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

It is well-known that Spanish politicians have been unable to reach an agreement after nine months of political uncertainty and instability. The Spanish political landscape which had been dominated by two parties was shaken up and party leaders were unable to produce a compromise which would allow to build a coalition government. It is worth looking at these developments quickly before coming to the central question: how do we, the youth, feel when seeing that the leaders, we are supposed to look up to, cannot reach consensus and resolve this chaotic situation?

Spain had its national elections on December 20, 2015. For the first time, not two, but four potentially governing parties were competing; it was not only about Conservatives (PP) and Socialists (PSOE) anymore, but also about two new parties: Podemos (left-wing and similar to Syriza) and Ciudadanos (liberal Citizens). Mariano Rajoy, the PP’s leader, came out with most votes, but without a majority big enough to govern. The actual result? Six months of confusion and no real agreement. Even though some parties held talks, none of them came close to creating a sufficiently large coalition.

Six months later, on June 26, 2016, Spaniards were called to vote again. Things did not change much; the two established parties had a bigger share of the votes, but it still was not enough to govern. However, this time they came at least a bit closer: Ciudadanos agreed to support PP in in exchange for the promise to pursue stricter laws to fight corruption. Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez in the meantime, kept repeating he would always say “no” to Mariano Rajoy, regardless of Rajoy heading the party with most votes.

Podemos, led by Pablo Iglesias, has not played an important role since the second elections. However, since neither the PP and Ciudadanos coalition nor the PSOE and Podemos coalition are able to reach a majority alone, the question could be if Socialists and Podemos will reach an agreement with the support of other leftists and nationalists parties (something similar to what happened in Portugal).

Now, what feeling does this political deadlock convey to the population and most importantly, the youth? There is a strong feeling of hopelessness and annoyance towards our political leaders. People ask: How can any of these parties pretend to be able to lead a whole country if they cannot even talk among themselves? Although this chaos has completely blocked the state institutions and slowed down foreign investment, some politicians prefer to look after personal interest and party considerations. Only one single agreement has been reached and credit shall be given for that: to change the date of the possible third national elections, in case they have to be invoked, since by following the amount of days stated in the Constitution the elections would happen on Christmas day and, of course, going on vacation is more important than having a government.

Meanwhile the population gets active in other ways: An online platform has gathered over 140,000 signatures demanding politicians to stop earning a public salary until they actually start working. Socialist Felipe Gonzales, Spain’s longest president (from 1982 to 1996) has also suggested that all parties must replace their leaders if Spain has to go to third elections.

In the end, Spain’s political scenario today looks quite absurd. Some of the parties that did not win are eager for power and apparently will not stop until they get it (a coalition of ‘losers’ sounds undemocratic to me). On the other side, the one who won is sank in dozens of corruption scandals that are coming to light every now and then, putting into question the quality of the Spanish system. All together, no political party seems to be taking the chaos seriously enough to actually talk, negotiate, and bring us a president. What remains is to protest against this incompetence at highest level and to hope that, at least, our generation does not repeat these failures. Hopefully one day they will feel pressured enough to put the national interest ahead of their personal one.

A Diary From the Eastern FrontSpecials

by Filip Rambousek, Kiev.

My summer has not been fun. So far, I believe I have spent the majority of my time calling, emailing and otherwise begging strangers for help, which was usually followed by trips to various administrative offices in Kyiv, Ukraine. All the while I am technically on holiday.  

But finally, tomorrow morning, I’ll set out for for Kyiv’s main train station, and catch a rather slow fast train to the east of Ukraine. Because this isn’t just any trip, I’m really quite excited.

Over the following week, I will travel through the main areas of the so called Anti-Terrorist Operation Area (ATO), from Donetsk all the way south to Mariupol (see map), with the aim of spending time on the front line, interviewing soldiers, civil society representatives, and volunteers.  

Kiew=kyivinsteadofkievDuring my trip, I will use the Campus Europe website as my personal diary, and will update it every day of the week with (hopefully) interesting stories, as well as photos.   

My motivation for this trip is manifold. I have always been interested in war journalism, international security, as well as the post-Soviet states. This trip means that I can experience a bit of both first hand.

On a broader level, I am worried about what is happening with the world, and especially on the EU’s frontier, whether in the East or in the South. If I am to have a more accurate understanding, I need to experience these events personally. I cannot expect anyone to take me seriously when I write about war or conflict without ever having set foot anywhere near a frontline. I can’t advocate for a country, whether the US today, or the EU in future, to go to war, without at least trying to come close to how these learned and distant decisions affect the soldiers and civilians on the ground.

More personally, I feel as if my experiences lack when its comes to extraordinary and perhaps risky adventures. I believe that now is the best time to pursue these passions, while I have few commitments still. It may seem silly or like a romantic cliche, but I want to be able to tell anecdotes a little more interesting than office gossip.

I am also very curious to talk with the many volunteers and soldiers, many of whom are younger than I am, and most of whom had plans and careers different from risking their lives in a hybrid war. I believe that through this experience, I will learn a little bit both about myself, and the society that I live in.

Would I, my classmates or colleagues, be willing to throw everything away and join a rather cash strapped, inefficient army? I am not so sure, and I want to see whether there is some deeper difference in worldview or culture that has led many Ukrainians to join up. Do they share they share the patriotic excitement so eery to the modern reader of Remarque, Orwell or Hemingway? Are they fighting to finally leave the European borderlands and once and for all join the West, or are they simply defending their country from a foreign invader?

The Ukrainians deserve our help. I believe this is more or less clear to anyone who will ever read my upcoming entries, and those who disagree won’t come near reading them in the first place. In other words, I have no illusions regarding exercising any meaningful influence, or “creating awareness”, about the war. Because of this, I am also not going to pretend that I have some noble aim to help the civilians or the soldiers in their plight. I may change my mind afterwards, but I believe there are far more qualified people on the ground doing far more than I could possibly hope to achieve in my week’s visit.

Above all, I am going to learn for myself, and I look forward to sharing whatever I find with you.


You can also follow Phil on twitter: @rambousekf

Picture by Sasha Maksymenko.

Politics & The World

On June 23rd, the UK will decide whether to stay in the European Union. From a European perspective, what is frightening about this debate is not the xenophobic and often racist rhetoric used by parts of the anti-EU camp, but the nerveless arguments put forward by the EU-supporters.

There is a very simple and often entertaining way to get a glimpse of what many Brits have to deal with in the current Brexit debate. One merely has to go to a supermarket or local newspaper kiosk and read the headlines of The Daily Mail or the Sunday Express. With one hundred percent certainty (!) one will find the word “migrant” on the first page. Begging, stealing and raping their way through the island, Brits have to be careful because wherever they go, there will be a sneaky Syrian behind the next corner, ready to take their job and infect their children with what-have-you.

While this might seem quite irritating, strangely familiar to some extent and possibly ridiculous, what is actually scary from a European perspective is not the overt racism of the far-right but the ambitionless, unemotional conduct of the supporters of Britain in Europe.

The main part of the Brexit debate in the UK centres on the economic costs or benefits of staying in or leaving. While the Vote Leave campaign claims that the UK pays about £350 million to the EU each week – a number that ignores the vast economic benefits and subsidies the UK gets in return – the pro-EU camp spends a lot of effort refusing these claims and pointing to the economic benefits of staying. As a result, their arguments have pejoratively been labelled ‘Project Fear’. Boris Johnson and his fellows make repeated emotional appeals to British citizens that hardly contain any argumentative power. Comparing the European Union to Hitler was but the last expression of this trend.

Emotional arguments are often used in political debates and not necessarily condemnable. They can help creating a feeling of collectivity and shared interests as opposed to the political antagonist. As such they are essential for democratic discussion. It is therefore all the more frustrating to see the pro-EU side’s reluctance to appeal to emotions and ideals. The project of European integration is a great ideal and an emotional issue. Bringing 28 member states together in shared supranational institutions is a difficult task that cannot solely be dealt with in a technical manner. Mutual understanding of the historic importance of this unique enterprise is necessary as well as a shared vision for future development. The lack of emotional support that is currently spreading all over the Union and normally inherent to Euro-sceptics, seems to also have befallen the British Europhiles.

Tony Blair in March has criticised the EU supporters for not showing enough passion. He noticed a lack of enthusiasm among those campaigning to remain, and he is right. The Brexit debate is too self-centred on the advantages and disadvantages that the decision taken on June 23rd would have for the UK. When asked at a Brexit debate at the London School of Economics and Political Science why the pro-side so significantly lacked passion and an emotional appeal, the author and journalist Hugo Dixon said that Brits simply were “pragmatic” and that the debate should therefore focus on “practical things” rather than “ideals”.

Leaving the rhetoric power of emotional appeals entirely to the anti-EU side is a problematic and possibly dangerous endeavour. What is at stake is not just “a matter of economic realism”, to use Tony Blair’s words again, but also “a matter of political idealism”. The EU supporters should finally appeal to the great narrative of a united Europe that is crucial for maintaining peace and allowing its members a strong, united voice in the international sphere, rather than allow their opponents to nail them down on the economic, self-interested narrative.


Image by Gwydlon M. Williams.

Pitching Europe

  • by Riccardo Venturi 

True “Euro-Enthusiasts” always think optimistically about the possible reforms that could re-shape the European Union, reversing what is probably its biggest crisis ever. There has been a lot of discussion on the various formulas capable of improving the political status of Europe and its legitimacy among the citizens, and on the related measures changing the current economic models towards greater integration and sustainability.

The 1989 Generation Initiatives places itself amongst these “visionaries”. However, we believe that, before and besides thinking about a way forward for the EU, we must clarify what Europe is and what being European means in a wider sense, in order to achieve concrete results. That is why the Initiative focuses primarily on civil society, putting Europeans, specifically the youth, at the centre of its agenda.

Following this premise, we can easily affirm that European integration cannot be considered a goal by itself, our scope cannot be simply political and must go beyond this dimension. We do not aim at involving people in a project designed to “generate” a common identity. On the contrary, the 1989 Generation Initiative believes that – as we are already de facto Europeans citizens, with all the things that this entails – we need to get practical customs clearance for this fact by developing projects accessible to everyone. The next generations in particular will not be willing to think about their lives without the conditions, the situations and the privileges that relate to the status of EU citizen. Thus, in order to re-define the European project, we must adopt a bottom-up approach based on the common ground of personal experiences, professional advantages, eased mobility and channels of interaction deriving from the EU, and expand it. In fact, this spiral of opportunities is already feasible in Europe right now, thanks to an existing reality made of common values, expectations and rules that we all share.

In the long term, this scenario could further evolve into the idea that moving, living, working and studying in different countries and languages could be “routine” for any European citizen. The cultural barriers would be necessarily strained by these habits and the emergence of a prevailing European dimension would be the natural consequence of this process, as it has already happened to millions of people. To accelerate the course of the events and achieve these outstanding objectives, the 1989 Generation Initiative bases its projects on the so-called “Erasmus spirit”, potentially broadening its outreach to the entire society. Hence, we call for two specific policy proposals following the above-explained approach in two crucial areas: education and the media.

In relation to the first one, we aim at introducing a “Pan-European Accreditation Agency of Education” capable of breaking the borders between the national education systems and the different kinds of learning, closing the formal gap between formal and non-formal education. Basically, any institution offering training activities and courses could submit its application to the Agency, that would in turn evaluate the offered courses according to the compatibility with its overall goal and quality assurance of the learning outcomes. This policy not only has the potential to increase the overall quality of the educational space by promoting integration between the different systems, but it could also create new meeting spaces for all the European citizens involved in education or in the life-long learning. Most importantly, we believe that this reform will leave an important footprint in the educational paths of the next generations that will have increased opportunities to choose their study or training destination abroad.

At the same time, as the 1989 Generation Initiative considers civil society a natural engine for projects and ideas that could favour intra-European interactions, this is especially true for the media sector, where the new forms of communication and social platforms are changing the old national and vertical system of information. The proposal of a “European Media Incubator” entails a funding scheme articulated in Key Actions that is supposed to facilitate the development of a common European public sphere in general and of pan-European media grassroots projects in particular. Projects would simply need to be in media, demonstrate a European dimension and have a potential for viability. That being so, this platform would combine in an integrated approach funding, services, mentorship, logistical support, know-how as well as training for journalists and non-professionals. This would foster greater public debate on European themes across the continent and would also start a mechanism through which multi-national media projects would be easier to set up.

To conclude, with these two proposals, we envisage concrete ways through which European youth can take ownership of the European project, combining their direct interests and expectations with an environment full of new opportunities. After all, we cannot talk about Europe without putting the main characters at the centre of its stage.

Pitching Europe

Anti-Corruption International (ACI) is an innovative non-profit organization aiming to bring together young people from around the world to research and combat corruption related issues, share experiences and develop ideas in a constructive environment to fight corruption and to put pressure on institutions to implement anti-corruption mechanisms. We know that ACI can bring about revolutionary change in the world and we are determined to make a world free from corruption a reality.  Following the International Student Festival in Trondheim (ISFiT), we were successfully established the 20th March 2015 and have been expanding across Europe and indeed the world, establishing national chapters and working on local and international corruption issues. Our first national chapter was launched in Dublin, Ireland, the country where the international organisation is now registered.

From our early stages of development we have sought to ensure mutual growth through collaboration, and working with partners such as the European Student Think-tank has been a tremendous help for the work we do. So if you are interested in ensuring corruption finds no home within Europe, then you are more than welcome to join the work we do. Over the next months we have a number of plans to revolutionise not only how corruption is discussed but to explore how it impacts core underpinnings of such important values as democracy, rule of law and development. For us it is important to ensure that young people use the energy and motivation to ensure that we harness their propensity for change and see real tangible results. In this regard, during the next few months we will be working on launching our first young African leaders summit in Uganda and also kicking off projects in Germany on whistleblowers and corruption. We are really excited to be a part of the Pitching Europe project: It is so important to highlight how valuable it can be to work together towards a common goal(s) and we look forward to working more with this initiative over the coming months and years to come.

Anti-Corruption International is looking forward to working with the EST in Macedonia within the next months, where we have a series of Anti-Corruption workshops planned to promote transparency and create corruption awareness amongst citizens and students.

President of Anti Corruption International, Jason Deegan, was an EST Ambassador two years before founding the organization. About his experience in ACI, Jason has stated:

“This is where I am writing from now, because of my experiences in the EST I have been inspired to work with young people from around the world to tackle a global issue, the issue of corruption. Within 6 months we have expanded rapidly and consider to do so, we are reaching out to build partnership with youth organisations such as the EST and will continue to work with young people from around the world in relation to how we can best tackle corruption”.

Career & Education

Since 2014, the European Voluntary Service (EVS) is one of the new components of the Erasmus+ program. It offers an opportunity to applicants aged between 17 and 30 to spend 2-12 months volunteering abroad, most often within the non-profit or non-governmental sector.

However, the EVS remains unknown to many young people across Europe. That might be one of the reasons why very few consider it as a valuable working experience, or even as a way into the job market. Moreover, the term ‘volunteering’ might come with a specific/negative connotation evoking a free time activity rather than something connected to professional development.

Whatever the reason might be, it seems that the European Commission is either putting little effort into spreading information about the EVS, or does a bad job at disseminating them. Certainly, this program has been left behind in terms of promotion, especially in comparison to the Erasmus+ exchange semester.

The promotion of the EVS usually depends on the local organizations offering vacancies. Increasingly, social media play a role too. Vacancies are posted in a number of unofficial Facebook groups, not only for the EVS, but also for a rising number of youth exchanges under the Erasmus+ program action.

Attitudes among young Europeans towards the EVS also vary considerably across EU member states and partner countries. Many young people in Germany – and presumably in other western European countries, view the EVS mainly as an opportunity to spend a gap year between high school and university abroad while improving their language skills. On the other hand, people from the central and eastern European countries approach the EVS more as a working opportunity, although the language aspect remains very important for them too.

Most interestingly however, especially young people in the EU partner countries (e.g. Ukraine, Moldova) have become increasingly aware of the EVS, since it constitutes a relatively easy way to be able to work in an EU country without complicated visa application processes. Interestingly, as opposed to volunteers from Western Europe, the young people coming from elsewhere are usually older (in their mid-20s) and hold either a Bachelor’s or even Master’s degree.

But what is it actually like to work as an EVS volunteer? Can it really be seen as a relevant work experience?

The EVS offers a lot of perks. The move abroad is made very easy, one could perhaps say as easy as possible. Everything from accommodation and address registration to insurance with unusually wide coverage is taken care of. This includes even assistance with buying tickets from one’s home country if needed. A financial assistance is also provided. While the exact remuneration depends on the country, it generally falls short only slightly of the earnings for most European interns or trainees. Maybe only someone who has already moved to another country to either study or work ‘on their own’ before can appreciate this to the full extent. Besides having the time to simply enjoy the new country, participants can take care of those aspects of the EVS which might not be as well organized.

Anyone who has ever taken part in an Erasmus+ exchange semester during university studies, or even in a short-term youth exchange mentioned before, knows that it involves lots of bureaucracy. This can lead to difficulties with regard to general organization, delayed payments, and a long list of other problems. This, of course, goes for most EVS stays too. While the above mentioned assistance when moving to another country might not always go as smooth and the application process can take up to one year, the main problem probably lies in the stay itself, which is governed by few rules given by the European Commission.

However, this ambiguity in the European Commission rules, as well as in the hosting organization requirements, might be exploited in favor of the volunteers. Participants can, to a large extent, shape their experiences themselves. With a proactive approach, it is feasible to focus on the tasks a person is interested in and over time gain more responsibility in the organization. The organizations are after all required to respond to the needs and wishes of volunteers, and there are quite a few channels available for participants to voice their concerns or complaints if needed.

In this sense, there is more pressure put on the ‘employer’ than in a conventional job or traineeship. Needless to say, for the things to go smooth, proper research about the hosting organization and clear communication of one’s goals and wishes before the arrival is crucial. There are a high number of organizations participating in the EVS program and it cannot be expected that all of them have been verified to meet certain standards.

It is clear that the EVS is a particular kind of working experience, which might or might not be well accepted by future employers. However, especially in times when entering the job market is becoming increasingly difficult for young people, it might be an option to enrich one’s CV and gain skills.

Working experience abroad in an international environment is something that has almost become a must nowadays. Add a great opportunity to practice a foreign language and the EVS starts to seem like the right choice. And whether or not the stay turns out as expected, how you will choose to sell your experience afterwards is entirely up to you!

image by Knokton, taken from flickr

Campus Europe Goes Balkans

by Nikola G. Petrovski

would start with a brief introduction of Macedonia’s path towards the EU. On the one hand the Republic of Macedonia is the first state of the Western Balkans that signed the Stabilization and Association Agreement in April, 2001, which came into force three years later in 2004. But on the other hand, we are still stuck in between the name issue, the Copenhagen criteria and the domestic political transition. Along with the last Progress Report, the EU Commission once again set (the 6th) positive recommendation to start negotiations for EU membership.

The problem is that the evaluation has been made basically according to the fact – how many changes have been made in the legislation in particular areas, where the European Union pointed on the needed changes, but not on how that changes the reality.

A European Future

Thus, the comments on the last Progress Report regarding the Macedonian accession were not so warm. Most of the previous problems the country had faced during the enlargement process remained more or less on the same level, such as the rule of law, judicial independence, the reform of public administration, freedom of expression, electoral reform and strengthening the market economy.

Hence, the ex-Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy Stefan Fule stressed that “the integration process faces a halt, and [that] concrete actions are required in areas such as the freedom of media and the independence of the judiciary. There is also an urgent need to find a solution to the name row with Greece and the political crisis (…) The parties’ interests have been placed before the national interest, therefore we demand and expect the government and the opposition in the country to be responsible, to enable the political debate within the parliament and to contribute towards the creation of terms to function”.

According to the opinion of the EU’s ambassador to Macedonia, Aivo Orav, “although Macedonia’s recommendation on EU accession remains, the country needs to undertake serious reforms (…) for what the state failed to accomplish this past year. (…) The report was not only criticism but a clear guideline on further actions and there were many concerns in the report, such as the increasing polarization of the state institutions, the government’s control over the media, the political crisis and the party’s interest. Despite all of this, the recommendation has been given with regrets for the failed issues.

The last Progress Report was like an announcement for the upcoming events and the political crisis. A few months later, after the opposition’s leader uncovered a political scandal, he held weekly press conferences presenting audio recordings (called “bombs”) among (as he claims) high representative bodies of the state regarding various issues related to the abuse of their power as government officers.

Domestic Protests

That gave a rise to a lot of different protests. To begin with, the one where students protested about the bad reforms in the higher education – they had to occupy the universities in order to be heard; the next one was where a group of citizens protested about a girl who was not sent on time to surgery because of a decision that had been made by the public health system officials; the workers also protested, namely about the high personal tax on their income; another group of people protested because of partially and biased news reporting on the national television; large groups of high school students are also protesting, staying in tents in front of the building of the Ministry of Education.; and the most massive one  – the protest about the  “bomb” of the audio recordings where some new facts about the murder of a 22 years old boy through a police officer back in 2011 can be heard.

At the end of this protest season, two groups of tents were installed: one a front of the government building – against the government policy, and one a front of the parliament building – in support of the government policy.

The role of the EU officials and the ambassadors in the country has a significant contribution in order to find an acceptable solution for the both sides. After long negotiations between the government and the opposition under the umbrella of the EU in Brussels, this month, on 15th of July, the deal  finally came in. But the most important document that preceded the deal was the Recommendations of the Senior Experts’ Group on systemic Rule of Law issues relating to the communications interception revealed in Spring 2015, that identified five areas of concern: the interception of communications, judiciary and prosecution services, external oversight by independent bodies, elections and the media. I would exclude some of the recommendations in the conclusion of the document:

Press Freedom

All media have to be free from any political pressure without any interference or intimidation; Media should distance themselves from party politics and should not be at the service of politicians and political parties; The Public Service Broadcaster should strive to be completely impartial and independent from political, commercial and other influences and ideologies and contribute to an informed citizenship; Therefore, public bodies should refrain from discouraging media to carry out their mandate; Defamation actions should not be used as a means to stifle debate or prevent public figures from being held to account; Courts should develop clear and forseeable practice on the protection of freedom of expression in view of defamation claims; “Buying” political support from the media through financially supporting media outlets is unacceptable. Stringent rules on government advertising should be enforced; Media ownership and media financing should be transparent; Journalists’ labour conditions should be improved in order to reduce self-censorship.

A Look Into The Future

It will be a lot of work to do there – Macedonia needs deep reforms in the political system and the perception of the civil society on how democracy and democratic governance should actually look like. The society is constructed by various individuals and groups and each of them with different goals, needs and ideas. Hence we must work to build a political system where people will be free to pursue their goals (as far as their behavior does not interfere in the same freedom to the others) no matter what party is in charge, and to be treated equally under the law.

People must understand that limited government means more freedom and less corruption, free market brings more wealth, less subsidy – more incentive entrepreneurs, less government regulation and control – more individual freedom and responsibility. To achieve all of that and to build that kind of political system we have to go back to the beginning and to establish strong pillars of rule of law, free media and independent judiciary. To cite the great Huxley: After all, the price of freedom is eternal vigilance…


Career & Education

by Louise Bicknese


Getting a job right after you are done with your education – sounds great, right? It used to be quite normal, but it is not today. Youth unemployment is at a peak and it has several causes. The European Union tries to tackle some of those with the ‘Youth Guarantee’. It focuses on getting people under 25 to ‘do something’ within 4 months after their leaving education or getting fired: either with a job, an apprenticeship, a traineeship or continued education. But what exactly is this guarantee, how is it implemented, and does it really bring about significant change?

The EU Commission has accepted the proposal for this youth guarantee. It is, in their words, ‘both a structural reform to drastically improve school-to-work transitions and a measure to immediately support jobs for young people‘. Their plan is to improve cooperation between all actors involved. A key role is reserved for the PESs: the Public Employment Services. They should work together with social services, firms, and educational facilities, among others, to include young people in their project and find them jobs or educational or apprentice opportunities.

One of the main problems in youth unemployment is the vast amount of so-called NEETs. These are youths that are Not Employed, in Education nor in Training. The problem with them is, they are not registered anywhere, so it is hard to reach them. That is why the Guarantee wants PESs to cooperate with social services as well, so they can include these NEETs.

Each country can implement this plan in their own way. For example, the Netherlands focuses on a policy which reduces the number of early school dropouts, while Germany has to work on its equality of job opportunities; socio-economic background still plays a role there. However, a lot more work has to be done by countries that deal with a significantly higher youth unemployment rate, such as Italy and Croatia. They get help from the Youth Employment Initiative, which provides subsidiaries.

The main problem with this plan is that it is battling symptoms. Instead of looking at the core of the problem, the Youth Guarantee deals with its consequences. The big issue is that, one, universities apparently do not prepare young people well enough for their jobs, and two, too many people choose a field of study in which there are not enough jobs. These problems ask for a different kind of reform: changing the programmes and courses at university and informing the prospective students better about the chances on the labour market for different fields of study.

However, the Youth Guarantee does no such thing. It tries to battle the youth unemployment problems by taking on the youth that is the victim of these circumstances, rather than changing the circumstances themselves. They offer opportunities for extra schooling or training, when this should be incorporated in their previous education – extra education should not even be necessary. Even though this plan might – and I will return to that later – help the people who need that right now, it does not bring about the structural reform needed to prevent these youths from ever falling into this gap.

Regarding the effectiveness of the plan itself; this article poses some doubt to that as well. Since the economic crisis, the number of ‘zero-hours contracts’ has risen enormously. These contracts do not specify a certain amount of hours worked by the employee, but rather means that the employee can be called upon to work anything between full-time hours and not at all – zero hours. This is an extremely insecure form of employment and not a stable income at all.

This does not necessarily mean that zero-hours contracts are pure evil: they can be quite useful for, for example, part-time jobs for students. The difference is that in these cases, it is a part-time job next to university, while for the youths in question it would be preferably full-time. What adds to the instability of these contracts, is that once a company hits a low, the employees with such a contract are the first ones out.

Now it would be harsh to say that all youths helped by the Youth Guarantee will get a zero-hours contract, but realistically speaking, a lot will. The success numbers of for example Finland are only based on whether the young people get a job, not on how long they stay with it. Therefore, it is very likely that for most youths, the Youth Guarantee is nothing but a short-term solution that does not call for the structural reform needed.



Each year, hundreds of thousands of European students migrate, looking for a better future and stable jobs.


Some flee the economic misery at home, others search for new experiences. Some will come back, others won’t.

Student migration has become reality for Europe. But how will it shape the future of our continent? How can we channel its effects? And what role are the European institutions playing in all of this?

What our latest episode on how students are Fleeing the Crisis.