The West has often been criticized for not doing enough to stand up to Putin’s war in Ukraine. Viral social media posts imply that Ukraine fights alone, while Western powers talk tough but do nothing. That could not be further from the truth. In addition to the considerable military and financial aid that Western countries have provided to Ukraine, they have also imposed harsh economic sanctions on Russia. This article aims to analyze the sanctions imposed on Moscow and their likely impact.
In this opinion piece, Laila Lange (Groningen/Bilbao, cohort 2021/2023) scrutinises the 2021 State of the Union speech and argues that Von der Leyen self-aggrandises Europe’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. It is argued that she, thereby, disconnects her description of the state of the Union from reality and harms European credibility.
The seemingly everlasting Covid-19 pandemic has changed and dominated the life of everybody from March 2020 onwards. Despite the high percentage of vaccinations in European countries and one and a half years of experience with the virus, the situation in winter 2021 shows that Covid-19 is far from being conquered. Uncountable infection waves are followed by stricter Covid-19 measures. Not to mention that the regulations differ per member state and that Covid-19, once more, pinpoints the dominance of national power in the European structure. So to say, Covid is a major contributor to and factor of the current state of the European Union.
The Intensive Programme can seem daunting to new Euroculture students, but it doesn’t have to! Jodie van ‘t Hoff talks us through the IP preparation phase, paper writing process, and how the (online) IP in 2021 went for her. While Jodie’s Euroculture experience has been almost entirely online due to the ongoing pandemic, she is making full use of the programme’s mobility. Having started in Groningen then attending Olomouc online, Jodie moved to Göttingen for her third semester and is currently preparing to spend her fourth semester in Olomouc (in person this time!).
Euroculture Magazine: Would you mind giving us a small introduction about yourself? Where are you from, what are your universities, and how did you find out about the Euroculture programme?
Jodie van ’t Hoff: I’m Jodie van ’t Hoff, I’m half Dutch/half German, and I am currently in my third Euroculture semester doing a research track at the University of Göttingen. My first semester was in Groningen, my second in the Czech Republic. During my Bachelor’s programme, which I also completed in Groningen, I learned about the Euroculture master. In the end, I applied because the subjects seemed a great continuation of my Bachelor and the mobility aspect to me was a real selling point.
Katherine Arena (2020-2022) has done her Bachelor in European Languages and Cultures at the University of Groningen, where she majored in European Politics and Society. Her first Semester of Euroculture was spent in Groningen and her second in Udine. She is currently doing her internship at the Institute for Minority Rights at Eurac Research in Bolzano. She will return to Groningen for her final semester, back to where it all started.
Euroculturer Magazine (EM): What were your expectations when you started the Euroculture M.A.? Were they met?
Katherine: When I started the M.A. Euroculture, I was mainly expecting two things; the first one was to be part of an international group with people sharing a common interest in European studies and the opportunity to have an engaging exchange with them. The second one revolved around the whole moving and travelling dimension, getting to meet new people, and being confronted with new cultures. The first expectation was fully met; I have met a lot of interesting people, and I have shared and learned about different perspectives. The second one unfortunately was not fully met due to the pandemic; I was still able to do the second semester abroad, but the internship track, in the end, happened online, with me visiting the city and the office only once.
I’ve never been that good when it comes to focusing on studying at home – maybe because I have everything at hand to procrastinate epically. Given that, some time ago I realized that it really helps for me to go to a place where there are more people working. Libraries happen to be the best for that -and also they have a pretty nice vibe! So, when I found that Uppsala has more than 10 libraries, I decided to go out and collect them all. Although I’ve not achieved that goal yet, I hereby present some of my absolute favorite ones, as well as useful tips on where to heat up your lunch box or have cheap coffee for a really nice study time!
Felicitas comes originally from Nuremberg, Germany, but she has always been a real globetrotter eager to explore her surroundings. When she was 15, she spent a few months in Limerick, Ireland and that set the start to wanting to move abroad and trying out different things. Since then, she has lived in Ireland, New Zealand, the Netherlands and since 2010, Sweden. She joined the Euroculture programme in 2009 starting off in Groningen. After graduating in 2011, she started a career in the education management business in Sweden, but has worked for both Swedish and American employers. Felicitas lives together with Saga (2.5 years), her partner Linus and her dog Mio.
Interview by Carolina Reyes Chávez
Euroculturer Magazine (EM): How long ago did you graduate from Euroculture and what are you working with now?
Felicitas Rabiger (FR): I graduated 10 years ago and now I work at Studieförbundet Vuxenskolan. It’s a very Swedish organization. In Scandinavia there’s a long tradition of enabling people – normal people, with no education, to get more knowledge. The concept is called Folkbildning, it comes from the civil society and it’s built on associations. So a lot of people in Sweden, almost everyone is basically part of a group focused on some kind of topic, like football for example, or if I have a sickness, for example cancer, I can go and join the cancer association, or if I’m interested in painting I can go and join my local painting association, you know? That’s how they establish a lot of small associations that are part of the democratic tradition in Sweden.
So Studieförbundet is basically here for this small associations to give them structure and to help them with administrative processes, also we organize all kinds of activities together with them, we can give them access to free education… It’s like a consultant, but not for business but for organizations in order to help them to get the work better and to get more organized. We also help them to get more members, with branding for example, also they can use our space and get money from us for materials.
My position is called Organizational developer and it’s about having contact with a certain amount of associations and helping them with all kinds of stuff, like finding ways for them to get funding for new projects. We also provide courses to the general public, like languages, painting, astronomics, anything that’s not university education. So it’s a really broad job.
EM: What do you see as your role or contribution as a non-Swede in this very Swedish organization?
FR: Well, actually we are discussing right now that I’ll have more focus on integration in general, because that’s my focus. Not being a Swede, I have been working a lot with people like me that need to get into the Swedish job market, and I’ve been trying to provide educational programs for them, to help them also to get better Swedish for example, to finding funds… So it’s a very creative and outgoing job, I have to talk to people all the time. I’m teaching some courses and I actually held a seminar in Swedish Work Culture for the Uppsala International Hub.
EM: Is this Studieförbundet an organization funded by the State?
FR: Yes, and that’s super interesting, you know? You could say that the Studieförbundet is the Swedish biggest cultural organization. And there are different goals with this Folkbildning concept, that’s actually to secure democracy so that people can meet, discuss and get more ideas and knowledge. The goal is also to integrate people that don’t have a voice into the society, for instance we focus a lot on handicapped people, or I work a lot with women that don’t have a job nor speak Swedish, or that are analphabetic. We want to give them a chance to get into the Swedish job market, so to give these groups a voice.
EM: That’s awesome
FR: Yes! And it’s something very, very Swedish. I don’t know anything like that in any other country. It’s like the education system in the university here which is about this concept of having your own power, seeking knowledge on your own, and that’s not only for the elite but is part of this idea that everybody should have access, even if you are handicapped, or if you come from a very distant country, you still should be able to take part in the society. So being State funded…it’s basically a way to enhance democratic processes, supporting the people and actually helping them to get power.
Starting as a friendly gesture to fellow students, when Bart Swinkels (Dutch, Groningen/Uppsala, cohort 2021/2023) started translating and sharing news about Covid-19 restrictions in the Netherlands, he never imagined the societal need that this initiative appears to fulfil. In this article, Swinkels reflects on the year 2021 and the journey of establishing his platform: Dutch Covid-19 News!
By Stefania Ventome. Edited by Lina Mansour. Biographies are available at the end of the article.
In front of Bucharest’s main train station, at the end of a small park that shelters homeless people and drug addicts, lies the CFR Palace. Massive, imposing and sober, the CFR Palace, also known as the Ministry of Transportation, is one of the first buildings that a visitor coming to Bucharest by train would notice. It is also one of the many architectural remains of totalitarian regimes scattered around Romania’s capital. Nowadays, Bucharest is a city of contrasts, split between abandonment and consumerism and decay and development, but for most of the past century, the city was the administrative centre of three gruesome dictatorships, a dark history that has left significant marks on the city’s identity. Bucharest’s monumentalism is mostly attributed to the infamous legacy of Ceausescu’s brutal regime, but buildings such as the CFR Palace evoke a different past, one that has been slowly erased from the people’s collective memory.
The Netherlands has four major supermarket chains that can be found all over any city: Albert Heijn and Jumbo are the two largest, followed by Aldi and Lidl as slightly more affordable chain counterparts. Here and there you might also find a Coop or a Spar as alternatives, and while chain supermarkets tend to be close by and convenient, you pay for that convenience in both price and plastic.
According to Business Insider Nederland, all six of the aforementioned supermarkets have average or high prices for basic goods – average prices can still be high on a student budget, and this does not take into account higher costs for non-basic and international products which can be both hard to find on chain supermarket shelves and expensive once you come across them.
Plastic packaging in major chain supermarkets is another issue: a stroll in some of these stores will show individually packed paprikas and cling-wrapped cucumbers, beside rows and rows of prechopped, plastic-encased fruits and vegetables. In 2019, supermarket chains in the Netherlands and elsewhere agreed to reduce their use of packaging materials – and there have been some improvements, like some stores opting for paper bags in bakery and fresh produce sections. However, watchdogs say that the fine print of the Sustainable Packaging Sector Plan 2019-2022 targets only the chain supermarkets’ home brands and focuses recyclability of plastic use rather than reduction.
So, what can you do? There are indeed options for getting groceries and avoiding the chains, and wonderful Groningen is bursting with alternatives. Here you’ll find some suggestions and information on fresh markets in the city, as well as some lesser-known yet excellent (and affordable!) grocers that specialise in international products and ingredients.
To the Market!
What: produce market When: Tuesday, Friday & Saturday Where: Vismarkt
Three times a week, the Vismarkt of Groningen becomes home to a bustling market of fresh groceries. Here you’ll find fruit and vegetables (minimal plastic in sight), bakery stalls that understand the needs and budgets of the city’s students, and even a stand dedicated to herbs, spices, and loose-leaf tea. Among the amazing variety, you’ll also come across flowers, cheese, eggs, and fresh snacks like stroopwafels and Belgian fries. Buying in bulk is always penny-smart, but avoiding waste is also important – consider buying fresh produce together with friends for the best deal! And don’t forget to bring your own bags!
This link has more information about this and other markets in Groningen, so be sure to plan your week around visiting these great options.
Insider tip: while many of the stalls are the same every market day of the week, the bakeries change each time. Tuesday is great for cheap buns, snacks, and sweets, while Friday and Saturday’s bakeries trade in deluxe loaves and cakes that’ll last you all week.
Home & Abroad
If you’re on the hunt for international products and ingredients, for something you’re missing from home, or you just want to try something new from non-chain supermarket, here are five fantastic stores to support in Groningen:
What: Italian products and ingredients When: 7 days Where: Vismarkt 34
Basarz is where you can fill all your Italian delicatessen needs, from pasta and pesto to Parma ham, olives to oils to tiramisu, and everything in between. The staff are knowledgeable, friendly, and always happy to help. You can also order hot meals (dinner) on a weekly basis, or pop in for a quick lunch to take away or eat on their lovely little Vismarkt terrace. Bonus: keep an eye out for the Basarz stall at the market too, for all your antipasti needs!
What: North African, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean (+ more) products and ingredients When: 7 days Where: Folkingestraat 21
Left: Le Souk interior; right: Le Souk from outside
Le Souk is a gem of Groningen, with a magnificent range of fresh produce, herbs, breads, olives, sweets, and salads. Be sure to pop into their store for all sorts of international spices, flavour-makers, dates, and grains: their small extension at the market three times a week is but a taste of the range of products they carry! Bonus: Le Souk sells cous-cous, lentils, beans, pasta, and other grains by weight – this means when appropriately measured, you can bring your own containers and avoid packaging entirely for these (and more) products
3. Toko Hendrik
What: Indonesian, Surinamese, Latin American, Caribbean (+ more) products and ingredients When: 6 days (closed Sunday) Where: Korreweg 26
Toko Hendrik is a classic and welcoming toko (from Indonesia, Malay word for ‘shop’) with products from across the globe: think Indian drinks, Central American canned goods, Surinamese ice pops, Dominican seasonings, North American cereals, Mexican snacks – this local store’s range is ever changing and always delightful. You can also find some fresh produce here, even aloe vera if you’re lucky! Bonus: Sita’s Roti & Broodjes, a homely take-away lunchspot, can be found inside Toko Hendrik serving Surinamese comfort food in the form of delicious sandwiches and generous roti meals.
What: Middle Eastern, Arabic, Turkish (+ more) products and ingredients When: 7 days Where: Boterdiep 49
Nazar is a supermarket but far from a chain: this local store stocks over 6,000 international products and plenty of fresh produce (with minimal plastic!). Once you know your way around, it’ll fast become a staple of your grocery shopping schedule for its diverse range of kitchen necessities like tea, coffee, herbs and spices, drinks and whatever of the many other new or traditional items that catch your eye. The prices are great and the staff is always helpful and friendly! Bonus: Nazar operates as a halal supermarket in Groningen.
5. Amazing Oriental
What: Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Malaysian, Thai, Vietnamese (+ more) products and ingredients When: 7 days Where: Korreweg 51
Amazing Oriental could be considered a chain supermarket since growing to have 24 stores across the Netherlands, but as the only one north of Amsterdam, I consider Groningen’s branch to be a non-major supermarket in the city – and definitely worth checking out! In this large store they have just about everything: fresh Asian fruits and vegetables are stocked regularly, alongside fresh and dried noodles, as well as frozen delicacies to make and enjoy at home. Also very popular is the plentiful range of vegetarian and vegan products, as well as all the ingredients you’d need to cook an authentic and delicious meal. Not to mention, Amazing Oriental is very student-budget friendly! Bonus: if you’ve made the mistake of grocery shopping while hungry (or just can’t wait to try some of the amazing ingredients you’ve come across instore) Amazing Oriental Groningen has a food corner where you can take a fresh full meal home for less than ten euros, or grab a bubble tea to go!
Leuk & Lekker (Grote Kromme Elleboog 8): a self-proclaimed culinary giftshop, here you’ll find a huge variety of oils, vinegars, rice and pastas, salts, chutneys and much more, from Europe and beyond.
Ariola (Folkingestraat 54): everything homemade and authentically Italian! Ariola is a must for a pasta lunch or dinner, or to pick up classic Italian ingredients for doing it yourself.
Polski Smak (Nieuwe Ebbingestraat 84): the only Polish store in Groningen, Polski Smak is well equipped to supply all kinds of Polish goods: breads, sweets, beer and much more.