BullsEye December 2016 / 54th Year / No. 66 / ISSN 2033-7809
The newsmagazine of European Democrat Students
Born Free and Equal
Reappraising Human Rights
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” - with these words, the American Founding Fathers heralded in 1776 a new chapter in Western history: for the Declaration of Independence, with its iconic preamble, codified for the very first time the broad ideal of human rights as we conceive of them today as the founding doctrine of society. A concept, it is moot to state, that underwent successive elaborations and expansions in the centuries that followed it – yet in its very core, it is still the spirit of the Philadelphia declaration and the enlightened age that brought it into being that governs our understanding of the inviolable and indivisible basic rights of man. A spirit not least influential in the foundation of our very European project and the European Democrat Students. Yet over the past decades, human rights have come to face severe challenges from within and without our community: whether it is authoritarian regimes in Europe’s surroundings oppressing their or neighbouring peoples (if not both) or the populist right renouncing some of the core principles governing our democratic societies. The European community plays a pivotal part in continuing to carry the torch of human dignity across the world. It is in this light that we, as BullsEye, have dedicated this issue to the reappraisal of human rights and their centrality to the European ethos. In the same vein, I am likewise delighted to introduce you to our new series “Europe and the World”. With the rise of populism, embodied by the Brexit vote and the opposition to CETA and TTIP, heralding a return of localist agendas, it is particularly important for the new generation of Europeans to highlight the European Union’s essential role as a champion and framer of cosmopolitanism and globalisation. I wish you an as ever thought-provoking and compelling read,
Henrique Laitenberger Editor-in-Chief
Nowadays, many global challenges can be understood as human rights challenges. It is not only climate change that affects the right to food or health. Especially war and terrorism are threatening fundamental rights, such as the right to life, bodily integrity or self-determination. During the past years, the biggest driving force behind the human rights developments was fear. The fear of being killed, tortured or enslaved in Syria, Iraq and other conflict zones has driven millions from their homes. Currently, more than 65 million people are displaced by war or repression—the highest figure since World War II. The enormous and uncontrolled refugee flow, which also entered Europe, has not only brought nations to the limit of their capacities in providing accommodation, nourishment and healthcare. It has also affected European society itself. The goodwill of people to help was always accompanied by the question what this influx could mean for their societies. This concern has disappeared in the wake of various terrorist attacks. It has turned into the fear of losing control, security and prosperity. A number of politicians in Europe have seized upon these fears to establish a polarising “usversus-them” rhetoric which has become increasingly fashionable in public discourse. Hate crimes, Islamophobia and the demonisation of migrants have become the fruits of the populist approach of a policy of intolerance. These trends are not only threatening our European values, they are also a threat to human rights as such. Europe and every single Member State has the responsibility to support the international community to intensify its efforts to find political solutions to conflicts, to offer humanitarian aid and to protect those in need in order to replace all these fears be freedom. With this said, we should keep in mind what was enshrined more than half a century ago: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” - Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 1. I wish you a thought-provoking read.
Current Affairs 04 Freedom Eroded 06 Brazil’s Tearful Samba 07 The Spirit of 1956 08 The Return of History 09 An Unholy Alliance
Theme 10 Carrying the Torch 12 “You Are Not Welcome Here!” 13 Humans Are Not For Sale 14 #ThisFlag
BE ON 16 Interview with Ewa Kopacz 19 Rewiring Europe 20 Debate: Should the EU Offer Free Interrail Passes to 18-Year-Olds?
Series - Europe and the World 22 Oil, Gas and Violent Extremism 24 Be a Realist, Believe in Miracles? 25 Search for Syria 26 A Secret Love Affair
Universities 27 Conservative Students of All Faculties, Unite! 28 Degrees with a Price Tag?
Council of Europe 30 A Path to Dignity 31 Bureau
Silvie Rohr Vice-Chair for Publications
BULLSEYE The newsmagazine of European Democrat Students
ISSN: Print: 2033-7809 Online: 2033-7817 Editor-in-Chief: Henrique Laitenberger Editorial Team: Olivia Andersson, Khrystyna Brodych, Ramy Jabbour, Maciej Kmita, Julien Sassel, Manuel Schlaffer, Neil Smart Costantino, Sarah Wolpers, Teodoras Žukas Contributions: Joe Hammour, Teodoras Žukas, Eszter Parkanyi, Henrique Laitenberger, Thomas Hermansson, Olivia Andersson, Neil Smart Costantino, Khrystyna Brodych, Henry Munangatire, Rev. Ewan Mawarire, Ewa Kopacz, Maciej Kmita, Jacob Dexe, Sarah Wolpers, Tommi Pyykkö, Dr Michael Blume, Julien Sassel, Ramy Jabbour, Elie Obeid, Manuel Schlaffer, Silvie Rohr Photos: Péter Láng, wikimedia commons, 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: email@example.com 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 the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union and European Youth Foundation of the Council of Europe
Welcome to the second edition of BullsEye, the official debating magazine of the European Democrat Students, the largest student family of the centre-right, for the working year 2016/17. The weeks since our first Council Meeting in Venice have been very busy but also very productive for EDS. We are extremely happy that for the second Council Meeting of the working year, EDS meets in Kyiv to discuss the highly relevant topic “Europe’s Challenges Ahead - Our Answers to Security Threats”. Besides, we will mark the three-year anniversary since the Maidan revolution and honour the memory of those who gave their lives to build a free and democratic Ukraine. Without a doubt, freedom is contingent on security, and the very first obligation of politicians should be to maintain the security of European citizens and protect our democratic values of equality, liberty and human rights.
This issue of BullsEye is titled “Born Free and Equal - Reappraising Human Rights”. Hence, in the previous paragraph, I deliberately wrote about our upcoming event in Ukraine, a country, which serves as a good example of how human rights have traditionally been in the centre of global politics. Historically, mere power has prevailed over the power of rights when strategic interests of major state actors have been at stake and it is therefore important to understand the relationship between human rights, power and hegemony, a bond which is exemplified through various articles found in this BullsEye issue. For EDS, the protection of human rights has always been one of our organisation’s main priorities, let it be through our Permanent Working Group on human rights or the various relevant projects we have been working on such as the “Students At Risk” programme. The topic of this issue of BullsEye 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.
With best regards from the EDS bureau,
Georgios Chatzigeorgiou Chairman
Freedom Eroded The Precarious State of Turkey Turkey’s modern republican history is fraught with periodic political, economic, cultural and intellectual crises. An heir of a once sprawling and powerful empire, the country has been a scene of competing and often diametrically opposite ideas and visions of its identity, its place in the world and the best way forward. A problem made more complex by the ethnic, confessional and socio-economic diversity of the Turkish society. Schematically speaking and at the risk of glossing over a complex layer of differentiations, the divide in Turkey is largely between the Kemalist secular ruling elite, who intend to take the country on a putatively Western route to achieve complete modernisation, and the largely conservative population who perceives the Kemalist project anathema to its religious and cultural values. The Turkish army have been acting as the guardian of the secular project and intervened time and again in the Turkish politics even before conservative political group came to power. The nature and respective actors of the above divide, however, underwent a shift after the 1980 military coup and its aftermath. The military, which had been the bastion of Kemalist secularism, began to flirt with Islamist political groups in an effort to weaken the centre-left and centre-right political organisations. This new realignment of ties ushered in a new dynamic in the Turkish political landscape: the Islamists were emboldened and pulled the rug from under centre-left political forces by coopting their political agendas and programmes and championing the causes of Turkey’s “wretched of the earth”. The power of the Islamist groups eventually culminated in the coming of the Refah Partisi (Turkish for Welfare Party) to power in 1996 with a conservative politician, Necmettin Erbakan, assuming the office of prime ministry. However, the military was not completely sold to the idea of
an Islamist party coming to power and it staged a coup in 1997. Conversely, despite the crackdown following the coup and the disbanding of the Welfare Party, the Islamist made a comeback in the form of the Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (Turkey: Justice and Development Party or AKP) winning elections from 2002 till today. Two factors catapulted the AKP to power; its Islamist ideological commitment; something which appeals to a large section of the Turkish society, and its promise to revamp the fledging economy through the adoption of aggressive neoliberal reforms at micro and macroeconomic levels interlaced with a system of social welfare. Initially, the party under its charismatic leader, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, delivered on its election campaign promises. Through the implementation of overarching reforms, instituting sound fiscal discipline, making financial dealing, such as procurement, transparent, encouraging small and mid-level businessmen, locally known as Anatolian Tigers, to have a global competitive edge, the country attracted foreign direct investment, encouraged production of capital and labour, lowered inflation and scored high growth rate. In a sense, the AKP presided over Turkish version of the roaring 2000s. AKP’s political achievement was no less than its economic success. It was keen to project an image of an Islamist political force comfortable in its liberal skin. And the world took its word at face value and
Turkey was promoted as a poster child of democracy in a region dotted by emirs, monarchs and life-long brutal dictators. It also started peaceful negotiations to solve its “Kurdish problem”. Similarly, the party announced a new foreign policy framework premised on “zero problems with neighbours”, a concept the foreign policy architect of the party, Ahmed Davutoglu, popularised in his book Stratejik Derinlik or Strategic Depth. Despite the initial success, however, cracks began to appear in the glossy picture the AKP succeed in projecting initially. According to an acclaimed economist, Daron Acemoglu, from 2007 onwards, the party began to veer from its initial economic policies and rolled back some of the institutional reforms, such as transparency in procurement dealings. It reverted to patronage and favoritism, redirecting investment to its supporters, and introduced populist but economically unsound policies. Instead of private investment and production-based growth, it encouraged unsustainable credit-consumption. As a result, inflations soared, growth slugged and export decreased. On the political front, the party started to betray its illiberal tendencies. It attacked vocal critics and clamped on independent media. In cahoots with its erstwhile Islamist buddies, such as the Gulenist movement, it charged, imprisoned and purged secular ultra-nationalist military and civilian officials in a trumped up charges of plotting a coup
against the state since 2008. After it fell out with the Gulenist movement, following a high profile corruption scandal uncovered by Gulen-affiliated prosecutors in 2013 implicating top officials, including Erdogan himself and his son, the AKP unleashed a heavy crack down on its opponents. In the same year, it brutally responded to the Gezi Park Protests against the AKP’s attacks on secularism, freedom of expression and assembly. In a bid to sustain himself at the helm of power, Erdogan and his cadres began to campaign for a constitutional reform to institute what they called a presidential system “à la turca”. What is more, the party reneged on its initial position to resolve the “Kurdish problem” peacefully and commenced military offensives against Kurdish forces. Like on everything, the AKP shred its “zero problem with neighbours” foreign policy facade and gave in to its ideological passions: it broke ties with Egypt after its ideological twin, the Muslim Brotherhood, was removed from power by the military; it jeopardised its initial congenial relations with Syria by supporting a hodge-podge of Islamist extremist forces fighting Assad; it provoked Russia into strong military, economic and diplomatic reactions by downing its airplane; it forced the Iraqi government to complain to the Security Council by sending an army contingent of three thousand troops to the environs of Mosul without the permission of the Iraqi government presumably to train Sunni militias; its
relationship with the European Union is deteriorating from bad to worse and its strategic importance to the US is somehow dwindling. The multiple economic, political, diplomatic, military and security problems in Turkey came to a head with the July 2016 failed coup attempt. In fact, despite its dramatic unfolding, the coup was not unexpected. The AKP had deeply polarised Turkish society, embarked on a dangerous journey of witch-hunt against its opponents, and clamped down on freedom of expression and assembly. Therefore, some sort of reaction was logically anticipated. Instead of taking stock of things seriously, the ruling party has looked at the coup as a sort of blank cheque to finish what it has already begun; cleansing its opponents and establishing an undisputed authoritarian government. Within four days of the failed coup, it took the insanely disproportional measures of jailing some 40,000 people and purging over 80,000 civil servants. It closed dozens of media outlets and charged tens of journalists with supporting terrorism. It darted most of its poisonous arrows at the educational and justice institutions. As the result, thousands of teachers, academics, judges and lawyers are either imprisoned or discharged from their job. Its economy struggling with inflation and slow growth due to an exponential decrease in tourism following its confrontation with Russia and the frequent terrorist attacks, its foreign policies in shambles and
its relationship with West deteriorating, its military and security institutions demoralised and truncated to smaller size after the post-coup purges, the war against the Kurds refusing to let up, and the AKP’s relentless attack on democratic rights of its citizens, Turkey has sustained thousand cuts. Whether it will heal these multiple wounds and make a comeback or further slip down the hill is yet to be seen. But there are plenty of reasons not to be optimistic.
Joe Hammoura, Middle East Institute for Research and Strategic Studies (MEIRSS)
CURRENT AFFAIRS Vice-President and current acting President of Brazil, seems to understand the need for change. He is pushing for Brazil’s first-ever cap on public spending, a measure that would limit government expenditures to current levels for the next twenty years, thereby forcing interest groups to compete for a fixed amount of resources instead of pushing for tax hikes or bigger deficits. The third step forward is to lighten Brazil’s generous pension system which is one of the many factors imposing a heavy burden on state accounts. Analysts argue that Temer should raise the minimum retirement age and separate the pension payment adjustment from increases in the minimum wage.
Brazil’s Tearful Samba The Improbable Impeachment of Dilma Rousseff As Brazil’s president Dilma Rousseff was ousted from the presidency at the end of this summer, the situation in Latin America’s biggest economy is troublesome. What are the economical and structural reforms that Brazil needs in order to exit the deadlock? And can signs of a Brazilian renewal already be seen? About a decade ago, Brazil was considered a rapidly emerging economy, one of the principal forces of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) that would own the future. During the 2008-2009 financial crises, Brazil’s economy persisted firmly and weathered the turmoil almost dry and undamaged. In 2010, left-wing Dilma Rousseff came to power – a studious technocrat with middle-class roots, a degree in economics, and a passion for opera and fine art. She had been a sometime stirring dissident against Brazil’s military regime in its time and even imprisoned for her antigovernmental activity. Fast forward to 2016, Brazil has now become a symbol of corruption, bad management and fraudulent politics. The Lava Jato – literally “Car Wash” – scandal disclosed in 2014 revealed the greed of Brazilian politicians who had illicitly benefited from huge state-controlled infrastructure projects. The hallmark of the current crisis was the discovery that the state-run oil company, Petrobras, had become a major source of bribery and kickbacks used to finance party politics. President Rousseff’s credibility began to dwindle as the scandal unravelled since she served as the Minister for Mining and Energy and the chair of Petrobras (now often called “Petrobribe” in popular parlance) at the time when many of these crimes were committed. Dilma Rousseff was further charged for violating budget laws by authorising credit lines without congressional approval. All of this once again highlighted once forgotten, yet never
tackled, long-standing problems of Brazil: a fractured political system, a tremendous gap between the rich, the struggling middle-class and the poor, a colossal crime rate (in 2015, Brazil saw more violent deaths than Syria), and a lack of access to basic sanitation for half of Brazilians population, with 35 million citizens deprived of access to clean water. The economy is in terrible shape too. The International Monetary Fund has stated that unemployment is set to rise from its 2015 level of 6.8 percent to 9.2 percent this year and to 10.2 percent the next. GDP shrank by 3.8 percent - the largest contraction in the last twenty-five years. Investment is going out of the country, inflation is rising. Across Brazil, obscurity is descending on the formerly radiant powerhouse. As the situation successively worsens, Brazilians must take on a mighty task: they have to undertake a serious round of reforms in order to tackle deep-seated deficiencies and reverse the economic downturn. The first step has already been taken: Dilma Rousseff, once the third most influential female politician in the world, was ousted from the presidential seat, Operation “Car Wash” has laid bare the misdeeds of the country’s political class, and for the first time, dozens of politicians and business leaders have been convicted to jail sentences for their crimes. This is symbolic of the willingness to implement real structural reforms. Brazil’s massive public sector spending, and of course corruption therein, are the main reasons for the overheated economy. Therefore, the second necessary step forward is to repress public sector spending. Michel Temer, former
In order to cope with corruption of politicians and bureaucrats, some analysts suggested replacing Brazil’s presidential system in favour of a parliamentary one akin to that of the United Kingdom. Others have even argued that Brazil should return to a monarchy, a ruling form abolished in the nineteenth century. This is clearly not the smartest and most adaptable variant, but a clear signal of the seriousness of the situation in Brazil, that even such kind of suggestions are being considered. Brazilians are joking that the country’s main export is corruption and its prime import ill government. However, after massive turmoil, Brazil has something to cheer about. First, the rule of law is prevailing in Brazil. High-ranking politicians have been investigated, charged, tried and jailed. Federal judges and police in charge of these investigations have managed to uncover and successfully prosecute members of ruling elite without being fired or in any way hindered from doing their jobs. Brazilian public is restoring its trust in two institutions which are fundamental for any democracy: the Supreme Court and the Federal Police. Secondly, Brazil is also experiencing the rise of a civil society. Throughout the succession of scandals, investigations and impeachment of the president, the largest cities’ squares were crowded with people wearing Brazilian national football team shirts. People were protesting against corruption, bribery, nepotism and patronage that once were common features of Brazil’s daily life. In addition, traditional media outlets, such as Globo (the country’s largest media firm), have become more critical of the government in what is considered a shift from usual policy. Thirdly, many Brazilians are now talking politics at the table. A rise in political awareness and a subsequent increase in expectations is a crucial phenomenon in any democracy.
The Spirit of 1956 Commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution “October 23, 1956 is a day that will forever live in the annals of free men and free nations. It was a day of courage, conscience and triumph. No other day since history began has shown more clearly the eternal unquenchability of man’s desire to be free, whatever the odds against success, whatever the sacrifice required.”—John F. Kennedy This year, Hungary is marking the sixty years since the Revolution of 1956, an armed uprising against Soviet rule, mostly fought by university and high school students. For a nation still coping with the after-effects of nearly half a century of occupation and a destructive Communist system, this 60th anniversary is another important step in coming to terms with the past and, most importantly, celebrating the heroes that fought for their people’s freedom. It began on a Tuesday afternoon, a beautiful autumn day on the 23 October 1956. Students gathered in peaceful protest to show solidarity with Poland, with their manifesto calling for Hungary’s independence from all foreign powers, particularly the Soviet troops occupying the country. They demanded freedom of opinion and expression, the rights of free people in a democratic system. Their numbers grew as the rally moved through the city. Some say that there were as many as twenty thousand gathered around the statue of Polish general Jozef Bem. It was there, according to historical accounts, that someone cut the Soviet coat of arms from the middle of the Hungarian flag, creating the iconic symbol of the revolution that remains to this day. The protesters then moved on to Kossuth Square in front of the Parliament and then to the state radio building to broadcast their list of demands. There, later that evening, security forces opened fire on the crowd of unarmed demonstrators. Events escalated and soon the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 was underway. Against impossible odds, the revolutionaries seemed to be winning control, but
Moscow soon sent more Red Army troops to reinforce those forces already in the country. Despite their courage and determination, the freedom fighters would not prevail against the overwhelming force of the Soviet military. Hungarians cannot tolerate captivity: we are always prepared to fight for freedom and for national independence, and to take up arms for these values – even when hugely outnumbered. In the immediate aftermath, many thousands of Hungarians were arrested. Eventually, 26,000 of these prisoners were brought before Hungarian courts, 22,000 were sentenced and imprisoned and 229 executed. Hundreds were also deported to the Soviet Union, many without evidence. Approximately 200,000 fled Hungary as refugees. Their heroic stand, however, marked the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union by setting in motion a process that would unravel communism’s oppressive grip on the freedom-loving people of Eastern Europe. At that time, the communist dictatorship’s military intervention was a defeat for the whole of Europe. The slavery on the eastern side of the Iron Curtain also shackled the West. We all knew and felt that Europe could only be free and strong when all of it was free and strong. This was the realisation which led to the magnificent idea of the European Union: the Treaty of Rome was signed after the bloody suppression of the Hungarian Revolution. They were first and foremost the nation’s youth. They were students and teachers, factory workers and craftsmen, men and women, people who were born into oppression but longed for freedom. They grew up with
deprivation and under dictatorship. Their immense hatred of the oppressive regime and huge desire for freedom molded them into heroes full of passion who understood what the nation demanded, and who knew that now was the time to protect the homeland. The revolution they bravely started October 23, 1956 would eventually lead to freedom’s victory in 1989. We must remember and we must remind. It is they we have to thank for the freedom we currently enjoy: they who fought and resisted; they, who, in a moment of history, gave their lives for our freedom. 1956 was an event that defined not only Hungarian history but world history. The quarter of a century which has passed since the fall of communism provides a perspective that enables the heroes of 1956 to occupy their rightful place in the national memory. It also enables us – sixty years after the Revolution and Freedom Fight – to finally return the glory of the Revolution to the people to whom it belongs: our everyday heroes.
CURRENT AFFAIRS carefully examine the factors behind Trump’s success: for one, a sense of economic and societal disenfranchisement. This is particularly prevalent among the now-famed “losers of globalisation”, the non-educated and former industrial working-classes, with whom Trump could increase support by 16 per cent compared to Mitt Romney in 2012. Often however, rather than poverty itself, it is the possible descent into poverty and a perceived loss of identity that fuels populism: thus, Trump garnered the support of the majority of whites, males and economic middle-classes. What unites all these demographics is a sense that the (economic) system is no longer working for them and that their way of life is at risk through cosmopolitan, individualist liberalism and multiculturalism.
The Return of History
What Trump Means for Europe Donald J. Trump is the new President-elect of the United States of America. A reality that seemed inconceivable until the very morning of 9 November. Whilst Trump’s aversion to concrete policy commitments renders it difficult to gauge his agenda in the Oval Office, there is no question that his ascent will revolutionise US politics, be it domestic or foreign. Not least, it marks a stark caesura in the relationship between the United States and Europe. On 9 November 1989, the Berlin Wall and everything it stood for fell. On that momentous day, the West celebrated the final and definite triumph of its liberal open society over the forces of collectivism, isolation, authoritarianism and division. The battle of ideologies was over, liberalism had carried the day – seemingly forever. It rang, in Francis Fukuyama’s now infamous words, of the “end of history”: political problems would as of now be in their essence technical in nature, not ideological. Humanity, crudely put, had reached its peak of civilisational development. On the day twenty-seven years after, Donald J. Trump and the American people have relaunched history in a landmark election. The tycoon-cum-politician has broken with the post-1989 liberal consensus and reintroduced the struggle of abstractions and ideas into the Western political discourse for good. Foremost however, Trump’s election presents Europe with a fundamental challenge: the “Old Continent” has to (further) establish itself as a potent defender of the Western liberal order autonomous of the United States – both on the domestic and international stage. Internationally, the US electorate have thrust upon Europe the heavy responsibility of providing (more) leadership for the free world. Such leadership is not to be expected from a notoriously unpredictable Trump who campaigned on an
isolationist and protectionist platform. For Europeans to rise to this challenge however, it is pivotal for EU Member States to relegate national interests in favour of the common European interest. The uncompromising priority must be to show that there is, after years of successive crises, “union in this union” - and a potent one. Concretely, the EU and its Member States must ensure to champion global free trade through the full ratification of CETA, the completion of the Digital Single Market, the upholding of sanctions against Russia and the creation of a European military union to complement NATO. Particularly the latter is of critical importance after Trump’s reckless questioning of the United States’ commitment to NATO’s Article 5. With the potential perception of American disengagement in Europe as a carte blanche for further incursions in Eastern Europe by Russia, the EU and its Member States must focus their utmost priority to rebuilding a minimum of military self-sufficiency. More than before, the EU must show global leadership by building more intimate relations with other friendly democracies, most significantly with India, Canada, the Pacific and Latin American nations. At home, Europe must now face with more determination than ever the “enemy within” – the Farages, Le Pens, Wilders, Kaczyńskis and Petrys further emboldened by the victory of Donald Trump and his illiberal vision of society. To challenge another populist surge in 2017 and a further erosion of the European Union, liberal Europeans need to
To regain the trust of these voters, anti-populists must understand that technocratic fine-tuning in economic, education, welfare and migration policy, whilst helpful, will not be a magic bullet. Liberal Europeans must accept that this is just as much a battle of weltanschauungen as it is a call for economic and social reform. For too long, Western advocates of the open society have revelled in an ideological idleness, believing in the natural dominance of their philosophical vision that needed no elaborate explanation nor defence. This careless complacency has made Western liberals unwitting defenders of an uninspiring status quo that may objectively work, yet is not perceived as such. Any challenge to populism must hence involve a potent and intellectually coherent plea for the “Open Society in the 21st Century”, together with a scrutiny of policy orthodoxies. Rebuking the liberal order carefully built by these very United States, Trump and his supporters have definitely heralded a new era, pitting defenders of the open society against advocates of closed ones. This new struggle of ideologies – liberal globalists versus populist nationalists – will define our generation. Historically, whenever a threat to the Western liberal order was presented, Europe could rely on the firm support and solidarity of the United States. Under the aegis of an isolationist in the White House, this guarantee is no longer existent. To defend its values and way of life, Europe must assume leadership for the liberal cause. Europeans must come closer together than ever before, united in a spirit of humanity. This is what they owe to the people in Berlin who almost three decades ago tore down a wall for that no new ones were ever to be erected again.
An Unholy Alliance Europe’s Far-Left Has a Problem With Islamic Fundamentalism For several years, fundamentalist Islam and the far-left in Europe have become ever more closely intertwined. This knot must be untied, lest this peculiar alliance become a destabilising factor in these difficult days for the EU and liberal democracy. As the end of 2016 approaches, Europe finds itself facing several challenges to its way of life. Across the continent, right-wing populism and nationalist extremism is on the rise. The conflict with Vladimir Putin’s Russia is far from a solution. At the same time, the increasingly authoritarian Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is moving Turkey further away from the EU. With Donald Trump as President-Elect of the United States, many are wondering what consequences this will have on the transatlantic relationship – both in terms of trade and security. Many voices are being raised that Europe has to pull itself together, rely on itself, and become a champion of liberal democracy in the world – a shining city on the hill, to use the words of Ronald Reagan. In that spirit, it is necessary that Europeans also become aware of a democratic problem and security issue too seldom noted: the intermingling of the European far-left and fundamentalist Islam. Perhaps nowhere else in Europe this year has this been more acutely felt than in Sweden. The country found itself engulfed by political scandals surrounding the ties of Islamism and the Green Party – the party which governs Sweden in tandem with the Social Democrats as a junior coalition partner. This has raised fears, as hundreds of jihadists were returning to the Scandinavian country after fighting for the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq at the same time. Fears that were only exacerbated after the Swedish current affairs magazine Fokus published an interview with the head of the Kurdish security service General Hasan Nuri Amin. He starkly warned: “Those who have returned are enough to destroy all of Sweden. You have to intervene against them immediately.” It all began on 14 April 2016, when pictures appeared showing Sweden’s popular Green Party Minister for Housing and IT, Mehmet Kaplan, sharing a meal with the Grey Wolves; a Turkish ultranationalist terrorist group, renowned amongst others for the fact that it was one of their members who tried to assassinate Pope John Paul
II in 1981. Yet that was not all. Likewise present in the pictures was one Barbaros Leylani, at the time the VicePresident of the Turkish National Association. Only a few days before the photos went public, Leylani himself had given rise to public outcry after a video surfaced online in which he openly incited violence against Armenians in central Stockholm. Cheering him on as he shouted “Death to Armenian dogs!” was a crowd of members from Milli Görüs – an Islamist organisation, which Minister Kaplan himself, as it later emerged, had associated with. Three days later, yet another video surfaced. In this scoop, Mehmet Kaplan compared the current situation of Palestinians with the treatment of the Jews by the National Socialist regime in 1930s Germany. The day after, Kaplan resigned. But the affair did not end there. The day after Kaplan’s resignation, a young up-and-coming hot shot of the Green Party was asked to comment on Kaplan’s fate - Yasri Khan. Together with Kaplan, he had founded Swedish Muslims for Peace and Justice. Not only did Khan defend Kaplan, he also refused to shake hands with the female reporter interviewing him. He was caught on tape explaining how it was not in line with his faith. In another video, he had troubles condemning Saudi Arabia’s execution of atheists. Two days later, on 20 April, Khan too resigned from all his positions within the Green Party. It later emerged that Khan’s father is a leader within an Islamist terrorist organisation in Thailand, the Patani United Liberation Organisation. Khan jr. himself had supported the organisation too. Throughout these Time of Troubles, the two leaders of the Green Party – Åsa Romson and Gustav Fridolin – had consistently supported their party comrades. In the midst of all this turmoil, Lars Nicander, a highly respected researcher at the Swedish Defence University, publicly stated that the Green Party had been infiltrated by Islamists.
factions: indeed, Sweden’s Social Democrats too have had their fair share of Islamist controversies. Chief among them was the decision to include Omar Mustafa, a representative of the Muslim Brotherhood in Sweden, on the party’s national board in 2013. Again however, this is not an isolated phenomenon and Sweden is not the only country where this troubling merger of Islamism and left-wing parties and organisations has occurred. In several countries, simply criticising Islamist ideas and practices is enough to draw accusations of Islamophobia from progressive activists. It is not unheard of that left-wing anti-imperialists excuse Islamic terrorist organisations by arguing that they represent oppressed people, making their extreme measures understandable. In fact, decades ago, Foucault himself relativised the violence of the Iranian revolution, writing that Islamist revolutionaries did not “have the same regime of truth as ours.” It comes hence with little surprise that progressive and far-left organisations in the United Kingdom too in many instances have allied themselves with extreme Muslim thinkers and activists. One such example is Unite Against Fascism, which has Azad Ali, an Islamist activist with links to al-Qaeda, as one of their vice-chairs. Another example is the Stop the War Coalition: organised by the Socialist Workers Party, it was founded in the aftermath of 9/11 and has campaigned against the War on Terror. It has cooperated at multiple occasions with the Muslim Association of Britain, itself a part of the Muslim Brotherhood. Furthermore, even in France – itself a target of fundamentalist terrorist attacks on multiple occasions – several far-left groups have nurtured their relationship with Islamist organisations. The Trotskyite group Socialisme par En-Bas has in the past campaigned under the slogan “Islamism is not fascism but a cry of the people”, defending fundamentalist Islam as an ally against imperialism and Israel. These examples from Sweden, the United Kingdom and France show that support for Islamism is not an isolated phenomenon, but a trend among many far-left wing groups in the EU, and has been so for years. This is a serious problem which must be recognised and dealt with in an appropriate way. Otherwise, there is a risk that fundamentalist Islam and even terrorist ideas might spread further and destabilise Europe – the last thing Europe and the world needs in the current geopolitical situation.
Thomas Hermansson Yet it would be wrong to suggest that the Greens were the only political force in Sweden with links to extremist
Carrying the Torch What Can the EU Do To Safeguard Human Rights? The protection of human rights in Europe emerged from the Second World War with the creation of Council of Europe and its binding treaties and has served as the primary safeguarding institution since. More recently, the European Union has increased its ambitions to promote human rights and democracy. To be successful, the EU has to ensure that rights are protected at home, increase coherence and cooperate with other actors on upholding universal rights. The end of the Cold War paved way for the newly created European Union to raise its profile on human rights and democracy. It was greatly influenced by the Council of Europe’s European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR), which is based on the philosophy that all human beings are born with natural rights and which – in contrast to the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights – is legally binding. These obligations became key objectives in the Common Foreign and Security Policy and conditions for EU membership. In practice, the EU has enforced respect for human rights through the enlargements' consolidation of democracy in former communist states and through increased human rights activism in third countries. With global developments gaining a momentum for universal norms and with the security protection of NATO, the conception of the EU as a normative power was able to further develop. Nonetheless, challenges persist in regards to lack of European coherence and a more unstable world.
Given the EU’s strong rhetoric on democracy and human rights, its adherence to upholding standards itself will affect its strength on the international scene. Despite being the region with the strongest protection of human rights, it is not free of problems. The treatment of minorities and increased use of anti-terrorist emergency measures, which not always comply with human rights commitments, are such examples. Though essential to uphold security, the aims behind such policies are not sustainably achieved through the violation fundamental rights and freedoms. These tensions will not disappear over the next few years, with a more insecure world and increasingly diverse societies where human rights protection serves an important role. With global changes such as populist authoritarian movements questioning international norms, the universality of human rights may be questioned too and viewed as obstacles rather than prerequisites for peaceful societies. The EU will navigate in a new international context should other liberal democracies', such
as the United States, wither in their normative efforts. The main protector of human rights in Europe (and Central Asia), is still the European Court of Human Rights – the international court established by the European Convention of Human Rights. This framework has also been incorporated into EU law with the EU expanding its competencies. Despite already existing legal mechanisms and binding political documents such as the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, the EU is restrained in its enforcement. To guarantee a full-range protection of basic rights, the EU institutions need to improve their judicial and political instruments. Additionally, given the importance of the European Court of Human Rights and the Council of Europe for human rights protection, European Member States have a common interest in ensuring that the organisation is not kidnapped by less democratic states with other agendas. Another challenge to EU external human rights promotion is the institutional set-up of European foreign and security policy, with the emergence of a European external action parallel to foreign policy being a competence of Member States. The EU external action is to be guided by common values of the union such as democracy and fundamental rights and freedoms. Steps have been taken in terms of increasing consistency on internal and external human rights policy as well as to increase comprehensiveness between different external policies, such as trade and development. This to avoid contradictory policies and increase the credibility of the EU as an external human rights actor. The European External Action Service should avoid to compete with Member States’ foreign policy and rather focus on values and interests shared by all Member States, both to respect competencies and to achieve convergence with them. How successful the EU is as a safeguard of human rights is not just dependent on common EU action, but largely affected by the actions of individual Member States and their international commitments. The EU has addressed its effectiveness in human rights policy and sought to mainstream human rights into all the EU’s activities and policies as well as to strengthen the coherence between internal policies and external policies. In the Eastern neighbourhood, it has done so through the implementation of the Copenhagen criteria for aspiring Member States and a “more for more” policy which favours efforts on democracy and human rights. Similar instruments have been used in the Southern neighbourhood through partnership agreements. On a global
scale, the EU has made use of multilateral action and treaties within the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), existing international institutions such as the European Court of Human Rights and bilateral instruments such as the human rights clauses in trade agreements and the human rights dialogues for countries exempted from the clauses. It should neither be overlooked what normative influence the EU has by its being. Essential ambitions of the EU to be a “force for good” could be achieved both in its very existence as an institutional model for regional integration and through its acts as a human rights promoter. The EU has not achieved the status as a normative entrepreneur on the international stage, but remains in the eyes of many an economic power. In its current form, the EU's strengths lie in the neighbourhood through domestication of human rights norms in accession negotiations and other arrangements with partners in the European periphery, where it has a unique role. That does not, however, exclude the potential of promoting fundamental rights and freedoms in its relations with other countries and organisations. To be able to spread these norms externally, it has to strengthen the judicial and political protection of fundamental rights and freedom within the union and promote the universality of natural rights both bilaterally and through emphasising the necessity of a rights-based international order.
“You Are Not Welcome Here!”
The Dehumanising Effect of Racist Hate Speech. With the rapid and alarming rise of populist ideologies, we have seen racist hate speech blown out of proportion. From being regarded as something confined to the fringes of society, it has come to take the centre stage in political rallies. Case in point: Donald Trump. But racist hate speech goes well beyond legal implications; it truly shackles our humane values, leaving a dehumanising effect on its victims.
Throughout the past years, there has been an increase in the amount of people who opt to speak out their mind through social media. In fact, many are the politicians who have shifted their campaigns online – investing millions in teams of professional analysts to make their online campaigns as effective as possible. However, with such a trend, new problems may arise. While politicians may be diplomatic and careful in the way they address a problem, the general public may not. This often results in people occurring to making statements of an offensive nature, thinking that they have the right to speak their mind. And this is where the problems arise. There needs to be a very fine line which segregates hate speech from freedom of expression. People tend to use the latter as shield whenever they may have crossed the line, nevertheless, this cannot always be applied. CAUSES OF HATE SPEECH An increase in terror attacks throughout the past few months has seen citizens across the Western world rallying against the acceptance of migrants from a different ethnic background than theirs. Also, it very often comes from the leaders of society themselves. One does not have to go through much trouble to find statements made by leaders in the European Union, or maybe more prominently, US President-elect Donald Trump. In their approaches, they often earmark migrants as either criminals or otherwise threats to the fabric of society. It is elementary that any
sort of speech by any politician will leave an impact on the way their followers think and perceive things. This has also come from the fact that people have generated an amount of anger towards their governments for allowing migrants coming from specific areas in the world which, wrongly, are seen as synonymous with terrorism. People have every right to encourage and demand their country to take the necessary security measures, but this does not give them a green light to demean any other human being simply because of their ethnicity. THE EUROPEAN CONVENTION ON HUMAN RIGHTS The basic values of the European Union stress the importance of a united Europe. This should not be interpreted to mean that anyone not coming from an EU country is an “outsider”. These are values which Europeans should practice with all humans across the world. It is the way by which we approach our politics, in a sense of all being part of a community. The European Convention on Human Rights very carefully caters for situations of exceeding the limits set by the article on Freedom of Expression. In fact the Convention’s approaches are used in cases of the European Court of Human Rights to settle disputes of hatred through expression. The concept of the convention is to give value to the human being, anything which will try taking away that value will be penalised. The convention will not allow protection should the statement amount to hate speech and negate the fundamental
values. The other approach sets restrictions to the protection in cases where the comments are not aimed at dehumanising an individual. EFFECTS OF HATE SPEECH The level of impact left on a human being who succumbed to hate speech is often detrimental. Psychologically speaking, this can lead to various consequences. The dehumanising effects of such comments will lead to a particular group in society to feeling inferior in a society which they are ultimately not welcome in. This may lead to the excluded groups becoming rebellious. It is indeed believed that this is one of the main causes of a number of terror attacks in recent years. This assumption comes from the fact that youths coming from particular ethnicities are not treated as if they are citizens of the same country. Adding this to possible poorer education makes them more vulnerable to give in to the recruitment strategies of radical groups. THE WAY FORWARD Cases similar to what happened during the Trump campaign and what is happening in Syria, as well as other places in the world should serve as a big lesson learnt. Hate speech is not simply passing a comment during a campaign rally or during a debate. It goes beyond that by reflecting on the type of policies and ideologies which the person in question would push forward. Irrespective of all that is happening around Europe, and around the world, singling out groups through racist comments will not solve anything. We must go back to the drawing board and identify the roots of a problem. We cannot preach about eliminating racism and increasing integration if leaders continue making comments, which will cause a ripple effect amongst the followers that will instigate hate. Being human is the one common factor which unites all seven billion living in the world – let us not take that away from anybody.
Neil Smart Constantino
Humans Are Not For Sale Combatting Modern Day Slavery 45.8 million people are trapped in some form of modern day slavery, according to the Walk Free Foundation. Stop for a while and try to understand how large a number that is. Think of the population of your own country and try to compare these numbers. For me, it was very easy, as the population of my home country Ukraine is nearly the same. This terrifies me. You might think that this horror does not exist in your country or the numbers are minor - yet there is no country in the world not affected by this crime. This crime generates lots of money. In the developed economies and the EU, the annual profit per victim of forced labour is the highest in the world – $ 34,800. In Africa, per comparison, the average stands at $ 3,900. In total, this criminal industry generates $ 150 billion in illegal profits per year. This number was first published in 2014 by the International Labor Organization. It is worth mentioning that it was three times more than previously estimated. Due to the ongoing conflicts and extreme disruption to government function in certain states, both the number of victims and money generated through human trafficking and enslavement have only been growing. When enquiring with law enforcement in your city what the greatest problem in combating this crime is, the most
probable answer cited is the lack of identification and data collection. Victims of modern human trafficking are modern-day slaves – deceived or forced by criminals who promised them a better life away from home. Victims can be found working in a variety of different roles – hotels, cafes, shops, factories and farms. Modern-slavery is about broken dreams. The dream of a 15-year-old girls to earn money to become a doctor. The dream of a 32-year-old man to build a home and provide food for his family. Physical safety and security, access to the necessities of life such as food, water and health care, displacement and conflict – these are the factors creating a vulnerability conducive to the modern slave trade. Victims themselves “accept” their situations, as they do not see substantial
choices and pathways out of poverty and oppression. Therefore, I assume that the only way to combat this tragedy of today’s world is to focus more energy on ending poverty, reducing inequality within and among countries, ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns as well as other Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by world leaders in September 2015 at an historic United Nation Summit. No one should be left behind. I always try to ask myself how can I help to fight injustice. Will choosing sustainable designer brands help someone to gain the desired education? Can taking a training on human trafficking victims identification with your friends save someone’s life? I believe the answer is yes. At the same time, every one of us can do more. To start with, ask your Member of City Council or Member of Parliament what do they you to end poverty, what do they do or plan to do to ensure sustainability and equality. If you read this article it means you care. That is why I urge you to call for action to people everywhere to turn this vision into reality - the vision of a more caring world free of modern slavery, a just world where no one is left behind.
#ThisFlag Standing Up For Zimbabwe
For thirty-six years, Robert Mugabe has reigned over Zimbabwe with an iron fist. Yet there is new hope for change in the African country, as civil society is galvanised to secure the betterment of the ailing country. Writing and lamenting about the situation in South Africa under the Apartheid regime, Allen Patton penned a book with the very apt title: “Cry The Beloved Country”. Focusing on the injustices and unfairness of European rule over Africans, he could have as well been writing about the current situation in Zimbabwe where the government is oppressing its citizens for daring to question and challenge the undemocratic way the country is run. There is one standard answer to voiced problems by the people: that answer is violent brutality against the citizenry without offering one simple solution to the problems identified. When Zimbabwe attained independence on the 18 April 1980, it was a nation full of hope; that a new Zimbabwe would be a land of unity, peace, hope and an envy of the rest of Africa. It was a nation endowed with numerous natural resources and the people were fairly educated to exploit these resources to the benefit of all, provided we had a government that was responsible and accountable. Today, the government has allowed corruption and injustice to be the order of the day. Consequently, Zimbabwe’s once thriving economy has crumbled, reducing its elderly citizens to mere vagrants who queue and sleep outside banks in vain waiting for their pension which has long been spent by reckless politicians The question then stands, how long are we as proud Zimbabweans going to live miserably in abject poverty? Many have been forced to relocate to other nations and live under economic servitude or as refugees due to this government that has deprived Zimbabwean nationals of any form of dignity and pride that our parents and ancestors fought for. This land and this flag are symbols of how far we have come and the belief we had that we would be free and liberated in our own land. It is disheartening
that our own flesh and blood are oppressing us and try to silence us on social media whenever we point out their failures. We have a voice that will be heard. The forced introduction of bond notes is highly unacceptable. We were promised two million jobs that never came to fruition. Instead thousands of jobs were lost. Factories are now ghost houses. Today, Zimbabweans want answers. More so however, they want solutions to our collective problems. Tribalism and racism are the trump cards
used to keep citizens in check. In the words of a very wise man, "United We Stand, Divided We Fall”. It is time we, as Zimbabweans and citizens of a country we love, took responsibility. As such, we will continue to stand up for what is right and just. Over fifteen years of dealing with abject poverty or being subjected to status of economic refugee on foreign lands. Zimbabweans are desperate for change that will bring about dignity, wellness and happiness in our ancestral home.
“WE MUST INSPIRE OUR CITIZENS TO BE BOLD” INTERVIEW WITH PASTOR EVAN MAWARIRE Pastor Evan Mawarire achieved widespread fame in Zimbabwe this summer when he called upon his fellow countrymen to stand up to the Mugabe regime in a facebook video. His message, delivered while wrapped in the Zimbabwean flag, spread widely across the African nation via social media and inspired mass protests against the government – the greatest in a decade. After being arrested and threatened by the regime, Pastor Mawarire was forced to flee Zimbabwe for the United States. WHAT DID YOU INITIALLY SET OUT TO ACHIEVE WITH “#THISFLAG”? When I started #ThisFlag, I set out to awaken the citizens of Zimbabwe to the fact that they are key players in the building of Zimbabwe. The idea was to break the fear that we have all had to step up and speak out against corruption injustice and poverty. It is the citizens job to hold the government if the day to account. We coined a phrase that summarises our goal; "If we cannot cause the politician to change then, we must inspire the citizen to be bold."
We have succeeded in mobilising people who were previously disinterested in what was happening to our country. We have succeeded in exercising our constitutional and democratic right to freedom of expression. We have also succeeded in uniting Zimbabwean citizens around the idea of building a better Zimbabwe than the one we have. The fact that the government responded with brutality and misuse of the law shows that we have succeeded. Our success is so evident that the government has attempted to shut down social media and even to ban the national flag.
DO YOU INTEND TO RETURN TO ZIMBABWE? Yes, I definitely intend on returning to Zimbabwe. It is my home and the place that every Zimbabwean should feel welcome, safe and free to live their dream. My activism is part of my validation as a dutiful citizen so yes I will continue it without a doubt. Every citizen has to understand that the highest form of national duty is to defend one’s own country when it is in trouble. That's what I will go back to do. I must fight for the future of my children.
DO YOU THINK YOU WILL PLAY A ROLE IN FUTURE ZIMBABWEAN POLITICS? Yes, I intend on playing a significant role in Zimbabwean politics as I have already done. Zimbabwe desperately needs new ideas packaged in new players. I want to inspire worthy passionate Zimbabweans to participate at the highest level possible. Instead of standing idly by and letting anyone take public office, the most qualified Zimbabweans must make themselves available for service to their nation
HAVE YOU ABANDONED #THISFLAG FOR A BETTER LIFE IN AMERICA? I most certainly have not abandoned #ThisFlag for a better life because #ThisFlag is about fighting for a better life. I am not at home in America or anywhere else for that matter. A Zimbabwean, like the citizens of other nations, must have the best opportunities for education, health, career and a good life in Zimbabwe. What we are putting to an end with #ThisFlag is the notion that Zimbabwe is only for a few people. It's for everyone and until we achieve that Zimbabwe will never truly achieve its full potential. The good life is in the mind of every Zimbabwean and they must be allowed to birth that good life. I want that right and I'll fight for it no matter what.
MOBILISATION BASED ON SOCIAL MEDIA WAS YOUR MAIN STRATEGY. DO YOU THINK IT HAD A SIGNIFICANT IMPACT ON RURAL FOLKS, WHERE THE RULING PARTY HAS MAJORITY SUPPORT? Social media helped us to have a huge impact on all sections of society in Zimbabwe. It helped us reach the rural areas that have traditionally been inaccessible. We were able to circulate videos and other information that educated the population on the gross misgovernance that is taking place. This tool has done two amazing things for us. For one, it has connected us across race, tribe, class and political affiliation so that we can share and discuss issues. Secondly, it has united us so that we all focus and act on particular issues in one accord. Social media is our media that we control. We were able to contend with and overcome government propaganda. We don't have to fight to be on controlled government media anymore because we have our own.
DO YOU CONSIDER #THISFLAG TO BE A SUCCESS OR A FAILURE? Yes, I consider #ThisFlag to be a great success.
ARE YOU SCARED TO COME HOME? I have definitely been scared to come home. When I left I had been wrongly accused and arrested. The government even tried to change the charge in court. I was threatened whilst I was in prison and my family was threatened too. My pregnant wife was threatened with rape and my five-year-old and three-year-old where threatened with abduction at their school. I was afraid more for my family rather than myself. That's why I said earlier that I'm definitely going back to Zimbabwe. I left Zimbabwe so that if anything ever happened to me, at least I would have had the chance to hold my new born in my hands and kiss my family goodbye. HAVE YOU ABANDONED YOUR CALLING AS A PASTOR IN ZIMBABWE? My calling as a pastor is dear to me and I will not abandon it even if I decided to go into mainstream politics or full on political activism. As a pastor, I get to see the real Zimbabwean struggle. People come to churches to bare the souls. They take off their masks and weep about their shattered dreams, their broken families and their loss of hope. It is pastors who have shouldered the work of keeping our society together as it crumbles from the horrible injustices perpetrated by our government. I cannot abandon that call because it is where the hand of God touches and binds the breaking hearts of men.
Henry Munangatire, Great Zimbabwe Initiative
"NOW WE LIVE IN AN OPPRESSIVE COUNTRY" BULLSEYE INTERVIEW WITH EWA KOPACZ - FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF POLAND Ewa Kopacz (PO – EPP) was one of the closest collaborators of Donald Tusk. Trained as a medical doctor, she has been an Member of the Polish Parliament, the Sejm, since 2001. Occupying amongst others the positions of Minister of Health and the Marshal of the Sejm, she took on an extremely difficult task in 2014: to lead the government as Prime Minister into national elections and the ruling party Civic Platform through one of the most difficult years in its history. MS KOPACZ, WHAT KIND OF POLAND DO WE LIVE IN TODAY? The answer should probably be „the same as a few years ago”. Seemingly, nothing has changed. Poland has evolved in recent years and become even more attractive. But on the other hand, while talking to people on the street, you get the impression that they live in a different country than the one used to give them a sense of security, freedom and an opportunity to decide for themselves a few years ago. Today, unfortunately, these conflicting emotions are terribly mixed together. On the one hand, we are proud of our country. On the other hand, people say: „I want to make Poland look a little differently, I wish the government had a sense of value and importance for everyone.” Because nowadays, these roles are reversed: today, the government claims that it is the biggest asset of our country. I think that the citizens, with their voices and needs, are the most important - citizens who only expect one thing: for the law to allow them to enjoy freedom, pursue their and their children’s lives as they want to. WHEN DID YOUR ALARM BELLS FIRST SOUNDED THAT THIS WAS NOT A STANDARD CHANGE OF RULING PARTY BUT THAT THIS
GOVERNMENT THREATENS THE FOUNDATION OF OUR DEMOCRACY? You know, I started to think about it just after the elections, when the ministers of Law and Justice (PiS) explained in Parliament how the government’s programme would look like. At that moment, I knew that they had won with a fraudulent campaign. They were saying what they were able to dish out a lot of money and social services the citizens, without adding how much this would cost. It was just a cynical marketing ploy. One example: they were going on for a long while about an alleged plan by Civic Platform (PO) to privatise Polish forests. But nobody ever talked about, planned or prepared any such legislation. Quite the opposite, PO wanted to protect forests and include an amendment on this in the constitution. PiS did not support it and instead started to spread their own theory that we wanted to privatise these forests. It was just absolute nonsense. But they probably had great PR people who taught them these tricks. WHAT WORRIED YOU IN PARTICULAR? A moment when they were talking about values, which are particularly important for me. They divided Poles. Today, not even a family sitting at the dinner
table can safely talk about important issues. The government introduced an atmosphere of aggression and division. One time however, they outmanoeuvred themselves: it turned out that when they wanted to violate Poland’s twenty-three-year-old anti-abortion compromise, they faced a strong response from the country’s women. I must tell you that I was proud of the Polish women, when I saw their energy and enthusiasm as they marched on the streets. INDEED, HOW IS IT POSSIBLE THAT THE POLISH WOMEN STOPPED JAROSŁAW KACZYŃSKI? If Kaczyński has just a shred of political instinct, he should be afraid of Polish women. Genuinely. They showed their strength and determination. They said: we are free citizens of a free country in a modern European family, so no-one will impose their will on us, especially not PiS politicians with ideas coming straight from the Middle Ages. CAN WE SAY THAT PIS LOST ITS INTOUCHABILITY AFTER THE „BLACK PROTEST”? You know, any government that wins an election, especially by a big margin, has a teflon coating for at
least for a year – nothing sticks to them. But there are events which cause public opinion begins to turn away from those recently chosen. I knew that PiS could change their branding and rhetoric, but not their nature. I knew that, if they came to power, they would be exactly the same as ten years ago. And this is precisely what the Poles showed them during the protests of the last year: some of us, you deceived, some of us you bought with your promises of PLN 500 in child care benefits, and now we bear a grudge against you. You talked about a positive change and now we live in an oppressive country. Please note that there is not a single law proposed by PiS that doesn’t threaten of a prison sentence for their violation. Sooner or later, they will be be met with strong resistance, not just from women. I hope sooner. BEYOND THE DOMESTIC SPHERE, DEVELOPMENTS HAVE BEEN OBSERVED VERY ANXIOUSLY BY POLAND’S ALLIES ABROAD. YOU ARE, AS A FORMER PRIME MINISTER, IN CONTACT WITH EUROPEAN POLITICIANS. WHAT DO THEY NOW SAY ABOUT POLAND? You know, in diplomacy, no-one says openly what they really think. When PiS was still in opposition,
I remember hearing a lot of bad things being said about the members of the party during unofficial talks at European meetings. Today, after their display of haughtiness and arrogance, not only at meetings of the Council of Ministers, but also the European Council, many EU leaders have returned wide-eyed and said: „The rumours that these people would lead Poland straight into a crisis were true”. They also saw however: "We pity you, but such was the choice of the Polish people. Don't give up, do something”. Of course, the only thing we can "do" is to convince the Poles to show PiS the red card at the next elections. INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONS SUCH AS THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE AND THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION HAVE TAKEN EXCEPTION TO PIS’S REFORMS OF POLAND’S CONSTITUTIONAL COURT. ANY CRITICISM HOWEVER HAS BEEN FIRMLY DISMISSED BY THE GOVERNMENT THAT STICKS TO A NARRATIVE OF "EVERYONE IS CONSPIRING AGAINST POLAND." I think of it this way: when we are offended and say that the European Union is bad and unfair towards Poles, we don’t reach out our hand and ask what the European Union can offer us. We are happy to
use the benefits of Europe and at the same time, we question the credibility of institutions such as the European Commission. For me, this is a completely incomprehensible philosophy of dealing with our partners. When we want to achieve something on a touchy and difficult question, we look for allies. The method adopted by PiS is to offend or take offence. It's hard to get anything with such an attitude. EVER SINCE THEIR ASCENT TO POWER, PIS HAVE TRIED TO REALIGN POLAND’S FOREIGN POLICY AND BUILD AN ALLIANCE WITH THE VISEGRAD GROUP STATES. IS THAT A VIABLE STRATEGY? If we talk about empowering of the Visegrad Group, let’s recall the last Economic Forum in Krynica. The leaders of the Czech Republic and Slovakia distanced themselves, very diplomatically, from the cultural revolution proposed by Kaczyński. He has only found one friend - Victor Orban. And he will probably try to champion this counter-revolution with him. I just don't know how they will get along when it comes to Russia. We know that Hungary doesn’t support extending and tightening the sanctions against Russia. Knowing him, Kaczyński will at some point eventually take offence at Orban when he disagree
INTERVIEW with him. He believes he is the only one to be right. Kaczyński says: when I say that there are no problems, there are no problems - and everyone has to listen to me. Those who don't are mortal enemies and those who do – temporary – friends. This is the whole policy of PiS. IN LIGHT OF THE FRAGILITY OF THE VISEGRAD GROUP AND THE IMMINENT DEPARTURE OF PIS’S OTHER EUROPEAN ALLY, THE UNITED KINGDOM, FROM THE EU, THE SZYDŁO GOVERNMENT HAS EFFECTIVELY ISOLATED ITSELF ON THE INTERNATIONAL STAGE. IS THERE ANY CHANCE OF A RE-ORIENTATION? Well, to change your behaviour, you have to weigh what you did right against what you did wrong. And there must must be a will to improve. I think that PiS are today sufficiently convinced of their perfection and infallibility that they won't want to fix anything. They think they can do European politics by banging their hands on the table and shouting: „We oppose this!”. The art of foreign policy lies in the good use of the language of diplomacy. You can defend national interests with grace and manners, just as the previous governments of Poland did. For PiS to say that they will be the government to reform the European Union, but only in those areas convenient for them, is a mistake. They talk about solidarity, while running away from it. They talk about solutions which are in practice completely unfeasible, including the opening of the treaties and the negotiation of new conditions of our membership of the community. We hear a lot of words without any effect which only create ever more aversion among our EU partners. LET’S RETURN TO POLAND. THE SECOND LARGEST OPPOSITION PARTY - THE MODERN PARTY - HAS BUILT ITSELF ON CRITICISM OF CIVIC PLATFORM. HOW CAN PO PROVE TODAY THAT THEY ARE THE MAIN FORCE OF OPPOSITION WITH THE SOUNDEST VISION FOR POLAND? We compete for the same electorate. The strength of the Civic Platform has been that we do not simply occupy the political centre, but unite the right and left. It’s a mistake to decry achievements such as the ratification of the Convention Against Violence or our decision to fund IVF treatments as "left-wing experiments". I think we should reach out to the electorate on the left, without losing our identity. Civic Platform can be a strong centrist force that "collects" support from the right and the left. To say that we have to challenge PiS on the right means that you don’t understand the Polish political landscape. Competing for their established electorate is impossible. Let us then build a platform that is wider than that of the Modern Party. Let's show that we are better when it comes to taking the initiative and understanding the law in Poland. If we are not able to prove that we set the tone for the
political opposition, we will always be pushed by the upstarts on political scene. They are not better than us, they don't have experience, they have nothing to boast. And today, we can say that we don’t have to be ashamed of our eight years in government. I am proud of what we achieved. All opponents of the Civic Platform may admit one thing: they lived here calmly, no-one told them how to think and Poland changed to a country frequently visited by tourists who admire our infrastructure and appreciate that what was once unattractive is now modern and European. SHOULD CIVIC PLATFORM PUSH THIS NARRATIVE MORE? I don't know why we talk so little about it – as if we were ashamed of the fact that during eight years of hard work, we managed to change Poland. Be it on infrastructure, family policy, or elderly care. We have one of the longest maternity leaves in Europe. We brought in a policy for the elderly which appreciates the experience and wisdom of those who built this country. We never bought them using promises. Law and Justice said that every Pole would have access to free medication after completing the age of seventyfive. My mother is 85 years old. She pays PLN 300 for her medication. These lies devalue. These people will wake up one day and think: they tricked us. And this day will be a very difficult one for PiS. IS COOPERATION BETWEEN CIVIC PLATFORM AND THE MODERN PARTY NEEDED OR IN FACT POSSIBLE? Today, we have to answer the question of what the aim for the entire opposition is. The answer is simple: the removal of this scourge from power. It should be the priority for all of us. No matter who the leader of the opposition is, no matter how much we differ in our programmes. It’s important to defeat PiS, then face the Poles and fight for their voices with a reliable and serious plan. But together, we have to give ourself a chance to fight for Poland. And in this respect, as the opposition as a whole, we are doomed to each other. THE PATH UNTIL THE 2020 ELECTIONS IS STILL LONG. WHAT MUST BE THE PRIORITY OF THE NEXT GENERATION OF POLITICAL LEADERS IN POLAND WHEN IT COMES TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF POLAND? As a busy housewife would say, there will be so much to do that we will not know where to start. It will be a total mess. Our public finances will be ruined and we will be very lucky if the European Commission doesn’t initiate the excessive deficit procedure against us. The government has unfortunately forgotten that they can dole out so much, because we were spending public money rationally and responsibly. We could also have afforded on handouts in the pre-election year, but we were responsible in view
of the coming years. We paid a high price for that. Not everything we did was right, but we managed to learn our lessons. When the next and inevitable economic crisis hits, Szydło’s cabinet won’t remain untouched in the same way as the government of Donald Tusk was [N.B. in 2008]. They should realise that the economy, which we revitalised despite the crisis, will slow down at some point soon. And that’s when they will have to find a panacea. You can already see that they will not be able to cope with this and I reckon that their successors will be forced to tighten their belts and deal with all that PiS destroyed and squandered. LASTLY, WHAT IS YOUR MESSAGE TO EUROPEAN STUDENTS, WHO WATCH THE SITUATION IN POLAND WITH SOME CONCERN? My message can only be one: remember, as long as there is an opposition for which values such as freedom and democracy are sacrosanct, you are still coming to the same country. Support us in all our actions to defend us against those who want to trample on, take away and appropriate these values. If you can, reach out to your young colleagues from Poland and say: a band of scoundrels is destroying what is most precious to you, a people of modern Europe that is full of energy and enthusiasm. You can help us in only one thing: by encouraging young people to participate in these meetings, to go out on the streets and show how they imagine a free and democratic Poland. You can read the full interview with Ewa Kopacz on the BullsEye website - www.bullseye-magazine.eu
Rewiring Europe Priorities for a Lasting Digital Economy When discussing politics you have probably, at one point or another, come across a reasoning that can be summarised as follows: “Technology beats politics”. This can mean a variety of things. That technology is a better problem solver than politics or that technology can circumvent political restrictions. But most often it simply means that technology develops faster than political processes, and therefore technological development doesn’t easily lend itself to political regulation. The establishment of a digital single market is a moment where this reasoning becomes justified. The harmonisation of rules and regulations in the digital arena are sorely needed, otherwise European companies and consumers may be excluded from a booming global industry. The digital economy isn’t separate from the regular economy. Almost all economic transactions are digital to some degree. Most enterprises use technology in their business. Many people consume digital services everyday. A single market is not completed without common rules for its digital parts. But bad regulation may stifle growth and limit the European markets. The key question thus becomes: what to regulate, and how? How do policymakers on the centre-right develop conditions that foster both growth and transparency in the digitalised economy? The policies set out by the European Commission's Digital Single Market (short DSM) strategy might allow us to take steps in the right direction. But while some of the proposals in the roadmap hold the promise of a set of baseline rules,
others are more detailed and may cause unforeseen consequences. However, these policies are hardly the end of the line for digitalisation regulation, and policy makers will have to think about these issues in the decades to come, both in regards to implementation of this DSM strategy, and strategies further down the line. To that end, we have established five priorities for a centre-right policy on digitisation. First - We need predictability harmonisation. While the DSM strategy sets out rules for e-commerce and some regulations concerning trade with goods and services, a lot of aspects of a truly digital market are missing. Open government data, voluntary personal information such as identification and health records, payment standards and international procurement processes are some aspects that would further boost a common digital single market. Leaving some parts out won’t fulfil the ambitions of the strategy, let alone create a real market. Second - We need borderless data and platform providers. When data is unable to cross borders, it severely limits the
digital economy. Geo-blocking and copyright issues are only some of the obstacles to a borderless data environment. There could also be initiatives to promote access, flow and reuse of data that would in turn generate growth for existing services and future innovation. Platforms are one of the key aspects to the flow of data, and instead of trying to quell the impact of existing platforms, Europe should foster the environment where new platforms can grow next to existing ones. Not through subsidies, but through better access to data across borders. Third - We need bottom-up experimentation and adaptability. With a harmonised regulatory framework, experimentation becomes harder. You can’t learn from best practices when there is only one practice. Therefore, there should be initiatives where new ways to look at the issues can be tried without getting snuffed out by the system before a new solution gets off the ground. Transnational or regional co-operations in targeted areas can serve as testbeds for future policy improvements. Fourth - We need growing urban digital markets. Several of the most exciting and disruptive services in the last few years have been global in scope, but have been heavily local in their actual operations. Dense local markets, aka cities, connected globally. Local and city government should have the ability to create living labs in cities so that entrepreneurs can try out new ideas and create a more thriving urban economy. Fifth - We need to establish an open, coherent framework for data ownership. Data is fast becoming one of the most valuable resources on the planet. Yet we still have a hard time defining what the ownership of personal data ought to look like. The GDPR is a step in the right direction, but the future will tell if its intentions will be fulfilled. Digitisation can’t be dealt with in columns or pipelines. It is a horizontal issue and as such, the policies and regulations that deal with digitisation must look at the bigger picture – and since it is also a burgeoning market, there needs to be room for experimentation and development, in the technologies as well as the policies. You can’t predict the future, so make sure you don’t limit the options. Read the entire report “Rewiring Europe” by Jacob Dexe and Joakim Wernberg, including concrete policy recommendations, on the Wilfried Martens Centre website: http://tinyurl. com/reweur
Jacob Dexe, SICS Swedish ICT
Should the EU Offer 18-Year-Olds a Free Interrail Pass? For a New European Generation
Work and travel in Australia, au pair in the United States of America or backpacking in Southeast Asia, these are only some examples of activities of today's European youngsters. The further away, the better it seems and the wanderlust is unlimited. At the same time, voter turnout in the elections to the European Parliament has steadily declined, anti-European movements are rising in all European member states and a majority of Britons voted to leave the community. But how can the EU show young Europeans the advantages which the European Union is offering?
Since the State of the European Union last September, there has been ongoing discussion on Manfred Weber MEP’s proposal to award young Europeans on their 18th birthday with a free InterRail Ticket. Presently, around 300,000 people use InterRail every year. In fact, the initiative is not new. Two young German activists, VincentImmanuel Herr and Martin Speer, have been lobbying for free InterRail Tickets since 2014. But this is neither the idea’s origin. Already in 2009 this proposal had been part of the election manifesto of the Dutch Christian Democratic Party (CDA). Some people are arguing against the proposal to grant young European a voucher for a free InterRail Ticket. Nevertheless, it is a great idea to start a new way to raise awareness of the European Union’s advantages. Over thirty countries are part of the InterRail network. Yet there are some European Union Member States (Malta, Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) missing from this network. For 18-years-olds, it should be possible to take a bus or a ferry to the next country which is part of the InterRail area. While traveling by train through Europe, European youngsters become acquainted with one of the most fundamental European principles, the Schengen Agreement. Nowhere else is it possible to travel without visible borders in a region – a globally unique arrangement that is a matter of course for today’s generation. Furthermore, the inclusion of every European teenager in this scheme likewise offers the possibility for Youngsters who would not have this option because of their financial background. Especially young Europeans from South and East Europe do not often have the opportunity to collect intercultural experiences. Thus, traveling with young people from across Europe creates a new intercultural dialogue. If they get in touch with different European
point of views, it could help to combat stereotypes and prejudices by fostering inter-European friendships. In the long-term, the free InterRail Ticket may help to change the European labour market as well. If 18-yearolds get in touch with other European regions through their InterRail traveling, they may become more open to the idea of moving to another town, region or indeed European country to seek employment. This effect has already been shown by students who studied abroad with the Erasmus+ programme, with more than 90 percent of former Erasmus Exchange Students contemplating to work and live abroad. Today, it is often not understandable for some people why the European Union was founded. In nearly all Member States, Eurosceptic movements or parties are gaining ground. Hence it is even more important to bring youngsters closer together and seek new pathways when promoting the European ideal. Staying abroad can increase interest in the EU, its institutions, and political processes. This can be already seen in the context of Erasmus, with around a third of former Erasmus students confirming that it increased their awareness of the EU.
perspective, another idea would be to create an app similar to PokémonGo where you have to be on-location to get infos and collect credits. This can be connected to a Challenge who visited more special European place. Such a „EuropeGo“ may thus provide information about former borders, historical places and the history of the European Union and its Member States, guaranteeing that 18-years-olds get in touch with the European Union. This package should further likewise include an option for visits to the European institution in Brussels and Strasbourg. Of course, to implement the voucher for a free InterRail Ticket would incur sizeable costs. However, this scheme would crucially help to expand the intercultural dialogue and create an understanding of different views on current European issues. It is an enhancement to the Erasmus+ and Comenius programmes. The youngsters will be part of the core idea United in diversity. If we want a future for the European Union, it is our task to convince the European youth of the value and perks of the European Union. Today is the time to break the mould to raise awareness and spark enthusiasm for the European project.
Current estimates claim that the free InterRail ticket programme would cost between 1.2 billion and 2.88 billion euros. This may sound a lot, yet turns out to be a mere fraction of the Erasmus+ budget which currently stands at 14.7 billion euros. It may further help to attract private investment in support of the programme. Nevertheless, the programme should include more than only the InterRail Ticket. It is thinkable to provide every teenager an information package about the European Union, for example its history and workings. From a digital
Good intentions are not enough
First of all, it is easy to agree on the importance of travelling to broadening your mind, understanding each other and the influence that travel experiences can have in a young person’s life. It is important to promote mobility among young people and without a doubt there are significantly worse things on which the European Union is currently using its budget. No doubt about that. TK Finland is likewise not against InterRailing or young people travelling around Europe in general, but is this proposal truly the best answer to Europe’s problems? To increase public spending by billions of euros in order to provide free train tickets for teenagers? We think that it is certainly not the case. Why should we even use the EU’s budget to offer InterRail tickets to young people? Shouldn’t we rather just focus on improving the economic situation in Member States and make all the possible efforts so
that these young people could find a job, earn some money of their own and then let them travel or do whatever their heart desires? For the past decade or so, the European Union has been struggling in a succession of crises – we even have had to witness one historical referendum, the result of which we are all very aware of. Among other problems, we still record alarmingly high youth unemployment rates, a worrying amount of young people suffering from social exclusion and the list goes on. People are losing their belief in the EU’s ability to tackle these issues and as a proof of that, we have seen a rapid rise of populist and anti-EU-parties across Europe. The EU’s focus should definitely rest on these dire straits and while it is certain that this proposal doesn’t mean that the European Union and the European People’s Party would have suddenly forgotten all about the problems mentioned above, it is very worrying to hear how much the EPP is promoting free train tickets to youngsters while S&D Group leader Gianni Pittella simultaneously talks about the importance of solving the issue of youth unemployment. EPP Group leader Manfred Weber’s response has been that we can do both, that this wouldn’t have any effect on the other issues. One might argue that in a world of limited resources, doing something will always decrease resources from something else, in one way or another. Regardless of that, even if this wouldn’t mean anything to the other responsibilities, Mr Weber fails to notice one massively important aspect: communication. Definitely one of the most important aspects is the way you are communicating your idea, since it very much defines the way people are seeing you and how they perceive the whole situation. Currently it seems to many people that while some are worried about the youth unemployment, the EPP is busy with spreading free train tickets all over Europe. It is not perhaps true, but without a proper way of communication, that is how many people perceive the current situation. During the plenary debate, held on 4 October 2016, MEPs discussed this topic and when you hear MEPs declaring, with sparkling eyes, how after this proposal every young European will be able to experience the beauty and the riches of Europe’s cultural diversity, regardless of their background, it is quite
understandable why some people consider EU to be an elitist project. Mr Weber has even stated about this proposal that “all you need for InterRail is some spare weeks and lots of curiosity”. Some cynical realists could argue that for a month-long InterRail trip, one would need more than just a few spare weeks and curiosity. Even if you would get a free train ticket, this doesn’t signify that you could afford the trip. You can go around and give away gallons of free gasoline to everyone, but if you don’t own a car, what would you do with it? It is also a strange fact that last year, a Hungarian MEP from the S&D Group submitted a written question to the Commission asking for support for this very idea. In response, it was stated that the Commission did not consider offering funding for this proposal. Suddenly, a year later, everyone is lavish with praise for what is seen as a wonderful proposal. Why? Again, certain cynical realists could argue that this is nothing but a populist response to the rise of Euroscepticism. But one mustn’t fight populism with populism, you must rise above it. TK Finland would advise to prioritise and put all the efforts on where the EU would be needed the most: coming up with solutions to the serious problems which Member States are currently facing. Since solving those issues would be the very best way to regain the trust of the citizens and win the fight against populists. Despite the good intentions and the positive aspects of this proposal, we are not convinced that this would be something that EU should be concentrating on and we encourage all the supporters of this idea to carefully think this through.
Oil, Gas and Violent Extremism
A Guide to Understanding Not Only the Middle East The Middle East has for long persisted in a quasi-permanent state of instability – a catastrophic constellation rendered worse in recent decades through the rise of Islamic extremism and warfare following the uprisings of the Arab Spring. Yet arguably, one of the keys to solving the precarious situation in its neighbourhood lies with Europeans themselves. From 2015 to 2016, I had the honour of leading a humanitarian special quota programme by the State of Baden-Württemberg in KurdistanIraq: working in secrecy and in close proximity to the ongoing war, we were able to evacuate 1,100 women and children who had suffered traumatising violence and the loss of their male relatives at hands of the so-called “Islamic State”. Most of the victims – now survivors pursuing a new future in Germany – had hailed from the Yazidi community, while some among them were Christians and very few Muslims. And whenever people ask me about the experiences and insights, about the possibilities to fight this brand of brutal religious extremism, I have a clear answer: “Let’s use less oil and gas!” In fact, it had been a dispute with a Kurdish-Iraqi politician that prompted me to analyse the conflict from this perspective and eventually write a book on this phenomenon – “Öl- und Glaubenskriege. Wie das schwarze Gold Politik, Wirtschaft und Religionen vergiftet“ (“Wars of Oil and Faith. How the Black Gold is Poisoning Politics, Economies and Religions”). It was at the start of 2015, when I was examining a refugee camp together with said Kurdish-Iraqi colleague. Shocked by the shattered lives of tens of thousands of citizens, I bluntly asked my counterpart why the Kurdish Peshmerga forces had succeeded in defending the oil fields near Kirkuk, whereas the same troops had abandoned the cities and villages in the Shingal and Ninavah regions to the genocidal terrorists. With some bitterness in his voice, my Muslim colleague answered: “Michael, you Westerners love to strike a moralising tone with
us. But we know that you would have accepted Daesh [as the self-declared “Islamic State” is called by most Arabs, Kurds and Turks], if they would have taken over the oil fields. In fact, you are not only accepting the extremist despotism of Saudi-Arabia, you are even actively offering them your support and weapons. And after that, you are complaining about the very Islamic fundamentalism that you supported in the first place! The cursed oil is poisoning your civilisation as well as mine.” Most people instantly agree that this argument has some weight. And there is a theory that has long grown into a classic in political science, whilst unfortunately never reaching the wider public: The Rentier State Theory (RST).
THE CURSE OF OIL AND GAS – THE RENTIER STATE THEORY EXPLAINED According to this theory, any state and culture is deeply shaped by its economic base. If the state is dependent on citizens paying taxes, there is an inevitable drift towards democracy – as for example in the slogan of the early American revolutionaries: “No taxation without representation!” and the French Tennis Court Oath. In fact, true parliaments are distinguished by their budgetary power; without it, they are advisory councils at best. But in rentier states, the majority of the state income is generated not by tax-paying citizens, but external revenues such as tolls, drugs, diamonds,
DEPICTION OF THE RENTIER STATE THEORY. PICTURE: MICHAEL BLUME
Rentier State Theory i.e. "Oil & Gas States"
by Tax Payers Demands (i.e. "No Taxation without Representation")
by Monopolizing Founds to establish Authoritarian Regimes ("No Taxation -> No Representation)
EUROPE AND THE WORLD copper and – most often – by oil and gas exports. Consequently, ruling groups are using these very funds to build alliances to secure their wealth and to crush any opposition. Rentier states such as Saudi-Arabia, Bahrain, Brunei, Venezuela or Russia clearly drift towards authoritarian rule and antiliberal sentiments. In order to legitimate their violent regimes, rentier elites are actively spreading antidemocratic ideologies, fundamentalist religious teachings and conspiracy myths. Since there are no peaceful ways left to solve conflicts, opposition
movements are also evolving into plundering militias and extremist terrorist groups. Therefore, the mere overthrow of dictators in rentier states such as in Iraq or Libya does not lead to the emergence of liberal democracies, but merely to that of new factions fighting violently for the sources of rentier income. Iraq and Kurdistan-Iraq do not even have a working tax system, as their budget revenue has been funded through the export of fossil resources, mostly oil, during decades of dictatorship. And even while
the wars were raging, we saw trucks smuggling oil directly from the Assad regime and from Daesh to Turkey and Europe. It is no coincidence that the very first “joint economic project” by Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been a gas pipeline – leading to Greece and the European Union! With every euro that we “Westerners” spend on oil and gas, we are directly funding authoritarian regimes, illiberal ideologies and terrorist groups in our direct neighbourhood. DECARBONISATION AND ENERGY DEMOCRACY It is hence important to understand that the quick shift to renewable energies represents far more than just a means towards slowing down air pollution and climate change. By supporting decentralised ways of producing renewable energy, we may strengthen local economies, civic participation and liberal ideas in society, politics and religion. Although military power might be necessary to defeat some dictators or terrorist groups, violent successors will be quick to rise in any rentier state. Our best chance to foster democracy, international and interreligious peace is to actively pursue strategies such as the German “Energiewende” (Energy Transition) in order to expel fossil fuels from European energy mixes and bring forward what Craig Morris and Arne Jungjohann aptly described as “Energy Democracy” (2016). If we want to defend the embattled concept of liberal democracy and the rule of law, it is high time to understand the underlying networks of causation linking seemingly disparate fields such as taxes, energy, economy and religion. That is what I learned in Iraq.
Dr Michael Blume, Religious Scholar and Science Blogger at scilogs
Be a Realist, Believe in Miracles? The European Union’s Role in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict It is difficult to find a conflict which has ignited more passions than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As a member of the Quartet on the Middle East and an essential partner to both parts, the European Union (EU) and its Member States have however often been in the back seat compared to the United States and Russia. While this can be partly explained by the global context in which the conflict evolved, it is time for the EU to acknowledge how much influence it can have on the conflict and the belligerents, assuming that the EU and its Member States agree on the expected outcome and the necessary actions to take. TWO INTERDEPENDENT DYNAMICS? While the EU's role in the Israeli-Arab conflict is often debated, it is interesting to take a look at the influence and the role the Israeli-Arab conflict has had on the development on the European integration process - especially the elaboration of a common foreign policy. Indeed, the EU (and previously the European Economic Community – EEC) has had an increasing role in the conflict as it was gradually creating new instruments to face the challenges brought about by the conflict while being recognised by the other parties as a legitimate stakeholder. As a matter of fact, the EEC was drawn into the consequences of Middle East conflicts as early as 1973. In the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War (October 1973), the Arab States within the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) declared an embargo against several countries, dividing states into friends, foes and neutrals. In response, the EEC adopted a common position on the resolution of the conflict which was received by the Arab countries, paving the way for a suspension of the embargo as soon as December 1973 and the launch of the Euro-Arab dialogue. From this moment, the EEC/EU's involvement in the Middle East Peace Process would grow steadily. Further milestones were the 1980 Venice Declaration on the
recognition of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and the participation to the conferences following the Madrid Conference (1991). The emergence of the European actor was legitimised by establishment of representations to the European Institutions by all actors, including PLO. We can therefore see that the EU, departing from purely economic concerns, had to develop political positions and became an actor in the conflict. WHAT THE EU DOES... The EU fosters an important economic cooperation with both Israel, in the form of an Association Agreement in 1995, and Palestine, with the EU being one of the main donors of the Palestinian Authority and development agencies engaging in cooperation in the West Bank. In addition, the EU is supporting the Palestinian state-building process, including in security matters, albeit with mixed results: the EU Co-ordinating Office for Palestinian Police Support train the Palestinian Civilian Police (PCP) since 2006. The PCP are now considered one of the most efficient police force in the Middle-East. Their training is also essential in the perspective of Security Cooperation with Israel, especially in the management of the Area B in the West Bank, which is under Joint Security Control. However, these efforts are
undermined by Israeli pressure, such as the withholding of Palestinian taxes which puts the payment of Palestinian civil servants' salaries at risk, and the multiplicity of Palestinian Security agencies which are not controlled by the EU, with some known for their abusive practices. With regard to political processes, the last years have seen an increasing European will to gain more weight in the negotiations, seeking to take initiatives out of the traditional US-mediated negotiations. This path is considerably difficult as the Members States have found it difficult to come to an agreed stance beyond declarations calling for the respect of International Law and United Nations resolutions. This was particularly visible in the initiative brought forward by sixteen Foreign Ministers on the labelling of West Bank settlements products which was bitterly met by several Member States. The Member States also show difficulties on agree how to tackle several issues including the destruction of Europeanfunded buildings in West Bank's Area C and the inability (or unwillingness) of the Palestinian Authority to implement reforms and fight the pervasive corruption. ... AND WHAT THE EU COULD DO As we have seen, the EU has important power leverage on the different parts to the conflicts. However, it fails to elaborate an agreed strategy on how to use the carrot and the stick: even if all Member States agree on what the desired outcome – the Two-States Solution – should be, they are still far from finding a clear path to it and agreeing on what the EU's contribution to the process could entail. While finding a common comprehensive policy on the IsraeliPalestinian is a long way, the EU should not be afraid to consider using all available tools towards all parties whilst being ready to offer dialogue. The region's history has shown that it takes a lot of pragmatism to come to agreements and the EU should push all parties ready to sit at the table. Contrary to the views of Margaret Thatcher, we cannot wait for terrorists to become Prime Ministers before doing business with them.
EUROPE AND THE WORLD THEME
Search for Syria! Combatting the Causes of the Refugee Crisis The eyes of the world ought to lie on Syria to uncover the main causes of the refugee crisis. According to several statistics conducted in the last two years, the Syrian refugees form the largest proportion of arrivals to Europe. Syrian people living in a turmoil in their country for more than four years have lost hope for any chance for a peaceful solution. The refugees did not only lose hope to live peacefully in their home countries, but also to seek a respectful safe haven in neighbouring Middle Eastern countries. Lebanon, a small country of 1,0452 km², already welcomed approximately 1.2 million Syrian refugees, knowing that already half a million of Palestinian refugees are distributed in refugee camps since 1948. Its weak economy, further burdened by the huge number of refugees (1.6 million of Lebanon’s population of 4.5 million are refugees), and own turbulent political situation made it impossible for Lebanon to welcome more refugees. Moreover, Iraq, the other neighbouring country, is facing a similar tragedy to Syria with a disastrous civil war. Moving to Jordan and Turkey, both countries do not have the capability to accept the entrance of more refugees and to ensure education to Syrian children. The vast majority of refugees in the adjacent states do not have the right to work and many of them are not recognised as refugees. According to Turkish official statistics, approximately 400,000 Syrian children currently living in Turkey are outside the education system.1 With most of the rich countries in the Arab Gulf unwilling to welcome the huge number of Syrian refugees, adding to the inability of neighbouring countries to carry the burden, Europe became the safe haven for Syrians searching for a brighter future. To combat the causes of the refugee crisis, it is essential to look back to the political developments that occurred in
the Middle-East starting from 2011. The rise of protests against the military and one-party regimes that governed the Middle-Eastern nations for most of the last half of the 20th century led to a brutal reaction by these dictators. In Libya, Qaddafi used all his military capabilities, even airstrikes, to stop the peaceful revolution occurring in his country. Islamist terrorist organisations benefited from the failed state in Libya to infiltrate this country and render the situation even more complex. The circumstances were somehow similar in Yemen and more catastrophic in Syria. The Assad regime in Syria liberated Al Qaeda prisoners, used barrel bombs, and even chemical weapons against civilians to protect the Baathist military state. The events in Syria, following the 2011 revolutions, may be considered one of the greatest tragedies in the world after the Second World War. By recalling these events, the solutions should be clear enough, there should be an end for the one-party military regimes in the Middle-East. A set of priorities should be settled by the decision makers in the EU to prevent the catastrophic situation in the Middle East to move into the heart of Europe. First of all, a re-evaluation of the EU’s strategy in the Middle-East process should be made. Bombing ISIS with airstrikes will not resolve the Syrian civil war which has now turned international. Even if the EU and USA supported Syrian moderate militias to capture the lands occupied by ISIS, only a small part of the refugee crisis will be solved. The barrel bombs hitting even hospitals in Aleppo and other Syrian villages are the main cause for Syrians not to return to their homeland,
fearing for the safety of their families. Assad’s and Russian aircrafts both ensure safe movement for the Iranian militias and Hezbollah may be regarded as the strongest military force on the ground in Syria nowadays. Their entry into Syrian land and space will prevent any solution for the refugee crisis. Furthermore, the demotivation of the EU, its Member States and the USA to engage in the Syrian crisis is giving the Russians more confidence to use more power against powerless Syrian civilians. European states and the Western world are at a crucial juncture to put an end to this tragic war causing the flow of thousands of refugees, which in turn may affect European political stability. Using relative power to enforce no-fly zones in Syria in addition to ensuring safe zones in different Syrian regions are the first two steps that might give hope for Syrian civilians to return home. The next step will most probably be to work with moderate Syrian forces in order to be able to replace the current Syrian regime and curb the presence of ISIS in the torn country.
Ramy Jabbour Kingsly,P. 2015, What caused the refugee crisis? The Guardian, retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/ commentisfree/2015/dec/09/what-caused-the-refugee-crisis-google 1
A Secret Love Affair
The relationship between MENATI1 Regimes and Terrorist Organisations Ever since the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War, rumours on the links between the Assad regime, its allies and Islamic fundamentalist terrorist organisations have been bandied about. What at first sight appears counter-intuitive is in fact a careful geopolitical calculation by the belligerent parties.
and analysed the relationship between Assad’s Baath regime in Syria and several terrorist organisations. In his book “The Syrian Jihad”4, Charles Lister thus unfolded the relationship between the Assad regime and various terrorist organisations since the family rose to power in 1971. Iranians, similarly to their ally in Syria, have had their fair share of propping up terrorist factions to further a political agenda. Ever since the Islamic Revolution led by Ayatollah Khomeini established itself in Iran, exporting the revolution was one of its main concern. To that end, it has created, nurtured and supported several terrorist organisations – including Al Qaeda. There have been numerous pieces of news about Iran assisting the Sunni terrorist grouping which included granting them free passage to Iraq5 and the permission to open offices in Iran6.
goes; there is no smoke without fire. From very early on, there have been reports about partnerships between Assad’s Baath regime and terrorist organisations. The political calculation behind these machinations are manifold: for one, the Baath regime wished to secure a strong political leverage by presenting itself as a fighter against terrorism and the defender of minorities. Secondly, Assad sought to mislead the international powers into believing that if he were to fall, clashes would break out in the occupied territory of Golan. Last but not least, the intention was to secure aid and assistance from Turkey and Iran by giving them a room to promote their geopolitical interests. Terrorism – a word we have grown accustomed to hearing in the past few years, to the extent that it almost became part of our daily lives. Terrorism is not something new. It has existed for hundreds of years, and though almost every attempt to define it has failed, its main goal remains the same: to frighten. Terrorism, its tools, techniques and types of attacks have evolved and changed over the course of history and so has the use of terrorism for political purposes – that is political terrorism. Though it may have incurred some changes in approaches and applications which can be related to long term strategy objectives. For a bystander or average follower of news media, an article, or a piece of news about a terrorist organisation collaborating with a certain regime that it is supposedly fighting against would be perceived as a lie, a stroke of imagination by the writer, or maybe wishful thinking. But for researchers, investigative journalists, politicians, diplomats and everyone who is interested in world affairs that’s a story worth digging into, after all, as the saying
Ever since ISIS came into the spotlight in June 2014 therefore, there have been ongoing rumours about a relationship between the grouping and the Assad Baath Regime. These tales went as far as the suggestion of a cooperation between the two groups. Moreover, several reports have confirmed the existence of strong ties between the Assad regime on one hand, and Islamic jihadists groups such as ISIS, Al Qaeda, Nusra Front and others, describing the economic relationship existing between them based on oil and electricity needs.2 Other reports have used the phrase “Assad picked his opponents” to explain the role Assad regime played in the creation of these terrorist groups. This includes the training of key terrorist leaders who were held captive in several Syrian prisons and then set free at different periods at the early stages of the revolution.3
On the other side of the regional power spectrum comes Turkey. The latter, with regional aspirations of its own and a dream of regaining a long forgotten glory, decided to play a game of its own and let others know that it means business. As of day one, Turkey supported the Syrian revolution to overthrow Assad, and took the position of the defender of Sunnis against the spread of the Iran. But the Turks decided to change the rules of the game and for that purpose sought a new partner, one that is not afraid of crossing the lines, one that it claims to fight, ISIS7. Not only that, but Turkey, hiding behind its interests, launched a fight against the Kurds8 who were fighting ISIS in order to prevent the local Kurdish groupings from erecting an independent state near the Turkish borders. The game of thrones being always in play, it does not matter what cards you are dealt but rather how you play them. With Turkey and Iran playing the grounds and Assad trying to leverage his situation, sleeping with the enemy does not sound quite as odd as it may at first. In the end, in the world of political terrorism, where the line between theories and facts is at its thinnest, where ideologies disappear in favour of interests and long-term goals, the relationship between MENATI regimes and terrorist organisations remains a secret love affair.
Such colportage has not been isolated: other reports and more expansive publications have successively described
MENATI stands for Middle East and North Africa, Turkey and Iran http://uk.businessinsider.com/assad-oil-isis-2016-4?r=US&IR=T https://kyleorton1991.wordpress.com/2014/03/24/assessing-the-evidence-of-collusion-between-the-assad-regime-and-thewahhabi-jihadists-part-1/ 4 Charles Lister, The Syrian Jihad: Al-Qaeda, The Islamic State And The Evolution of An Insurgency (Hurst Publishers, 2015) 5 http://meirss.org/rising-above-religion-and-ideology-iran-and-al-qaedas-onoff-tactical-cooperation/ 6 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iran/9444402/Taliban-opens-office-in-Iran.html 7 http://www.pri.org/stories/2016-06-30/turkey-s-complicated-relationship-isis 8 http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-33690060
Conservative Students of All Faculties, Unite! Making the Centre-Right Voice Heard on Campus Left-wing politics has always been popular among students. The youngsters want to be social and make the world a better place. Yet when one starts to think about the situation a little bit closer, you might come to realise that it is in fact an absurd one. Students who later turn out to be net payers supporting a system which seems to care solely about working class interests. Centre-right student representatives have to step up and position themselves in a new way in order to be the better option for students in Europe. With the rise of democracy in the second half of the twentieth century, every social group wanted to feel represented. Naturally, it did not take long until first voices rose among students. Step by step, most European countries introduced some sort of student representation. Some countries such as Austria did so as early as 1945. Students from other countries were not as fortunate and had to go a long way until they had the legal possibilities to make their voices heard. The established systems sometimes differ in many points, with the only feature common to almost all of them being the fragmentation of student representatives into different ideological factions. Interestingly, what most of them do have in common as well is the fact that a great majority of the students in Europe sympathise with left-wing groupings. In order to prevent these fractions to be the leading ones, three things can and should be done. 1. EMBRACE THE “CAPITALIST” LABEL As it is commonly known, centre-right student activists are always seen as economic liberals. And in fact, in most cases, this corresponds to reality. Why hence take this as a handicap rather than making the best of it? The lack of an existing network is the reason for many students to face problems when wanting to enter the job market. Connecting students with companies is an easy goal to accomplish, as well as one left-wingers will not as easily be able to compete with. Many examples for such strategies happening in Europe can already be given. Still, connecting students with companies needs to be enforced further as students will remember these things when rallying to the ballot boxes in student elections.
2. MORE CENTRE-RIGHT ACTIVISM Scrutinising the student political landscape from another perspective, conservative forces at universities do need to show that left wing fractions do not have a monopoly on political activism. Initiatives in social policy affecting students is a point students value. Even in the early days of universities and higher education, intellectuals have always philosophised about how to improve society. Nowadays, this has not changed much and because of this centre right fractions do have problems. Positioning themselves is not very easy for them as they are mostly seen as economic liberals. Many students then feel that the only way to fulfil their desire to change the world for the better is to sympathise and engage in left wing politics. A good example for this problem was the beginning of the refugee crisis: many left-wing organisations presented plans on how to best integrate asylum seeking students into campus life shortly after its beginning. A faster reaction and similar plans by the centre-right might have helped to refute entrenched conceptions of social action being an exclusive realm of the left. 3. UNMASK THE “TURKEYS VOTING FOR CHRISTMAS” FALLACY Last but not least, the most important way to gain influence as a centre-right faction amongst students is to communicate ideas and information. The purpose of left-wing politics is to solely represent working class interests instead of society as a whole. Every student should crucially be aware of the fact that by supporting left wing politics, they are supporting policies that undermine their future. During the first half of
the twentieth century, the rise of socialism in Europe saw students and other elites persecuted, even murdered by socialists. Surely, the situation nowadays may not be as drastic, but with graduates on average earning significantly more than those without higher education (in Germany up to a third more) the likelihood that you will become a net payer than recipient in the fiscal system is close to certainty. Taking a look at the agenda of most socialist parties then, only a shortage of information can be held responsible for the great numbers of left-wing students. There is only one final thing left to say. As the groupings who have connections to the economy, yet are the same time capable of mounting a type of student politics that is relevant to students and the academy as a whole, centre-right student representation is the only serious student representation – and it has to continue to be the only serious option in the
Degrees with a Price Tag? Why Downstreamed Tuition Fees Are The Future of European Higher Education What is the value of education? At least on an abstract level, the answer is relatively straightforward: priceless. Yet for many policy-makers in the Higher Education realm, this is a mantra that often turns all too literal: education does not have a price tag and to attach one to it is to demean it to a profane commodity rather than an intangible and invaluable sanctum of human society. In this spirit, the gradual imposition of tuition fees on students in many central European countries over the past decade has caused major commotion. Uproar was evidently most pronounced on the left, where protests over the “marketisation of education” underpinned opposition against such plans. Yet even the centre-right has mellowed in its support for tuition fees: whereas the British Tories have relentlessly championed them, in Germany, both the CDU/CSU and FDP have disavowed their earlier stances in support for student fees. In this instance, pragmatic concerns usually common to left-wing rejections of tuition fees, such as the exclusionary potential of student fees for applicants from lower socio-economic and educationally deprived backgrounds, informed this change of heart. What many of these observers appear to have forgotten however is that Germany is in a minority within the EU on this question: only eight other Member States (as well as Scotland, with its special status within the UK) offer university tuition “free of charge”. In all other EU countries, some sort of financial levy is collected. Does that imply that nineteen Member States of the European Union are indifferent to facilitating access to poorer students? The equation that (high) fees to attend university result in minimised access for less affluent students, whereas education free at the point of use broadens
it, appears plausible in theory. However, a brief glance to the British Isles, whose wide range of fee-paying systems was recently examined by The Economist magazine, suggests that practice looks rather different. The United Kingdom is perhaps the ideal case study to highlight the fallacies of the tuition fee argument: since 1998, Higher Education Institutions in England and Wales have been able to levy tuition fees of some kind. Students enrolled at a university in either of the UK’s constituent nations can as of 2012 face payments of up to GBP 9,000 per year for their undergraduate education – a triple increase compared to to the prior system and the highest rate in the entire European Union. Scotland meanwhile quickly abandoned its feepaying system. Since 2007, it has returned to a fullyfledged taxpayer-funded higher education model, with undergraduate students receiving university tuition without paying a single penny – a highly ideologically driven policy by Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond who went as far as to place a stone on a university campus in Edinburgh to underline his commitment to the principle: “The rocks will melt with the sun before I allow tuition fees to be imposed on Scotland’s students”. Naturally, one would assume that the share of students from poorer backgrounds would not only be higher in Scotland, but significantly lower in England and Wales following the steep spike in fees introduced by the
http://www.economist.com/news/britain/21670045-scrapping-tuition-fees-has-helped-rich-students-expense-poor-onescostly-promise and http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2015/11/economist-explains-9
UNIVERSITIES Coalition Government of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. Yet the precise opposite is the case: in 2014, roughly 20% of 18-year-olds from England and Wales’s poorest backgrounds attended university – the highest number on record. Most significantly however, Scotland has meanwhile seen its share of less privileged students stagnate, if not decline: since 2011, the proportion of Caledonian students from state schools has fallen. Most embarrassingly for the Scottish government, the share of students from non-professional backgrounds in Scotland has lingered at 26.8% (a 0.2% increase), whilst it has risen in England during the same period by more than 2% (from 30.9% to 33.1%). Rather than helping the cause of disadvantaged university hopefuls, free tuition appears to have had no or indeed an adverse effect on it. Simultaneously, the trebling tuition fees in England and Wales seems to have aided in broadening access to Higher Education, rather than restricting it. This is no coincidence. For one, the Scottish Government, led by the Scottish National Party (SNP), appears to have fallen prey to its own rhetoric on the ills of student debt after failing to provide sufficient support for low-income students: financial grants offered by the SNP are not only half as valuable as those awarded to English students, but have decreased in number over the past years. This has led many debt-averse Caledonian students from poorer backgrounds to shun other, yet repayable, government schemes, relying instead on part-time work and assistance from home to sustain themselves during their studies – if they decide to study at all. Taken together, this “no-fee, low debt” policy caused a de facto transfer of GBP 20 million from poorer to richer students in Scotland – proving thus more socially unjust than most fee-paying systems.
has likewise pressured universities to hunt more stringently for and offer greater support to intellectual talent: Oxford University has thus steadily increased its commitments to increasing access to lower income students, spending GBP 5.6 million on outreach and GBP 7 million in ringfenced bursaries for attendees from poorer backgrounds. Students in turn, aware of the cost of their education, are given additional leverage in demanding improved teaching and equipment. The “downstreaming” of student fees in England and Wales thus has thus not only in terms of access very much fulfilled its purpose. Tuition fees are an emotive subject. All too easily, they may be construed as a restrictive tool, confining access to Higher Education to an exclusive group of “chosen few”. However, if correctly implemented, they may in fact achieve the opposite. Rather than furthering social injustices, student fees allay them: instead of the average taxpayer subsidising the education of a privileged minority, students repay their fees in accordance with their later income. In times of chronically precarious budgets, tuition fees can lift financial pressure off universities and expand their room for manoeuvre in long-term investments.1 Most significantly however, fees empower students: not only do they expand the opportunities for courses and material on offer, but grant students greater leverage in requesting improved teaching, facilities and supervision from university administrations. Seen in this light, tuition fees are more than anything a vital pillar in ensuring the quality and future of higher education in Europe.
In England and Wales meanwhile, the persistence of tuition fees since the turn of the millennium has rendered them less daunting a prospect on a psychological basis, as a study suggests. More importantly, the tuition fee system devised by the Coalition Government has been proven fair and equitable: students are thus not required to pay fees upfront, but may repay them upon entering the world of work and only once they are earning more than GBP 21,000 per year (the median UK salary). Levels of subsequently collected monthly repayments are entirely income-dependent. After a period of thirty years, all outstanding debts are written off. Since student debt is not owed to banks, as in the United States, but the government, it does not affect the credit rating of graduates. Instead, tuition fees rather take the form of a “graduate tax”. The perks of this system of downstreamed fees as introduced by the Con-LibDem coalition are countless: not only has this lifted pressure off government and university budgets and redressed balances in terms of fiscal fairness, with non-higher educated taxpayers no longer contributing to the funding of studies – it
COUNCIL OF EUROPE
A Path to Dignity Human Rights as such are very abstract. The legal norms have to be topped down to peoples’ own life and local struggles in different regions of the world. Therefore, education and training programmes play a significant role in advocating fundamental rights as everyday reality and to build strong and diverse societies. Human rights can only be achieved through an informed society and a continuing demand for their protection. The Preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is very clear: every individual and organ of society has to strive toward an education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms. Although this declaration was ratified in 1948, it has taken quite a while until real progress in this direction was made. This so-called “Human Rights Education” (HRE) promotes universal values, beliefs and attitudes that encourage all individuals to uphold their own rights and those of others. This exchange of thoughts creates an understanding of everyone's common responsibility and contributes to the protection of the dignity of all human beings. This kind of sensitisation is especially important in those regions where no human rights treaties or monitoring bodies exist. The role of these training and education programmes can have different impacts on societies. Beside the focus on international covenants and basis principles, the HRE can also plays a significant role in healing and reconciliation after civil or ethnic conflicts. Furthermore, it helps people to use the law to look at their own realities. This self-analysis can lead to an active engagement in the change towards social justice. In this vein, South Africa is a good example to mention: in the southernmost sovereign African state, HRE is used as a major strategy for nation-building. Although HRE was a relatively new concept within the post-apartheid educational discourse, it had roots in the long struggle for a non-racial and democratic education system, especially the People’s Education (PE) movement. The Human rights curricular development is a major function of the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), a very influential governmental body. The commission is involved in trainings of coals such
as the police and the army, and in regional trainings of other commissions. However, South Africa now faces many challenges in terms of governmental corruption which leads to another major challenge in the field of HRE: there is a certain tension between HRE mandated by the state and the distrust of the state, which includes the disengagement from political processes. It seems as if this is a global trend, which affects not only but principally the young generation. Nowadays, a high number of people are expressing themselves by not voting or not participating in political processes at all. This has also an impact on the acceptance of HRE programmes led by the government. Furthermore, several human rights teachers feel unprepared in matters of content and pedagogy. Learning cannot simply involve hearing. Teachers do not tend to receive the preparation they need to stimulate the community and react to local challenges. This starts with the question whether they are supposed to simply justify or allowed to criticise governmental policies. China is thus currently proposing to introduce a human rights education, including a programme to be implemented within the Chinese Communist Party itself. At the same time, China remains an authoritarian state, one that systematically curtails a wide range of fundamental human rights, including freedom of expression, religion, association and assembly. Likewise, in the Middle East, where such programmes are often perceived as part of Western colonialism, HRE is a sensitive topic. Although taught in the field of women’s rights, HRE is in ongoing tension with Sharia law. To react in a proper way is going to be quite challenging under these circumstances. In this context, it is important to equip future local trainers with the necessary skills and knowledge to create an atmosphere of acceptance. Lastly, it should be stressed out that not only the implementation
of HRE models in authoritative states or conflict zones should be improved and adjusted, but also within democratic and industrialised states such as the United States. The United States are a phenomenon in themselves. Despite its refusal to subscribe to international human rights agreements, justified by a sense of US exceptionalism, the nation is very quick in identifying and deploring human rights violations of other countries. This has on occasion led to the conduct of military interventions all while ignoring entrenched deficits within the US criminal justice system. The massive police violence and racism have never been recognised as human rights violation. This case shows that constitutions as such are not enough to protect these basic rights. In summary, Human Rights Education is an indispensable component in the protection of universal rights. HRE not only means knowing and mediating principles and values, but also respecting, demanding and protecting them. In this respect, the national states as main responsible for human rights education have to ensure its implementation on all levels. Ranging from primary school to national authorities. Human rights must be learned through experience to become everyday reality.
EDS Executive Bureau 2016/2017
Georgios Chatzigeorgiou is EDS Chairman. Georgios holds a Bachelor degree in Law and is a Barrister-atlaw of the Lincoln’s Inn of Court in the UK. Georgios also holds a Master’s degree in Corporate Law from University College London (UCL). As Chairman, he is responsible for the day-today running of the organisation while some of his more specific responsibilities include external representation, fundraising and policy development.
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.
Giacomo Rossetto lives in Milan, Italy where he is studying Economics and Management at the Catholic University of Milan. He is StudiCentro’s National Coordinator. As Vice-Chairman Giacomo is responsible for the newsletter and a member of the Social Media Team.
Tomasz Kaniecki is a Polish law student. His interests lie in the digitalisation of public data and the future of law. Tomasz has served at European institutions and worked in both political and business research. In 2015, he was awarded a price by the British and Swedish Embassies for the best student paper on TTIP. He writes for the think-tank Civic Institute.
Silvie Rohr pursued studies in Law at Humboldt-University and works currently in the German Bundestag. Based in Berlin she is a member of RCDS’s federal board and a member of the integration network of CDU Germany. As EDS Vice-Chair, she represents the organisation externally and is mainly responsible for publications and campaigns. Silvie also writes the Council of Europe column for BullsEye.
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.
Mitya Atanasov was born in Sofia, Bulgaria. He graduated in Information Technologies and is currently studying for a Master 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 EDS, Mitya writes the Conference Resolutions together with Sara Juriks and is responsible for the PWG Policies for Europe.
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.
Sara Juriks is originally from Oslo, Norway, but currently lives and studies in London. She is currently undertaking her Master’s degree in Comparative Politics. Sara has been an active member of EDS since 2014 and her main responsibilities within the Bureau are the drafting of conference resolutions and the Permanent Working Group Human Rights.
Efthymia Katsouri comes from Athens, Greece. She studied Law at the University of Surrey in the UK. She holds a Master in European Law. Currently, Efthymia is a practising Attorney at Law in Greece. Her responsibilities within the Bureau involve the coordination of the newsletter and of the statutory provisions as well as proofreading tasks.
epp european peopleâ€™s party