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Culture Foreign policy

Values and Interests in EU Foreign Policy

European map with Ukraine in focus. Image: ClkerFreeVectorImages/Pixabay

Anyone remotely familiar with EU foreign policy will be no stranger to invocations of European values underpinning, and, indeed, driving, European external action. From policies on climate change and agriculture to trade to defence and security, the rhetoric generated by various EU bodies typically elucidates a “set of common values” that the respective policies promote or embody. A crucial nuance is that ‘values,’ which have been incorporated into the primary law of the European Union through the Lisbon Treaty, are juxtaposed to ‘interests.’  This juxtaposition often means that if and when the EU fails to live up to its much-touted values, it is charged with ‘hypocrisy.’  The inconvenient truth, however, is that like all actors, Europe has interests as well as values, and these are frequently at odds with each other across virtually every policy area. More often than not, interests, far from being ‘inspired’ by values, have proven insular, short-sighted, and at times downright mercenary. At the same time, it is naïve to expect Europe’s policymakers to pay more attention to the plight of Syrian refugees than domestic populations’ preoccupation with keeping their own welfare and prosperity undisturbed by crises engulfing much of the world outside the Continent.  The solution, it would then seem, lies in doing away with the gratuitous narrative emanating from Brussels that continues to raise unjustified expectations by placing values at the rhetorical heart of European foreign policy.

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Culture Justice

‘Parrhesia’: the Radical Destruction of Impunity

French Philosopher Michel Foucault. Image: thierry ehrmann/Flickr

This article was originally published by OpenSecurity on 26 May 2015 as part of the “States of Impunity” series.

Impunity is not simply a juridical, technical problem, or some sort of loophole in the law that lawyers, politicians, bureaucrats, and activists can close with greater effort. Impunity lies at the heart of a dispositive that encompasses, neutralizes and even recuperates almost all attempts to redress it. We have come to this disturbing realization on the basis of both empirical and theoretical attempts to understand how contemporary legal, political or civil-society practices run the risk, despite their benevolence, of falling into the propagandistic rhetoric, social conformism and bureaucratic indifference that feed impunity.

Categories
Culture History Religion

Tackling Militant Islamism Means Also Confronting its Non-Violent Forms

Muslim extremists protesting the release of the movie “Innocence of Muslims” in Sydney. Image: Jamie Kennedy/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by Europe’s World on 5 May 2015.

The call is often from a worried teacher. They are noticing changes in students from immigrant backgrounds. Before, they defined themselves by nationality, as Kosovars, Bosnians or Turks, now they say they are Muslims. Before, they took part in art classes, now they insist their religion prohibits art. Then there’s a second change: these young men and women start to talk of a war against Islam that targets Muslims – targets them.

When I listen, I remember myself as a 16-year-old, the daughter of a diplomat from a secular family, coming back to my home country, Yemen, after four years in Morocco. It was 1982 – a period that saw the mushrooming of Islamist ideology in North Yemen. I was fascinated by a religious group led by a charismatic young woman of 17. The group met in the schoolyard. I would later learn it was part of a strong Islamist movement that saw Salafists work hand-in-hand with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Categories
Culture Conflict

Will the 2018 World Cup Start the Next Football War?

Russia hosting the 2018 soccer World Cup. Soccer player Andrey Arshavin (center) is holding up Russia’s placard. Image: Александр Вильф/Wikimedia

Over the last year, a number of top government officials in the United States and Europe have called upon FIFA to punish Russia by moving the 2018 World Cup to another country. FIFA has refused to do so, claiming that the tournament can be “a powerful catalyst for constructive dialogue between people and governments.” This idea is based on the theory that international sports encourage peace and cooperation between countries. FIFA frequently champions this theory as if it is a proven fact, but without providing much evidence to support it.

The World Cup may influence society in many positive ways, such as by encouraging exercise, entertaining the masses, and giving fellow citizens something to bond over. If it also promoted international peace, we would have yet another reason to feel good about investing so much of our time and energy in it. However, there is more evidence that the opposite is true – that international sporting events like the World Cup actually increase the likelihood of conflict.

Categories
Culture History Regional Stability

Turkey’s Ethnic Armenians Wary About Future

Armenian flags in front of a mosque in Lebanon during an anti-Turkish protest. Image: Harout Arabian/Flickr

This article was originally published by EurasiaNet on 14 April 2015.

The 100th anniversary [on April 24th] of the Medz Yeghern, or the “Great Catastrophe,” [has] highlight[ed] the mixed feelings that Turkey’s tiny ethnic Armenian minority has for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s administration.

On April 24, Armenians around the world [marked] the World-War-I-era deaths of hundreds of thousands ethnic Armenians in Ottoman-era Turkey. It is a tragedy that for many historians and analysts constitutes an act of genocide.

Turkey denies the claim of genocide. On April 12, Ankara withdrew its ambassador from the Vatican after Pope Francis termed the massacre “the first genocide of the 20th century.”