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Friday 18/04/2014

Russia’s tactics in annexing Crimea and destabilising Ukraine have torn up the assumptions, on which the relationship between the West and Russia had been based since the end of the Second World War.

Forcible annexations of neighbouring territory, a reality in the 1930’s, are now a reality again, thanks to what has happened in Crimea.

Power politics, and spheres of influence of great power, have replaced international law and respect for sovereignty, as the motive forces of European security.

As recently as 1994, EU countries, including Britain and France, reached an international agreement with Russia guaranteeing Ukraine’s frontiers, in return for the non trivial matter of Ukraine abandoning its nuclear weapons, and thereby weakening its deterrent security capacity in an important way. With the annexation of Crimea, that agreement has now been put in the bin.

Already, the EU is visibly divided on how to respond, even though international law on this matter is clear.

On the 1 August 1975, the then Irish Taoiseach, Liam Cosgrave was one of the signatories of the Helsinki Final act governing relations between European states. He signed along the United States, all other European countries (except Albania), and the USSR, which at the time encompassed both Russia and Ukraine.

Monday 07/04/2014

The chessboard has become the metaphor of choice in the debate about Russia’s aggression. For more than a month now, our condition humaine can be aptly described as ‘waiting for Putin’s next move’ [http://ces.tc/1gsEU2b]. On a more abstract level, this is reflected by the inflationary use of the term geopolitics. Especially among conservatives, we hear appeals that the West, and especially the ‘post-modern’ European Union, has to learn hardcore geostrategy. But on the Left as well, it is fashionable to frame the conflict as an imperial struggle between the West and Russia over a Ukraine which is, in itself, allegedly the embodiment of an East-West split. Geopolitics is not mentioned, but clearly implied. Now, this is how Wikipedia [http://ces.tc/1fQK8oZ] defines the term: ‘… a method of foreign policy [http://ces.tc/1kwRod1] analysis which seeks to understand, explain, and predict international political behaviour primarily in terms of geographical variables.’ Or, as Napoleon put it more bluntly: ‘La géographie, c'est le destin des peuples’.

Friday 04/04/2014

The real reason for youth unemployment is structural incompatibility between the attained education and the needs of the labour market. Among Slovenian 24-29-year-olds, who have successfully completed their education, 24% are unemployed. This percentage is growing faster than unemployment rates in other EU countries. How is this possible, and what can we do about it?

An explanation can be found in two developments. The enrolment into tertiary education in Slovenia is about 70%, the highest percentage among all member states. The recommendation of the European Commission was 30% and was raised to 40% in Agenda 2020. Also, Slovenian graduates majoring in social sciences and liberal arts outnumber those who major in engineering and natural sciences by 2.68 to 1.

Monday 31/03/2014

Speech by Bruno Maçães at the Second Germany-Portugal Forum, Berlin, 11th March 2014. [Translated from Portuguese to English].

The idea of a European Union is an idea imagined by artists and thinkers. It originally represented a project that sought to expand the limits of our experience, discovering different ways of thinking beyond our nearest community. Europe represents a specific ideal, dating back to the eighteenth century: the good European, a refined cosmopolitan, who knows how to harmoniously combine the best of several countries or nationalities, becoming himself a means of communication between countries. Think of Goethe and his voyage to Italy: the discovery of a new form of life, so different from what he had known in his youth and thus a kind of second youth.

But this ideal emerged and submerged many times. A number of times it even risked disappearing altogether. And it was always an ideal limited to a small class of people. The European Union as we know it is a project to make this ideal safe and perpetual.

How can we make it safe and perpetual?

First, we must understand that the European Union does not seek to create a new nationality. It aims to be a communication vehicle between a number of different ways of thinking and living: a combination of these differences.

Friday 21/03/2014

Adolf Hitler’s 1938 threats to, and eventual occupation of, Czechoslovakia bore some similarities to what is now happening between President Putin and Ukraine.

In 1938,Hitler exaggerated, and stirred up, grievances over language rights in the German speaking part of Czechoslovakia. He directed the local German speaking leaders inside Czechoslovakia to ensure that they did not reach any settlement with the Czech Government. He used the lack of an internal settlement as a basis for seeking to incorporate these areas in Germany, under the pretext of protecting the rights of the German speakers.

Western leaders tried to mediate and negotiate without success, culminating in the showdown at Munich, where Chamberlain abandoned Czechoslovakia in return for piece of paper signed by Hitler and himself in which both agreed on “the desire of our two peoples never to go to war again.”

Eventually, when Hitler broke his word and occupied the whole of Czechoslovakia in March 1939, trust broke down completely.

Hitler tried the same game with Poland in August 1939, possibly thinking he would get away with it again and the British and French would again huff and puff but do nothing. If that was his calculation, he was mistaken.

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