Tag Archives: Russia

The other side of the conflict: conversing with a Russian friend

 

Nadia's photo

I FIRST MET Nadia in the city of Toronto during the summer of 2008. Back then the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia were being occupied by Russian troops and today, six years later, Russia is being accused of invading Eastern Ukraine. During the time Nadia and I shared in Canada, we discussed the Russo-Georgian war and many other related topics over lunch. I was interested in hearing her perspective on the current crisis.

I found her point of view particularly interesting not only because she is a Russian citizen who is currently living in the country, also because being fluent in English and Chinese as she is, she has worked and studied in China, Canada and South Africa, among other places. In other words, few people understand the West and the East the way she does.

First of all, I would like to know whether you consider you are receiving proper information from your government regarding the conflict in Ukraine and Russia’s participation in it.

– I do believe that during a war no one actually receives proper information. We all only see what our governments want us to see and that’s not something exclusive to Russian society. The news that you watch in Spain and the news that I watch in Russia are totally different. And how you and I perceive the news is also different. For you, as well as for the greater part of the world, it is ‘yet another conflict’ taking place in some remote country. For me, as well as for most Russians, it is a war in which my friends and relatives die and get hurt. I do take it personally, and so it is hard to keep calm and objective.

The Western world portrays Russia as an invader. On your TV screens you can see Russian troops and military forces all over Ukraine. We in Russia see the war between Ukrainian national forces and forces of the Ukrainian opposition, in which many ethnic Russians die or get hurt and they are our relatives, or our friends, or our friends’ relatives. I cannot say that politics is one of my strong points so my understanding of what is happening is very limited, but the general idea of what I, as an average Russian, would get from the news here is that the current Ukrainian government is rather confused and basically does not know what to do next; that Russia is trying her best to help reconcile the two parts of the conflict; and that European and American news lie.

Now, which news source is really lying? I don’t know. And you don’t know. And I don’t think we will ever know. I think in such circumstances one should not believe any mass media since during a war everybody lies.

Back in July, the USA and the EU imposed sweeping economic sanctions on Russia in response to her involvement in Ukraine. The Russian government retaliated banning certain imports from those countries who took part in the sanctions. Have these measures affected your everyday life?

To be honest, not really. But it does not mean that all Russians are totally okay with the change. There might be somebody who is suffering because they cannot buy their favourite sort of Dutch pears any more. I would say there are many factors to be considered in this regard, starting with one’s geographical location and finishing with one’s income level. There was a big discussion regarding these sanctions and there were different opinions on the matter.  And I, as well as many Russians I know, believe these sanctions are fair in an “eye for eye” view of things.

Going back to the negative effect it might have had, my opinion is based on my personal experience. I personally have not experienced any difficulties or inconveniences caused by these sanctions. However, I live in the far East of the country and it is really, really far out: an 8 hour flight away from Moscow. We never had most of these banned imports anyway. In that region nothing changed. A couple of weeks ago I visited my friends in Moscow and St. Petersburg and one of them said that some fish became more expensive. But in general, I don’t think these sanctions have had a major effect on our lives.

What is your opinion, and what would you say is the general opinion where you are, regarding Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula?

I really do not see anything negative in this. And I do not think there are many Russians who would be unhappy about it. You must also remember that we never really perceived Ukraine as a foreign country, there is so much history and blood relations that connect Russia and Ukraine, especially Crimea and Sevastopol. The population in this region is mostly Russian; they willingly became part of Russia so I cannot see anything wrong with it.

While I’m writing these lines my best friend is enjoying her holidays in Crimea and she says it is great there and people are happy. No one was killed in the process of this very episode of the crisis and I would say that all parties involved are actually happy about how it all was resolved. The American government was not very happy though. I came across a very interesting article on the Internet in which the author could not understand the American government’s involvement in this Crimean issue. He said it was nearly ridiculous that the USA would interfere, as ridiculous as it would be if a region of Mexico voted to become part of the USA and Russians would interfere. And I agree with that. I think the fact that the rest of the world has a problem with recognising Crimea and Sevastopol as part of Russia responds merely to political reasons. For me, this region was never truly separated from Russia, if you look at its people throughout history.

Do you consider the pro-Russian rebels who are currently fighting in Donetsk and other parts of Eastern Ukraine as rightful Russian citizens who should be given the chance to join the country?

Yes, because the people of Ukraine and Russia are historically connected and many of us have relatives and friends in Ukraine and naturally vice versa. Given the amount of propaganda and hatred towards Russians that is being cultivated in Ukraine – no matter how the crisis would be resolved – I do not think that any Ukrainian born Russian or any person with a Russian surname would have a peaceful life in Ukraine. It does feel wrong and sorrowful to me but I do not think that there is anything that could be done to change that.

What is happening now has been happening for so long and has become so complicated that no one can give a reasonable explanation to it or predict how and when it will all end. All this will cause some sort of discrimination, or even a genocide in the long term, making it impossible for Russians -or as you call them pro-Russians- to live in Ukraine. And to answer your question, there are hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees in Russia now. And Russia will give a new home to every person from Ukraine who wishes to have one. And I think that is right, I think that is human.

Valentina Melnikova, president of “The Association of Mothers of Russian Soldiers”, estimates there are currently between 7000 and 8000 Russians fighting on Ukrainian soil. Have you heard of someone you know who’s been deployed there? What do you think about this sort of military involvement? Is it Russia’s duty to protect the rebels in Ukraine?

I don’t know of anyone who is currently fighting in Ukraine.  You never know what truth is so I would not take any current estimation as factual. The Internet is flooded with various rumours regarding Russian soldiers dying in Ukraine but I would not like to repeat the rumours: I believe one can only trust something he or she has personally experienced when it comes to war.

What do I think about this sort of military involvement? It is understandable for me if Russian people would want to go and fight for their families and friends who live in Ukraine. But as any sensible person, I think this war should stop. I think it should have never been started in the first place. It has always been beyond my understanding why people should kill people. Any war is wrong, but this particular conflict feels so wrong that I can hardly believe it is all really happening. I do not understand why people, regardless of their nationality, must pay with their lives and the lives of their loved ones for mistakes made by a group of greedy politicians.

The conflict was triggered by the violent protests that took place in Kiev last February, which managed to overthrow the government in what many viewed simply as a coup d’état fueled by the West. Would you say the USA and the EU are being somehow hypocritical denouncing other countries’ involvement in the region while supporting coups worldwide whenever they suit their interests?

I really do not feel that my knowledge of politics is anywhere close to judge such things. As I see it, every  government is hypocritical when they are trying to protect their interests. I think it is important for us to remember it. Our governments are hypocritical, the news that we watch is -if I may say so- ‘photo shopped’ according to our governments’ interests. And one of the negative side effects of this informational war is how we, people from different countries, let these things change our perception of each other.

I was on an international flight a week ago and there was a man from a Western country who sat next to me. There was a friendly chat between the two of us that lasted for a few minutes until I said I was Russian. After that this man just stopped talking to me, he turned away and acted as if I didn’t exist for the rest of the flight. Somehow it made me feel responsible for what my government does, or to be more precise, for what my government does according to his government’s news. I know I deviated from the question, but I feel it is important to say that we should not judge people on the basis of where they come from –  especially in such a tense international environment. We should not become victims of our governments’ hypocrisy.

Do you think the rights of ethnic Russians in Ukraine were at risk of being violated or damaged after the former Ukrainian government was overthrown?

I do believe so. And I do believe that ethnic Russians in Ukraine will not be able to live there peacefully.

Should the Ukrainian regions inhabited by a majority of ethnic Russians be granted the opportunity to join Russia the way Crimea did?

It is another question I feel uncomfortable answering because of my very weak political background. On one hand, if these regions joined Russia the way Crimea did, it might cause a second wave of sanctions and unhappy American and EU politicians, which would make this crisis even more complicated and reduce the chances for a peaceful settlement in the foreseeable future. On the other hand, it seems more than right to give Russians born in Ukraine an opportunity to live in Russia, to live peacefully with their loved ones in a country where they feel at home and are not hated for being of Russian descent.

 

To end this interview, I would like to briefly discuss with you a topic which has been pretty controversial among sectors of European and American societies. That is no other than Russia’s law against gay propaganda. I recently watched a documentary in which many people from all corners of Russian society publicly supported the law and advocated the need to protect children against inappropriate content and confusion. What are your thoughts on this measure? In the past Spanish society was probably more careful about the content children were exposed to. Now I think it is not far-fetched to say Spanish media exposes children to all kinds of violent and sexual content throughout the day. You have been to several Western countries; would you say our governments are becoming too permissive?

I do not think that media content in Western countries is much different to Russian media. Actually it is all the same TV shows, programmes and series that we watch. Though we do have this age restriction now in movie theatres, you know all those 12+ or 18+ markers that are shown before the movie begins.  I personally find them quite useless. I mean if a 15-year old wants to watch an 18+ movie, he’ll do it no matter what newly established censorship says. And I cannot say that governments are becoming too permissive about these things. It is just the amount of 18+ content today is so huge and availability of any information is so wide that no government will be able to control it. I think any restriction in a modern world is quite useless because today’s children are born with tablets in their hands. It is the parents’ duty to protect their children from all sorts of scenes they may find harmful that are shown on TV or available on YouTube.

As for gay propaganda and that documentary you watched, Russia historically is quite a traditional society and I have to agree that in general Russia’s tolerance level is quite limited nowadays. I think it has a lot to do with the Soviet times, when people went fanatical about morality and words like “gay” or “lesbian” were whispered in disgust. I frankly believe my mother did not even know such words before American movies were allowed on TV. But today things are changing, many people are starting to see it differently and maybe in some 200 years they will even allow gay unions in Russia.  I am sure that on that documentary you watched it was all 40+ 50+ people who were supportive of this law. Younger generations, at least in many cases, are not as traditional and if the director of that documentary had wanted to show Russians that support gay couples he or she would have easily found them in all corners as well. It is again, two sides of the same coin.

-Thank you very much Nadia for your insight. It has been a pleasure speaking with you again.

-The pleasure has been all mine.

 

By Alberto Aberasturi.

 

 

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Non-citizens, aliens in their own country

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Non-citizens, aliens in their own country

They were citizens of a country that does not exist anymore. They are not stateless, nor foreigners. They are called “non-citizens”. Today in Latvia, about 280,000 peo­ple have this complicated status, due to the collapse of the Soviet Union. The issue is representative of the integration problems of the country’s Russian minority.

“In 1993, I lost my citizenship. I couldn’t work for the Riga City Council any­more. I couldn’t buy a land anymore. I couldn’t work in a political party anymore. I understood that I was a cit­izen of second-class.” Aleksandr Gaponenko has been living in Latvia for sixty years, but is considered a “non-citizen” in his home country. Having this status means that he has no politi­cal rights, and some professions related to the public and judiciary sectors are prohibited to him. Apart from these exceptions, he enjoys the same rights as every Latvian citizen.

A complex identity

His identity has multiple roots. It is torn between his mixed family background, the Russian culture he grew up with, and Latvia, his homeland—where he has always lived. He identifies himself as Russian first.

Others consider themselves as Latvian and Russian. This is the case for Elizabete Krivcova, who co-founded the Non-Citizens’ Congress with Aleksandr Gaponenko—an NGO promoting full democratic rights for them. She naturalised in the nineties, in order to be a lawyer.

“The exam is very ideological”

These multiple and complex identities are an obstacle to naturalise as their Russian heritage is in contradiction with the Latvian one. To receive the Latvian citizenship, non-citizens have to pass a test of flu­ency in Latvian and a test of knowledge about the national anthem, significant facts of history and the basic principles of national constitution. It is considered to be un­fair by many non-citizens.

DSC_0138 “The exam is very ideological. You have to recognise that Latvia was occupied by Rus­sia. The question about Soviet times are only about its dark side. Concerning the econo­my, it’s about industrialisation and forced collectivisation in the  agrarian sector. When it’s about people life, then it’s about repres­sion. A friend of mine explained me how he prepared it. He said, ‘I know what I think about the history but for the exam I have to think exactly the contrary to have the cor­rect  answers’,” explains Elizabete Krivcova.

For Aleksandr Gaponenko, who always refused to naturalise, taking the Latvian citizenship means complying with the policy of the government. “To pass the examination it is necessary to confirm that I agree with this model of society, and  I com­pletely disagree. I don’t want to accept that Latvia is only for ethnic Latvians.”

Valerij Komarov is also a former non-cit­izen who naturalised when his first child was born, about ten years ago. “Passing the exam meant that I recognised that I was an immigrant, even though I’m born in Latvia and I have always lived  there. It is not my fault if the geopolitical situation changed. So I did it for my son, to avoid him getting this status as well,” he says.

 The influence of Russia

The naturalisation process is even less enticing since the Russian government decided to offer visa-free travel to Russia to non-citizens in 2008—an attractive offer for some of them, who still have family in Russia. The influence from the East is also indirectly revealed through a difference in retirement system and economic benefits granted to Russian citizens that push non-citizens to opt for Russia. Since 2010, it has exceeded the number of those receiving Latvian citi­zenship and has continued to rise. Al­though, there is no research about the rea­sons why non-citizens choose the Russian citizenship rather than the Latvian one, the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs admits that earlier retirement age may be the reason. According to Gaponen­ko, it is also a form of protest against the policy of the Latvian government towards the Russian minority.

An issue in deadlock

Today, the issue remains unresolved as the government doesn’t consider non-citizens legitimate enough to automatically receive the citizenship of Latvia. In almost twenty years, the number of non-citizens has decreased from 730,000 to 280,000. It is mainly due to death as only 140,000 have been naturalised since the creation of the status. Karlis Eihenbaums, the Foreign Minister’s Press Secretary, explains why the issue is not as easy to solve.

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Even if the automatic naturalisation is out of the question for the Latvian government, it con­tinues nevertheless to encourage non-citizens to apply. Throughout the years, the Latvian language and history exams have been simplified and the Citizenship Law amended in order to facilitate the procedure. The naturalisation fee has been reduced several times for some peo­ple (low-income, unemployed, retired) and abolished for politically repressed and dis­abled persons.

But the Non-Citizens’ Congress wants much more than an easier naturalisation process. A material compensation, an­other policy towards ethnic Russians and less restrictions regarding professions would be the first step. Yet the dialogue is totally cut with the Latvian government. People working in this organ­isation even have the conviction that it “is waiting for the death of all non-citizens.”

The European elections, next hope

The next hope for changes are on the European side. But as Aleksandr Gaponenko points out, “as a non-citizen without political rights, I can’t influence this.”

This article was originally hosted on Euroviews. The author is Camille Petit.

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Nude Protesting

Using nudity in protests as a tactic to attract more attention to your cause might not be for everyone, but it is normal day-to-day business for the women of Femen. Femen is an international women’s movement founded in the Ukraine in 2008, yet currently based in Paris.

The women of Femen have taken control over their own bodies, for the good of protesting against patriarchy and other related subjects. Their internationally well known topless protests have related to sex tourism, sharia rights, religious institutions, sexism, gay rights, political policies and other social, national and international topics. Even thought, Femen claims to be a non-violent movement; their protests are controversial as provocative slogans are painted on their skin. The police regularly detain Femen activists in response to their protests. Besides, some Femen members have been subject of violence, threats and other forms of intimidation. The regular media coverage on Femen shows that this does not stop the movement from exhibitionist protests.

Pandeia has collated a number of pictures of Femen protests in the first half of 2014. It is believed many other protests will follow in the second half of this year. Credits: femen.org

 Femen uses their bodies for non-violent acts of resistance 

Protest against the Olympic games being held in Russia

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Photo: femen.org

Femen Spain protests against the Catholic Church and for the right to abort

Femen Turkey protest against Prime Minister Erdogan and his policy of shutting down Internet resource

Protest photo shoot against child marriages in Iraq

Femen France protests against Front National, an extreme right-win party, launching its campaign for the European elections 

A protest in Paris with Femen activist from all over the word, holding slogans condemning sharia ruling that prevails in certain Middle Eastern countries against girls and women

In a protest Femen demands Putin to take a step back from sovereign Ukraine

 

By Lotte Kamphuis

The Ukraine crisis in tweets

Ukraine

Ukrainian forces are reportedly moving into Eastern Ukraine to tackle pro-Russian activists who have reportedly taken control of a number of important government buildings across the region. The Ukrainian government are calling it an anti-terror operation.

Leaders in the west of the country have denounced the protests claiming they are the product of Russian aggression.

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This view of events has been supported by many western leaders including Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt. US President Barack Obama called on his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to use his influence to calm protests in the east of the country which some claim could result in civil war in Ukraine.

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The European Union has repeatedly called for calm as the Ukrainians build up their forces to move into the eastern part of the country.

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Some have been reporting that the area is calm despite the build up of troops.

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However others have claimed that Ukrainian forces are already on the move to deal with the unrest.

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Amid scattered reports of hostilities and casualties Bloomberg is reporting that the Ukrainian government have said the Russian 45th Airbourne are currently in Slovyansk.

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Russia has categorically denied that it is involved in the current unrest. The Russian ambassador to the UK said  the US has been unable to prove direct links between Russia and the ongoing crisis.

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Meanwhile, some have called for greater security in eastern Europe with the Euromaiden group suggesting that US troops may be mobilised in the area. There has been an increase in air patrols amid concerns about instability in the region.

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The Cold War didn’t end when one side declared ‘victory’

Credit: Jeroen Elfferich

CONGRATULATIONS TO EVERYONE now realising that the Cold War never ended.

To see any ‘cold war’ in the new chapter of Russo-West relations currently unfolding in Ukraine might seem overly simple and alarmist.  Certainly there are some lazy journalists and commentators for whom this is just standard operating procedure.  But that doesn’t mean it isn’t true – the Cold War is alive and well.

The real lazy journalism is what has filled the self-indulgent, self-congratulatory interim period of the 1990s and 2000s, where we revelled in the ‘defeat’ of communism.

Metamorphosis

Russia had to withdraw when communism fell.  It needed to regroup and reform.  Even as late as 1998 the former Soviet Union defaulted on its debt, and saw the ruble collapse.  There was a lot of mess to sort out.  A lazy journalist might make some loose, throwaway comparison to Weimar Germany here.

Yes, Russia has changed – but haven’t we all.  Change, reform, metamorphosis – none of it precludes the persistence of much older, broader geopolitical realities.  Well-worn battle lines and worldviews are not so easily redrawn as the front-of-house political scenery.

The ideologies might not appear so extreme, but the spoils of victory are little different just because the battleground has shifted

The current upheaval in Ukraine has obscured the economic developments that immediately preceded it.  Russia already had a very cosy agreement with Ukraine in terms of natural resources, not least of all in the gas industry.

Moscow wanted Ukraine to go further and join its ‘Customs Union’ along with Belarus and Kazakhstan, but the EU was offering an effective free-trade deal as well.  The two options were mutually exclusive because, with neither Belarus or Kazakhstan members of the World Trade Organisation, the EU deal would not permit Ukraine’s participation in the Customs Union.

Spheres of influence

Now look at how the two sides are bidding to be Ukraine’s administrators as it looks to recover from both pre- and post-Maidan economic distress.

Credit: Jose Luis OrihuelaRussia offered a $15 billion bailout last November, with even cheaper natural gas into the bargain.  The West has since bid higher, sniffing a chance to redeem the market they gave up as lost last year, when former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich chose to favour ties with Russia.  The International Monetary Fund bailout currently under discussion is worth between $14 billion and $18 billion, with promises of up to $10 billion more from individual countries.

So do we see those two sizeable spheres of influence emerging from that narrative?  This current economic back-and-forth falls squarely within the tradition of the Monroe Doctrine and the conflicting US and USSR post-Second World War recovery programmes – the Marshall Plan and the Molotov Plan respectively.

Two power blocs are tugging and cajoling the periphery states that lie between them, trying to establish a stable protective buffer zone.  The ideologies involved might not appear so extreme or polarised as in past decades, but the spoils of victory are little different just because the battleground has shifted.

$15 billion is $15 billion

It would also be foolish at this juncture to indulge in our go-to dichotomy of a big, bad imperialist Russia acting against the benevolent, charitable West.

Sadly it doesn’t work like that.  As the IMF gears up for its tried-and-tested austerity routine – making its cheap loans to Ukraine conditional to all manner of painful measures – you won’t hear too many endorsements ringing out from the European countries who have recently entered similar bargains.  Ultimately, $15 billion is $15 billion – whoever is loaning it to you.

There are those that fear talking in terms of cold war. This is not an irrational fear.  Nobody wants a return to the days of maniacal, sleep-deprived war-hawks reaching for the big red button whenever anyone so much as sneezes near a missile site.  We cannot take decades of progress for granted, and guarding against regressive thinking is only prudent.

Credit: tonynetone [Flickr]Embrace

But selective sight is also a retrograde step.  It’s all very well telling ourselves that we have moved on but that’s irrelevant if the few people with their hands on the levers are not playing the same game.

Analysing the current formation of Russian political thought is an important venture for those in the West – the first step towards compromise and greater understanding.  Yet this can only work if begun from a position of honesty, with nobody kidding themselves as to the outlooks and intentions of either side.

As yet the old spheres of influence have not been broken down and neither side has ever made a true effort to embrace or even understand the other. In such circumstances, we have a long way to go before we can call time on the cold war.

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Words: Sean Gibson

Photo credits: top (Jeroen Elfferich); inset 1 (julochka); inset 2 (Jose Luis Orehuela); inset 3 (tonynetone).

Does the new east-west tension really have anything to do with the Cold War? Do economic alliances really constitute power blocs?How much closer to mutual understanding are Russia and the West in the 21st century?  Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

 

Armchair Reporting: The Dangers of Lazy Journalism

 

picture: mosoma

picture: mosoma

IN THE AFTERMATH of the recent events in Ukraine, cold war is being murmured in the corners of governmental institutions worldwide. Is the current world order in a different state then we thought? Does the time, where we fought for territory, not belong to the history books? The past months have not only changed the map of Europe, but ripped open old wounds between the West and the East that we thought to be healed.

I take the optimistic stance. Not only is the geo-political landscape nowhere like the one we saw 20-30 years ago, but today we live in a far more merged and globalized world. Europe is not only economically, politically and institutionally intertwined with Russia, but connected on levels of relations between people and education.  As politicians jerkily stumble through descriptions of  the new situation in Ukraine and Russia, many media outlets are lazily grabbing the most obvious reporting frame – that of the the Cold War. Not only is this outdated, but also boring, uncreative and unhelpful in understanding the complexity of the situation.

Discourse is a powerful tool in constructing reality and can have mayor political and social consequences. It is therefore regrettable, that even-though times are clearly different, politicians and media alike have adapted a cold war discourse when discussing the recent developments on the global scene. It is eminently important to constantly re-evaluate the tone of the discussion. Unfortunately, only few media outlets are engaging in this process.

For the most, the reporting frame suggest Cold War conditions, where Russia is the global bully and the Westerners are the saints fighting for peace and freedom. When NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in his recent speech in Washington states: “[…] this is the gravest threat to European security and stability since the end of the Cold War”, then, the situation is becoming slippery. The Danish newspaper Politiken writes “The air is still cold between East and West”.  An even more extreme Foreign Policy article is welcoming us to “Cold War II”. However upsetting the recent events are, this rhetorical framework leads to nowhere good. I fear it is counterproductive and destructive of the relations we have made with the Russians the past years.

As we, the media, evaluate the political scene and constructs the future we must restrain from the temptation of stigmatizing the debate and keep on working towards strengthening the institutional agreements so to restore a world order, where it is possible to understand actions beyond Cold War philosophy.

If European media and politicians chooses the path of cold-war-rhetoric and military buildup as a consequence (as many politicians are now arguing for), then we will, very quickly, find ourselves within a world order that has resemblance to past times – Foreign Policy’s warning may prove to be well-placed.

Louisa Field 

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.