German Education needs full Restructuring
Authors: Nicolas Böhmer and Ajmal Sohail
In education and as a result in economy Germany seems to fall behind.
Shortage of skilled workers – this term disappeared somewhat in German media due to other important issues but it hasn´t lost its urgency. In contrary, Germany faces massive changes in various areas and these changes are much more complex than many have realized so far. In fact, skilled workers are more sought after then ever. The CNT Alliance has spoken with many entrepreneurs and people in management about various subjects, the shortage of skilled workers, education, educational background and educational system among them. First and foremost, we understood the employers often have a much different understanding of the term “Skilled Worker” than employees. And the politician’s communication is, again, a different animal.
Highly educated and most wanted skilled worker are enmeshed, well paid, further educated, protected and “imported” from other countries. But already “just” well educated skilled workers face a phenomenon: Enterprises like to hire people with a decent education which can quickly work at full speed in a strictly defined position with neither extensive education nor training on the job. A good, broadly based and profound qualification can become an obstacle since enterprises prefer particular and narrowly educated and therefore cheaper people – but also since the job definition doesn´t envisage flexibility: the companies still prefer “simple duty”-loving people believing in hierarchical structures who just do a defined job after strict guidelines. Holistically thinking and acting people being able to cross-link and multilaterally experienced will be filtered by the companies’ on-line job application portals right away.
But exactly such multi-disciplinary people would be needed today in nearly all areas and enterprises to cope with the fast change and the digital transformation. A rising number of leaders understand digital transformation cannot be explained away anymore and the simple duty-loving people provide the wrong, narrowly defined skills and they are inadequate for the challenges ahead. A remarkable number of the simple duty-loving people do not like the digital transformation, they perceive it as a threat to their job position and most importantly to the gathered sinecures. Besides this, the digital transformation asks for the extra mile which is not welcome to those people. The simple duty-loving employees become truly problematic as soon as they quietly and clandestinely oppose all alterations and sometimes even sabotage them. Such problematic simple duty-lover can be found from the basic jobs through all workers and management levels up to the C-level management.
Among the job applicants, we recognize a two-sided image. On one hand, a rising number of employees – based on our research more than half of the young and agile people – seeks for a fulfilling, exciting mission gaining appreciation within a coherent team to create success of the enterprise or organisation. On the other hand, many job applicants prefer simple, clear targets and commands and have no ambitions whatsoever to play a significant part – often due to small salaries hampering any ambition. It becomes more challenging for both sides to fulfil all the unsaid expectations. All this puts more difficulties in aligning a company towards future. And employees too have difficulties to find a proper job.
Jammed right at the beginning
The CNT Alliance has done research among educational facilities and supporting organisations in Baden-Württemberg and has undertaken several dialogues and analyses on all levels. The first educational obviations happen in day care. Beginning of August 2019 Carsten Linnemann, Member of the Bundestag, got onto an important issue: He asked for a pre-school programme for those kids with deficiencies in the knowledge of the German language. He then was berated, and the left-wing parties accused him of right-wing populism – but they did not understand that he actual has taken position close to their left-wing core. He named the striking failings in the educations system in an awkward way and in the following he was accused of discrimination. The named failings of the educational system do concern not only, but most often kids from migrants.
Language lessons are offered often in day care and are often financed by external sources – and evenly often not given according to the needs of the kids, but preferred according to budget, administration and options. Furthermore, due to the lack of appropriate teachers often the child-care workers take this duty over. Usually without corresponding education for themselves, with direct impact on quality. On top of this, some day care centres are understaffed therefore the language lessons are held as part of the normal day care routine with the same staff and the number of people as every day – resulting in a general drop in quality. There´s limited appreciation in the administration for such language lessons and similar: organization become more complex, puts more pressure on the already thinning staffing level and must be done along many others more. Under the line we see the funds being gathered, the activities are booked, but often merely delivered and pressure on the staff in the day care centres rises. Fail in leadership all along the line and to the disadvantage not only to the kids from migrants but all kids at the day care centre.
Each year many kids enter primary school and quickly perish due to the lack of knowledge of the German language. Young people with potential become problematic – exactly what Carsten Linnemann said. And our experience shows such kids rarely receive the required attention in our standardized processes at public schools and will not be turned form problem to potential. But these young people with all their potentials are needed to create the future.
Educational stone age
Most schools still “produce” simple duty-loving people – people best in recalling memorized knowledge and applying it. That is much easier to schedule, educate and rate. Those not fitting into this scheme (e.g. lack of abilities or language skills) quickly get to the boundaries of the educational system and will be “selected”. This happens each year through the system of classes and ratings, up to the upper grades. Differently put: Those knowing the expectations and being able to correspond can take the chances. And those being able to e.g. cleverly quote existing knowledge, putting it into nice documents, presenting or writing it eloquently will receive nice ratings. All this creates employees being able to do exactly what there are told and requested. They rarely provide the abilities to think out of the box. Own developments, even forwardness, critical examination and the search for answers, lateral thinking and creativity are not wanted, even frown up and result in low ratings.
Such abilities – important in times of quick and profound changes – are neither asked for or facilitated at our schools, except for a few private schools. The schools truly are living after an educational programme of the last century which doesn´t suit our dynamic times at all. In this respect, the inadequate digital transformation of the schools by lacking hard- and software and on-line tools is just the tip of the iceberg. There´s a deficit on all levels of understanding all the new topics hitting the “educational concrete” with raising speed an intensity: the whole educational body hasn´t prepared itself for the new challenges, hasn´t acquired knowledge and tools, hasn´t ideas for developments in structure, content and education. On top of it, the educational body hasn´t really understood: all the topics are coming at high speed and need to be integrated equally quick. Furthermore, this also means lengthy, inflexible structured and conducted educational courses with pre-defined content will not work: the dynamic environment requires content, structures and the nature of education equal dynamism. The digital transformation changes itself and the whole environment so quickly, an educational model with given, static concepts and content will not work anymore. This is from hell for every responsible person in education.
Most tragic: digital transformation cross-links topics, something impossible for public schools today – and today it cannot teach such a cross-linking and superordinated thinking. Predominantly in higher education, the system lives through clearly defined, strictly defined and excluding subjects taught by highly qualified academics which then rate the students. These subjects sometimes live in competition to each other, there exist “relevant” and “neglectable” subjects and resulting in the fight for money for each subject ad faculty.
This change, fuelled by the digital transformation, is – as the CNT Alliance describes it –a social-technological change. This change happens multi-disciplinary, demands the cross-linking of even contrary issues and requires the going-together of areas and competences in order to achieve results and successes. “Interdisciplinary teaching” is discussed here and there but does exist in very few (private) schools only. However, the socio-technological change demands a comprehensive thinking and acting – a cross-linked thinking and acting which urgently needs to be taught at schools. Some people in the educational system stated similar thoughts but do not see the paths for the change.
Symptomatic for the “escapist attitude” of the educational system is the statement by the Minister of Education Baden-Württemberg, Mrs. Susanne Eisenmann, positioning herself fiercely against the students of the Fridays for Future Strikes: she supported the severe fines issued the City of Mannheim. She takes position against many students with qualities the German future urgently needs: an integrated, fact-based view and the willpower for change. But few have expected the strong worded reactions by the students, their supporters, organizations, the social media, media, but also by politicians. The City of Mannheim quickly withdrew the fines and stated, “fines should be very last measure”.
All this despite Susanne Eisenmann had to declare in fall 2018 Baden-Württemberg has done much poorly than before in recent studies about education:
“We quite simply have slept through a few little things during the past two decades.”
Her promised offensive in education focuses on improvements in the administration and is seen as questionable by many. Particularly in view of the huge challenges for more dynamic educational content and concepts in order to react to the recent demands, and to develop a vision and to imply them through strategies. And this to the benefit of the students and certainly not to the benefit of the administration. The recent approach is not much about education, and it exhibits the non-existence of visions among politicians. And the contemplated centralized university-entrance diploma (Abitur) for all Germany is just about to strengthen the old structure with classes and grades, too – and it doesn´t help at all: This just eases the steps from administered pupils to administered students and finally administered employees. But the German education politics needs a vision, and not a better administration.
In July 2019, Susanne Eisenmann demanded 1’080 new teachers for Baden-Württemberg. This figure seems to be legit in the face of 10‘000 additional teachers she said are needed until 2030, mentioned at the beginning of 2019. The CNT-Alliance, however, expects a 50% higher number. And these teachers do not grow on trees: In Berlin, more than the half of the 2’700 newly hired teachers are students themselves. These teachers are career changers coming out of other professions and now tackling the job as a teacher. These teachers can be good, but this situation also unveils Germany missed out countrywide to educate enough teachers and offering them decent conditions of employment. Quite a few teachers do never enter their jobs after the education, leave the job after a short period of time or even go to another country where they find better conditions. There are other professional categories in Germany affected by this phenomenon.
There´s another problem the politicians pussyfoot around: Not permanently appointed teachers in Baden-Württemberg get their resignations letters before summer – and will be re-hired after summer into the same position or a much similar one at a school just a few miles away. On first sight, the government saves several million Euros – but these teachers subsequently are paid by the employment office. This implies huge administrational efforts and creates extra costs never have been measured entirely – based on the information given to us this sleight of hand will not save any money but simply empties another wallet. Depending on the point of view this hurts between 650 and 1’680 teachers in Baden-Württemberg (all Germany approx. 4’900). Most tragic: This contemptuousness and this disadvantage in favour for saving money hits the students at the end.
Academization and appreciation
Contemptuousness respectively lacking appreciation doesn´t only hit the teachers and other professions, but also the graduates of many types of schools. There is an alleged solution: a study at a university and a title, both meaning a lot in German society. Meanwhile, several politicians as well as managers in Germany have been convicted carrying fake doctorates and not reached the degrees in their courses. It simply is tempting since the appropriate titles open doors, mean more money and the standing rises. Hunt and hunger for titles going on and lead to changed perception of values. Therefore, contemptuousness hits people without titles even if their work is desperately needed, e.g. nursing staff, crafts people, and many more.
Such paradigms and behaviours are divisive for society and include many more shady sides. The CNT-Alliance was invited to rate the presentations of the project work within an MBA study course as a second opinion at a university in Baden-Württemberg. The project work was relevant for the MBA, it included Credit Points. Summed up, the quality of the presentations of most project works lied on a disappointing low level. Sometimes, even fundamental aspects were missing, thus such presentations in fact were incomplete. Others were prepared and presented so badly; we understood the relevant issues only after we´ve asked a couple of questions. Other project works were so simple they would have been enough for a lower education only – but not for the MBA.
An associated problem are the requirements for the students which have been lowered for certain issues in many predominantly higher educations – also because students try to push through their personal interpretation of their accomplishments using the legal process. The schools try to avoid such confrontations, they are wearing. This is where the rigid system with grades and ratings severely hit back to the educational system and make them look absurd. The teaching staff is suffering much, and we heard teachers thinking about to withdraw from teaching. This might be possible for academics being also employed in the economy, but it is no option for those fully entangled with the system. Not a good situation for education.
Most disastrous: such a system releases badly educated graduates into the world, being equipped with standard knowledge, possessing a stable persuasion and nice titles. This toxic combination becomes a rising problem for enterprises. Some told us they often must first educate graduates to elevate them onto the level they originally were hired for – and for which they are much overpaid. Even worse for companies in which such dazzlers haven´t been uncovered over a long period of time due to their acquired eloquence and the established sphere on control until it´s crashing down like a house of cards. With much effect on cost.
Such graduates often are equipped with a remarkable all-inclusive mentality. They expect much from the employer, predominantly a fully safe job, a 9-to-5 schedule, free weekends and a nice salary. These safety-conscious simple duty-loving aren´t much interested to found their own enterprises and to put themselves into the headwinds of a start-up. The Ministry for Economic Affairs and the business development bank KfW bewail this situation, since start-ups thrive innovation and the digital transformation: Germany needs founders.
The Ministry for Economic Affairs and KfW understand the prospering economy being the main reason for the lacking readiness to become a founder. The CNT-Alliance questions this point of view since the Germany state of economy is cooling down for two years already – so this cannot be the sole reason. Besides the founder adverse surrounding with vast administration burdens, much spreading regulations and half-baked laws we identified the educational system as the obstruction to develop and support people being interested in founding a company. An educational system focused over decades on being the „supplier“ of simple duty-loving people for the administration and big corporations simply isn´t ready to do the opposite.
Education – lost out chance for the future
Depending on the “political general weather situation” the education in Germany is highly appreciated and supported but the next day just marginally respected. Vital in education is the integration of all the refugees – or better: the non-integration. This huge potential of people being willing to work – the vast majority – is much important for Germany since the country needs the manpower simply due to the demographic development. But much too often they fail in the German language classes where refugees advance slowly compared to the refence figures and show troubles to reach a usable level. Whether the courses have been adequately designed and the necessary attendance has been ensured is a question among the people of concern only. They are not answered by the institutes since this issue never was thoroughly observed and surveyed. But these standard courses and teaching materials particularly do not suit the needs of the refugees (and Germany), obviously.
On top of this, many refugees do not get the idea of the German education and training system which – in contrast to the one their home countries – is much more demanding, tightly structured and works much different. It certainly isn´t easy for people having been in laws, administration, government and municipalities, education, but also specific technical functions and similar in their home countries now must start all over again in Germany. Since the foundation, specific expert knowledge, preconditions and processes are different here, specific formations, graduations and certificates are required, or certain abilities simply are not needed in Germany. We face it with helplessness since we have no suitable educational programmes and support offerings for these people – and there are no ambitions to change this situation. This is a potential given away which then must be “fed through” by the employment offices just causing costs – instead of working in the economy. The frustration of these people after lengthy, unfruitful visits of the administrations is visible and seizable. Many of them think about going back to their home countries which is, in most cases, simply impossible. They are trapped between the systems.
Germany loses out a much higher potential with those people going – or better: falling – through the normal educational system. First, the educational system isn´t compatible with future and, at the other hand, isn´t fully compatible with human beings. A rising number of experts in education and economy take the position to eliminate the educational system descending from the very past times with its classes and ratings in favour for a future-oriented concept. For instance, if the content is taught through courses, pupils and students of any age, provenience, with and without disabilities not only could go the same school – depending on their abilities they also would participate the same courses which would increase their social skills, too. Cross-linked thinking and working would also be stimulated and finally there would be equality of opportunity for all. An interesting intellectual approach also for the digital transformation: Such an educational system would equip and foster competences, abilities and knowledge among young people so much needed to create the future. And such concepts would also work for further education, predominantly the concept of developments and innovations emerging out of the diversity of the participants.
During the digital transformation a company usually launches several test products – hardware, software and/or services – to check the market, to gather customer feedback and to develop itself as well as the offered services/products further. Such tests haven been and are executed in education too, and various educational concepts have been tested over many years and decades in many countries including Germany. In contrast to economy, this hasn´t led to developments within the educational system in Germany at all. But economy urgently needs a major push in education for being able to cope with the rapid changes and the international competition. And Germany needs this push in education and the integrating forces of a fresh education system to bring back together again the society which is drifting apart today.
The education system of Germany is in need for full restructuring, since it already causes harm to the country according to a number of educational specialists, politicians, and people from economy. The responsible politicians, however, ignore this situation. Society and economy already feel it increasingly every single day. Also, because the procrastinated digital transformation and the often-lacking orientation towards the issues of future and the future itself put several hundred thousand jobs at stake – which will let society go to pieces much quicker than it already does. Education is like the climate change: there are some evidences and many facts but today things still look pretty much OK – but they are not OK.
Genocide, Serbia and the Ukraine War: Geopolitics Matters
The Serbia genocide, commonly known as the Bosnian genocide or Srebrenica massacre, is considered one of the heinous vestiges of ethnic cleansing and genocidal acts led by the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS) and Scorpions paramilitary group. Srebrenica, a small town in eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina, has become notorious as the site of one of the worst atrocities in Europe since World War II, which took place in July 1995 during the Bosnian war between 1992 and 1995. By the way, in the Bosnian case of genocide, it is discerned that geopolitics played a crucial role in which NATO and the West were wholly against the Bosnian Serbs since they broke international law and repudiated the decisions of NATO for maintaining a no-fly zone in Bosnia, while Russia has been in a shrewd stance due to their identical similarities and geopolitical interests of thwarting the influence of the West.
Over the years, Serbia has been maintaining a strong alliance with Russia. However, Aleksandar Vucic, the president of Serbia is strategically hedging between both the West–NATO and EU– and Russia, retaining a close rapport with Moscow, at the same time, gradually improving its ties with the West. On one side, Vučić claims to have a genuine interest in joining the EU and encouraging regional integration via schemes like ‘Open Balkan’, on the other hand, the country continues to reject calls from the West for imposing sanctions against Russia and cutting ties with the country. Despite its pro-Russian leanings, this Balkan nation claims neutrality in the Ukraine war and promises to join the EU.
With regard to the notable developments in the Balkan region, the normalization of relations between Belgrade and Brussels comes up with a very critical inquiry. The country, which has been carrying the blemish of one of the most notorious genocidal and violent acts in human history, is nowadays considered to be an ally of the West. Why are NATO and the EU becoming closer to the Balkan country while it maintains intimacy with Russia and is accused of conducting the infamous Bosnian genocide? The Western nations which had played a robust role in ensuring the penalty of Serbian leaders like Radovan Karadzic, Ratko Mladic and Slobodan Milosevic, forgetting and wiping out history, why is the West now keen on developing ties with Serbia? The clear-cut and outspoken answer is–the Ukraine war and the geopolitical interests of the West in the Balkan region.
A Synopsis of the Bosnian Genocide
After 40 years of coexistence under Yugoslavia’s communist rule, things started to shift as the nation began to implode in the early 1990s, coinciding with the fall of communism. After Serbia’s provinces of Croatia and Slovenia gained independence, a conflict broke out between the two countries and Serbia. Previously peaceful neighbours turned on one other and took up guns as racial tensions came to light. Slobodan Miloevic’s Serbia attacked a secessionist Bosnia under the pretence of “freeing” Serbian Orthodox Christians residing in Bosnia. Serbia began its ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Bosnian land in April 1992, with the deliberate expulsion of all Bosnian Muslims, often known as Bosniaks. Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, was encircled by Serbian and ethnic Bosnian Serb forces armed with weapons from the former Yugoslavia. Thousands of Bosniaks were forced into torture cells, and concentration camps, in which they were subjected to torture, starvation, and murder at the hands of the camp guards and other inmates.
Sarajevo, Goradze, and Srebrenica, along with other Muslim enclaves, were designated as safe zones in 1993 by the United Nations Security Council and assigned to be guarded by UN forces. However, in one of these regions—Srebrenica—Serbs perpetrated the worst murder in Europe since WWII in July 1995. About 8,000 Muslims were jailed and executed, while 23,000 women, children, and the elderly were horridly tortured and oppressed. In 1994, NATO launched air strikes on Bosnian Serbs in an effort to put an end to the violence. However, more than 160 people have been prosecuted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague since the conclusion of the war. There have been convictions of Serbs, Croats, and Bosniaks, with the preponderance of accusations being levelled against Serbians and Bosnian Serbs. The Serbian top leaders like Radovan Karadzic, Ratko Mladic and Slobodan Milosevic were charged with conducting ‘genocide, mass killing and crimes against humanity.’
Bosnian Genocide and Serbia’s Rift with the West
The genocide marked the height of the brutal Bosnian War, significantly squeezing the relationship between Serbia and the Western world, particularly with NATO and the EU. During the Bosnian War, which stemmed from the disintegration of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, NATO assumed a pivotal role in attempting to mitigate the crisis. Initially, NATO imposed a ‘no-fly zone’ in Bosnia to prevent the Serbian air force from conducting airstrikes on civilian targets. However, as the situation escalated, NATO’s involvement expanded to include air campaigns against Bosnian Serb military installations and infrastructure. Operation Deliberate Force, a concentrated NATO bombing campaign, was instrumental in pressuring the Bosnian Serbs into accepting a peace agreement. Therefore, the Bosnian Genocide caused a sea change in how the West saw Serbia and hence, resulted in the deterioration in ties between Serbia and the West.
The extent and cruelty of the genocide startled the world, prompting worldwide criticism of Serbia’s conduct. Reports of torture, rape, and forced relocation, together with the systematic death of thousands of innocent people, sparked widespread anger and cries for justice. Recognizing the genocide as a breach of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide severely damaged Serbia’s reputation abroad. The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) came into being as a direct result of the genocide and several high-ranking Serbian politicians and military officers faced charges of war crimes and genocide. As a result, Serbia’s ties to the West and NATO were severely strained after the 1995 Bosnian Genocide.
The Bosnian Genocide and Serbia’s Rapport with Russia: A Geopolitical Viewpoint
During the time of Soviet involvement in the Balkans, connections between Serbia and Russia were strengthened further, but it is important to remember that both countries are significant Slavic states with a long history of cooperation. However, Slobodan Milosevic, the former nationalist leader of the Republic of Serbia, aimed to centralize authority among ethnic Serbs throughout the newly independent republics. Serbian forces pursued acts of ethnic cleansing against non-Serbian populations, resulting in the tragic loss of thousands of lives. In this respect, Russia has pursued subtle policy toward Serbia due to the two countries’ common Slavic culture, religious faith and more importantly, geopolitical interests of the country in the Balkan region.
Regarding this development, geopolitical factors have significantly played a critical role in moulding this relationship as Russia wanted to maintain its global clout in the Balkans and counteract the growing EU and NATO involvement there. Russia had been in the position of favouring political and diplomatic assistance to Serbia throughout the genocide and used its veto power multiple times to prevent stronger international penalties on Serbia at the United Nations Security Council. It is also worth noting that Russia’s backing for Serbia was not constant; there were times when they encouraged Miloevi to call off military operations and negotiate peace. However, Officials in Russia, on the other hand, have said that their backing was motivated by a desire to head off a Western intervention that they think would have only made things worse. Some academics argue that Russia’s backing unintentionally aided in the ethnic cleansing of Bosnia and Herzegovina, adding to the complexity of this relationship.
The Ukraine War and the Shift in the Serbia-West Relationship: Geopolitics Matters
Serbia has not been a grim enemy of the West, nor an eternal friend of Russia, rather different regimes in the country tried to balance both powers. Things remarkably started shifting after Serbia applied for EU membership in 2009 while continuing its moral support for Russia in every aspect of world politics. In this regard, the recent developments given rise by the Ukraine war are gradually heading Serbia to be a closer ally of the EU, although the country did not impose any embargo on Russia and is still maintaining a sound rapport with Putin. Since Vucic’s ascension to power a decade ago, Serbia has pretended to be on neither Russia’s nor the EU’s side. He has effectively used the rivalry between the two groups to bolster Serbia’s position in negotiations over energy, security, and EU membership, and to keep five EU nations to prolong their recognition of Kosovo. Serbia, the largest receiver of EU assistance in the Balkans and a leading candidate to join the EU by 2025, has benefited greatly from this strategy.
But the intriguing matter is the West is now craving for becoming a stronger and time-tested ally of the Balkan country. Is not it very thought-provoking to experience the moral shift of the West? The EU and NATO, which have always been vocal against Serbia regarding the Bosnian genocide, are now gradually pursuing closer ties due to the rise of geopolitical dynamics posed by the Ukraine war. Although the Balkan country has long been awaiting EU membership for its geopolitical interests, the West also nowadays seems to be more inquisitive in seizing the geopolitical interests in the region. As a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the European Union is now more aware of the importance of the Western Balkans and the potential that Moscow could leverage against the West. The EU, however, has exhibited fewer concerns and pursued a policy of distancing itself from the Balkans for years. In this respect, the Ukraine war is working out as a catalyst factor to make the parties feel the need of strengthening the ties with a view to securing geopolitical interests in the Balkan region keeping aside all the previous stains imposed on the country. In a nutshell, geopolitical matters have become the core drivers to bring about the shift, in which the moral stance of the West regarding the genocide, is likely to be lost to the geopolitical gains of them in the region.
Norway Takes Over Chairmanship of the Arctic Council
Norway takes over the chairmanship of the Arctic Council in May 2023 during the international organization’s 13th session held in Salekhard, a far-northern town in Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug in Russia. Norway will hold the position for the next two years (2023-2025). Russia took this position of the Arctic Council since May 2021 at a ministerial session in Reykjavik.
The Arctic Council consists of Canada, the Kingdom of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russian Federation, Sweden and the United States. The Arctic is a strategic region. The permanent participants represent a unique feature of the Arctic Council, and they make valuable contributions to its activities in all areas. This territory is of global importance and for intensifying international cooperation.
Observer status is open to non-Arctic states approved by the Council at the Ministerial meetings that occur once every two years. Observers have no voting rights in the council. As of September 2021, thirteen non-Arctic states have observer status. Observer states receive invitations for most Council meetings. Their participation in projects and task forces within the working groups is not always possible, but this poses few problems as few observer states want to participate at such a detailed level.
According to the report, Russia has met all its obligations within the framework of the Arctic Council in full. The primary attention was focused on four key priorities: The People of the Arctic, Including Indigenous Peoples, Environmental Protection, Including Climate Change Issues, Socioeconomic Development and Strengthening Arctic Cooperation.
Over the two-year period, Russia held roughly 90 different events, including forums, conferences, roundtables, championships, festivals, and sports competitions. The chairmanship events were held in 24 cities and towns of Russia, including all nine regions of the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation.
“I am certain that all the events that took place and all the decisions that were made at them will support the development of the Russian Far North,” Russian Deputy Prime Minister and Plenipotentiary Representative of the Russian President in the Far Eastern Federal District Yury Trutnev said.
A cross-cutting priority of Russia’s chairmanship of the Arctic Council was to ensure responsible governance for the sustainable development of the Arctic. Based on its respect for international law, Russia contributed to the promotion of collective approaches for the development of the Arctic with a social, economic and environmental balance. The events Russia organized were held as part of 11 thematic pillars that encompass all promising areas of the development of the northern latitudes.
In particular, last year the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum featured a stand booth to the Arctic and Russia’s chairmanship for the first time, while the House of Indigenous Peoples at the Eastern Economic Forum was highly popular both among representatives of these ethnic groups and other guests of Vladivostok.
“During Russia’s chairmanship, issues concerning the sustainable development of the Arctic became an integral part of discussions at the key business platforms of our country. Now our main job is to preserve and enhance the valuable legacy of this chairmanship. We will continue to implement ambitious projects in the Arctic in accordance with our main priorities and will promote the results of this work on a regular basis as part of major international congress and exhibition events,” said Anton Kobyakov, Adviser to the Russian President and Executive Secretary of the Organizing Committee for Russia’s Chairmanship of the Arctic Council in 2021–2023.
The thematic pillar ‘Development of Human Capital in the Arctic’ included events at which the participants discussed the organization of medical support for the inhabitants of the Far North, ESG trends, ways to establish a partnership between the state and business for the benefit of citizens, as well as training and scientific support.
A separate thematic pillar ‘Indigenous Peoples of the Arctic’ highlighted ways to ensure sustainable development and preserve the heritage of ethnic groups who traditionally reside in the northern territories. Russia’s chairmanship showcased such events as the Arctic Indigenous People’s Summit (21 November 2022, Moscow), the Russian North Indigenous Youth Forum (22–25 November 2022, Salekhard), the International Seminar on the Preservation and Promotion of the Languages of the Indigenous Peoples of the Arctic (16–18 March 2022, St. Petersburg), and the International Traditional Reindeer Herding Championship (14–19 March 2023, Neryungri).
“In the Russian Arctic, world-class projects are being created to make a breakthrough in the technological, environmental, and energy markets. They will not only fill the Russian treasury for decades to come, but will also claim significant shares of world markets in the most promising sectors of the economy. Cargo from the Arctic mega-projects will fill the Northern Sea Route, via which cargo traffic should grow six times by 2030. All the measures to develop the Arctic economy aim to improve the quality of life of all residents of this strategically important region for our country,” Minister for the Development of the Russian Far East and Arctic Alexei Chekunkov said.
The events of the pillar ‘Climate Change and Ecology of the Arctic’ were devoted to issues on the environmental agenda. The experts and specialists who took part in these events discussed the problems of handling waste and microplastics in the northern latitudes, lifting flooded radioactive and hazardous objects from the seas of the Arctic Ocean, melting permafrost, and the bioremediation of the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems of the Arctic coast. Participants in the large-scale Safe Arctic exercises in 2021 and 2023, for their part, worked on ways to prevent emergency situations in the Arctic.
During its chairmanship, Russia paid special attention to issues concerning the socioeconomic development of the territories of the Far North. During the conference ‘Investment and Trade in the Arctic’ which was held in September on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum, experts considered prospects for cooperation between Russia and its foreign partners in the Arctic and opportunities for developing the Northern Sea Route, while building new logistics chains. In addition, the events held as part of this pillar included a discussion on the modernization of the telecommunications sector and digitalization in the Arctic, as well as the creation of a tourism industry in the North.
Cultural events were also a key part of the chairmanship programme. The following festivals were held over the last two years: Teriberka (16–17 July 2022, Murmansk Region), Bering Strait (2–7 August 2022, Anadyr), The Power of Colour (6–7 May 2023, Kirovsk), as well as the Gastronomic Festival of Northern Cuisine (10–11 December 2021, Moscow).
“In March 2022, the Arctic states of the West initiated a politicized and counterproductive temporary freeze on the Council’s full-scale activities. Amidst these conditions, Russia continued to responsibly perform its functions as chairman and consistently implement the activities of the programme of Russia’s chairmanship (except for official meetings) and repurposed the chairmanship mechanism during the period of this forced freezing to search for effective solutions to practical problems related to the development of our country’s northern regions, which are enshrined in the Fundamentals of the Russian Federation’s State Policy in the Arctic for the Period until 2035 and the Development Strategy for the Arctic Zone of the Russian Federation and Ensuring National Security for the Period until 2035,” said Nikolay Korchunov, Chair of the Senior Arctic Officials and Ambassador-at-Large for Arctic Cooperation of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Starting from May 2021, during Russia’s chairmanship, discussions were initiated for the first time via the Arctic Council about the protection of the intellectual property rights of Indigenous Peoples amidst globalization, the social responsibility of entrepreneurs, as well as public-private partnerships for the sustainable development of northern ethnic groups. Russia proposed numerous projects and initiatives, in particular, related to the digitalization of the cultural and linguistic heritage of Indigenous Peoples, the development of creative industries and traditional Arctic medicine, the creation of an international Arctic scientific station that runs on carbon-free energy, ensuring biosecurity in the region, and the creation of a unified digital museum platform.
Improving the efficiency of research activities and developing scientific cooperation was also one of Russia’s main goals as chairman of the Arctic Council. In particular, based on an initiative from Moscow State Institute of International Relations, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs signed an agreement on the formation of the Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Legal Research in the Arctic in 2022. The creation of this structure is a step towards forming an all-Russian consortium of Arctic Universities that is open to international partnerships. In addition, during the Northern Sustainable Development Forum, an agreement was signed on the establishment of the Russian-Asian Consortium for Arctic Research, as more than ten organizations became members of this organization.
The plan for Russia’s chairmanship of the Arctic Council was calculated until August 2023 from the very beginning, so Russia will hold a number of events that aim to promote socioeconomic development, preserve the ecology of the northern latitudes, and conduct scientific studies of the Arctic. Some 20 events will take place in the coming months, including: the International Conference on Biodiversity in the Arctic and the International Forum on Specially Protected Natural Areas in the Arctic during the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum 2023, the ‘Arctic Breaking the Ice’ second Russian Forum and Festival of Volunteers, the Teriberka Arctic Festival, the Bering Strait Festival, and the International Maritime Arctic Educational and Scientific Expeditions ‘Training-through-Research’ on Research Vessels. The chairmanship events are managed by the Roscongress Foundation.
The Arctic States issued a statement recognizing the historic and unique role of the Arctic Council for constructive cooperation, stability and dialogue between people in the Arctic region. The statement acknowledges the commitment to work to safeguard and strengthen the Arctic Council. It further recognizes the rights of Arctic Indigenous Peoples, their special relations to the Arctic and the importance of cross-border and people-to-people cooperation in the region.
The statement refers to the Arctic Council Senior Arctic Officials’ Report to Ministers adopted in Reykjavik in May 2021, the Reykjavik Ministerial Declaration and the Arctic Council Strategic Plan (2021 – 2030) and recognizes that these documents will form the basis for continuing Council activities in 2023-2025. The statement was issued in accordance with the Rules of Procedure of the Arctic Council and in recognition of the objectives and commitments expressed in the Declaration on the Establishment of the Arctic Council and subsequent Ministerial Declarations.
Music and Politics: Connecting the Incompatible
“Music can change circumstances” (Josipović, 2023).
Thinking in the realm of politics, dialogue and choice tyranny, introspection of different angles and interpretations is more than welcome. Rarely one can witness highlighting ideas, rushing into the mind as a wind of change or new opportunities, transferring the old into something sublime. It is true; what we focus on, that flourishes. Where is the concentration of mental, spiritual, intellectual, and emotional power, there is our now, our reality. Our guest in May showed us perception not commonly used in politic. Yes, music can be the answer to so many inner and outer quests facing.
Last gathering, music as a wow moment
Adding to his years-long series, in early May 2022, prof. Anis H. Bajrektarevic conducted and moderated two distinguished days of fresh insights, noble ideas, and stamina by believing in the power of dialogue. Excellency Ivo Josipovic, President of Croatia was opening the 9th Geneva round 2022/23 as a part of the Executive program that invites academicians and practitioners from the field of politics, education, and diplomacy, vocalized in special theme, involving music.
Our prestigious guest, H.E. Ivo Josipović (1957), a Croatian academic, jurist, and politician who served as President of Croatia from 2010 to 2015, a fruitful and marvellous lecturer, storyteller, and presenter of another approach to politics.
Josipović entered politics young, actively participating in the democratic transformation of the League of Communists of Croatia (SKH) into the Social Democratic Party (SDP), as the author of its first statute. He left politics in 1994, but returned in 2003, winning a seat in the Croatian Parliament, running as an independent candidate on the SDP party list. He won re-election to parliament as a member of the SDP in 2007. In addition to politics, Josipović has also worked as a university professor, legal expert, musician, and composer, and holds a Ph.D. in Law and advanced degrees in music composition. Following the end of his first term in Parliament in January 2008, he ran in the 2009–10 presidential election as the candidate of the Social Democrats, which he had re-joined in January 2008. In the first round he topped eleven rivals with 32.4% of the vote and entered the run-off with independent conservative populist candidate and Mayor of Zagreb, Milan Bandić, who had secured 14.8%. He won the election with 60.26% of the vote in the second round of the election.
His campaign was titled “Nova pravednost” (New Justice), calling for a new legal framework to address deep social injustice, corruption, and organised crime.
Two realms, one code
In this manner our guest portrayed a series of musical and interpretive arguments, supporting his main message. Both realms are subjective, artistic and intangible. Whoever is entering the doors of such majestic vocal wave, needs to correspond to momentum coherence. Nothing is solid though; only the tones and words are stringing one beside another, and artist need to predict the right tone in current situation. To the wholeness of harmonies, given by each speaker e.g. musician, one needs to bow, and there the real Art begins. We can equate the dyad music-politics as music is politics and politics is music:
“Politics and music: both lead and seduce and both can be useful and dangerous at the same time” (Josipović, 2023).
“The very nature of politics is, like music, rooted in conflict and harmony. The heart of music is the interplay of the physical and the mental, as the compromise between them forms a cohesive whole. Compromise is also the heart of the political process, trying to find common ground and consensus solutions to problems of society through open communication” (Thomson, 2016).
How language of subconsciousness binds
H.E. Josipović stated some facts about the two realms under our scrutiny. In both cases we can agree that listening is a precondition of success; in politics we ought to listen not with the sole aim to reply but mostly, to understand. Understanding requires analysis and inner readiness to accept the strange, the foreign and the outer. As in music, we must listen to accept tones and melodies and create sounds, describing deeper or intended emotions – our guest stressed to him both realms do offer creativity and visions, where especially in communication with the audience he cocreates balance between enthusiasm and reality.
He as well portrayed cases, how discipline and freedom tackle both politics and music, and how a strong, trustworthy person with integrity soothes the clashes and possible sidewalks. For him, both realms are adventures of the spirit. And the inner voice, connecting us to the subconsciousness and ethical, is louder in silence than in perfect harmony. That is the reason why compromise needs to be sought in silence after the fireworks of harmonies and disharmonies, tones, voices, words, and accords. Where one phase is concluded, another one yields its shelter: (inner) silence should be the center of political reflections. In this manner we can finally comprehend how discontinuities knit the thread of continuity. And the necessity of pauses and out of the box thinking, for which mental and cognitive indolence is ruinous, can only burst in the open and supportive setting.
Our guest has given us cases, historic reflections and shown how bright ideas and music can be misused (Wagner in Hitler’s Third Reich) or given as a spiritual glaze (John Lennon and Imagine).
In general, the connection between music and politics, particularly political expression in songs has been envisaged in many cultures. Through centuries music touches the symbolic expression, which lays deeper in our subconscious mind, having the tendency to bind stronger and hold as a glue of inclusions, especially in the times of sorrow, trials, and other tests of life.
Music can unite in the fight against fear (war songs, battle songs, motivative songs). As well it mobilises to fight in the interest of the group (battle trans, preparing soldiers to sacrifice their own life); music can also hold as a means of cultivating new fear through noble visons and identification of other and outlaw. Certainly, it can be corresponded as a catharsis for societies of recent trauma.
Music can as well express anti-establishment or protest themes, including anti-war songs. Although music influences political movements and rituals, it is not totally clear how or to what extent general audiences relate to music on a political level. Since we cannot measure all the correlated variables in complex situations in which each conflict is embedded, the symbolic, as music is, remains one of the most mesmerising moments one can experience.
Songs can be used to portray a specific political message. Our guest has shown his own example of his political query when he ran the president elections. What is surprising and uncommon, he was supported by many distinguished singers and artists of his homeland Croatia. In the intro song of his party “Nova pravednost” they sing about truth, values, and norms they are willing to live by.
“However, there may be barriers to the transmission of such messages; even overtly political songs are often shaped by and reference their contemporary political context, making an understanding of the history and events, that inspired the music, necessary in order to fully comprehend the message” (Josipović, 2023).
Later, we discussed the dyad politics-psychological reflections of a leader (including the use of emotional charge in politics). Our guest was struggling for the right expression of patriotism as well:
“Patriotism cannot be shown in laud singing of national songs, waving with flags, and screaming key words. It should be shown by the act of paying taxes, respecting the rule of law and democracy” (Josipović, 2023).
Most inspiring stories on music diplomacy from all over the world, bringing together experiences and reflections from musicians, scholars, experts, diplomats, activists, and journalists working in the field. Music diplomacy as a particular form of cultural diplomacy, is full of potential. As a universal language, music breaks down language barriers and cultural differences, with promoting cooperation, understanding and mutual respect among people, communities, and nations.
Josipović has been a visiting researcher at several prestigious institutes including the Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law in Freiburg in Breisgau, Germany, the Institute for Criminal Law of the University of Graz, Austria, as well as the HEUNI Institute (European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control) in Helsinki, Finland. He has also spent time as a private researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Foreign and Private International Law in Hamburg, Germany as well the Yale University in the United States. As member of several domestic and international legal and artists’ associations he published over 85 academic and professional papers in domestic and international journals. In year 1994, he co-founded the independent Hrvatski pravni centar (Croatian Law Center).
Josipović helped to save 180 Croatian prisoners of war from Serbian detention centres and has represented Croatia before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
He participated in several international projects and acted as a Council of Europe expert in evaluation of prisons in Ukraine, Mongolia and Azerbaijan.
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