish us peace. I wish Nigeria peace and finally and indeed most importantly, we wish the good but traumatised everyday Nigerian, priceless peace.

Europe’s Diaspora and Community Cohesion

In this speech delivered in Ghent at the launch of a self-help group of Sub-Sahara Africans in Belgium, I argued essentially that achieving social cohesion in Europe requires its Diaspora to take their life into their hands. Community based, self-help organisations  is one of such engagement tools and a purposeful Europe should take this into serious consideration so that its Justice & Home Affairs Directorate is adequately empowered to develop sharper tools to cut through the current Diaspora integration bottlenecks


Full text of the speech is as follows:


I am happy to be present with you today to chair the official launch of this great initiative called Amicable Association of Belgium. I thank you, Mr Chairman, for the invitation but more than that I wish to express delight at the fact that you deemed me worthy, out of a host of other supremely qualified individuals, to preside over this historic occasion.

This occasion is historic for several reasons but before delving into the reasons, allow me to remind us of why we are gathered here; this on the risk of boring you with something you already know. Clarity demands that I do so. We are here to launch the Amicable Association of Belgium vzw, an Association with the good peoples of Sub-Saharan Africa as members.

One of the reasons today is historic is that it does not often happen that Belgian-Africans take time to study their intending operating environments carefully before embarking on permanently establishing their organisations And projects. But you chose to do things differently. The Amicable Association of Belgium was initiated 4 years ago. To be precise, it was founded on 24 April 2010 and its founding fathers and the leadership have spent the past 4 years studying the grounds on which they wish to be operating, building and expanding their networks and on the basis of the positive responses they got, they felt that the idea is beyond a one-night stand.

The ideas that propelled the founding fathers to form the Association still hold through today as it did yesterday and will do tomorrow. I will briefly be examining those ideas with you shortly but let me stay a while, if I may, on why today is special and historic.

The second reason I believe this occasion is historic is because the initiators and the Executives in my humble opinion, have not committed the error of judgment common with most Associations of Africans before them. That your members have African background does not automatically qualify you as an expert in international development matters. You took the conscious decision to localise your operations within Belgium catering for the welfare of Sub-Saharan Africans here. Agreed, some of the judgments of most African Diaspora organisations to also delve into developmental projects are driven by an uncontrollable urge to see an improvement in the lots of our brothers and sisters back home in Africa. However the truth of the matter is that as the Associations are struggling to settle matters back home in Africa, they are equally struggling to irk out a living for themselves out here. Often, the result becomes the same with a footballer that attempts to kick a ball with both feet: you miss the ball and fall flat. In other words the Amicable Association of Belgium understands what prioritisation is all about and has made it the cornerstone of their aims and objectives. Considering your natural disposition to collaborating with others, let me hope at the same time that you will close ranks where the needs arise with relevant authorities or organisations if you see worthy projects to be implemented back home. Sometimes playing a secondary, rather than a leading role, contributes immensely to the success of developmental projects particularly when international development is not part of your core business.

There are numerous other reasons this occasion is historic but for reasons of time constraint, I shall limit it to above two and this third and final one. Looking round, you will notice that there are numerous leaders of African organisations. It is often difficult, if not impossible, to see leaders of African Associations converge together, united by a common goal. There is an air of camaraderie which resulted from the fact that leaders of Amicable Association Belgium crisscrossed the length and breadth of this country, inviting the leaders of the organisations and reassuring them that the winning formulae of tomorrow is not competition but cooperation. The competitive spirit of yesterday will have to make room for spirit of cooperation that rules today and shall determine the outcome of tomorrow. They have listened to the able Chairman and the General Secretary and are justifiably part of the history-makers of today.

The main aims of the Amicable Association Belgium are simple, maybe generic, but very important, if approached properly. The Association wants to unit specifically the Sub-Saharan Africans. Once united under a platform, they then would inform, educate, facilitate better understanding of and interaction with, the host community. Finally they would aid better integration. The immediate question that arises is how exactly do you intend to do this? Precisely what are the means through which you would be achieving your organisational aims? In my interactions with the leadership of the Amicable Association Belgium, I came to know that they know that emancipation does not come easy. Can anyone point me to any individual, group or community on whose laps power just fell without having to agitate for it? Political, economic or social power never come cheap or easy. You do not wait for it. You go for it through little steps, one at a time.

Drawing from my experience, first and foremost as African, a founding Chairman of Ostend Municipal Advisory Council for Ethnic Minorities and currently an elected Municipal Legislator on a second term of office in Ostend City Council, I understand the dire need for a self-help Association with the aims and objectives that you have set forth.

Unity of Purpose
It is heartwarming that the Amicable Association Belgium is not just talking about unity as one of its core businesses but is already taking actions to bring it to live! I like the mindset that we can achieve more when united. Your decision to cooperate rather than compete is laudable. You have also not spread your fishing net so wide such that you impede the volume of fish to efficiently catch. You have deliberately targeted the Sub-Saharan Africans as a specific group. That is very good. From a management – marketing perspective, it is always better to identify your target market. I must say well done

Information is Power
That you have included information as part of your core business is commendable. The more you inform our people about their rights but equally importantly, their obligations within the host community, the more they are sensitised and the closer you come to an empowered community. Yes empowerment, because when you empower a people, you have sent ignorance and poverty further away from their doorsteps.

Education is Key
I am sure that the inclusion of education as an area of concentration by the Amicable Association Belgium is deliberate. Education, just like information is power. I can only hope that the sort of education that Amicable Association will devote time to will include issues that target our children, the second and third generation Africans here in Belgium. When you begin to develop your programme of actions, I do expect that the following questions will arise:

How do I as African parent facilitate the education of my child?
Do cultural differences, ignorance or racism play a role in the choice of studies that schools recommend for African kids?
To what extent is education key to emancipation?

It is my hope that Amicable Association will begin to ask penetrating questions about why we as African Diaspora are over-represented in the Belgian unemployment index, why our kids are more likely to end up in vocational education classes even when their natural talents could accommodate academic lines of study, if they remain in school at all; why are our kids less likely to pursue higher education than their non-African peers? Is it us or is there something fundamentally wrong with the system that things are tilted against us? These are bits and pieces of issues that need to be explored.

It may be too late for some of us as first generation African Diaspora but please let us, together ask the right questions as responsible parents and by so doing, we will be able to prevent the woes that befell us from befalling our children and generations to come.

Integration is inevitable
There is a huge danger in the ‘we’ and ‘them’ mentality. We and them discourages inclusion and encourages segregation. The bridge is integration. There are sets of rules that make this society the relatively peaceful haven that it is, where everyone can pursue his or her dreams in freedom and with liberty. I cannot make excuses for racism but we must differentiate racism from citizens who are genuinely concerned about some of us who show no respect for the values that make this society a peaceful and lovely place to reside and work. Thankfully such individuals in our community are in the minority but unfortunately such minorities mess things up for the majority of us. They breed reactions that can be construed as racism. We all have a collective responsibility to work against such behaviours. More efficaciously, we have a responsibility to prevent such behaviours from rearing their ugly heads in the first place. The answer is INTEGRATION. I define integration simply as a process of adapting your way of life to suit the norms and values of the host community. Does this mean that overnight we would have to give up eating pounded yam with egusi / ogbono and embrace frietjes with half-done meat and mayonnaise? Certainly not. Keep eating your pounded yam if frietjes is not your thing but for a start, show some interest in understanding the cultures, habits, traditions and values of your host community. Show interest and learn the language. Incidentally the vast majority of members of the host community are not expecting you to speak in accentless dutch or French. An effort is enough, as I’m sure you know. After over 20 years of residence in Flanders, Belgium, I still struggle with my Dutch grammar but it has not prevented my constituents from electing me to represent them. I still get ‘harassed’ by a few who spot one or two language flaws in my work. When it happens, I smile and I am reminded of President George W. Bush on whose account some segments of the American press have a field day because of his ‘bad’ English. I recount this just to let you know that such things do not matter. The average genuine Belgian wants to see you make genuine effort to integrate starting with learning their language. I do not expect that Amicable Association Belgium will begin to organise language classes but I am sure you can support the numerous authorities and organisations that are specialised in that field of work. Through you, they can reach the Africans. With your cooperation Africans will see the need to voluntarily sign up without been prompted. Professional integration is also a major issue. You may not be in a position to take on all of these issues but you as a self help organisation can facilitate some of these efforts that will benefit one and all.

I want to conclude by saying that the central thesis of my message to you tonight is that we are all in it together. A self help Association like the Amicables has its role as a driver and enabler cut out for it. As an Association, you have your possibilities and limitations. Your limitations may be the start of an opportunity for public servants like myself. Through collaboration, we can achieve more. Your formal launch today is therefore the cement that binds several actors together for the benefit of both the Sub-Saharan Africans in Belgium and the host communities.

Congratulations on this launch. Thank you for the opportunity to be part of this historic event and for listening to what I have had to tell you.

Cutting Close to the Workers’ Bones

The combined impact of excessive fiscal and wage austerity of current Federal Government of Belgium is hurting the most vulnerable. The dual negative impact will be prolonged depression, low inflation and indeed outright deflation.

The Leopold Park Ostend was packed full on Monday, 15 December 2014 with friends from the social sector, the civil society, labour movements and ordinary non-associated workers. The occasion was a national strike. Corporate Belgium was paralyzed as workers downed tools, took to the streets and sent a strong message to government. The nucleus of the message was that it is unfair and therefore unacceptable for workers to be paying the bills while corporate Belgium is getting a free lunch. I happily joined the strike in solidarity with the workers because I have a problem with government taking undue advantage of an elevated level of public debt to institute massively disproportionate income redistribution. In an illuminating short analysis, Ronald Janssen, an economic adviser at the trade union movement in Brussels, opines that the current ultra-conservative Belgian government obsession with wage competitiveness is resulting in a policy mix that is seriously misguided. He discusses alternative measures that are less hurting to ordinary citizens… Read more: Wage cuts and austerity in Belgium

Human Capital Imperatives of Africa Social Policy Reform

That African countries have their unique brand of social welfare and policy systems is undoubtable. The question of whether the systems and policies in place are not missing their targets has continued to linger in the thoughts of a good number of key actors in and outside Africa. What is required to reform Africa social policy such that it becomes fit for purpose is now the key question. In addition to that, an assessment of the human capital imperatives of Africa social welfare reform is of cardinal importance. These were the focus points of the inaugural session of a summit on Africa Social Policy Reform which was held at the European Parliament on 10 November 2014. Supported by the Greens European Free Alliance and convened by Hon. Collins Nweke, the Summit was opened by Bart Staes, Member European Parliament.

Global Village (Belgium), partnering with the African Social Workers Association (United Kingdom) and Skills for Africa Coalition (United States of America) in collaboration with several African Embassies in Europe as well as some UK Government Agencies and Local Authorities, could count on the expertise of a target number of practitioners from the public and private sector.  The theme of the summit is: Human Capital Imperatives of Africa Social Welfare Reform. The summit focuses on not only the reforms needed to make (ASWS) fit for purpose but also on the human capital required to successfully drive the reforms. During the summit the Human Capital requirement for achieving a robust Africa Social Welfare System (ASWS) received copious attention. Keynote Speakers included: Bart Staes, Member European Parliament, Dr. Obadiah Mailafia, Chief of Staff, Africa, Caribbean & Pacific (ACP) Countries, Dr Diodorus B. Kamala, Ambassador of the United Republic of Tanzania to Belgium, Luxembourg & the Mission to the European Union, Collins Nweke, Councillor Social Policy, Economy, Int’L Dev. Ostend City Council and Megan Clement, President Association of African Social Workers UK.

In a closing remark, the convener surmised that ‘there is an emerging dominant thought that the low impact of social policy in Africa is not for lack of legislation or international conventions. The ratification of these international conventions and implementation of national legislation seem to be the major challenge. Process reform is therefore an area that Africa needs the requisite human capital to turn things around’ he concluded.

Click on the link for video of the interventions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbRitMPFEQQ&feature=youtu.be

The UK Single Story of EU Migration

It is argued that EU workers undermine the existing terms and conditions in Britain, by working longer hours or for less than the minimum wage. Instead of scapegoating EU migrant workers, dealing with unlawful practices by UK employers would seem more reasonable

Over the past six months I have watched British Prime Minister David Cameron get more and more desperate as he argues and loses the debates on EU migration and EU integration. I do not want to be in the man’s shoes especially as a general election looms. The points of his arguments on both matters have been largely incoherent, sometimes simplistic and populist yet he has not managed to sway the massive number of conservative voters in their exodus to the nationalist party, UKIP.

Let me tell you what I know about the Prime Minister’s arguments that appear credible. I know a very good number of Anglophone sub-Saharan African migrants in mainland Europe, who relocate to the United Kingdom as soon as they naturalize and hold the EU citizenship. The pull factor for these migrants is not the UK social security. It is the language, English and the ease it offers them to retrain or further their studies and go ahead to secure gainful employment. So when I watch David Cameron and his agents on tele telling the world that the migrants are there to drain the social security purse, I node in disagreement because I know it is untrue.

This morning, I read a new study by the Oxford Institute of Social Policy which in very few words has debunked the Cameron public purse drain myth. The study tells us that it is “plausible that the contributions by EU migrant citizens outweigh the cost, as they tend to be younger than the average British citizen. Moreover, the NHS has directly benefited from intra-EU migration, as the significant domestic skill shortage was partially compensated for by EU immigration. British pensioners in receipt of a state pension abroad, posted workers, and temporary visitors to other Member States who hold an European Health Insurance Card receive healthcare on the same terms as nationals from the “host” Member State, which can then seek reimbursement…” Read the report here


Minute Silence for Nigeria at Ostend City Council

As Democrats, we must be ever ready to firmly denounce similar terror anywhere it occurs even outside Europe. More than the timing of the attacks, there is more that connects terror victims in Paris with the radical Muslim terror Boko Haram in Nigeria. People, our humanity, are at the core of the attacks: 12 dead in Paris, 2000 in Baga (Nigeria) thousands in Kivu (DR Congo), hundreds in Peshawar (Pakistan) not to mention the many other forgotten wars.

Cllr. Collins Nweke in a statement calling for a serene moment at Ostend City Council for victims of terrorism

Thank you Mr Chairman, for allowing a minute of silence for the victims of the terrorist attack in Paris. I must also congratulate the party chairmen, led by Jean Surmont (open VLD) for the symbolic initiative they took in decorating the windows of the town hall with large pencils. By their action, the party leaders have sent a strong signal that there can be no place in our society for intimidation and terror.

As Democrats, we must be ever ready to firmly denounce similar terror anywhere it occurs even outside Europe. More than the timing of the attacks, there is more that connects terror victims in Paris with the radical Muslim terror Boko Haram in Nigeria. People, our humanity are at the core of the attacks: 12 dead in Paris, 2000 in Baga (Nigeria) thousands in Kivu (DRC), hundreds in Peshawar (Pakistan) not to mention the many other forgotten wars.

This municipal council includes an Ostender of Nigerian descent, two Ostenders of Pakistani origin, a councilor whose mother was born and bred in the DR Congo, not to mention the thousands of residents of this City-On-Sea from over 130 different nationalities. It would be a mark of great courage to symbolically disapprove ALL forms of religious violence. Mr Chairman, valued colleagues, I hope you share my outrage. Through our actions, we must be able to demonstrate that a Western dead is as bad as a non-Western. May I propose Mr Chairman, ladies and gentlemen that this short and serene moment of remembrance also be held for the victims of Muslim terror in Nigeria, ethnic violence in Kivu (Congo) Taliban school attack in Peshawar (Pakistan) and all other victims of senseless wars.

Greece under radical left: a start for EU reform?

greece in eurozone

At breakfast on Sunday, 25 January 2015, I made a remark to the effect that it is the big day for the Greeks. My son made a passing response about his distaste for political extremism, be it on the left, or on the right of the political divide. He is 20 years old, a bachelor’s student of Social Work, passively but maybe inevitably interested in politics. Inevitably perhaps because he and his brother couldn’t possibly escape my constant political jabbing and therefore have to deal or contend with me. His comment reminded me of several Brookings Institute analyses that I have been reading in the last several weeks on the Greek elections. Following his comment, my boy and I had quite a chat, with his mum more or less as the perfect umpire. Shortly I shall let you into the outcome of the debate with him but allow me in the time being to let you into the thoughts that preoccupied the guys at Brookings.

I am unsure if this is representative of a broad U.S. perspective, but the key question at Brookings seemed to be whether a radical left victory in Greece will reignite the euro crisis, producing recession in Europe and some level of financial instability and slower growth in the U.S. While they thought this is unlikely, they felt it is a possibility. They played with a number of scenarios but settled for the view that a Syriza (Greek radical left party) victory would be the worst possible outcome from the point of view of the rest of Europe. They added a prediction that there will be considerable turmoil in the months to come,  though terrible outcomes will likely be avoided, ultimately. These thoughts and more shaped my mind as I set the Sunday breakfast table, invited my folks, took a place on the table and thought aloud by way of the remark I made that prompted the debate.

I didn’t think that a Student Social Worker would be moved by the economic arguments surrounding Greece. I thought I might just demonstrate my point if I built my case around the wrong economic choices made, misplaced policy decisions taken, among others. These had resulted in an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in Greece. I illustrated the crisis with two examples: over 40% of young Greek graduates can’t find jobs. Those who were initially under-employed eventually joined the joblessness. The zeal to undertake higher education was very low amongst the teenage Greek sons and daughters. Those who managed to stay in school had to study, not with their reading table alight with electricity but with candles because a serious austerity measure meant that electricity supply became a luxury rather than a necessity. I thought I managed to make the case that the situation at present is exceptional and extraordinary. Mainstream, everyday solution and policies won’t do it. This I argued was the basis of my Sunday prayers that the radical left not only wins, but wins big. I smiled when my boy finally said he was convinced by my arguments.

Now the results are in and my prayers, not the vision I saw in a dream, as some New Age Pastors will claim, have been answered.  The radical left took 149 seats, just shy of the 151 they needed for an absolute majority. Within hours, they announced a coalition with the Independent Greeks, a right wing anti-austerity party, giving their government a clear majority.  The question is how founded is the fear of the guys at Brookings Institute? Is the radical left victory a threat or opportunity for Greece and for Europe? My friend, Bart Staes, a three-term Member European Parliament, with whom I stood on the list in the May 2014 European Parliamentary elections, had released an unequivocal statement: ‘Syriza victory is an opportunity for robust Greek and European reforms’. I was also keen to know what my friend, an English Sociologist, based in Athens, whom I haven’t had contacts with in a while, thought about the situation in her adopted second home. She revealed that she reluctantly voted for the radical left. Reluctant because populism is not her cup of tea and she is curious to see if they can deliver. She, like many others were sick and tired of the old political ways. She’s reasonably confident about some able people with some experience who have joined the Syriza-led government. They do have the problem of the high expectations raised and pressures from supporters. She concluded that obviously the old system could not go further.  She also struck a note between caution and optimism ‘maybe they will play poker very well with the other Europeans and win a large gamble that some politicians realise  that the current system is not working for many in the EU especially in the Eurozone.

My English sociologist friend in Athens wasn’t particularly bouncing up and down with joy but I am! I am because like Bart Staes, I see this as a new start for Greece by getting rid of the old school.  Rather than the doomsday scenarios that some commentators have been painting, the victory of Syriza provides energy and optimism. Domestically one will hope that this wave of change will be the start of durable and robust reforms and greater social justice in Greece.  The incontestable fact of the Greek election result is that the vast majority of Greek citizens want progress, are impatient in their desire for genuine political reform and therefore want to break with an outdated, crippled political system where the oligarchs have basically ran the country aground.  Besides dismantling the ugly, capitalist fiscal and economic constructions of the oligarchy, that country has urgent need of fresh political ideas in the area of ​​sustainable economic development. Greece has enormous potential in terms of the generation of sustainable, renewable energy, sustainable agriculture and tourism.

I guess that the yardstick with which the radical left success will be measured is their ability to end the current humanitarian crisis in Greece. This will unavoidably go hand-in-hand with renegotiating economic policies with the governments of other Eurozone countries, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and any other external forces whose conditionalities have meant that Greek men, women and children have lost human dignity and are dropping dead bit by bit. This is certainly an Herculean task but not an impossible one. I contested the European parliamentary seat in May 2014 under a strong reformist agenda. Little wonder that rather than calling a halt to the radical change as started on Sunday, 25 January 2015 in Athens, I can only hope that similar wind of electoral revolution also blows into Madrid as well as in Rome. This appears to be the surest way to get the core Eurozone countries to get serious about renegotiating the terms of the EU social and economic policies.

Like I told my son at the Sunday breakfast table as the good people of Greece were going to the polls, the choice is between the far left and the far right. I hope that the established mainstream parties in Europe realise that the failure of Syriza through sabotage or other unholy means,  is tantamount to handing victory to the far right. I know it is a dilemma, the prospect is unpleasant but it is also about making a choice. The Greeks made their choice on Sunday. Hopefully Europe will make theirs too because this is about reorganising for a better and fairer Europe.


Collins NWEKE | Green Party Councillor at Ostend City Council Belgium

28 January 2015

Issues & Views

People come first

People First

Politics and elections should be about people. It shouldn’t be just about State structures or budgets. The new Green that I align with sees a twin issue, not a single issue. Yes, the climate is changing. But the social climate is also changing. I do not want to save the planet earth with nobody to live in it. Thus, I am concerned about the incredibly fast pace at which planet earth is depleting. In equal measure, I am deeply worried about the growing inequality between people within Europe, but also between European citizens and people from other countries. The traditional parties would like to make you believe that high unemployment and the poor economy is as a result of massive migration. That does not add up. They won’t tell you that their neo-liberal and conservative social and economic policy path since the 1980s is the direct cause of the financial crisis of 2008, the euro crisis of 2010 and rising poverty  (25% or 121 million poor Europeans) especially youths and infant poor. I believe in a people-centered economic and social policy driven by fair and equitable policies with a win-win for all.

Mensen eerst

Politiek en verkiezingen gaan over mensen, niet over staatsstructuren of begrotingen. Ik sluit mij aan bij het nieuwe Groen dat een dubbele uitdaging voor ogen heeft: het klimaat verandert, maar het sociale klimaat is ook aan het veranderen. Ik wil geen planeet redden waar er geen mensen meer zijn om in te wonen. Ik ben dus bezorgd over de ongelooflijke snelle tempo waarmee planeet aarde aan het uitgeputten is. In gelijke mate, ben ik diep bezorgd over de groeiende ongelijkheid tussen mensen binnen Europa, maar ook de ongelijkheid tussen de Europese burgers en mensen uit andere landen. De traditionele partijen willen ons doen geloven dat de hoge werkloosheid en de slechte economie een gevolg is van de massale migratie. Dat klopt niet. Ze zullen je niet vertellen dat hun neo- liberale en conservatieve sociaal-economisch beleidspad sinds de jaren 1980 de directe oorzaak is van de financiële crisis van 2008, de eurocrisis van 2010 en de stijgende armoede ( 25 % of 121 miljoen mensen), (jeugd)werkloosheid en kinderarmoede. Ik geloof in een mensgerichte economisch en sociaal beleid gedreven door een eerlijke en rechtvaardige beleid met een win-win situatie voor iedereen.


Lobbyists come last

 Lobbyists last

The influence of lobbyists in European politics should be put to check by a clearer arrangement. A   compulsory registration registry is the minimum. This will facilitate a more transparent, fairer Europe with respect for individual freedoms. We can’t rescue the euro but lose the Europeans. The activities of the lobbyists help to put too much emphasis on economic growth and too little on democratic and social growth, transparency in decision making and the deontology of the representatives of the people. A fairer Europe that I represent will de-emphasize too many economic interests and place the emphasis on the rights of the human person, his privacy and personal freedom.


Neen aan lobbyisten

De invloed van lobbyisten in de Europese politiek moet worden aangepakt door een duidelijkere regeling. We redden de euro maar verliezen de Europeanen. Teveel nadruk ligt op economie, te weinig op democratie, transparantie in de besluitvorming en de deontologie van de volksvertegenwoordigers. Teveel economische belangen krijgen voorrang op de rechten van de mens, diens privacy en persoonlijke vrijheid.


Cooperate rather than compete

Cooperate not compete

Cooperation rather than competition is the winning formula for a purposeful Europe. This guarantees that Europe protects rather than threatens its citizens. The Green political family in the European Parliament will advocate for decent jobs and equal standards such as an equal income for equal work. We want a basic income for everyone so that more self-determination and flexibility is achieved. We strive for quality education and guarantees on jobs for young people. We want a social Europol and strong cooperation between the national social inspection services to ensure that abuse on salary, housing and undermining of social security systems is made impossible. We will propose laws that will sharpen existing solidarity mechanisms, reward those that collaborate and penalize those that undertake unfair competition practices.


Samenwerken in plaats van concurreren

Wij willen dat Europa vertrekt vanuit solidariteit in plaats van concurrentie, dat Europa haar burgers beschermt, niet bedreigt. We pleiten voor degelijke jobs en gelijke standaarden zoals een gelijk inkomen voor gelijk werk. We willen een basisinkomen voor iedereen zodat meer zelfbeschikking en flexibiliteit mogelijk zijn. We streven naar kwaliteitsvol onderwijs en garanties op jobs voor jongeren. We willen een sociale Europol en dus sterke samenwerking tussen de nationale sociale inspectiediensten om misbruiken inzake verloning, huisvesting en ondermijning van de sociale zekerheidsstelsels onmogelijk te maken.


Green Economy & Fair Taxation

Green Economy

I advocate for green tax regime based on the principle that the polluter should pay, but also that the strongest shoulders bear the heaviest burden as long as we do not break their backs. There must be an absolute halt to tax havens, fiscal amnesty and tax evasion. Europe must strive for greater transparency in the use of funds and not unilaterally a fair financial policy that focuses on savings but creates opportunities for future generations by smart investments in green jobs.


Groene Economie & Faire Belastingen

Ik pleit voor groene belastingregime gebaseerd op het principe dat de vervuiler betaalt, maar ook dat de sterkste schouders de zwaarste lasten moeten dragen. Er moet een absolute einde komen aan belastingparadijzen, fiscale amnestie en belastingontduiking. Europa moet naar meer transparantie streven in het gebruik van haar middelen. Eenzijdig financieële beleidsvormingen diezich enkel op besparing richt mogen niet meer. Een faire, sociaal Europa creëert het best mogelijkheden voor de toekomstige generaties door slimme investeringen in groene banen en de groene economie.


 Diaspora Professional Integration

Diaspora Integration

It is sad that a teacher who trained in Africa or Asia before migrating to Europe is unable to find a job as a cleaner in a school where he or she should be teaching. It is also intolerable that a migrant who qualified as a Medical Doctor in his or her homeland cannot work even as a nurse in an hospital without going back to school for some three years. It is even more depressing to note that in the UK for instance, a Diaspora Medical Doctor is simply required to take a professional entry exam and is admitted to practice the medical profession if successful in the exam. Why is this possible in the UK and not in Belgium for example? This is a loss for both the individuals involved and Europe as well. The European Parliament has a role in professional policy harmonization.


Diaspora professionele integratie

Het is triestig dat een leraar die in Afrika of Azië opgeleid werd vóór de migratie naar Europa kan geen job vinden zelfs als schoonmaker in een school waar hij of zij normaalgezien moet werken als lesgever. Het is ook onaanvaardbaar dat een migrant die in zijn of haar thuisland als arts gekwalificeerd is geen job kan vinden, zelfs als verpleegkundige in een ziekenhuis, zonder bijkomende opleinding van drie jaar. Het is zelfs meer deprimerend om op te merken dat in het Verenigd Koninkrijk bijvoorbeeld, een dokter van een buitenlandse afkomst gewoon een ​​professionele toelatingsexamen kan afleggen. Slaagt hij voor het examen, wordt hij zonder verdere formaliteiten toegelaten tot het uitoefenen van het medische beroep. Waarom is dit mogelijk in het Verenigd Koninkrijk en niet in België bijvoorbeeld? Dit is een verlies voor zowel de betrokken personen als voor Europa of de betrokken land. Het Europees Parlement heeft een rol in de professionele harmonisatie van diploma behaald buiten de Europees Unie.


 Inclusive Europe

Inclusive Europe

An inclusive and welcoming Europe sees no one as illegal. Europe must regulate migratory flows so that refugees – temporarily or otherwise – can get a safe haven. Europe has unmet and mismatched labour needs. While retraining and adaptation of training and education curriculum is required to serve the labour market better, studies and recent experiences in the care sector have shown that migration can be tuned to the needs of the labour market. We must be tough on human traffickers and employers who exploit undocumented migrants but Europe must enact more effective laws. The absence of such laws creates incentives for the bad guys. The message should be: tackle crime but don’t forget to tackle along the causes of crime. Europe must compel member states to comply better with European conventions on asylum policy and human rights.


Inclusief Europa

Een inclusief en gastvrij Europa ziet niemand als illegaal. Europa moet migratiestromen  reguleren, zodat vluchtelingen – al dan niet tijdelijk – een veilige haven krijgen. Europa heeft onvervulde en niet passende arbeid behoeften. Er is nood aan het aanpassen van het onderwijssyteem met nadruk op arbeidsmarktgerichte opleidingen en herschooling. Tergelijketijd hebben recente arbeidsmarktstudies en specifieke ervaringen in de zorgsector hebben aangetoond dat migratie afgestemd kan worden op de behoeften van de arbeidsmarkt. We willen hard optreden tegen mensensmokkelaars en werkgevers die mensen zonder papieren uitbuiten. Het niet van toepassing dergelijke wetten te creëeren als stimulans voor de slechteriken. De boodschap moet zijn: misdaad aanpakken, maar  niet vergeten de oorzaken van criminaliteit ook aan te pakken. Europa moet lidstaten dwingen om beter te voldoen aan de Europese verdragen inzake asielbeleid en mensenrechten.


Africa – Europe Trade Policy

Africa -Europe Trade Relations

Trade between Europe and Africa is as old as mankind. Trade, not aid, must define the new Europe – Africa relations. Work is needed on both sides to accomplish this laudable ideal. Fair trade policies are at the heart of this new, equitable relationship. On the face of it, any move in the direction of equitable Africa – Europe Trade Policy will ring a bell of disadvantage for Europe and a win only for Africa. I do not think so because I’m convinced that fair trade is a deciding component of a fairer Europe. This will ultimately translate into a win-win for all. I want to see a European Parliament that encourages Europe to trade fairly with Africa in the expectation that proceeds from such trade relations will surpass aids financed by the European tax payers. It will also break the unhealthy culture of Africa dependence on Europe, albeit in a gradual, phased out and durable process.


Afrika – Europa handelsbeleid

De handel tussen Europa en Afrika is zo oud al eeuwen oud. Handel en niet ontwikkelingshulp moet de nieuwe Europa – Afrikarelatie definiëren. Er is werk nodig aan beide kanten om dit lovenswaardige ideaal te bereiken. Fair tradebeleid moet de basis zijn voor deze nieuwe, rechtvaardige relatie. Op het eerste gezicht, zal elke stap in de richting van een billijke Afrika-Europa handelsbeleid gezien worden als nadelig voor Europa en een overwinning voor Afrika. Daar ga ik niet me akkoord, want ik ben ervan overtuigd dat eerlijke handel een beslissende onderdeel is van een rechtvaardiger Europa. Dit zal uiteindelijk leiden tot een win-win situatie voor iedereen. Ik wil een Europees Parlement dat Europa stimuleert voor een eerlijkere handel met Afrika in de verwachting dat de opbrengsten van dergelijke handelsbetrekkingen de ontwikkelingshulp  gefinancierd door de Europese belastingbetalers zal vervangen. Het zal ook de ongezonde Afrika-Europa economisch afhankelijkheidscultuur geleidelijk afgebouwd worden op een duurzame manier.