Archive for the ‘Democracy & Human Rights’ Category

29
Apr

If, in 2011, the West’s view of the Arab world was grounded in optimism and exhilaration, it’s an entirely different story in 2016. Five years ago, there was still the sense that something was afoot, that the region could change into something better. There was the promise of a region based more on respect for fundamental rights, better governance and freedom – rather than one where these elements were constantly sacrificed to nepotism, autocracy and the cynical exploitation of concerns around security.

Five years on, the situation looks very different.

Now it is far more about security than ever before. It used to be that different Arab leaders would privately and publicly argue that they were better than the alternative of Islamism and that would be enough to get any concerns around fundamental rights of the table for discussion. Today, the equation is the same but different: many simply argue that the alternative to their rule is chaos. And, of course, no one wants chaos – and so the cycle continues.

But the region is not simply a place where one makes short-term exchanges between security concerns and everything else. It is a catastrophic mistake to look at the region in those terms alone.

The region is in a state of flux and the outside world needs to be more, not less, engaged with it, as it goes through an incredibly critical part of its modern history. Read more…

 

Published on April 28, 2016  in the national.ae

28
Apr

A banner of Austrian presidential candidate Norbert Hofer is covered with snow in Gnadenwald, Austria, April 27, 2016.

A ripple of concern shivered across Europe this week in establishment circles after a right-wing populist candidate stormed to pole position in the first round of Austria’s presidential election.

“Triumph for the extreme right,” proclaimed Spain’s El Pais newspaper. Britain’s Guardian warned of “turmoil” ahead. Italy’s Corriere della Sera bemoaned a victory for the “anti-immigrant far right” while Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung called on traditional political parties to “listen to this wake-up call!”

“In Austria, European governments see a mirror of their own future. Social tensions are rising,” noted another editorial predicting the rise of Europe’s far right.

But this writer wasn’t talking about Sunday’s vote.

Trotskyist journalist Peter Schwarz penned his thoughts 16 years ago, back in February 2000, when the Freedom Party (FPOe) first joined an Austrian government.

At the time, the party’s charismatic and controversial leader, Joerg Haider, had provoked condemnation at home and abroad with his praise for Hitler’s Waffen SS, with his strong anti-immigrant stance and Eurosceptic views. Read more…

Published on April 28 by Katya Adler in http://www.bbc.com

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

 

 

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