Europe’s youth must stand up against populists

Now it has also reached Germany. The fact that a right-wing populist party, the AfD in Germany moves into the Bundestag with official provisional results of 12, 6% is another warning for Europe. Everywhere in Europe, tendencies to close the borders, return to the nation state and abolish a common currency can be seen. The leaders in Europe have been warned sufficiently to take populists seriously and to do everything to ensure that Europe remains a one-of-a-kind entity. Europe’s youth in particular is called upon to take a stand against all positions of populists and clearly choose a free Europe without borders. We do not want to lose all the advantages that Europe has given us in the last 50 years and return to nation-states. We want to continue to be able to travel freely within the EU, pay in a common currency and be able to communicate with all people. Our goal is to maintain a free Europe and to give all people equal opportunities. That is why we launched the initiative European Youth Marathon with the slogan ‘I’m a part of Europe’. Join us and fight for the unity of a free Europe.

 

About the Author:

Prof. Dr. Manfred Pohl is CEO and founder of My Europe 2100 e.V.. Additionally, he is founder of the future think tank Frankfurter Zukunftsrat, founder and Deputy Chairman of the European Association for Banking and Financial History (EABH) as well as of the Institute for Corporate Cultural Affairs. In 2011 he was awarded with the Verdienstkreuz 1. Klasse of the Federal Republic Germany for his charitable commitment in the European banking and financial sector. Read more… 

 

Everything seems impossible until it is done

Who are supposed to be the ‘climate-change refugees’? ‘Climate-change refugees’ or so called ‘environmental migrants’ are people who are forced to leave their home towns either temporarily or permanently due to sudden or progressive climate changes which compromise their well being and secure livelihood.

These changes may include increased droughts, desertification, sea revel rise, disruption of seasonal weather patterns such as monsoons, etc. Human activities like burning fossil fuels and cutting down forests contribute to global warming because they release greenhouse gases. Rising temperatures associated with global warming cause glaciers and ice caps to melt, which lead to droughts and desertification – the transformation of arable land to desert. These effects make it completely impossible for people in the region to feet on the crops and they are forced consequently to roam the world to look for better lives.    

Unlike the refugees who flee their homes due to conflict or political oppression, ‘climate-change refugees’ are not protected by international laws and may face greater political risks.

Unlike the refugees who flee their homes due to conflict or political oppression, ‘climate-change refugees’ are not protected by international laws and may face greater political risks. You have to admit, the word “refugees” should not be used in consideration of these people. It’s not them on whom we have to put the blame, because that is nature which caused it.

Nowadays, the problem of migrants is causing a great deal of wrangling in the whole world, including Europe. The European Commission has taken a comprehensive approach to tackle the refugee crisis in Europe, drawing on the various tools and instruments available at the EU level and in the member states. The European Commission gathers periodically at the summit to discuss these contemporary issues and to take corresponding measures. Statistics indicate that the number of migrants crossing Europe illegally by land and sea in 2015 has passed over one million. Of course, not all of them can be called the ‘climate-change refugees’. Some of them may migrate due to social instabilities, such as the terror attacks and the wars in the central and the Western Asia, although some people are migrating, simply because of the climate changes.Then what are the biggest challenges that ‘climate-change refugees’ are facing?

Firstly, wherever people happen to land, there would be significant traditional, cultural and religious differences. To adapt to the afterward circumstances, they would need sizeable amount of time. For example, if one has moved from Western Asia to Eastern Europe, traditional customs will have changed, from greeting others to food culture. This would affect everyone including youngsters and the next generations, trying successfully or not so to integrate into their new cultures.

Another challenge could be finding suitable jobs or finding themselves a place in the workforce.  Currently, migrant workers accounts for 150 million of the world’s approximately 232 million international migrants. Migrant workers contribute to the growth and develop in their countries of destination.
Especially having in mind the rising unemployment rate in the countries where they decide to reside. Furthermore, migration and the resulting unemployment rate have been one of the major issues in the traditional, as well as contemporary global economic scenario. And some criminal activities like robberies, thefts and various negative behaviors by unemployed migrants might arise and will disturb the public order in certain countries. To prevent these, the chances have to be given for refugees to be employed after the specific education system.

When properly managed, the refugees may have far-reaching potentials and their communities as well.

As Nelson Mandela, one of the most famous politicians said “Everything seems impossible until it is done”, other problems and challenges could occur that we might face. Yet we, as human beings have responsibilities to protect the refugees. When properly managed, the refugees may have far-reaching potentials and their communities as well. And consequently they would serve as part of the society which contributes for the economic growth of the country, overcoming ethnic differences and winning the fight for position among other people.

 

About the author:

Ri Kang Song (16) took part in the My Europe Workshop in Sofia on 28-29 November 2016 and won the fifth prize of the writing competition.

Rising number of climate-refugees is one of the most important issues nowadays

What will be the big challenges regarding climate-change refugees in Europe in the next 50 years?

The topic about the refugees has always been and will be a burning problem. And, we can say that the rising number of climate-change refugees is one of the most important issues facing our society nowadays. We live in such an age where many people are free to choose a better way of living. Yet, some are forced to make the decision to leave their homes due to political clashes. “No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of shark” (Warsan Shire, 2011) – by ignoring the trend of the fleeing refugees, the world leaders have now allowed one of the largest global humanitarian crisis to unfold. Nevertheless, the situation can be kept under control by taking actions.

Let us take a look at the extreme weather events such as earthquakes, floods and hurricanes that are quite common and recurring. Climate change worsens the consequences of those events and it should not be a surprise that people strive to inhabit areas with a pleasant and temperate climate. People are suffering and have no other choice, but to leave their homes. The economies of the countries destroyed are extremely unstable and the population is more prone to fleeing. Every year around the globe millions of people are forced to move due to this major reason.  Furthermore, large segments of the population deciding to migrate are the ones with higher standard of living. Fleeing is inevitable; however the world leaders should find ways to solve the world refugee crisis. For instance, they should aim to provide the basic essentials for the suffering – for example a standard apartment meeting the basic human needs such as hot water and food.

According to the UNHCR, the people, who are forced to move, need some form of international protection since their own governments fail to keep them safe.

The refugee issue is painful to society these days – many people around the globe think that they are a “nuisance”. Not many people realize that all these refugees are actually one of us and that they are forced to leave their countries.  According to recent forecasts, the number of those likely to relocate because of the climate changes is 350 million by 2050, compared to 65.3 million in 2016. This may lead to building walls instead of opening the market between the nations. Unfortunately, most people do not approve of migration. Yet, helping the refugees requires a clear definition of the matter before taking any steps since many people do not indeed know what a climate-change refugee is facing. On the one hand, refugees are people left homeless, who are looking for a better way of living. On the other hand, in modern society’s eyes they are a nuisance, which may destroy their established world. Yet, not everyone is humane enough to face the reality and do something about the refugee issue instead of isolating them and treating them as criminals. There are many ways to integrate them into our local communities. For instance, a solution could be finding job places for them, incorporating them into local activities and dividing them out per capita in every city in the country. The result would be that no one would feel different, rejected and intimidated.

According to recent forecasts, the number of those likely to relocate because of the climate changes is 350 million by 2050, compared to 65.3 million in 2016.

We live in the 21st century and the standard of living is supposed to get better and better. With the increasing number of extreme weather and political events, a concern of the international community about the consequences of migration is also growing. Around 1,700 refugees died trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea in the period between January and April 2015. According to the UNHCR, the people, who are forced to move, need some form of international protection since their own governments fail to keep them safe. Hence, the attention is rising to the pledges such as countries like Norway or Switzerland are trying to find a better way of protection for climate change affected people. For example, Norway joined a special recognition procedure in 2005, which includes approval of eligibility of foreign qualifications provided with applications for jobs or studies. It is an attempt to integrate the refugees in the day-to-day life.

To sum up, refugees are people with a decent opportunity for a better life. The foreign governments play an important role in helping them. Unfortunately, the way all of them are treated is not the one they deserve to be. People can find many ways to make their stay more pleasant. Each of them is trying to remain alive and they are looking for a safer place where they will not be mistreated. A couple of countries have already thought of solutions to the refugees’ crisis and so can the others. And the more humane people are, the happier their lives will be.

About the author:

Zhaklin Dimitrova Yanakieva (17) took part in the My Europe Workshop in Sofia on 28-29 November 2016 and won the first prize of the writing competition.

 

Living with Donald

Donald Trump’s victory has generated a lot of different reactions in the European capitals, from big surprise, joy for some, to stupor. Some have also tried to analyse and provide a logical explanation for a better comprehension of a result that was not expected to many, not even the many polls that have failed obstreperously. For the Europeans, it is difficult to understand the changes in mind that are taking place between the American’s society. They have talked about raze, gender, age, social class and geographic distribution to try to explain this victory. From all of them, the most interesting analysis is the one related with globalization.

White middle-class working Americans have been hit hard by the Great Recession. The offshoring of big industries, which have settled in markets with more competitive prices, have left a big mass of workers unemployed and without expectations for their future. A lot of workers apprehended Barack Obama’s open and tolerant politics.

They oppose immigration and refugees’ welcomes since they fear about losing their jobs, so they hold on to the nationalist feeling to reaffirm their convictions. They also feel a deep resentment against the economic elites of their country, who they blame for the situation.

 

This analysis can also be related with the victory of the Brexit in the United Kingdoms, a very unexpected result. The message is simple: “Lets gain control back” Boris Johnson claim in the debates prior to the referendum. “Lets build a wall and make America great again” Donald Trump claimed without unobtrusive. Without coming to appreciate his histrionic and controversial person, Trump has managed to represent that resentment against the establishment. He has also awakened the hopes of those voters who, indeed, may feel that they have nothing to lose, that the system has nothing more to offer them.

The misgivings about globalization are legitimate. It has been seen in the past months in Europe, with the strong position shown by the Walloon region in the negotiations of the free trade agreement with Canada or the demonstrations that have been seen all over Europe against the TTIP. The effects these treaties may have over the working conditions of the European workers or over their environmental consequences are questionable and should be present in future debates. Nevertheless, the boom of xenophobia or the closure of frontiers won’t solve these problems but aggravates them. Climate change, for instance, can only be fought back if the States cooperate, just if they share objectives, just if they have a global vision of the problem. The isolationism and hatred cannot be the way out.

The election results, alongside with the Brexit and other events, such as the presidential elections in Austria, just confirm what several experts had predicted. We are getting into a new cultural clash that has globalization and its consequences as its sole protagonist. A new ideological conflict has come into the world’s play, between those who are in far of living in open, cosmopolitan societies and those who prefer to have close, protectionist communities, often being against cultural diversity. In this second group is where we can find Donald Trump and his populist nationalism.

What can the EU do in light of this new situation? First of all, reaffirm its willingness to integrate.

The European leaders must come up with and defend bold, and at the same time, realistic measures regarding various topics such as foreign policy, climate change and the creation of new opportunities for young people.

These leaders must bear in mind the foundational values of the EU. The European project was always based on tolerance, solidarity and respect towards cultural differences. However, the refugee crisis has put these values at stake. Therefore, the European societies need to develop their integration ability and to take advantage of the globalization process, without letting the intolerance and hate rise, nor leaving the working classes unprotected.

The challenge is immense and high levels of political skill and conviction will be required to overcome it. The populist, xenophobic speech must be fought with ideas, proposals and through a thorough, ethical debate.

Populists have already claimed two significant victories, and they could reinforce their success this year in the French presidential elections. We have proven to be incapable of noticing the dangerous parts of their speech, until seeing one of their main representatives win his way into the White House.

This quandary is surely going to be present in and heavily influence the next few years, and probably, the next few decades. Even though the future is quite uncertain, there are reasons to keep hope. Neither Brexit, nor Trump were the most voted option within the younger generations.

Hillary Clinton’s concession speech was calm and solemn. She had made mistakes during her campaign. Many have lamented the fact that she has been unable to shatter women’s last ceiling. However, we have to acknowledge she has already made history, she has already shattered plenty of ceilings. She is the first women to ever be candidate to the Presidency of the United States on behalf of one of the two main parties. Furthermore, she is the first woman to ever win the popular vote in that country. Her flaws should not cast a shadow over a career full of accomplishments.

In her speech, she thanked all people who had supported her and recognized her defeat. The former Secretary of State also made an inspiring petition to the young: “This loss hurts. But please never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it”. Hillary has already left a mark on history. Now it is the time to be up to the expectations and leave ours.

 

Open Letter To Young People Of The UK

frogs-897387_1920Dear Young People of the UK,

There are many benefits to being in the EU, both political and economic. When you go to the polling stations on the 23rd of June, to vote in a referendum that could lead to your leaving the European Union, I’m sure you’ll have these taken into consideration. But I want to talk to you about the benefits that are particularly relevant to us at this particular point in our lives, the ones that fall under a different heading: Adventure. Right now, as I am about to leave school, I am ready to set out, and discover, and explore. I hope you will come with me.

I will go on an adventure this Summer, travelling throughout Europe with my friends. You can do the same. As members of the EU, we don’t need a visa to wander around foreign cities, towns, beaches or countryside. We don’t need papers to see some of humanity’s greatest feats- Greek ruins, Roman Colosseums, Stone Age structures- all monuments to war, peace, discovery, art and the triumphs humans can achieve working together. As part of the EU, these histories and monuments are ours, and we can travel and live among them freely.

My adventure will continue in the autumn, when I hope to go to University. My University will be filled with a diverse group of students from all around the Europe, who will be able to easily live and study abroad in the EU. The Erasmus programe allows many students to study in Europe, and whether you choose to do most of your third level education at home or abroad, you and I will be part of a rich cultural tapestry, and make meaningful connections that will connect us forever to people and places far away.

After University, the scope of the adventure only broadens. We can work, without complications, anywhere we choose. We have the freedom so many young people long for, or desperately need. The freedom to, at any moment, move to another country, to live and work there. Tomorrow we could decide that we want to live in Stockholm, or Paris, or in the Alpes, and we could do it with almost no complications, applications, or paperwork. We could choose to live anywhere, living in a culture, in a history, as somebody who belongs there.

Of course, this freedom works both ways. Those who would like Britain to leave the EU want Britain to have more control over its borders, and reduce the amount of people who come to work there. But the free movement of people and trade in the EU is something that has more benefits than harm. It makes it much easier for Britain to sell things to other EU countries, as well as supplying a stream of young, talented people who will help the economy grow.

Right now there are so many people who have been forced to abandon their homes, who want and need what we have- freedom to roam, travel, live and work in these beautiful, peaceful countries. However, Europe is struggling to accommodate them, often choosing to deny them what they need. Now is not the time to be divided, but to work together to reach a common goal. Our European Adventure should not be experienced at the expense of others.

I am on an adventure- an adventure of discovering new places, and people, and possibilities. But it is also a collective adventure, part of a rich history, that is creating new histories with every decision that we make.Will you decide to join me?

About the author:

Feargha colour

Feargha Clear Keena (18) participated in the Dublin Workshop in 2014. She goes to school at Mount Temple Comprehensive and enjoys playing music, writing songs, and learning foreign languages.

More…

The story of a Bosnian refugee

Foca - where it all beganThe town Foca

Zerina Karup is a Masters student at Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin. She came to Ireland as a refugee when she was a baby. In March, she came to my school (Mount Temple Comprehensive in Dublin) to give a talk about her experience. This talk was organised as part of a series called Temple Tallks by the Mount Temple Amnesty International group.

Zerina was born in what was then Yugoslavia, a country which composed six republics (Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro) and two provinces (Kosovo and Vojvodina). She described her life in a Bosnian town called Foca, with family around, the river nearby…it was a very normal life, which is important to remember.

People don’t leave their countries – their friends and families, traditions and customs – because they want to. They don’t go to a foreign country where they don’t know anyone, and they don’t know the culture, for no reason. People leave because they have to.

She explained a bit of background to the war: “It started in 1991, when countries started to become independent. Slovenia started, then Croatia wanted to become independent. Serbia wanted to form a new country, Greater Serbia. In addition to these different countries, or states within a country, there were also different religions; there were Catholics, Muslims, and Serbian Orthodox. So there was a lot of potential for tension and conflict.” In April 1992, the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina started, and that was when Zerina’s family decided to leave. Initially they stayed within Bosnia, moving from Foca to Gorazde, but quickly realised they still weren’t safe and moved on again. They left just in time; right afterwards, Gorazde became a Serbian enclave (nobody could enter or leave the town; there was no water, no electricity, no food.) They went to Montenegro, and then after a couple of days to Serbia.

It might sound contradictory to go to the country of the aggressors. But in the beginning there was no war in Serbia, so it was safe. Also, Zerina’s family had friends who could accommodate them, because they didn’t have much money. They stayed there for two months, but then Bosnians began to be deported back to Bosnia, into concentration camps. Zerina’s parents decided they were no longer safe, and her family got a bus to Macedonia. At the border, a Serbian soldier checked the bus. Bosnians were brought outside, lined up, and separated into groups of men and women and children. All those people were deported back to Bosnia, to concentration camps. The soldier let Zerina’s family through, telling them it was only because of the young children. They were incredibly lucky.

In Macedonia the family quickly ran out of money, and had to live on the streets. They they weren’t granted refugee status, mainly because there were already too many refugees. However they had met a very kind man, who owned a shop and he gave them milk and breakfast every morning. This man brought them to a house, in a forest in Macedonia, where other Bosnians were living. They stayed there for 25 days before moving on again. They got on another bus and went through Bulgaria and Romania, up to Hungary, to Budapest where they lived on the streets. If they got hold of any money, they went to hostels for homeless people, where their only belongings were stolen one night.

Luckily Zerina’s uncle, who lived in France, was able to send some money so they stayed in a hotel for a few weeks. They then managed to get train tickets to Austria. Despite having no passports, nothing, they made it to Vienna. They stayed in a refugee centre for a few weeks: a massive factory hall, with hundreds of beds next to each other. Horrible conditions to live under for a long period of time, but fortunately they discovered that Ireland was accepting Bosnian refugees, so that’s how they came to Ireland.

There was a lot of media coverage at the time. Zerina’s family lived in a refugee centre for a year or two. Every family had their own room, which was, compared to Austria, luxury. Her parents were really grateful to be looked after. There were medical services, and entertainment, and volunteers who would interact with the Bosnian population there.

In the talk, Zerina said, “In Ireland, I never felt like a stranger. I always felt like one of the other children. I went to school, I had loads of friends. My parents had loads of friends. There were free English courses for Bosnian people and our neighbours would mind me and my sister while our parents were at school, so there was a great support mechanism within the community. And our neighbours, and everyone, really wanted to support us…I always felt very welcome.” Bosnians were provided with social services, community services, and training so they could get jobs more easily. There were two components. On the one hand, the Irish did a great job of integrating the Bosnian community. But the refugees were also given the chance to interact with people from their own culture. This was really important for people with a lot of traumatic experiences, coming from a war.

Going back was not an option anymore

When the war ended, every Bosnian was questioning whether to return to their country or not. For Zerina’s family, going back was not an option. Bosnia as it had been was divided into two parts: the federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the Serbian Republic. Since it was one country before, there were mixed ethnicities, so Bosnian-Serbs lived in the Republic, and everyone else lived in the federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina. And their house was in the Republic. Zerina described going back there as being like an Irish Protestant living in the Catholic part of Belfast right after the Troubles, or vice versa. It’s just not going to happen. In Foca, she said, when you go back today, you’ll see pictures of war criminals that killed many people being praised as heroes, and graffiti saying that Bosnia belongs to Serbia.

For Zerina’s family, going back was not an option. Bosnia as it had been was divided into two parts: the federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the Serbian Republic.

It wasn’t the home they once had; so they had to establish a new one. Eventually they went to Germany because they had a lot of family there and Germany is also, geographically, closer to Bosnia. Zerina went to school there, and she began to travel a lot…

When she was 15, the American Field Service, an organisation, came to her school giving a talk, after which she was absolutely convinced she wanted to do a year abroad. She got herself a scholarship and went to Argentina for a year, living with a host family – an “amazing experience”.

She returned to Germany where she started her Bachelor degree in Political Science, Sociology and Media and Communication Science, and while there she took part in an Erasmus programme. Her Erasmus took her to the University of Cadiz in Spain, where she had a great time and made great friends.

On her return to Germany, Zerina got herself an internship with the United Nations World Food programme, the largest humanitarian agency in the world. Their target is to end world hunger. She worked there for seven months and it fuelled her passion for development and humanitarian aid. And that’s how she’s back in Ireland, because she found a Master’s programme that appealed to her, in the field of development. She’s now studying a course called Development of Practice. She says she’s really happy to be back in Ireland because going to Germany was a tough move for her. This summer she’s going to Kenya for three months, again with the United Nations World Food programme, to research her dissertation on the socio-economic impact of home-grown school feeding programmes in Kenya.

Kenya 2016

Zerina says she considers herself very lucky, because she doesn’t think the life she has now would be possible if she hadn’t had those support mechanisms when she came to Ireland.

“When I see pictures like this, nowadays, it really touches my heart because that boy has the right to the same opportunities we have. Just because he’s from a different country, doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be able to interact normally in society. I ask myself, will these children be able to reach their full potential, like I was able to? And if we continue doing what we’re doing at the moment, the politicians especially, I would say no. …These children can’t become the best versions of themselves if they don’t have the right support mechanisms.”

This talk demonstrated to me that support systems don’t merely allow people to survive, they allow people to thrive. They allow refugees to achieve their full potential, grow as people, and give back. It is a long-term investment.

Whether it’s in relation to the appalling Direct Provision system in Ireland today or the response of the world in general to the current refugee crisis, we need to up our game. As Zerina says, it’s our responsibility to implement a policy of zero tolerance towards intolerance.

born in ireland

About the author:

Carol McGillCarol McGill (17) participated in the “My Europe” workshop in Dublin in 2014. She is a student at Mount Temple Comprehensive and loves to write, mostly short stories, in her free time. Carol also enjoys history, drama and reading. Most of all, she would like to be a writer, but is also interested to be involved in promoting human rights and reducing discrimination. More…