Archive for the ‘Europe’ Category

7
Apr

In Europe there is anxiety that foreigners will compromise traditions, writes Ivan Krastev he thousands gathering at Europe’s borders, and the thousands who have already crossed, are widely but wrongly supposed to be refugees of an uprising that failed: the Arab spring. In reality, they embody a distinctly 21st­century revolution that is yet to come.

In 1981, researchers at the University of Michigan in their World Values Survey found that Nigerians were as happy as West Germans despite being materially far poorer. Almost four decades on, that situation has radically changed. In most places, according to the latest surveys, happiness is in direct proportion to per capita gross domestic product.

The spread of the internet has made it possible for young Africans or Afghans to see with one click of a mouse how Europeans live. People no longer compare their lives with those of their neighbours but with the planet’s most prosperous inhabitants. They dream not of the future but of other places.

The soft power so attractive to outsiders is now seen by member states as a source of vulnerability make it easier to cross borders and yet keep their ethnic and religious identities. It is possible to remain Syrian while living and working in London or Berlin. You can keep in constant touch with those left behind or follow the headlines from home.

In this connected world, migration — unlike the utopias sold by the last century’s demagogues — offers radical change instantly. The 21st­century revolution requires no ideology, political movement or political leader. You change not the government but the geography. The absence of collective dreams makes migration the natural choice of the new radical. To change your life you need a boat, not a party. With social inequality rising and social mobility stagnating in countries such as Ukraine and Russia, it is easier to cross national borders than class barriers. But the migrants’ revolution has the capacity to inspire a counter­revolution and remake our democracies. Historically, democracy was the way Europe integrated outsiders and opened to the world; it can just as easily be an instrument for exclusion and closure.

The myriad acts of solidarity towards refugees fleeing war and persecution seen last year in western Europe are today overshadowed by their inverse: a spreading fear that such foreigners will compromise the welfare model and traditions; that they will destroy liberal societies by threatening women’s rights. Conservatives fear that the flow of migrants is a death sentence for the cultures of the European nations. Fear of radical Islam, terrorism, criminality and a general anxiety over the unfamiliar are at the core of a moral panic.

Many in the EU feel overwhelmed — not by the 1m and more refugees who have asked for asylum but by the prospect of a future in which their borders are constantly breached by migrants.

The future ageing and shrinking of the incumbent population painted by demographers is frightening even to some of the more robust Europeans. The majorities who feel under threat have emerged as an influential force in politics. Not only the extreme parties such as the National Front in France and Britain’s Ukip but also Hungary’s governing Fidesz and the ruling Law and Justice party in Poland see their role as advocates of those “threatened majorities”. They fear and loathe the idea of a “world without borders” and demand an EU with clearly defined and well­protected barriers. They are convinced the crisis is the result of a conspiracy between cosmopolitan­minded elites and tribal­minded immigrants.

The situation is radically changing European politics and the world view of many on the continent. If, yesterday, they bet their security on the prospect that Europe would be surrounded by liberal democracies ambitious to become members of the union, today they hope it can be surrounded by friendly regimes, liberal or not, willing and able to turn the human tide. The No voters want to send the message that Europe is unwelcoming not only to refugees but also to societies that dream of one day joining it.

This change of hearts and minds can be seen in relations with Turkey. To secure the country’s support for relieving the pressure from refugees, European governments are silent on Ankara’s growing authoritarianism. They want to signal that Europe is not such a nice place as foreigners believe it is.

In short, EU leaders are trapped between the rhetoric of democratic revolution as an answer to the problems of an interdependent world and the messy reality of migration as revolution.

 

Ivan Krastev. The writer is chairman of the Centre for Liberal Strategy in Sofia and permanent fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna.

www.ft.com

April 6th, 2016

26
Feb

The real danger of Brexit

Written on February 26, 2016 by Waya Quiviger in EU Expansion, Europe, Foreign Policy

THE battle is joined, at last. David Cameron has called a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union for June 23rd, promising to campaign hard to stay in. What began as a gambit to hold together his divided Tory party is turning into an alarmingly close contest. Betting markets put the odds that Britons opt to leave at two-to-one; some polls suggest the voters are evenly split; several cabinet ministers are campaigning for Brexit. There is a real chance that in four months’ time Britain could be casting off from Europe’s shores.

That would be grave news—and not just for Britain. A vote to leave would damage the economy, certainly in the short term and probably in the long run. (As financial markets woke up to the prospect, the pound this week fell to its lowest level against the dollar since 2009.) It would imperil Britain’s security, when threats from terrorists and foreign powers are at their most severe in years. And far from reclaiming sovereignty, Britons would be forgoing clout, by giving up membership of a powerful club whose actions they can influence better from within than without. Those outside Britain marvelling at this proposed act of self-harm should worry for themselves, too. Brexit would deal a heavy blow to Europe, a continent already on the ropes. It would uncouple the world’s fifth-largest economy from its biggest market, and unmoor the fifth-largest defence spender from its allies. Poorer, less secure and disunited, the new EU would be weaker; the West, reliant on the balancing forces of America and Europe, would be enfeebled, too.

Read more…

Feb 27th 2016, from the print version of The Economist

16
Feb

 

SC UFM

Pablo G. Bejerano

The end of 2015 marked the 20th anniversary of the Barcelona Process. That regional cooperative project was the origin of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), which was finally constituted in 2008 during the Paris Summit.

Fathallah Sijilmassi, Secretary General of the Union for the Mediterranean, visited IE School of International Relations to present this organization, which plays a key role in developing the region. The UfM is not strictly Mediterranean, as he put it in beginning of a talk in Riga (Latvia): “I’m very happy to be in a Mediterranean country.”

The reason for this remark is that all the countries in the European Union are automatically members of the UfM, whether they border on the Mediterranean or not. At present there are 43 countries in this organization, which also takes in North Africa and that part of the Near East closest to the Mediterranean.

As Sijilmassi explained, the role of the organization is to balance different interests with the aim of “promoting concrete projects.”

Among the fundamental aims of the UfM, Sijilmassi stressed creating employment for young people and empowering women. “What’s happening in Tunisia is very interesting. Everyone who is in the street demonstrating is saying ‘we want jobs.’ It’s not a question of politics or religion.”

Unemployment is also linked to other problems. Sijilmassi mentioned terrorism and insisted that everyone must work together to find solutions. It is here that education plays a fundamental role. In his native Morocco, the UfM has helped create the Euro-Mediterranean University of Fez, promoted by the Ministry for Education.

Empowering women is also related to employment. One of the ways to encourage it is for young women to create their own companies. “We’ve worked a lot in the big cities, but not enough in the interior or the rural areas,” Sijilmassi recognized, adding that the empowerment of women is an indicator of a country’s development.

Channels for concrete improvements

The Secretary General defines the UfM as a “yes” organization. “How do you take on challenges beyond just speeches and words, how do you meet the needs of people?” He says concrete projects must be carried out, “tangible things, not just theoretical approximations.”

To achieve this it’s often necessary to say ‘yes’ even though one isn’t entirely in agreement. The Union for the Mediterranean doesn’t implement projects on their own but rather facilitates them through third parties. The process begins by evaluating a project based on different criteria, such as its socio-economic value for the region, and then the financial experts determine how viable it will be, and the political waters are tested to be sure the project will be approved by the authorities. Afterward, the organization uses all the means at its disposal to promote the project and oversee its completion.

1
Feb

Lights Out for the Putin Regime

Written on February 1, 2016 by Waya Quiviger in Democracy & Human Rights, Europe, Foreign Policy, Security

Russian President Vladimir Putin poses for a selfie with members of the youth military patriotic club "Vympel" (The Pennant), November 4, 2015.

Russian President Vladimir Putin used to seem invincible. Today, he and his regime look enervated, confused, and desperate. Increasingly, both Russian and Western commentators suggest that Russia may be on the verge of deep instability, possibly evencollapse.

This perceptual shift is unsurprising. Last year, Russia was basking in the glow of its annexation of Crimea and aggression in the Donbas. The economy, although stagnant, seemed stable. Putin was running circles around Western policymakers and domestic critics. His popularity was sky-high. Now it is only his popularity that remains; everything else has turned for the worse. Crimea and the Donbas are economic hellholes andhuge drains on Russian resources. The war with Ukraine has stalemated. Energy prices are collapsing, and the Russian economy is in recession. Putin’s punitive economic measures against Ukraine, Turkey, and the West have only harmed the Russian economy further. Meanwhile, the country’s intervention in Syria is poised to become a quagmire.

Things are probably  much worse for Russia than this cursory survey ofnegative trends suggests. The country is weathering three crises brought about by Putin’s rule—and Russia’s foreign-policy misadventures in Ukraine and Syria are only exacerbating them.

First, the Russian economy is in free fall. That oil and gas prices are unlikely to rise much anytime soon is bad enough. Far worse, Russia’s energy-dependent economy is unreformed, uncompetitive, and un-modernized and will remain so as long as it serves as a wealth-producing machine for Russia’s political elite. Second, Putin’s political system is disintegrating. His brand of authoritarian centralization was supposed to create a strong “power vertical” that would bring order to the administrative apparatus, rid it of corruption, and subordinate regional Russian and non-Russian elites to Moscow’s will. Instead, over-centralization has produced the opposite effect, fragmenting the bureaucracy, encouraging bureaucrats to pursue their own interests, and enabling regional elites to become increasingly insubordinate—withRamzan Kadyrov, Putin’s strongman in Chechnya, being the prime example. Third, Putin himself, as the linchpin of the Russian system, has clearly passed his prime. Since his catastrophic decision to prevent Ukraine from signing an Association Agreement with the European Union in 2013, he has committed strategic blunder after strategic blunder. His formerly attractive macho image is wearing thin, and his recent attempts to promote his cult of personality by publishing a book of his quotes and a Putin calendar look laughable and desperate. Read more…

 

Published on Jan. 27 in foreignaffairs.com; Written by By Alexander J. Motyl

29
Jan

 

One day in 2008, a friend called to tell me that he thought the world might be coming to an end. He was not a religious fanatic; he worked in markets. Lehman Brothers had just gone bankrupt and the international financial system appeared to be in its death agony. As Marx might have put it, the final “crisis of capitalism” seemed to have arrived.

But the world did not end. The international proletarian revolution did not arrive either, though a few decades earlier, it might have done. Financial collapse on the scale of 2008 might, once upon a time, have inspired the formerly powerful revolutionary Marxist and near-Marxist political parties of western Europe to take to the streets. But because Marxism was so thoroughly discredited by the collapse of the Soviet Union, there was no appetite for radical revolution two decades later. Economic fashion, even on the political left, seemed to have moved on.

Fast forward eight years and the situation is drastically different. Many have noticed that the old-fashioned left is back. Syriza in Greece, Podemos in Spain and Jeremy Corbyn’s British Labour party all now contain radicals who would, if they could, renationalise industry and put an end to free trade. But the more remarkable and less obvious change is taking place on what we used to call the far right. The nationalist parties of Europe, long dismissed as fringe groupings, are now winning votes by adopting previously discredited “leftwing” ideas.

Exhibit A is France’s National Front. Though better known for its anti-immigration rhetoric, the party, under Marine Le Pen’s leadership, has also taken over some of the symbols of the old left, as well as some of its economic policies. A few years ago, the party began holding rallies on May 1, the traditional international socialists’ holiday.

At one of those rallies in 2014, Ms Le Pen attacked the “draconian policy of austerity” that favoured “globalised elites at the expense of the people”. She and her colleagues have also denounced the “neoliberal” policies that supposedly unite the French left, the French right and the EU. Instead, the National Front wants to replace the “establishment” with a “muscular state” that taxes imports and nationalises foreign companies and banks. Read more…

 

By Anne Applebaum; Published on Jan. 27 in www.ft.com

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