BullsEye December 2015 / 53rd Year / No. 62 / ISSN 2033-7809
The newsmagazine of European Democrat Students
New Perspectives for the European Centre-Right
Elections, it is often (rightly) said, are the lifeblood of any functioning democracy. It is at the ballot box that the popular will is most unambiguously expressed, it is here that the legitimacy of any government is gained or lost. As such, the act of voting powerfully underlines that democratic politicians are ultimately the servants, not masters of the people – or, as Victor Hugo put it: “When the ballot paper has been cast, the highest authority has spoken.” Bearing this basic democratic truth in mind, the elections held in Europe over the course of the past eleven months should alarm most on the European centre-right. Particularly since, whether they were held in Greece, Poland, or Portugal, there has been a recurring and not least counter-intuitive pattern to these contests: all centreright parties in these countries could boast tangible successes in office and had often reintroduced a measure of stability following years of mostly left-wing mismanagement. Yet this was consistently not rewarded at the ballot box, as voters dealt heavy losses to the centre-right, often at the gain of populist parties on the right and left. This is a highly worrisome trend, as it not solely puts Europe’s economic recovery, but indeed the very European ideal question. It should thus prompt us to seek new pathways as to how the European centre-right can adapt and reinvigorate its messages and goals. Nothing less is the purpose of this new edition of BullsEye, where activists, students, and policy-makers from across Europe analyse the current state of affais and indeed try to offer “New Perspectives for the European Centre-Right”. I wish you a most pleasant and thought-provoking read! Henrique Laitenberger BullsEye Editor-In-Chief
Current Affairs 04 The Ponta Case 05 Nordic-Baltic Security and
the Swedish Case for NATO 06 Putin the Peacemaker?
08 Discussing the Spanish Elections with Pablo
Zalba Bidegain MEP 10 Populist Mainstream 11 The Beauty Falling for the Beast 12 Is the Dublin Convention Fit for Purpose? 14 An Uncertain Future 16 Interview with Armen Ashotyan and Karen Avagyan MP
18 Federal Europe:
Through the Lens of External Policies
After the great success of the previous event, I would like to welcome you to the second EDS Council Meeting in Yerevan, Armenia, and to a brand new edition of BullsEye. The end of catch-all “people’s parties” has been prophesised in the media and academic circles for several years. However, they are big an important part of a functioning and efficient democracy. In contrast to smaller parties representing particular interests, they are able to competently represent the entire width of political issues due to their programmatic diversity and ability to balance a wide array interests. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that these big parties are facing many challenges at the moment. Especially when it comes to organisation, the mobilisation of voters and members, as well as internal and external communication. One thing is clear, the foundation of any people’s party rests on the active participation of a wide variety of societal groups within such a party. Citizens get involved where they also see their commitment coming into effect. It is important therefore to appear as a reliable representative of a diverse population in total. This task is not an easy one. In addition to retaining traditional members, new members must also be acquired. In times of the digital century, traditional channels of exchange with supporters must be supplemented by new forms of communication and substantive issues must be shaped in a contemporary discourse. As youth representatives we, the European Democrat Students, also want to do our part and provide new perspectives and impulses for the European centre-right. In this vein, I hope you may enjoy your reading. Silvie Rohr Vice-Chairwoman
BULLSEYE The newsmagazine of European Democrat Students
20 Confronting the Crisis in
the Mashreq Countries 22 Funding Excellence 23 How to Ruin a Housing Market 24 Belarus: A Window of Opportunity 26 A CAP on the EU’s Integrity?
27 Practice Makes Perfect 28 Interview with Gaya Blom
Council of Europe 30 Unlock the Potential 31
ISSN: Print: 2033-7809 Online: 2033-7817 Editor-in-chief: Henrique Laitenberger Editorial team: Andreas Fock, Tomasz Kaniecki, Mindaugas Liutvinskas, Syrila Makarezou, Charlotte Nilsson, Mihaela Radu, Julien Sassel and Manuel Schlaffer Contributions: Siegfried Muresan, Olivia Andersson, Mindaugas Liutvinskas, Pablo Zalba Bidegain, Henrique Laitenberger Syrila Makarezou, Manuel Schlaffer, Andreas Fock, Maciej Kmita, Tomasz Kaniecki, Hubert Tadych, Armen Ashotyan, Karen Avagyan, Anna Ohanyan, Julien Sassel, Sven Schulze, Victoria Voda, Charlotte Nilsson, Miroslav Shapovalov, Christopher Littleboy, Mihaela Radu, Gaya Blom, Silvie Rohr Photos: Balàzs Szecsődi, Denis Kamber, 123RF and Shutterstock Design: creacion.si Publisher: European Democrat Students, B-1000 Brussels, Rue du Commerce 10 Tel: +32 2 2854-150 Fax: +32 2 2854-141 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: edsnet.eu Articles and opinions published in the magazine are not necessarily reflecting the position of EDS, the EDS Bureau or the Editorial team
Publication supported by: European Youth Foundation of the Council of Europe
Welcome to this working yearâ€™s second edition of BullsEye, the official debating magazine of the European Democrat Students - the largest student family of the centre-right. This issue of BullsEye addresses a number of questions related to the recent election results achieved by centre-right parties around Europe. In many countries, these indicated electoral successes for other political forces despite the fact that incumbent centre-right administrations managed to achieve significant successes while in office. Consequently, many have argued that the centre-right is not having its best times, and if we want to be honest with ourselves, we do face certain challenges to which we must continue to stand up with determination. First, far-right populist parties are on the rise in Europe attracting voters with their nativist and Eurosceptic positions, exploiting the unprecedented immigration and unemployment crisis for their dangerous ends. After a crisis, voters are particularly attracted to the political rhetoric of populists who usually attribute blame to foreigners or minorities. As long as the above topics remain high on the agenda of the governments and media, it seems that the populist parties will continue to attract voters and their rise should therefore not be perceived as a temporary phenomenon. Likewise, the 2008 financial crisis sparked wave after wave of political uncertainty. In countries such as Greece, Spain or Portugal which had to implement harsh reforms, other political parties and especially the far-left took the opportunity to attack the centre-right on the basis of not doing enough for their people. Unfortunately, many voters do not recognise that the euro area is not just a market economy, but a currency union with strict rules not compatible with irresponsible fiscal policies and hence decide to place faith in political parties offering them empty promises. The topic of this issue of BullsEye thus merits a lot of analysis, so please read through it for more ideas and opinions and stay informed about our policies, future goals, and events. We hope that you will enjoy your reading and keep in mind that the EDS Bureau is always interested in receiving feedback, hear your ideas, and discover more ways to proudly serve students across Europe.
On behalf of the EDS bureau,
Georgios Chatzigeorgiou Chairman
The Ponta Case – The Political Crisis in Romania Explained The Romanian people demand a complete renewal of the political class following Prime Minister’s Ponta resignation on 4 November 2015. The ongoing mass protests in Bucharest and other cities across Romania show that the stepping down of a number of politicians is no longer satisfying the needs and demands of the people of Romanian. The Bucharest tragedy of 30 October, a nightclub fire which resulted in the tragic death of 32 young people, was the last straw for a society fed up with corrupt politicians serving the interest of just a few. It is outrageous that a Prime Minister indicted on corruption, tax evasion and money laundering stayed in power without any remorse and resigned only after innocent people lost their lives.
Now, Victor Ponta (Social Democrat) belongs to the past, and the period during which he hindered Romania’s development and posed a risk factor for Romania’s external credibility has ended under popular pressure. The recent events are only the peak of the people’s discontent. The embarrassing situation for Romania started when the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) initiated criminal proceedings against the former Prime Minister for seventeen (!) instances of forgery, complicity in recurrent tax evasion and money laundering - offences committed between 2007 and 2008, when Ponta was still an attorney at law. Likewise, the prosecutors pointed to the necessity for a further criminal prosecution against the Prime Minister for three conflicts of interests – this time committed during his mandate as the head of Government and deputy. In order to conducting a criminal inquiry into these
latter offences, the DNA requested a waiver of Ponta’s parliamentary immunity. The Romanian Parliament did not heed this request however and blocked an independent investigation against a leading politician. Such an abuse of parliamentary power to hinder the judiciary from fulfilling its mission outraged many in Europe. Romania’s centre-left majority continued to support a Prime Minister despite serious allegations of corruption. His indictment compromised Victor Ponta irretrievably in the eyes of most foreign governments, whose representatives in Bucharest understood that, institutionally, Romania’s Prime Minister could no longer be their interlocutor. This all came after his repeated attacks upon the rule of law since having taken power, most prominently when attempting to impeach the President of Romania in the summer of 2012. Nevertheless, Mr Ponta ignored all discontent among
civil society and the opposition. This incompatibility of the constitutional values of equality before the law and the Prime Minister’s refusal to waive his parliamentary immunity determined the opposition to initiate, in September, a censor motion against the Ponta Government. Still, such a censor motion did not have the required parliamentary majority, as the governing coalition continued to support its Prime Minister. This makes the whole centre-left responsible for the bad governance and loss of credibility of Romania. It is not only the person of the former Prime Minister to be blamed. The people’s refusal to identify themselves with a criminally prosecuted prime minister resulted in the filing of a large number of petitions and requests on civil society’s part demanding his resignation. Nevertheless, Prime Minister Victor Ponta refused to act on such protestations, on the grounds that, as long as
he enjoyed the party’s and the parliamentary majority’s support, he would remain the head of the Government an attitude resting on the Socialist governing coalition’s reluctance to withdraw their support for fear of losing office and their parliamentary majority. Victor Ponta was nonetheless arraigned in September for the corruption offences he committed when he had been an attorney at law, as prosecution on this front did not require parliament’s consent. Ponta’s arraignment had significant effects abroad, with numerous officials publicly expressing their opinions on the political crisis in Bucharest and recommending the Romanian authorities not to prevent the conducting of the act of justice and to maintain the fight against corruption. It should be noted that Mr Ponta was not received by a single EU Prime Minister in 2015. Consequently, we were in the situation in which high officials excluded any dialogue with a
Romanian head of Government who was being criminally prosecuted and arraigned for corruption offences and used his parliamentary majority to ensure he kept his immunity in order to avoid further criminal prosecution for offences committed during his mandate. It is certain that this political crisis and the serious judicial problems of the Prime Minister have been a barrier to international dialogue and negotiation, placing Romania in a non-credible position with its external partners. None of the above compelled Victor Ponta to renounce the premiership, until the final hour, when the Romanians’ discontent reached its climax: after a fire disaster killed 32 people in Bucharest at the end of October, the people felt that such a Prime Minister could no longer possibly govern the country and respond to this crisis. What remains
now is many broken pots to be put together by his successor. This can only be done by a competent, experienced person with European credibility. And as the Romanian Socialists are synonymous with bad governance and all the shortcomings of the past 25 years, it is clear that any proposal for a leftist Prime Minister has to be ignored.
Siegfried Muresan MEP
Nordic-Baltic Security and the Swedish Case for NATO Over the past two decades, the Baltic area has been a peaceful and stable region with economic prosperity and growth. This changed in 2014, when military activities in the region steadily increased after Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Securing the Nordic-Baltic region is becoming the highest priority of the transpacific military partnership. These turbulence likewise revitalised a debate on NATO-membership in traditionally politically neutral Sweden. Is there any likelihood of Sweden joining NATO? And why is the Nordic-Baltic region important for European security? When the Baltic States joined the EU and NATO in 2004, Sweden and Finland were left as the only non-members of NATO in the Baltic region. At the time relations with Russia were fairly stable, even if Putin showed signs of bold geopolitical ambitions which was to a large extent ignored by the West. The 2008 Georgian War should have been an alarm to both the EU and NATO, but instead of waking up, they pressed the snooze button and remained in a slumber until the annexation of Crimea in 2014. In the same year, Russia increased its military activities in the Baltic region, both in numbers and severity, to such an extent that it was impossible to ignore. Russia’s aggression and rhetoric have raised fears of a new Crimea in the Baltics, with potential hybrid warfare in an Estonian region with a large ethnic Russian population. A violation of Estonian territory would be a declaration of war against both the EU and NATO. Considering Article 5, the whole foundation of military cooperation would dismantle if they failed to protect their ally. It is in the light of these developments that the policies of Sweden, a neighbour with strategic geographical location, are important. In 2013, Sweden experienced the so called “Russian Easter”, a series of violations of Swedish airspace, in which the Swedish forces received assistance from NATO’s Baltic Air Policing Mission (BAP). Between March and October 2014, there were forty cases of Russian military violations, including violations of airspace, incidents at sea
and bombing exercises, with a majority of them taking place in the Baltic region. Three of them were characterised high risk incidents. In September, one of the most severe violations in years took place with Russian bomb planes testing the capabilities of Swedish forces. In October, there was an extensive operation in the Stockholm archipelago when foreign underwater activities were discovered. These violations have occurred with regular frequency, in combination with statements by Russian officials that Sweden ought not to participate in NATO exercises. In 2015, Russian diplomats threatened that a Swedish accession to NATO would “have military and political implications requiring Russia to take retaliatory steps”. Ironically, Putin’s actions have strengthened the resolve of the Swedish population rather than deterred it. Known for its neutrality politics, Sweden has for the first time ever recorded a broader support of joining NATO than not. In the annual public opinion polls of the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB), 48% of Swedes favoured membership, 35% were against and 17% were unsure. To put this into perspective, only 17% supported membership ten years earlier. Moreover, a significant majority wants to increase defence spending. In 2015, the Centre Party and Christian Democratic Party, both strong advocates of neutrality, reversed their stance in favour of membership. With the Moderate Party and the Liberal Party already positive to joining the alliance, there is a consensus among the centreright. The centre-left and the nationalists remain against. The nominally opposed Social Democratic Party, whose support is crucial in this question, has become more NATO-friendly. A recent poll even suggested that young sympathisers of the Social Democrats are more in favour (33%) than against (30%). As Senior Correspondent Brian Whitmore put
it: “Vladimir Putin has managed to do what no Soviet leader did: push the traditionally neutral Swedes toward joining a military alliance”. Although Sweden very closely cooperated with NATO in the past decades, this was not subject to public debate. The Swedish partnership was known to the United States and the Soviet Union, but less so to Swedish citizens. The United States even described Sweden as one of their closest allies, at a time when “freedom from alliances in peace conducive to neutrality in war” was a holy mantra and the cornerstone of Swedish security policy. It remains a central doctrine, but EU membership has gradually changed its legitimacy. In 2009, Sweden formally tied itself to the “Declaration of Solidarity”, which promises reciprocal military support to neighbouring EU-countries. Although Baltic officials have questioned whether Sweden would actually live up to this promise, this de facto military commitment has weakened the argument for neutrality politics. Despite a parliamentary agreement to discuss future military cooperation, it is highly implausible that the current centre-left government with the pacifist Green Party will approach a NATO-membership. However, defence spending has slightly increased, cooperation with NATO has deepened and so has collaboration with Poland and other Nordic countries. Swedish politicians tend to include Finland when discussing military cooperation. At the moment, Finnish accession to NATO appears distant, but if they were to proceed toward membership it would have a great impact on the Swedish debate. A membership without further actions will not automatically solve any problems, but a Swedish accession to NATO would stabilise the Baltic region and send a clear message of unity to Moscow.
Putin the Peacemaker?
Russian Involvement in Syria Russia has been involved in a military campaign in Syria since the end of this September – the first engagement of such scale outside the territory of the former Soviet Union since the decision of Leonid Brezhnev to invade Afghanistan in 1979. While we are all aware of how the Afghanistan campaign ended, this painful experience did not discourage Vladimir Putin from commanding Russian aircrafts to carry out bombing missions against rebel groups fighting the incumbent Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, with whom the Kremlin has historically forged close ties. Ever since the turmoil in the Middle East started, with Syria and Iraq effectively turning into failed states, Putin has unambiguously accused the West for causing this situation. In his famous speech in the United Nations (28 September 2015) the Russian president played the ‘moral card’ and made it explicitly clear that the West is to be blamed for all the mess in the region, at the same time being too weak and indecisive to provide a viable solution to the crisis that has been created. The Kremlin strongman, on the other hand, was ready to act, presenting himself as a guarantor of stability in the region,
an alternative to the faulty Obama-led Western coalition and a genuine peacemaker. However, this is more of a smokescreen for naïve observers and a way to shift the attention from the real motives driving Putin into the sands of the Middle East. Anyone who has been following Russian foreign policy development for the last couple of decades would agree that altruism and moral concerns, even though loudly declared (remember the “protecting Russian speakers” clause used to justify engagement in the conflict in Ukraine) are not even close to being the real drivers behind Kremlin’s actions abroad. Instead, it is fundamentally desperation that has pushed Putin to engage in the Syrian conflict on such as scale, which may be seen as manifested in two distinct forms. The first one is the urgent need to break out of the circle
of international isolation that Russia has been forced to acknowledge after Putin’s adventures in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, followed by a rather harsh and uniform Western response. To reach this goal Russia is trying to present itself as a crucial partner in mitigating the ongoing Middle Eastern drama – a great power to be reckoned with if a sustainable solution is to be reached, just like in the Iran nuclear deal case. In other words, the Russian president is aiming to shift the attention of the international community from its misbehavior in Ukraine to the efforts shown in trying to mitigate the Syrian crisis, thus relieving international pressure and indirectly legitimizing brutal previous breaches of international law. This strategy, however, has not so far resulted in any rapprochement with the West, as bombing the moderate opposition to Assad, supported by the US and other allied governments, instead of targeting ISIS, is hardly in line with the way the West sees the regulation of the conflict. Putin’s reluctance to take into account the intentions of the Western coalition provides a hint that the rapprochement with the international community may not be the primary Russian motivation to pursue military adventures in the Middle East. This brings us to the second essential factor driving Putin’s actions – such campaigns abroad may serve the as a tool to keep the grip on power domestically, especially when the euphoria of the Crimean annexation has started to wane. Bombings in Syria and the apparent re-emergence of Russia as a great power with a global reach allows distracting the attention of the domestic public from painful economic realities – a crumbling national economy, resulting from a combined blow of economic sanctions and radically decreased oil prices. With economic conditions not satisfactory enough to keep public support for the authoritarian regime at considerably high levels, the sole option remaining to stay in power is fighting perceived external enemies, such as radical Islamists and, more importantly, the US, thus mobilizing domestic support. Nevertheless, the recent Russian plane crash over the Sinai Peninsula raises doubts on whether the strategy of involvement in Syria developed in the Kremlin will in reality be as costless and efficient as previously planned. If the tragic event proves to be a terrorist attack (as the findings of the British investigators suggest) it may be the first signal of a beginning of a process that may end up with similar implications on Russia as the Afghanistan war had on the USSR back in the 1980s.
“EXPERIENCE AND NEW PERSPECTIVES” DISCUSSING THE SPANISH ELECTIONS WITH PABLO ZALBA BIDEGAIN MEP
TO BEGIN OUR INTERVIEW WITH A VERY STRAIGHTFORWARD QUESTION: HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE PROSPECTS OF PARTIDO POPULAR IN THE UPCOMING SPANISH DECEMBER ELECTIONS? Pablo Zalba Bidegain (PZB): I am quite optimistic, for two reasons: first, the economic situation is improving day by day and the citizens already are perceiving that economic recovery. Today, Spain is the country
that creates the most employment within the EU, at the fastest pace. I think this is something that nobody, not even the members of Partido Popular, expected two years ago. This is obviously thanks to the most ambitious reform plan that any country in the Eurozone has ever launched and proves that the effort that the Partido Popular government demanded from the citizens is being rewarded. We are already
seeing the benefits, particularly when compared to other EU countries: Spain has created 500,000 new jobs in the last year and is expected to create another 500,000 jobs next year, while France saw 90,000 jobs destroyed last year and Italy only created 90,000 new placements. The creation of new jobs and opportunities is very good news for Spanish society and proves that what the government of Partido Popular did was what
INTERVIEW we had to do. A few months ago, Partido Popular also undertook internal reforms and I think the people of Spain are starting to see us as an attractive party again as a result – especially young voters. WHAT EXACT CHANGES HAVE YOU MADE IN YOUR ORGANISATION AND WHAT WAS THE GREATER STRATEGY BEHIND IT? PZB: In particular, we have appointed a new generation of politicians to top positions within the Partido Popular, such as Javier Maroto, Pablo Casado Blanco, and Fernando Martínez Maíllo. This new generation of politicians shows Spanish society and young voters that this party is socially renovated. I think people in Spain perceive Partido Popular now as a more openminded party. APART FROM THE ECONOMY, CORRUPTION WAS A MAJOR ISSUE FOR SPANISH VOTERS OVER THE PAST YEARS. INVOLVING MEMBERS OF NEARLY ALL SPANISH POLITICAL PARTIES, PARTIDO POPULAR SUFFERED IN PARTICULAR FROM THE “CASO GÜRTEL”, REFERRING TO PARTY OFFICERS’ DEALINGS WITH BUSINESSMAN FRANCISCO CORREA DURING THE OLD AZNAR GOVERNMENT. HOW HAS THE PARTY IN GENERAL RESPONDED TO THESE PROBLEMS IN YOUR OPINION? PZB: Corruption is something that has affected all parties, but Partido Popular’s reaction to such cases has probably been the most drastic one of any Spanish party. Any figure within Partido Popular found guilty of corruption was expelled immediately from the party. UNEMPLOYMENT AND CORRUPTION HAS ALSO HAD WIDER POLITICAL CONSEQUENCES FOR SPAIN’S POLITICAL LANDSCAPE: FIRST WITH THE RISE OF THE “INDIGNADOS” PROTEST MOVEMENT WHICH LATER FORMED THE BASIS FOR THE EMERGENCE OF PODEMOS WHICH HAS SINCE BECOME A MAJOR POLITICAL FORCE IN SPAIN. FOR A SHORT TIME, POLLS SHOWED THE LEFT-WING POPULISTS EVEN ON PAR WITH PARTIDO POPULAR. HOW CLOSE IS PABLO IGLESIAS TURRIÓN TO BECOMING SPAIN’S TSIPRAS? PZB: The Spanish people are clever enough to realise that the Tsipras plan has failed from beginning to end. First of all, Tsipras did not do what he said he was going to do. He became Prime Minister of Greece at a time when the country was growing at a pace of 0.8% and creating employment – within only a few months, Tsipras’s government changed this dramatically. We do not know yet how severe the economic drop was since he took office. But it is already clear that he is destroying employment and that only within a few months. Greece is actually proof of the importance of good governance in governmental office. So I firmly believe that what Tsipras did in Greece is going to negatively affect the chances of Pablo Iglesias Turrión to become Prime Minister of Spain. Today, I think, Pablo Iglesias does not have any chance of doing so. I also think that people are beginning to realise that these new parties like Podemos or Ciudadanos, headed by a
new generation of politicians without any experience at all, are a bad option. Indeed, the main advantage of Partido Popular is that we have people with experience, such as Prime Minister Rajoy or Foreign Affairs Minister José García-Margallo y Marfil, together with a new generation of politicians with new ideas and a new mentality. This combination of experience and youth is what citizens need. It is what makes governments good governments. I have no doubt that the Spanish will support parties such as Partido Popular who offer the perfect combination of experience and new perspectives. YOU MENTIONED CIUDADANOS WHICH HAS BEEN PERCEIVED AS THE “ACCEPTABLE ALTERNATIVE” TO PODEMOS INSOFAR AS BEING MORE CENTRIST AND PURSUING A MORE MODERATE AGENDA. YOU ARE HOWEVER NOT OF THE OPINION THAT CIUDADANOS COULD CONSEQUENTLY BE A POTENTIAL COALITION PARTNER FOR PP SHOULD THERE BE A HUNG PARLIAMENT IN DECEMBER? PZB: I think Ciudadanos is not an alternative at all. And I think Spaniards are not going to perceive Ciudadanos as one. Why? Because, first of all, we do not know whether Ciudadanos is a centre-right party or a centreleft party. They support some regional governments of Partido Popular, but also some governments of Partido Socialista – for instance in Andalusia, where the local PSOE is full of corrupt people. It is time for Ciudadanos to define themselves, to tell the citizens whether they are a centre-right or a centre-left party. I also think many people voted Ciudadanos in the recent regional elections because they wanted to punish Partido Popular, all while wishing for us to remain in the local governments. What citizens found was that, in voting for Ciudadanos, they found themselves with regional governments led by PSOE, Podemos mayors, and so on. If you want to consolidate the economic recovery, there is no alternative to voting Partido Popular. It is the only party in Spain whose leaders are experienced people assisted by young people with new and fresh ideas. This aforementioned combination of experience and youth is precisely what Spains needs and what guarantees that Spain will continue on the path of growth and job creation. SPEAKING OF ECONOMIC GROWTH AND JOB CREATION, ARE THERE ANY MORE ECONOMIC REFORM MEASURES THAT YOU THINK ARE ABSOLUTELY URGENT TO BE UNDERTAKEN DURING THE NEXT LEGISLATIVE PERIOD? WHAT ARE THE NEXT STEPS AHEAD? PZB: The next step precisely is to continue with the reform process of the past four years. Reforms are not easy to implement and even tend to have negative effects in the short-term, but I do not think that anyone doubts that they will have positive ones in the mediumand long-term. We have seen positive effects on the labour market, we have made reforms in the energy sector, we have reformed our country’s administration We have done a lot, but if we want to go on improving
competitiveness in Spain, we need to go on with these reforms. In particular, we have to ensure that Spain becomes the most attractive country for entrepreneurs in the whole of the EU. LASTLY, THE SPANISH ELECTIONS ARE NOT OCCURRING IN A VACUUM. THEY HAVE A EUROPEAN DIMENSION, IF ONLY DUE TO ELECTIONS TAKING PLACE IN THE LAST QUARTER OF THE YEAR 2015 IN PORTUGAL AND GREECE AMONGST OTHERS. WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE SIGNAL THAT NEEDS TO COME FROM THESE ELECTIONS? PZB: On a national level, these elections are key because the economic recovery must be secured. What happened in Greece shows that there is no alternative to the reform path when you want to achieve growth and job creation: a government opposed to such reforms is most likely going to fail dramatically. On the national level therefore, we are in need of consolidating the economic recovery in these countries. But also, I think these elections are also important for the EU: we are at a key moment where we have to advance the cause of a more integrated Europe from a fiscal, economic, but also political perspective. I firmly believe in a federal Europe and no parties other than those within the EPP family have the political will to further this cause. We need EPP governments in all of these countries that insist on the economic consolidation, but also provide an impulse for economic and political integration a at European level.
Populist Mainstream The Dynamics Behind the Rise of Corbyn, Tsipras, Trump, and Kanye West Explained The beast of populism is back again. However, in light of the ubiquity of this phenomenon, it may be beneficial to ask: what ultimately consists populism of and why is it considered to be the new trend?
Populism has various aspects and many directions. However, under no circumstances should it be called an ideology. In a nutshell, populism is a method to gain power, not a political movement. There is no ideological uniformity to it, it is just a poor policy adopted by politicians whose sole objective is to gain power. It can affect any political party, regardless of its ideological persuasion. It is likewise not a means of defending peoples’ rights as it was deemed in the past decades; it is a cheap weapon that political actors use and negatively affects those who fostered it in the first place. It is on the one hand able to boost someone to power while being equally capable on the other to have the exact opposite effects when this rise to power is achieved. Lately, the concept of populism has again gained common currency, as a handful of people choose it as the easiest option to gain and exercise political power. In doing so, they avoid exercising their status in a proper manner, adopting practically unfeasible policies. Populism is being advertised and advocated across the world and undoubtedly exercises a great attraction on both the media and society. Presenting a false dilemma, it promotes the word “we” against the word “they”. The populist is presented as the new “Messiah” – a saviour coming to the aid of the helpless. The “bad guy” will mostly be their established political opposite. For the populist, the answer to a policy problem is quite simple; it is either Yes or No. In other words, Europe or Autonomy. Therefore, the ultimate product of such phenomena tends to be controversy and division. The social and economic insecurity, the lack of trust in
today’s politicians, as well as high unemployment rates have triggered the phenomenon of populism across the continent - especially in South-Eastern Europe, where the socio-economic crisis has burdened people excessively. Unemployment, the economic crisis, and especially the lack of trust towards the established political system have left a substantial share of the population in this region immensely vulnerable. It is at that exact time that populists will undertake their greatest efforts to seize power without further consideration of the impact this will have in the near future, since they are only interested in acquiring power for its own sake. Alexis Tsipras is a typical example of this type of politician and the one who took most advantage of the economic crisis. He exploited the fears of Greek citizens with the sole aim of creating bipolarity. Depicting the Troika as the embodiment of evil, he stylised himself in turn as a hero. On the basis of this fairytale and without view for any subsequent repercussions, he divided the Greek citizens into two camps. The sense of threat created among Hellenic voters with his scaremongering was intentional: it left them no other choice than to accept Tsipras as the deus ex machina and ideal leader he presented himself as. Populism can, within the European context, likewise express itself in Euroscepticism. In any case, the economic crisis has not only affected the countries of South-Eastern Europe and Europe itself but also its constitution. The European Union is tested day by day and Euroscepticism is rapidly expanding. Furthermore, concerns over an upcoming Brexit are spreading as well. Arguably even worse is Jeremy Corbyn’s anachronistic Marxism that threatens not only Britain’s
social cohesion, but economic and national security. It is not a crime to be a dreamer, as long as one assumes responsibility for one’s actions and is able to act when it is really needed. It is one of the easiest things to make promises one cannot keep, but difficult to turn one’s words into real actions; especially when one’s policy is not based on realistic views. Nonetheless, the above problem is not only one observed in Europe: it has appeared in the United States of America as well. This is crucial to acknowledge: for, how can we say that populism is a product of the socio-economic crisis, when the US has not been as gravely affected by it? It is mistaken to believe that economic downturns are the only factor associated with populism. They exacerbate populist tendencies. Populism itself is primarily sustained by the sentiment of fear that citizens feel as a result of these and other crises, leaving them with a real need to seek for a “hero”. It is into these fears that Donald Trump taps, who is determined to tackle the problem of illegal immigration through building further border fences, thereby creating an ever greater divide between the United States and Mexico. He is also foremost proof that populism can exist even amongst the wealthiest and most prestigious shares of society. Another case in point here is the rapper Kanye West. Has one ever questioned what Kanye is doing in politics? Kanye simply represents the anti-politician tendency which is lately considered to be the radical trend. The same trend is representative of the old “glamour” of socialism. Thus, “Mr West” represents the ultimate feature of populism which hails a radically alternative style as being the dominant and the sole true political approach. According to this conception, truly active politicians are at the end of the day those who are less involved in politics. This is yet another constituent aspect of populism which is rooted in the belief of “fighting the system through the system itself”. In essence, is this a new era of politicians or simply a troubling stage that each generation has to deal with? Time will tell.
A Beauty Falling for the Beast or Austrian Politics Influenced by the Refugee Crisis Since the first reports of arriving asylum seekers, Austrian citizens have been flooded with information about the situation at the borders and how many thousands of people cross every day. As in many other countries, the political reaction was not exactly positive. In early 2015, the Austrian Home Affairs Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner from the conservative ÖVP was one of the first Austrian politicians to publicly call for fast measures regarding an upcoming problem that she predicted to become a major issue if not dealt properly with. She was talking about the, at the time seemingly small amount of, Syrian refugees arriving at the Austrian border. Warning that the Republic of Austria would not be able to deal with the number of refugees coming from Syria in a proper way, she was moving on thin ice: due to the country’s problematic history, migration politics is to this day a very sensitive topic in Austria. Mindful of its historical responsibility, Austrian politicians and parties have often preferred to steer clear of such sensitive issues for fear of inadvertently stoking up xenophobic sentiment. MiklLeitner, being the only one calling for fast measures to pre-empt the crisis, thus did not succeed in garnering enough political support to acquire the means to prepare the country for the upcoming influx. As the stream of asylum seekers steadily increased over the course of the year, with up to 10,000 people arriving at the border, the problem could not be avoided anymore. The social democrat SPÖ and other leftwing parties ignored all public concerns resulting from this constellation. Instead, it immediately launched a series of campaigns in favour of the refugee cause, organising several protests on what they considered to be inhumane conditions in the reception camps. In effect, those demonstrations only worsened the situation, as refugees themselves began to become upset and demand a faster execution of their asylum applications. The conservatives on the other hand
hesitated and did not seem to have a clear opinion at the beginning. This lack of a concerted response to the ever-increasing influx of refugees proved ultimately fatal: as the ÖVP was still in the process of developing a coherent strategy on the refugee situation, the nationalist-populist FPÖ was granted the opportunity to pitch its own view on the refugee crisis. For the past years, the FPÖ has been able to gather more and more support. This was mostly a result of the frustrations of many Austrians with the current “Grand Coalition” between the SPÖ and the ÖVP. Blocking one another on most major policy matters, the political landscape seems to have reached a point where no political progress is made any more. Citizens have therefore begun to desert the two big parties and turn to the FPÖ as the sole recognisable alternative. With the situation at hand, their support is currently growing at an even faster pace. Having always been the most vocal critic of the country’s immigration policy, the refugee influx was their perfect opportunity to gain popularity. Shortly after the scale of the problem became apparent, the FPÖ swiftly proceeded to call for the immediate closure of Austria’s border. To what extent this pledge resounded with the wider public was reflected in their campaigns for the first of two regional Federal State elections of 2015. Upper Austria, until then governed by the ÖVP, usually fought election battles centred on topics such as the advancement of families or support for local farmers. Instead of these usual themes, the electoral campaigns were almost exclusively concerned with the refugee crisis - in spite of general asylum policy evidently not being within the remit of the Upper Austrian state government. On 27 October, Upper
Austrians finally streamed to the polling booths and the outcome of the vote was a rather surprising one: with SPÖ and ÖVP respectively losing 6.6 and 10.4 per cent, the result was devastating for the two major parties - and a triumph for the nationalists who nearly gained an additional 16 per cent and rose to the rank of the second party in Upper Austria. Shocked by the result, all parties intensified their efforts in the following weeks prior to the upcoming elections in Vienna. For the first time since the restoration of the country’s democracy after the Second World War, it seemed as if the SPÖ could lose the majority in the capital of Austria. Realising this, the Social Democrats pursued a bold tactic, using the results of Upper Austria to their advantage: presenting themselves as the only recognisable force to counter the FPÖ, they were able to garner support from across the societal spectrum. Likely on the basis of this strategy, the results of these 11 October elections were not as grave as expected. Nonetheless, even though the Socialists only lost 4.4 per cent, the big winner of the elections was again the FPÖ which increased its share of the vote by another 11 per cent. This has again left many Austrians shocked and wondering of what might happen if national elections were to loom any time soon. Several weeks later, the situation has not improved. The EU is still struggling to find a common solution and is debating on how this crisis should be solved, leaving an ever greater amount of citizens frustrated in the process. It is that in such situations of stalemate, people turn to political forces offering seemingly straight and clear-cut answers to their concerns. This leaves us with only one option to prevent the populist threat from growing: we have to find a European solution on the crisis we are currently facing. People have to gain faith in the EU again and we therefore have to act as fast as possible.
Is the Dublin Convention Fit for Purpose? The Dublin convention was designed in the early 1990s as a means to coordinate asylum seeking and prevent fraudulent applications to the member states of what was to become the European Union. It was also meant as a way of evenly distributing asylum seekers who came to Europe, who otherwise would gravitate towards specific countries which could have adverse effects on the societies of these Member States. As this system has progressed and evolved, it has also faced much criticism. A lot of the criticism has been on the matter of human rights and especially the European Convention of Human Rights, stating that the Dublin Convention and its “addendums” lack proper definitions of what for instance constitutes a family member, disregard the fact that asylum treatment differs heavily from country to country and distribute asylum-seekers unevenly. A system designed as a safety-valve will inevitably run the risk of creating new barriers. The problems pointed out in association with the convention must be seen in the light of it being a means of distribution rather than a means to help people. One may argue that an even distribution is in fact a way to prevent suffering. The problem being that such a thinking does not take into account which countries have the greatest capacity to handle refugees. Lisa Schuster of London City University even goes so far as to say that “EU asylum policy is characterised by a contradiction between commitments to providing protection and to controlling migration into the EU.” What is it we want with the Dublin Convention? Do we want to protect our borders or the individuals seeking asylum? These two questions become paramount to answer in order to properly analyse whether the convention is fit for its purpose. One cannot have it both ways with a system, the same way one cannot have democracy and try to limit aspects of it by infringing on for example freedom of speech. One cannot have an asylum system which tries to protect both country and migrant by infringing on the migrant’s freedom of movement. Another sticking point of the Convention is that it does not distribute according the capacity and capability of the member states. Instead, it has pushed for the fringe countries (Italy, Greece, and Spain) to accept the biggest burden. In doing so, the Dublin convention becomes divisive and damaging to certain members. If the stated aim is a fair distribution of refugees coming to Europe amongst EU member states, the Dublin
Convention is not working. In fact, some countries have even begun to ignore the Dublin agreement as it does not reflect the reality it is meant to. This has prompted heated debates in countries such as Germany and Sweden, both seen as having a very liberal attitude towards migration. The debate has pinned down many questions about how much a country can take in but also what the EU should do under the current legislation. The legislation has been controversial for a long time and when put to the test it has cracked. Brussels has not had the means they have argued and the countries affected by the regulation have been pushing for “someone else” to handle the situation. If this is the case, the regulation should be seen as unfit and should be reformed and removed, the premise behind the legislation was at odds with itself and as such the development has then been so as well. That being said, a single country cannot save everyone just as a single NGO cannot solve a whole crisis on its own. The stated premise behind Dublin should, if it is to be seen as fit for the occasion, be not to lay blame on refugee-seekers by accusing them of “shopping for asylum”, but to find common ground between the countries taking in the asylum-seeker and instead focusing on a mindset where we can help each other coping with the problems an increase in seekers mean. Ultimately, the EU can only set out the broader strokes much as national policy can only give a general law. In the end, it comes down to subsidiarity again: much as it is on the municipalities of a nation-state to apply a law and put it to the test, it is the nation-states’ responsibility to apply EU policy and put it to the test. As such, it will always be the member-states who decide what is possible for them and design their own solutions to a problem at hand. The world is a harsh place to live in. Be you rich, poor, educated or uneducated, you will always face hardship. Knowing this, it should always be our duty to help where we can, our traditions and beliefs demands this of us. Can we say we are protecting civilisation if we
forsake our own history? In the end it comes down to two things in the case of refugees, can we help them? If the answer is yes then Europe must ask itself; if we fled oppression and persecution would we not want a kind-hearted soul to help us in our hour of need? SOURCES: Articles: Karamanidou, L. & Schuster, L. (2012). Realizing One’s Rights under the 1951 Convention 60 Years On: A Review of Practical Constraints on Accessing Protection in Europe. Journal of Refugee Studies, 25(2), pp. 169-192 Lenart J. (2012). ‘Fortress Europe’: Compliance of the Dublin II Regulation with the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Merkourios Utrecht Journal of International and European Law, 28(75), pp. 04-19 Internet Pages: http://www.ecre.org/topics/areas-of-work/introduction/194.html - visited on the 151104 http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/06/10/us-europemigrants-asylum-insight-idUSKBN0OQ0EU20150610 - visited on 151106 http://www.euractiv.com/sections/global-europe/germany-suspends-dublin-agreement-syrian-refugees-317065 - visited on 151106 http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/ca59a402-82e4-11e5a01c-8650859a4767.html#axzz3qhCVaECr – visited on 151106
An Uncertain Future - A Breakdown of the Polish Elections THE ELECTIONS AS THEY HAPPENED The Poles have entrusted their government to the conservative party Law and Justice (PiS) of former Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski. Ruling for eight years and polling at 24%, the outvoted Civic Platform (PO) gained a relatively high share of the vote. Despite coping exemplary with the economic crisis and significantly expanding the country’s infrastructure, the party was of slow pace of reforms and lack of a clear improvement in the financial situation of families. The third force in parliament will be radical and populist movement of rock singer Pawel Kukiz, who ran with the pledge of overthrowing the system. The Polish Peasant Party, traditionally strong in local government, will return a dozen MPs not including however their leader and former Deputy Prime Minister, Janusz Piechocinski, who lost his seat and will no longer be a member of government. This is part of a wider trend: since the local elections, the party has lost more than half of its support. There is a justified concern that Law and Justice will seek to capitalise on these developments by changing the administrative division of the country, creating several artificial new provinces which would result in snap local elections intended to further strengthen PiS’s power base. Such a move would be very dangerous for the Polish democratic order and undermine the difficult compromise of social development reached on this sensitive issue at the time - at the time supported by today’s politicians of Law and Justice.
THE ECONOMIC IMPACT After eight years in opposition, Poland’s Law and Justice party (PiS) returns to power, bolstered by a growing sense of unease in Poland over immigration and austerity abroad. It now holds both the presidency and more seats than any other party in parliament. The outcome of the vote had no immediate impact on the Warsaw Stock Exchange, but the policy measures planned by PiS may dampen investor confidence. The winning party favours a sharp rise in public spending and a larger state role in the economy. It also wants the central bank to launch a cheap lending programme to support growth - an idea some see as undermining the bank’s independence. PiS further aired plans to reap new revenues from next year with a tax on banks’ assets and also signalled that it was confident to have sufficient informal support in parliament to plan changes to Poland’s constitution. However, from a Europe-wide perspective, something else interesting happened - no left-wing party gained any representation in the new parliament. Though many former Eastern Bloc countries have had successful conservative parties, none of the other formerly communist countries joining the EU in 2004 have seen their leftists completely crushed at the polls. A remarkable first for Poland, it does not mean that the parties had not presented strong social policies in their programmes. Indeed, social aid, salaries, and subsidies have dominated most of them. It seems that Council of the EU’s decision to take off from Poland budget excessive deficit procedure was not properly understood - particularly by PiS.
AN ACADEMIC “PLEXIT”? As a student, my view of the newly elected government is dominated by profound uncertainty about the future. This is mainly due to the dangerous similarity of political parties who won the majority in the recent election, with extreme right-wing and even nationalist forces garnering nearly half of the electorate’s votes. This presents a worrisome prospect for the direction of Polish democracy. The elections also resulted in the first absolute majority in Parliament since 1989, and thereby the first one-party government in the country’s modern democratic history. In contrast to the last Civic Platform government, the new administration is focused on withdrawing from European integration and limiting civil rights. I am apprehensive whether the achievement of the past years, admired across the EU, will survive. At the heart of student concerns is the potential of Poland abandoning the European Higher Education Area and shutting down the Bologna Process, both stated aims of the new government. This may lead to a significant reduction of Erasmus+ programme placements in Poland, affecting students across Europe. Nonetheless, about two-thirds of Polish student cast their vote for PiS. Given how contrary to its interest this may seem, why did the far-right winners enjoy the support of the student community? This may be due to specific nature of political scene in Poland, where the politics refer themselves to one another depending only on a general outlook. In fact, parties declaring themselves as rightwing often propose very elaborate social policies. It has been known for decades that two-thirds of students would rather choose (social) safety, than uncertainty.
In Memoriam Victims of Terrorism
Sinâ€™ai - Ankara - Beirut - Baghdad - Paris - Autumn 2015 -
“VISIONS, VALUES AND CITIZENS” MR AVAGYAN, MR ASHOTYAN, TO BEGIN OUR INTERVIEW WITH A RATHER ABSTRACT QUESTION: TO WHAT EXTENT DO YOU RECKON IS THERE A “EUROPEAN IDENTITY” IN ARMENIA? OR, PUT DIFFERENTLY, DO ARMENIANS CONSIDER THEMSELVES TO BE “EUROPEAN”? Armen Ashotyan (AA): Armenia is situated in a geopolitically complicated region, which has long played host to rival civilizations and political alliances. Nevertheless, the Armenian public has long felt itself to be part of the wider European civilization. The country has a rich historical past characterised by continuous contacts with the European powers, including the Hellenic world, the Roman Republic and Empire, and the Byzantine Empire. It was also the first state to adopt Christianity as a state religion in 301 A.D. Armenian society has thus felt itself to be a bearer of traditional European values, even if now alienated from the European core. THE REASON BEHIND THIS QUESTION IS THAT FEW NON-MEMBER STATES CAN LAY CLAIM TO A MORE LONG-STANDING COOPERATION WITH THE EUROPEAN UNION AS ARMENIA WHOSE FIRST PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT DATES BACK TO 1996. WHAT ARE THE FACTORS BEHIND THIS SUSTAINED COOPERATION? Karen Avagyan (KA): The EU has sought to establish political association and friendly ties with its neighbours. They all have diverse cultures, identities, and systems of values. The closer the neighbours are culturally, the easier the association is achieved. Armenia in this respect, having many elements of European civilization, is an advantageous partner for EU. Democracy, human rights, and the rule of law are values which are highly desirable for our citizens. But our society is convinced that first of all these values and reforms are beneficial for us and not only for successful realisation of our commitments to the European Union. Of course, on the other hand economic advantages of the cooperation are also attractive for Armenia. It is another way to level up our economy. THE PARTNERSHIP WITH THE EUROPEAN UNION HAS HOWEVER NOT BEEN CONSISTENTLY HARMONIC. IN 2013, ARMENIA’S WITHDRAWAL FROM AN ALREADY NEGOTIATED ASSOCIATE AGREEMENT AND SUBSEQUENT ACCESSION TO THE EURASIAN ECONOMIC UNION IN JANUARY 2015 CAUSED DISMAY IN BRUSSELS. WHY
(Armenian Minister for Education) DID THE ARMENIAN GOVERNMENT PREFER MEMBERSHIP OF THE EEU OVER A FREE TRADE ARRANGEMENT WITH THE EU? AA: Armenia has always built its national-based foreign policy on a combination of interests of involved parties in the region and various systems, while not fostering of dividing lines. Armenia and Russia are strategic partners and the Armenia-Russia Cooperation Agreement alongside with Armenia’s membership to CSTO is one of the pillars of our security. At the same time, through cooperation with NATO, Armenia makes its active contribution to international security and stability both within Individual Partnership Action Plan and international peacekeeping missions. Armenia continues comprehensive cooperation with the European Union both in Eastern Partnership and bilateral formats. Owing to EU and Western support, our country has implemented serious reforms in democracy, human rights, supremacy of law, economic liberalisation and many other key areas. The ideologies of the European Union and the Eurasian Union are not opposed to one another, they simply have different priorities. The main thing Armenians keep in mind when building foreign relations is their national interests. And so, simultaneous relations with the EU and Russia will help our country to more effectively develop its economic, culture and social sector.
RECENTLY BEGUN. AS SUCH, YEREVAN AGAIN ASSUMES A PIONEERING POSITION IN EU POLICY, AS MEMBERSHIP OF THE EASTERN PARTNERSHIP AND THE EEU HAS GENERALLY BEEN CONSIDERED WHOLLY INCOMPATIBLE. HOW DID YOU CONVINCE YOUR NEGOTIATION PARTNERS AT THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION AND COUNCIL OF THE OPPOSITE? KA: First of all, let me reflect on your thoughts, as some of them shall be crystallised: Armenia and the EU have never had tense relations, but there has been a mismatch of priorities and misunderstanding of policy guidelines. Today, with this misunderstanding overcome through bilateral discussions and talks, we can state that Armenia and the EU have an intention to return to the cooperation framework, thus clinching a new major deal which will reflect the content and current level of Armenia-EU relations. Secondly, the membership of Armenia to the EEU and active engagement in the EU’s EaP programme organically do not and cannot contradict to each other. The contradiction can come, if Armenia would like to sign a DCFTA with the EU and simultaneously be a part of the EEU. Accordingly, the newly forming cooperation framework between Armenia and EU would reflect the international commitments of Armenia towards the EEU, thus not raising any contradiction.
FOLLOWING A BRIEF PERIOD OF TENSE RELATIONS, THE EU RESUMED COOPERATION WITH ARMENIA ON THE BASIS THAT THERE WAS A CLEAR MUTUAL WILL FOR SUCH COLLABORATION. NEGOTIATIONS FOR A NEW PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT HAVE
ASIDE FROM STRUCTURAL FUNDS AND FACILITATION OF ECONOMIC ACTIVITY, ONE CRUCIAL ASPECT OF COOPERATION WITH THE EU HAS BEEN THE IMPLEMENTATION OF A VARIETY OF POLICY INITIATIVES TO IMPROVE THE EFFICIENCY OF CIVIL ADMINISTRATION.
INTERVIEW WHAT SPECIFIC MODELS HAVE BEEN IMPLEMENTED? WHAT OBSTACLES WERE AND ARE YOU FACING IN THE PROCESS? KA: The creation of an independent state body – the Civil Service Council – was not only the response to a public need but also motivated by an EU suggestion. Today we can assert that the structure entails professional public administrators, based on principles of political neutrality, professionalism, stability and objective service to the public interests, as defined by the law. The civil service in recent years has become very attractive for employees given the fact that the government suggests various social packages including health insurance, free travelling in the Armenian resorts etc. Starting positions do not require work experience so one can get a job just after graduation. This system to some extent solved the problem of youth unemployment so there are many young people working in public sector. The EU’s Sigma programme cooperates with the Civil Service Council successfully. We also fully implemented an E-government system and the whole document c circulation is now electronic. Yerevan is currently ranked the 5th in the list of cities having the best e-government worldwide. The Council of Civil Service initiated a very important process – it requested SIGMA to monitor the system. After the monitoring some recommendations were made which aimed to bring the Service in line with European standards. The government of RA and the Council are committed to implementing them. MR ASHOTYAN, ARMENIA HOSTED THE EUROPEAN HIGHER EDUCATION AREA (EHEA) MINISTERIAL CONFERENCE THIS YEAR. ON THAT OCCASION, YOU STATED THAT THERE WERE STILL “UNRECOGNISED TERRITORIES WHERE PEOPLE ARE NOT EXERCISING THE ADVANTAGES OF THE EUROPEAN EDUCATION”. WHAT ARE THESE AREAS AND WHAT PRECISE STEPS CAN BE UNDERTAKEN IN THE FUTURE TO REMEDY THIS STATE OF AFFAIRS? AA: The Yerevan summit proved that Armenia is an integral part of the European civilization area. The Bologna process belongs to all the countries that share European values and try to introduce and reproduce the values in higher educational institutions. The “Yerevan communique” established that the EHEA should be maximally inclusive for people with various educational needs, and in various political and geographical situations. The basic idea was enshrining the principle of non-discrimination in education. This means that Europe’s education ministers have agreed that the Bologna Mobility programs should give involvement opportunity to students and lecturers from conflicting regions, as education is one of the fundamental human rights. Once again I would like to stress the idea that education should be without any discrimination and should provide solutions to the conflicts as a unique tool for the reconciliation and people to people relations. 2015 WAS NO YEAR LIKE ANY OTHER FOR THE ARMENIAN PEOPLE – IT MARKED THE
CENTENNIAL OF THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE DURING THE FIRST WORLD WAR. IN HIS SPEECH AT ITS CONGRESS IN MADRID LAST OCTOBER, PRESIDENT SERZH SARGSYAN THANKED THE EPP FOR ITS UNEQUIVOCAL STANCE ON THE RECOGNITION AND CONDEMNATION OF THE GENOCIDE. HOW IMPORTANT HAS COOPERATION WITH THE EU PROVEN IN PROMOTING AWARENESS OF THE EVENTS OF APRIL 1915 ON THE INTERNATIONAL STAGE? KA: One hundred years ago, on 24 April 1915, one of the gravest crimes of the 20th century began with mass arrests of Armenian intellectuals in Constantinople, the capital of the Ottoman Empire, and other cities of the empire. What subsequently happened in 1915 and the years that followed was unprecedented in terms of volume and ramifications. The Western part of the Armenian people, who for hundred years had lived in their homeland, in the cradle of our civilization, were displaced and annihilated with the Empire’s direct participation of the army, police and other state institutions. Around 1.5 million Armenians were slaughtered merely for being Armenian and Christian. Today the world-order, the nature of international relations is quite different from the severe situation hundred years ago. However, there are many states that due to some circumstances don’t want to call things by their name. For this prominent year in our history we chose a slogan “Remember, Condemn, Prevent”. The most effective tool in preventing such crimes is the recognition of such crimes committed so violently. The genocide is not merely an Armenian but a universal problem which requires universal solutions. We highly appreciate the commitment of our EPP friends to the human values and recognition of the Genocide. It is evident that the document also contributed to the resolution by the European Parliament in April. Thus these two resolutions are considered very important achievements in the process of the recognition of Armenian Genocide. We are also thankful to the EPP president Mr Joseph Daul for his presence during the most important day for all of us. MOST OF THIS INTERVIEW HAS FOCUSED ON THE PRESENT STATE OF ARMENIA AND ITS RELATIONSHIP WITH THE EUROPEAN COMMUNITY. TO CONCLUDE, LET US SPEAK OF ITS FUTURE: WHAT DIRECTION IS YOUR COUNTRY HEADED FOR IN THE NEXT DECADES? WHAT WOULD, IN YOUR VIEW, AN IDEAL PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN ARMENIA AND THE EUROPEAN UNION LOOK LIKE IN 2030? KA: We would like to acquire a deeply rooted and consolidated democracy in Armenia, reforms suggested by EU fully completed, as well as a deeper cooperation in all the spheres: educational, social, political, economic, cultural, etc. The youth involvement in different programs, workshops, trainings, meetings and organisations such as EDS is very significant to me as today’s students and young people are the future decision-makers. One
Karen Avagyan MP
(RPA Youth Chair) may notice that the European Union is not very united when it comes to foreign affairs and it is apprehensible as the member-states have different interests at stake. However we would like to see a more coherent approach in international cooperation, one based on values rather than economic interests. Currently, the Armenian political leadership has an intention to make this country a real European-model state, in which human rights and fundamental freedoms protection will be considered as basis of public affairs. AA: Looking back in history and with just one glance at the map, it becomes very clear that Armenia and Armenians has already shown its expertise in overcoming a whole range of complicated, often dramatic, situations with its powerful neighbours, while managing to preserve its traditional European cornerstones. Talking about the future of Armenia-EU relations I am sure that these relations will unite Visions, Values and Citizens which are common for both sides.
Anna Ohanyan in cooperation with Henrique Laitenberger
SERIES: THE FUTURE OF EUROPEAN FEDERALISM
Federal Europe: Through the Lens of External Policies The European integration process is often described as the result of the clash between the supporters of a federal Europe and the proponents of an intergovernmental approach to the European framework. The “struggle” between those visions has been permanent and no definitive solution seems to exist: it has happened that federalist proposals concluded with intergovernmental outcomes, while certain matters considered to be “sovereignty taboos” are now the prerogative of supranational institutions .This has been particularly evident in the case of external policies where the various domains range from fully federalised matters such as trade to competences relying on strictly intergovernmental processes in the case of the Common Foreign and Security Policy. FROM INITIAL FEDERAL HIGH HOPES TO A REALIST COMPLEMENT TO NATIONAL INTERESTS: THE CASE OF THE FOREIGN AND SECURITY POLICIES. While these two domains are still considered today pillars of Member States national interests, the Founding Fathers gave them a lot of importance and they took a short time to bring forth proposals in those two spheres. On 9 May 1950, while stating “L’Europe n’a pas été faite, nous avons eu la guerre” (Europe was not achieved and we had war), Robert Schuman declared that his proposal would bring peace among European countries by centralising two of the most important assets of warfare, coal and steel. Five months later, considering the success of Robert Schuman’s plan, the French government made a step further: European countries adhering to the idea should not only live peacefully together, but also be ready to fight war together. The Pleven Plan would create a unified and supranational European army, solving the difficult question of the German rearmament, ready to fight the Soviet army. The ultimate failure of the European Defence Community (EDC), buried by the French Parliament, created an enduring trauma and became a taboo among European partners, while paving the way to the success of NATO. The idea of soldiers wearing a “European uniform” would concretise in 2003 in FYROM (EUFOR Concordia) and in Democratic Republic of Congo (Operation Artemis) under the umbrella of a European Security and Defence Policy or Common Security and Defence Policy, after the Lisbon Treaty which outlines a strict intergovernmental governance. After the failure of the EDC, the taboo extended to all
aspects of foreign policy and European leaders took nearly twenty years to resume informal discussions on topics outside of European treaties. This had consequences for the Member States, as the various stances towards the Israeli-Arab conflict led to different treatments by the Member States during the 1973 oil crisis, while Arab oil producers treated the Members States according to their position on the conflict. The European Political Cooperation, introduced in 1970, was aimed to create a forum where Member States would try to find a common position on political and foreign policy topics. The increasing formalisation of the Cooperation led to the establishment of the European Council and the introduction of a General Affairs and External Relations Council at a ministerial level. TRADE, AN EXCLUSIVE COMPETENCE OF THE EU UNDER THE FIRE OF CRITICS Since the treaty of Rome, trade has been an exclusive competence of the European Economic Community and then the European Union. The European Commissioner for Trade is the sole representative of the EU for trade policies and represents the interest of the EU and the Member States to the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The Commissioner is mandated by the Member States to negotiate treaties and while the Commission will be exclusively in charge of the negotiation, the Member States can keep an eye on the negotiations by several informal ways (for instance by sitting in the “back seats” in WTO negotiations) and by formal ways, as the Commission will report on the process. In the end, Member States
SERIES: THE FUTURE OF EUROPEAN FEDERALISM and the European Parliament will have to state on the outcome of the negotiation. Even though this format has been in place for decades and raised few objections, the negotiations between the EU and the US for a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership stirred many controversies between its proponents and opponents criticising an opaque process. Some of those critics would like to see the Member States and the national parliaments take a more important place in the negotiations. Such proposals would need a change in the Treaties and while it can be understood that the negotiation of the TTIP might provoke concerns among part of the population, amending the Treaties in order to change the negotiation process could be counterproductive.
CONCLUSION: A STRUGGLE BETWEEN TWO VISIONS BASED ON NEEDS (OR THEIR PERCEPTION) We can outline a general trend, as Member States will be more or less inclined to relinquish their sovereignty in certain domains if they believe that their national interest will be better defended by a supranational institution than their own national ones. While the political impulse for internal policies mostly comes from within the Union, we should not underestimate the stimuli coming from the outside, such as the various international crises and the regional conflicts in neighbouring areas, as well as the answers Europeans will try to give to those challenges. A federal solution would be based on the perception of needs by Member States and any step backwards would prove difficult, if not impossible. The metaphor of the European
integration process as a bike which has to move forward in order not to fall still seems valid, but we should know where we want to go.
Confronting the Crisis in the Mashreq Countries The Arabic term Mashreq refers to the countries in the south-east Mediterranean. One of the 41 delegations of the European Parliament is dedicated to four countries of this region namely Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. Over the last years, the news have been dominated by the ongoing political crises in several countries of Northern Africa and the Middle East, as the Arab Spring movement of 2011 triggered a revolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests that spread across the Arab world. The Mashreq countries Syria and Egypt faced dramatic changes. While Egypt underwent a change in leadership and maintained a kind of enforced stability, the situation has been deteriorating rapidly in Syria. The ongoing civil war between the troops of autocratic president Bashar alAssad and rebellious militia, as well as the new threat of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have left the nation utterly devastated. Experts agree that the Syrian civil war has led to the world’s largest humanitarian crisis since World War II. More than 7.6 million Syrians are internally displaced and more than four million people have fled the country altogether. As a result of the overwhelming influx of refugees neighbouring, countries such as Jordan and Lebanon are facing serious problems. This situation has far-reaching implications for the European Union. The growing amount of refugees and the resulting refugee crisis are obvious consequences. With 213,000 applications for asylum within the EU, the second quarter of 2015 saw an increase of first applications of 15% as opposed to the first quarter of this year. Compared to last year’s second quarter, there even was an increase of an overwhelming 85%. Most applicants are of Syrian origin. Of all European countries, Germany receives by far the majority of all applications. The main issue the European Union tries to currently address is the continuously high influx of refugees and the resulting implications for its member states. Especially along prominent refugee transit routes such the Western Balkans or the Mediterranean Sea, local authorities seem to be increasingly overwhelmed with the amount of incoming asylum seekers. In April 2015, the EPP Group Bureau gathered for an external meeting in Milan, Italy, to focus on this very issue. According to the EPP, an adequate response to the current crisis would include creating a binding quota
for the distribution of asylum seekers. A common classification of “safe” and “unsafe” third countries would help accelerate application procedures. To deal with the waves of illegal immigrants, the EPP’s Milan Paper proposes a “zero tolerance” policy against human traffickers and smugglers. A significant strengthening of European Actors such as Frontex and Europol in terms of financial and human resources would be essential. Another vital step would include the expansion and merging of existing data bases and IT services used in the coordination and registration of the influx of asylum seekers. Furthermore, new legal possibilities of migration should be examined and explored to ensure that the member states’ specific labour markets’ needs can be addressed adequately. Ideally, this would make illegal migration less attractive. At the same time, a stringent return policy of illegal migrants and rejected asylum seekers needs to be implemented and carried out. With this in mind, the European Commission presented the European Agenda on Migration one month later. It marked the first comprehensive approach to tackle the worsening. In the course of two implementation packages a redistribution of 160,000 refugees in total is planned. With this measure, the Commission aims to assist Italy and Greece since most refugees try to enter the EU via these countries. The distribution process would be tied to a certain key. This key is based on the number of the population by 40%, the size of the nations’ GDP by another 40% and by 10% each for the number of applications and the unemployment rate in a particular member state. Furthermore the agenda contains several points such as the action plan to intensify efforts against migrant smuggling or the establishment of a common list of safe countries of origin that are similar to the EPP’s
Milan Paper. Parallel to the implementation process, there have been several summits and meetings of the European Council as well as other international representatives addressing the refugee crisis on the level of the member states. At the emergency summit on September 23, the leaders agreed on the installation of so-called ”Hotspots”, reception facilities that will be able to accommodate certain amounts of refugees. Their aim is to ultimately relieve the migratory pressure in frontier countries Greece and Italy. To date, several Hotspots have been set up in Italy and more sites are scheduled to be fully operational in Greece by the end of November. Additionally, Frontex and Europol along with the European Asylum Support System (EASO) will be coordinating the registration processes in these areas. Shortly before the summit of heads of state and government of the EU member states that was held on October 15, the EU and Turkey agreed on an action plan concerning international efforts to tackle the refugee crisis. Since the country could become one of the essential partners in this regard a mutual understanding could be vital. Turkey agreed
to support the EU-led efforts by offering help with the registration of refugees as well as the return of denied applicants. Better accommodation for refugees and a stronger crack-down on smugglers are included in this agreement too. In return, Turkey expects a significant financial compensation but above all the revision of its application as an EU member state. These negotiations have attracted extensive criticism since the Turkish government led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been known for its regular violations of human rights, such as freedom of speech and the harsh treatment of oppositional media and journalists. In response to the increasing use of the Western Balkans route and growing problems for all member states involved further summits have been held towards the end of October. Representatives of the Balkan States and other transit countries as well as Germany and the European institutions agreed on a 17-point plan of action to increase joint cooperation and coordination efforts significantly. In terms of financial assistance nine billion Euro of the EU budget for 2016 have been allocated to tackle the refugee
crisis. A similar fund for Syria holding 500 million Euro will be financed through the EU budget as well. Future efforts include the upcoming Valetta summit on migration from November 11-12 which will also involve countries of origin of refugees from the African and Asian continent. Besides additional measures to support the economic development in those regions main topics will comprise of a better cooperation between the EU and those countries. Desired outcomes are a better cooperation regarding the return of denied asylum seekers and the battle against trafficking and illegal immigration. In summary it can be said that the European Union is facing one of the biggest challenges since its foundation. The current situation in the Mashreq countries, with the most prominent example of Syria, puts the European Union on the spot. We are a union of common values; we stand for freedom and democracy. The measures undertaken so far have outlined steps and tasks to handle the current migration crisis on European soil. However, we are still lacking proper execution and implementation
of these measures. It is crucial for all the member states to realise that this crisis can only be dealt with adequately at a European level. We need to focus on a long-term solution. To this end all member states must contribute and cooperate to achieve an effective and lasting result. Given the complex nature of the situation, the imminent threat of ISIL, the cruelness of President Assad and the role of Turkey it becomes obvious that this crisis can only be addressed if we stand together as a true European Union.
Sven Schulze MEP
Funding Excellence Funding patterns for higher education and research are very different across Europe. A feature shared across the continent however is that the competition for public resources in this large sector is becoming a more pressing objective across Member States. Public authorities are eager to get a higher return on their investment in universities.
Since 2008, the economic situation of many European countries has significantly deteriorated and authorities are often expecting greater outputs in return for less investment. Even Denmark which has one of the largest public sectors in the world and a high tax regime is undertaking significant cuts in the higher education sector. Apart from steering universities through funding modalities, many systems engage in some degree of restructuring the higher education system in order to rationalise costs, increase visibility and altogether boost international competition. Calibrating funding mechanisms is a tool that public authorities should use in the higher education sector to solve the issue of youth unemployment, quality assertion, completion rate and transition length from education. KS
Denmark proposed a motion about this topic at the EDS Summer University in Malta in July 2015 where it was adopted unanimously. It proposed that Higher Education Institutions across the EU should be encouraged to collaborate with the labour market, in order to provide a highly skilled and competent workforce in accordance with its demands. Such a collaboration could consist of labour-marked surveys, guest lecturers and professors, career fairs, or encouraging students to conduct their research – including undergraduate theses – in cooperation with companies or public institutions, to name but a few examples. To achieve this, universities should be awarded with a bonus according to the employability rate among their graduates. This ought to be determined by the number of graduates who have
gained meaningful employment in a field linked to their studies or requiring university-level education or are selfemployed, within six months of their graduation. This would create an incentive for universities to improve the quality of their teaching and links with the private sector, while similarly permitting a more efficient allocation of funds. It would encourage Higher Education Institutions to take measures to ensure higher completion rates and create a meaningful comparison criterion in judging the quality of European Universities. The advantage of such a system is that it would give students a clear perspective of employment, at a particular university and in a specific field. It would also provide universities with a national ranking system, where underperformers would be identified while similarly offering a clear indicator of best practice. This emphasis on the national factor is insofar important as that the several international rankings comparing universities, often relying on a wide array of different metrics, fall short of capturing the variety and the diversity of the modern university. Measuring universities by the employment rate of graduates would not significantly alter this constellation, as this would mean to ignore divergences between national economies. However; students with an interest in pursuing a certain education abroad would have a stronger measure of gauging the quality of universities within their national context – particularly of importance if they applied for a job in a particular foreign country or region. While concerns surrounding general employability in certain fields and the application of such a system to HEIs outside of urban areas should not be cast aside, this should not distract from the wider truth that even small universities could become better at communicating with the private and public sector, and follow the best practice of the most successful, larger institutions. As the higher education sector expands, questions of finance, youth unemployment, quality assertion, completion rate, and transition length from education need to be asked or assessed from a different angle. Universities should not shy away from seeking greater integration and cooperation with the labour market, judging the success of its institutions by the employability of its graduates. Likewise, governments should not be hesitant to attribute greater relevance to graduate employment prospects when deciding on HE funding – particularly since this is foremost an investment in the future, not a cost.
BE ON the establishment of an independent national bank, were implemented. However, the proposition to remove rent controls to boost building was ignored. DON’T LET POLITICIANS (OR THEIR STOOGES) DECIDE ON RENT… Until 2011, private landlords could not set their own rents. Instead, the municipal housing companies and the Swedish Union of Tenants bargained for a fixed rent increase, and private actors had to adjust accordingly.
How To Ruin A Housing Market – A Swedish Manual Europe is increasingly suffering from a housing problem: housing shortages in most of the continent’s big cities have led to rising rents and a lower quality of accommodation; a situation where those on a low income, such as students, have a hard time finding proper accommodation. Sometimes these issues occur due to privatisation of housing and greater homeownership. Across Europe, it has therefore been proposed that rent controls and increased construction of social housing be introduced, to relieve the weaker parts of the market, such as students. One notable example of a country moving towards such measures is Germany. There are however significant factors that cast doubt on the viability of rent caps and similar state initiatives: Sweden has a long history of government interference in the housing market with rent control having been introduced in 1942. Today, two-thirds of the Swedish municipalities face a housing deficit. In the capital, Stockholm, the municipal housing queue is hosting 500,000 people and was recently nominated as the longest in the world to the Guinness Book of Records. This article will provide you with some dos and don’ts on the housing market by retracing the history of Swedish housing policy. Learn from the Swedes. Please. DON’T FORGET THAT THE WAR ENDED After a housing crisis caused by the Great Depression, when almost four percent of apartments in Stockholm stood empty, the housing market recovered without any government interference. However, during the latter part of 1942, Sweden’s wartime coalition government imposed a number of regulations to make sure the country would survive the hardship. One of these reforms was rent control, to ensure that Swedish workers could afford to stay in their homes. As is so often the case with wartime planning measures, the detrimental effects of this policy in peacetime soon became apparent: after the Second World War ended, little private money was
invested in new tenancy housing, since rents were indexed to inflation, and investment in housing therefore unprofitable compared to alternative investments. DON’T KEEP A SYSTEM THAT IS NOT WORKING In 1947, three goals were imposed on the Swedish housing market, related to redistribution, seeking to eliminate the difference in standards of accommodation, the integration of different social and ethnic groups, and income, keeping the rent for an average apartment below 20 % of the income of an industrial worker. This was also supposed to be temporary legislation but is to this day among the main tenets of Swedish housing regulation. DO: BUILD ONE MILLION APARTMENTS! (BUT DON’T EXPECT IT TO HELP IN THE LONG RUN) When Swedish authorities realised that there was too little supply to match demand, it launched one of the most ambitious housing construction schemes in its history. Between 1965-1974, the Swedish government built 100,000 apartments each year. Today, many of these are being demolished due to reparation costs and difficulties to get them leased out in less populated areas. DO LISTEN TO EXPERTS Assar Lindbeck, one of Sweden’s most renowned economists, is famous for his quip: “Next to bombing, rent control seems in many cases to be the most efficient technique so far known for destroying cities”. In 1993, during its worst recession since the 1930s, he presented 113 proposals set to return growth to the Swedish economy. Most of these suggestions, such as
DO REMEMBER THAT LOCATION IS EVERYTHING In Sweden today, rental apartments are not rated differently depending on the location of the house. Consequently, there is as little as 30 – 40 per cent difference in rent for apartments of a similar standard, but located in vastly different areas. The average monthly rent for a three-bedroom apartment in central Stockholm is around 8,100 SEK (800€). A sublease contract is 8,000 SEK (800€) for a one-bedroom apartment. The same first-hand public rental contract in a Stockholm suburb would cost 7,800 SEK. DO BUILD STUDENT APARTMENTS (BUT WITHOUT DISABILITY ADAPTED BATHROOMS) Every student housing complex built in Sweden has to follow the same building regulations, including standardisation of ventilation and house temperature. Student tenants also enjoy standard privileges such as disability adapted toilets, and access to a regulated amount of parking spaces, making it more expensive to build housing for students, especially in populated areas, where land is scarce. The main issue with the Swedish housing system is the view of housing as a social right, rather than as a good among others. In the Swedish case, this has led to overly strict standards for rental housing having been politically imposed, resulting in a housing shortage. The current system in Sweden is shutting out anyone who does not already have a first-hand lease, contacts, or the money to buy an apartment outright. It is a system of insiders and outsiders, where the losers are not only those without proper accommodation, but also potential private investors. Many European cities need to reform their housing policies to ameliorate housing deprivation, and so ensure continuous economic growth. And while many politicians have looked for inspiration in Sweden in a variety of areas before, when it comes to the housing market: Europe, look away!
Belarus: a Window of Opportunity A normalisation of the relationship between Belarus and the European Union is underway. What stands behind this change of attitude towards Belarus? Has the situation in the country actually improved after the presidential elections?
Before the conflict in Ukraine, Belarus was probably Europe’s most troubling Eastern neighbour. This is no longer the case after Russia’s interference into Ukrainian internal affairs. Not only the EU Member States are re-evaluating the order of partners and contenders, Belarus too is repositioning itself on this scale: a year after the annexation of Crimea, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko told in an interview that he was no longer the last dictator in Europe, pointing instead at the “bigger evil” - Vladimir Putin. Meanwhile, the country’s involvement in regional affairs is anything but stagnant. Having played a mediating role in the Ukrainian crisis, freed the political prisoners, and conducted calm, but nevertheless unfree elections, Belarusian politics is now awaiting a pay-off of their efforts by better relations with the West. The suspended sanctions against Belarusian officials and companies are one visible signal that this expectation could be fulfilled. As Minsk intensifies its interest in improving relations with the West –mostly due to economic considerations – however, the it is challenged by Moscow. For the first time, Belarus shall now become a place for one of Russia’s airbases. Its
Eastern ally, having isolated itself from the West, pays attention to the pro-European moves of its “protégé”, bearing in mind its strategic location and diplomatic connections, including attempts to improve the Belarusian economy through cooperation with Europe. Given the opportunist and volatile nature of Putin’s foreign policy, supporting such cooperation could help the EU in stabilising the situation in the region, without letting Belarus become more financially and, thus, politically dependent on the Kremlin. But is it worth for the EU to abandon its principled position on human rights violations that have been committed in the country over the past years? It may seem as if European diplomacy has already answered the question. It was declared a number of times that future relations with Belarus will depend on the 2015 election results and on the release of the political prisoners. Sanctions that were temporarily lifted shortly after Lukashenko got re-elected, suggests a shift in the European strategy towards Belarus. The ultimate delivery of human rights and free elections seems to become less of a short-term priorityfor the EU. Is this arrangement a part of a zero sum game that will lead Belarus
further away from Russia? Before jumping to such an ultimate conclusion, several factors must be taken into consideration. With Putin’s actions in Ukraine and Syria, the refugee crisis in Europe, and the threat of terrorism, stability becomes a highly valued resource. This includes non-EU countries of Eastern Europe, destabilised by Russia’s actions. A jump to a “democracy without compromises” in the current situation not only has limited prospects of success. It could also result in Belarus’s breakaway from Russia and, consequently, to a potential repetition of the Ukrainian scenario. That is something neither the democratic opposition, nor the EU could desire. Considering that economic and military cooperation between Russia and Belarus is diminishing, Minsk needs to make careful steps towards a dialogue with the European Union without aggravating relations with Moscow. One such step – and the major reason to temporarily lift sanctions – was the release of political prisoners, e.g. former presidential candidates and civil activists. A step long desired by the European leaders and human rights activists alike. Furthermore, as many observers point out, no political repressions followed the 2015 elections. Alternative presidential
candidates were able to campaign, agitate, and openly express criticism of Lukashenko’s policies. This would have been impossible to imagine after the severe repressions that followed the 2010 elections. A change of perception is occurring both within and outside of Belarusian civil society. The elections, though undemocratic, proved that protest and boycott are no longer the only options for the opposition and that openly expressed discontent does not necessarily lead to arrest. Political groups in Belarus have exercised a number of legitimate and relatively safe ways of communicating their agenda. Furthermore, when civil society and political activists found themselves free of persecution, it turned out that their position on key questions did not always have to antagonise the government agenda. Economic modernisation, social and legal cooperation with Europe, education programmes, and, of course, the country’s sovereignty are the questions where both the opposition and the government find common ground. Lastly, the presidential elections have showed that Lukashenko’s opponents are improving in providing a balanced and articulate opposition to the
authoritarian government, which will eventually lead to a positive change. It is important to remember, however, that these changes do not come from this political struggle alone. Politics, no matter what form it takes, does not fully define a people. Beyond the “last dictator” and the “freedom fighters”, there is a nation out driven by the same motives and values as any other European nation. It has its ideals to live up to, its gifted talents to be proud of, and challenges it needs to work on. This work, in turn, is being done by the many civil society activists, political experts, public opinion leaders, artists, and scholars who work tirelessly together with their European colleagues on a variety of initiatives to bring Belarusian society closer to Europe. The thaw in relationships between Minsk and Brussels might be a chance to further improve these connections, make them widely known and available to the public, thus improving civil engagement and eventually creating a steady demand for democratic reform. The positive change that started during the elections is a window of opportunity. The question is: how long it is going to last? Some reasonably claim that changes are nothing but a tactical move of Lukashenko to solve the country’s economic
problems and that a return to repressions is possible: there were plenty of precedents. But even if that will be the case, it should not be the reason to turn this chance for cooperation down. In an open world, political repressions have a hard time undoing the way people think. Helping Belarusians see themselves as a part of this open world, as part of the European community, reacting to the efforts of those already working in that direction - this will have long-lasting consequences which cannot be negated by a recourse to violence. With all the political controversies Belarus has caused in the European Union, this reason alone is important enough to give it a try.
A CAP on the EU’s Integrity? Former Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Dacian Cioloş deemed the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) a “relevant tool for Europe on the road to green, sustainable, smart and inclusive growth”. Such rhetoric disguises CAP’s true nature as a protectionist and regressive use of scarce EU funds. On one hand the EU takes a forceful stance against the subsidies adopted by its trading partners, which “distort competition by making subsidised goods artificially competitive”. On the other hand, however, through CAP the EU heavily subsidises an array of agricultural activities.
First, let us talk numbers. In 2014, CAP cost €59.2 billion, or 41.5% of the total budget. To put this in perspective, CAP funds are each year greater than the IMF-recommended “haircut” for Greek debt sustainability (€53.1 billion), greater than the EU Cohesion Policy which redresses economic disparity across the 28 members (€47.5 billion), and almost ten times greater than funds on all research and innovation initiatives (€9 billion). Further, within CAP only 8% of its budget implements “market measures”, more justifiable spending given an ostensible desire to combat “market disturbances”. Direct payments and Rural Development Initiatives total 92% of the CAP budget. From a free-market perspective, such vast subsidies distort prices, reduce efficiency and foster corruption. CAP funds cause conflicts of interest between national and EU-level policy. For example, the UK imposes heavy duties on alcohol and cigarettes, whilst under CAP the EU simultaneously subsidises production of both tobacco (historically up to €1 billion) and wine (€1 billion). Regardless of the ethical implications of subsidising industries with proven adverse health effects, such conflicting policies between nations and the EU simply leads to price increases for consumers without generating useable public funds. Several northern European nations without an economic
interest in the industry understandably resent spending on tobacco. Further, it is hard to see how the EU’s current ambitions to curb smoking are compatible with the subsidies. Yet, given the alternative, is it equitable for the EU to maintain high subsidies for livestock and cereals in more developed northern European nations, and cut subsidies for its more economically disadvantaged members? CAP thus creates a catch-22 for European policymakers where equal treatment of member states conflicts with public health concerns. Such considerations would suggest a reduction in the EU’s mandate, whereby agricultural policy became a devolved issue. CAP also impacts developing countries who cannot afford to match such subsidies. In sub-Saharan Africa, more than 70% work in agriculture, a sector which contributes to more than 50% of GDP in the continent. Industrialised agriculture and access to global markets is a crucial pathway to economic development. Here, again, CAP has conflicting interests with EU development aid. For example, the EU has provided development assistance for Namibian processed meat products, whilst simultaneously subsidising EU equivalents (historically through export refunds) which undermines local industry. The European taxpayer funds both initiatives: aid and subsidies. This is, ultimately, a costly way to achieve nothing.
Finally, CAP undermines the EU’s position as being “firmly in favour of economic openness”. For an institution whose core values promote world trade liberalisation, CAP is a decidedly hypocritical use of funds. It stifles competition, leaving European producers cossetted from the world around them. Not only does this reduce European productivity, it also hinders development from countries that could otherwise benefit hugely from agricultural industrialisation. Ultimately, the inefficiency of EU trade protection is borne by EU consumers who pay excessive prices for their food. So why does CAP exist as is does? One argument in favour of CAP is food security: the logic goes that without CAP, the EU would rely on trading partners for food, creating an unwarranted level of dependence. Nevertheless, given the EUs favourable climate, developed infrastructure, and the availability of low-risk trading partners from Africa and South America, food security should be far lower down the EUs budgetary priority list. Indeed, energy security poses a far greater threat. Could CAP funds not be spent on R&D for alternative sources of energy to reduce economic dependence on the high-risk trading partners for oil and gas? The second main argument for CAP is to maintain political equity. Rural areas are typically underfunded on a national level. Cuts on a European level, therefore, have significant impacts on farmers, leading to highly disruptive strike action. Further, as each EU nation contributes a percentage of its GDP, nations with a high GDP expect a quantifiable return on their “investment”. This is apparent given the main recipients of CAP direct payments: France (€8 billion), Germany (€5.3 billion), Spain (€5.2 billion), Italy (€4 billion) and the UK (€3.3 billion). CAP, therefore, maintains equity both between the rural and urban areas within countries, and between the contributors and recipients of EU funds. Implementing much needed CAP reform has become politically testing given these concerns. CAP reform is vital given the inconsistencies it causes. EU international development aid competes against European agribusiness; public health competes against equitable subsidies across member states, and crucially trade liberalisation competes with CAP’s blatant protectionism. CAP subsidies should be reduced in size as far as politically possible, and there should be serious debate over the merits of devolving the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy.
Practice Makes Perfect – Models of Governance in Moldovan Student Politics In the age of globalization, student representation in every university in the whole world is a must. This is a prerequisite that helps students facilitate their lives during their studies at university. Globalisation of higher education institutions and the increased global competition for students, faculties, and resources has led to shaping a strong higher educational governance model. Moreover, the right to represent students and the compulsory inclusion in all decision-making levels of the educational institutions are basic principles, reflected within the Bologna Process. If it was to compare the student functioning representation in Moldova with student representation in other developed countries, unfortunately, we discover that the Moldovan system is old-fashioned and not well-defined. Even so, the improvements that were made in the last few years in the educational system, the freedom given to universities and the democracy that is considered as a key-principle of their functioning, allow students to take part in the decision-making processes of higher education institutions. To understand how the system of student politics is structured in Moldova, it is good to be acquainted with the most important bodies enabling students to represent the student community’s interests: Student Senates, Faculty Councils, and University Senates. Each university regulates the activities of the first two organisations, while the Educational Code of Moldova regulates the activity of the latter. THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF STUDENT REPRESENTATIVES The promotion of dialogue between students and faculty boards, as well as the management teams of universities, insurance of the participation of students in decision-making processes in the higher education
field at national and local levels, identification of student problems related to the educational process and finding the best solutions for these issues, improvement of the educational process and supervising the execution of the adopted decisions are just some of the most important duties of the Student Senates and Faculty Councils. By fulfilling these obligations, the senates not only make the students life easier, but contribute in a direct way to defending the student rights. Another part of student politics in Moldova that should be taken into consideration is the representation of students at University Senates. These bodies are key to Moldova’s universities and mainly aim to ensure the principle of academic freedom and autonomy, approve the strategic institutional development and methodologies for organising activities and academic programs, develop and approve the rules regarding the election of the rector. To be noted that the decisionmaking powers of these bodies is very large. It thus matters a lot how students are elected to be part of the university senates.
university where they are studying. In order to gain this right, they have to fill-out an application form at the very beginning of the academic year. Afterwards, special committees composed of different representatives of student organisations elect the students in senates. The membership terms last 2 years. Senate members can be reelected for no more than 2 consecutive terms. Under the Moldovan Educational Code new rules, students are represented in the University Senates at the rate of 1/4 of the total membership of these bodies. 25 per cent of student participation in decision-making processes is a tremendous advantage for academic activities. Unfortunately the law does not provide specific indications on how students should be delegated in the representative structures. A solution for this dilemma has been proposed in the Parliament by young LDPM MPs. To avoid students’ rights violations during student representatives elections, it was proposed to elect 25 per cent of students through direct and secret vote by all students in accordance with institutional rules, based on a regulation framework developed and approved by the Ministry of Education. So far, Moldova has not outlined very well its student politics, however, we believe shortly the changes will show up. About twenty-four years of independence and observance of the EU countries’ experience in this field are quite sufficient to implement a revolutionary student governance model with direct and positive influence in each Moldovan student’s life.
Mihaela Radu THE ELECTIONS Any student can stand for the Student Senates of the
THE INTEGRATION OF REFUGEES INTO HIGHER EDUCATION Interview with Gaya Blom
(Foundation for Refugee Students – UAF)
MS BLOM, TO BEGIN WITH, PLEASE TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR ORGANISATION, STICHTING VOOR VLUCHTELING STUDENTEN – UAF: WHEN WAS IT FOUNDED, BY WHOM AND UNDER WHAT CIRCUMSTANCES? WHAT KIND OF WORK DO YOU DO? Gaya Blom (GB): UAF is a foundation for Refugee Students, founded in 1948, in the wake of the revolution in the Czech Republic when a few Dutch universities started to invite Czech refugee students to the Netherlands and arranged funding for them. Refugees that come to us for help can expect a wide range of services: we help them with their study and finding suitable employment. Many refugees have studied, and often received a diploma, in their country of origin. The diplomas of these doctors, engineers, law graduates, economists and others are not recognised in the Netherlands. The UAF helps them with a new start in the Netherlands. We provide them with financial assistance by helping them by paying their tuition fees, travel costs, and book costs. We also offer them practical advice and support: every student has a personal student counsellor who advises them on a broad range of matters, from where they can learn the Dutch language, their enrolment process at university to dealing with local authorities. WHO IS MOST LIKELY TO APPROACH YOU FOR HELP: STUDENTS WHO HAD TO ABANDON THEIR COURSES AT HOME, PROFESSIONALS SEEKING TO OBTAIN LOCAL QUALIFICATIONS
TO EXERCISE THEIR PROFESSION IN THE NETHERLANDS OR REFUGEES WITHOUT ANY BACKGROUND IN HIGHER EDUCATION? GB: We do not support all refugees: we expect them to have acquired a minimum of secondary education in their country of origin that should allow them to be admitted into Higher Education. The majority of newly arriving students at UAF therefore already have an undergraduate degree or completed secondary education. Unfortunately, many refugees cannot bring their diplomas to Europe, particularly if they had to flee immediately. What we now see in Syria is that many of the universities are bombed during the war with the result that they do not operate and cannot issue diplomas anymore. In such cases, students often need to recommence their first year. Besides a Dutch language test, they sometimes have to pass a series of obligatory special assessment exams before enrolling at a university in the Netherlands. If they do have diplomas with them, a special Dutch organisation called Nuffic, with whom we closely cooperate, can evaluate and verify these for them: if they for instance testify that a student possesses the equivalent of a Bachelors degree, he or she can immediately enrol onto a Masters programme. EUROPE IS CURRENTLY EXPERIENCING A REFUGEE CRISIS OF PROPORTIONS UNSEEN OVER THE PAST DECADES. MANY LOCAL AUTHORITIES, PARTICULARLY IN SOUTHERN EUROPE BUT ALSO SWEDEN AND GERMANY, CLAIM NO LONGER TO BE ABLE TO COPE WITH THE NUMBER OF ASYLUM SEEKERS ARRIVING ON THE CONTINENT. HOW DO YOU PERCEIVE THE SITUATION IN THE NETHERLANDS? HAS YOUR WORK GOTTEN MORE DIFFICULT OVER THE PAST MONTHS? GB: The number of refugees in the Netherlands has seriously risen, and there is a serious problem in finding suitable housing. Since most of these refugees are still in the stage of settling in society and waiting for a house, they have not yet found UAF. However, once these refugees have settled down, we definitely expect that 2016 will show a rise of requests for UAF support, especially when you keep in mind that many of the Syrians are higher educated. The large influx of refugees in the Netherlands has actually given UAF more opportunities, since the responsible ministries, universities, language institutes,
and other organisations involved see a greater need to help them with their integration into Dutch society. THERE ARE MANY CHALLENGES TO INTEGRATING REFUGEES INTO HIGHER EDUCATION. TO BEGIN WITH ADMINISTRATIVE HURDLES, HOW CLOSE IS YOUR COOPERATION WITH DUTCH HE INSTITUTIONS? HAVE YOU ESTABLISHED ANY FORMAL ARRANGEMENTS? GB: We do have formal arrangements with some Dutch universities, such as the University of Applied Sciences in Amsterdam, and language institutes. As more refugees are coming to the Netherlands, more HEIs are declaring that they want to be open for refugees. The University of Amsterdam with its location in such a multicultural city for instance evidently wants to depict itself as open and supportive to refugee students. UAF meets the deans of cooperating universities on a yearly basis to assess the current state of affairs and what further work can be done and we have agreed with the Universities that refugee students pay tuition fees at the rate set for EU-, not international students. There certainly is a strong interest on the side of the universities to establish such agreements and ever more universities are interested in copying these arrangements: for them, it is a way of showing their willingness to rise to their social responsibility. There is therefore definitely a mutual interest: we approach universities to see whether they are interested in engaging with us, but very often, particularly these days, with the high influx of refugees, they also directly come to us. THERE ARE ALSO MANY LOGISTICAL CHALLENGES TO THE EDUCATION OF REFUGEES. THESE INCLUDE AMONGST OTHERS A POTENTIAL LACK OF LANGUAGE SKILLS, DISCREPANCIES IN WORKING METHODOLOGIES AND PRACTICES, AS WELL AS SUPERVISION AND PROOF OF INCOME. WHAT HELP DO YOU OFFER TO REFUGEE STUDENTS ON THAT LEVEL? GB: We grant them up to two and a half years to learn the Dutch language. Not everyone succeeds and some refugee students eventually drop out. The language requirement evidently prolongs the process of enrolment, to the dissatisfaction of many as they want to start their studies as soon as somehow possible. Apart from a certain level of Dutch language skills, universities in the Netherlands often require students to pass the TOEFL, IELTS or another English language test before they are admitted to a course. This is a problem for some refugees, as they have to learn English on top of Dutch, both languages they are normally not familiar with. Many Syrian students on the other hand want to only study in English, as they believe that this speeds up the process. We are a bit reluctant on studies in English since for the Dutch labour market, the Dutch language is still a requirement. Many other difficulties relate to culture and differences between the education systems: refugee students often come from countries where they are not taught to pose critical questions in class. They are expected to revere lecturers and simply
UNIVERSITIES write down what they say. In the Netherlands, students are encouraged to show initiative, to give presentations and ask questions. A few universities in the Netherlands have established preparatory programmes which prepare them for this study environment. PERHAPS MOST VITALLY, MANY REFUGEES ARRIVING FROM CRISIS REGIONS ACROSS THE WORLD HAVE EXPERIENCED GRAVE SUFFERING PRIOR, DURING AND EVEN AFTER THEIR FLIGHT. HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH PROBLEMS SUCH AS TRAUMA OR ANXIETY, PARTICULARLY IF THEY MAY IMPEDE A STUDENT’S STUDY PROGRESS? GB: Many are traumatised, this is, besides the language, the second-biggest challenge we face. Psychological harm causes many to drop out, they suffer from lack of sleep, headaches or stomach pain. They do not always realise that there can be a relationship between their ailments and their traumatic experiences. While we do not provide psychological help ourselves, we do refer them to organisations that do. Once we have addressed it, it is up to the refugees whether they seek a psychological counsel or not. We do however have to explain to them that it is normal to see a psychologist: many come from cultural backgrounds where it is believed that you only consult a professional when you are crazy. Many universities also offer counselling services which sometimes refugee students find easier to consult, since it is more low profile. Many of them are not that open to speak about things affecting their private lives, while their personal problems can have a serious effect on their study results. We often need to explain to them that it is important to be open to their student counsellors and university lecturers, as that can create more understanding. If the university is aware of their personal situation, teaching staff are more willing to make exceptions and for example allow them to re-sit an exam. ONE INNOVATION TO HAVE GREATLY INFLUENCED HIGHER EDUCATION IN GENERAL OVER THE COURSE OF THE PAST DECADE HAS BEEN THE GRADUAL ADVANCE OF E-LEARNING. THE UNIVERSITY OF YORK IN TORONTO, CANADA, HAS ALREADY PROVEN WITH ITS PROJECT “BORDERLESS HIGHER EDUCATION FOR REFUGEES” THAT IT CAN BE EFFECTIVELY USED IN TEACHING REFUGEES OVER A LONG DISTANCE. DOES E-LEARNING OFFER ANY MAJOR OPPORTUNITIES TO THE KIND OF HELP YOU ARE PROVIDING FOR REFUGEES? GB: The example of E-Learning in the refugee camps is a great one. Many refugee students cannot follow up on their studies by any other means and therefore rely on electronic and digital forms of learning. Online universities also exist in Dutch, but we are not supporting those initiatives as it is hugely important that refugee students have physical contact with the local population: by only having online education, they are not creating networks, isolating themselves and do not improve their Dutch language skills in practice. Of the many skills refugee students learn at
university, social skills are hugely important. Indeed, our surveys show that most refugee students desire much greater contact with Dutch people or at least want to have a language mentor. This is certainly an area where more work needs to be done. In 2013, we launched a mentoring programme for which we recruited Dutch people to help refugees in their new study and living environment: roughly forty to fifty refugees were thus matched to a mentor through this programme. This scheme is still operating and hugely successful, as the refugees are delighted to have local contacts and broaden their networks. We must not forget that refugees start from square one: how do you make contact with other students? How do you find a job? These are all areas where we try to come to their help. As an addition to classic education, E-Learning is therefore very good and beneficial, but in itself not productive. What I would be in favour of however is to offer Online University classes to refugees in camps outside of Europe so that they can have a headstart when they arrive in Europe. INITIATIVES SUCH AS YOURS ARE OFTEN NATIONALLY BASED, WITH LITTLE TO NO EUROPE-WIDE SYSTEMS IN PLACE TO FACILITATE THE INTEGRATION OF REFUGEES INTO HIGHER EDUCATION. WHAT IS THE GREATEST HURDLE TO A HARMONISATION OF EFFORTS IN THAT FIELD? DO YOU SEE ANY OPPORTUNITY TO CHANGE THIS IN THE NEAR FUTURE? GB: There is currently no other organisation in Europe comparable to UAF. As a result, a refugee’s access to Higher Education is dependent on their ultimate host country. That is not the way it should be: refugees in Spain or Germany should have the same opportunity to enter Higher Education as those in the Netherlands. Currently, many highly qualified refugees ultimately end up in jobs that stand in no relation to their qualification. A solution would be if there would exist one specific European initiative. We are currently involved in the launch of a European scholarship scheme where higher educated refugees can apply for financial assistance. At present, there only are several small scholarship initiatives in European countries. It would be great if we connect these to create a proper European scholarship system. This is an idea which is now discussed with different partners. Beyond this, we are also involved in a programme called “Scholars at Risk”
which helps academics who cannot continue their work at home. As part of this scheme, scholars are resettled with temporary places at universities across the world for up to a year. Many universities have already offered these kinds of placements and now certainly is a good time to enlarge such initiatives on a European level. WHAT ARE THE GREATEST POLICY CHALLENGES FOR THE HIGHER EDUCATION OF REFUGEES DURING THE UPCOMING YEARS? WHERE DO YOU SEE A PARTICULAR NEED FOR ACTION WITHIN THE HE SECTOR, AMONG NATIONAL GOVERNMENTS AND PERHAPS EVEN THE EUROPEAN UNION? GB: There is still a gap in the possibility to evaluate the work experience acquired in a refugee’s country of origin. Creating a European-wide recognition system for such professional experience may help for companies and organisations to be more open-minded in giving refugees an opportunity on the job market. That is something we need to work on a national and European level. The same goes for the recognition of diplomas – in the Netherlands, this is thanks to Nuffic working quite well, in other countries, it is not so well organised. You may question: why don’t you accept universities from Iran which offer very high-level of education? Why is a Dutch diploma worth more than an Iranian one? Many universities in Middle-East are also wellknown and prestigious in a range of scientific fields. We also need to raise awareness among the general population of the situation in which refugees find themselves: Many Dutch citizens are not aware of what it is to be a refugee and might be influenced by negative stories purported by the media. We should emphasise positive stories too and show the other side of the coin: namely the great contributions that refugees can make to Europe, especially in times when the working population is diminishing.
COUNCIL OF EUROPE
Unlock the Potential Intercultural Cities “When in Rome do as the Romans do.” – This sentence was the initial response to migration for centuries all over the world. Nowadays, states are realising that foreign cultures and communities are not a threat to the establishment, but rather a benefit to an open, independent, and tolerant society. Municipalities can gain enormously from the entrepreneurship, variety of skills, and creativity associated with cultural and social diversity.
Since the development in Europe has led to migration policy becoming joint task of all member states, the European Union can enormously benefit from the variety of migration and integration models conceived by its member states and their municipalities, identifying the best practice to cope with the increasing number of migrants in Europe. For migration and integration to be a success story, it is necessary to deal with diversity, beginning at the local level where people meet each other every day. People must get the opportunity to live in a diversity of cultures and traditions without any drift towards xenophobia and burgeoning fears emphatically. In that spirit, the Council of Europe has analysed the experience of a range of cities across the continent, which are managing diversity as an asset in particular. In this frame, the Council of Europe and the European Commission launched the joint Intercultural Cities programme (ICC) in 2008. The ICC programme is an action research and networking intervention based on the concept that cultural diversity is an advantage rather than a burden for a city, provided it is managed in an appropriate way. Through the development of comprehensive intercultural strategies, the programme supports cities in
reviewing their policies through an intercultural lens. It also proposes a set of analytical and practical tools to help local stakeholders through the various stages of the process. The ICC programme was first applied in a total of eleven European cities in a pilot scheme from 2008-2009. Afterwards, in phases of standardisation and consolidation, the programme was able to recruit 92 cities in Europe and beyond as participants. The collective input of these cities has shaped a peerless concept to migrant and minority integration: once admitted to the intercultural cities programme, all participants must formulate and ratify an intercultural strategy. This is considered to be the key output of their participation. However, it is not mandatory for the city to create a standalone document entitled ‘intercultural strategy’. Rather, the city should produce a plan appropriate to its own specific development needs, while acknowledging the approach and incorporating the principles, of the intercultural cities programme. The concept is supported by extensive research evidence. This process of iterative development and ‘learning by doing’ has been formalised in a Step-by-
Step Guide which is flexible and customisable according to each city’s conditions. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe also picked up the debate on the advantage of cultural diversity in 2014. Resolution 1972 (2014) on migrants as a benefit for European host societies recommends that member states make use of the experience of the ICC Programme including the ICC index. The debate represents another chapter in the long tale of the changing nature of European society and the manner with which its members respond to the demographic and cultural changes that have come about as a result of globalisation. Cities can become more intercultural by taking a fresh look at what they do. A society’s behaviour is a result of culture and values, whether ethnic, organisational, or professional. The intercultural message is not an easy one to convey but it is necessary to establish a new way of thinking. A key factor in this transformation is the education system. Curricula must help transmit cultural, emotional, linguistic, and civic competences that young people will need in order to grow and prosper in an interdependent, intercultural, and global age. In many cities with a high proportion of immigrants, coexistence must be encouraged by management and networking between the different population groups. This has to be followed by a participation process seeking to achieve a targeted integration of all citizens and establish a new guiding principle accompanied by a wide range of relevant social and cultural offerings. In this frame, municipalities also need the support of the nation-states and the European Union. One outstanding issue is integration into the labour market. At this point, cities need to implement a variety of measures to stimulate the inclusion into education, work, and employment. A specific focus should lie on programmes for the establishment and promotion of ethnic entrepreneurship. An example can be given by the city of Vienna which established the counselling centre Mingo (“Move in and grow”) Migrant Enterprises that supports one-person businesses on their way to independence. By offering the opportunity of self-employment to immigrants, structural integration can be strengthened. In summary, the challenges that cities are facing in order to allow a successful integration process are growing steadily. The further increase in the numbers of refugees will also be an enormous task for the municipalities to bear. In this context, cities need to receive great support from all levels and projects such as the ICC programme in order to enable a life based on respect and openness to its inhabitants.
EDS Executive Bureau 2015/2016
Georgios Chatzigeorgiou is Chairman of EDS. He studied Law at the University of Lancaster in the UK and he became a Barrister-at-Law in October 2014. Georgios is currently undertaking a Master’s degree on Corporate Law at University College London (UCL). Within EDS, Georgios is responsible for policy development and external representation.
Ivan Burazin is EDS Secretary General. He holds a Masters degree in National Securities Studies and a Bachelors degree in Administrative Law. He is currently pursuing PHD studies in Diplomacy and International Relations in Zagreb. Ivan runs the EDS Office in Brussels, and takes care of its day-to-day work.
Virgilio Falco lives in Rome, Italy. Virgilio is EDS ViceChairman, StudiCentro National Spokesperson and coordinator of the education committee of the Italian Youth Council. He is studying Law in Rome. Virgilio is responsible for updating the website, the coordination of the newsletter and all membership enquiries. He is also a member of the Social Media Team.
Efthymia Katsouri comes from Athens, Greece. She studied Law at the University of Surrey in the UK. She holds a Masters in European Law. Efthymia is a practising Attorney at Law in Greece. Her responsibilities within the Bureau involve amendments to the statutes and the coordination of the newsletter.
Mitya Atanasov was born in Sofia, Bulgaria. He graduated in Information Technologies and is currently studying for a Masters’ degree in Political Science – European Governance. A member of MGERB’s leadership team, he is also working as a manager for an IT company. Within the Bureau, Mitya is together with Olivia Andersson responsible for the conference resolutions and the Permanent Working Group Policies for Europe.
Silvie Rohr lives in Berlin, Germany. She is studying for a state exam in law at the Humboldt-University. Silvie has been an active member of EDS since 2012 and is serving her first term as EDS Vice-Chairwoman. Within the Bureau, she is mainly responsible for fundraising and publications, coordinating and overseeing the work of the EDS Editorial Team.
George Serban was born in Bucharest, Romania where he is studying Computer and Science at the Faculty of Mathematics and Informatics of the University of Bucharest. George is responsible within the EDS Bureau for fundraising, with a particular focus on the private sector. He is also the head of the Social Media team.
Sophia Skoda lives in Vienna, Austria where she is studying International Business Administration at the University of Vienna. She has been active member of AG and the Austrian Students Union since 2013. As Vice-Chairman, Sophia is mainly in charge of the Permanent Working Group Higher Education and Research, EDS Erasmus and the Alumni Club.
Alexander O’Brien lives in London and works in corporate governance. He read Law at the University of Nottingham and has a Master’s in Law & Corporate Governance from the University of Portsmouth. He is Chairman of the Young Conservative Europe Group and leads EDS’s proofreading team. He has been an active member of EDS since 2012.
Olivia Andersson is undertaking her MSc in European Studies at the University of Gothenburg. She is a student of Stockholm Free World Forum’s Foreign Policy Academy and International Secretary of FMSF. Olivia’s responsibilities within the Bureau are the drafting of policy papers and conference resolutions, the Human Rights Permanent Working Group, and fundraising.
epp european peopleâ€™s party