miércoles, 25 de octubre de 2017

"And the weak suffer what they must?" - Yanis Varoufakis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Books on economic issues are usually difficult to read unless you have some previous knowledge on the matter. The merit of Yannis Varaoufakis is having written a book on monetary history in postwar Europe which is readable for all. The story is so readable that sometimes is as gripping as a detective novel where the murdered is democracy, the weapon the ideal of a more united Europe and the killers an elite of non-elected burocrats and academics.

Varoufakis presented us the tragedy of the making-of of European Monetary Union, a succession of crisis where each solution have drive towards a greater probability to suffer a bigger crisis where the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must. According with the author, the seeds were planted with the creation of the European Union (then the European Economic Community) as a tool to defend the interest of the Central European industry and French agriculture, without any popular demand in its basis. As a consequence, the managers of this tool has always been more worry of saving the interest of the richer whatever its social consequences for the rest of the society.

Against the opinion of the founding fathers of the Union and many of its successors in ruling Member States or the European institutions, Varoufakis defends that a closer economic union is not bringing us to a closer union. Futhermore, the absence of a real political debate in the European institutions on taxation and spending at the European level makes impossible even a real economic union. To sum up, there is not real sovereign control on the decissions of the burcrats in charge of the economic policies (the European Commission), which take advantange of each crisis to capture more power from the Member States without adding any (or few) popular control on the machinery. The outstanding example for the author is the Eurogroup, the institution where the main economic decissions are taken that even is not described in the Treaties as an institution.

The author, as you may expect, is particularly critic with the construction of the monetary union. He tries to show the impossibility of success os a monetary union without a solidarity on the debts and based only on free trade. Varoufakis present the contrast of this reality with how the economic issues are dealt in a real union as the USA as the reason for a European Union doomed to fail.

Perhaps, you will not be agree to all or even any of the arguments that Yanis Varoufakis uses in his book, but the book is also interesting to know the story of the European monetary union. In the book you will discover its origin as a tool to overcome Bretton Woods sinking, its first stages as a mere stabilizer of currencies exchange value, the role of a closer monetary Union in the making-of of Brexit and how the dream of a French control of a German currency failed.

miércoles, 18 de octubre de 2017

Brexit does not mean #Brexit in the digital dimension



After the position paper on the flow of personal data future relationship between UK and EU, UK government has published a paper containing its vision on the UK-EU cooperation on foreign policy, defence and development after Brexit. Coherently with the rising tide of threats for all countries coming from cyberspace, the paper has dedicated some space to the future cybersecurity cooperation.

It looks quite logical that UK and EU maintain a tight relationship on cybersecurity matters. According with the ITU Global Cybersecurity Index 2017, UK scored 4th among European countries and 14th globally in the world rank of countries commited towards cybersecurity. Besides beign an important global player in cybersecurity, UK has played the role of  bridge between EU and US in this field. However, in the cybersecurity field as in other areas it looks that UK asks for a Brexit without Brexit. 
The framework for cybersecurity relationships in the European Union is defined in the Network and Information Security Directive (NIS Directive). This Directive defines the existence of two groups for cooperation among Member States, the Cooperation Group (article 11) and the CSIRT Network (article 12). The first group aims to facilitate strategic cooperation, while the second has an operational nature, but, as I said previously, they are groups or Member States only by its legal definition. For the surprise of all, the UK proposes to "collaborating closely through participation in the CSIRT network and Cooperation Group" after Brexit.  

An important part of the European digital community was horrified after Brexit, and I include myself among them. But this position of Brexit without Brexit was beyond our expectations. After the aspiration to continue its membership of EU privacy cooperation groups, now UK has uncovered the same intention towards cybersecurity cooperation groups. Perhaps, they need to review those old Sesame Street chapters describing what means in and what means out.


miércoles, 11 de octubre de 2017

The case for a world summit on the future of work

There is a certain panic along the world with the unstoppable raising of the usage of robots and Artificial Intelligence (AI). People so far from being a luddite as Elon Musk or Bill Gates have make calls to be cautious in their development and even the AI industrial leaders are advocates of a certain limitation on their usages. The identification of AI as the basis for new world empires by some kind of politicians do not contribute to dilute the apprehension.

But beyond the apocalyptic visions of Terminator-like robots exterminating the human race, what worries the man and woman of main street is the risk of losing their job. Trade Unions in different countries are drawing the attention on the challenge of boosting productivity but not a the cost of employees. Different proposals are begining to be debate aiming to sooth the population on these fears about a jobless future (and therefore, without a wage for living). The idea of taxing the usage of robots in the centre of this ideas, but it is facing the difficult task of defining what is a robot.

However, not everybody is equally worried about having robots as working mates and rivals for obtaining a job. Those who are going to be the main actors of the future look robots as a complement for their activities and an opportunity to avoid doing the harder tasks in working environments.On the other hand, the governments of aging and advanced societies like Germany are welcoming robots as the remedy for the shortage of workers.

As on the field of the AI and robot usages for wars, the role of robots on the future of work deserve an international UN summit. The alternative will be masses of unemployed and continuous global unrest. But if the summit is called, beware that this time everybody pays their fair share of the organisational fees.

miércoles, 4 de octubre de 2017

Personal Data in the future relationship EU-UK

Brexit negotiations are on march since some months ago. Strictly guided by the text of article 50 of the treaty, the conversations between the two parts has started talking only about the issues related with the UK´s exit from the EU. There are few if any digital issues to be tackled on this stage of the negotiations.

The British team is eeager to start the second stage of the negotiations on the future relationship, although for its dismay the efforts are despised by the EU. Not even the flood of papers on the future relationship published by the UK in August in order to prove its readiness to start the second phase has obtained any oficial reaction from the EU. Among the most ignored was the paper on personal data flows, "The exchange and protection of personal data - a future partnership paper".

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will be one of the last EU regulations that are going to be applied in the UK. Although its applicability would end the Brexit day, there is a commitment with the continuity of its application on british soil. To be concrete, the new Brtish Data Protection Bill will bring the complete GDPR into British legal framework and the UK firms are taking seriously its fulfilment hiring people to meet with its obligations.

According with this privileged situation, the UK´s proposal for the future relationship on the field of data is continuity as if nothing has happened. Certainly, there is a sound rationale for the almost automatic publication of adequacy decission by the European Commission on Brexit day that would enable the continuity of data flows by UK and the EU. Furthermore, another option will be harmful for both parts.

Nevertheless, besides this logic proposal the paper also shows some clues that the UK has not grasp the dimension of Brexit. As an alternative for building up a regulatory cooperation in this area is to continue the involvement of the ICO (UK Data Protection Authority) in the EU Data protection Authorities network, but we the disclaimer that the UK government will be the unique responsible of the data protection in UK.

So it´s not a good start for the negotiations of the digital Brexit. As it was expected, digital economy looks as one cherry of UK´s cherrypicking strategy. That could mean on the end a tougher position from the EU on this field, and therefore more uncertainty about the final result. Another block on the middle of Europe´s digital policies.
palyginti kainas