Existential.yu

Graphic: Wikipedia/ISN

Graphic: Wikipedia/ISN


The break-up of Yugoslavia (in all of its incarnations) is now, it would seem, official. As of today, 30 September, websites using the .yu domain extension will be no more, thus ending any existential Yugoslavia debate.

Henceforth, there will be less ethno-nationalist website mystery: Serbian websites will be .rs; Montenegrin websites .me; Bosnian websites .ba (though here some mystery will persist as users will still be unsure without further investigation whether a particular website is from the Bosniak- and Bosnian Croat Federation entity or the Bosnian Serb-dominated Republika Srpska entity); and so on.

For many this may be a day of electronic mourning. Indeed, it is sad to see the last remnants of Yugoslavia erased – however small and ephemeral they were – and to be reminded of what has replaced this once thriving socialist republic.

Of course, for many of those who are old enough to have spent much of their childhood and even adulthood under the national Yugoslav banner (generations who arguably use the internet less frequently than their younger ‘countrymen’) this will not mean an end to Yugoslavia. Indeed, one can still find plenty of people who will forever call themselves Yugoslavs. For them, .yu will live on as an ideal rather than a mere nationality, flag or territory (or domain extension).

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210 Million Euros for Europe’s Security

Remarkable interest in the ISN at the 4th European Security Research Conference

Remarkable interest in the ISN at the 4th European Security Research Conference

Europe aims to be the world’s most competitive and dynamic knowledge economy. To this end, the EU set up different framework programs (FPs) to fund research in almost all scientific fields. The budget of the current program (FP7) amounts to the remarkable sum of EUR 1.4 billion – a bunch of golden pots attracting researchers and practitioners from all over Europe.

Those working on the ‘security research‘ theme are currently in Stockholm at the SR Conference hosted by the Swedish EU Presidency. The objective of the security theme is to develop technologies and knowledge to protect citizens from threats such as terrorism, natural disasters and crime while respecting their privacy and fundamental rights. In his opening speech Vice-President of the European Commission Günter Verheugen reminded the representatives of the industries such as Boeing, Saab, Thales or EADS as well as civil servants and academics that technology alone cannot do the job pointing to the political and ethical dimension of security research. “Our security must be based on our values,” he stated.

The annual conference is the meeting place for security stakeholders to debate Europe’s research agenda. EU representatives outline the Union’s priorities and expectations to those interested in conducting the research and implementing the results. They then take the opportunity to coordinate their efforts, fine tune their proposals and find new partners to work with.

As a long-standing network for IR professionals offering information on a wide range of security related issues, the ISN is of great interest to the conference attendees. Some require to learn about a specific topic such as energy security, others are interested in joining our partner network, want to write for us or simply learn more about our activities such as e-Learning.

There are also those who know us already. Their compliments are very reassuring of the work we do and motivating to keep up our high standards. “I learnt about you at last year’s conference and am now a big fan of your Security Watch service, ” one of the visitors said.

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Lobbying the Political Agenda

Sealing the deal, while setting the agenda? / Photo: thinkpanama/flickr

Sealing the deal, while setting the agenda? / Photo: thinkpanama/flickr

In mid-September, US President Barack Obama risked tense bilateral trade relations with China by opting for the imposition of an import tariff on tires. He legitimized his decision by saying that in the tire industry 5,000 jobs had been lost since 2004. Even though the loss of 5,000 jobs is bad for the economy, its repercussions are relatively minor compared to when tens of thousands of people are getting fired in the financial sector. The question of why the US wants to instate such a tariff remains.

The International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) gives the answer, noting that the United Steel Workers union (a US labor group) strongly acted for the imposition of the tariff to which Obama eventually agreed to.

The possible influence of lobby groups on the US political agenda is of particular interest. President Obama resisted support from such groups during his campaign, yet lobbying has always been an integrated part of US politics. Open Secrets, from the US-based Center for Responsive Politics, offers a list of the main industries that donate to political campaigns. Among the top ranking in 2008 were the pharmaceutical, utility and insurance industries as well as the oil and gas industry.

Coincidentally or based on necessity, the reform of the American healthcare sector is currently one of Obama’s main concerns. Will we eventually see Obama’s future agenda being set by these other industries? Moreover, Obama’s campaign enjoyed crucial support by various labor unions, with memberships comprised of domestic blue-collar workers and potential opponents to global free trade. Their influence on the democratic agenda has yet to fully unfold. If it does, bilateral trade with China might take another blow and the US might prompt other states to follow its lead to regulate and close down their economies against foreign influence.

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Frantic in Zurich

Zurich, Switzerland, courtey of Zug55/Flickr

Zurich, Switzerland, courtesy of Zug55/Flickr

Roman Polanski went missing in Zurich upon his arrival for the Zurich Film Festival.

The festival’s welcome comittee waited in vain at the airport for the director of such brilliant films like Rosemary’s Baby (1968), Chinatown (1974) and The Pianist (2003). He received an Oscar in absentia for the latter; in absentia because he has been a fugitive from US justice since 1978 when he pleaded guilty to having drugged a 13-year-old girl and forced himself upon her.

Instead of facing jail time, Polanski escaped to France, where he was safe from extradition to the US. Since then Polanski has been very careful not to travel to countries where the long arm of US justice might reach him.

However, this finally happened on Saturday when Zurich police arrested the 76-year-old on an international arrest warrant. It didn’t take long for the Swiss art and film scene to decry and condemn the move as “a slap in the face for the entire cultural community in Switzerland.”

Conspiracy theorists quickly pointed out the fact that Polanski had traveled to Switzerland before and even owns a house in the fancy mountain village of Gstaad. They believe that Switzerland wanted to suck up to the US authorities after the legal troubles of UBS and the attack on the country’s banking secrecy laws.

These theories however are probably complete nonsense.
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Gaddafi and Ahmadinejad: Beyond Provocation

Gaddafi's speech at the UN General Assembly

Gaddafi's speech at the UN General Assembly

Much of western media reports reacted with outraged dismissals to Ahmadinejad‘s and Gaddafi‘s UN speeches on Wednesday. However, despite their populist and provocative style, the message should be taken seriously.

While their lack of political correctness and exaggerations might have put you off, they shouted what a significant proportion of the world’s population believes.

The Huffington Post analyzes the main arguments in Gaddafi’s speech in five slides: the Palestinian plight; the unjustified Iraq war; unequal representation at the UN; the UN as a western product; and world domination by Security Council veto powers. This doesn’t sound particularly radical; these arguments are all over academic papers, too.

Ahmadinejad calls for everybody to drop their nuclear weapons instead of excusing himself for his own nuclear program. But it makes sense if you put yourself in his shoes. Why should Pakistan be allowed nukes and not Iran? In his speech at the Durban Review conference earlier this year, Ahmadinejad insisted strongly that Israel was a racist regime. You can find all sorts of explanations as to why Israel pursues the policies it does, but you can’t resent the Arab Israelis and the Palestinians for feeling discriminated against.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t necessarily agree with the Iranian and Libyan heads of state. I just want to warn against dismissing them too quickly as authoritarian madmen. Western self-righteousness offends many, and they may choose to react in violent ways. Think al-Qaida, for example.

Indeed, the West would be wise to engage with Ahmadinejad and Gaddafi’s criticisms. These days, belonging to the liberal democracy club doesn’t necessarily equate moral superiority.

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