Publication of European Forum Tulln
Editorial This is the very last issue printed for this session and at the same time the only Terra issue. In contrast from Aero, this publication offers you articles which are more analytical and critical. The times we live in are full of dramatic events, surprises and sudden political changes. 2012 is definitely a great year to be a young active citizen. Terra will offer you a collection of 10 very engaging and provocative features and comments.
very engaging pieces and give you unique perspectives on a range of issues which we consider essential for the â€˜2012 young active citizenâ€™. The red thread of this publication is the constructive critical approach that all the pieces utilise in analysing European affairs. As editors we are very proud indeed for the work of our journalists and we can only hope that you take the time to read and engage with the material.
Our pieces range from current issues such as Yours in journalism, an analysis of the Pussy Jan Bubienczyk and Jon Riot affair in Russia and Vrushi the Teddy bear attack in Belarus, to features on human rights and the idea of neo-Ottomanism. Our aim is to provoke your thoughts through
4 Turkey and neo-Ottomanism. 6 Pussy Riot affair. 8 blogspot.com 10 Everyoneâ€™s a hypocrite. 12 Vicious cycle. 14 Living in the eye of the storm. 16 Conscript. 18 Is the euro divisive? 20 Teddy bears in Belarus. 22 Stylised swastikas.
Turkey and neo-Ottomanism A Turk and an Estonian scrutinise the neo-Ottoman doctrine and assess how it affects Western diplomacy. By: Zeynep and Karin-Liis. While the negotiations are still running to obtain a full membership to the EU, Turkey is hesitant to put all of its eggs in one basket. Since 2002 when the AKP (Justice and Development Party) came into office, the former Kemalist approaches to pro-European foreign policies have been discarded. Turkey has been re-establishing its relationships with its neighbouring countries, left neglected, while seeking EU’s approval. The formerly ‘European’ Turkey reinforcing its strong bonds with its former Ottoman regions has the EU facing its biggest fear of Turkey siding with Islamic countries. Countries like Bosnia, among others in the Balkans, have been subject to Turkish influence for more than five hundred years, so
it should not come as a surprise to the now-concerned Western diplomacy that Turkey is successfully bonding with its neighbours and ex-imperial regions. However, as new regions (e.g. Iran) that are predominantly Islamic enter Turkish domain, EU is contemplating the motives of this newly-formed ‘union’. Having to represent the west civilization, the EU will soon have to start ‘fighting’ for the loyalty of the abovementioned regions. It is not, however, only about democratic representation and political influence; EU’s economic interests are at stake. Among the Caucasus, the Balkans and former Soviet Union countries, there are many regions valuable for their energy. If Turkey employs a successful neo-Ottoman policy the EU could potentially lose its influence over the afore-
mentioned regions. This would result in EU Member States, such as Germany and France, having to withdraw their refusals and let Turkey finally enter the EU in order to regain access to regions rich in energy. The question remains, however, to which extent is Turkey going to use the neo-Ottoman approach meant to reinforce the anti-European sphere of influence? Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkish foreign minister since 2009 and the “construction leader“ of the current foreign policy, has strongly rejected the term “neoOttomanism“ when describing Turkey’s foreign policy, although he does talk a lot about the Ottoman legacy (maybe a remnant of his times as a professor at university). Mr Davutoglu describes his country as the Turkish Republic instead of a
neo-Ottoman empire. “Beyond representing the 70 million people of Turkey, we have a historic debt to those lands where there are Turks or which was related to our land in the past. We have to repay this debt in the best way,” he says. Maybe western diplomacy’s concern lies with the fact that Turkey is using something more than just an economic union to entice its allies. The whole concept of neo-Ottomanism relies on similarities in the cultures, histories and traditions of these countries. What if the economic security that EU offers is not enough to keep some of its members from seeking cultural asylum with Turkey? Given the current economic problems, the EU should tread carefully, yet quickly, always keeping Turkey’s ever-present influence in mind.
Taking into consideration the speed and efficiency Turkey’s new foreign policy enticed the old Ottoman regions in the Caucasus, the Balkans and the Middle East, Turkey should not be dismissed easily. According to Dr Srdja Trifkovic, writing for
willing to support its ‘quantitative’ aspects.” It is also true that even if a positive outcome has Turkey joining the EU, Turkey will still wish to continue being the regional power on its own and acting as a stabilising mediator between the western and Islamic civilizations.
No matter if it is neo-Ottomanism or not, Turkey does have a game plan.
No matter whether it is neoOttomanism or not, Turkey does have a game plan. So, before trying to disassociate any possible allies of Turkey, EU should try to reassess their own policies in order to keep their Member States healthy and happy. One is for sure, whether the EU has Turkey among its ranks or on the opposition, fifty-five years has nothing on over five centuries.
the Research Institute for European and American Studies, “many civil servants, diplomats and generals who do not care for that much for the neo-Ottoman paradigm are, however,
Pussy Riot Affair Our own Sarah exposes the real impact of punk music on 21st century politics.
Every day we listen to music: on the radio, on our MP3 Players, in the supermarket and at the train station. Barely a day passes without having heard at least 3 notes of music; but have you ever listened to a song that changed your life? Pussy Riot is an anonymous female performance arts group that produces music that changes not only the lives of others but also the ones of the group members. Three of them have been sentenced to two years of imprisonment and all the others live under the constant fear of being taken into custody while performing and protesting. But still they do not
give up and keep on fighting with their peaceful weapon. Pussy Riot songs criticise Vladimir Putin, their president, and even call for his retirement from office. The reason for their rage is the basic human rights being threatened in Russia, such as the lack of gender equality, democracy and freedom of expression. The group that formed in October 2011 had a couple of peaceful performances in highly visible places but it was not until the events of February 21st this year that they became internationally known. After a one minute performance in the priests-only section of Moscowâ€™s Cathedral of Christ the
Saviour they were arrested and finally, after 5 months (of illegal detention practices), sentenced to two years in prison. The performance, which aimed at making people aware of the special relationship between President Putin and the leader of the Russian-Orthodox Church, was described as an act of hooliganism by the state. This unjust sentence and the violation of human rights prior to it, attracted the attention of various organisations from all over the world. What distinguishes Pussy Riot between other riot groups is their way of getting the attention. Handing out flyers in the street may
arouse the attention of a few people but music is different from flyers, blogs or newspapers. It cannot be thrown away or burned; you cannot close your ears like you can close your eyes and you cannot simply erase it. Once it is out there in the world or in the World Wide Web, it will always be there, forcing people to listen to it in the streets, listen to the message it carries and think about it. Once people have started thinking about the problem there is a chance that they will realise that the artist is right. Music can be very powerful, it can influence people in a way that no other medium can. Pussy Riot is the perfect example
of this since the songs and stories of them managed not only to upset Russiaâ€™s leaders but also raised awareness in many other countries. Although it was well known
you cannot close your ears like you can close your eyes that President Putin is unlike western presidents, the events brought these problems nearer to the rest of the world. Still, other countries can only help until a certain point. No one from the outside can provoke a revolution - it has to be done from
within. The young women belonging to Pussy Riot are extremely courageous and determined. They are risking their lives for a better future and give those who feel suppressed hope. Their songs cannot be ignored as the reaction of the Russian parliament clearly shows. And I am sure that this is not the end. We will for still hear a lot about this group and I truly hope they achieve their goals. Maybe this will even inspire other suppressed groups to revolt maybe also with music.
Zeynep from Turkey analyses the political power of blogging. Human behaviour is based on reaction. We react to information, be it a physical stimulus, an intuition or receiving new intelligence. Information, either received from the outside or revealed from the inside, directs our behaviour and has almost complete control over our reactions. Therefore, the medium of information flow holds a rather important place in our lives. This medium basically feeds itself from two different features: its information providers and its target audience. The bigger these features, the stronger the medium. No doubt internet has become a medium with almost the strongest branches – but how about the different pieces of it? The recent increase in the number of websites with a “.blogspot.com” ending in any given Google search raises the question: Does their increasing
number indicate that the public started to accept internet blogs as a legitimate source of information? This trend of ‘civil journalism’ became more common during and after the Arab Spring, since the only sources of inside information during the uprisings in Northern Africa were these blogs of the civilians living in the field. The blogs were not only the information source for the outsiders, but were the milestones of the uprising. After its active role in Arab Spring, is blogging becoming a new medium of information flow? It is more than justified to say the Arab Spring began with internet blogs; or at least, it owes its snowballing effect to it. The very first ‘provocative’ blogs are mainly protests after the
self-immolation caused by joblessness and despair of a young man in Tunisia. The negative reactions grew and turned into an uprising, which was supported through videos and calls for ‘rebels’. The most popular social networking sites became portals to spread the movement and share the videos of previous protests. The government, however, did not implement any extra censorship and the uprising remained mainly in the virtual world, rather than becoming a fist-to-fist street fight. Other countries such as Egypt, in which this ‘fight through internet’ trend started to show its effects, took more dramatic measures – examples include posting misleading videos, as well as slowing down (but cleverly, not censoring) the access
to the websites in question. Social media had less impact on the regime changes of countries like Jordan, Libya, Syria and Yemen; the videos and blog updates on the movement were, however, available almost day by day. Posting videos, on the other hand, is hardly a way to overthrow a regime – the actual fight still happens on the streets. Then why take what a bunch of internet users think or write about a regime all that seriously? This is where the two features come back into the game. Internet may not be the ultimate place to plan out a rebellion strategy, but it is an easy portal for idea exchange and general discussion – which, through interactive reading via comments, means new ideas that
are the collection of intellectually and culturally dispersed people. The variety in points of view makes the creation of more effective solutions possible. The wide reach of blogs also provides very fast information exchange, weakens the government’s authority, lessens the fear, gives a sense of unity and grabs international attention to the subject. Through internet, quick decisions on rebellious movements can be made. The simplicity of openly opposing the government secures the self-confidence of any given ‘rebel’, thus changing the fear into power through unity. Although it has no immediate effect on close combat, the international attention it takes increases the chances of outside intervention or support in the long term.
Internet, considering how interwoven it is with our lives, is bound to have an effect on our opinions. Online blogging, with its active role in 21st century’s most important political changes, took this effect to a whole new level, where opinions can count as information. Beneficial as it is to social awareness, one must be aware of its potential of misleading. It obligates the reader to go the extra mile and separate information from opinion. In audiences that don’t have the habit of doing so, internet blogging is a doubleedged sword – in the right hands, it is a revolutionary step in the history of public awareness; in the wrong hands, it’s a blindfold against the greater good.
Everyone’s a Our very controversial Karin-Liis, calls us all hypocrites while analysing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Maslow hierarchy dictates that the need for water and food is the greatest basic need of human beings. The aforementioned Article 25 (1) declares this need as a human right. Human rights are therefore fully protected, if every person has access to that which is promised within these rights. However, today’s world is far from the ideal and harmonic place the 14th Dalai Lama envisions it to be in his teachings. The world map clearly indicates that the violation of human rights is either directly or indirectly connected to poverty and famine resulting from it. Even though economic and social human rights are primarily affected, poverty is also starting to have an increasing effect on civil and political human rights, especially in countries where according to the World Bank daily consumption is 1.25 dollars
or less. American economist William Easterly says: “the only useful definition of human rights is one where a human rights crusader could identify WHOSE rights are being violated and WHO is the violator.” Poverty does not fit this definition. Firstly, there is no violator responsible for worldwide poverty. Secondly, the border between the rich and poor is arbitrary and artificial – it is different by country, therefore, one cannot say for sure whose human rights are being violated and whose are not. If we do, however, consider poverty a violation of human rights, should the wealthy not be helping the poor? One may say that the rich states are already providing developing countries with aid. It is as if the rich have
imposed a world order that further impoverishes the already poor regions. Because the effects of globalisation have been foreseeable for a very long time, especially taking into consideration the consequences of colonisation and slavery the world has already experienced, the rich now have the duty to eliminate poverty. Albeit, the problem does not lie in the wealthier states not helping, but helping for the wrong reasons. Rich countries see it as an act of kindness, as charity, not as a legal and moral duty set forth by the human rights. And why should they when the basis of human rights does not demand it? Human rights are full of negative duties such as the duties of non-interference: although nobody should deprive people of their basic necessi-
a hypocrite ties, nobody is responsible for helping them gain access to them either. So, the very basis of human rights is something libertarians often attempt to defend their unequal privilege with and in essence they are right. They have no positive duty to help the poor, equivalently meaning that the poor have no right to their help. Taking into consideration that wealth disparity brings about repressive and exploitative conditions in poor regions, the rich states should be legally bound to helping poor states. When one of the parties in trade relations is severely impoverished, the consequences are even more terrifying. Inequality makes the poorer parties accept conditions (e.g. working conditions) that they would not consider otherwise.
The same sort of conditioning agreements might be happening between a government and its people. In a society where people are legally forced to accept living and working conditions will see repression grow Everyone has a right to a standard of living adequate for the health and wellbeing of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services – (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 25, section 1)
into an expression of physical violence. In the words of the Dalai Lama: “Peace can only last where human rights are respected, where the people are fed and where individuals and nations are free.” Although all people
have the right to water, food and other necessities, nothing besides their social conscience actually results in rich countries providing for the poor. A society where the access to basic needs is inhibited or sub-standard, has little, if any chance of even giving thought to respecting human rights. Poverty also gives the respective government the chance to manipulate its people, which also makes their respecting human rights that much more difficult. Although nobody can actually consider not helping ease poverty a violation of human rights due to the negative duties featured in human rights, it is clear that measures to help poor countries should have been implemented in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights a long time ago. One is for sure, everybody’s a hypocrite anyway.
Vicious cycle Tree-hugger Waltter teaches us a lesson on loving the planet we call home. We are killing our planet. Companies, governments and public households are all pitching in to kill our planet by overexploiting our food, medicine and material resources. For example, due to careless fishing, over 80% of wild stocks have been depleted, while deforestation for the production of paper or the ‘ecologically friendly’ production of bio-fuel have crippled the sustainability of many tropical ecosystems, putting many species on the brink of extinction. Environmentalist extraordinaire Jared Diamond describes the four threats as an ‘Evil Quartet’ of Biodiversity consisting of habitat destruction, overhunting of species,
introduced species, and secondary extinctions. Although extinction is natural over time, scientists estimate that human influence has accelerated the natural process from 100 to 1000%, resulting in a third of the world’s flora & fauna being in danger of extinction. We have known this for the past decade, yet we have chosen to remain ignorant of the results of our actions. In habitat destruction, areas of natural habitation are rendered unusable for the local ecosystem as the areas lose their ability to support the species present. It is increased by urbanisation, the exploitation of natural resources and mostly by agriculture. Overall it is the main cause of degen-
erating biodiversity. Most ecosystems are separated by barriers, resulting in a separate evolution of the species separated by those barriers. In the case of an invasive species these barriers become more passable, resulting in the diminishment of another species if a more aggressive habitant overtakes their ecological locker. Humans have, in the course of time, transported animals to new ecosystems as a shortterm solution to solve an ecological issue, but in the ma jority of the cases this has proven to have shown upmost stupidity. For example in Australia in 1935, they introduced cane toads in order to tackle the cane beetles feeding on
the cane fields. This resulted in a population boom for the toads due to the lack of a natural enemy and free ecological locker. Nowadays they threaten the Australian biodiversity by killing local fauna with the toxic chemical emitted from their parotid glands. Secondary extinction is a cascading effect and a consequence, in which one species’ extinction is entwined with another’s. It is a vicious cycle causing more and more species to go extinct, due to the fact that when you lose an animal from the food chain the immediate effects are that the dependant animals, both predators and parasites on the lost animal, are in need of a new food source and if one
is not found the species will become extinct, causing the pattern to begin anew. Not only are the negative impacts on the lack of diversity and its causes completely disregarded. We live in times when the overall ecological importance is being trampled by other ‘more current’ ones as the EU’s economic situation is given the closer attention. This, however, is not the main issue. Currently, especially in the EU, ideas of self redemption have taken over Brussels as we are constantly reducing the exploitation of our nature, but we are shifting more and more of our industries and production to developing countries and polluting their ecosystems. In having
hypocritical aims to make the world greener we only pose vague and inefficient measures, never being able to meet the targets we set to ourselves as they are just for our decision makers to get their good nights sleep. Biodiversity benefits us all by improving the quality of the air, the water we drink, the food we produce, by having more alternatives in case of a contamination of some sort, not to forget how much medicine relies on nature’s boons. Open your eyes to what is happening around you and start demanding actions, it is time we started giving back to the land that had provided us with all we have and will ever need.
Living in the eye of the storm Mairi investigates how the financial crisis has affected real people’s lives in Greece, Most European citizens are well-acquainted with the Eurozone crisis: the sovereign debt, the bailouts, the austerity measures. Greece is widely acknowledged to be at the epicentre of this crisis, given that its economy is shrinking 7% year on year. However, with all this talk of economics it is easy to forget how the crisis and the austerity measures imposed by the EU in return for bailouts are affecting real people in Greece today. With the help of our resident Greeks, Stamos Tahis, Thanos Saitis and EriniRea Ntika, Terra has uncovered what living in crisis-struck Greece is like. The economic crisis has affected almost every Greek citizen. For example, Erina-Rea has had to cope with the worry
of her school scholarship being cut off and Stamos and Thanos have seen their budgets shrink dramatically. Everyday people are crippled by money worries and faith in the government is at an all-time low. The crisis has seen unemployment soar to 21% and to 54% amongst young people, causing a large decrease in household income. It is now estimated that one third of all Greeks are below the poverty line and even professionals are lining up for charity food packages, a sight that is shocking to see in an EU Member State. And in these hard times, businesses are struggling – more than 20% of shops in Athens’ historic city centre are now empty. As a result of the lack of jobs and soaring taxes in the cities,
many Greeks have been forced to move back to the countryside. In the time after World War Two, when Greece’s cities were growing and prosperous, hundreds and thousands moved to urban areas from their villages. The economic downturn has reversed this phenomenon. In a recent BBC survey 70% of people were considering returning to the Greek countryside to escape the hardships of the cities. Some Greeks are even leaving Greece altogether. Erini-Rea is planning to study in the US, because, according to her, “there is no future in Greece.” One of the darker sides of the economic downturn is the crime wave that has struck Greece, a country which until recently enjoyed one of the
lowest crime rates in the EU. In the last year alone burglaries have risen by 50%. This is just the tip of the iceberg according to the criminologist Stratos Georgulas, originally talking to Chloe Hadjimatheou for BBC News, “There is something we call the ‘dark number’ which describes unrecorded crime and this figure tends to be far higher than the official statistics.” Austerity has resulted in a drop in the number of policemen so Athens is nowhere near as safe as it once was. Civic unrest is also increasing, as anti-austerity protests deteriorate into rioting and arson. The extreme right-wing Golden Dawn Party have used this crime wave to their advantage by blaming it, as well as the increasing levels of unemploy-
ment, on immigrants. Stamos, Thanos and Erini-Rea are all in agreement that this is one of the very worst aspects of the crisis. Stamos admitted to being “really worried” that the Golden Dawn now have
One of the darker sides of the economic downturn is the crime wave that has struck Greece 18 seats in parliament and “ashamed” that the Greek people had voted for a party which uses a stylised Swastika on its logo. According to Thanos, in hard economic circumstances many feel the
need to “shift the blame” for the difficulties that the country is facing. Greece is obviously divided on the EU bailouts and mandatory austerity measures, however understandably the anti-austerity movement is growing, not only in Greece but in centre-left parties all across Europe. Only time will tell if these parties’ policies, based on growth, will be more effective in solving the crisis. What must be taken from this is that no matter how westernised a country may be, it is not immune to financial collapse. The warning signs must be taken more seriously and preventative measures instigated before a crisis unfolds.
Conscript Finnish boy Waltter questions whether military service in his country and other EU Member States is still pertinent in the 21st century. Annually in Finland 13 400 new recruits, consisting mainly of young males of the age of 19 to 20 years embark on an extended summer camp, which takes away in the worst case two whole university terms, delaying any plans of further education or entering the labour market by one to two years. This results in a drop of 4% in the potential economic growth per decade. Every autumn the men reaching the legal age of 18 are called for a health inspection and an evaluation to determine whether the candidate wishes to go through military or civil service, and where the service will be served. If someone refuses to be conscripted they have to be, according to Finnish law, imprisoned for 181
days, unless they have a pressing reason or an exception, like the Jehovah witnesses or males from the demilitarized zone of Åland isles. The conscription system was founded in 1878 when Finland was under the Swedish reign during the gathering of the estates and has from that time been a lasting tradition. The military service usually lasts from 180 days to 270 or 362; depending on which further specialisation the recruit chooses or is placed in. During the calling all recruits are assigned to their respective garrisons where they, when they start their service, will spend their weekdays in complete isolation, sometimes having weekends off from Friday evening until Sunday evening
to return to their families. Here is the Finnish military system in a nutshell: recruits start their service with the basic training period – the P-period. During this performance, both mental and physical conditions are tested to see who is chosen for the leadership-training program. This is followed by 9 weeks of specific training according to the recruits’ chosen field of specialty ending in another 9 weeks of further training. I remember hearing the phrase, “You meet the whole of Finland in one tiny barracks,” by many advocates of the service. It does help you create a strong network of connections and feeling of brotherhood when you spend numer-
ous of days with people you have mostly never met before and experience all together the hardships of the training process. Additionally you are able to pick up a few useful skills about leadership and first aid during your service, but we have many others and I would say even better ways of achieving these skills. It has always been a widely debated topic whether the army should retrain its old traditional form and be funded as much as it is being at the moment. As we currently live in the times of peace and becoming a target of a large scale ground attack seems highly unlikely as the current national security risks are more commonly related to cyber attacks and terrorist threats. Focusing
in the wrong fields takes away our resources and does little to help in the case of a future attack. We are stuck with a tradition.
Focusing in the wrong fields takes away our resources and does little to help in the case of a future attack. The ma jority of Finnish men, as they have gone through the army, are blind to the faults that deeply infest our current system. Running in the forest for 8 months playing war with enemies from the east is not
something I am too keen on using a quite a large proportion from our yearly budget on. Especially when it is to maintain a force of which only a fraction is used for operations abroad annually. The ma jority of countries within Europe have opted for professional armies for both economic benefits and to reduce the time consumed by it. We need to take a dive into the future. We need to have an army, there is no question about that, but why not leave the military for those who find their calling for it?
Is the EURO divisive?
Mairi from the UK displays her British cynicism against the common European currency. The idea of having a common currency in Europe was first expressed in the end of the 1960s and in 1970 a team of experts outlined the concept for the European currency union. In 1988 the idea was brought up again, when plans of the European market were made. A new strategy was developed and by signing it, countries agreed to implement the new currency until January 1st 1999. The creation of the Euro in 1999 was the culmination of a common vision of an integrated Europe with fewer borders, more transparency, easier trade and travel between members of the Eurozone as well as a bigger clout on the world stage. In terms of European integration, it was the biggest step forward since the creation of the European
Economic Community in 1957. However, the Eurozone crisis has cast doubts onto the benefits of European integration. Many countries in the Eurozone are not generating enough growth to be able to pay back bondholders, leaving them crippled by sovereign debt. Defaulting on these debts is not an option, given the likelihood of contagion. In return for bailouts from the European Stability Mechanism, Portugal, Spain, Ireland and Greece and are now subject to harsh austerity measures in an attempt to reduce debt. As a result, tensions are growing between members of the Eurozone. There is currently a new division emerging in the EU that transcends the
old east-west divide, and that is between the north and the south. The wealthier north countries resent having to pay for the economic failings of their southern counterparts, and there are equal, if not more, amounts of resentment in the southern countries due to austerity measures which they view as unfair. One of the most notable clashes is between Greece and Germany. The next progress report is due in October and it seems unlikely that Greece will meet its strict austerity targets, which will cause much exasperation in Germany. Meanwhile in Greece, some protestors are comparing the EU-imposing austerity measures to the Nazi occupation during the Second World War.
The problems stop at the boundaries of the Eurozone. Countries like the UK who do not use the common currency are undoubtedly being pushed away from further integration by the crisis. David Cameron’s veto on the financial transactions tax in November 2011 was met with anger by Angela Merkel, who said: “Britain had the responsibility to make Europe a success.” and that she would not allow David Cameron to “get away” with his veto. Now there are calls for a referendum on EU membership within the UK and Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne blames most of the UK’s economic problems on the Eurozone. Despite all this, however, there are still some ways in which
the single currency is helping European integration. It allows people across the EU to travel between Member States with ease. There is a case to be made that despite the current difficulties, the single currency
The single currency has been a disaster for European integration has linked the countries within the Eurozone closer than ever. Even the fact that it is called the ‘Euro’ reminds people of their European identity within the EU.
However it does seem that the common currency is, right now, not causing European countries to come closer together, but further apart. In many countries, such as the US, the richer states have to subsidise the poorer southern states. The problem seems to be that although the EU has a single currency it is not one country. Therefore countries are reluctant to bail out other Member States, who in their eyes are unfairly benefitting from their more efficient economy and fiscal policy. The single currency has been a disaster for European integration. Not only has it shown that the currency itself has serious flaws, but it has also created serious tensions between the EU’s Member States.
Teddy Bears in Belarus Mairi questions the extent of EU intervention in the last European dictatorship. Alexander Lukashenka, leader of the last dictatorship in Europe, has long been a source of embarrassment for the EU. Recent events in Belarus, when teddy bears carrying pro-democracy messages were dropped from planes by a Swedish PR firm, have just brought public attention back to the human rights situation in the country. Swedish diplomats have now effectively been expelled from the country and Lukashenka’s air defence chief has been sacked. Although reports suggested that the EU might call for a mass recall of EU ambassadors from Belarus, this did not happen. With general elections, widely predicted to be rigged in Lukashenka’s favour, being held to Septem-
ber, and no sign of the human rights situation improving, the EU has to ask itself whether it is doing enough to help the citizens of Belarus to find freedom. It is evident that some sort of action must be taken. The convictions and subsequent executions of Dmitry Konovalov and Vladislav Kovalyov for bombings in Minsk have been widely criticised by the EU; the trial was unfair and there was much evidence that the suspects were tortured in the country’s infamous prison, the Amerikanka. An exact number is hard to come by but it is estimated that 300 people have been executed in Belarus since the collapse of the USSR. “Things are getting
worse,” according to Aleh Hulak of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, a human rights group, originally speaking to The Economist. Members of the opposition remain in prison and the Belarusian people do not know the meaning of free speech. The EU’s measures so far have been far-reaching but unfortunately ineffective in persuading Lukashenka to introduce reforms. 243 people currently have their assets frozen within the EU and as well as 32 business entities, and the same 243 people are banned from entering the EU. An arms embargo has also been introduced along with an embargo on any materials that could be used for repres-
sion. Harsh economic sanctions had a large impact in 2011, when inflation reached 209%, and Belarus has been becoming increasingly reliant on Russia to bail them out of such situations. As part of a plan for a Eurasian Union, Lukashenka received a generous package from Putin in November. Belarus’ export market heavily leans on Russia to keep its economy afloat. The danger is that in the longterm economic sanctions will turn Lukashenka permanently east and the EU will lose what little influence it still has. Despite these Russian loans propping up the economy for now, the last few years has seen a substantial decrease in support for the government. Lukashenka’s approval rating has dipped to 20%, down
from 50% at the time of his re-election. This will make September’s election even more contentious, as it will be even more obvious if the elections are rigged, which they will probably turn out to be. The opposition parties are still
It seems clear therefore that now is the time to put pressure on Lukashenka. undecided on whether they will take part – on one hand, a boycott would demonstrate the falsity of the elections to the international community, but on the other, participating would increase public awareness for their cause and help
them to train activists. It seems clear therefore that now is the time to put pressure on Lukashenka. Conditions are worsening, Russia is gaining influence and there is growing unrest among the Belarusian population, which is likely to grow after the elections. The EU should toughen its existing measures, whilst stalling further economic reforms which would push Lukashenka further into the arms of Putin. Many human rights activists also correctly argue that the EU should also become more involved in civil society, in order to incite the people of Belarus to fight and gain the freedoms that we in Europe have been enjoying for centuries.
Stylised swastikas Mairi Innes raises the concern of the ever-growing extreme right wing in Europe. The EU has long been considered a place of tolerance and diversity; however this is an image under threat from a growing extreme right wing across its Member States. From Italy, where the popularity of the extremist right-wing Northern League is striking, to the Netherlands, where the radical Parti Voor Vrijheid (PVV) held 24 seats in an 150-member parliament, to France, where National Front leader Marine Le Pen gained an astonishing 18-20% of the vote in the recent Presidential Elections, it is clear that the extreme right wing poses a widespread and dangerous threat to the EU’s core values.
in the parties themselves, is the rise of xenophobic discourse in the public sphere. Consider the situation in France: Marine Le Pen has replaced her father’s anti-Semitism with an anti-immigrant, anti-Islamic stance, which is somehow deemed more acceptable. Even if anti-Semitism is widely seen as abhorrent by voters nowadays, the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, which uses a stylised Swastika on its logo, has had considerable success in the recent Greek elections. The main concern of voters seems to be that their country’s ‘national identity’ is somehow endangered by immigrants and minorities.
The most worrying aspect of this new-found extremism, both in mass movements and
The previously mentioned Dutch PVV has even gone to the extent of arguing for the
expulsion on ‘imported’ animal species such as Highland cows. The defence of this so-called identity, as well as the imminent threat of Muslim extremists is used by parties to endorse racism. There is no reason why this should be tolerated in an educated and civilised society. The Eurozone crisis has added an economic aspect to the problem; it seems no coincidence that arguably the most right-wing party to enter a European legislature since the Nazis in Germany was the Golden Dawn in Greece in the May 6th elections. With increasing unemployment comes resentment at immigrants accused of ‘stealing’ jobs. In the French town of Saint-Avold, badly hit by the
economic downturn, a woman was quoted in Le Monde complaining of Turkish immigrants and asserting that “il faudrait tous les mettre dans un bateau avec un trou dedans” – literally, ‘they should all be put in a boat with a hole in it’. There is a dangerous possibility, already partially being realised, of a rise of extremists who claim that mainstream politics is to blame for the Eurozone’s economic woes. Cracks are also emerging within the EU itself. Findland’s True Finns party is staunchly anti-immigrant, but its trademark issue has become creating divisions between the northern and southern Member States, to whom they resent paying bailouts. Even more worrying is the fact that in the past, economic crises have led to some
of the most dangerous parties in history coming into power – most notably the Nazis in the 1930s. This rise of extremists should not be ignored. These parties are constantly evolving, using
arguably the most right-wing party to enter a European legislature since the Nazis in Germany was the Golden Dawn in Greece in the May 6th elections.
ance and racism. It is the duty of both politicians and voters to combat this. Politicians in the centre should address more directly the fears of a loss of ‘national identity’, as well as the possible problems immigrants may pose to the job market. They should also avoid leaning to the right in order to gain politically from this phenomenon, as demonstrated by Sarkozy in the recent French Presidential elections, for this legitimises and normalises extremism. Most of all, voters across Europe should remember that the EU is, after all, ‘United in Diversity’, and not allow themselves to be swept up in the scapegoating and extremist discourse of political opportunists.
problems – both cultural and economic – to justify intoler-
This publication was brought to you by: Sarah Streicher - Zeynep Özarda - Mairi Innes - Stella Näbauer - Waltter Suominen - Karin-Liis Lahtmäe -Heiko Brantsch - Luca Olumets - Jan Bubienczyk - Jon Vrushi Special thanks to: Johanna Fürst