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Society. Globalization. European identity - year 2004

European identity

    Globalization is the term that describes the currently going global integration phenomenon. It has a different meaning for different people. Many people have a very narrow understanding that focuses primarily on financial integration, meaning the free movement of products, services all around the world. Other people, relate globalization with liberalization (trade, cross-border human flow). Finally, some people believe that globalization is a synonym to westernization.
    However, Globalization is not just about the deepening of financial markets but includes also a whole range of political, social, economic, and cultural phenomenon. These types of activities in different parts of the world combined have significant consequences for individuals, communities, enterprises, and political structures in a distant part of the world. It is facilitated by a variety of linkages and interconnections that are represented by institutions that link globalize social relations.
    Looking at the smaller scope of globalization, these trends are visible in Europe, where diverse cultures are step by step converging towards one union. The European Union has come a long way towards this. From the grim realities of late-night horse-trading at Nice less than 5 years ago, we have experienced a lot of achievements - the successful launch of the Euro and the enlargement to 10 new Member States to name the most major. We have even reached the stage where we are on the verge of seeing the first European Constitution come into being. Even if the constitution will not be ratified by all the countries, it will represent one more step forward towards the global values as constitutionalism, democracy, human rights, pluralism/tolerance, common identity, and solidarity/equality.
    In the eyes of young Europeans, the enlargement of last year opened a lot of opportunities for traveling, studying, working, and living in foreign countries. The process of globalization and the steady reduction of communications and transportation costs has made mobility much easy. The amount of students who are moving from one country to another is increasing every year and the bonds that hold young people in their country are becoming weaker.
    As a result, the following story is not surprising anymore. It is only one example out of similar hundreds, thousands, or even more.
    Several weeks ago I have met a 25 years old young French woman in Ljubljana. The woman graduated in France and then moved to the UK for her master’s program. While she was studying in the UK, she went for 6 months through the ERASMUS exchange program to Poland, and currently, she is working in Brussels. When I have asked her where you from are, the answer was - Europe. She said: “I am European”.
    To sum up, the recent political changes in Europe signify the move toward globalization. Young generations are moving from one place to another and the link with one or another place is becoming very weak. Moreover, the language barrier is no longer a major issue, as a big part of the European society can communicate either in English or in French. Nowadays,  study programs in English are proposed in the vast majority of the universities.

Modern catastrophes

    One of the key facts of this period of rapid technological development and on-going information revolution is incessant change. Change is occurring in nearly every area of human existence and affecting almost each and every person. Convergence can be defined as the continued integration of communication, computing, and content.

    8 p.m. A metro station “La Défense” (Paris) is full of people rushing home or somewhere else after a workday. Some of them are just standing, some are reading newspapers, some are flirting, some are listening to music via MP3 and so on. This big group of people with different backgrounds from all around the world is waiting for the same metro.
    The sound informing that the metro is approaching appears and everybody goes closer to the railing. Soon, the metro appears and everybody fills it.
In the overfull carriage, the chat of two young women is heard. The lady in a black suit and white blouse is blaming another:

-I am so tired today. We had big problems with the internet today. It crashed almost every hour…
- Really? I am so sorry to hear that. For me, it would be a catastrophe if such a problem would appear as all my work is based on the internet.
- Mine as well… In general, it is hard to understand the day without the internet.

    It was a real-life illustration that proves how important new developments are. Therefore, the continued growth and reliance on information technology has made knowledge accessible well beyond borders. Electronic mail, the World Wide Web, the Internet in its other guises, corporate intranets, and other forms of data flow, all promote discussion and knowledge. International collaboration on research and other projects is thereby facilitated. Libraries across the world are broken open at the beck of individuals tapping away at their desks. Thus we have moved well beyond the dissemination of knowledge through television networks and wire services that already contributed to our knowledge of issues and events outside domestic borders.
Nowadays, computer-supported collaborative learning enhances team performance through tools for communicating each person’s ideas, structuring group dialogue and decision making, recording the rationales for choices, and facilitating collective activities. The amount of these kinds of teams is increasing in all industries as companies are becoming more global.
    In the Globalization age, time e-commerce is transforming the global market place. People (especially the young generation) are keener on buying things through the internet. E-commerce opens up opportunities for involvement in global, virtual communities and saves a lot of time for a modern person.
Summing up this part, the people are directly affected by technological changes, but there is also a keen consciousness of changes swirling amongst us but perhaps yet to prick our own skin (with the two buts in the sentence it is a bit difficult to understand what you want to say). As Professor Jonathan Friedman argues, the essence of globalization ‘resides in the consciousness of the global that is consciousness by individuals of the global situation specifically that the world is an arena in which we all participate’.

Knowledge-based challenges

    Together with new great opportunities, new challenges are coming. The whole context of learning and working is changing. In the age of Globalization and an information economy, the objective of education is no longer simply to express a recognized body of knowledge but to enhance the ability of each learner to generate access, assess, adapt, and apply knowledge and information to complex problems. Globalization age learners (young employees) have not to be just present with “ready-made” problems but should be required to make major contributions to problem identification. In the Globalization age, a young employee has to think critically and independently, exercise appropriate judgment; the importance of teamwork increased enormously; adapt to new and uncertain situations; identify problems and then solve them.
    These types of challenges are especially significant for young employees in the post-soviet countries, where the centrally planned economy was changed to a market economy and everything is on the growing and learning stage. Using the opportunities brought after the enlargement and new information and communications technologies, there is the potential for expansion of educational opportunities through the use of technology-enhanced learning techniques. The approaches increase the learning opportunities for students.

“Coca-cola” phenomenon

    Global companies are taking the major part of worldwide companies. The following example illustrates the present situation of the market.
Imagine, it is a very hot day in Riga and you are extremely thirsty. The only thing that you are thinking of is a bottle of cold “Coca – Cola”. Do you think you can not get “Coca Cola” in Latvia? No, you are absolutely wrong. At present Coca-Cola is widely seen as a standard-bearer of global business. It was a Coke CEO, the late Roberto Goizueta, who declared in 1996: "The labels 'international' and 'domestic'…no longer apply." His globalization program often summarized under the tagline "think global, act global," had included an unprecedented amount of standardization. In addition, if you go to the shop in any part of the world, you see that the biggest part of shelves is loaded with worldwide know products.
    The impact of globalization comes from increasing competition, increasing mobility of factors of production, capital, and labor forces. Capital can move from regions where it returns is low and labor costs are high to regions where it return is high and labor costs are low. Workers, especially high-skilled ones can move to countries with low tax levels, or underreport the incomes earned abroad.
    Globalization is leading to greater economic integration, but at the same time, there are two important areas where the world is becoming more restrictive and more protectionists.  I want to highlight the following two facts.  The first one concerns the restrictions on the movement of low-skilled labor. The second one is the creation of “intellectual property rights” that restrict the flow of knowledge, ideas, and technology.  These protectionist restrictions ensure that the benefits of globalization are distributed inequitably, within an asymmetric structure of global governance that favors the rich and the powerful while placing the poor and the weak at a considerable disadvantage.  The solution is greater liberalization, not less, and this in turn requires more democratic decision-making at the global level.
    To sum up this part, from the economic point of view, globalization increases the competition and increase the better allocation of resources. The society is benefiting from the decreasing prices due to the strong competition. However, in trade and commerce, an area where there has been a considerable degree of liberalization; the benefits of globalization have been distributed inequitably.  The reason is continuing discrimination against products of particular importance to low-income countries.  Even in the areas where globalization has advanced most rapidly, there has been an asymmetrical relationship.  The poor have been put at the end of the queue.
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