Archive for the ‘Topics’ Category


Putin and Victory Day

Written on May 18, 2015 by Waya Quiviger in Regions, Security

susana-197x300Susana Torres Prieto. Associate Professor of Humanities at IE University and IE Business School 

A colleague from Moscow’s Higher School of Economics told me a few months ago that, since he was a child-and he is over fifty now-there were only two big holidays in Russia, Victory Day, or Den Pobedy, in Russian, and New Year. He, who is now more often seen in anti-Putin demonstrations than in any other political rally, was trying to describe the magic, the solemnity of that celebration since he can remember, the happiness brought about by the unattainable feeling of pride of being Russian, or Soviet back then. And I guess he was trying to claim that Russia’s national holiday belonged to the Russians, not to President Putin.

It might be difficult to have a national day that does not commemorate some deed or feat that may offend others. Apparently that is why Putin, when he was president for the first time, tried to establish a new holiday back in 2005, the Day of National Unity on November 4th, to avoid, first of all, having to celebrate the October Revolution on November 7th and,  maybe, in an attempt of trying not to upset his good friend, the then-chancellor Gerhard Schröder, by putting too much emphasis on celebrating the victory over Nazi Germany. The date was chosen because it marked the ascension of the Romanov Dynasty to power after the Russian people, united despite being tsar-less, expelled the Poles from Russia, thus putting an end to the so-called Times of Troubles. Why President Putin chose this precise date only one year after Poland had joined the EU and not, for example, the date of the victory over the Mongols might be something worth investigating, as well as why commemorating, as if in passing, the ascension of the last Imperial Dynasty to the Russian throne. Much Freudian analysis could be done on the latter.

The fact of the matter is that long gone are the days in which Mr. Putin made jokes with his German counterparts and practiced his fluent East German with Chancellor Merkel. When Putin inherited a broken country at the beginning of this century, he had so many fronts to fight he had to do it, whether he liked it or not. Nothing was quiet in none of the fronts. Oligarchs were constantly trying to checkmate the economy, Chechnya was still in the front page of the news, terrorism was acting in the very heart of Moscow, and a deep feeling of desperation was gripping all those who, unable to make fabulous fortunes in 24 hours, had to remain in the country. It seemed, more blatantly evident than ever, that the Prince of Salina was right: “everything needs to change, so everything can stay the same”. However, things have changed in a decade or so, and if anyone is surprised by the display of military might that President Putin made last Saturday in Moscow, maybe other facts should be taken into account, such as that Crimea is probably going to be Russian for ever, that Putin has signed more trade agreements with India and China in the last few months than in a whole decade (in order to purchase from them, by the way, what he used to purchase from Europe, and at a much better price), that Europe is still energetically dependent from Russia to a considerable extent, and that the Russian economy is undergoing a hard time now probably rather due to the price of oil than to foreign economic sanctions.

When President Putin spoke last at the IMF, back in December, he used the old rhetoric of the Russian bear, a metaphor as old as the Crimean War, to describe the relations between Russia and the West. Some analysts, and some  politicians, interpreted his words as a not-so-veiled threat, but in fact it was a much more effective slogan in terms of national politics. As the display of power he made in Moscow evidenced–a corollary of his annexation of the Crimea–he continues to feed into this intangible feeling of making Russians proud of being Russians, proud of celebrating Victory Day. Opinion polls show that in that area he is certainly going in the right direction. Time will tell if Europe is strong enough to de-claw the bear.



Day 2 in Brussels:

Today the MIR students and I woke up quite early to enjoy the complimentary breakfast served at our hotel. We’re staying at the lovely Radisson Blu which is conveniently located in walking distance to most of the EU institutions. After satiating my growling stomach with french toast, eggs, bacon, and sausages, we began our walk to the European Commission building. We arrived during the middle of rush hour with a line coiling around the lobby to enter the first security check. After a quick briefing, we were led into a meeting room to participate in a very interesting series of seminars covering a range of different topics.

Topics included information about the EU and the European Commission, EU and Russia relations, Banking Policy, the EU energy union, and the EU enlargement policy. It was quite surreal to see the civil servants walking around going about their daily work life. Various languages could be heard as I walked around each corner of the Commission. One of my favorite parts of the day was the lunch in their cafeteria. The food was diverse and delicious and most of us left happily clutching our stomachs with satisfaction.

One of the other students and I got to catch a glimpse of the EU Water Conference by accident while getting lost in our attempt to wander back to our meeting room. There was a large room with seemingly important people and booths filled with translators in the back. People were rushing around with papers seemingly preparing for something important.  We were really lucky to have briefly seen the proceeding.

After a long day of seminars, most of the MIR students and I went for dinner. We had to try the famous Belgian fries and local foods! The food was plentiful and delicious. Tomorrow we will be attending a seminar with the International Organization for Migration and also the European Parliament.

Stay tuned for more updates!


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This is part of a series where current Master in International Relations student Calvin Nguyen will share with us updates about the Master in International Relations yearly trip to Brussels.


 Day 1 in Brussels:

At 8:00 am the alarm clock began blaring loudly. I swiped sideways.  With the sun still not completely out yet and the rain pattering on the outside of my window, I slowly made my way out of bed. There was no time to waste because today was the long awaited day for the MIR program’s annual Brussels trip! With a quick shower and some last minute adjustments, I was out the door and on the way to the airport. At the airport I was greeted with 22 other excited, yet not fully awake MIR students. Before we knew it, we were on the way to Brussels, Belgium.  After a brief 2.5 hour flight, we had finally arrived at our destination. We checked into our hotel and had a quick one hour break before having to meet for our first event of the day.

We had the chance to meet with Director Doru Frantescu of Votewatch Europe, an NGO whose goal is to gather information on the EU Parliamentarians via data mining, compiling, and then finally presenting the information on an easy to understand platform on their website. Their goal is to provide accountability and transparency within the EU Parliamentary processes and to overall provide information to curious people and other organizations. In 2014 during election season, the NGO offered a free phone app that allowed users to answer and to share their opinions on 20 critical issues. Afterwards, the app would display matches with EU Parliament members and political parties that matches their views by matching data from the past 5 years.

After the very interesting meeting with Votewatch Europe, we went to a local bar for “Beers and Foreign Policy,” for an informal event to listen to and to discuss with Mr. Nereo Peñalver García. The hot topic and focus on the night was the situation in Iraq and Syria with the emergence of the Islamic State/Daech. Over cocktails and snacks over an informal setting, we got to hear about Mr. Nereo’s unique perspective and insights from his recent return from the region. Such an informal setting was a very different and fun way to engage in an exchange of ideas.

Tomorrow we will be up bright and early for a trip to the European Commission. It’s very rewarding to be able to not only learn in the classroom in Madrid, Spain but to see the actual institutions and talk to the actors that we have been studying about these past few months.

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This is part of a series where current Master in International Relations student Calvin Nguyen will share with us updates about the Master in International Relations yearly trip to Brussels.



On March 6th IE hosted Cecilia Malmström, European Commissioner for Trade, who examined the challenges facing EU trade policy with students and professors of IE University’s Bachelor and Master in International Relations. The EU Commissioner was received by the President of IE, Diego del Alcázar, and Arantza de Areilza, Dean of IE School of International Relations.

The talk formed part of a series of initiatives launched by the European Commission aimed at informing citizens about advances in negotiations on international trade agreements, such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and to hear opinions from different collectives on EU policy issues. Commissioner Malmström and her team are heading European negotiations related to the TTIP, an agreement aimed at enabling free trade with the US.




Malmström explained how one of the EU’s key challenges is that of “connecting with citizens”, listening to their opinions, and debating with them on European policy.  She recognized that there is a major debate surrounding the TTIP negotiations, the completion of which would have a very positive impact in terms of job creation. Malmström reminded those present that 30 million people in Europe work in positions related to export, 4.5 million of which have a direct connection with exports to the US. She explained how Swedish policy has centered around the idea that trade agreements are not only aimed at large companies, but at smaller firms as well, pointing out that in Spain alone there are 70,000 SMEs that export.

The European Commissioner for Trade underscored the fact that the signing of the TTIP agreement does not mean that consumers will have less protection or will face a change in regulations. She explained that the agreement is about providing European firms with greater access to the US market, citing as an example how the safety tests to which the US and European automobile industries are subjected to when exporting from one region to another are of a similar, very high standard, which is a major cause of inefficiency in the sector.

Participating IE University students were able to exchange views on key subjects with Cecilia Malmström, including European trade policy, and the main agreements currently being negotiated in the Asia-Pacific region, Latin America and Africa, as well as reflecting on the challenges facing the EU in this field in the coming years.



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Cecilia Malmström, European Commissioner for Trade, is interviewed by Arantza de Areilza, Dean of IE School of International Relations, on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and Europe-US Relationship.



Last week, the IE School of International Relations hosted the first Online Speaker Series this year, From the MDGs to the Post 2015 Sustainable Development Agenda – An Inside View of the United Nations. We were joined for this online session by Mr. Vinicius Pinheiro, Deputy Director of the ILO Office for the United Nations as well as Ms. Shuo Xing, Associate Director of IE’s Career Management Center.

During the online session, Mr. Pinheiro spoke specifically about the United Nations Millennium Development Goals while also offering a view going forward of the post-2015 sustainable development agenda. During the roughly one hour session, he provided a backdrop to the MDGs including the factors leading up to their development, the multilateral landscape at the time, while also looking at the goals and milestones achieved.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are a set of eight initiatives agreed to by all the world’s countries and development institutions, with a united aim ranging from poverty reduction to lessening of HIV/AIDS by this year, 2015. Celebrating the arrival of the 2015 target date, the UN is now embarking on an ambitious new set of post-2015 development agenda. Included in the scope of this new agenda are a variety of social and economic concerns including job creation, healthcare and education initiatives, as well as a renewed focus on cities and the environment.

According to Mr. Pinheiro, this new agenda will require strong coordination at the international level as well as cooperation by regional governments in terms of policy implementation. During the question and answer portion of the talk, he addressed such issues such as sustainable development for developing nations in the wake of rapid economic growth as well as specific policy practices related to food development and agriculture.

Following this talk, Miss Shuo Xing spoke about career opportunities in the public sector including the United Nations Young Professionals Programme which has seen several MIR alumni go through its ranks.

This online session, including the Q&A portion, was recorded and can be viewed here.


Written by Tim Palmer, IE Associate Director of Admissions.  

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