From the bloody theatricals in the Middle East, the world has shifted its attention to the corridors of Europe where violent protests have been taking place in Ukraine with the aim being to depose of its reigning premier Viktor Yanukovych and join the European Union. The protests have further antagonized and polarized the warring factions and hopes of a peaceful compromise is turning bleaker with every bullet fired. All that exists now is a tense stalemate that either fizzle out into normalcy or culminate into a civil war.
Since the country’s inception after the First World War, it has constantly grappled with the notion of its national identity. Repelling waves of Russian domination, cultural and otherwise had taken center stage in the 20th century. Ukraine suffered under Stalin’s wrath; given their allegiances in the First World War. The region was one of the worst affected during the famines caused by the forced collectivization of agriculture in the 30’s. At the cusp of the decade Ukraine found a new tormentor who went by the name of ‘Adolf Hitler’, a man who vehemently stated that the appropriation of Ukraine crucial to his panoptic plans. Another World War and six million lives later, the country received no respite; now reluctantly relinquished to Stalin by the Western leaders in the Yalta conference. Ukraine was now under Communist rule until the termination of the Cold War. Now it functions as a democracy with occasional bouts of nostalgia harking back to its recent tyrannical past.
These protests or the ‘Euromaidan’ movement (as it is now termed as) is a culmination of the pent-up frustration of the Ukrainian public, who have been subjected to years of corruption and governmental inefficiency. The return of Yanukovych to public office isn’t encouraging, so is his flirtations with Russia. The movement is largely fuelled by the youth (who else?) who affiliate themselves to the EU, a stance which starkly contrasts that of their parents and grandparents who prefer their Eastern big brother. These difference are also noticeable as one traverses through the longitudes with the western half supporting entry to the EU while their eastern countrymen standing in solidarity with the elder generations of the country. This vital observation can cleave the state in two, however improbable that might be. The ‘Euromaidan’ has the potential to heal the European Union’s collective fragility, an opportunity which in theory, the powers to be should grasp with both hands. Will they do that? Let’s wait and see.
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With the recent allegations of chemical warfare in Syria surfacing, the West has remained uncomfortably undecided over the immediate course of action. A formation of a no-fly zone and the armament of Syrian rebel forces have been proposed, with the former likelier to be implemented. Kremlin remains unconvinced with the allegations, with a few insiders completely refuting the claim. Amidst all these diplomatic bickering, the death toll in Syria has shot up to 95,000, with additional 5,000 with every bloody month.
The former French colony has always been precariously placed close to the epicenter of one the bloodiest conflicts in recent times; the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Its involvement and subsequent defeat in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war was a catalyst for 1949 coup, the very first coup in the modern Middle East. What followed was a series of forced transfers of power for the next twenty years characterized by increasing instability and the rise of various Arab nationalist, communist and Syrian nationalist movements.
By 1970, the Baath party assumed power lead by Hafez al-Assad, former defense minister who consolidated his rule till his death at the dawn of the 21st Century. He was succeeded by his son Basher al-Assad. This familial continuation was greeted with mild optimism. However, this notion was quickly dissipated under various crackdowns on media and dissenters alike.
The Arab Spring proved to be the catalyst in this Civil War with protests against the government culminating in the defection of various military personnel giving birth to the Free Syrian Army. This rebellion has now mutated into sectarian warfare with various state and non-state parties involved. The United States had already enforced an embargo on the state.
More importantly, there are no absolutes in this conflict. The very rebels who aim to depose of al-Assad will kill members of his Alawite sect without a second thought. Iran and Hezbollah are providing arms and tactical knowledge to the Syrian army; the United States and E.U the same with the Free Syrian Army. With the entry of Sunni terrorist groups into the fray, this conflict has become murky waters indeed
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A seemingly innocuous protest against the demolition of Gezi Park in Istanbul has led to large-scale protests against Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The use of excessive force by the police has merely fanned the flames of discontent. With the ardent gaze of the EU and the international media fixed on transcontinental nation, this represents the sternest test of the Turkish premier’s decade long tenure.
The Republic of Turkey has had a chequered political history in the last century. After a transition towards a multi-party democracy in 1945, the country was subjected to a spate of military coups d’état. It can perhaps be said the political barometer of the country during each time-period could be quantified as a two-dimensional plot with secularism-Islamism and democracy-military plutocracy as contrasting pairs of extremities. The ascension of Erdoğan in 2002 ushered a period of relative stability and mild economic growth. However, his subsequent re-election was not without controversy. Erdoğan and his center-right party, The Justice and Development Party have slowly introduced Islamist laws like restricting alcohol consumption and abortion. More importantly, it has kept the country’s media on a tight leash and silenced dissenters. The recent protests can be said to be a cumulative reaction to Erdoğan’s policies.
Unlike the abundant media coverage of the much-vaulted Arab Spring. The protests have been conveniently ignored by major Turkish media agencies. This informational vacancy has been filled by numerous social media entities majorly Twitter and Facebook. Presently, the police response has been tempered. However, the Turkish premier has defiantly declared that the redevelopment of the Gezi Park will continue as planned. His defiance might just have mushroomed protests across the country.
The Turkish government response to these tumultuous events will be pivotal to Turkey’s hopes of joining the European Union. Štefan Füle, EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy in his speech had implored Turkey to embrace democracy and reign in the police brutality. His speech frequently referenced European values and Turkish attempts of European accession. Erdoğan’s response was a fiery tirade against the perceived hypocrisy of the EU with reference to the protests in the United States and the United Kingdom. His belligerence did not end there. On his return from the European Commission, he had vowed to end the protests as he found them bordering on illegality. However, he did concede that there were initially valid environmental concerns on the redevelopment plans.
These demonstrations are likely to drag on till the end of the year. While the protesters are said to be apolitical, the shortage of information does suggest an apparent lack of neutrality in most media outlets, this article included. Erdoğan’s rise to power via the democratic process might partially vindicate his actions and make it very unlikely to dislodge him. A violent upheaval would render the much of Turkey’s European accession efforts void and would irreparably damage the country status as a regional stronghold. The recent events will not change the existing status quo immediately. However, it seems like the stage is set for next year’s general elections.
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You are Nicos Anastasiades, the Cypriot premier; you have realized that the financial system is sinking in a cesspool of debt, a consequence of an economy too brittle to hold a banking network of such magnitude. You ask the European Union to inject a truckload of cash into the economy, a thinly veiled cry of “BAILOUT PLEASE!” You are said that your pleas will be taken care of, but there is a catch, your government would have to give up some of your liquid assets in exchange, perhaps as collateral. Your only viable source of liquid assets is none other than the deposits of your very own citizens.
What do you do?
You are Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany and perhaps the most powerful woman in Europe. You realize that bailing Cyprus out would effectively take money out your electorate’s pockets; that would be the last thing on your mind considering the federal elections are due in six months. Alternatively you could let Cyprus sink, but would you let this collapse act as a catalyst to the dissolution of a political union whose doubters multiply exponentially by the moment?
What do you do?
You are Marios Constantinou, a Cypriot ‘average Joe’. After a hard day’s work, you switch on the television only to find out that your elected representatives are voting on a bill to levy a double digit tax on your savings.
Well, what do you do?
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