Europe between two fires
[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] B [/yt_dropcap]eing attacked from two sides simultaneously (terrorism and Russian threat) Europe has to decide what to do first: to counter terrorism or increasing Russian might. Choosing the priority is the most difficult challenge for the European States today. But Europe should make choice because states’ budgets are not bottomless.
It is obvious, that as soon as the terrorism problem comes to the fore, NATO (first of all the US) diverts attention to other matters, such as the necessity to boost defence expenditures because of Russia, Syria, Afghanistan and other “annoying” countries.
It can be easily explained by the burden the country has in NATO. Washington wants and does all possible things to reduce the burden at the expense of European NATO member states. By and large it does not really care of what is happening with Europeans. Apparently at this particular moment terroristic threat is not so actual for Washington as for Europe.
Competing for supremacy with Russia the US persistently call on NATO member states to increase defence spending. This issue was on the agenda for NATO Defense Ministers meeting on June, 29. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced that defence spending across the Alliance is expected to grow by 4.3% in 2017. It is too much for Europe.
Who will benefit? Definitely – the US. But most European countries will stay alone with terroristic threat and lack of money to solve their domestic problems.
But there are three European countries that have their own interest in this matter. Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia will benefit either. Deducting insignificant sums they receive NATO support and continue to ask for more and more foreign troops on their territories. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg conducting a visit in Lithuania this month praised Lithuania for increasing defence spending and efforts to strengthen security in the region. The Baltic States feel their importance in confronting of superpowers and intend to extract all possible benefits.
In other words most European countries got into trap. They are forced to help the Baltic States to the detriment of their own interests. Sooner or later this state of affairs will lead to tension in relations between European NATO member States. Help and support within the organization should be equal for all members. Helping the Baltic States other European countries themselves have the right to expect help and understanding of their problems. It could happen so that making their neighbors’ life safer they endanger their own people, leaving it face to face with terrorists, without capabilities to counter them because money has gone somewhere else. One-sided collective defense, is in it?
Building bridges between Ukrainian and EU researchers
With its eye on the eventual reconstruction of Ukraine, Europe is helping academics from the country get their lives back on track.
By Andrew Dunne
Regis Nibaruta remembers the night of 24 February 2022 like no other. After months of speculation about rising tensions with Russia, at 3am his phone rang. It was a fellow electrical engineer also based at the Dnipro National University of Railway Transport in Ukraine and part of the same EU training programme.
‘Have you seen the news?’ the colleague asked. ‘We’re under attack.’
Rush to safety
Before long, with the industrial city of Dnipro a target of heavy Russian bombardment, reality dawned.
‘We were terrified,’ Nibaruta said. ‘I didn’t know what to do or where to go, but I knew I had to get away.’
The war started on a Thursday. By Saturday, with just his passport and laptop as luggage, he was at the Dnipro railway station along with thousands of others hoping to board a train to reach the border.
Roll forward 12 months and 35-year-old Nibaruta, originally from Burundi, is safe, settled and reunited with European colleagues at the University of Twente in the Netherlands that helped to orchestrate his escape. There he’s conducting research that could improve future net-zero transport systems and one day be instrumental in rebuilding Ukraine’s own infrastructure too.
The EU-funded project that he is a part of is called the European Training network in collaboration with Ukraine for electrical Transport, or ETUT. The initiative brings together three universities: Twente, Dnipro and Nottingham in the UK. Led by Professors Frank Leferink and Gert Rietveld, both electrical-engineering specialists, it aims to harness expertise in power electronics and electromagnetic compatibility.
‘The main engineering challenge in the development of a more sustainable, greener electrical transport system lies in the development of compact, highly-efficient and safe electrical power systems that deliver the necessary energy to charge electric vehicles or supply trains,’ said Rietveld.
Through ETUT, which is funded by the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) programme, the team is developing new ways to meet these power demands.
One is through the development of electronics that allow energy to flow in both directions, a feature that could become a key component in electric trains.
When a train brakes, it creates heat and ordinarily this energy is lost. With this new ‘‘bi-directional’’ approach, braking energy can be recovered and fed back into the power grid, increasing capacity. Some of the first bi-directional railway supply systems are currently being installed and tested in Europe.
In other ways too ETUT is enabling new collaborations.
Nibaruta shares an office with 31-year-old Ivan Struzho, who is originally from the Ukrainian city of Mariupol now occupied by Russia but who was already in the Netherlands when the war broke out.
Whereas Nibaruta’s research focuses on improving battery technologies, Struzho’s looks at electromagnetic interference. Together, the two are exploring how to help reduce the electrical ‘‘disturbances’’ that can be caused by power systems and lead to equipment failure or accidents.
The project’s main goal, however, is to train and inspire the next generation of electronic engineers to develop the transport technologies needed for a zero-carbon world. Even though some of the team including Nibaruta have left Ukraine, the Dnipro National University of Railway Transport is still an active partner in ETUT.
Professor Vladimir Havryliuk, head of department at the university, supervises the project’s work remotely. For him, ETUT has provided a lifeline during these past 12 months in enabling research to continue.
‘The project allows me to maintain my activity in the field and has been a powerful motivational incentive for all university staff and students as it opens up new horizons in study and further work,’ he said.
Awards and returns
Another major initiative improving links between the Ukrainian and EU research communities is the MSCA4Ukraine project to help displaced researchers from Ukraine.
On the eve of the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion, the European Commission announced that MSCA4Ukraine – with a budget of €25 million – would help more than 120 Ukrainian academics pursue their work in safety over the next two years.
The researchers, whose fields include life sciences, chemistry, engineering and humanities, are hosted by organisations across Europe and supported in their research until they can return home.
The project is being implemented by Scholars at Risk Europe (SAR Europe), based at Maynooth University in Ireland, in partnership with the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Germany and the European University Association. SAR Europe Director Sinead O’Gorman says it will have a significant impact in building bridges among researchers and bring long-term benefits for the EU and Ukraine.
Focus is also on helping the Ukrainian researchers maintain connections with colleagues and institutions in Ukraine. In particular, researchers will have the option to undertake a secondment to an institution in Ukraine when it is safe to do so.
‘Our hope is that, by including these kinds of measures and linkages, the scheme will help researchers re-establish themselves more easily in Ukraine when the time comes,’ said O’Gorman. ‘This will contribute to the scheme’s wider goal of sustaining the Ukrainian academic and research sector in the face of the Russian Federation’s invasion and preventing permanent ‘‘brain drain’’.’
For both MSCA4Ukraine and ETUT, the idea is that supporting Ukrainian researchers now will ensure academic work advances and enable many to return to Ukraine one day to put their skills to use in rebuilding the war-torn country.
Struzho, who is still in regular contact with family that has remained in Mariupol, expresses hope.
‘My city has been destroyed,’ he said. ‘If this project could help in the rebuilding of Ukraine’s infrastructure in the future, that would be very good. I really hope I can use my knowledge to contribute in some part.’
Taiwan and the Czech Republic are not David, but Don Quixote
In January, Czech Republic President-elect Petr Pavel, spoke on the phone with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen. In Europe, this is an unprecedented political risk, as it is bound to anger China. Soon after, Markéta Pekarová Adamová ，the speaker of Czech’s chamber of deputies who publicly stated that she will lead a large business delegation to Taiwan and South Korea, and may meet with Taiwanese dignitaries from 3/25-3/28, and follow the example of Czech president of the senate Miloš Vystrčil’s visit to Taiwan in 2020 to address the Taiwanese Legislature.
The new Czech President and the speaker of Czech’s chamber of deputies have both expressed a very different foreign policy from the previous administration by strengthening their engagement with Taiwan, leaving behind realist diplomacy and replacing it with value-based diplomacy. A similar European case was Lithuania.
Pavel said he “hope to have the opportunity to meet President Tsai in person in the future”(1), Adamová said the chamber of deputies “systematic support of partners who respect human rights and the principles of liberal democracy belongs among priorities of our parliamentary diplomacy”(2).In response to China’s protests, Adamová blatantly stated that “We don’t want anyone to tell us where to go. Be it China or other people”(3).
Former Czech prime minister Mirek Topolánek also published a tweet ,even more bluntly saying that “We believe Taiwan will never be China’s.”(4)
Some public opinion interpreted this as an opportunity for the Czech Republic and Taiwan to show their defiance for China , and some public opinion said that “China is losing Europe’s east to Taiwan“, Some public opinion even quoted a biblical story describing this as a prototype of “democratic David against autocratic Goliath archetype”.
Well,the people of Taiwan have heard too many similar Aria in recent years, but the truth is , beautiful diplomatic rhetoric is always been accompanied by the haze of war , and Taiwan’s diplomatic position has never advanced a step forward. No country that claims to “support Taiwan” is willing to establish diplomatic relations with Taiwan or give Taiwan official recognition of a sovereign and independent state.
Talk is cheap.
Using the story of David and Goliath to position themselves as the righteous underdog is a Western-style religious sentiment,The truth is, the people of Taiwan have never felt oppressed and bullied by China, On the contrary, China is more than willing to share the development dividends with the Taiwanese and promote Taiwan’s economic development.
Although Taiwan’s ruling party regards such sharing as “improper buying with bad intentions” ,it has not blocked economic and trade exchanges between Taiwan and mainland China, It is clear that actions do not match words.
The evidence is that Taiwan’s exports to China account for more than 40 percent of total exports, that trade dependence is increasing every year, And even though the current administration is accustomed to fomenting anti-Chinese sentiment, it has never stopped asking for economic and trade favors from China.
It is true that the Chinese military has never stopped its exercises around Taiwan, but the people of Taiwan have never felt the pressure of security since 1996.It was only when U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan, stimulating an unprecedented military response from China, and when the U.S. aggressively armed Taiwan, causing the Taiwanese to realize the imminence of war.
President Tsai Ing-wen is to blame for Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, she was wrong when she assessed that inviting Pelosi to Taiwan was not a provocation to China. The evidence is that the new U.S. House Speaker McCarthy has hinted that he will visit Taiwan this year, but Tsai did not dare to invite him. Instead, the compromise is that Tsai Ing-wen stops in the United States, visits California and meets with McCarthy(5) to avoid affecting Taiwan’s 2024 presidential election.
In the Bible, it is not David who provokes Goliath, but the opposite.so it is a false analogy to use this story to describe the relationship between Taiwan and China, or the relationship between the Czech Republic and China.
A more similar story is that of Don Quixote and the Windmill, Taiwan and the Czech Republic fighting against an enemy they fabricated themselves.
Has distant China ever oppressed the Czech Republic? Please give one example, one is fine.
We have heard some news from Eastern Europe that the Czech Republic is complaining that China is not fulfilling its commitment to invest heavily in the Czech Republic, this can only be described as a breach of trust, not oppression.
Adamová claims that Taiwan’s investment in the Czech Republic is 14 to 16 times higher than China’s(6), However, according to the Ministry of Economic Affairs of Taiwan, as of May 2022, Taiwan’s investment in the Czech Republic was US$160 million(7), according to the Ministry of Commerce of China, Chinese investment in the Czech Republic had reached US$1.2 billion by the end of 2020.(8)
The opposite is true, isn’t it? For what reason does Adamová see the windmills as giants and the sheep as an army?
We know that Adamová cares about human rights issues, but isn’t it a form of oppression to force Western values into the East when there is such a gap between Western and Eastern cultures? Has China ever criticized the West with its own values? Please give one example, one is fine.
Second, does Adamová know that liberal democracy in Taiwan is a formality? What’s more, the current Taiwan government has been in power for nearly seven years and it has caused Taiwan’s democracy to regress?
Will the Czech government forcibly shut down a TV news outlet? Will the Czech government buy most of the media as an official mouthpiece? Will the Czech government spend public funds to support cyber soldier to suppress dissent? Is the Czech judiciary like a servant of the government? Is the Czech president not subject to parliamentary oversight at all? Is the Czech judiciary a servant of the government? Is the Czech president completely exempt from parliamentary oversight? Did the Czech president refuse media interviews for two years? Does the majority party in the Czech parliament only taking orders from the President?
The above are the “political achievements” of Taiwan’s current government, of which Adamová may not be aware, or may be aware but tacitly acknowledges . For the people of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen’s government is far from a democratic government in the strict sense.
If Adamová knows the current Taiwan government well, is this trip value diplomacy or realism diplomacy? We have to suspect that this trip is just a political statement to please the United States.
After the formation of the new governmen, Czech public opinion is lambasting former President Milos Zeman for dividing Czech society. If a divided society represents a regression in democracy and populist rule of the country, then Tsai Ing-wen is a political leader who has divided Taiwan society, and her party, the DPP, is a populist party. Tsai Ing-wen’s government is a government with poor internal governance and brings the haze of war to the people.
Can anyone imagine a democratic government would do everything possible to refuse to introduce internationally recognized vaccines in order to support immature local vaccines, regardless of the lives of its people? This is one of the main reasons why the DPP lost the 2022 local elections.
Blaming “Goliath” for everything cannot cover up the failure of governance.
Taiwan welcomes all economic and trade cooperation, which is beneficial to both peoples, but please do not use economic and trade cooperation as a shortcut to smuggle in anti-Chinese political performances, which will only harm the interests of both peoples.
The Czech Republic may have its own reasons to alienate and despise China, but if they dare not establish diplomatic relations with Taiwan, or even recognize Taiwan’s sovereignty officially, then Czech should not use Taiwan to irritate China. Although there is a sovereignty dispute between Beijing and Taipei, most people in Taiwan want to put the dispute aside and maintain a friendly relationship with Beijing.
There is no David, only Don Quixote. In East Asia, there is no “Goliath”, China is just a windmill.
Governing The Digital Optimism
“Diplomacy does not exist in a vacuum. It is both shaped by and shapes the broader societal context” (Kurbalija, 2023).
In February 2023, the summit of Swiss University University experts, students and staff assembled in awe and wander. The theme digital diplomacy is broad, especially in the marvellous surroundings of a 14-century old castle on the riverbank Rhone, where our university is located, mind can wander. Under the concept and moderation of prof. Anis H. Bajrektarevic, we experienced a great lecture of Jovan Kurbalija, Ph.D, who is the founding director of DiploFoundation and the Head of the Geneva Internet Platform. As former diplomat, he has a professional and academic background in international law, diplomacy, and information technology. We opened many interesting topics, starting to understand the role of diplomatic environment and context in digital axial age.
Context, socio-cultural, economic, and political backgrounds of historical intercorrelations, sounds as a password for Enigma decryption.
Whilst each epoch has its defining technology determining economic, social, and political success, in today’s times we witness the omnipotent reality of cyber digital realms.
They are full of wonder, puzzle, and unknowingness.
This is precisely the reason why historical, philosophical, and cultural contexts are important for the future diplomacy in digital age. The environment in which diplomacy is ingrained is the heir of history, philosophy, culture, and technology intertwined developments. Latest have burst into digital transformation, triggering new questions on “social contract” and common sese of the world.
In the wake of pandemic, we were faced to reshape, rethink, and readjust the old patterns and immerging new cyber paradigms. Daily challenged with new versions of old paradigms, new shifts in defining what we take as universal fact, is a token of unimaginable mutations. We live in the flux world, liquid facts, and quantum realities; now is yesterday and tomorrow is a moment before.
“We live in a time where we need to confront new paradigms, ask challenging questions and view issues from multiple perspectives” (Kurbalija, 2023).
If the context is altered daily, social landscape is requesting new deal. This is the reason why we have no other choice than to step back and reflect on the future of humanity. We need to ask ourselves what defines us as human race? What defines AI as a tool for progress and a tool for growth? Where are common ethical algorithms and standards we ought to manage our actions and lives accordingly?
A new social deal, social contract, and the right to choose
Social contracts as societal answers to core dilemmas are negotiated and transmitted. Essential question in society is dyad between individual and societal, between choosing and accepting etc. The right to choose is essential for well-being, opening potentials and balanced social development.
“Even when choices are limited by circumstances, the very possibility of having a choice is vital for human dignity, freedom, and societal progress” (Kurbalija, 2023).
Remember, there was a strong assumption that the Internet provides more choices in social, political, and economic decisions, what has been soon increasingly challenged. All depend on the social and overall life skills of users and their goals and interests.
Choice is essential for economic development as well for free market economy. In theory, it enables the talent, creativity, energy and supports potentials of active agents, playing rational roles underlined with pragmatic dictions. All “choice theories” do focus on overall estimation what is essential to achieve optimum standard in life. The term “choice theory” is the work of William Glasser, author of the book so named, and is the culmination of some 50 years of theory and practice in psychology and counselling. His innovations for individual counselling, work environments and school, highlight personal choice, personal responsibility, and personal transformation. Glasser positioned himself in opposition to conventional mainstream psychiatrists, who focus instead on classifying psychiatric syndromes as “illnesses” and prescribe psychotropic medications to treat mental disorders. Choice theory posits behaviours we choose as central to our existence. Our behaviours (choices) are driven by five genetically driven needs in hierarchical order: survival and love, power, freedom, and fun. The most basic human needs are survival (physical component) and love (mental component). Without physical (nurturing) and emotional (love), an infant will not survive to attain power, freedom, and fun.
Hence, tyranny of choice is a reality encapsulated in postmodern and digital era. Choice involves risk. Thus, a possibility of choice may turn into a nightmare of choosing: we often need help, as observed in thriving businesses, from life coaches to fortune tellers of all kinds. Regardless to whom we delegate our right to choose, we are not free from choosing neither from consequences of our picks.
And, with choices we encounter dilemma of pro or contra digital. Progress, technology, and modernity are intertwined concepts. Most digitalisation narratives are centred around techno-optimism and techno-pessimism. Techno-optimism usually focuses on the power and capabilities of digital technologies. These ‘blue sky’ narratives focus on how digital technologies help individuals and society. Often, techno-optimism narratives focus on medical uses. Techno-pessimism focuses on technology which can ‘extinguish’ the Enlightenment flame. Techno-pessimism has gained momentum with the risks that AI creates for human agency and freedom. This narrative builds on a dystopian tradition in literature that includes books such as ‘Brave New World’ (Huxley) and ‘1984’ (Orwell).
“The Gartner hype cycle substantiates techno optimism vs. pessimism dynamics by following the different phases of a technology’s lifecycle: from the technology trigger, via its peak of inflated expectations, to disillusionment and, ultimately, the plateau of productivity. New technologies can easily trigger hype and even some ‘magic’. While this ‘irrational’ aspect of technology can inspire, it can also be used for manipulation. Blockchain technology is one example of the hype cycle. A few years ago, blockchain was considered a silver bullet to many societal problems. In the naivest views, blockchain was supposed to ‘automate’ human trust. With time distance, blockchain cannot deliver on initially inflated expectations” (Kurbalija, 2023).
Clear judgement and healthy realism should not kill the enthusiasm and the magic around technology. A bit of magic and utopia could be inspirational. Still, this is also a very fertile ground for manipulation.
“Progress is about the continuous advancement of human conditions. Progress is powered by science and technology. For a long time, the idea of progress has been ‘given’” (Kurbalija, 2023).
But progress excludes the idea of growth, which is non-linear, with no specific forms but simple premises: growth includes downfalls, deepness one’s estimations and reflects obvious and scarce events we are witnessing. However, over the last few decades, especially after 9/11, the rosy glasses on the future of humanity became unknown. And yes, we are constantly news doom-scrolling, doubting on shinny furniture outlook realities, questioning benevolent forecasts as wishful thinking.
We have acknowledged that digital policy deeply matters. The root of digital age is axial age, were first transcendence was made; now we live in digital axial age. Major religions today, such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism can trace their origins in axial age. Through the Enlightenment when rationality became the key pillar of societal thinking and with ‘Vienna thinkers’ who gave the last touches (so far) to modern thinking, we can more openly understand our modus operandi and cognitive pillars of humanity in contemporary digital axial age.
Who is on the winning side?
“Blue banana geopolitics” was developed by a French geopolitician to explain the core economic and political axis of European geopolitics. The banana may shorten after Brexit. As the map shows, digital follows a traditional blue banana geopolitics. Most of the key communication channels go from northern Italy via Switzerland to Germany (Basel/Zurich – Frankfurt digital axis) and after that to the Netherlands and UK.
“In the last few centuries, modernity and humanity have been reinforcing each other. Advances in science and technology have helped to the emancipation of millions worldwide “(Kurbalija, 2023).
Certainly today we are witnessing one underlying tension of our era, that is partition of modernity (digital world) and humanity (new social contract). ‘Ultra’ modernity via AI reduces the space for human agency and, ultimately, our natural rights to make personal, political, and economic choices.
If Ai is studying us, through social scooring, social media, apps, and other biotech tools, provides us with desires and states and decisions, what is there to remain uninhabited by AI?
“Tech companies do not charge users for the use of internet services; rather, they generate their income from selling information about users to advertisers, or in the words of Zysman and Kenney (2014) by ‘delivering its users to advertisers’. In this new business model, user data is the core economic resource. When searching for information and while interacting on the internet, users generate significant amounts of data, including personal data. This is their electronic footprint” (Kurbalija, 2023).
Generally, there are three main shapers of digitalisation and society: economics, ethics, and governance. States have a limited capacity to influence online internet activities in their territory. The intangible nature of internet services makes it difficult for states, among other functions, to coordinate economic policy, collect taxes, or impose customs controls. Many communities worldwide have been effectively digitally marginalised – the wisdom of ‘forgotten’ cultures and communities is in danger.
More, global geopolitics and geoeconomics are being shaped by the fast-growing economic power of tech companies. As an illustration of this shift, the market capitalisation of Apple is higher than the annual GDP of the entire African continent.
“This growing economic power of tech companies is impacting and will continue to impact digital governance and policy processes. Apple Market capitalisation at the end of 2021 US$ 3.1 trillion Africa GDP of the entire African continent in 2019 US$ 2.4 trillion” (Kurbalija, 2023).
Consequential, ethical questions are battling the scopeof academic and policy debates. Not just carbon, electronic footprint, moral and ethical are in the core of our concerns, not just regarding ethics, fairness, justice, transparency, and accountability. One of a great peril is a risk of discrimination and bias decisions made by AI systems. Researchers are carefully exploring mentioned ethical challenges posed by AI.
Over the past few years, there has been significant progress in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), (from intelligent digital personal assistants and smart home devices to autonomous vehicles, smart buildings, and medical robots), entering all the pores of intimate and inherent human experience. Implications on economic, societal, educative, political, and overall anthropological, is unimaginable.
Microsoft has crossed this Rubicon in global digital politics by proposing a Digital Geneva Convention which should ‘commit governments to avoid cyber-attacks that target the private sector or critical infrastructure or, the use of hacking to steal intellectual property’.
The unthinkable has become almost inevitable (Kurbalija, 2023).
In the search for a more secure and stable Internet, global Internet companies need to work with governments. Any major fragmentation and disruption of the Internet would affect the core business model of Internet companies, based on global access to data. Governments are gaining more cyber-power, ranging from security to censorship and taxation.
 The Axial Age, coined by German philosopher Karl Jaspers, is a period from roughly the 8th to 3rd century BCE that signified a cultural shift in the major Eurasian civilizations of China, India, Persia and the Mediterranean toward the modern era. Notable philosophers and prophets such as Socrates, Confucius, Zoroaster, the Buddha, Pythagoras, Lao Tse, and the Hebrew prophets all arose in this period, according to “The Great Transformation: The beginning of our religious traditions,” by Karen Armstrong.
 The Blue Banana (also known as the European Megalopolis or the Liverpool–Milan Axis) is a discontinuous corridor of urbanization in Western and Central Europe, with a population of around 100 million. The conceptualisation of the area as a “Blue Banana” was developed in 1989 by RECLUS, a group of French geographers managed by Roger Brunet. It stretches approximately from North West England through the English Midlands across Greater London to the European Metropolis of Lille, the Benelux states with the Dutch Randstad and Brussels and along the German Rhineland, Southern Germany, Alsace-Moselle in France in the west and Switzerland (Basel and Zürich) to Northern Italy (Milan, Turin, and Genoa) in the south.
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