Wednesday, May 10, 2006

First year round-ups

It's been awhile, so time for a roundup of the various research projects being undertaken by first year Government Department students. Two weeks' worth to be getting on with, so here goes!

Last week Eva-Maria Asari presented her ideas on multiculturalism in Canada and Estonia. She wants to examine how minorities are treated and the way they relate to state policies. Questions were asked about the usefulness of comparing these two coutnries, which Eva-Maria explained by saying that Canada had been at the forefront of developing multicultural citizenship. But there are still some issues to be resolved, including the fact that unlike Russian speakers in Estonia, the French in Canada form a majority in Quebec as well as a minority in the rest of the country. Would she take into account that fact? I asked. In addition, to what extent has Estonia's government introduced a more 'liberal' notion of citizenship as a result of external pressures (e.g. EU, OECD, Canada) compared to the Canadians' own 1960s-70s internal drive for reform? Would that affect the substance of the policies?

This week Miika Tervonen explained that he was looking at the way the Roma in Finland had been historically marginalised between the late 19th and mid-20th century. As a visiting student, he's in the advantageous position of not having to do an annual review at the end of this month. However, we were able to get into a discussion about the nature of Roma identity and the reasons behind it - namely that the Roma have always been seen as a problem group, even though many of them can be labelled as Finnish. He also talked about them in social terms rather than cultural/national ones - they speak Finnish and are notable for their mobility. Some questions were made about the Swedish minostiry in Finland and the way in which they are not marginalised.

Finally Umit Sonmez showed his work on electricity and gas liberalisation and regulation in Britain and Turkey. For Umit the interesting thing is that effective liberalisation did not take place until after the independent regulatory bodies were put in place. In both countries' cases that was in the last ten years, despite a 15-20 year difference in the pace of liberalisation reform. I asked whether there were substantial differences between different governments (e.g. Tory and Labour here, secular and Islamist in Turkey) in approaching these themes and the extent to which the regulatory agencies (which became 'culpable' for the process at one remove from government) was either a reflection of government interests or captured by the private sector (probably less the latter since the natural tendency was to create a monopoly).

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