Top 10 Eurovision Songs from the 2010’s

Hello, Europe! This is Wisconsin calling!

Every year since the 2009-2010 school year, I’ve shown my students Eurovision.  It occurs about 3-4 weeks before we get out for the year, so it’s a nice break before the last, crazy month.  I begin by explaining the basic rules and format and then tell them we’re going to watch all the year’s entries and vote on a collective top ten.  Some of the students really get into it and try to watch the finals (or at least find out the results), coming in on Monday asking what I thought, sometimes with a “can you believe country x won?”  My own children enjoy Eurovision, and we even have a playlist of our favorites, some of which are before 2010.

Now that I’m in the 11th year doing this, I thought I would try to come up with a top 10 from the 2010’s (2010-2019).  That, and we need a little fun and light hearted debate due to the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent isolation.


1 Point: “Lights and Shadows” by OG3NE (The Netherlands, 2017)

This one takes me back to 9th grade because it reminds me of Wilson Phillips.  Plus, it has little bit of edge to it towards the end.


2 Points: “Playing with Fire” by Ovi and Paula Seling  (Romania, 2010)

Dueling pianos? Yes, please.  If that’s not enough, Paula Seling also hits some seriously high notes.


3 Points: “Tomorrow” by Gianluca Bezzina (Malta, 2013)

This is just a nice, feel-good, love song.  It’s that simple.


4 Points: “What’s the Pressure” by Laura Tesoro (Belgium, 2016)

Love the funk aspect.  If you’re looking for a song that makes you want to dance, this is it.


5 Points: “Eastern European Funk” by InCulto (Lithuania, 2010)

Come for the kazoos, stay for the message about Eastern Europeans in the EU.  Another one that gets you moving to the music.


6 Points: “In a Moment Like This” by Chanée and N’Evergreen (Denmark, 2010)

There’s something about the chorus that feels triumphant.  Spoiler alert: It also has an epic key change.


7 Points: “Alcohol is Free” by Koza Mostra and Agathon Iakovidis (Greece, 2013)

Combines two of my favorite genres- rock and ska.


8 Points: “We Could be the Same” by maNga (Turkey, 2010)

Reminds me a little bit of Linkin Park.  Always nice to have a good rock song in the contest.


10 Points: “Coming Home” by Sjonni’s Friends (Iceland, 2011)

The story behind the band coming together is heartbreaking, but this is one those songs with great lyrics, where you want to sing along.


12 Points: “Never Forget” by Greta Salóme and Jónsi (Iceland, 2012)

This is just an epic-sounding song.  My daughter and I love to sing along to this in the car.  You can also watch it in the original Icelandic.


So, what do you think?  Do you have any favorites that didn’t make the cut?

Thanks for reading.

Strengthening Transatlantic Relations Under a New Democratic President

Since he has taken office, President Trump has consistently alienated our NATO allies and the EU.  As such, the next President will have a lot of work to do to repair transatlantic relations.  To that end, here are some possible ideas for rapprochement.

Speech in Berlin or Brussels
Once the Democratic nominee is official after the July 2020 convention, they should begin preparing to make a speech in Europe, preferably in Berlin or Brussels.  The speech should not just reiterate the history and importance of transatlantic relations; it should also promote new opportunities for cooperation.

Berlin is an obvious choice because of Germany’s influence in European affairs.  Barack Obama spoke there in July 2008 before he was elected, and in regards to transatlantic relations, said “Partnership and cooperation among nations is not a choice; it is the one way, the only way, to protect our common security and advance our common humanity.” Additionally, Germany takes over the presidency of the Council of the EU on July 1, 2020, and will hold it until Dec 31, 2020, and so a speech in Berlin might be a way to talk about the importance of the EU.

Brussels also makes sense since it is home to NATO and the capital of the EU.  Given the prominent role the US plays in NATO, it would be a good place to reassure our allies we stand with them.  As for the EU, the US has a long history of supporting European integration, and it is a crucial partner for the US in terms of trade and investment.

Climate Change
Ursula von der Leyen has made it quite clear that climate change is at the top of the Commission’s agenda.  The goal of the newly established European Green Deal is to make the EU climate neutral by 2050.  Additionally, Europe is home to some of the most sustainable cities and communities, e.g. Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Helsingborg, and Stockholm.  Denmark has even appointed a climate ambassador.  Since both Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders have pledged to have the US rejoin the Paris Agreement, taking action to protect the climate is an area where the US and Europe can collaborate.

Gender Equality
In addition to the European Green Deal, the Commission has also established a Gender Equality Strategy.  According to the Commission’s website, “The goal is a Union where women and men, girls and boys, in all their diversity, are free to pursue their chosen path in life, have equal opportunities to thrive, and can equally participate in and lead our European society” (bold in original).  Sweden also has the world’s first feminist foreign policy.  Finally, the Nordic countries “continually rank high among the best countries to be a woman.”  This is an area where the US could not just collaborate, but also learn from its European partners.

Sustainable Development Goals
According to the Commission’s website for the SDG’s, “The EU has committed to implement the Sustainable Development Goals both in its internal and external policies.”  This was especially evident when I was in Brussels June 2019.  Every meeting we had at an EU body mentioned or discussed at length what they were doing for the SDG’s.  It was almost a matter of pride.  Here in the US, on the other hand, we rarely, if ever, hear about the SDG’s in political discourse.  If the US is going to rejoin the Paris Agreement, then it it makes sense to also work towards the 2030 Agenda.

Development
The EU is a global leader in development aid to countries around the world.  Looking at Official Development Assistance (ODA) alone, the five countries in 2018 that met the target of .7% of GNI towards ODA were all European.  The US, on the other hand, fell quite short of the target.  Foreign aid is important for a number of reasons: it’s the morally right thing to do; helping others helps us; and aid plays a crucial role in lifting people out of poverty and improving healthcare, among other aspects of quality of life.  Additionally, helping other countries become more stable economically helps with their political stability, which can help address issues like conflict, migration, and terrorism.

Trade
Trade is one of the pillars upon which transatlantic relations have been built.  According to the US Trade Representative, “The EU countries, together, would rank 1st as an export market for the United States in 2018.”  Under President Obama, the US and EU were in talks regarding the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP); however, under President Trump, the US has imposed billions of dollars in tariffs on the EU, while the EU has imposed over $2 billion in tariffs on the US.  Given that the EU has trade agreements with countries including Australia, Canada, Japan, and Mexico, it is time to work on one for the US.  Besides the obvious economic benefits for both sides, an agreement will help in dealing with China.

Conclusion
These are but some of the many areas in which the US can cooperate with our European partners.  In addition to these issues, both sides should work together to address the problems posed by countries such as China and Russia.  Finally, while continuing to work on the two historic pillars of transatlantic relations, trade and security, collaborating on the above issues can usher in a new era of peace, prosperity, and progress.

 

History of US-EU Relations: 5

Document: Memorandum of a Conversation (between Sec. of State Dulles, Italian Foreign Minister Gaetano Martino, Italian Ambassador Manlio Brosio, and C. Burke Elbrick
Date: March 1, 1956

Towards the end of the conversation, Secretary of State Dulles voiced his support for European integration, saying “Such a development would create a great center of political and economic power which would stir the imagination of all peoples and create a great new force in the world. A real supranational authority can accomplish great things.” (emphasis added)


Document: Annual Message to the Congress on the State of the Union
Date: January 10, 1957

During his speech, President Eisenhower had this to say about European integration- “We welcome the efforts of a number of our European friends to achieve an integrated community to develop a common market.  We likewise welcome their cooperative effort in the field of atomic energy.”


Document: Joint Statement with Prime Minister Macmillan Following the Bermuda Conference
Date: March 24, 1957

The Annex of the Statement lists the following concerning European unity-
“2. Reaffirmation of common interest in the development of European unity within the Atlantic Community…
4. Agreement on the benefits likely to accrue for European and world trade from the plans for the common market and the Free Trade Area, provided they do not lead to a high tariff bloc…”


European Context: Since the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), two major events in Eastern Europe influenced European integration in Western Europe- the formation of the Warsaw Pact in 1955 and the Soviet crushing of protests in Budapest.

On March 25, 1957, the six ECSC countries expanded their cooperation into other sectors and signed the Treaties of Rome, thereby establishing the European Economic Community (EEC).  In addition to the EEC, the Treaties also created the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM).

Rome Treaties Poster
Poster publicising the signing of the Rome Treaties (1957)

The Nordics and the US

Back in May 2015, I wrote a post comparing Scandinavia and the US.  Since then, that post has been viewed over 10,000 times, making it the most-read on this site; however, I feel it is time to update it.  A lot has changed since then- the Paris Agreement was signed, the Sustainable Development Goals went into effect, and Donald Trump became President of the United States.

I also want to enlarge the geographical comparison from Scandinavia (Denmark, Norway, and Sweden) to the Nordics (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden.)  I’ve kept many of the original indicators and have added some as well.

Nordic Flags

UN Human Development Index (Rank out of 187 countries; 2019)
a) Denmark: 11; b) Finland: 12; c) Iceland: 6; d) Norway: 1; e) Sweden: 8; f) USA: 15

Life Expectancy at Birth, Years (2019 HDI)
a) Denmark: 80.8; b) Finland: 81.7; c) Iceland: 82.9; d) Norway: 82.3; e) Sweden: 82.7; f) USA: 78.9

Government Expenditure on Education, % of GDP (2019 HDI)
a) Denmark: 7.6; b) Finland: 7.1; c) Iceland: 7.7; d) Norway: 7.6; e) Sweden: 7.6; f) USA: 5.0

Mean Years of Schooling, Years (2019 HDI)
a) Denmark: 12.6; b) Finland: 12.4; c) Iceland: 12.5; d) Norway: 12.6; e) Sweden: 12.4; f) USA: 13.4

GDP per capita (2019 HDI)
a) Denmark: $47,673; b) Finland: $41,899; c) Iceland: $48,606; d) Norway: $65,441; e) Sweden: $47,194; f) USA: $55,681

Income Inequality, Gini Coefficient (100 = Complete Inequality; 2019 HDI)
a) Denmark: 28.2; b) Finland: 27.1; c) Iceland: 27.8; d) Norway: 27.5; e) Sweden: 29.2; f) USA: 41.5

Total Unemployment, % of labor force (2019 HDI)
a) Denmark: 5.0%; b) Finland: 7.8%; c) Iceland: 2.9%; d) Norway: 3.9%; e) Sweden: 6.4%; f) USA: 3.9%

Carbon Dioxide Emissions per capita, Tonnes (2019 HDI)
a) Denmark: 5.9; b) Finland: 8.3; c) Iceland: 6.2; d) Norway: 6.8; e) Sweden: 3.9; f) USA: 15.0

Individual Income Tax Rates, (2019)
a) Denmark: 55.89%; b) Finland: 53.75%; c) Iceland: 46.24%; d) Norway: 38.2%; e) Sweden: 57.19%; f) USA: 37.0%

Public Spending on Family Benefits, % of GDP (2015 or latest available)
a) Denmark: 3.44%; b) Finland: 3.11%; c) Iceland: 3.40%; d) Norway: 3.38%; e) Sweden: 3.54%; f) USA: 1.12%

Total Paid Leave Available to Mothers, Weeks (2018)
a) Denmark: 50; b) Finland: 161; c) Iceland: 26; d) Norway: 91; e) Sweden: 55.7; f) USA: 0

Total Paid Leave Reserved for Fathers, Weeks (2018)
a) Denmark: 2; b) Finland: 9; c) Iceland: 13; d) Norway: 10; e) Sweden: 14.3; f) USA: 0

Public Spending on Childcare and Early Education, % of GDP (2015 or latest available)
a) Denmark: 1.2%; b) Finland: 1.1%; c) Iceland: 1.8%; d) Norway: 1.3%; e) Sweden: 1.6%; f) USA: .3%

Child Relative Income Poverty Rate (2016 or latest available)
a) Denmark: 3.7%; b) Finland: 3.3%; c) Iceland: 5.8%; d) Norway: 7.7%; e) Sweden: 8.9%; f) USA: 20.9%

Out-of-pocket Childcare Costs for a Two-Earner Couple Family, % of family net income (2015)
a) Denmark: 9.1%; b) Finland: 17.9%; c) Iceland: 4.5%; d) Norway: 5.3%; e) Sweden: 3.9%; f) USA: 22.5%

Best Countries to Raise Kids (rank out of 73 countries, 2020)
a) Denmark: 1; b) Finland: 6; c) Iceland: No data; d) Norway: 3; e) Sweden: 2; f) USA: 18

Environmental Performance Index (rank out of 180 countries; 2018)
a) Denmark: 3; b) Finland: 10; c) Iceland: 11; d) Norway: 14; e) Sweden: 5; f) USA: 27

Gender Inequality Index (rank out of 189 countries; 2018)
a) Denmark: 2; b) Finland: 7; c) Iceland: 9; d) Norway: 5; e) Sweden: 2; f) USA: 42

Gender Gap Index (rank out of 149 countries, 2018)
a) Denmark: 13; b) Finland: 4; c) Iceland: 1; d) Norway: 2; e) Sweden: 3; f) USA: 50

Women in Lower or Single House, (% / rank out of 192 countries, as of last elections)
a) Denmark: 39.11% / 23; b) Finland: 47% / 8; c) Iceland: 38.1% / 27; d) Norway: 40.83% / 17; e) Sweden: 47.28% / 7; f) USA: 23.61% / 75

Corruption Perceptions Index (rank out of 180 countries, 2018)
a) Denmark: 1; b) Finland: 3; c) Iceland: 14; d) Norway: 7; e) Sweden: 3; f) USA: 22

Freedom in the World, (100 = highest score, 2019)
a) Denmark: 97; b) Finland: 100; c) Iceland: 94; d) Norway: 100; e) Sweden: 100; f) USA: 86

Official Development Assistance, % of GNI (2018)
a) Denmark: .72%; b) Finland: .36%; c) Iceland: .31%; d) Norway: .94%; e) Sweden: 1.04%; f) USA: .17%

Military Expenditure, % of GDP (2018)
a) Denmark: 1.2%; b) Finland: 1.4%; c) Iceland: No Data; d) Norway: 1.6%; e) Sweden: 1.0%; f) USA: 3.2%

Good Country Index (rank out of 153 countries, latest available)
a) Denmark: 6; b) Finland: 1; c) Iceland: 36; d) Norway: 8; e) Sweden: 4; f) USA: 40

Overall Happiness (rank out of 156 countries, 2019)
a) Denmark: 2; b) Finland: 1; c) Iceland: 4; d) Norway: 3; e) Sweden: 7; f) USA: 19

Life Satisfaction (10 = highest score, latest available)
a) Denmark: 9.7; b) Finland: 10; c) Iceland: 9.5; d) Norway: 9.9; e) Sweden: 8.9; f) USA: 7.4


As I mentioned in the 2015 post, “the list of indicators is not exhaustive and does not give a complete picture of life in these countries.”  That said, these do give us a good idea of a government’s priorities and the extent to which a government uses its wealth to take care of its people and the world.  Don’t get me wrong, people living in the US have a pretty good standard of living; however, given its wealth, the American government should do a much better job of providing for the general welfare, protecting the environment, and helping others.  In this sense, I think we can look to the Nordics for examples of how we can improve.

To learn more about the five Nordic countries, start by visiting their embassy websites:

To learn more about the Nordics as a whole, check out Nordic Co-operation.

Thanks for reading.

History of US-EU Relations: 4

Document: Address in Independence at the Dedication of the Liberty Bell
Date: November 6, 1950

During the speech, President Truman mentions the Schuman Plan, saying, “I have been very much interested in the proposal made by the French Foreign Minister, Mr. Robert Schuman, for pooling coal and steel production in Western Europe.  I hope very much that this plan can be worked out along the bold lines proposed by that French Foreign Minister, Mr. Schuman.” (emphasis added)


Document: The Secretary of State to Certain Diplomatic Offices
Date: December 8, 1950

In this cable, Sec. Acheson discusses aspects of the Schuman Plan and the US response to it.  At one point he remarks, “There are two main trends of opinion in US on Schuman Plan.  Dominant one at present is enthusiasm for plan based on political attractiveness.  Other view, whose prevalence shld not be underrated, is skepticism as to whether project is anything more than an internatl cartel.” (emphasis added)

Acheson allays the fears of the latter, noting, “So far, it has been possible to insist in good faith that general idea of plan is a single market characterized by competition, and that real auth lies in High Auth, assembly and court, and not in producer groups.” (emphasis added)


US Context: US support for the Schuman Plan was based mainly on two concepts: 1)  strengthening the Western European economy, which was especially important in containing communism; and 2) rapprochement between France and the Federal Republic of Germany.

European Context: Six countries were involved in the negotiations to establish the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC)- Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands.  In addition to the technical and economic aspects of the negotiations, countries also discussed the role of institutions, in particular a supranational body, the High Authority, as well as other institutions that might check and balance the power of that body.

The Climbers 1950
Cartoon by Illingworth on the start of the negotiations on the Schuman Plan (21 June 1950)