Thursday, September 15, 2016

Europe should stop bickering and start coordinating.
Jean Asselborn, Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister, has recently unleashed an attack on Hungary, over its stance on the refugee crisis.

He told the German daily Die Welt that Hungary should be temporarily or even permanently expelled from the European Union.

Asselborn’s comments come days before 27 EU leaders meet in Bratislava to discuss the bloc’s future.

 “Anyone who, like Hungary, builds fences against refugees from war or who violates press freedom and judicial independence should be excluded temporarily, or if necessary for ever, from the EU.” Mr Asselborn stated.

He argued it’s the only way to “preserve the cohesion and values of the European Union.”

Hungary is holding a government-sponsored referendum on October the 2nd, seeking support for rejecting any future EU plan to resettle migrants among member states.(New Europe)

We are really getting tired in Europe, hearing our leaders bickering about who should be kicked out, or who is worthy to stay in. Each EU member state has its own history and past, that influences the way we deal with each upcoming problem.

Some European countries had been exposed to multiculturalism for far longer, thus having more time to adjust and get used to it. Either because they have been themselves colonial powers, or simply because economically they blossomed sooner than most newest "additions" to the EU block.

So to demand conformity or you are out, it is simply wrong and not helpful. I agree with Mr. Asselborn that the Hungarian stance on the refugee crisis is disappointing.

The central European nation's PM Viktor Orban, even claimed that the refugee crisis is a "German problem."

In reality it is a global problem, not just a European nor a German one. And since Hungary is part of both Europe and the world, it should- if it wants to be called a modern democratic European nation- play its role to tackle the crisis.

Europe should, instead of bickering within itself, work together firstly to deal with the issue. Secondly, work closely to convince other regions of the world to help out and do their part in this humanitarian crisis.

Attitudes like Mr Orban's do not help, so we are understandably getting Mr Asselborn's remarks; although they are not appropriate.

The EU should start showing unity and serious signs of cooperation and solidarity, if it wants to be taken as a serious contender in the globe.

It would best avoided to keep discussing about leaving or being kicked out of the block. The problem is that we have now too many governments in EU, with so many different agendas.

Not all are committed to the same vision for Europe, while unfortunately almost all still prioritize national agendas over a common European one.

It is particularly sad to see not just Hungary, but many other "new" EU member states, dropping their enthusiasm for the block, once the obligations of their membership appear.

Yet, threatening them with expulsion or ridicule them as a country for the statements of their politicians in not constructive either. It simply crystallizes the public support around their leaders.

Europe does not need anymore star politicians looking for publicity. Nor it needs more political intrigues,that do nothing more to give more food to the story selling hungry media.

What the continent needs is inspirational leaders to offer solutions and bring a new vision for its future.

We should have dealt with the refugee crisis locally, years ago when it first manifested itself. We lacked leadership then and so we do now.

Instead of taking action on a national level for something that affects everyone on the continent, or blaming and threatening those who do not follow the consensus, it would be great if for once we witnessed true diplomatic and leadership skills from more of our leaders.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

European or Atlantic military alliance?

This summer it was not just the EU that was rocked by doubts as a block. The world's mightiest military alliance-NATO- has also had its share of uncertainty, caused by remarks made from some of its members' prominent politicians.

Jeremy Corbyn has called for NATO to be "closed down", in mid August. The British Labour leader said the military alliance was an "engine for the delivery of oil to the oil companies" and called for it to "give up, go home and go away."

His comments quickly sparked condemnation by many defense chiefs, warning that his comments about the organisation are "weakening western civilization”.

Mr Corbyn was also criticized after he refused to say whether he would defend a NATO ally if it were invaded by Russia. (The Telegraph)
His remarks came less than one month of those of Donald Trump.

The US Republican Presidential Candidate, struck his most stridently isolationist notes recently.

He declared that NATO’s principle that an attack on one is an attack on all, should be conditional on every member country paying “their fair share”.

“I want to keep NATO, but I want them to pay,” Trump told a rally in Scranton, Pennsylvania. “I don’t want to be taken advantage of . We’re protecting countries that most of the people in this room have never even heard of," he added. (The Guardian)

Resulting from the above remarks, Ex-NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has argued in a recent interview, that Putin will have free reign to launch attacks with Mr Corbyn in No.10 and loudmouth Donald Trump in the White House.

NATO's "collective defense" principle says an attack on one is an attack on all, and Mr Rasmussen claimed Mr Corbyn's inaction leaves Europe weakened.

He said: "I think his refusal to clearly state that as a possible prime minster of the UK, he would not be sure that he would defend NATO allies has really, really undermined the credibility of NATO.

The former NATO Secretary, added that it is unlikely that the Russian president would launch an open attack on the West, but that he might engage in a sinister "hybrid warfare".

Mr Rasmussen warned that tactics seen in the annexation of the Crimea might become much more common if Mr Corbyn was in charge. (Daily Star)

Meanwhile, calls from within the EU for the creation of a European army are getting stronger and more vocal, following the Brexit.

The European Commission's President Jean-Claude Juncker, declared that an EU army would enable the EU to “fulfil” its mission to the world.

He added that Europe’s image in terms of foreign policy, has been tarnished and that the continent was not taken “entirely seriously” as a major power.

Czech Republic Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has backed plans for a European Union military force to help tackle the threats of extremist militants, Russian aggression and the migrant crisis.

Although he insisted the new army would not threaten NATO, but would act as a “more actionable and reliable partner”. (The Sun) Poland, Hungary and Germany have also openly expressed their support for such army recently.

The above statements and developments, indicate that Europe is about to go through significant change and reforms. And it is about time.

Our continent can not rely always on our American allies for protection. Firstly although it may cost us less,it leaves us contingent on USA. Thus we can never have our own independent foreign policy as a continent.

Secondly it is getting clear that both the UK and the US are shifting their focus away from Europe. After the Brexit, Britain could potentially cause similar ripples in NATO with Corbyn as leader, while if Trump get elected and sticks to what he says, the alliance membership will become more costly.

Not only European states will have to follow America in their wars, but also pay more into the alliance's budget and take more responsibilities, while serving US interests abroad.

Consequently, it would make sense for Europe to form its own military and establish a different kind of alliance with America. One that will be between equal and similarly engaged super armies, a North American and a European one, potentially joined by other Western nations like Australia and New Zealand.

It will not be currently wise for Europe to abandon NATO altogether, given the increasing instability that spreads right to its doorstep. We still need a back-up support from our allies in NATO and beyond.

Until we develop our own defense,we will have to get the most out of USA and the UK, their knowledge and infrastructure,before we become coordinated militarily.

With its own military, Europe will gain confidence and could eventually be taken seriously as a world power.

Right now, with Russia as well as America influencing passively or actively our internal and foreign affairs, our continent remains nothing more than a trade behemoth; the world's biggest market, without its own security or ability to defend itself.

Naturally any European citizen would wonder what benefits will such development offer him. Besides, shouldn't the world become less militarized, less hostile to each other?

Ideally, yes it should. We must start spend less in weaponry and our arms industries, while investing more in education, science and technology.

Yet sadly the world is not ideal yet. Until we can achieve peace globally, we still need an army for defense, security and dealing with natural and humanitarian disasters in Europe and beyond.

With its own army, Europe could become an alternative to America's version of world security. It should promote its own vision and voice in the world, that must of course be different from US foreign policy.

We could either counterpart or compliment America, depending our own interests, ideology and view of the world; not quietly follow our US allies.

Only then Europe can shape our world-for the better I hope-according to our values. When it gets actively involved, stops being a follower and just a market. When it's been seen by the rest of the globe as a a region that they can turn to when in need. 

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Europe:To ban the burkini, or not to ban?
It has been one of the most talked and divisive developments in Europe this summer; some French municipalities have been banning the use of the "burkini" in their beaches.

The mayor of one of these seaside towns on the French Riviera has declared "if you don't want to live the way we do, don't come."

"You have to behave in the way that people behave in the country that accepted you, and that is it," Cogolin Mayor Marc Etienne Lansade told CNN.

The ruling came after more than 30 French towns banned the swimsuit, which covers the whole body except for the face, hands and feet and is worn mostly by Muslim women. Officials have said the ban on the outfit was a response to growing concerns about radical Islamic terrorism. (CNN)

In some occasions, like in the picture above in Nice, women were forced to remove their garment by policemen. Even more disturbingly, there have been reports that some of the people witnessing the occasion, were shouting ‘go home’, while others were applauding the police.” (The Guardian)

This is a worrying development, that is affecting not just France but the rest of Europe too. The continent's public opinion has been long debating its values and where our multicultural model is heading.

In addition, France is not the only country that is experiencing a crisis of cultural, political and societal identity. The refugee crisis, the EU expansion to the East, the euro-zone crisis and the recent Brexit, have all added further stress to Europe's selfhood impasse.

Some cases like that of the Brexit, are actually a pristine indicator of the massive shift or confusion of the European public opinion, on its identity or future.

Our continent is changing that is for sure. Free movement of people, an ever changing society, economy and political environment are forcing Europe to reinvent itself. And as in every transition period, a massive soul searching is always under way.

European people, like every single person going through change, are trying to imagine or create a future model that they will like to follow and aspire to. Some are trying desperately to hold on to what it is, others are striving to go back to what it was, while only few are looking to the future, open to all possibilities and outcome.

Countries like Britain chose to look backwards and turn to the British Commonwealth for stability and security. Whilst many new EU member states like Hungary and Poland, are trying to resist change and keep things as they are.

Migrants pose new challenges and they will change the current demographic, societal, cultural and political homogeneity of these nations. Especially when we are talking for migrants of different race, religion or cultural background.

Very few European nations still fully embrace modernity and the inevitable change that is bringing. What is happening in France is not just a French problem and could potentially spread to other nations.

Especially if the terror attacks on European soil continue. People need scapegoats when threatened, they want to see someone paying for their misfortunes and fear. Humans used to sacrifice animals or even each other when faced with phenomena they did not understand or could not control.

As Europe is faced with an ever growing threat from Islamist extremists, anything that reminds of them will become a target. There is no doubt that the burkini ban incidents are directly linked to the recent terror attacks in France; a knee-jerk reaction deriving from anger and fear, plus the very statement that Europe's enemies would love to receive.

It the mentality of the herd; if you wanna live among us, look and behave like us or we will kick you out of our group. It's a very primeval, deep rooted thing and it affects all nations.

It does make sense of course, when you move in one country and take its citizenship, you should abide by its laws and values. Currently secularism, freedom and democracy make up the core of our values.

But is a dress code representative of those and if yes, is forcibly removing it also doing justice to our principles? I personally detest burkas or niqabs as I see no point of any religious dress-code at this day and age.

I do not believe that any dogma and the obvious declaration of it such a burka, have any place in the Europe that we are trying to build.

Yet I also think that policing and forcibly making people to abandon their own values, no matter how un-European they may be, has anything to do with the society I would like to live in.

Assuming that we start accepting policing and dress-code control on Muslim people in our continent, who could be next? Which group will we have to "conform" to fit our values in the future?

If we are so weary of our culture and we think that we need to "protect" or "safeguard" it from foreign influences, then perhaps this is a sign of how weak or declining this culture of ours is.

We should be looking at why people who have been living in our continent for decades or even were born here, have failed to integrate in our societies.

Integration comes with acceptance and education. It comes with equal opportunities and recognition. Being an immigrant myself, I must confess that all the times I felt anger towards my new host country, were when I felt rejected by its society and in return I was rejecting anything indicative of its culture.

So if these non-European individuals show signs of "rejecting" our values, perhaps they are doing so because they do not feel welcomed or part of our societies. Or maybe they are not inspired by them. Thus certainly forcefully making them remove their garments is not going to help.

You do not "force" anyone to accept your culture or values, you incite them to do so, you make them feel that abandoning their old ways is making sense for their future. If they do not, then we ought to firstly look where we as a society has failed, then debate on if they really belong here or they should be "going home".

If we decide that we do not want immigration into our lands, then we should stop bragging that we are an open and tolerant continent and call a spade a spade; that we do not wish to live in a multicultural society, we reject the current economic model that is promoting it and we prefer to live in social nationalism or something similar.

But could we accept the consequences, do we really know what that will mean and how will affect our lives?

The future European continent is in our hands. We are designing it right now with our decisions, our votes, our actions and what we stand for. It is a work in process that will take a long time.

We can either become like those nations that we so much criticize on their lack of tolerance and openness, or we will become the complete opposite to them and stick to it. This will be our statement and our answer to their inhuman, conservative, outdated, oppressive lack of progress and modernity.