Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Is it terror or fear that spreads over Europe?
For the past year Europe seems to be facing an increasing threat from terrorism in its own territory.

Our continent of course is not unfamiliar with terror attacks; in the past there were numerous indigenous, separatist terrorist groups and organisations operating in many Western European nations.

Yet nowadays we come against a new threat, this time seemingly from outside of Europe. Since last November and the terror attacks in Paris, we are witnessing a surge in terrorism incidents committed by Islamist groups, most claiming their allegiance to ISIS.

After France which finds itself as a primary target, Belgium and Germany have also been attacked. The latest attack took place today in Normandy, where two terrorists killed a priest and held hostage four more in a church attack in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray. (CNN)

Such development is very worrying and not just because it poses a threat to our lives, but our values. The more such atrocities are escalating, the more nationalism and far right groups will be rising among the European population.

And with them, xenophobia and particularly Islamophobia will become widespread, while our societies will become increasingly conservative full of fear, suspicion and intolerance.

Borders may be reinstalled, threatening the much hated by the nationalists Schengen Agreement. Surveillance, military and police interference or presence may also become the norm for all of us across Europe. In addition traveling could become much harder.

In the past our continent had the Soviet Union to fear and in need to protect itself from, shaping our collective culture and public opinion. Could we possible be faced with a new long term threat, as serious as that of the Cold War?

One would wonder who would benefit from this and why the phenomenon is happening. Are the Islamists truly in war with all the Western societies and if yes, can they really win? Perhaps this new "threat" has one aim; to reshape our societies and mentality by inciting fear.

We need to note that what is happening now in Europe, is a reality for far longer and more severely in Islamic nations throughout Asia and Africa. We may be shocked about the barbaric attacks, but Europe is not the sole epicenter of such terror.  

Muslims still constitute the majority of the victims of such Islamist groups, so to believe that this is a clash strictly between Christianity and Islam is mistaken, perhaps even dangerously misleading.

There are of course those who chose to blame immigration and the arrival of refugees from Syria and other Islamic countries, for these attacks.

Yet millions of Muslims have been living peacefully and fully integrated in our societies for decades. Think of all the doctors, nurses, barbers and convenience store staff that you have encountered throughout your lifetime.

People that served you, cared for you or even saved your lives. We need to remind that to ourselves before a collective hysteria against all people from different faiths occurs.

Europeans must realize that we can not avoid migration, as long as our continent remains one of the richest regions of the planet and while there is still huge inequality in living standards and opportunities throughout it.

Furthermore, Europe's very economy is based on migration and multiculturalism. Our economic model is designed around the inequality between wealthy native Europeans and the hardworking, lesser paid newly arrived migrants.
If we decide now that we do not want immigrants arriving in our lands, then we have to be prepared to take up all the jobs that they were doing all this time.

Immigrants have been the pillar of our economy by working harder, getting paid less and paying more taxes.

So that we can claim our benefits and free education to expand our opportunities, enjoying some of the highest living standards in the globe.

Maybe instead of branding people dangerous, we should be looking at what forced these individuals to turn to violence and terror. Has our societal and economic model failed them, or could this not be strictly a class of civilizations, but rather a manifestation of the Western values' foundering and decline?

A lot of the terrorists were second generation immigrants, born and bred in France or Belgium. Perhaps we must focus on what made these young individuals to chose and die for their religion, instead of making the most of what our societies have to offer.

We need to examine why some groups want desperately to spread fear and terror across Europe, while bringing us in direct collision with countries straight at our doorstep. And as in any quarrel,not all blame can be laid on one side.

What have Europe and the West done over the past decades, to place our continent among the targets of such groups?

It is evident that there are forces constantly trying to create a clash between Eastern and Western values; exploiting old fault lines between them, but only to serve their own agendas.

We apparently feel so threatened by Iran and its nuclear ambitions, that we need to shield ourselves. Consequently we spend an enormous amount of money installing missiles pointed towards them, instead of investing these money in solving many of our societal problems.

On the other hand, the leaders of the Islamic world prefer to blame the West for their failures and their declining outdated values, instead of proceeding in deep reforms, intercultural dialogue and modernization.

Therefore, the attacks on European soil are the result of decades old serious mistakes, both from Western and Eastern leaders. They preferred to maintain a dangerous and outdated division of our worlds instead of trying to eliminate it, in order to safeguard the ideological, financial and political interests of local elite groups.

Either those are the reluctance to modernize the Islamic societies, bringing them in-sync with the rest of the developed world, or to maintain the monopolies of the oil and arms industries of rich Western nations.

As result, we are having disillusioned Muslim youths thinking that they are doing God's will by killing innocent people. In addition, the European continent is falling for the propaganda of hate, fear and intolerance once again.

We can never forget where it led us the last time though. Plus that the majority of the victims of the horror which was unleashed, were Christian and European.

Europeans ought to remain very vigilant in these emerging challenges. They should not allow these events to destroy what our continent has achieved and where our societies have managed to reach.

Europe must not roll back into nationalism, conservatism and intolerance, limiting our freedoms and opportunities for equality and personal development. If the current agenda is to make us give up our freedoms for stricter, imposed "security", then our answer should be defiant.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Will Europeans finally make a decision on their own future?
For the past seven years Europe has found itself in an ever deepening predicament.

In the beginning was the euro-zone crisis, which threatened to break Europe's single currency.

Then the refugee crisis threatened the Schengen Agreement and the very unity of the EU's member states.

The crises in Ukraine and the Middle East have also tested Europe's ability to lead, offer solutions or decisively respond to potential threats.

Finally, after years of struggling to deal with the rising Euro-skepticism and the numerous far-Right movements across the continent, the EU is losing one of its oldest members; the UK has finally voted to leave the union.

It seems that Europeans have lost faith and trust not only in the European project, but their own governments too. Sadly, they seem to want to destroy their biggest collective achievement; the creation of a stable financially, socially and politically continent for the past six decades.

 The only country that still puts effort in the European project is Germany, naturally to safeguard and promote mainly its own interests. 

It is currently the only European country who shows leadership and ambition, when dealing with any of the crises.
The rest of EU member states, still live in a post war, post communist era, nation centric and conservative reality.

But the world is changing and will be very different in the next decades. The harsh reality is that we either all adapt or fail. 

The Brits decided that they are out, the French show weak determination to lead, the Southern states are too absorbed in their own corruption, the BeNeLux and the Scandinavian countries show little resistance to the German hegemony, while the Eastern European nations seem to be in it just for the money. 

They have little vision for Europe's future and they do not embrace totally the West's ambitions. This is evident from how easily they turned the page, once they were faced with the refugee crisis. Even the very EU enthusiastic Poland turned Euro-skeptic, voting in a government that reflects their new approach to migration.

One would naturally put all the blame in the corrupt and decadent national governments of Europe. They do not present the reality and how the EU works to the citizens, in order to safeguard their own political ambitions and the interests of national elites.

As result, the EU is often used as a scapegoat by them, while the citizens have a very distorted view on how things work on European level. Most politicians continue to use EU membership as a platform to promote not necessarily their voters' interests, rather their own agenda.

We haven't seen many national heads of government, openly speaking for the EU and its role in modern Europe. There has been little praise by any European prime minister or a member of his cabinet, of the importance and achievements of the EU.

Most of them prefer to stick to populism and feed national agendas, maintaining the focus of their citizens on national issues.

Yet they now seem to fear the growing German hegemony over the continent. They could of course compete with Germany for leadership, by actively showing involvement, interest and ambition in the European project, instead of blaming the Germans of "taking over". 

Understandably Germany's leadership comes with good and bad effects for the rest of Europe. Naturally they promote their own interests first then the continent's. But until other European states get seriously involved, raise their voice to counterpart that of Germany's, then they should not complain.
The Germans are the only ones who try to bring the continent into the next phase of the global reality. Which will be a multi-polar, ruthless and competitive world.

The problem is that Germany is building up its economy to the detriment of the other surrounding, weaker countries.

That is not a reason for them to want to leave the EU, or hate and fear Germany altogether. European nations of the periphery should unite and place this pressure on the EU institutions to stop Germany from dominating and start sharing and cooperating. Or at least limit its force and dominance.

If they remain disengaged and divided, they can have no expectations from Germany to "save" them or take their needs into consideration, while trying to keep Europe as a relevant player on the new global reality.

Our continent at the moment is in dire need of leadership and unity, that only Germany is seeming to be keen on. All European national governments must be forced by us, the citizens, to get vocal on Europe and engage fully with the European project, integrating further our countries with each other.

Further integration is either we like it or not, the safest bet in securing our continent's wealth and stability in the future.

Alternatively European economies and societies risk being broken up and becoming even less competitive. Going back to individual states, could mean that only few will survive the impending global competition. Not all European countries have the resources or capability to stay relevant.

While being independent and making your own decisions seem more appealing on every country's electorate, we seem to ignore that the world is changing. Europe is not the center of the globe anymore and in the future, it will become inevitably less dominant.

So what will it be; isolationist, protectionist, conservative and nation centric mentality and policies, or should Europe be preparing for a more integrated and globalized world. Can nationalism save us, our way of living and our societies?

Let us not be fooling ourselves anymore,postponing important decisions that can guarantee our future generations' prosperity. We need to make up our minds and take responsibility for our own decisions. Blaming the EU or our governments is easier but in the end, we vote for our own leaders and we still have a voice and power.

Change is always scary but as it is inevitable, it is preferable to get engaged and contribute to our countries' and societies' evolution and reformation, rather becoming an obstacle. Will Europe look better in the future as a divided continent, with ever competing small states for the little resources we have left?

Or will it look better as a community of integrated, but sovereign nations that share resources while promoting prosperity and stability for every one in the continent? We should be striving to create an equal continent, of equal nations, comprised of equal societies and equal individuals. And that has never been achieved by nationalism and populism.