A Snapshot from Poland

JANUSZ PALIKOT, A BUSINESSMAN AND POLITICIAN. PHOTO: REPORTER DZIENNIKA INTERNETOWEGO. WIKIMEDIA COMMONS– Human Rights, Religion and Politics

When it comes to human rights, and the lack thereof, it is usually dictatorships in other parts of the world that come to mind. It is easy to forget that these complex questions may just as well surface in Europe; for example Poland, a stable democracy with strong Catholic roots, also has some human rights issues on the political agenda, much due to incompatibility between cultural-religious traditions and the contemporary, more liberal trends in human rights.

Failure of the Greek Asylum System

Asylum-seekers, being in that vulnerable position, could be seen as the subject par excellence of the human rights and most in need of a grid of protection. And to be sure, again and again their rights are violated. In Europe, a grim record of human rights violations, in the wake of the Dublin II regulation and the failure of the Greek asylum system, is being exposed. The human rights institutions have been harsh in their critique, but what has been achieved?

On 21 september 2010, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) declared the asylum situation in Greece a “humanitarian crisis”. The situation has been problematic for a long time. A large number of reports speak of a malfunctioning asylum system, unable to effectively determine the asylum claims being made, and a systematic practice of detaining asylum seekers for periods ranging from a few days to a few months without adequate information given as to the reasons for detention. Furthermore the detention facilities are reported as being overcrowded, unsanitary, and lacking in ventilation, mattresses and access to toilets.

The Mother of Europe

GERMAN CHANCELLOR, ANGELA MERKEL. PHOTO: ALEPH, WIKIMEDIA COMMONSMassive budget deficits cause increased unemployment rates and poverty in big parts of the Euro-zone. While Angela Merkel, Germany’s Chancellor, promotes increased financial aid to the affected economies, she is facing domestic critique for giving away German billions. Others criticize her for not being efficient and decisive enough. But Merkel is determined in her belief: without the Euro there cannot be a Europe.

Euro Orphans

“‘EURO-ORPHANS’. ‘EURO’ BECAUSE THE PROBLEM IS ESPECIALLY FREQUENT IN THE NEWLY EU-AFFILIATED COUNTRIES.” PHOTO: DSB NOLA. FLICKR

Over the past 20 years, Central Eastern Europe has been characterized by major historical events that have ultimately led up to great changes in the regions economical, political and social structures. The entry of numerous Eastern European states into the EU has facilitated for people to travel and move to other states. As there are still great inequalities between West and East, rich and poor, many Eastern Europeans decide to invest their life savings into building themselves and their children a better life at the opposite side of Europe. What is left unknown and rarely spoken of is that thousands of Eastern European children, the “Euro-orphans”, ultimately pay the highest price.

EU Security Policy Post Utøya

JULY 25TH 2011. OUTSIDE OSLO CATHEDERAL. PHOTO: WWW.ROEDT.NOThe 22nd of July 2011, when over 70 people were killed by a single, crazed terrorist, has entered Norwegian history as the worst attack on the nation’s security since World War II. Even though the Norwegian case differs in some aspects from other cases of “traditional” terrorism–thus far it seems as though the attack was made by a single man rather than an organized group–the attacks in the Oslo city centre and on the island of Utøya once again put the topic of terrorism and national security in the news.

What consequences may rise up in the wake of these events? Will the effects of these terrorist attacks be felt throughout Europe? If so, what effects will they have on the EU?

Denmark takes a step to the left

DANISH PARLIAMENT. PHOTO: TROES DEJGAARD HANSEN:FLICKR.JPG

With the election of the first female Prime Minister in Danish history, the government sets off to a new beginning after ten years of liberal dominance. The new Prime Minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt was appointed in a close race with the now former Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, and she will take over a state with several topics on its agenda. The economic growth in Denmark has not been able to follow comparable countries, like Sweden, and as a consequence the financial situation of the country became the main topic in the election campaign. The new government hopes to resolve these problems with initiatives that include raising high-income taxes and advancing public spending. 

The Indignant Greeks

The current financial situation in Europe is precarious, to say the least. Austerity measures pursued by different European governments have not been well received by the
young, which Greece is a good example of. Rather, the insecurity caused by high unemployment rates and reduction of wages has created a new wave of public discontent, aimed at government policies.

In Spain, discontented young people formed the Indignados movement, also known as the “Real Democracy Now” movement. The Spanish Indignados have been protesting against the harsh budget cuts implemented by the government and the general public insecurity stemming from the financial and economic crisis, while at the same time demanding a new, more direct and more transparent type of democracy. A democracy based on people assembling. The Indignados movement quickly caught on, with young people camping out in the squares of all the major cities for days, as a peaceful protest.