Politics & The WorldUncategorized

The recent Dutch election results are currently celebrated as a sign of hope for pro-European voices and a moment of glory for democracy in Europe. One group that claims to have made a contribution to the defeat of populism in the Netherlands is the movement #Pulse of Europe. Supporters demonstrated on public squares across Europe to the Dutch slogan ‘blijf bbij ons’ – stay with us.

Over the course of the past weeks, this protest movement has increasingly been covered by the media. In recent years, street protests across Europe have been anti-European, anti-immigration, anti-austerity or anti-Trump protests. Yet Pulse of Europe is different. It is not directed against something – but for. Last weekend the new civil movement has again managed to rally thousands of people across Europe – yet foremost in German cities – on the street. Their common cause:  demonstrating for Europe, notably to display an optimistic spirit and a positive atmosphere of hope. An atmosphere that was further fueled by the recent election results in the Netherlands. Under the umbrella of Pulse of Europe people have now gathered every Sunday since eight consecutive weeks in various city centers across the continent to demonstrate for Europe and the EU.

But what does this movement actually stand for and what do its supporters aim for? The origins can be traced in the German city of Frankfurt – which could be considered at the “pulse of Europe” by means of its central geographic location and as the siege of the European Central Bank. Pulse of Europe officially proclaims its’ objectives on its website: to contribute to the persistence of a united democratic Europe that is based on values such as respect for human rights and freedom of speech, a Europe which “secures peace and guarantees individual freedom, justice and legal security”. Shocked by the success of right-wing populists in the UK and the US and the surge of populist parties in Europe, its supporters aim to show that “the majority of people believe in the fundamental idea of the European Union, its reformability and development and does not want to sacrifice it to nationalist tendencies”. Due to the fact that the public debate is often dominated by „destructive”, anti-European-voices, those that still believe in a common European future should stand up and become more visible.

Dutch election results as a first victory

Certainly, Pulse of Europe incarnates the hope to wake up European societies and create a pro-European momentum against the backdrop of national elections in major EU member states. The Dutch election results were among the hottest topics for discussion between protesters in Germany. One of the lead organizers of one of the events argued on stage that the fact that Geert Wilders did not win the Dutch election was also due to the influence of Pulse of Europe. People in the Netherlands would have seen the protests, for example in a video on Facebook with the title ‘blijf bij ons’ , which has been watched more than 35.000 times. While the spectre of a PVV-led government is off the agenda for the moment being, populism is still prevailing throughout Europe. When French voters hit the ballot boxes in about a month’s time from now,  the biggest fear of a pro-European citizen is a victory of the Front National which would at best alienate one of the EU’s founding members and at worst lead to a Frexit and the threat to the very existence of the Union.

On March 25th Europe’s heart rate will accelerate

In Cologne/Germany, more than 1000 people gathered at the local pulse of Europe demonstration last Sunday. Demonstrators could be heard speaking German, French and English. Speeches from people of different origin were held on stage and a Ukrainian woman reminded the crowd that people in Kiev have paid with their life(s), demonstrating for the same European values as the people present in Berlin or Strasbourg. The following protest march was very slow and more of a Sunday-walk with the family than a hectic outburst of anger. Only very few people were yelling one of the previously distributed protest chants and crowds of children which had been brought along by their parents were playing with soap bubbles. The atmosphere was calm but pleasant as people were talking. This is how it looks like, a moment of European identity. Next weekend, on the 25th of March Europe will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome. The treaty is often described as the birth certificate of the EU. This weekend the pro-European protest movement will very likely reach a new peak, although other protest movements such as the March for Europe might lead to a more uncoordinated distribution of potential demonstrators. Either way, on this day Europeans will be visible.

 What is the real potential of the movement?

Men and women of every age group were present in Cologne, but one could see that the majority of the people were white and in their mid-thirties/forties. By their style of clothing, the overwhelming majority could be identified as middleclass or upper middleclass people. Frankly, the demonstrators were exactly those people that benefit the most from the EU. As an eye witness one could not help but being reminded that the EU is often described as a neoliberal project of the elites. The people present were all beneficiaries of the neoliberal capitalism that is an inherent part of the EU as an economic project. It is a project that has no mandate for social policies and has less to offer to people that are left behind in such a type of economy. Liberal European values are worthy to celebrate, but the European Union is very far from being perfect.

The EU needs to come up quickly with answers if the crowd is to look different and more colorful on future occasions. One answer could be a Union that becomes active in the field of social security and that stands up for a fair distribution of wealth, an EU that emphasizes its basic principle of solidarity. Arguably, for such an EU many people would go on the street. Such an EU – strong and united – could safeguard peace, prosperity and liberal values. It could shape the globalized world of today and tomorrow, so that no one in Europe feels left behind. Certainly, it would do better than any national state in the face of powerful tax evading multinational corporations or superpowers like China. This might be the real potential of Pulse of Europe: to revitalize European solidarity and to give the EU the mandate it needs to become a Union which everyone would be willing to support on the street.

 “In 2045 our grandchildren should celebrate 100 years of peace in Europe”

The upcoming weekend is indeed a moment to celebrate and to show support for the European values. Europeans reject an overly bureaucratic Brussels administration yet they crave for a free open society that is based on liberal values, prosperity, free movement of people, goods and services and foremost peace on the European continent. Why not join the movement (yourself)? Pulse of Europe pursues noble goals that are worth considering, especially when looking ahead to the future. One demonstrator’s sign read as follows: “In 2045 our grandchildren should celebrate 100 years of peace in Europe”. This peace seems to be endangered by the current surge of right wing populism. Resistance is imperative if the success of populism is to be curbed in favour of a united Europe. Geert Wilders has not won a majority in the Dutch election, but he still captured the second most votes of all parties. If not winning the election, he managed to shape the public debate, triggering the winning party VVD to adopt increasingly conservative lines.

The political struggle in Europe continues. Arguably the strongest argument to defuse the claims of right-wing populist comes from one of the populists’ own myths: When movements like Pulse of Europe rally thousands of people for the European cause, populist demagogues will have a hard time presenting themselves as the voice of the majority. To prove the demagogues wrong and to prevent uninformed decisions such as the Brexit to happen again, people should consider going for a nice spring-walk to their city center next weekend. And thereby contribute to the future of our continent. Democracy has been suffering long enough from lazy democrats. Therefore this article ends with the famous call of Stephané Hessel: Indignez-vous! Time for outrage! and feel the pulse of Europe.


Politics & The World

          by Cristian Mihai Lazăr.

In the last year Romania has inarguably found itself in a most decisive period for its future as a state. The importance derives from the internal politics that are outlined especially after the last elections, the parliamentary elections on December 11. Roughly one year after the protests that followed the tragedy of the Colectiv club (which resulted in 64 deaths), the protests which swept down a political government and consequently led to the establishment of a technocratic government, both for the legislature and the executive, it was now imperative the regain the political and popular legitimacy. This could not have been achieved in any other way except through the prism of democratic elections.

The campaign for this year’s legislative election was dull, lifeless and did not generate any collective emotions. Of course, the candidates were mainly responsible for this situation, but also a new electoral law was among the reasons as well – a law that is very rigid regarding the operations and financial expenses that can be conducted during the campaign. In comparison, ‘on the other side of the coin’ are the campaigns that are conducted in the USA, which are characterized by huge campaign budgets and popular entertainment aspects. Besides the two traditional political parties PSD (Social Democratic Party) and PNL (National Liberal Party) in competition for the confidence of voters, not even the new political parties (most of them having old personalities) managed to attract a substantial number of Romanians to vote. Speaking about the categories of voters: on the 11th of December the young people, unlike in the presidential elections when there was a massive presence of the youth which made the difference in the final outcome, this time they remained indifferent and less willing to vote. With a lack of a collective emotion and surprises, the elections confirmed what was already outlined: a predictable victory for the left wing. Nevertheless, the proportions were surprising.

After the political left lost the power last year in consequence to the public revolt which swept down the social-democratic Prime Minister, the PSD and the left wing parties secured a crushing victory receiving 45.47% of the total votes. We can observe that the victory of the Romanian political left wing was in accordance with the trend that already had formed in the East and South of Romania (as well as in both the Republic of Moldavia and in Bulgaria the left wing parties have achieved victory in last month’s elections). We can speak about a remarkable comeback, after the consequences of last year’s protests when the confidence in the party has decreased incredibly and the former Prime Minister, Victor Ponta, became prosecuted for corruption (an accusation which he denied). Nonetheless, the withdrawal from the government a year ago and the appointment of a cabinet of technocrats were a political-saving solution. In this way, the PSD basically managed to be at the same time in opposition and in government, keeping the key positions in the state both at local and central levels. Permanently, the socialists showed themselves hostile to the technocratic government, blocking any measure or attempt to reform a politicized administration. The “triumphing march” of these elections was also assured by the demagogic voracity and populist irresponsibility seen in some parts of the promoted government program. In brief, if the PSD program becomes reality, Romania would witness salary and pension increases, the elimination of half of existing taxes, a gigantic hospital built in the capital of Romania, new regional hospitals and no less than five new highways (it was not said when will it happen though, we shall see).

Managing this election victory won´t be easy, especially because the problem of this party will be to nominate a Prime Minister who can carry out this political program. The first option seems to be the current leader of the party, Liviu Dragnea – who is now being sentenced to 2 years of suspended prison for electoral fraud. However, the Romanian law does not allow the appointment of a convicted person into the government. The most recent political movements are showing that Liviu Dragnea has succumbed to pressures of the law enforcement and Sevil Shhaideh will probably represent PSD`s nominee and thus the future Head of Romanian Government. About Sevil Shhaideh, it is known that she is one of the closes political friends of Liviu Dragnea. In any way, in confrontation between the popular will and the rule of law, Romania cannot afford another political crisis at this moment. In these outlined circumstances it remains to be seen how the political hegemony of the PSD will evolve.

At the opposite side of this triumph we can notice the great failure of the main opposition, the National Liberal Party. As a consequence to the election outcome, the president of the party resigned the day after the elections. The problems of the party were not acute, but rather chronic. The symptoms of the defeat were also visible at local elections, where the results were far below expectations. The failure was generated by a lack of vision, and the lack of vision was generated by a lack of leadership. It may even be said that the PNL has participated at these elections without leaders. The message they promoted lacked substance and was more focused on the possible damage of a PSD victory. However, there seemed to be a few positive signs as well as the party came up with new candidates, promoting many young people and a fresher elite in different policy areas. The reforming of the party is relevant not only for its own salvation as a political party but also to provide Romania with a powerful right-wing in its politics spectrum to assure a viable balance of the political powers. They need to get rid of the tired portraits and adopt a persuasive, combatant, and articulated speech. The National Liberal Party must become again liberal more than ever.

The astonishing item of the elections was the appointment in the Parliament of the USR (Save Romania Union) party with a redoubtable score of 8.87% of the votes for a party which is less than one year old. This party managed to win the confidence of Romanians that are unsatisfied with the “system” and with the current political class. Lacking experience and based on criticism so far, this young political party emerged as the third force in the new Parliament, despite limited resources and logistics. More than ever, they will need an offensive energy, strength, and most of all in order to assure their existence in politics, they must find an ideological identity.

The former president of Romania, Trăian Băsescu, has claimed himself to be the main opposition for the future left wing Cabinet along with the Popular Movement Party whose leader he is. This is a new party, participating in its first parliamentary elections and becoming part of the new legislature by passing the electoral threshold.  In order to ensure a sustainable coalition, PSD will also be supported by ALDE, a party which is led by the former liberal Prime Minister C. P. Tariceanu. The Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania, a party of minorities, is the other party that managed to be appointed in the Parliament and it has great chances to form too a coalition with PSD and be in government together. As a positive item, unlike in many European cases, fortunately the current nationalist-xenophobic voices did not win the confidence of voters and failed to be appointed into Parliament these elections.

In the 11th of December the voters have expressed themselves in a categorical way. As in any democracy, the majority speaks and the manifested option cannot be contested. Its implications will be major. During this mandate, in 2019, Romania will be one of the countries to hold the presidency of the EU Council. Thus, another reason why the votes of Romanians given on the 11th of December will weigh a lot more, influencing both the national and European political spectrum.

Image by Janrito Karamazov, taken from photopin

Politics & The World

by Erik Kemmling

This week the twelfth round of negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) started – and the deal is as controversial as ever. TTIP has been one of the most prominent European issues of the past years. It triggered a mass politicization in 2015 but has recently lost a bit of its salience because of the refugee crisis.  Nevertheless, just like the refugee crisis, TTIP will accompany us throughout the new year. It is therefore important to recap and reflect now in order to have new food for thought for 2016.

I personally have decided to be against TTIP and I hope it will be rejected. Nevertheless, I see it as a distinct chance for Europe, especially with regard to its democratic accountability. How do these views fit together? At a first read such an opinion seems completely devious. In the coming paragraphs I will show why it is not, but first, it is important to recapitulate arguments in favor and against the deal.

Since it is a trade agreement, economic reasons seem to be of capital importance. Yet, calculations about potential GDP growth on each side of the Atlantic are rather questionable, as some studies show.

Another argument in favor of TTIP is its geostrategic importance. The US is the closest partner of the EU and is particularly needed considering the EU’s lack of hard power. Arguably, France and the UK have strong militaries but still no mission can be carried out without the help of the US. Also, since the enlargement process has come to a halt, the main soft power source of the EU has become toothless. The result is that countries in the European neighborhood and elsewhere favor cooperation with the China over the EU. China invests in development, but without demanding the respect of human rights in return, which is welcomed by many authoritarian leaders. Thus, an agreement such as TTIP that could foster EU-US relations would potentially increase the EU’s influence globally. For the EU’s geopolitical strategy TTIP is beneficial.

Let’s turn to the criticisms. Concerns over data and consumer protection have been among the most commonly cited. Just think of the famous chlorinated chicken. However, the main criticism is the lack of democratic accountability. Despite of what the chief-negotiator Cecilia Malmström might say, TTIP has several distinct characteristics that make it undemocratic.

First and foremost, the style of the negotiations. To test if something is democratic one can use the characteristics defined by Abraham Lincoln: “Government of the people, by the people and for the people”. Implicit in those characteristics is that government by the people preconditions opportunities for discovering and validating choices that best serve the citizens’ interest. In short, transparency is vital for democracy. Yet, the negotiations have not only been in-transparent but held in secret. This has been a major reason why the European public became suspicious and why the issue became popular. The Commission tried to respond to this criticism with various measures. Since recently, EU parliamentarians can go to reading rooms and have a look at parts of the documents but are not allowed to copy, photograph or even speak about the content. It is hard to speak of a real improvement in terms of transparency here.

Second, the investor-state dispute settlement mechanism (ISDS), allowing companies to sue governments for profits they missed out on because of changes in policies. Governments will fear massive state losses and refrain from social, cultural and ecological policies that would otherwise benefit European society. This cannot really be considered government for the people.

So where do we go from here?  Understandably, a big part of European society is against this very undemocratic treaty that will have devastating effects on the environment, consumers and national governance. Others consider TTIP economically and strategically indispensable for the EU’s role in the world. Where should we stand? Should we stop it? Can we even stop it? Considering what is known about TTIP at this point, the reasons to be against outweigh the reasons to be in favor. Yet, decision-makers do not seem to deviate from their course. 2016 will be a year of debate and protest again.

Despite all the quarrels about TTIP there is a third perspective I would like to introduce. TTIP as a chance for the EU.

TTIP has led to mass demonstrations across Europe. People stand together in a solidary manner and fight for what they like about the EU, ranging from culture, consumer rights and the environment to democratic principles that are not yet completely in line with neo-liberal capitalism. Those demonstrations mark a true European moment. Those are the kind of moments we need in times of a lack of European solidarity, Schengen possibly at threat and alarming developments for example in Poland. TTIP has put a big part of European society on the same page. The treaty politicized the European public and enhanced European civil society.  Active citizens are what a healthy democracy needs and active European citizens are what the EU needs.

For years, one of the most common criticisms of the EU has been its lack of democratic legitimacy, characterized by a weak EP and a technocratic Commission that is said to have lost the connection to EU citizens. The gap between citizens and decision-makers seems to have been too big for too long, TTIP being the latest example. The European Commission and national leaders could now listen to the people and make the treaty acceptable. This would at least mean full transparency and no ISDS. If the treaty becomes one that is shaped by European citizens it would silence critics of the EU. It would prove that the institutional setup of the EU is democratic enough and that civil society can compensate an inherent problem of democratic accountability. People would see their voice matter in the EU. At this point we need to stop dreaming. Nothing points to this utopian compromise.

Therefore, I personally hope to see a rejection of TTIP. Even without TTIP, the US will remain the closest partner of the EU. But despite the apparent strategic tragedy, TTIP will have created a European civil society, a civil society that has defended the rights and principles of the EU. Maybe we should start to consider this a strategic asset for the EU in a global order.

Image by Mehr Demokratie/Friends of the Earth Europe/Lode Saidane, taken from flickr

Lifestyle & Innovation

by Philip Moore.

Refugees stopped in Hungary on their way to Germany; French and Italian officials working day and night to keep Greece in the Eurozone; Eastern and Western European nations clashing over Europe’s relationship with Russia. If you were alive these past six months – a safe bet if you’re reading this article – you probably encountered at one point or another the strange beast we call the ‘European problem’.

This most irksome of life forms can thrive and multiply in any environment. There it is, lurking inside your sim card, or messing about in your soup; most of all it seems to prefer your newspaper, its natural habitat, where it awaits the opportunity to strike. Soon, experts warn, there will be a ‘European problem’ hiding behind every headline, and there will be nothing you or I can do about it.

It is perhaps the ultimate cliché to assert that European problems require European solutions. This may or may not be true, depending on the issue; what is certain is that they require a European understanding. Without an informed European citizenry, aware of the context and constraints in which national politics operate, conscious of the deep interconnectedness between all member states, and ready to hold decision-makers at every level accountable for their actions, there can be little hope of addressing the common crises our continent is facing.

Yet the media that most European citizens engage with is almost uniformly national in scope.  If you are a Pole, Poland is the centre of the world; if you are Austrian, everything revolves around Austria[1].  Other member states are presented as (at best) friendly rivals or (at worst) threats to the nation’s wellbeing. Interactions between member states are reduced to a zero sum game: where France gains, the United Kingdom loses, and vice versa.

Meanwhile, anything that comes out of Europe is either sinister, too soporific to pay any closer attention to, or both. Consider, for example, how often your national politicians blame European institutions for decisions they personally approved – and journalists let them get away with it. No one would deny that local and national newspapers are vital organs of a healthy democracy; but an exclusively national framing of current events can only foster ignorance and resentment.

To counter this tendency, there have been many courageous initiatives in pan-European media, this paper included. Although a decisive step in the right direction, they remain too few and too limited in their audience. The emerging ‘European public sphere’ has so far struggled to find its public.  For too long, Europe has been depicted as the province of unscrupulous lobbyists and insipid bureaucrats.

It is particularly revealing, for instance, that a number of online publications restrict articles about the European Union to premium readers. By a strange circular logic, it is assumed that only a niche audience will want to inform themselves about the EU; therefore, any EU-related article is hidden behind a pay wall; therefore, only a niche audience informs themselves about the EU. QED. Is it any wonder that so many perceive the EU to be an exclusive, elitist club?

It is time to proclaim, boldly and loudly, that Europe is interesting. Yes, Europe is interesting – not only the European Union, but also Europe, the living, breathing continent, our common home of cheese, cathedrals and American tourists. And it is interesting not only to pro-Europeans, but also to eurosceptics, and to those who at the moment could not care less which direction Europe is headed, but probably should.

For the European public sphere to concern all Europeans, pan-European media must be unafraid to expand its ambitions and explore uncharted territory. Our national media flourishes because of a wild diversity we often take for granted. In the open democracies of Europe, there is a paper, channel or website for everyone – some serious-minded, others crazy and offbeat, some cultural, others countercultural, some elitist and restrained, others populist and rabidly partisan.

Why can’t European media emulate this diversity? Where is the European ‘Daily Show’? Where is the hard-hitting European investigative journalism? There are dozens of ventures begging to be started by those ready to seize the opportunity.

A European online satirical newspaper is currently in development and should be out in the coming months. Many more initiatives will have to follow: building the European public sphere will take more than one project or group, no matter how dedicated. Your ideas, your contributions are desperately needed.

It is the 1989 Generation Initiative’s hope that they will combine to redefine European media in the 21st century, paving the way for a more open and democratic pan-European conversation.


This article comes from our partner organization, the 1989 Generation Initiative. You can find more information on them on their website, Facebook, and EurActiv blog.


Image taken from Flickr, by 24oranges.nl.

Politics & The World

by Filip Rambousek

On the 30th of October, the EU has gone through with its promise to temporarily lift sanctions against Belarus. More specifically, the EU will for four months raise its travel ban on 170 individuals, as well as its asset freeze of three entities in Belarus.

The promise to raise these sanctions was a carrot dangled in front of Lukashenko before the recent elections. In exchange, Lukashenko had to respond with some degree of liberalisation of his regime.

In concrete terms, the EU demanded slightly more democratic elections, and a release of some political prisoners. Lukashenko made good on both expectations. In August, he released six political prisoners. Before the elections, he allowed the only opposition candidate, Tatsiana Karatkevich, to be interviewed by the main government newspaper. During the elections, the OSCE’s observes were met with fewer obstacles to carry out their work than previously. Overall, the OSCE cited “positive developments” in the Belarusian electoral process.

Still, Lukashenko has not suddenly become a dedicated democrat. The political prisoners, while physically out of jail, remain under close government supervision, with many of their civil liberties curtailed. Despite the improvements, we also cannot speak about democratic elections in Belarus. Belarusian civil society representatives complained about non-transparent vote counting. The OSCE’s head observer agreed, stating that “it is clear that Belarus still has a long way to go towards fulfilling its democratic commitments”.

But why should an authoritarian like Lukashenko, after 21 years in charge, and who even without the rigging of votes has the genuine support of around 60% of Belarusians, bother with pleasing the West? The answer is simple: Europe has changed, and its last dictator with it. In fact, Lukashenko has long lost the right to this moniker. This title has been, yet again, rightfully claimed by the leader of Russia. Putin’s regime, with its domestic repression and foreign aggression, currently represents the biggest threat to the EU, as well as the global order. In reality, he is now one of the “better” dictators in the authoritarian pantheon.

Lukashenko is a shrewd, cold pragmatist, whose only goal is to stay in power. He is very well aware of the threat that the new doctrine of Putinism presents to his position in Belarus. With his invasion of Ukraine, Putin has declared that he has the right to get involved in the internal affairs of any country with a Russian minority. Because of this, Belarus is obviously a prime candidate for the Russian army’s next trip abroad. To Lukashenko, a slight liberalisation of the regime represents a lesser evil, and a lesser threat to his power, than a further deterioration of his relations with the West and total dependency on Russia.

Lukashenko is therefore doing all he can to reinforce Belarusian independence. His concerns were well illustrated in the elections’ propaganda campaign. While in the past, government posters emphasised economic progress and social stability, this year, the billboards boasted Belarusian soldiers, with slogans such as “Standing on the Guard of Belarusian Independence”. More importantly, Lukashenko has recently rejected Russian designs at a new army base in Belarus, retorting, rather prosaically, that Belarus “doesn’t need it”.

This geopolitical shift is also reflected in the sudden thaw in the relations between the EU and Belarus. While the support of the respect of human rights abroad is an important aspect of EU’s foreign policy, Lukashenko has not done enough to deserve this immediate change of European attitude towards his country. Rather Lukashenko has played his cards well, and managed to place himself in a position wherein he is at the same time universally disliked and yet indispensable. According to Radio Free Europe’s Brian Whitmore,

At home, he has turned himself into a bulwark against domination by Moscow. For Moscow, he’s turned himself into a last line of defence against a pro-Western Coloured Revolution in Belarus. For the West, he has made himself useful as a counterweight to Moscow.

This thaw may, therefore, actually be a rare example of pragmatism, strategy, and long-sightedness in the EU’s foreign policy. The removal of sanctions is a concrete concession, designed to bring Putin’s erstwhile vassal closer to the EU’s sphere of influence. For once, it seems, the EU has decided to seize the day.

It has made a good first step, and should continue in this strategy. It should support Lukashenko’s every liberalising step, and offer concrete financial and other rewards in exchange. In this way, Belarus would decrease its dependency on Russia further. At the same time, the EU should keep pushing for increased respect for human rights, and threaten Lukashenko with an immediate and stricter imposition of sanctions, should he backtrack.

This will have the effect of isolating Russia, but it will not change Belarus. It is crucial to keep in mind that in Belarus Lukashenko holds genuine, overwhelming support of the population. If the EU also aims at promoting human rights and democratic principles, therefore, the education of the younger generation of Belarusians is the only way of shifting the country westwards. The EU should support, with financial and political means, the efforts of Belarusian civil society, independent media and NGOs. There are some interesting projects going on such as Dutch-Polish Russian language TV project, which is designed to counter Russian propaganda. This has high potential, since most Belarusians get their information precisely from Russian language TV.

These are long term plans. For now, we should support any country, and any dictator, who has made even a symbolical gesture at a departure from Putin’s inner circle.

Image by United Nations Photo, taken from flickr