Welcome to Alissa's Newsletter!

This newsletter offers you the latest news and information about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as well as Fourth Sector activity in Europe and America. You will also have the opportunity to follow me on my journey through France and participate in an international dialogue about culture, and art. A la prochaine!

-Alissa Mickels

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Read about the latest news on Corporate Social Responsibility, green businesses and Fourth Sector activity in Europe…

  • Collective Redress Green Paper: On November 27, 2008, the commission produced a green paper on the possibility of creating a European Union Collective Redress system for EU consumers. The green paper offers four possibilities for a new Collective Redress system. The EU Commission allows the European Community until March, 2009 to submit opinions regarding which type of collective redress system should be implemented. Currently, 13 Member States have introduced collective redress schemes into their legal system, (France, Germany, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Bulgaria, Greece, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Austria and the UK); however, most of these countries have done so only recently. An interesting part in the emergence of an EU “class action” system is the overt resistant to adopt features which resemble the U.S. class action system.
    • For example, in the introduction speech at the Collective Redress Conference introduction speech in Lisbon in November, 2008, Robert Medelin, Director General for Health and Consumer Protection European Commission, concludes: “It is crystal clear that probably nobody in this room – and not only those who have read the books of John Grisham – wants to have the excesses of the US-style class actions, characterised by a mixture of punitive damages, contingency fees, pre-trial discovery and opt-out system…” Click here to download the green paper on Collective Redress.
  • The first European CSR toolbox for businesses: CSR Europe, a network of more than 70 multi-national corporations and 20 partnerships, launched the first-ever CSR “Toolbox for a Competitive and Responsible Europe” at the European Alliance for CSR conference in Brussels on Dec. 4, 2008. CSREurope was founded by the European Alliance for Corporate Social Responsibility, an open partnership initiative launched as a joint initiative of the European Commission and the business community in 2006. Read more
  • Cutting down a tree in Europe…could be a crime? On November 19, 2008, the EU passed Directive 2008/99/EC (binding in all 27 EU Member States) on the protection of the environment through criminal law. This directive will require all EU Member States to provide criminal penalties in national legislation with respect to serious infringements of provisions of Community Law on environment protection. Although this will not penalize grass cutters or loggers, the directive is a radical shift in European definition of environmental relationship. Read the directive.
  • ‘Socially responsible' neighborhoods developing in France : A private subsidiary of a French savings bank group launched the first stage in developing the “ Parc Matisse “eco-quarter” in Grand Quevilly, a suburb of Rouen in northwestern France. This ‘eco-quarter’ development project is one of the first “eco-quarters” in France and is designed to meet three main focal points: social (greater socio-economic, cultural and generational mix), economic (local services and shopping facilities), and environmental (close management of energy use, water consumption, waste disposal, the use of eco-friendly means of transport). Read more
  • CSR multistakeholder forum on Feb. 10, 2009: The European Union has invited more than 250 key stakeholder groups (including businesses, investors, academics, employers, trade unions, civil society organizations and public authorities) to review progress on CSR in Europe and globally discuss possibilities for future joint initiatives. Live web streaming will be available. Read more

My reflections about France, Europe and America...

  • The French distinction between ‘haute-classe’ and ‘les miserables’: In order to submit my visa application, I was required to take a trip to a small city hall just outside of Paris. While I was waiting for the French officials to stamp documents, I spoke to a French/Venezuelan woman who has lived in Paris for 13 years. Just before I left, she turned and a very serious look overshadowed her face: “Now,” she said, “I like you and I want to give you some very important advice as a foreigner living in Paris. The next time you walk into any city hall in France, make sure you have three things with you: your perfume, your purse, and your shoes. The French will treat you differently depending on the quality of these three items. If you wear nice perfume, have a nice purse and make sure you are wearing high-heeled shoes, you will automatically be treated with respect and as a ‘noble.’ These words of wisdom were passed on to me and now I am passing them on to you. Never forget what I have told you.” As she vanished into the Parisian fog, I couldn’t help but wonder, ‘does one offer advice to a noble or a peasant?’ I decided to leave my sneakers at home just in case it was the latter...
  • Blue and white…Christmas? : This year, I was in the city of Paris during December for the first time and I have to admit that I was rather disappointed with the lack of Christmas spirit. Instead of the green and red tinsel hanging from every lamppost, or balconies displaying baby Jesus lying in a manger of hay, or rooftops covered with plastic reindeers and Santa’s sleigh, I only saw the occasional blue and white light fixtures, with blue and white Christmas trees propped up on some of the sidewalks. In my investigation as to who could be the Grinch that would possibly steal Christmas, I came up with two suspects: 1) President Sarkozy and 2) global warming.
    • As you all know, the French President Sarkozy was the president of the European Union for the last six months. My hunch was that he chose to change the colors of Christmas to Blue and White so that the world would be reminded of his status as the European Emperor. Not only did he change the Eiffel tower to Blue with white stars, but he also decorated the rest of the town with the colors of his coat. Tenable argument but not too convincing.
    • My second hypothesis was that France chose to string blue and white Christmas lights in order to conserve energy. As you may know, the color blue tends to be the dimmest incandescent color of LED light so it could be argued that France chose these colors in order to reduce its consumption of electricity. However, this hypothesis proved moot when I discovered that the color an LED white/yellow light consumes the highest amount of electricity.
    • One last conclusion has proven quite convincing. One reason why France is painted in Blue and White hues could be simply because the colors of European countries are not green and red, but blue and white! In speaking with my colleague from Spain, I discovered that the colors are indeed blue and white in Spain. Maybe the colors of Christmas are Blue and White after all!
  • The independent clapper: After attending Moliere’s ‘Mariage Forcé’, I was surprised to discover the audience clapped in unison. Most of the performances I have attended in France end in a similar way. Once, I attempted to maintain my status as an ‘independent’ American, refused to clap with all the others. As expected, the French collective body of clappers quickly reminded me that I am living in a socialist Democracy with their menacing glares and furrowed brows. Do birds of a feather truly flock together or could it be that some birds change the color of their feathers in order to flock with other birds?
  • La galette des rois: On January 6, 2009 I celebrated “La galette des rois” (Kings cake) with two Hastings students who were visiting Paris. Most Europeans (and New Orleans) celebrate Epiphany (the day the three wise men brought presents to Jesus) by gathering to eat a “galette des rois” and drink cider. The galette is made from flaky pastry dough and almond paste. In every galette there is a small baby Jesus (fève) hidden. Traditionally the person who cuts the slice containing the baby Jesus is a ‘king/queen’ for the day and must wear the plastic crown that comes with the cake. This tradition is over 2000 years old. Indeed, the Romans would offer this cake to the nobles at the end of December. Whoever found the ‘fève’ would be appointed king of the Feast. The Romans would use this ‘fève’ as a way of electing the King of the Feast in family celebrations and cultural festivals.

Follow me as I attend conferences and events, and embark on unexpected adventures in Paris!

  • Conferences/events:
    • Attended Conference on the Values and Virtues of the European Union at The Institut de Droit Comparée (IDC) on Jan. 7, 2009.
      • Summary : J.H.H Weiler, professor at NYU, gave a speech at the Institut de Droit ) on the virtues and values of Europe. His discourse was both illuminating and inspiring. The basic thesis of his speech is that the sustainability of the European Union is dependent on the size of the gap between the virtues of the citizens and the values of the country/society. Patriotism increases as the gap decreases between the virtues of the people and values of the government. To receive a copy of his speech, please email me
    • Visited The European Court of Justice (ECJ) and Tribunal of First Instance (TFI) in Luxembourg on Dec. 15-17, 2008.
      • Summary: The Director of our LL.M. program took us on a trip to Luxembourg to visit the ECJ where we had the pleasure of meeting the ECJ President (equivalent of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in the U.S.). We also sat in on two cases in which multiple countries pleaded their case before a panel of five judges on the merits of whether Belgium’s unemployment laws hindered the free movement of services in Europe. I was impressed with the observation of the different ways in which each country pleaded the case and the different attire each country required the attorney to wear.
  • Daily life a la parisienne:
    • Christmas and the New Year: On December 23, I arrived safely in San Francisco where I was greeted by my boyfriend, family and friends. For Christmas, I enjoyed a wonderful trip to Napa, card games, wii, rock band and great food. I celebrated New Year’s Eve in Lake Tahoe where I was surrounded by loved ones, amazing champagne, and canvases painted with images of trees, lakes, and rivers.
    • Second Semester has started: Last week, I resumed classes again and am still adjusting to the work load. At the moment, I am working on two papers: the first looks at Roman private law and compares a Roman 'societas' with the modern enterprise. In the second paper, I will discuss the feasibility of a CSR European enterprise. Currently, the EU has created a European L.L.C (Societas Europeae) and a European Cooperative Society (Societas Cooperative Europeae) and is in the process of proposing a third option which may be quite interesting for social entrepreneurs.

Inspired by beauty? Send me any of your art, thoughts, poetry, or creative projects, and i will publish them in my next newsletter...


  • Moliere’s ‘Mariage Forcé’ In December, I saw Pierre Pradina’s interpretation of Moliere’s ‘Mariage forcé’ (forced marriage) in the Comedie Française theater located in the Louvre. Moliere originally wrote Mariage Forcé for Louis XIV in 1664. Le Mariage Forcé entered the Comedie-Française repertoire on September 12, 1680. I was so honored to have the opportunity to attend a play in the same place of its first debut almost 400 years ago. The play is a brilliant critique on different philosophies of the 17th century and presents a simple story of an older man who is in love with a young woman but is unsure whether he should marry her. After he discovers she is unfaithful, he tries to ‘break the contract’ made with her father but is unsuccessful in his attempt and is ‘forced’ to marry her. I enjoyed the tragically humorous twist in the end!
  • Karl Marx Museum: While in Trier, Germany, I visited the house where Karl Marx was born, which is now a museum. I was impressed to discover that Marx was a fan of Paris and came quite frequently to discuss his ideas among French and German philosophers. In fact, Marx met Friedrich Engels in 1844 at the Café de la Régence on the Place du Palais.
  • Yoshi’s Jazz Club: In December, 2008, I attended Roy Hargrove Big Band concert with my family at Yoshi’s Jazz Club in Oakland, Ca. My favorite aspect was the diversity of music and Hargrove’s plaid suit and purple satin shirt.
  • PLEASE send my any thoughts, expressions, and/or reflections you may have after reading this!

©2009 Alissa Mickels