Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Germany for refugees, the information level

In order to answer questions and cover the lack of information about Germany among refugees, and Konrad Adenauer Stiftung released at the end of 2015 a bilingual book - German-Arabic - about Germany. Under the title 'First information for Refugees', it offers in a simple language - I can certify for the German as I am not familiar with different Arabic dialects - basic data about culture, work culture, everyday life, history, rule of law, food and drinking habits, transportation rules etc. It starts with a 'Welcome to Germany' address outlining the need to know the main rules in the society, The reader will learn that Germany is rich in forests, but also that there is a complicated tax system in place. On several occasions it is reminded the Shoah and the negative load of the WWII history. There are offered links about the halal food or circumcision. The authors mentioned that women can find in Germany in stores special outfits such as abbaya or hijab. Different stages of the registration process are also explained.
The readers are informed that beating your wife is not practised in Germany since 1928 and also that bigamy and poligamy are forbidden. Germans have many hobbies and are members of different associations and societies, and among others like to swim or do yoga. During the summer, the reader is told, women do dress light and it is ok. Also couples - gay or heterosexual - may manifest publicly their feelings. This is also ok. 
Talking about culture, it is mentioned that 'The situation of culture was never better'.but also that the role of the media is not only to inform but also to have a critical stance against the government. The readers are warned to avoid downloading illegaly documents from the Internet.
At the chapter regarding cultural habits in Germany, are mentioned, among others: being in time, not being very offensive towards women, respecting the time of rest during the day, not talking loud on the phone. There is also said about how important is to wash your hands but I suppose that the authors forgot the customs of the muslim society. Also at the hygiene part, there is extensively explain how to correctly use the toilet and what not to throw inside. Talking about practice, I suppose you do not have to be a refugee for being informed about that...Many locals also need some training in this respect.
Another important information for refugees: Germans love their cars and may overreact if their car will be scratched. 
At the end of the book, there is a basic vocabulary list. The booklet is also available as app.
How valuable is the information presented here for the refugees? Despite some clumsy approaches, it is useful, at least in the first stage of the journey. However, besides reading, many of the people reaching Germany would need some time to know the culture and the mentality. This cannot be done overnight and books do not always help, but the direct contact with the people and the society as such. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

How do I find the news

With over 10 years of practice in the traditional media, out of which more than 7 years dealing with foreign affairs and 15 years of various blogging, including in the field of foreign affairs and diplomacy, I am familiar with a lot of sources useful for finding inspiration for articles. Able to read and communicate in several languages, I have the advantage of getting first hand access to a variety of worlds. I am not a big TV fan, and I usually prefer once in a while some podcasts, so the non-written sources do not have too much chaces unless there is a high emergency.
I travel often and an additional source of inspiration is represented by the direct contact with people and eventually, participation at various events related to foreign affairs, such as international conferences or events.
As I also have an academic background, with PhD in history, I prefer to let the topic cold down a little bit, till will achieve a bigger understanding of the entire context. There is always a temptation to write on the spot and as a journalist I follow very often this impulse. After all, we always needed to cover what everyone covered and missing the big subjects of the day would have mean a disqualification of the paper and especially of the journalist. Hence, the joy of being my own boss, with the blog as my playground and no one else to held me accountable for my omissions. I love to wait and see the different angles and first and foremost to read as much as possible for properly covering the issue. When you need to cover an instant news, you never have more than maximum 5-6 hours to do the research, ask questions and finish the writing. As a blogger, I do not care to offer news - although I am still looking forward to share that big secret no one else know about it before - but perspectives and views.
But there are also some predictable aspects of my daily search for diplomatic meaning: I do  have also a schedule of big international meetings and events - such as international gatherings as NATO or EU summits or big benchmarks - trying to give an idea about the possible agenda and the predictable consequences. 
As for now I am based in Germany, covering the local topics is predominant but expect to have covered other perspectives as well. 

Egypt versus Iran, and not only

In an interview offered to a very pro-Iran sympathetic Dieter Bednarz from Spiegel the last week, the foreign minister of Egypt, Sameh Hassan Shoukry outlined several times the unsatisfaction with the constant involvement of Iran in the internal affairs of other countries from region, such as Syria, Bahrain, Iraq or Yemen.Following the latest evolutions in the region and the high proof of Iranian influence especially in Yemen and Syria, based on an expansionist conception focused on strengthening of religious - Shiilte - ties in the region, Egypt stays for now on the side of the opposition to Tehran politics, similarly with Saudi Arabia. Egypt does not  have diplomatic relations with Iran, following the peace treaty with Israel. 
Currenly, Egypt is coping with a resurgence of ISIS regroupement in Sinai,which jeopardizes not only the security in the region, but also tends to isolate Egypt. In the last years, the country kept losing significant amounts of money due to the diminishing of touristic presence. 
In the interview offered to Der Spiegel; Shoukry repeats on several occassions that Tehran involvement is wrong and the opposition against the Iranian officials is justified, including through the measures took against its influence agents, such it was the case of the Shiite leader Nimr Baqir al-Nimr. The Sheikh was condemned to death the 2nd of January. He often pledged for religious freedom in the Kingdom who practices a Wahhabi version of Sunni islam and considers the Shi'a as heretics. Western media and NGOs portrays the sheikh as a fighter for religious freedom. 
Shoukry, a close confident to current president Sisi and former ambassador in the US, Austria and Switzerland during Mubarak, gave the interview before his official visit to Germany.
As things look now, there is Iran against the rest of independent states in the region, with no benefits for anyone, especially for the regional stability.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Back on the writing track

For almost two years, this blog was silent. Other writing assignments and interests kept me away of one of my biggest passions: foreign policy. Now, with more time in my pocket and a lot of writing ideas, I am ready to continue.
The content will not change too much. I will try to post at least twice the week, analysis and researched articles on daily topics. I would also try to write once in a while fresh content with interviews with experts on different topics and book reviews on topics relevant to foreign policy. The focus will be on analysis, trying to understand current events and trends as well as to give different answers to common questions. We will always use a mixl approach, which combines the fine psychological observation with the deep historical knowledge and familiarity with the usual trends and tendencies in the political arena.
Although Europe and the US remain important global players, I will prefer as often as possible to offer more space for analysis to the countries and regions outside the usual mental comfort zone.
As I am preparing for this year the publication of two books on topics related to foreign affairs, one of them dedicated to the influence of social media to diplomatic trends, I will regularly write on issues of interest for my upcoming editorial projects. 
There may be many dramatic changes endeavoured but only in the second part of the year, after I have the guarantee that my blog is finally back on the track.
As for now, time for preparing the next posts and the editorial agenda for the coming days and weeks. I hope that this long silence was a useful respiro for a dramatic change of the blog, following the new insights and understandig that I won while being offline. 
Keep in touch with good writing news!