Archive for the ‘Democracy & Human Rights’ 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

21
Mar

Obama’s Cuban revolution

Written on March 21, 2016 by Waya Quiviger in Americas, Democracy & Human Rights, Foreign Policy

The Obamas arrive at Jose Marti International Airport on Sunday.

President Barack Obama’s trip to Cuba is a metaphor for his foreign policy and a potential glimpse into his post-presidency, all embodied in one landing here at José Martí International Airport on Sunday afternoon.

With his decision to move toward normalized relations with the Castro regime, Obama forced a geopolitical transformation, a rare instance when a president can start and nearly finish so complete a change in foreign policy within his term in office. And he did it less with a pen and a phone than with a series of prods and the force of his personality.

The Cuba reopening is a snapshot of Obama’s approach the past seven years: an analytic rethinking of America’s interests and a pragmatism about how to achieve them, pursued despite political resistance and without much cooperation from Congress. Typically, it’s sparked a debate between supporters who see him breaking through calcified thinking and critics who say he’s willingly overlooked facts in order to gamble with abhorrent leaders for what would at best be shortsighted gains.

The detractors point to the dissidents arrested and rearrested in the days leading up to this trip, all while the Castro government has pushed back on the idea that Obama will be able to use the trip to get it to change. On the contrary, they’ve said, Obama’s arrival is proof that the human rights abuses they’ve been accused of must not exist, because otherwise he wouldn’t have come.

But even that attests to the force of Obama’s presence. In Havana, the big deal isn’t just that an American president is visiting again, the first time since Calvin Coolidge arrived by battleship in 1928. It’s not that Air Force One has landed.

It’s that Obama walked out. And that’s a power that will remain with him.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2016/03/obamas-cuban-renaissance-220999#ixzz43X7P6W8w

03/20/16

16
Mar

hen I was 7, growing up in a Czechoslovakia that had just recently shed Communist rule, my family took me on a trip to Hanover, Germany, to visit some émigré friends. This was my first visit to the West — the mythical place that most Eastern Europeans knew only from television commercials and Hollywood films. I was mesmerized by the obvious prosperity (to this day I can remember my first taste of the soft-serve ice cream at IKEA), the clean streets, and the sense of social order.

The West — both real and imagined — played a critical role in the success of post-Communist transitions the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and the Baltic states. The prospect of becoming like the West enabled politicians from these countries to justify policy decisions that would not otherwise have been accepted.

Many of the necessary reforms carried short-term political, economic, or social costs. Yet their proponents were able to point out to the expected benefits of joining the European Union and NATO, which required prospective members to put their political and economic house in order. More fundamentally, many voters in the post-Communist world wanted their countries to be as prosperous, democratic, and well-governed as the West — or, at least, as they imagined it to be. Even if their idea of the West was naïve, it helped them carry the burden of policy changes that have ultimately turned Central Europe into a much better place than it was 26 years ago. Read more…

  • By Dalibor Rohac is a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
  • March 11, 2016
  • www.foreignpolicy.com

 

 

1
Mar

What has really changed in Iran?

Written on March 1, 2016 by Waya Quiviger in Democracy & Human Rights, Middle East, Op Ed

I REMEMBER vividly the first time I ever voted in an Iranian election. It was a balmy summer day in June 2001, in the election that won the reformist president Mohammad Khatami a second term. The blue stamp was the first on the voting page of my identification card, and I felt a sharp, exhilarating pride.

That election is much on my mind now, as I watch the results of Friday’s voting with my family, disagreeing on what it might mean for the future.

Back in 2001, Iran was heading down an irrevocable path toward internal reform, a process untainted by any Western intrusion, with citizens and progressive-minded leaders showing the way. Those leaders seemed, at the time, as exciting as Vaclav Havel and the revolutionary cleric Musa al-Sadr rolled into one. Elections felt — unlike the vote this past weekend — full of consequence, a genuine chance to recast political power rather than an exercise in slightly recalibrating it.
Tehran then was a naïve young intellectual’s paradise. There were Islamist reformers and secular reformers, women’s rights campaigners who went door to door in villages, and urban activists working to save everything from the Iranian cheetah to the rapidly evaporating Lake Urmia. You could sit at the feet of an ayatollah in the morning and hear a Koran-backed strategy for gender equality; by afternoon, you could be with the radical student opposition in a decaying house in the center of the city, still strewn with shredded documents removed from the United States embassy during the 1979 hostage-taking. There were literary readings almost every night, and subversive theater that lampooned the system, using metaphors from baseball to Moliere. Read more…

 

Published on March 1, in www.nyt.com

Azadeh Moaveni is a lecturer in journalism at Kingston University and the author, most recently, of “Honeymoon in Tehran: Two Years of Love and Danger in Iran.”

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

We use both our own and third-party cookies to enhance our services and to offer you the content that most suits your preferences by analysing your browsing habits. Your continued use of the site means that you accept these cookies. You may change your settings and obtain more information here. Accept