Talk to Them

 Marche Hommage Charlie hebdo Paris, Spotlight Europe
Solidarity march for the victims of the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris. Solidarity and empathy is spread among all citizens – regardless of their origin. (Flickr: sébastien amiet;l Nikleitz 2015/licensed under CC BY 2.0)

What shocked me the most was the coldness with which he murdered the policeman. Spanish news programs didn’t hesitate in showing the scene. We could all see how the terrorist ruthlessly shot to death the police officer who was lying in the street, unarmed and wounded.

The Charlie Hebdo attack is a challenge to European values. It not only is the cruel murder of innocent people. It is an attack to our freedom.

Now that the nightmare is over, questions arise. How is Europe as a society going to respond to this problem?

Let’s think for a moment. The two brothers that committed the attack to the satirical magazine were born in France. They grew up in an orphanage. The eldest one was a sports coach.

“My worry is that we simplify things.”

His younger sibling worked delivering pizzas. What could possibly make them embrace a terrorist group, leave their country to fight for Al Qaeda and then return to kill twelve people in such a brutal way?

My worry is that we simplify things. Many people in Europe are already talking of an “islamization” of our continent. Some parties will want to use this attack politically. But we must bear something in mind. Jihadists are a small minority inside of Islam. A vast majority of the European Muslims respect and cherish our values and liberties.

The policeman whose brutal murder we could watch on TV was, in fact, a Muslim. His name was Ahmed. He died defending one of the core French republican values, the freedom of expression. And let us not forget that most of the victims of jihadist terrorism around the world are Muslims.

Therefore, we as young Europeans have a responsibility. We must promote and defend our values and system of liberties. And we must have a critical and tolerant point of view. Many young Muslims in Europe feel excluded, unwanted and rejected. Some of them may see “martyrdom” and fanaticism as a way out to their situation. What course of action should we take? My answer is simple: talk to them.

About the author:
Nicolás - Author at Spotlight Europe
Nicolás – Author at Spotlight Europe

Nicolás (18) is a Member of the Youth Council of the Future. He participated in the “My Europe” workshop in Madrid in 2013.

About Charlie Hebdo

Nous sommes Charlie, Spotlight Europe
New and old questions arise since the attack on the Parisian satire magazin Charlie Hebdo. (Flickr: ActuaLitté /licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)

I cling to no religion in particular and all of them at the same time. In the end, don´t they all advocate the things we are striving for? Happiness, justice and clairvoyance. However, I do have some beliefs: I believe in believing, in freedom and in humour. I believe in humour to the point of being rude. If an action is assured to make someone laugh later on that day, it is almost completely justified. (Take notice: almost! Because some things are just not acceptable.) I guess it´s Stuart Mill´s utilitarianism applied to laughter.

Now it gets tricky. Everyone should believe in something. It is a human right and need. I not only respect but also cherish it, because it is a sign that there´s still freedom and diversity in this world. But how can I respect someone who justifies murder with ideas like “unbearable disrespect for the prophet should be severely punished”?

“I aim to be tolerant and understanding but incidents like Charlie Hebdo´s in France outrage me”

I aim to be tolerant and understanding but incidents like Charlie Hebdo´s in France outrage me and I am afraid I might develop a biased opinion on muslims. And I am certainly not the only one because, whereas I am writing and pondering about what concerns me, there are people who forgot not all muslims are terrorists and decided to make justice with their own hands.

I´m afraid a violent comeback is to be expected: ignorance generates hate, which will develop into rage that will spread and produce terror. It´s how it is but it doesn´t make it less frightening. And I feel very ignorant: I don´t understand a lot of muslim beliefs and they don´t understand mine. Yet it could be the case that a muslim kid is thinking the same thing, the other way round.

So this is a call for those who are feeling concerned and confused: enough with the killing, enough with the bias. All I want is to read my Garfield strips tomorrow without having to worry if Jim Davis is about to be attacked by a bunch of angry persian cats who are tired of being fed lasagne.

About the author

The author once participated in one of My Europe´s workshops but wishes to stay anonym. In the light of the horrible attack in Paris on Wednesday, 7. January 2015, it was felt to express an opinion.

A Phone Call from Amsterdam to Narva

phone booth, Spotlight Europe
Old friends do have lots to say – especially talking about experiences from the past. (Flickr:Steve Wilson/licensed under CC BY 2.0)

Y: Are you alright?

X: Nice to talk to you, it’s been a while since the last time I heard from you.

Y: I know, I’m sorry I was very busy this month. But these days I read so much about Narva in the newspaper, I never thought Estonia was going to be world news. But because of that I was wondering if you were still alright. Who thought it would turn this way when we were together in the My Europe youth council?

X: Well, a lot has happened since it all started around 2015

Y: You mean when England stepped out of the European Union?

X: Yes, but I still think Cameron made the right decision. England had to pay two billion to the EU.

Y: But that was because Europe used a new technique to calculate the economic growth, and it turned out to be more then they first thought.

X: But two billion…? Unacceptable! Cameron didn’t have a choice. If he would have payed it, most citizens from England, would have become very, very angry. They already wanted England to step out of the EU for a long time, and if Cameron was going to pay two billion to the EU…

Y: That’s true but still, the European Union also needs money to exist.

X: And then France came…

Y: At least they tried to help them to get out of their huge economic crisis, but the EU became weaker because England had left. Also there were a lot of fights and disagreements, which caused a lot of tension.

X: But they didn’t succeed in helping France, they should have discharged France from the EU, what happened wasn’t surprising.

Y: Of course not, the idea of the EU is that countries support each other when they have problems like a crisis or a war.

X: So France could get all the countries into a crisis, because they couldn’t manage their own business….? Because that’s what happened eight years ago.

Y: I do agree that the EU should have helped earlier to prevent it. When France said they could fix their deficit from 3%, the EU should have done something.

X: But because the EU didn’t, and decided to support France, other countries also got into a crisis. And because England already stepped out of the EU, the other countries needed to pay even more money than they already did. Their solidarity became smaller and smaller. Of course they blamed France. And who could blame them? I don’t know if I will still buy croissants.

Y: That is true, but when you work together with so much different people from different countries, who all have different cultures, you have to realize that you are going to lose things if you want to succeed. All the countries knew this, when they decided to join the EU.

X: But isn’t losing your whole country a bit much of an effort?

Y: Haha, but maybe the crisis would have been solved in a few years if Russia didn’t attack Estonia.

X: Yes, last year the Russian army started to slowly take over Estonia, they wanted to make one big Russia, because Estonia was part of the Sovjet Union until 1991, they still felt like they owned it.

First they attacked Narva, the city I live, because it is located on the border of Estonia and Russia.

And now they have also taken over other cities in Estonia. My daily life didn’t really change, but when I go to the supermarket, there are some things priced higher

Y: Wow, quite a lot happened!

X: But then it all became too difficult for the EU so they gave up. The pressure became too high and there were too many disagreements to continue. I never believed in the EU, and now when the pedal hits the metal they quit, so I rest my case.

Y: I understand that you are angry, but because of the European Union you could live and study in Estonia, you could marry your wife, your children are able to go to a European school and you can drink wine from France, thanks to the EU… did you ever think about that?

But anyway, I’m glad to hear that you’re still alive, but I can’t call too long, the costs of calling to another country became much higher after the EU fell apart.

X: Okay, I hope to see you soon, maybe in fifteen years. We then might all live in the same Russian country, and the whole Europe problem is solved, haha!

About the author:
Lara, Spotlight Europe
Lara – author at Spotlight Europe

Lara (15) participated in the “My Europe” workshop in the Netherlands in 2014. She´s a student at Barlaeus gymnasium, Amsterdam.

Russia vs Ukraine

Ukraine is a country located between Russia and Europe. Since declaring independence in 1991, Ukraine has been a strongly divided country and this crisis is a result of major internal divisions. The population is divided between pro-Russian and pro-European. According to political scientist Leonid Peisakhin, Ukraine “has never been and is not yet a coherent national unit with a common narrative or a set of more or less commonly shared political aspirations.”
The crisis was initially an internal one, but then rapidly escalated to what is now the tensest situation between the US and Russia since the Cold War.

A look at the facts

In November 2013, President Viktor Yanukovych was offered a deal for a stronger integration with the EU, his rejection caused major mass protests, which he violently put down. Many Ukrainians wanted the deal, not only because they feel closer to Europe culturally, but mainly to save their weak and troubled economy. It was not only an economical deal, but also a political one. Protestors were mainly students and young people, trying to save their country, fight against corruption, make a change. This was the breaking point: Russia backed Yanukovych, while the US and EU backed the protesters. As protests continued and turned into anti-government protests, Yanukovych was forced to leave the country, seeking Russia’s support.

In the meantime, Russia wanted to reinforce its influence on Ukraine, so in March 2014 Russian troops slowly arrived in Crimea, a peninsula situated south of Ukraine and surrounded by the Black sea and the Sea of Azov, which used to be Russian territory.

A power struggle for Crimea

Crimea is in a strategical position, having 3 main ports on the Black sea and its territory has sparked fights for domination for centuries. On March 16, Crimeans voted for their region to become a part of Russia. Most of the world sees Crimea’s secession vote as illegitimate for various reasons: it was held under pressing Russian military occupation with no international monitoring and many reports of intimidation; it was pushed through with only a couple of weeks’ warning, and it was illegal under Ukrainian law. Still, legitimate or not, Crimea has effectively become part of Russia.

A draft UN investigative report found that critics of secession within Crimea were detained and tortured in the days before the vote; it also found “many reports of vote-rigging”.

US and EU united against Russia

The US and European Union have imposed economic sanctions on Russia to punish Moscow for this, but there is no sign that Crimea will return to Ukraine. Russia’s sanctions have hit many of the EU’s agricultural states, especially the closest ones.
The Netherlands – the world’s second-largest exporter of agricultural products – is set to lose 300 million euro annually from canceled business with Russia. Poland as well was hit hard by the Kremlin’s sanctions. Spain, a large exporter of oranges to Russia, is estimated to miss out on 337 million euro in food and agriculture sales, while Italy has estimated its losses at nearly 1 billion euro.

From the beginning of the Ukraine crisis, Russia feared losing influence on Ukraine and that their neighbors would fall under what Moscow sees as a Western conspiracy to surround Russia with inimical governments. It’s very difficult for many Russians to untangle their own history from Ukraine’s and accept the equality and legitimacy of the Ukrainian culture parallel to their own. Since April, pro-Russian rebels have been colliding with Ukrainian troops in the eastern part of the country, taking over government buildings and cities. Several Ukrainian military planes have been shot down and a Malaysian Airlines flight as well, killing more than 300 civilians. Of course, neither Kiev nor Moscow admitted taking part in the incidents.
These deaths attracted major attention; the world could not stand back and ignore the conflict anymore.

The Ukrainian response, especially a youth response

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk announced the start of “Project ‘Wall” in September, the building of a wall along its borders is a strong statement. Yatsenyuk said that Ukraine should be clear about who its enemy is, the former Soviet neighbor has become an “aggressor”.

The US has provided non- lethal aid (food, body armors, etc.) instead of weapons to Ukrainian forces. This is a strong affirmation of the US to avoid any further worsening of the situation.

Since March 2014, the Ukrainian government has sent letters to young men to invite them to join the army. Surprisingly, many young Ukrainians joined without second thoughts. Mainly the reason they had was helping restore law and order in Ukraine. We should certainly learn from these motivated young people protesting and ready to fight for their rights.
Hopefully the youth will stop the conflict and save Ukraine.

About the Author:

APicture Alessandra Maffettonelessandra (22) is Chairwoman of the Youth Council for the Future (YCF). She is involved with the “My Europe” Initiative since 2012.