Asylum-Seeking Pirates: What is the EU to do?

Pirates captured in the Gulf of Aden in 2009 by the U.S. Coast Guard. Source: Wikimedia CommonsEveryday, the men and women of the European Union Naval Force do what they can to protect shipping from the threat of pirates around the Horn of Africa. Over the last five years the EU Naval Force has captured and detained countless Somali pirates. But to what end?

By Kristoffer Johansson

The Kony Campaign: A Harmful Simplification?

Graffiti from the #Kony2012 campaign. Source: JoelAnthonyValdez, FlickrJoseph Kony, a guerrilla leader operating in northern Uganda, is known to the world as the devil incarnate. Kony’s acts include abducting and forcing children to become sex slaves or soldiers in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), mass rape and mutilation. A California based NGO called Invisible Children (IC) have worked in Uganda for over a decade, and have set out to make Kony famous in order to gather support to stop him. Their campaign focused particularly on informing U.S. citizens about the dreadful deeds surrounding this man. However, they only explained a small portion of a complex and volatile situation.

By Jonathan Kananen

Hitting Hard or Staying Soft: Democracy Promotion as a Norm

EU and US bot have promoting democracy as a main goal, but their means to do so differ. Picture by: Rock Cohen, FlickrPromoting democracy is a main goal in the foreign policy of the EU and US. Studies show that democracy promotes both economic and social benefits and that it lowers the tendency to go to war. This is well agreed upon in the EU and US. The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) even takes it into their definition of poverty, claiming “poverty is not just about a lack of food, water or a roof over your head. Being poor also implies suffering from a lack of power and choice.” But are the views on how to promote democracy generally agreed upon? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. While the US democracy promotion has shown more hard power, also called non-normative, characteristics, the EU prefers soft power, or normative, actions.

by Riccard Andersson

Kremlin expresses concern for Russian minority in Skåne

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs building, housing the Ministry of CIS Affairs, Compatriots Abroad and International Humanitarian Cooperation Source: wikimedia commonsIn the wake of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, based on the pretext of protecting the rights of Russian minorities in foreign countries, an important question in foreign affairs has become which other Russian populations may be a target for “protection”. Moscow has already expressed its dissatisfaction with the treatment of Russians by the Estonian government, and a recent Kremlin memorandum from the Ministry of CIS Affairs, Compatriots Abroad and International Humanitarian Cooperation (the authority tasked with supporting Russians abroad) reveals that allegations have also been directed against other nations where Russian minorities exist. The memorandum underlined the importance of “supporting countrymen abroad, and their right to protect their traditions, customs and way of life from the incursion of nationalists”. Alarmingly, the Swedish region of Skåne received a mention of its own in a brief passage of the full document, signed at a meeting where Russian politicians discussed the preservation of cultural and linguistic Russian minorities in Europe. Russia has previously been keen to market itself as a neighbour country to Sweden, and not a far off alien nation, by emphasising historical and cultural ties, ties which it may now regard as being under threat.

By April Fools

The End of Japanese Pacifism?

Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force sailors raise the Japanese flag on the helicopter destroyer JDS Hyuga. Source: Wikimedia CommonsThe East China sea has been filled with tension for some time now, mainly due to the Chinese-Japanese dispute over the Senkaku islands. The Senkaku Islands are a small group of uninhabited islands located northeast of Taiwan, that have been under Japanese control since 1972. China doesn’t recognize this and have included the islands into Chinese territory, thereby altering the regional status quo. Japan is now seeking, under the leadership of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, to change its long-term pacifist constitution, in order to be able to respond to these provocations. This would give Japan the right to use force as a means of settling international disputes.

By Kristoffer Johansson

A Ship Comes Loaded With Timber… or Weapons?

“MV Arctic Sea.” Source: Wikimedia CommonsIn the summer of 2009 a cargo ship carrying timber was hijacked off the coast of Sweden. Piracy has been unheard of in the Baltic Sea for hundreds of years, and this was the first known incident of its kind for centuries. For two weeks the ship MV Arctic Sea went missing, prompting Russia to deploy its navy to locate it. Many of the details of the hijacking still remain a mystery and with no credible explanation of its disappearance many have raised the question of whether the ship was only carrying timber, or whether there was something else in the cargo.

By Joakim Carbonnier

What do a 400th anniversary, gay rights, Greenpeace, beat up diplomats, a ban on tulips and a King’s visit have in common?

Prime Minister Mark Rutte and President Vladimir Putin were in better spirits. Photo by: Russavia, Wikimedia commons– They are all part of the diplomatic turmoil between Russia and the Netherlands . If nations conducted their foreign diplomacy in a restaurant then Russian and Dutch diplomats would be flinging borsch and cheese  at each other. As of late, the Dutch-Russian relationship has come under strain due to a sequence of rapidly unfolding events.

By Benny Wilbrink