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Science diplomacy in the Danube Delta. With Ukraine or not?

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Ukraine has clearly defined integration of the European values as a priority for external and internal government policy since 2014. The scientific sphere is not an exception. Nowadays, integration into the European Research Area (ERA) is considered not only as geopolitical constant for Ukraine and Ukrainian science but also as a real instrument for scientists to join a European system approach, independent expertise and modern research infrastructures through consortia. On the other hand, Ukraine as a State will receive an extra funds for reestablishing its old-fashioned research facilities, formed mostly during the Soviet period, through instruments of the participation in common infrastructures and research infrastructure consortia.

The European Research Infrastructure Consortium is one of the policy instrument of ERA aimed at promoting, establishing and operating of the Research Infrastructures (RI) for the needs of several countries’ scientific community with minimal level of bureaucracy and fiscal burdens.

In this regard, it might be interesting for Ukraine to join Romania-initiated project aimed on creation of pan European distributed Research Infrastructure dedicated to Advanced Interdisciplinary Studies on River-Sea Systems (DANUBIUS-RI). The DANUBIUS PP project was included to the ESFRI Roadmap in 2015 and the preparatory phase was completed in 2019.

The research infrastructure will comprise a Hub and a Data Centre in Romania, a Technology Transfer Office in Ireland, and Supersites and Nodes across Europe. The Hub will provide leadership, coordination, and key scientific, educational and analytical capabilities. Supersites will be designated natural sites that provide the focus for observation, research and modelling at locations of high scientific importance and utilizing a range of opportunities to study RS systems from river source to coastal sea. Nodes will be centers of expertise providing facilities and services, data storage and provision, experimental and in situ measurements facilities, state-of-the-art analytical capabilities and implementation of standardized procedures and quality control (the DANUBIUS Commons).

European research on river-sea systems and their transitional environments is world- leading but fragmented, largely discipline-specific and often geographically isolated.

The lack of interdisciplinary research infrastructures has fueled this fragmentation. DANUBIUS-RI will fill the gap, drawing on existing research excellence across Europe, enhancing the impact of European research while maximizing the return on investment. It will provide access to a range of European river-sea systems, facilities and expertise; a ‘one-stop shop’ for knowledge exchange in managing river-sea systems; access to harmonized data; and a platform for interdisciplinary research, inspiration, education and training.

This structure will enable DANUBIUS-RI to build on existing expertise and synergies to support world-leading interdisciplinary research and innovation in freshwater-marine research.

The benefits to Ukraine of being member of the future (DANUBIUS-RI):

  • DANUBIUS-RI is the only European Research Infrastructure dedicated to Advanced Interdisciplinary Studies on River-Sea Systems worldwide. It gained the status of ESFRI Project in 2016, which demonstrates not only European support but its global relevance.
  • The access to the major opportunities given by DANUBIUS-RI will bring the opportunity to find science-based solutions that involve the highest standards at global level to solving national, regional and local problems occurring in river-sea systems in Ukraine. It will support gaining better knowledge of processes in the Black Sea and at contacts with major rivers (not just the Danube).
  • DANUBIUS-RI is working to become a European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC). This gives a very strict quality control system over the years – to maintain itself as an infrastructure promoting scientific excellence. Therefore, being part of DANUBIUS-ERIC means also becoming part of a strictly surveyed organization, which needs to implement excellence.
  • As a signatory of DANUBIUS-ERIC, Ukraine will give its scientists a direct and open access to all the work opportunities given by DANUBIUS-ERIC across Europe. Researchers and professionals will thus be able to train, work with and use all the data and facilities provided in all parts of the Research Infrastructure, no matter where they are located.
  • With Ukraine a member of the DANUBIUS-ERIC, Ukrainian students (from undergraduate to postgraduate) and postdoctorals will be able to develop and improve their training throughout Europe, using the opportunities offered by the various parts of the Research Infrastructure.
  • Membership of the ERIC will increase the opportunities for participation in future EC DG Research and Innovation – funded projects, in HORIZON EUROPE or following programmes.

That is why the Ukrainian participation in this consortium is very important not only from scientific point of view but also from practical significance of the project outputs for the needs of state environmental protection policy.

Ukraine took the first step towards the DANUBIUS–RI participation in 2016 year. Odesa State Ecological University became part of Horizon 2020 project “The preparatory phase for the Pan-European research infrastructure DANUBIUS–RI: the international center for advanced studies on river-sea systems”. According to the rules of project, the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine joined to the Board of Governmental Representatives. In fact, it was Ukrainian first official practical step toward ERICs participation at all.

With starting activity in DANUBIUS PP project the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine faced new challenges. On the institutional level, the Ministry is responsible for the participation in the European Research Infrastructure Consortia and for the national consortium forming. But it should be mentioned that for participation in any ERIC and in DANUBIUS-ERIC in particular, Ukraine as non-EU statefaces two big challenges: harmonization of national legislation with EU legislation on ERIC activity and establishing national consortium of research infrastructures as a national part of ERIC.

The DANUBUIS ERIC Statute has the item concerning the obligations on behalf of the state such as annual membership fee, appointment of national representative and support of his(her) participation in Government Board meetings, tax exemptions and support of maintenance of the national research infrastructures involved in ERIC.

According to Ukrainian legislation, in this case,it should be used the Law “On International Treaty of Ukraine”. It means that DANUBIUS ERIC Statute requires ratification by Ukrainian Parliament. The ratification allows to agree to be bound by the terms of the Statute and to implement the EU Regulation “On European Research Infrastructures Consortium (ERIC)”in the same time which establish Value Added Tax exemptions.

The Statute ratification will become a legislative basis for determination of state body responsible for this ERIC, for membership fees and for ensuring of RI functioning.

The ERIC Statute also predicts the obligation of national RI establishment as legal entity that should be the part of ERIC. Only this legal entity can be use the option concerning tax exemptions. The essence of the problem is that Ukrainian legislation should make the binding of a specific legal entity to tax benefits arising from an international agreement.

The third important task of the preparatory period is the financing by the Ukrainian Party the national RIs and rising the level of technical readiness of Ukrainian infrastructures to comply with ERIC technical regulations. In this regards, the interesting for Ukraine is the Romanian experience.

In spite the membership in EU, Romanian has an enlightening experience in participation in ERICs that could be useful for Ukraine. Romania also needs pass through the coordination process with ministries and ratification procedures in Romanian Parliament.

The second pull of issues is building the national RI consortium integrated into ERIC.

The first step toward this process should be determination on the state level the goals, objectives, sources of funding, conditions creation of a consortium and only after this, gathering information and formulating proposals from individual organizations. In this regard, Ukraine could use the experience of Romanian Party. An appropriate way for the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine can be the adoption of R&D project “Specification of Strategy and actions for preparation of the national participation in the DANUBIUS-RI”.

During 2018-2019 years, Romanian Government financed the similar project DANS and from 2020 the project DANS 2 started.

The Term of reference for Ukrainian participation in DANUBIUS ERIC will be an important basic document and further steps of Ukraine in the preparation of the draft action planat the Governmental level regarding Ukraine’s participation in the international structure of DANUBIUS RI. In addition, such document will be an instrument for the financial resources accession for the creation of the Ukrainian part of the DANUBE delta supersite and for request funding from DANUBIUS ERIC.

Also, the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine should pay attention on the additional document of the Romanian project “Specification of Strategy and actions for preparation of the national participation in the DANUBIUS-RI” with requirements to the network of observations and research stations that the Romania is creating on its territory as a part of the DANUBE DELTA supersite.

But in spite of importance being the part of EU integration process and building a working strategy of scientific development, Ukraine does not take appropriate steps to achieve state interests in R&D sphere. For became the equal partner in the Danube scientific chessboard Ukraine is explicitly required two components: appropriate legislation conditions and budget allocation.

C. Bradley, M. J. Bowes, J. Brils, J. Friedrich, J. Gault, S. Groom, T. Hein, P. Heininger, P. Michalopoulos, N. Panin, M. Schultz, A. Stanica, I. Andrei, A. Tyler & G. Umgiesser. 2018. Advancing integrated research on European river–sea systems: the DANUBIUS-RI project, International Journal of Water Resources Development, 34:6, 888-899, DOI: 10.1080/07900627.2017.1399107

Dr.Dmytro Cheberkus, PhD in economie, representative of Ukrainian national hub within Black sea assistance mechanisme

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Diplomacy

Soft Power Dynamics in Middle Eastern Conflict

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The Middle East is synonymous with eternal conflict as being at the cross-point between Africa, Europe, and Asia.

The paper intends to understand how the power could be derived from the cultural roots in a world filled with pre-existing biases based on religious values, nationality, and interpretation of history.

Palestine receives strong international support through social media by sharing its pain and grievances increasing its soft power that hampers Israel’s international relations. A new question emerges can the soft power paradigm be used to resolve the problem?  

The roots of the Middle Eastern problem are driven by historical-religious literature which shows the Middle East to be the historic homeland of Jews and they wanted to get back to their original homeland due to two-millennium long suppression that finally ended up as the holocaust.

Israel continues to emphasize and promote stories related to Second World War which help them gain the legitimacy to exist as a state. It is also remarked that the holocaust may have been a decisive condition for the creation of a Jewish state but this action would have occurred sooner or later.

One of the biggest strengths for Israel and its legitimacy comes from the Biblical literature which has some historical stories in it and mentions Israel and Judah in the Middle East providing American Christian Support which seems to be dropping as a result Israel needs to work on its soft power.

A similar strength can be found in Quran for Israeli as Surah Al-Ma’idah in Chapter 5 verse 12 states about the Children of Israel and verse 21 explains that they are “destined to enter and not to turn back else they will become the loser.” These verses motivate Israeli for their cause which raises an interesting phenomenon that some pro-Israeli media would use Quranic verses to gain legitimacy.

History needs to be studied to understand how and where the differences between Jews and Muslims started. Originally there was a peaceful relation between Jews and Muslims but Jews refuse to acknowledge Muhammad a non-Jew as one of the prophets of God which caused the relationship between Jews and Muslims to deplete.

Finally, Banu Qurayza a Jewish community allied with Qurashites against Prophet Muhammad that caused Medina to suffer a war-built hatred towards Judaism.

However, even after looking at the differences Muslims, Christians, and Jews are Abrahamic religions maintaining their base Judaic-monotheistic tradition as both Roman Catholics and Arab previously had polytheistic culture and Israel has indirectly benefitted from this historical fact.

Israel could benefit from various religions by showing show respect to the leaders of Abrahamic religions and even maintain an apologetic attitude on behalf of some of the members of the Jewish community which may have conducted villainous actions as per some stories based on other religious doctrines.

The tower of one’s ego can prohibit supporting the national interest which could only be achieved by becoming softer to gain soft power.

It is argued that the ancient Philistine is related to present-day Palestine. Palestine as a result gets associated with David and Goliath or Samson’s struggle with Philistine. However, the term Palestine is more complicated which had developed in the period.

There are also claims that the Syria Palaestina was constructed as a punishment for Bar Kochba Revolt in 135CE while the name Palaestina given to the region seems to be older than Bar Kochba Revolt and even older than the Roman Emperor Hadrian.

The image of the Israel and Palestine conflict is connected towards mythical combat between David and Goliath. David was an inexperienced youth who later became king of Israel and defeated a giant from ancient Philistine called Goliath.

Some actors who are sympathetic to the Palestinian cause have also connected Palestine with David who was weak at the beginning of the story while they perceive Israel as an unjust giant and the toughest fighter in the region.

The Middle Eastern conflict goes beyond religion and history as it has multiple dimensions due to multiple crimes against humanity causing people to be refugees that inflict social, political, and economic damages.

A medium to obtain soft power is by resolving the humanitarian crisis and Israel being perceived as a perpetrator tampered with its national image.

Israel as an economically advanced country with large spending power can establish economic institutions to raise funds in providing education, training, and employment to victims of that conflict regardless of their religion, ethnicity, gender, or political views who have been scattered around the world which would help Israel gain legitimacy.

The economic recovery of the war victims can minimize some damage enforced upon the national image but there is a strong opinion that the Palestinian community lacks legal rights as being in Israeli jurisdiction. So, political rights might have to be secured to the Palestinians while they have to live in Israel for Israel to create a positive national image.  

The Israeli government also create an option for the Palestinian community to have the right to return, granting them protection in Knesset (Israeli Parliament), while promoting Arab Israeli politicians, and can even reflect how they have shaped the Israeli government in the international arena to build Israel’s soft power.

Finally, the last piece of the puzzle is the social affairs which are closely tied to the soft power paradigm.

There is a clear fear that the Jews are eclipsing the social identity of the Palestinian people but in reality, they are closely linked as Arabic language and Hebrew are Semitic languages, their scripts have common Aramaic ancestry, and Halaal and Kosher dietary cultures are also similar.

There should be an effort to study the similarities to build unity and to study unique qualities as to appreciate one another’s differences. Israel could also create Cultural Relations Centers around the world that promote both Jewish and Palestinian language, culture, and cuisine to create respect and solidarity. 

There can also be the production of television programs, movies, digital applications which could allow people to understand the Middle Eastern community.

Tel Aviv is the center for the development of many technological advancements and carries great potential to build creative applications and visual storytelling that could help spread awareness about the Middle East.

On the other hand, the Palestinian Authority could request the Israeli government to provide scholarships in various Israeli Universities which could enhance their credential for making effort to create a peaceful world as well as proposing exchange programs by inviting Israeli students to visit regular Palestinian colleges and working spaces decreasing bitterness.

The Palestinian Authority could also pursue Israeli investment in core-Palestinian settlements that could create employment as well as mutual dependence allowing Palestine to grow with a greater bargaining power while maintaining a symbiotic relationship.

Culture, history, and institutions can be combined to create harmony. A key aspect to gain soft power and legitimacy is by becoming softer by showing respect to the opponents while appreciating and accepting others’ viewpoints.

Therefore, the study of religion, history has to be conducted from a neutral perspective that can be trusted by all international actors and could serve as a uniting factor while maintaining an apologetic attitude towards historic mistakes. There needs to be an effort to provide economic and political compensation for the victims which have caused notoriety in the international arena and finally the culture of the two competing communities needs to be celebrated through cultural institutions to build trust and harmony.

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Biden-Putting meeting: Live from Geneva

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19:00 The places of the flags on the Mont Blanc bridge on which President Biden and President Putin will pass to reach the meeting venue on Wednesday usually hold the flags of the different Swiss cantons. Not today. The American and Russian flags have been placed to welcome the two leaders. 

18:00 A day before the Geneva summit: Hotel Intercontinental where the American delegation and probably President Biden himself is staying, how the city looks like a day before the meeting, what are the security measures like, why isn’t the UN involved and are the usual protests expected?

Iveta Cherneva with live video political commentary from Geneva one day ahead of the Biden-Putin Summit

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Will the promotion of cricket in GCC add to its Soft Power?

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In recent years, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, have been trying to bolster their ‘Soft Power’ in a number of ways; by promoting tourism, tweaking their immigration policies to attract more professionals and foreign students and focusing on promoting art and culture. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has taken the lead in this direction (in May 2017, UAE government set up a UAE Soft Power Council which came up with a comprehensive strategy for the promotion of the country’s Soft Power). Under Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman (MBS), Saudi Arabia has also been seeking to change its international image, and it’s Vision 2030 seeks to look beyond focusing on economic growth. In the Global Soft Power Index 2021, Saudi Arabia was ranked at number 24 and number 2 in the Gulf region after the UAE (the country which in the past had a reputation for being socially conservative, has hosted women’s sports events and also hosted the G20 virtually last year)

Will the promotion of cricket in GCC add to its Soft Power?

   One other important step in the direction of promoting Soft Power in the GCC, is the attempt to popularize cricket in the Gulf. While the Sharjah cricket ground (UAE)  hosted many ODI (One Day International )tournaments, and was witness to a number of thrillers between India and Pakistan, match fixing allegations led to a ban on India playing cricket at non-regular venues for a duration of 3 years (for a period of 7 years from 2003, Sharjah did not get to host any ODI). The Pakistan cricket team has been playing its international home series at Sharjah, Abu Dhabu and Dubai for over a decade (since 2009) and the sixth season of the Pakistan Super League is also being played in UAE. Sharjah has also hosted 9 test matches (the first of which was played in 2002).

 Sharjah hosted part of the Indian Premier League (IPL) tournament in 2014, and last year too the tournament was shifted to UAE due to covid19 (apart from Sharjah, matches were played at Dubai and Abu Dhabi). This year again, the UAE and possibly Oman are likely to host the remaining matches of the IPL which had to be cancelled due to the second wave of Covid19. The ICC Men’s T20 World Cup to be held later this year (October-November 2021), which was actually to be hosted by India,  could also be hosted not just in the UAE, but Oman as well (there are two grounds, one of them has floodlights). International Cricket Council (ICC) is looking for an additional venue to UAE, because a lot of cricket is being played there, and this may impact the pitches. The ICC while commenting on the possibility of the T20 World cup being hosted in the Middle East said:

, “The ICC Board has requested management [to] focus its planning efforts for the ICC Men’s  T20 World Cup 2021 on the event being staged in the UAE with the possibility of including another venue in the Middle East’

GCC countries are keen not just to host cricketing tournaments, but also to increase interest in the game. While Oman has a team managed by an Indian businessman, Saudi Arabia has set up the SACF (Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation) in 2020 and it has started the National Cricket Championship which will have more than 7,000 players and 36 teams at the school level. Peshawar Zalmi, a Pakistani franchise T20 cricket team, representing the city of Peshawar the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which plays in the Pakistan’s domestic T20 cricket league – the Peshawar cricket league —  extended an invitation to the SACF, to play a friendly match against it. It’s owner Javed Afridi had extended the invitation to the Saudi Arabian team in April 2021.  Only recently, Chairman of SACF Prince Saud bin Mishal  met with India’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Dr Ausaf Saeed, to discuss ways for promoting the game in Saudi Arabia. He also visited the ICC headquarters at Dubai and apart from meeting officials of ICC also took a tour of Sharjah cricket ground.

GCC countries have a number of advantages over other potential neutral venues. First, the required infrastructure is already in place in some countries, and there is no paucity of financial resources which is very important. Second, there is a growing interest in the game in the region, and one of the important factors for this is the sizeable South Asian expat population. Third, a number of former cricketers from South Asia are not only coaching cricket teams, but also being roped in to create more enthusiasm with regard to the game. Fourth, UAE along with other GCC countries, could also emerge as an important venue for the resumption of India-Pakistan cricketing ties.

Conclusion

In conclusion, if GCC countries other than UAE — like Saudi Arabia and Oman  — can emerge as important cricketing venues, their ‘Soft Power’ appeal is likely to further get strengthened especially vis-à-vis South Asia. South Asian expats, who have contributed immensely to the economic growth of the region, and former South Asian cricketers will have an important role to play in popularizing the game in the Gulf. Cricket which is already an important component of the GCC — South Asia relationship, could help in further strengthening people to people linkages.

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