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March 2020 – March 2021: Europe and Beyond

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A state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.-Definition of Health, Preamble of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Constitution, 1948

For months, many argue that our Covid (C-19) response is a planetary fiasco, whose size is yet to surface with its mounting disproportionate and enduring secondary effects, causing tremendous socio-economic, political and psychosomatic contractions and convulsions. However, worse than our response is our silence about it.

It is an established fact that the quintessence of Nazism was not Hitler and the circle of darkness around him. It was rather a commonly shared ‘banality of crime’ atmosphere: Benevolent acceptance of ordinary village people living next to Auschwitz, Mauthausen, Dachau that the nation must be ‘purified’ … The day when questioning stops and silent acceptance becomes a ‘new normal’ is a day when fascism walks in a big time. Of course, today we have a diagnosis for it: manufacturing consent through choice architecture, of a fear-imprisoned, via media infantilised (returned to the pre-Oedipal phase) psychology of the de-socialised and alienated, an atomised one.

Appinion disguised as opinion – Who is really in charge?

Did we really forget basic teaching of our history: Every time when the power was unchecked, it degenerated into the obscure brutality; ritualising its force with a stamp on or under our skin to visualise and immortalise the twilight of reason?

So, our C-19 response and its widespread synchronicity illustrates – the argument goes – nothing else but a social pathology: the non-transparent concentration of power, and our overall democracy recession – further bolstering surveillance and social control systems. All that as lasting consequences of cutbacks, environmental holocaust, privatisation (or PPP-ization) of key intergovernmental and vital national institutions, ill-aimed globalisation as well as of the fixation on overly allopathic, mandated (not a repurposed but usually novel and expensive) drugs-centred healthcare, and lack of public data commons. Public health or private wealth? Pandemic or plundermic …

Trust in and support to governmental and intergovernmental institutions is rapidly deteriorating. Ever larger number of citizens do not see the mainstream media (or pop culture celebrities) at service for the population. Dialogue and opinion is discouraged and silenced, if not, even sanctioned. Hence, the faith in western medicine is in a free fall. Compromised generational contract and thinning social consensus are challenging our fabrics like never before in recorded history. The first real stress-test since the end of the WWII, the United Nations (UN) clearly did not pass. Many feel deeply disappointed with and disfranchised by the universal organisation and its Agencies for their lasting “self-marginalisation”.[1]Is our cohesion irreversibly destroyed?

Early lockdowns, mid-March 2020, were justified by a need to flatten the curve of the ‘sudden’ virus’ (harmfulness, mortality and transmissibility) impact, since there were not enough hospital beds. In the meantime, the lockdowns were extended and widened, curves not arguably altered. Still, for the past 12 months, there is hardly any new hospital built in the EU although the non-essential medical services, at most cases,  suspended.[2]Neither there was nor is any massive investment into general health prevention. The only visible infrastructure growth is in 5/6G network expansion. 

Following a simple ratio that the one’s level of health is genetic expression of life-style choices made, it is no surprise that there are also growing speculations if the lockdown – as the most notorious expression of monofocal perspective and rejection to any scientifically contested, debate-based integrated judgment– is invasion or protection:

  • And, if is there any back-to-normal exit from the crisis, or this disaster ‘turned into planetary terror, through global coup d’état’ will be exploited to further something already pre-designed (with a fear, not as a side-effect, but rather as a tool manufactured to gain control).Simply, is all that more related to the biotronics and demographics (IoT and Internet of Bodies) – ‘epsteinisation en masse’, than to health and economics or any common social purpose?

E.g.Le Monde Diplomatique – while examining the possible merger between tech oligopoly and political monopoly – claimed from the very beginning of crisis that: “Political decisions have been central in shaping this tragedy — from the destruction of animal habitats, to the asymmetric funding of medical research, to the management of the crisis itself. They will also determine the world into which we emerge into after the worst is over.” Over the past 30 years, every critical juncture had a similar epilogue: pardon and enhancement for the capital, a burden and suppression for the labour. The C-19 is no exception to it: Ever since early lockdowns of March 2020, the capital flows unhindered while the labour, ideas and humans are under the house arrest.[3]The XXI century frontline is the right to health (incl. body integrity and informed consent),and labour, privacy and other fundamental human rights and liberties. (LMD, IV20)

Earth provides enough to satisfy everyone’s needs, but not for a single man’s greed

The rate of profit does not, like rent and wages, rise with the prosperity, and fall with the declension, of the society. On the contrary, it is naturally low in rich, and high in poor countries, and it is always highest in the countries which are going fastest to ruin.- The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith

Still to be precise, the WHO- decreed virus pandemic brought nothing truly new to the already overheated conduct of, and increasingly binarized, world affairs. It only amplified and accelerated what was present for quite some time – a rift between alienated power centres, each on its side of Pacific, and the rest. No wonder that the work on the C-19 vaccine is more an arms race than it is a collaborative humanity plan.

Would all this be – in its epilogue – about the expansion of (the 4th industrial revolution caused) techno-totalitarian model of government as an alternative to liberal democracy (from one-party democracy to one-party autocracy)? Devolutionary singularisation into techno-feudalism as the highest stage of capitalism? Is now a time to return to the nation-state, a great moment for all dictators-in-waiting to finally build a cult of personality? Hence, will our democracy be electro-magnetised and vaccinated for a greater good (or greedier ‘god’)? Is the decolonisation of global health a failed attempt? Will we (ever)be allowed to exit the year of 2020?[4]

The entire scientific community considers the attempt to mandate the experimental biological agent (while calling it the C-19 vaccine) as very troubling. Having these calls chiefly advocated and aggressively promoted by the handful of self-interest driven private companies (all accompanied with a contradictory and confusing governmental stance) is highly disturbing. No surprise that ever-larger societal segments perceive it as warfare not a welfare. The world that for over a century portrayed itself as Kantian is rapidly turning into the dark Hobbesian place. Is now anarchy just one step away?[5]

One is certain, confronting the long-term interests of stakeholders with the short-term interests of shareholders, the private sector from both sides of Atlantic exercises disproportionate power in the technological share (infrastructure and data). It also largely benefits from the massive public research funds while in return paying dismal, negotiable tax if any at all.[6]

Far too often it comes with the nondisclosure agreements, liability outsourcing/protections and other unilaterally beneficial legal instruments as well as with the close ties between the private sector, intelligence agencies and media.[7]

The same applies to a big Pharma which increasingly dictates a non-preventive, monofocal approach to medicine and research, and controls reporting about it – not always in the name of our public health.

Therefore, the above represents the largest underreported threat to our democracy and future societal conduct.

Conclusively, bioinformatics (including the synthetic biology and data-to-genes sequestration for data storage or data mining purpose) is a dual-use technology. Past its formative age (with a digital infrastructure near completion), it has today a huge weaponization potential for at home and abroad, be it for state or non-state actors. Consequently and urgently, this necessitates a comprehensive legislation which builds up on the Universal Charter of Human Rights and Nuremberg Code, and rests on its effective enforcement (with the monitoring of compliance mechanisms as set for the IAEA, OPCW, RC-BTWC and the Nagoya protocol),[8]nationally and internationality, and for all actors.

Threat of Otherness: Criminalisation of different opinion

All state authority is derived from the people (XX 2) … All Germans shall have the right to resist any person seeking to abolish this constitutional order, if no other remedy is available. (XX 4)-Civil disobedience as the Constitutional Right[9]

By many accounts, 2020 – a year of astonishing synchronicity, when distancing became social[10]– will be remembered as the worst year in living memory (since 1939). Some would say; C-19 stopped history, as it locked down our dialogues and atrophied political instincts of masses. Still, 2020 only quarantined and halted us, while in fact it accelerated history. This especially refers to the ‘Old Continent’.

People have the right to know what those in power are doing, especially in times of crisis. Therefore, Europe’s eldest and the most comprehensive multilateral mechanism – Council of Europe, promulgated Convention on Access to Official Documents more than ten years ago in Tromsø, Norway (entering in force on 01 December 2020). This Charter is the first binding international legal instrument to recognise a general right of access to official documents held by public authorities.[11]

As this author noted back in spring 2020: “It is amply clear from the C-19 event that the right to health is an issue for all. The search for a reliable cure for pandemics control is not a matter of private business, but of fundamental individual rights situated on higher levels of sociableness, as embedded in the UN and EU Charters, and being obligatory for each of the UN Specialized Agencies or EU bodies to comply with. (Not a fear-based manufactured giving-in, but the right for informed consent as an inseparable segment of the constitutionally endorsed right to health.)

Even if the vaccine becomes the agreed or preferred option, it must be made available patent-free for all, and locally manufactured. However, binarization of debate onto a pro-and-con vaccine represents a dangerous reductionism and waste of planetary energy critically needed for a holistic and novel approach. There is no silver bullet for the European problems. Consequently, there is no solution in one-directional medical research in response to any pandemic, and in a single-blended (or centrally manufactured, hastily introduced) and mandated experimental medication for all. This especially refers to the genoccine.[12](Dogma is based on a blind belief; science necessitates constant multidimensional exploration. Science, especially a medical one, holds no single or absolute truth: The closest it can get is to the least wrong answer – which must be contested constantly, literally every day.)

Proportionality of our (current and future) responses in Europe is another key issue. Hence, what presents itself as an imperative is the universal participation through intergovernmental mechanisms. That rule applies for at home and for abroad, as the Union has to comply with(and set example to) it urgently.

Growing particularisms in Brussels quarters, where (on taxpayers money and public trust)it is more and more the particular – be it individual, regional, national, lobby-groups driven – interest that prevails over the solid all-European project of our common presence purpose and future.”[13]

Past the Brexit, the Union has to be extra cautious about its chronic democracy-deficit, apparatchik alienation of Brussels, as well as the brewing concerns that the EU without UK becomes yet another greater Germany.[14]

Of Paper Tiger and its Talking Heads

The one-year score (March 2020 – March 2021) of the Union is highly disturbing:

Finally, the truth is plain to see; countries with the highly (deregulated and) privatised health sector are the C-19 worst offs (eg. USA) – as measured by the fatalities, overall socio-economic cost (incl. the long-term health prospects, or redistribution and inequalities), damage to the social consensus (safety and security), and the speed of recovery. Countries of the centralised health which resides strictly in public hands and under popular control did and are still making it far better. Those among them that keep high respect for individual rights, liberties and freedoms (eg. Sweden) are by far the best achievers.

How the issues of health will be balanced with the human rights – as these two are not excluding but complementing each other – is the fundamental issue for the future.

Additionally, how (geno and pheno) data are generated, stored and governed, and ultimately used will be the second defining issue of global public health (and planetary support to it) in the coming decades.

Beyond the disputes about possible initial intentionality, let us close this text by discussing probable epilogue:

An ever-larger number of military strategists see the C-19 event as a biological warfare. And history is powerful reminder; decisions to go to war were never based on facts but on perceptions.[15]Therefore, make no mistake; the end game to any further continuation or escalation is nuclear holocaust which none of us will escape.


[1] The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres is well aware of it: Addressing the Organisation’s General Assembly at the 75th anniversary (September 2020) he admitted: “… people continue to lose trust in political establishments. … widespread protests against inequality, discrimination, corruption and lack of opportunities all over the world – grievances that still need to be addressed, including with a renewed social contract.”

[2] In fact, in Germany and several other EU member states the number of hospital beds in the intensive care units is even reduced for up to 20% compared to its pre-C-19 capacities.

[3]In the formally neutral and peace-loving Austria – following the provisions of a strict autumn 2020 lockdown – only the basic supplies shops were opened. However, besides the grocery stores,mobile phone shops and pharmacies, it also included the guns shops, while the schools, theatres, libraries and museums remain closed.

[4]The year of 2020 recorded unprecedented planetary contractions and nearly a free-fall recession. Of course, it is misleadingly ascribed to the pandemic instead of being attributed to the C-19-related measures. Among G-7 + G-20 group of countries only China had scored growth. Cross-sectoral picture is the same – deep recession. Only the big tech and big pharma scored surpluses in 2020. (World Bank Report 2020)

[5] Talks about ‘vax-passports’ falls under the same category. Not only that it is contrary to the ruling of the Council of Europe – conditioning freedom of movement with an exposure of personal medical record is contradicting any notion of Human Rights and every of its Charters.

[6] “The pandemic has also reviled how imbalanced the relationship between the public and the private sector has become. In the US, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) invests some$40 billion a year on medical research and has been a key funder of the R&D of C-19 treatments and vaccines. But pharmaceutical companies are under no obligation to make the final product affordable to Americans, whose tax money is subsidising them in the first place. … It was a typical move for Big Pharma. … Even so, US drug prices are the highest in the world. Pharmaceutical companies also act against the public interest by abusing the patient process. … Equally bad deals have been made with Big Tech. In many ways, Silicon Valley is a product of the US government’s investments in the development of high-risk technologies. The National Science Foundation funded the research behind the search algorithm that made Google famous. The US Navy did the same for the GPS technology that Uber depends on. And the Defence Advanced Research Project Agency, part of the Pentagon, backed the development of the Internet, touchscreen technology, Siri, and every other key component in the iPhone. Taxpayers took risks when they invested in these technologies, yet most of the technology companies that have benefited failed to pay their fair share of taxes. Then they have the audacity to fight against regulations that would protect the privacy rights of the public. … the power of AI and other technologies being developed in Silicon Valley, a closer look shows that in these cases, too, it was high-risk public investment that laid the foundations” – states prof. Mazzucato(FAM 99/6/20)

[7]See, eg. the EU Pandemic Accelerator Act (April 2020) or the July 15th 2020 Suspension of the EU GMO-related legislation (the so-called EU Council adoption of the Commission’s proposal to accelerate clinical trials and the supply of medical product containing the GMOs) – all promulgated speed-track without a prior investigative scientific reports, hearings or debate. These are now submitted to the European Court of Justice for a legality and impartiality judgment. In the same fashion the recently adopted European Democracy Action Plan (EDAP) leaves many ambiguities, while also contradicting the European Convention on Human Rights.

[8] All fourbelonging to the United Nations system: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Review Conference to the Biological Weapons Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction (RC-BTWC), the Nagoya Protocol to the Biological Diversity Convention on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilisation (NP).

[9]German Constitution (Art. 20). Similar provisions are encapsulated in most of the national constitutions in Europe and beyond. It rests on a notion that the state and people are bound by the social contract within any given society, and that in case of a breach of confidence, citizenry has an inalienable natural right to disobedience.

[10]It is crucial to differentiate the physical from a social distancing. Physical one is a preventive (punitive or medical) measure while the so-called social distancing is a century-old concept of (empathy charge and) social engineering. To this end, see works of the US sociologists Park, Hall and Bogardus (scale of social distancing), and Simmel’s ‘theory of the stranger’ – Simmelian social geometry (Germany 1908).

[11]During times of crisis national security arguments are often evoked to deny information to be requested and accessed. However, it is exactly at such times that a timely and trustworthy information from official sources is most needed. Informational transparency in accordance with the principles set out in the Tromsø Convention prior to the C-19 pandemic could have helped to avoid the ‘infodemic’ and a subsequent massive public distrust.

[12]It seems as a more accurate name for the experimental (thoroughly untested), new, RNK and DNK modified, nanotechnology-based tri-injecting solution currently advocated for the C-19. Some critics even reject to call it vaccine, claiming that it is in fact a GMO implant.

[13]See: “World on Autopilot: The UNSC should urgently address C-19”, New Europe Brussels (Bajrektarevic-Agam, 10 APR 20); “Contributing to a Safer, Healthier and Prosperous World”, Diplomat Magazine Hague (Bajrektarevic-Goutali, 12 MAY 20);”Return of Global Stewardship: the UNSC should urgently address C-19– addendum” (Bajrektarevic-Agam, 25 May 20), ModernDiplomacy Athens/ Brussels; “Democracy Vaccinated, – The post-Corona epilogue of Sino-American relations”, (Bajrektarevic), L’EuropeUnie Intl. Journal, Revue d’étudeseuropéenne, Paris, France 2020 (15) 2.

[14] On December 18th 2020, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) adopted Resolution against glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that encourage modern forms of racism and xenophobia. 60 UN members co-sponsored resolution, while only 2 states casted negative vote. Rather strikingly and disturbingly, Germany refrained from voting in favour (abstained). The UN GA recommends states “to take appropriate concrete measures, including legislative and educational ones, in accordance with international human rights obligations, in order to prevent revisionism in respect of the Second World War and the denial of the crimes against humanity and war crimes committed during the WWII.”

[15]Although initially representing the asymmetric workings of the non-state actor, the so-called Sarajevo assassination of 1914 triggered the WWI – a gigantic trans-continental conflict between all major powers of that time (and a rapid demise of many in just few years’ time).This self-destruction lasted for 4 years with all unconventional means (biological and chemical) at disposal used. What has happened? The non-state actor from Bosnia assaulted the Head of State in-making of the major power (Heir to the Habsbourg Empire). Now comes the most disturbing part: Asymmetric confrontation between the state and non-state actor in one corner of Europe (southeast) triggered a direct armed conflict and the immense bloodshed – but only months later and via spill over from the other corner of Europe. Militarily, the German attack on the Belgian Ardennes (northwest of Europe) marked the beginning of the total destruction – WWI. In summer 1945, Soviets were rushing through Korean peninsula to get a stake in occupation of Japan. As a consequence, Americans repeatedly nuked that country’s inland. That much about controllability of (non-)intentionality and about mastering of the outcome. Overconfidence is another (mass) killer, just to name but few history chapters thought its chief protagonists: Darius III, Hannibal, Napoleon, Hitler. 

Modern Diplomacy Advisory Board, Chairman Geopolitics of Energy Editorial Member Professor and Chairperson for Intl. Law & Global Pol. Studies contact: anis@bajrektarevic.eu

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Is European humanity skin deep?

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At the border crossing between Ukraine and Moldova at Palanca, refugees stand in line. © UNICEF/Vincent Tremeau

When talking about security the most common line of thought tends to be war and the actors involved in the attack, however, all the people who had regular lives within those territories that are jeopardized are as important. With the increasing tensions and armed conflicts happening within the Twenty First Century, the movement of people searching for shelter has increased. More asylum seekers leave their home countries every single day and contemporary politics is still struggling to find a way to catch up. Europe, history wise, is the zone of the world that deals with more refugees wanting to enter the continent due to different factors: geography, proximity, democratic systems, level of development and more. Nevertheless, with the Russia-Ukraine conflict, true sentiments towards refugees are now being put on display.

Even though all refugees are fleeing their countries because their lives are in mortal danger, authorities and government officials do not seem to care. Processes to apply for the refugee status are getting harder and harder. In Europe, to apply for a refugee passport, people are asked for identifications, online questionaries and many other unrealistic aspects that if not answered correctly, the whole process is cancelled. It is ridiculous to believe that when people are scaping in order to stay alive, they will take under consideration all these requirements to receive help, sometimes even from neighboring countries. Which inevitably leads to the following question: why are refugees accepted based on the legality of their applications and not of their status?

By 2016, nearly 5.2 million refugees reached European shores, which caused the so called refugee crisis. They came mainly from Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq: countries torn apart by armed conflicts. Similarly, with Russia’s invasion over the Ukraine in 2022, only few days deep within the fighting,  874,000 people had to flee their homes. Nonetheless, the issue seems to be that, for Europe, not all refugees are the same. When the refugee crisis in 2015 was declared, the European Union called for stopping and detaining all arriving refugees for around 18 months. There was a strong reluctancy from Europeans towards offering them shelter. On the contrary, countries such as Poland and Slovakia have said that Ukrainian refugees fleeing will be accepted without passports, or any valid travel documents due to the urgency of the situation. Therefore, stating with their actions, that Ukrainian refugees are more valuable or seem to be more worthy of help than refugees from Asia, Africa, or the Middle East.

Correspondingly, it is true that not all countries inside Europe deal and act the same way towards refugees, be that as it may, with the current refugee crisis it has been proved that they all share strong sentiments of xenophobia and racism. For instance, Hungary is a country that refused to admit refugees coming from outside Europe since 2015. In 2018, Prime Minister Viktor Orban described non-European refugees as “Muslim invaders” and “poison” to society, in comparison with Ukrainian refugees who are being welcomed without hesitation. In the same way, Jarosław Kaczyński, who served as Prime Minister of Poland and is the leader of the Law and Justice party, in 2017 said that accepting asylum seekers from Syria would be dangerous and would “completely change our culture and radically lower the level of safety in our country”. Furthermore, Germany in 2015 with Chancellor Angela Merkel in charged said that they would accept one million of Syrians. Although, as time passed, Europe’s solution was to make a deal with Turkey, who is not part of the European Union, to close the migrant route. Moreover, the promise of letting refugees integrate into German society was not fulfilled since. Seven year later, an impressive amount of refugees are still in camps and centers, with their lives frozen in time. Sadly, most European governments gambled towards the idea of sending them back once the armed conflict was over, without caring for the aftermath of war’s destruction.

The common narrative until now pushed by leaders, politicians, and mass media has been that Ukrainians are prosperous, civilized, middle class working people, but refugees coming from the Middle East are terrorists, and refuges from Africa are simply too different. Despite, refugees are all people who share similar emotions and struggle to grasp the fact that their lives may never be the same; having lost their homes, friends, family and so much more. Plus, being selectively welcomed based on their religion, skin color or nationality by the continent which’s complete rhetoric is universal rights, just adds another complex layer to the issue. Conjointly, the displacement of people due to war displays how regular individuals are always the ones who suffer the most in consequence to the interests of the few that represent larger powers. Hence, greed, envy, and cruelty are stronger than recognized, even in a developed continent such as Europe.

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What Everyone Should Know About Preventing Ethnic Violence: The Case of Bosnia

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Image source: srebrenica.org.uk

When the Balkans spiraled into violence and genocide in the 90’s, many wondered what caused this resurgence in militant ethnic nationalism and how a similar situation may be countered.

***

The 1990’s were a vibrant decade, that is unless you were living in the Balkans. 1995 was especially bad, as the 11th of July of that year marked the Srebrenica Massacre, which saw Serbian soldiers murder over 8,000 Bosnian Muslims over the span of two weeks. This shocked the world, as it was the first case of a European country resorting to extreme violence and genocide on ethnic lines since World War II. After World War II, the idea that a European country would resort to genocide was unthinkable. As Balkan nations continue to see the consequences of the massacre after over 25 years, it is increasingly evident that more needs to be done to curb ethnic violence.

We must first investigate key causes of ethnic violence. According to V.P. Gagnon, the main driver of ethnic violence is elites that wish to stay in power. Ethnic nationalism is easy to exploit, as creating a scapegoat is extremely effective for keeping elites in power. This is exactly what happened in Yugoslavia, which had previously seen high levels of tolerance and intermarriage in more mixed areas that saw the worst violence during the war. Stuart J. Kaufman argues that elites may take advantage of natural psychological fears of in-group extinction, creating group myths, or stereotypes, of outgroups to fuel hatred against them. While they may take different approaches to this issue, Gagnon and Kaufman agree that the main drivers of ethnic violence are the elites.

David Lake and Donald Rothchild suggest that the main driver of ethnic conflict is collective fears for the future of in-groups. Fear is one of the most important emotions we have because it helps secure our existence in a hostile world. However, fear can easily be exploited by the elites to achieve their personal goals. In a multiethnic society such as Yugoslavia, the rise of an elite that adheres to the prospects of a single ethnic group could prove dangerous and sometimes even disastrous. The destruction of Yugoslavian hegemony under Josip Broz Tito and the resulting explosion of ethnic conflict at the hands of Serbian elites in Bosnia underline this because of the immense fear this created.

Regions with high Serb populations in Bosnia sought independence from the rest of the country when they found themselves separated from Serbia by the dissolution of Yugoslavia. Republika Srpska was formed by these alienated Serbs. The leadership and elites in Serbia riled up the Serb population of Republika Srpska by stereotyping and demonizing Bosnian Muslims as “descendants of the Turkish oppressors”. This scared the Serbs in Bosnia so much so that they obeyed the elites of Serbia in supporting and fighting for the independence of Republika Srpska by any means necessary. As was seen in Srebrenica, they were not opposed to genocide.

We know how the elites fuel ethnic tensions to secure power as well of the devastating effects of these tensions reaching their boiling point. But what could be done to address ethnic conflict? David Welsh suggests that a remedy for ethnic conflict could be the complete enfranchisement of ethnic minorities and deterrence towards ethnic cleansing. This means that we must ensure that ethnic minorities are able to have a say in a democratic system that caters to all ethnicities equally. Fostering aversion to genocide is also vital toward addressing ethnic conflict because it is the inevitable result of unchecked ethnic conflict.

There is also the issue of members of ethnic groups voting for candidates and parties on ethnic lines. For example, in the United States, White American voters have shown to prefer White candidates over African American candidates, and vice versa. Keep in mind that the United States has a deep history of ethnic conflict, including the centuries-long subjugation of African Americans by White Americans.

Ethnic violence is horrifying and destructive, but it can be prevented. The first measure would be the establishment of a representative democracy, where members of all ethnicities are accurately represented. Another measure would be to make ethnic conflict and ethnic stereotyping taboo so that the average person would not resort to genocidal behavior once things go wrong. Lastly, making people feel secure is the most important step towards preventing ethnic conflict. If the people feel secure enough, they will not even need to think about ethnic violence. In short, while it is important to consider the differences of the various ethnic groups in a multiethnic society, it is vital that each group is kept represented and secure, free of any fears of subjugation.

While the case of Bosnia was extremely unfortunate, it provides an integral view into what could happen if perceived subjugation and fear of eradication reaches a breaking point. As was seen in Bosnia, ethnic violence can be extremely violent, resulting in untold suffering and death. That is why we must take necessary steps towards de-escalation and remediation of ethnic conflicts. These measures can, quite literally, save millions of lives.

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French Presidential Election 2022 and its significance for Europe

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Eugene Delacroix’s infamous painting “la liberté Guidant le Peuple” reminds the whole world of the July Revolution of 1830 that toppled King Charles X of France. The lady in the centre of the painting with the French tricolour still symbolizes the concept of liberty and reminds the whole world of revolutions and sacrifices made for freedom. France indeed has a long journey from revolting against “if they have no bread, let them eat cake” in 1789 to establishing a modern democratic society with the principles of “liberty, equality and fraternity”.  

France and the United States are rightly considered the birthplace of modern democracy. The French revolution taught the whole world lessons about revolution, freedom modern nationalism, liberalism and sovereignty. In 2022, France celebrates the 233rd year of Bastille Day which led to a new dawn in the French political system. From establishing 1ere Republique (1st Republic) in 1792, France has evolved and is currently under the 5eme Republique (5th Republic) under the constitution crafted by Charles de Gaulle in 1958.

Today, France is holding its presidential elections. As the French believe, ‘You first vote with your heart, then your head’, the first round of voting was concluded on Sunday 10th April and the Presidential debate on 20th April 2022. While the whole world waits for the 24th of April’s second round of elections and their results, this article attempts to understand the French electoral system and analyze Why French Presidential elections are important for Europe?

French electoral system

France is a semi-presidential democracy; the president is at the centre of power and Prime Minister heads the government. The president of the French republic is elected by direct universal suffrage where all French citizens aged 18 and above can vote, whether residing in France or not. In France, there is a two-round system in which voters vote twice on two Sundays, two weeks apart. This two-round system is widely practised in central and eastern Europe as well as Central Asia, South America and Africa.

In order to apply, a candidate needs 500 signatures of elected officials and they should be at least from 30 government departments. A candidate can be an independent or he or she can represent a political party. There is no limit to how many candidates can run for presidential elections. For instance, in 2002 there were 16 candidates, in 2017- 11 and in 2022 there are 12. While all the candidates have the right to equal media presence, the amount of spending on campaigns is also monitored; for the 1st round, the spending must not exceed 16.9 million euros and for the second round, it has been limited to 22.5 million euros.

This year, the 1st round of voting was concluded on 10th April while the second one is scheduled to be held on 24th April 2022. In the first round, all 12 candidates were eligible but for the second round, only two candidates who got the maximum votes are qualified for the second round.

A brief overview of French presidential candidates

Emmanuel Macron, five years ago at the age of 39, became the youngest French president of the French republic. In 2017, he broke the dominance of the two major French parties- Republicans and Socialists- by running a campaign “neither left nor right”. During the tenure of Emmanuel Macron, a hardcore centrist, France has witnessed a 7% GDP growth, unemployment dropped by 7.2% and the crime rate has fallen to 27%.

A far-rightist, Marine Le Pen is the other presidential candidate who succeeded her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, as leader of the National Front (later National Rally) party in 2011. She was also contesting against Emmanuel Macron during the 2017 elections and before that in 2012, against Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande. While she embraced the party’s anti-immigration stance, she rebranded the party’s Euroskepticism as French nationalism.

This year, in the April 2022 elections, the current President of France, Emanuel Macron and far-right leader, Marine Le Pen are the two candidates with Macron running ahead with a lead of 4.7 per cent votes (Emmanuel Macron-27.8% & Marine Le Pen- 23.1%).

Why French Presidential elections are important for Europe?

While European defence is primarily assured by the US-led NATO military alliance, of which most EU states are members, French president Macron said,  “Europe needs to finally build its own collective security framework on our continent…”, advocating for a ‘European Security’ framework amid tensions with Russia over Ukraine.

On the other hand, Le Pen’s party has been looked upon suspiciously that it might have received financing from a Russian bank connected to the Russian President Putin. In an interview with French public radion, Le pen said, “It will be necessary diplomatically, when the war [in Ukraine] is over, when a peace treaty has been signed, to try to avoid this tie-up which risks being the largest danger of the 21st century for us,” she even further added, “Imagine … if we let the first producer of raw materials in the world — which is Russia — [create an alliance] with the first factory of the world — which is China — to let them perhaps constitute the first military power of the world. I believe that it’s a potentially great danger.” These statements only further reinforce the claims that Le Pen is more pro-Russia.

While Macron is anti-Brexit, Le Pen, on the other hand, has been known for her ‘Frexit’ plan, meaning, that she wanted France to leave the EU and abandon the euro. However, during the 2022 elections, it appears that Le Pen has softened her stance on Frexit. Another important issue pertaining to immigration has been significant not only for France but the whole of Europe. This issue of immigration is directly linked with the “economic and cultural concerns” which raises an important worry about immigrants’ socio-political and economic integration into the French society and abiding by the principle of laïcité (secularism with French characters).

As for Macron, he wants to create a “rapid reaction force” to help protect EU states’ borders in case of a migrant surge and is also pushing for a rethink of the bloc’s asylum application process. Macron also said that he urges the EU to be more efficient in deporting those refused entries. On the other hand, Marine Le Pen during her campaign stated, “I will control immigration and establish security for all.” It is pertinent to note that Macron has introduced strict laws pertaining to immigration and controlling Islamic radicalization. For instance, he introduced the bill to ban foreign funding to mosques.

What is more interesting to mention is the concerns about ‘energy’ in the presidential election. Evidently, the ongoing conflict in Ukraine has gained more attention on the economic and geopolitical consequences of existing national and European energy supply chain choices. In France especially, there is a major rift between the pro and anti-nuclear power fractions. Interestingly, France has the second most nuclear power stations in the world after the United States.  Besides, in the last week of the elections, Macron has been attempting to win the hearts of the French voters with his proposal for a “complete renewal” of his climate policy. He has also promised to build up to 14 nuclear reactors by 2050 and regenerate existing plants. Meanwhile, Le Pen has promised to build 20 nuclear plants and aim to have nuclear power provide 81 per cent of France’s energy by 2050. While the current president Macron and far-right candidate Le Pen have both committed to the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit global warming, it is evident that their approaches differ particularly on energy. Since France is Europe’s second-biggest economy, France’s climate policy could echo right across the EU.

Besides, in light of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine crisis, Macron has played a significant role as he is the bridgehead for Russia and the US. He has also negotiated talks between Washington DC and Moscow and has also condemned the crisis by making the statement, “Russia is not under attack, it is the aggressor. As some unsustainable propaganda would have us believe, this war is not as big as the battle against, that is a lie.” Indeed, he has played the role of Europe’s de-facto leader vis-à-vis the Ukraine crisis. Nonetheless, with a marginal win in the first round against Marine Le Pen, winning the 2nd term is not as easy as it was five years ago.

More importantly, it is pertinent to note that France has the 2nd strongest military and 2nd biggest economy in Europe, further the 5th biggest economy in the world. France is not only the most visited country in the world but also ranks 1st in the global soft power index. It is also the founding member of the United Nations Security Council, North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union which makes it an important player in European politics. Consequently, the policies of the French leadership not only direct the political, social and economic lives of the French but also reverberate in Europe.

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