NEW PARADIGMS FOR EUROPE AND ITS NEIGHBORS

A project proposal by the Centre for Liberal Strategies, Sofia
in cooperation with the Bruno Kreisky Forum for International Dialogue
and the European Council on Foreign Relations

New Paradigms for Europe and its Neighbors is a project proposal by the Centre for Liberal Strategies to be developed in cooperation with the Bruno Kreisky Forum for International Dialogue (BKF), Vienna and the European Council on Foreign Relations.
This proposal steps on the experience and findings of the Europe at Risk and Periphery at Risk projects that were successfully implemented by the same organizations in 2012-2013 with the intellectual, organizational and financial support of the Austrian Ministry of Defense and Sports.
A major result of the preceding Europe at Risk and Periphery at Risk projects has been the clear identification of what constitutes the European periphery and what the major risks are from the point of view of Europe.
The meetings of a diverse team of experts, the numerous discussions and the final document of the Europe at Risk clearly identified significant risks within the EU related to the crisis, but also clearly pointed that there are risks coming from its immediate neighborhood which could and should not be ignored. This was an especially important finding, since it rested on the insight that these risks are an indivisible part of the EU context and the Union cannot achieve internal stability and capacity to cope unless it incorporates them in the decision and policy making.
The in-depth discussions during the meetings of the Europe at Risk and especially during the Periphery at Risk, as well as the major policy document which will be produced as a result of them, make clear that a successful response and management of the risks which the future of the European periphery undoubtedly offers requires raising the level of both the analysis and the policy response on the part of the EU. We found that the detailed knowledge of the different members of Europe’s periphery indicates, that events and actors there have a higher level of relevance for the EU, more significant than the separate role of each individual actor, and that the correct level of analysis and strategic focus is at the region as a whole, as a complex combination of characteristics and dynamics.
Achieving precisely this necessary level of knowledge and analysis is the goal of the presently proposed New Paradigms for Europe and Is Neighbors project. It intends to accomplish at least two tasks simultaneously. First, clarify the internal EU capacities and necessities, which are needed if the Union is to become capable of managing the internal and external risks facing it in the coming several decades. Second, clarifying the character of the external environment which generates these risks, treating in a systemic way as a complex, rather than as a simple sum of separate actors. This means taking into account the systemic nature of the risks being generated by the policies, strategies, plans and actions of actors like Russia and Turkey as well as the popular movements in a geographic region spanning North Africa, the Near and Middle East, the Balkans, and Russia’s Near Abroad. Dividing the periphery, e.g. into “southern” and “eastern”, is not only unproductive in terms of understanding the risks, but may lead to the omission of the major ones.
Eastern Europe and the Balkans are, geographically, humanly and strategically, in the core of this frontier of risks, as recent events clearly indicate. They are an intersection of various interests and tendencies, which need to be understood as comprising a whole and having an underlying structure. Insights into this structure and its logic are a sine qua non if the risks are to be managed. Clearly, leadership within Europe in successful approach to managing these risks requires knowledge of both the internal developments, (1) within the Union: rise of populism, nationalism; tensions between the members of the Union; continuing aftershock of the crisis, including changes in the financial system and structural reforms; and (2) the systemic nature of the external risks coming from the periphery: volatile institutions, gaps in public representation, crises resulting from conflicting transitionalist models, ethnisation and sectarianisation, spill-over and regionalization of conflicts, etc. Even more, both these levels of knowledge need to be related to understanding the dynamics and diversities of East European and Balkan societies some of which are relatively highly integrated with the EU, yet many of them are also experiencing significant other influences.
The events unfolding in the region of Eastern Europe clearly indicate the ongoing process of regionalization in the world, but this very process has undergone a qualitative change in recent years. Great Powers have lost hope in any functioning global governance and bet on consolidating their own trade and political blocs. If, some years ago, regionalization was a strategy for building a more global world, now it is perceived as an alternative to it. The rise of regionalism is another part of the new normal.
This is evident in the West where a priority is the negotiations of TTIP between the EU and the US and the perspective of Trans-Pacific partnership for Asia. And it can be detected in China’s policies in Asia and Africa. Clearly it is evident in Russia where building the Eurasian Union is becoming the centerpiece of the Kremlin’s foreign policy. It is very easy to discern the very same tendency in Turkey’s behavior towards the region spanning North Africa, the Middle East, and the Muslim countries of Central Asia over the recent years of economic and political turbulence.
At the same time the process of regionalization will be characterized with the seeking of a new balance between the use of different kinds of power and influence by the Great Powers. Among many other things, the present global crisis showed the limits of the EU soft power while Iraq and Afghanistan showed the limits of US hard power. While regionalizing, the Great Powers will have to discover new ways to wield influence.
All this clearly means an entirely new strategic environment for what is known as the “periphery”: the countries at the borders, at the points of contact, of these future regional blocks. This is especially clear in the example of the Ukraine, where the simultaneous pull towards two distinct regions: the EU-North Atlantic region and the Russia-Eurasian region clearly led to a rupture in the fall of 2013. Ukraine is being forced to choose in a way which was unthinkable only several years ago, when continuous living in the grey zone between major powers was a legitimate and stable modus vivendi. The logic of the events unfolding in the Ukraine indicates, that this is a new strategic environment, entailing new security, political and economic risks. A deeper understanding of these events and their underlying processes will be of crucial importance, especially given the near certainty that this new environment will force similar ruptures in other countries from the periphery.
The team of organizers and experts involved in the Europe at Risk and Periphery at Risk projects have already developed into a highly capable and productive network which offers a unique expertise in the contest of the European crisis. It is the only network continually involving representatives of the three major players on this scene – the EU, Russia, and Turkey – in a context of constant conversation and exchange of knowledge and opinions. The network has already generated important and valuable insights to be used in making strategic and current decisions.
Stepping on this significant achievement, we propose to draw the focus of our expertise to the level which our two previous projects indicate as the appropriate one – namely, the level of treating the internal EU risks and the risks in its periphery as a system with interdependencies and interconnections. Once this focus is achieved, our analytical capacity will equip us with the opportunity to formulate clear and well-argued policy proposals which can be of invaluable use for making decisions and developing strategies both at the EU level and at the level of individual member-states.

 

WOMEN IN TRANSITION – A NEGLECTED PROBLEM?
Preliminary project proposal by Slavenka Drakulic

In 2014 Europe celebrated the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It became the symbol of the collapse of communism.

The “velvet revolution”, as this dramatic change is called, had many aspects and every former communist country experienced it in its own way: Poland’s opposition was prepared for the change; the Romanians took justice in their own hands, while many other countries did not even dare to dream about democracy. In celebrating these historical events, many memories are evoked and many problems addressed – from the dreams about democracy and freedom, to corruption, disappointments and distrust in the political elites. But one topic seems to be absent or at least not present enough: women. How did women experience and survive the transition from one political and economic system into the other?

But should this question, after all, be addressed separately? The changes in 1989 were of such major historical importance that they could be compared to an earthquake. In dramatic situations like wars, natural disasters or revolutions (even if the revolution is a “velvet” one), women experience radical changes quite differently from men. While statistical indicators show that all citizens in transitional countries are affected by deteriorating standards in social welfare, political and health care they also show that women are hit hardest, that they are obviously the real losers of the political, economic and social changes. This is apparent from the fact that political participation of women is gradually dwindling and is clearly seen in the feminization of poverty as well as in attempts to restrict women’s rights. The underlining patriarchal values continue to dominate societies in transition, which makes it easier to push women back into their “traditional roles”.

After a quarter of a century, it is time to address these issues in a more comprehensive way. And although a considerable amount of research data as to the changes in different social classes in different post-communist countries is collected, it seems that a more comprehensive overview is needed.

Therefore, the Bruno Kreisky Forum for International Dialogue and partners are planning to organize a conference titled WOMEN IN TRANSITION – A NEGLECTED PROBLEM? October 22-23, 2015

This conference aims at a deeper and more detailed insight into how women’s lives have changed during the last two decades and to how the future for women in countries in transition could look like.

Participants from Belarus, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Germany, Kosovo, Poland, Romania, Russia Slovakia, and Ukraine will discuss five key points:

  1. Economics/employment/unemployment/differences in income
  2. Political participation/governmental/non-governmental
  3. Education/gender equality
  4. Social issues (health- and child care, social security benefits, maternity leave)
  5. Changes in women’s rights (abortion etc.)

The assumption is that the communist legislation emancipated women top-down - but reality has changed fundamentally: from economic and financial crisis to the lack of social welfare as well as the ban of abortion. However, even if imposed by the former communist government, women still tend to take their rights for granted. New political parties do not attend to matters such as the decline of the position of women in society; neither do women engage actively in demands. Moreover, there is the fundamental question of how much the new generation of women, born and grown up after 1989, is aware that they are facing new and big challenges that they are left to themselves. The process of on-going re-patriarchalization is pushing women back into the traditional formula of Kinder, Küche, Kirche. This is not only the result of the recent financial crisis that has hit so many countries, but also of growing nationalism and the new role of religion in post-communist societies.

The conference participants are asked to address, beside the five key-points, several other burning questions such as the issue of growing female poverty, violence against women, domestic violence, trafficking, prostitution and a number of other topics concerning their current status. Of course there are differences between countries, but it would be crucial if the conference was to result in a common, general pattern of deterioration of the situation of women and their rights. And if so, what are women to do, especially young women? There is no real democracy without women’s participation.

The organizers plan is to invite women leaders, academics, journalists and activists from the former communist states in order to gain a first-hand insight into these so far neglected topics, discuss the status quo as well as prospects, perspectives and possible solutions.

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