Tag Archives: European Student

Visions of Division

To mark the end of our Conflict theme, Andreyna Valera collates this exclusive photo essay, depicting the remarkable stand off on the North Korean border.  

Last December, the relationship between North and South Korea was especially tense. Tourists were told the tours around the Demilitarize Zone (DMZ) and Joint Security Area (JSA) could be easily cancelled. These places catch the attention of thousands of views from all over the world every year, attracted by what can be considered the most similar place to hell on Earth.

First thing you are told when you step in the Korean DMZ is that you are not allowed to make eye contact with North Korean soldiers, not either gesticulate towards them to not ‘provoke’ any reaction. There is also a dress code that must be respected: no broken jeans or flip-flops, it can be used by North Korea to confirm one of their many lies about the rest of the world and manipulate saying how poorly the rest of people live that they cannot even dress properly.

1

An American Marine takes the lead of the tour as soon as you arrive. He makes you to sign this document where it is advised “the possibility of injury or death as a direct result of enemy action”. Although the JSA is a neutral territory, the safety of visitors cannot be guarantee in a hostile enemy act. Afterwards, another American soldier makes a presentation of the Korean War, how the Armistice was signed and the creation of the DMZ. They never sign a peace treaty so technically they are still in conflict.

Untitled

North and South Korean soldiers stand face to face overlooked by American soldiers, who also impose a strict photograph policy on visitors. A stunning performance for those who visit this location: Panmunjeom. The glass doors at the back of the picture have strange forms that North Korea uses to take pictures of tourists and provoke American soldiers playing with lights and reflections.

3

American and South Korean soldiers work shoulder to shoulder. There is an important American military base in Itaewon, North Seoul (South Korea). The US also played a decisive role as creating the DMZ as in the Korean War.

4

The static defensive position that South Korean soldiers keep constantly comes from the Martial arts. All South Korean soldiers have been formed with taekwondo training intensively, due to military service is still mandatory. Representatives from both Koreas meet in this room to negotiate; the north part of the table is for the North of Korea and the south for the South.

5

A fake town built by North Korean government as a propaganda strategy for worldwide tourists that visit the DMZ. There are many buildings and towers illuminated regardless nobody lives there. Satellites have proved that electricity is a luxury in most of the country.

6

This town is inhabited. However, there are restraints to take pictures from this point and all pictures must be shoot behind a mark line controlled by South Korean soldiers.

7

Korean people, from both North and South, leave their desires of union and reconciliation among them represented in those coloured pieces of clothing. The few familiar reunion agreed with North Korea have taken place in this area.

8

This bridge was used to exchange prisoners after the Armistice in 1953: once the bridge is crossed, there is no way to go back to the other side ever again.

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The Danish view on the Ukraine: Danish Fast News

The Danish Minister for Employment, Mette Frederiksen

The Danish Minister for Employment, Mette Frederiksen

Denmark is characterized by high taxes and high welfare benefits. However the Danish government worries, that EU legislation is making it possible for outsiders to exploit the Danish system. Tinuke Maria Iyore highlights the most important Danish news this week. 

The influence of EU-laws on the Danish welfare system has caused an explosive debate the past week. According to EU regulations, EU citizens can earn the right to unemployment benefits in any EU nation and take these benefits with them across the union. Danish politicians are concerned that this will lead to exploitation of the generous Danish welfare system.

Denmark and Finland are the only EU-countries that require vetting for foreign citizens to receive unemployment benefits. The Danish prime minister recently announced that she wants to tighten these rules, making it even harder for EU-citizens to obtain benefits in Denmark. However this might be a violation against EU’s laws on discrimination and freedom of movement.

The Danish welfare system is funded by a high income tax, and EU-citizens working in Denmark are obliged to pay this high income tax, but are not given the same rights as Danish citizens.

Minister for Employment, Mette Frederiksen of the Social Democratic Party, adds that the Danish government wants to increase control with EU-citizens exploitation of the Danish welfare state, in order to prevent welfare tourism. “The free movement in the EU creates economic growth and jobs, but we have seen an increase in EU-citizens, particularly from Eastern Europe, receiving unemployment and social benefits. We take this development seriously, and must make sure that EU-citizens can meet the requirements for receiving benefits in Denmark”, she says to Danish newspaper Politiken.

More useful degrees

Eight Danish universities will be working towards lowering unemployment rates by comparing programmes to employment statistics. This year the regulation of admissions will be a cooperative effort from these eight universities. Some universities have previously made similar attempts to prevent educating young Danes on career paths that lead to unemployment. However this cooperation between universities is a first. The programmes will be assessed each year using the same procedure, ensuring that Danish universities are educating according to business and industry demands.

A signal to Russia

Denmark’s Liberal Party and other liberal parties in the European council have agreed on a proposal to deny Russia voting rights in the council, due to the ongoing Ukrainian conflict.  The council’s purpose is to ensure the respect of human rights and democracy. These principles have been violated by Russia on numerous occasions and the spokesman of the council’s group of liberal parties, Michael Aastrup Jensen, thinks it is important to send a strong signal to Russia. This would not be the first time Russia has lost its voting rights in the council. In 2000, the country was “punished” for the Russian army’s behavior in Chechnya.

Equality or discrimination?

Flickr: HBarrison

The University of Copenhagen wants to attract more female applicants to research positions. A gender action plan has been set in motion, and is to be implemented by the end of 2014. Tinuke Maria Iyore investigates what Danish student media are writing about the plan.  

COPENHAGEN UNIVERSITY HAS presented a new action plan for gender balance. One of the proposals is that both genders have to be represented in the applicants for research positions.

The proposal has received a lot of attention in Danish media and was recently up for debate at a Copenhagen University board meeting, where several board members expressed their concern about this requirement. Certain members of the Danish Parliament have even called the proposal discriminating.

However a close look at the pile of applications shows that the university might be facing an even bigger problem. The pile is simply too small.

Gender vs. Qualifications

According to the rector of Copenhagen University’s Ralf Hemmingsen, the proposal is not gender-discriminating. “We’re testing the proposal, because we find that there are too few female professors. I don’t think it is discriminating to make sure that we have at least one female and one male applicant.

“I would like to emphasize that qualifications remain the determining factor,” he says to the Danish newspaper Berlingske.

At the most recent board meeting, members agreed that the main goal of the action plan should be to attract more qualified applicants. Some board members believed emphasis should be put solely on qualifications, while others thought that the main focus should be attracting more qualified female applicants, due to the notion that this minority within academia holds a great deal of talent.

Danish Equality Laws

The minister for gender equality, Manu Sareen of the Social Liberal Party, welcomes the proposal. “I think it is important that the universities work towards a more equal gender composition. It’s about making the most of all talents”, he says to Berlingske.

He also states that it is equally important that the university stays within the Danish equality laws. The University of Copenhagen has previously obtained a waiver from this law with their 2008 action plan; ‘Diversity – more women in management’.

Jens Henrik Thulesen Dahl, who is Research Spokesman for the Danish People’s Party, is sceptical of the proposal. He calls it  “very discriminating” and thinks it diverts attention from simply hiring the most qualified applicant.

The Bigger Problem

The lack of applicants seems to be a problem that goes beyond gender. The board of Copenhagen University is concerned that every third research position receives only one application – thus granting no certainty that the most qualified researcher is actually the one who gets the job.

This might actually pose a larger problem than the lack of female applicants. “The universities should concentrate on attracting highly skilled employees. Not by making special proposals for women, but by creating a more attractive work environment, so more qualified applicants – both men and women – apply for the university’s research positions,” says Merete Riisager, spokeswoman on gender equality for the Liberal Alliance party, to Berlingske.

– – –

Do you think the University of Copenhagen is engaging in positive discrimination?  Is this an appropriate response to uneven employment figures?  Where should the university’s priorities lie regarding top reseach jobs?  Let us know your thoughts in the Comments section below.

Photo credit: HBarrison [Flickr]

Based on the following articles from Universitetsavisen:

 

http://universitetsavisen.dk/politik/rektor-ingen-diskrimination-her

 

http://universitetsavisen.dk/politik/konsdebat-i-bestyrelsen-kun-en-ansoger-til-hver-tredje-forskerstilling-er-kaempe-problem

Foreign Student “Ghettos”

Ena Kreso

Norwegian student media are looking into immigration issues within student housing. If international students are not mixed with domestic students in housing offers, it might create problems of isolation. Pandeia’s Tinuke Maria Iyore translates an article from Universitas.

In a student apartment building in Lower Kringsjå, Oslo, nine out of ten residents are international students. Nafiza Ferdowshi, from Bangladesh lives here, but does not plan to stay for long. “I’m going back to Bangladesh when I finish my studies. I really like Norway, but I hardly know any Norwegians,” she says.

Statistics from the Student Association in Oslo (SIO) show that most of the international students live in the older buildings in Lower Kringsjå, where block 24 and 26 have the highest percentage of international students. Here ninety per cent of the residents are foreigners. In Upper Kringsjå the numbers are completely opposite. Nine out of ten are Norwegian students.

Nafiza Ferdowshi and Tanima Ferdous, both from Bangladesh, are mostly content with their lives in Lower Kringsjå, but Ferdowshi does not plan to stay.  She thinks getting to know and communicating with Norwegians has been difficult. “I’m going back to Bangladesh when I finish my studies. I really like Norway, but I hardly know any Norwegians,” she says.

Moving up

In one of the newer buildings in Upper Kringsjå (the area with a high concentration of Norwegian students), we find Sven Sondre Frøshaug in the living room with his roommate Sindre Godager. Frøshaug previously lived in one of the blocks in Lower Kringsjå. “I avoided going into the kitchen as much as possible,” he says. “It was dirty and small. And I found it exhausting to speak English all the time.” In his new student apartment Frøshaug has a private bathroom, and shares living space with three Norwegian friends.

A Problematic Situation

Sveinung Rotevan is a politician for Norwegian political party Venstre. According to him the large number of international students in Lower Kringsjå is problematic. “It is important that the international students are mixed with the Norwegian students to secure language advancement and networking opportunities,” he says and adds that the student organizations should put in an effort to ensure a more mixed environment for students.

Contradictions

Trond Bakke, who is responsible for housing within the student association, says that nothing can be done to ensure a better allocation of the international students, as the allocating process is random. “The situation is a result of the fact that international students are prioritised higher, when allocating the student apartments. Additionally international students are more concerned about price than Norwegian students, and often prefer the blocks with lower rent,” Bakke says.

Missing out

Statistics show that four out of five international students in Norway return home after completing their education.

The director of Erasmus Student Network, Maria Mastrangelopoulou, thinks a reason could be that the international graduates have difficulties finding jobs in Norway, partly because their Norwegian network is non-existent. “It would be great with a career fair targeting international students, as this could help put them in contact with relevant employers,” she says.

Sveinung Rotevatn, thinks that it’s important to keep the international students in Norway afterwards. “We’re missing out on great knowledge and expertise,” he says.

Original Article by Ragnhild Sofie Selstø & Thea Storøy Elnan for universitas.no

Photo: Ena Kreso

Drugs, Fashion Week and The Recession: Danish Fast News

A torn Danish government, fashion hype in Copenhagen, the closure of the Capital’s drug haven and debate about the quality of the education are hot topics explored by Ida Nordland this week in Danish media.

 “SOCIALISTISK FOLKEPARTI”, one of the main Danish parties,  has left the government at the same time as their  leader, Anette Vilhelmsen, decided to stand back. The exit of SF is a consequence of the government’s decision to sell 19% of the stocks in the Danish state owned energy company “Dong” to American investment bank Goldman Sachs.

The American investment bank is well-known for a business structure that creates tax havens and the company supposedly had a central role in the financial crisis. This Thursday it was finally decided by the government to go through with the deal, in spite of over 200.000 signatures in protest; a move which also turned out to be so intolerable for SF that they had to take the drastic step to leave.

This forces the government, now only consisting of Socialdemokratiet and Det Radikale Venstre, to find 6 new ministers.The current government has a record of cabinet reshuffling, as it has happened 4 times during the past 6 months.

IN THE DANISH STUDENT MEDIA, the hot topic at the moment concerns the quality of the education on humanities as a consequence of the Danish funding system in higher education. Universities receive an amount of money per graduating student, which results in a disproportional incentive to pass students in exams. A student from Copenhagen University came forward this week and admitted that to have cheated at an exam. He is not proud of what he did, but according to him, it is way too easy to get a degree in humanities. He went on to allege that he shouldn’t have passed one of every two exams he has ever been to during his study. model

COPENHAGEN IS SIZZLING this week with fashionistas as Copenhagen Fashion week takes place. In a refreshing contrast to the usual debate about anorexic models, this year one of the shows deals with the issue by presenting their clothes on models in all sizes, from 34-48, with the help of volunteers. The volunteers argue for a more nuanced beauty ideal and the unusual show is made in collaboration with The National Association Against Eating Disorders And Self Damage.

CHRISTIANIA, which is know to be Copenhagen’s “free-city” and cannabis market, is closed this week. The shut-down is due to a much needed internal debate about the future of the community. All restaurants, shops and “hashbooths” are closed and  neither Copenhageners or tourists are welcome. The break to think is due to the controversy regarding the suggested legalization of marijuana, that has been going on for the last two years.

Photos: Flickr Creative Commons – Grozz and Luigi Anzivino 

Visions of Division

To mark the end of our Conflict theme, Andreyna Valera collates this exclusive photo essay, depicting the remarkable stand off on the North Korean border.  

Last December, the relationship between North and South Korea was especially tense. Tourists were told the tours around the Demilitarize Zone (DMZ) and Joint Security Area (JSA) could be easily cancelled. These places catch the attention of thousands of views from all over the world every year, attracted by what can be considered the most similar place to hell on Earth.

First thing you are told when you step in the Korean DMZ is that you are not allowed to make eye contact with North Korean soldiers, not either gesticulate towards them to not ‘provoke’ any reaction. There is also a dress code that must be respected: no broken jeans or flip-flops, it can be used by North Korea to confirm one of their many lies about the rest of the world and manipulate saying how poorly the rest of people live that they cannot even dress properly.

1

An American Marine takes the lead of the tour as soon as you arrive. He makes you to sign this document where it is advised “the possibility of injury or death as a direct result of enemy action”. Although the JSA is a neutral territory, the safety of visitors cannot be guarantee in a hostile enemy act. Afterwards, another American soldier makes a presentation of the Korean War, how the Armistice was signed and the creation of the DMZ. They never sign a peace treaty so technically they are still in conflict.

Untitled

North and South Korean soldiers stand face to face overlooked by American soldiers, who also impose a strict photograph policy on visitors. A stunning performance for those who visit this location: Panmunjeom. The glass doors at the back of the picture have strange forms that North Korea uses to take pictures of tourists and provoke American soldiers playing with lights and reflections.

3

American and South Korean soldiers work shoulder to shoulder. There is an important American military base in Itaewon, North Seoul (South Korea). The US also played a decisive role as creating the DMZ as in the Korean War.

4

The static defensive position that South Korean soldiers keep constantly comes from the Martial arts. All South Korean soldiers have been formed with taekwondo training intensively, due to military service is still mandatory. Representatives from both Koreas meet in this room to negotiate; the north part of the table is for the North of Korea and the south for the South.

5

A fake town built by North Korean government as a propaganda strategy for worldwide tourists that visit the DMZ. There are many buildings and towers illuminated regardless nobody lives there. Satellites have proved that electricity is a luxury in most of the country.

6

This town is inhabited. However, there are restraints to take pictures from this point and all pictures must be shoot behind a mark line controlled by South Korean soldiers.

7

Korean people, from both North and South, leave their desires of union and reconciliation among them represented in those coloured pieces of clothing. The few familiar reunion agreed with North Korea have taken place in this area.

8

This bridge was used to exchange prisoners after the Armistice in 1953: once the bridge is crossed, there is no way to go back to the other side ever again.

Does Greece need a revolution?

As 2013 drew to a close, and the protest movement across Europe took stock of its accomplishments, demonstrators in Greece turned their attention to the recent heavy handed nature of the country’s policing. As Chloe Thanopoulou investigates, the events of the 6th of December could irrecoverably change the nation’s future. 

The 6th of December has a special meaning for Greeks. It marks the death of Pavlos Sidiropoulos: the Prince of Greek Rock as well as being the day Alexis Grigoropoulos – the 15-year old boy who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time – was murdered by a police-officer.

It is also the day a revolution started – one that marks the country’s consciousness. In a certain way, the events are interconnected. Although Pavlos lived in a entirely different time, the circumstances were in many ways similar to those today. Through his songs, he reprobated the corrupt state and the philistines and showed the anger of the people towards the system. Alexis was another victim of the power of the authorities. He, as well as many others, have been victims of the political situation often talked about in Pavlos’ songs.

Protesters or Terrorists?

A social “explosion” of dissatisfaction and unrest followed Alexis’ death. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back; a full-scale collision with authoritarianism. Yet this was not reflected in the media, whose reaction to the protests – and the protesters – was largely a negative one. Activists were often characterised as terrorists; meaninglessly trying to burn cities down. This viewpoint quickly became widespread, distorting the image most people had about what was going on. Though the chance for change had been born, many people preferred long discussions at the local café’s – based on misleading information provided by the big news agencies – over the action a revolution requires. It kept many people away from demonstrations.

Demonstrations

Demonstrating is even less appealing when police reactions are taken into account. In an attempt to appear effective demonstrators are arrested so the police are able to announce the numbers of arrests the next day. It is considered a way of proving its capabilities, but in reality denies citizens the right to demonstrate peacefully.

An example of the attitude shown by police towards the politically active is an event that took place last year year when a local Greek group Laiki SynelefsI Papagou-Holargou (the people’s assembly of Papagou-Holargos) saw a series of arrests made against their members. For no apparent reason, two of their members were firstly accused of theft and  – when these charges could no longer be justified – the charge of arson of two ATM’s appeared. In a statement released by the group, they describe: “The autocratic behavior of the state and the “terrorism” against everybody who is fighting is obvious”.

Arresting people without a clear reason – especially in demonstrations – is a common tactic of the police: highlighting their unwillingness to find the real wrongdoers. Not only have politically and socially active people become a target of the authorities while facing continuous mistreatment, but they also appear to be the scapegoats of everything the police cannot cope with. The need to show the public that justice is being served by targeting people who fight and have strong political views, serves the need to control potential reactions which could lead to a revolution . So far, this tactic seems to be successful: the consequences of demonstrating seem severe, which in turn deters people from standing up for their rights.

Yet, the yearly demonstrations in the memory of Alexis  have had some impact. This is primarily because people believe that, 5 years on from the murder, ‘nothing has changed’. A revolution does not play by the rules and cannot calculate the costs. It may come only when there is no other choice – it knocks existing structures down to subsequently rebuild them. Yet, this does not have to be led by violence. It must start by changing minds, by changing perceptions of what is ‘normal’ and ‘acceptable’ and what is not. It may happen when someone sees his or her fathers’ store closing or his or her uncles’ house being taken away because of an unpaid debt. It could happen if allegations that as many as half of the police force vote for the far-right party Golden Dawn turn out to be true. Or it could be when someone’s desperate neighbour commits suicide, as occurred at the beginning of the Arab Spring. It may happen in the heads of the many people that work continuously for 300 euro a month, with no hope for a better future. We cannot forget the symbols of Pavlos and Alexis, because they have foreseen what the country is going through now. Silence, distortion and fear are not the way to change it.

Original article by Costas Papantoniou