A truly great man died last week. We should pause to reflect on his life and say a prayer for our people that we not be deceived by ideologies that promise much but deliver only misery. His words still resonate with meaning if we have ‘ears to hear’.
The writer/playwright and late Czech President Vaclav Havel passed away on 18 December, 2011. He was a passionate advocate of human rights and helped led his country ‘mentally’ as well as politically out of the coma of totalitarianism.
Havel’s insights into the human condition may have application beyond the post-totalitarian system he led his country through.
After all Havel knew firsthand what the political and social awakenings like the ‘Prague Spring’ were all about. It was from his country Czechoslovakia that we got the phrase ‘Prague Spring’. From this we now coined the phrase the ‘Arab Spring’ to describe popular political uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa.
Back in 1968 it was used to describe the democratic aspirations of a new generation of Czechs rising up against the oppression of the communist ideology. The passion of idealistic youth was crushed by the reality of Russian tanks seeking to impose strict Stalinist orthodoxy. Their leaders were removed and the reforms were brutally crushed.
In particular Have’s insights into the sterility of totalitarian ideology and its dehumanizing effect on human beings may prove to be prophetic for Greece or other troubled regions facing economic and social upheaval. As Greek youth unemployment hovers around 50% Greek youth who may be tempted to turn to anarchy or other extremist ideology to make sense of their predicaments. Let us hope that they turn to the best traditions of Greece (Bravery, Democracy and Christianity) to ride out the storm.
Not the least of those countries, whose youth would do well to read Havel’s works, should be Egypt, Tunisia and Libya where popular revolutions rode the wave of the ‘Arab Spring’ to topple non-democratic regimes.
Now they stand looking to build new societies. But on what ideological foundation will they build? Does the Muslim Brotherhood have an ideology that is workable in a democratic framework to build societies where basic human rights are respected or has their raison d’être been extinguished in a form of dialectic consummation now that the struggle is over and a new form of polity is manifesting?
Will that polity embrace democracy, theocracy or a workable combination? Will they base it on pragmatic democracy or a form of totalitarian ideology?
Will extremists like the Salafi-Takfiris (AKA Salafi-Jihadis) hijack the Arab Spring and bring a Taliban/ North Korean style totalitarian misery to the people?
On the other hand can the Muslim Brotherhood like the Palestinian authority (appears to have done) grow into a mature workable government based on reasonably democratic principles but with an understandable flavouring of Orthodox Islamic principles? Much will depend on the strength of character of the Arab Spring leaders and an accommodation between mosque and state.
Can the Muslim Brotherhood alone or in combination with Nasser/Bath/military type parties in forming governments defend the body politic against Islamo-fascism of the Salafi-Takfiris and give their peoples whether Copt, Sunni or Shia or other faith or no faith basic human rights? It may take time to transition from authoritarian rule to a democratic framework but what ideology is best to underpin the aspirations of the young people in North Africa and the Middle East?
Maybe the young Arab generation can bring up on their smart phones some of Vaclav Havel’s writings and get some insights from the children of the ‘Prague Spring’ how to make the most out of the ‘Arab Spring’ before ideology swallows them up into a totalitarian abyss. Instead of the tanks of the Russian Stalinists or the tanks of Tiananmen Square old guard communists running over them, the poor Arab youth may have the tanks of Islamo-fascism roll over their minds crushing the lifeblood from their Arab Spring for another generation or more. The ramifications of what ideological choices the Arab youth take will spill over into the Mediterranean and beyond. The stability of the region hangs in the balance.
“Ideology is a specious way of relating to the world. It offers human beings the illusion of an identity, of dignity, and of morality while making it easier for them to part with them.
As the repository of something suprapersonal and objective, it enables people to deceive their conscience and conceal their true position and their inglorious modus vivendi, both from the world and from themselves.
It is a very pragmatic but, at the same time, an apparently dignified way of legitimizing what is above, below, and on either side. It is directed toward people and toward God.
It is a veil behind which human beings can hide their own fallen existence, their trivialization, and their adaptation to the status quo. It is an excuse that everyone can use, from the greengrocer… to the highest functionary, whose interest in staying in power can be cloaked in phrases…
The primary excusatory function of ideology, therefore, is to provide people, both as victims and pillars of the post-totalitarian system, with the illusion that the system is in harmony with the human order and the order of the universe. . . .
This is why life in the system is so thoroughly permeated with hypocrisy and lies… Because the regime is captive to its own lies, it must falsify everything. It falsifies the past.
It falsifies the present, and it falsifies the future. It falsifies statistics… It pretends to pretend nothing.”
Merkel’s projection regarding nationalist movements in Europe
In recent years, we have repeatedly spoken about the blows that hit the United Europe hard, and resulted in constant and overwhelming crises in this block. The European authorities now refer to “returning to nationalism” as a potential danger (and in some cases, the actual danger!) In this block, and warn against it without mentioning the origin of this danger.
The German Chancellor has once again warned about the rise of nationalism in Europe. The warning comes at a time when other European officials, including French President Emmanuel Macron, have directly or indirectly, acknowledged the weakening of Europe’s common values. This indicates that the EU authorities don’t see the danger of extensive nationalism far from reality.
“Nationalism and a winner-take-all attitude are undermining the cohesion of Europe”, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said. “Perhaps the most threatening development for me is that multilateralism has come under such pressure,” Merkel said. “Europe is facing attacks from the outside and from the inside.”
A simple contemplation on the issue of “return of the United Europe to nationalism” suggests that the current European authorities have played an active role in the desire of their citizens to return to the time before the formation of the European Union. In the 2014 general election, we saw more than 100 right-wing extremist candidates finding way to the European Parliament.
This could be the starting point for making fundamental changes in macroeconomic policies and creating a different relationship between the European leaders and the citizens of this block. But this did not happen in practice.
Although the failure of European leaders to manage the immigration crisis and, most importantly, the continuation of the economic crisis in some of the Eurozone countries has contributed to the formation of the current situation, but it should not be forgotten that the growth of radical and nationalist parties in Europe has largely been due to the block’s officials incapability in convincing European citizens about the major policies in Europe. In this regard, those like Angela Merkel and Macron don’t actually feel any responsibility.
Undoubtedly, if this process doesn’t stop, the tendency to nationalism will spread across the Europe, and especially in the Eurozone. European officials are now deeply concerned about next year’s parliamentary elections in Europe. If this time the extreme right parties can raise their total votes and thus gain more seats in the European Parliament, there will be a critical situation in the Green Continent.
The fact is that far-right extremists in countries such as France, Sweden, Austria and Germany have been able to increase their votes, and while strengthening their position in their country’s political equations, they have many supporters in the social atmosphere.
Finally, the German Chancellor remarks, shouldn’t be regarded as a kind of self-criticism, but rather are a new projection of the European leaders. Merkel, Macron and other European officials who are now warning about the emergence of nationalism in Europe should accept their role in this equation.
This is the main prerequisite for reforming the foundations in Europe. If they refuse to feel responsible, the collapse of the European Union will be inevitable, an issue that Merkel and Macron are well aware of.
First published in our partner MNA
Dayton Peace Accord 23 Years On: Ensured Peace and Stability in Former Yugoslavia
For the past twenty-three years life has been comparatively peaceful in the breakaway republics of the former Yugoslavia. The complicated civil war that began in Yugoslavia in 1991 had numerous causes and began to break up along the ethnic lines. The touching stories and the aftermath effects of the breakaway republics of Bosnia- Herzegovina, Croatia and in Kosovo are still unfolding. Though the numbers of deaths in the Bosnia- Herzegovina conflict in former Yugoslavia are not known precisely, most sources agree that the estimates of deaths vary between 150,000 to 200,000 and displaced more than two million people. During the conflict a Srebrenica a North-eastern enclave of Bosnia once declared as a United Nations (UN ) safe area” saw one of the worst atrocity since second world war.
It has been estimated that more than 8,000 Muslim Bosniaks were massacred in Srebrenica and it was one of the most brutal ethnic cleansing operations of its kind in modern warfare. The US brokered peace talks revived the a peace process between the three warring factions in Bosnia- Herzegovina. For Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina a United States (US ) -brokered peace deal reached in Dayton on 21st November 1995. In a historic reconciliation bid on 14 December 1995 , the Dayton Peace Accord was signed in Paris, France, between Franjo Tudjman president of the Republic of Croatia and Slobodan Milosevic president of the Federal Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro), Alija Izetbegovic, president of the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
When conflict in Bosnia- Herzegovina, Croatia ended, the reconciliation began between ethnically divided region. The US played a crucial role in defining the direction of the Peace process. In 1996, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) -led 60,000 multinational peace enforcement force known as the Implementation Force (IFOR)) was deployed to help preserve the cease-fire and enforce the treaty provisions. Thereafter, the Court was established by Resolution 808 and later, Resolution 827 of the United Nations Security Council, which endorsed to proceed with setting up of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) to try crimes against humanity . International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was the first United Nations (UN) war crimes tribunal of its kind since the post-second world war Nuremberg tribunal.
In the late 1990’s, as the political crisis deepened a spiral of violence fuelled the Kosovo crisis between the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and the Yugoslav forces. Unlike the Bosnia- Herzegovina, Kosovo was a province of Serbia, of former Yugoslavia that dates back to 1946, when Kosovo gained autonomy as a province within Serbia. It is estimated that more than 800,000. Kosovos were forced out of Kosovo in search of refuge and as many as 500,000 more were displaced within Kosovo.
Subsequent t hostilities in Kosovo the eleven week air campaign led by NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) against Yugoslavia in 1999 the Yugoslavian forces pulled troops out of Kosovo NATO. After the war was over, the United Nations Security Council, under the resolution 1244 (1999) approved to establish an international civil presence in Kosovo, known as the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). Nevertheless UNMIK regulation No 1999/24 provided that the Law in Force in Kosovo prior to March 22, 1989 would serve as the applicable law for the duration of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).
In this context reconciliation is a key to national healing of wounds after ending a violent conflict. Healing the wounds of the past and redressing past wrongs is a process through which a society moves from a divided past to a shared future. Over the years in Serbia, Bosnia- Herzegovina, Croatia and in Kosovo the successful peace building processes had happened. The success of the peace building process was possible because of participation of those concerned, and since appropriate strategies to effectively approach was applied with all relevant actors. The strengthening of institutions for the benefit of all citizens has many important benefits for the peace and stability of former Yugoslavia. Hence, the future looks bright for the Balkan states of Serbia, Bosnia- Herzegovina, Croatia and Kosovo.
Hungarian Interest, Ukraine and European Values
Diplomatic conflicts that have recently arisen between Hungary and its neighboring countries and the European Union as a whole most clearly show the new trend in European politics. This trend is committing to national and state values of a specific European country, doubting the priority of supranational interests within the European Union. Political analyst Timofey Bordachev believes that “the era of stale politics and the same stale politicians, who make backstage decisions based on the“ lowest common denominator,” are finally coming to an end. Politicians with a new vision of the world order come to power, such as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Austrian Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurtz, or the new head of the Italian Interior Ministry, leader of the right-wing League of the North Party, Matteo Salvini ”.
It is not the first year that Hungary is trying to protect the interests of its citizens and the state from external influence, to protect the Hungarians in the territory of neighbouring states by establishing for this a special position (Commissioner for the development of the Transcarpathian region of Ukraine), to determine relations with other countries on the basis of their attitude to the rights of Hungarians. This is how conflicts with the European Union arose, after Hungary refused to let migrants into the country, in the same manner, a conflict arose with Ukraine, which is trying to build a state ideology, based on nationalism, which a priori does not provide for the proper level of realization and protection of the rights of non-titular nations.
In relation to Hungary, Ukraine follows the same policy as in relation to Russia – to initiate various accusations, to call for punishment, to talk about the inconsistency with European values of the Hungarian policy under the leadership of Orban. Doing so Kiev has its multifaceted interest: cooperation with NATO and the EU, support for any decisions of Brussels, the anti-Russian course, domestic policy based on the nationalist ideology. And in all these areas Hungary poses a problem for Ukraine. In the description of relations with Hungary Kiev even uses the word “annexation“.
Hungary is hardly planning to seize any Ukrainian territory, but on what grounds Ukraine falsely accuses Hungary of its annexation intentions in relation to Transcarpathia? The Ukrainian side highlights several positions:
Issuing Hungarian passports to Ukrainian citizens (ethnic Hungerians)
This is an old story, it has come to light again recently due to the growth of Ukrainian nationalism. Moreover, there are concerns about the implementation by Hungary of the “Crimean scenario” in relation to Transcarpathia.
The Hungarian government has created the position of “Commissioner for the development of Ukraine’s Transcarpathian region and the program for the development of kindergartens in the Carpathian region”.
Ukraine demanded an explanation. A note of protest was delivered to the Hungarian Charge d’Affaires in Ukraine, and the Foreign ministers of Ukraine and Hungary had a telephone conversation on the problem. Hungary continues to ignore the requirements of Kiev.
Ukraine fears further disintegration processes
At the same time, in Kiev there is no understanding of the fact that combining the ideology of nationalism with the country’s national diversity and European integration is hardly possible.
Ukrainian experts note the growth of separatism in the Transcarpathian region, as well as the “strange behavior” of the governor, who plays on the side of Hungary. They also complain that “pro-Ukrainian ideology”(?) is not being сonsolidated in Transcarpathia, and this region is not controlled and monitored by the Ministry of information. In a word, the state is losing control over the territory, which it neither develops nor controls. Such behavior of the governor and the region’s residents may indicate that the state is not sufficiently present in the lives of residents of Transcarpathia, and this a financial and humanitarian drawback they compensate with the help of Hungary, – experts believe.
Apparently, Ukraine is unable to reach an agreement with Hungary as relations are tense. In response to the Ukrainian law on education, adopted in the fall of 2017, which infringes the rights of national minorities, Budapest blocked another, the third, Ukraine-NATO meeting. Ukraine witnessed this embarrassing situation in April 2018. At the same time elections were held in Hungary, in which Viktor Orban’s party won a majority in the parliament. Such a tough stance of Budapest in relation to the Ukrainian educational policy Kiev considered to be just a sign of electoral populism. However, this was a mistake.
Viktor Orban’s victory in spring 2018 was convincing, and a convincing victory means obvious support of his migration policies as well as his support for compatriots abroad. The party of Orban – Fides – not only won a majority but a constitutional majority – 133 of the 199 seats in the National Assembly of Hungary.
There is no doubt that Hungary has become Ukraine’s another serious opponent in the process of its European integration. And it is unlikely that either country will take a step back: there will be presidential elections in Ukraine soon, and in Hungary, the victory won by Orban, apparently, confirms the approval of his independent foreign policy by the citizens. So the conflict is likely to develop.
First published in our partner International Affairs
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