Why does Ireland have the EU’s strictest abortion regime? Applying and Repealing the Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution

 

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A mural in Dublin calling for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution of Ireland, which bans abortion.

Eoghan Hughes

With a significant pro-choice victory in Poland as the country’s conservative PiS government performs a U-turn on restricting access to abortion in the case of incest, rape, fatal foetal abnormality and risk to the mother’s life, it is easy to forget that the EU still has one State in which very few of the above constitute a legitimate cause for abortion.

Last year the Republic of Ireland became the first country to legalise same sex marriage through a popular referendum with an overwhelming victory, which seemed to signal a new liberal turn in a country many people across Europe and the world associate with conservative Catholicism. Yet Ireland, despite calls from the EU, the Council of Europe and the UN, has retained one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world, where fatal foetal abnormalities and rape are not considered legal grounds for the termination of a foetus and where, even in the cases where woman’s life would be endangered by seeing a foetus to term, a woman might be denied the necessary treatment. Enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Ireland (Bunreacht na hÉireann) the Eighth Amendment prevents a woman having an abortion because the foetus is considered to have an equal right to life:

“The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.” Continue reading “Why does Ireland have the EU’s strictest abortion regime? Applying and Repealing the Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution”

The Public, the Private, and the Privates: Europe’s Abortion Debate against Shifting Backgrounds

 

Sophie van den Elzen

Recurrent images of the masses of women filing through the streets of Europe’s capitals remind us that the conflict over whether to prioritize women’s right to choose or a fetus’ right to live is one at the heart of many major social debates. Not only does it chafe at the junctions between social progress and tradition, individualism and normativity, encouraging women to exercise their right to self-determination and protecting sacralized family life; the issue also serves as a pin on which politicians hang the canvases they paint of ‘their’ nations as either traditionalist religious countries respectful of their past (such as Poland under PiS) or liberal countries  pragmatically looking to the future (e.g. The Netherlands under VVD).

With Europe’s eyes glued to those countries with the most ostensibly hostile public opinions to the right to legal abortion, it is perhaps also important to glance over at those in which a woman’s right of choice is most firmly established. Continue reading “The Public, the Private, and the Privates: Europe’s Abortion Debate against Shifting Backgrounds”

The Czarny Protest: Poland’s Government faces revolt over new strict Abortion Bill

This article is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily representative the views of The Euroculturer, the management and editorial staff of The Euroculturer or contributors to The Euroculturer

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Emma Danks-Lambert

The Czarny Protest- Women in Poland don black to protest the loss of their dignity and security in rallies held outside of parliament buildings and in town squares across major cities in Poland.

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Czarny Protest in Krakow

They are wearing black to protest the introduction of new abortion laws which would see victims of rape and incest forced to give birth to the result of their violations, whilst those whose fetus has severe or permanent impairment, those who would be at risk of long-term health complications from carrying their child to term, will have no choice in the matter. Soon Poland may see a law passed that restricts abortion in all but the most clear cut life and death situations.

The abortion law in force now, was passed in 1993 and restricts abortions save for cases of risk to the mother’s life, impairment of the fetus, and children conceived through rape and incest.

Women are being told by the Polish Parliament that their life, their place in Polish society, the fact that they are theoretically equal citizens before the law, matters less than what their womb can produce.

Pro-life activists, backed by the Catholic Church, were the ones who submitted this new law for the consideration of the Parliament, asking for the complete restriction of abortions save for life or death situations and gathered half a million signatures, four hundred thousand more than was necessary for submission.

The Law and Justice Party (PiS) who is currently in power and considering these further restrictions, are a national right-wing conservative party but even the main opposition party Civic Platform- a liberal-conservative party, has refused to consider liberalizing abortion laws.

If the anti-abortion bills become law, women and female children who do undergo abortions for any reason short of life and death situations will risk between three months and five years in prison. Whilst doctors who seek to perform these unauthorized abortions will face increased prison sentences. The Gazeta Wroclawska quotes one protester stating that :”It’s a cruel and inhuman law. It will endanger all of us. We do not want to live in a country where the bed of a pregnant woman is surrounded by armed police officers and a prosecutor, where every abortion ends in investigation, where raped girls are forced to bear the children of their rapists ” (Translated from Polish)

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Czarny Protest in Gdansk

Pro-choice activists have tried to counter with their own initiative by producing a bill called ‘Save the Women’, which would allow abortions for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.Within a very short time the bill had collected215,000 signatures but has since been ignored by the Parliament.

The reasoning behind the Black Protest movement is described by the organizer of the Lublin branch, Catherine Babis, as – “(We) organized the protest, because we are tired of being treated like objects in the ideological controversy. It is easy to talk about sacrifice and holiness of life, if it applies to sacrifice someone else. We do not agree with forcing women to be heroic in the name of someone else’s ideology and someone else’s beliefs. We can see how it ends in countries that have introduced similar laws, countries dealing out sentences for miscarriage, and the doctors looking idly on the death of women who could be saved. We do not want Poland to be turned into a hell for women. We want dignity and security for us and for our families.”

Click here for more by Emma Danks-Lambert.

The Euroculturer Recommends:

“Asian or Eurasian Century? The Emergence of a Media Trend or a Multipolar world” by  Daniele Carminati

“The EU as a Democratic Role Model for the U.S.? Comparing representation in the EU and the U.S.” by Sabine Volk

Immigrants, Visas and Silver Bullets: How will UK Migration work Post-Brexit?

 

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Johnson and May, although on opposite sides pf the referendum campaign, have both promised to reduce immigration post-Brexit

Eoghan Hughes

Months after it helped convince citizens to vote to leave the European Union (EU), migration remains at the heart of post-referendum politics in the UK. One promise of the Brexiteers was that a points system would be brought in to gauge the usefulness of various applicants for immigration. Another promise was that the freedom of movement of EU citizens into the UK would stop. However the newly minted but not so shiny Prime Minister Theresa May’s has made the decision to rule out introducing a points-based immigration system to the UK following the referendum result which has stirred media attention in Britain as the debate about the UK’s future immigration policy rages on.

May’s immigration blunder

May made the initial comments before her journey to Beijing to attend the 6 September G20 summit earlier this month, largely an exercise in trying to keep the UK relevant on the international stage and assure international partners that Britain would not become a disconnected island. The points-system referred to is modelled after the Australian immigration system which sees immigrants being given points for their various skills, qualifications and backgrounds, as well as behaviour, as the basis for their potential residency in the state.  May’s statement that there was not yet any proof such a system worked, emphasized that there was no “silver bullet” solution to reducing immigration to the UK. Upon her return, the British cabinet confirmed that the points system would not be part of their immigration policy. May promised, however, “some control” over immigration.

This seems a softer message following May’s 31 August pledge to her cabinet, that restricting immigration will be at the heart of any Brexit negotiations. So far there are less bullets, silver or otherwise, coming out of Westminster, and more vague promises. Continue reading “Immigrants, Visas and Silver Bullets: How will UK Migration work Post-Brexit?”

The European Union’s ‘Game of Thrones’: Who Will Be The Next President of The European Parliament?

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EU Parliament in session

Bastian Bayer

Who will be the next president of the United States of America seems to be the big question of 2016, but in the European Parliament another game of thrones has begun.

At the last European Parliament elections in 2014, the conservative EPP and the social democratic S&D made a deal and signed a written agreement that meant that Martin Schulz, the S&D candidate, would become president for the first half of the legislative period and  that the EPP would pick the president for the second half.

Now with the first half coming to an end in January 2017,  the current president Martin Schulz does not seem to be willing to leave office, despite the EPP insisting on the instillation a new president from among their own ranks.

The face of EU policy

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Martin Schulz, President of the EU Parliament

Schulz has been, with interruptions,  president of the EP since 2012 and a Member of the EP (MEP) since 1994. He is often portrayed as a down to earth politician, ingrained and diligent. He is said to have strengthened the position of the European Parliament and even critics say he has made the EP more visible to the European public and the world.

He is considered to be the most influential president in the history of the European Parliament.

However his path to power and appreciation was rocky. The son of a police officer, he wanted to become a football player in his youth but a knee-injury made a professional career impossible. As a result this crushed dream Schulz became an alcoholic in the mid-70s which saw him lose his job and almost get thrown out of his own apartment.

However, despite this inauspicious start, Schulz eventually overcame his addiction with the help of his brother.

What followed is a remarkable career.  After a career  as a bookstore manager Schulz became mayor of his home town, Würselen, following his first engagement in the German Social Democratic Party. In 1994 he was elected member of the European Parliament and became its president in 2012. He reached a high point of his career when he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize together with van Rompuy and Barroso on behalf of the European Union.

In 2014 Schulz wanted to become president of the EU Commission, but in the European elections the Conservatives became the largest party and their candidate, Jean-Claude Juncker became president of the Commission, a post he still holds to this day. Nevertheless, this setback did not stop Schulz from being re-elected as President of the EP.

Power play in the middle of the greatest crises in the existence of the EU

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Tusk, Schulz and Juncker

Schulz’s future, however, is unclear, as the first half of this legislative term comes to an end. According to the agreement, Schulz will be replaced by EPP member. However, for some, the agreement does not fit the new circumstances Europe finds itself in.

The S&D argues that with Juncker as President of the Commission and Tusk as President of the Council, already two of the key positions are held by EPP members; and to keep the balance between the largest EU parties, the presidency of the EP should stay with the S&D.

Even a prominent EPP politician and former competitor supports the idea of Schulz retaining the presidency after January 2017, with the simple reason:

“We need stability.”

Just recently Juncker spoke about the many challenges the EU faces in his ‘State of the Union’ address. Brexit, the refugee challenge, economic stagnation and youth-unemployment among many other things.

“Our European Union is, at least in part, in an existential crisis.” said Juncker.

To keep stability in these difficult times, Juncker would like to keep the leadership of the institutions as they are, namely, Schulz as president. It is no secret that Martin and Jean-Claude work closely together, Der Spiegel has even accused them of mutually securing each other’s posts.  Juncker said:”The relationship between the Commission and the Parliament has probably never been as good as it is now”, so “Why change a reliable team?”

However the EPP has made it crystal clear that they will not have Schulz for the next half of the legislative period. Schulz has been heavily criticised for not sticking to the agreement and the same critics have claimed that he has made the representation of the European people a one-man-. These critics claim that “if Schulz gave the parliament a face, it is primarily his face”.

On the other hand, if Schulz id removed; whom is the EPP going to nominate? For an internal primary on 12 December candidates need to be found. However, they lack strong candidates:

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Antonio Tajani

So far the Italian Antonio Tajani, the French Alain Lamassoure and the Irish Mairead McGuinness have been mentioned as possible successors to Schulz. However Tajani is weakened by being close to former Italian PM Berlusconi, who has been disgraced by many scandals.  Also as former commissioner for industry and entrepreneurship, he supposedly involved in the emission scandal and has already been summoned before the investigation committee. All of this means that he is seen as unenforceable in the parliament.

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Alain Lamassoure

The other candidates have similar shortcomings. Lamassoure has the reputation of being uncontrollable and prideful, some say thinking of himself as the French president. McGuinness, as a woman, current EP vice-president and a representative of a small EU Member State, seems to have the best chances of getting  a majority in the parliament. Nevertheless she is perceived as a rather plain Jane candidate and has not excited much attention.

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Mairead McGuinness

Currently, Schulz is fighting to forge a coalition with Liberals, Greens and EPP renegades. Yet it seems to be unlikely that he will cobble together enough votes without the backing of the EPP.

So what is next for him? Luckily another throne, perhaps a greater one, is up for grabs. In Berlin, some people would like to see Schulz as chancellor- the candidate for the SPD in place of the unpopular Sigmar Gabriel, to challenge Angela Merkel in the elections for the German parliament 2017 Regardless, it looks like Schulz has only begun to play.

For more by Bastian, click here.

The Euroculturer Recommends:

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“Who Polices the Internet? Content Removal v. Freedom of Speech” Julia Mason guides us through the trenches of the internet’s most contested battleground and asks is ‘Hate speech’ the same as ‘Freedom of Speech’.

“Immigrants, Visas and Silver Bullets: How will UK migration work post-Brexit” Eoghan Hughes examines the promises, pledges and pitfalls surrounding the UK’s immigration policy in a post-Brexit reality.

 

The Back Office: New Students

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Albert Meijer

If someone asks me what my favourite part of working for Euroculture is, I get an emotional, teary look in my eyes and tell them: “the students”! Fresh faces every semester, eager beavers waiting to be filled with information. Students coming from all corners of the world, all sharing that Euroculture-gene of being triggered by intercultural affairs, with mouths that start foaming by hearing words like ‘Brexit’, ‘transnational’ or ‘identity discourse’. Being in charge of the general euroculture@rug.nl e-mail account, I’m often the first person an interested student talks to. It’s my duty to talk them into entering that great programme of ours.
                But with great power comes great responsibility, mostly in the form of a never-ending cascade of e-mails from students who just write ‘I want scholarship please I need it can I start tomorrow?’ and then expect us to transfer huge sums of money into their accounts. No joke. This happens. A lot.
                Even worse are those students who have enough brains and punctuation skills to trick us into believing they are genuinely interested in a position in our programme, who ask us to guide them through the application procedure, upload reference letters for them, prepare invoices and insurance certificates, and spend valuable time into ensuring a smooth transition into Euroculture studenthood, but who back out at the last moment by saying ‘sorry I’m not coming anymore, I’m going to Laos instead on a spiritual journey to find myself’.
                It’s time-consuming and annoying, but my bitterness never lingers – partly due to the great coffee bar in the vicinity of the consortium headquarters, but mostly because of that sweet sweet sound of a fresh new student knocking on my door, asking where they can find accommodation or how to open up a bank account. “Try the mobility office”, I tell them smilingly.

Albert Meijer works with the Erasmus Mundus Master of Excellence in Euroculture: Society, Politics and Culture in a Global Context, one of the most successful Erasmus Mundus programs. To read more of Albert’s work, click here. 

The Euroculturer Recommends:

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Portuguese Brexit? EU sanctions from the Portuguese perspective” by Elisa Abrantes

“Fellows in Persecution: Two months with the Irish Travellers” by Emily Danks-Lambert

(Europe needs all its voices to weather the challenges faces it today. Equip yourself with the knowledge you need to stand up for your Europe. Join the FREE online course, European Culture and Politics’ starting September 26.)

To find out more about the Euroculture program, visit their website here

Internship Experience and Advice 2015-2016

Debora Guanella
Edited by Ann Keefer

Galicia Jewish Museum
September, 2015-January, 2016 Kraków

Since the very beginning of my MA Euroculture experience, I have made very clear my intention of pursuing the Professional Track to address the lack of study-related working experience in my CV. Within the wide range of topics covered during the first and the second semester, I was particularly interested in questions of cultural memory and heritage, their preservation and their role in building national / group identities. These were the two main reasons that led me to move to Kraków during the third semester to work as full-time intern at the Galicia Jewish Museum.

The Galicia Jewish Museum is an innovative cultural institution opened in April 2004 in Kazimierz, the Jewish district of Kraków, Poland. It is a registered charitable foundation in Poland (Fundacja Galicia Jewish Heritage Institute) and it was founded by the British photojournalist Chris Schwarz in collaboration with  Anthropology Professor Jonathan Webber. The Museum’s mission is not exclusively to commemorate the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, but also to present and to celebrate the Jewish contribution to the history and culture of Polish Galicia with its two permanent photographic exhibitions Traces of Memory and An Unfinished Memory. One of the Museum’s main goals is to challenge the widespread misconceptions regarding the Jewish presence in Poland and to promote the contact  between Jewish and Polish cultures. In order to achieve its aims the Museum also hosts conferences, panel discussions and workshops on Jewish history, Jewish culture, antisemitism, Holocaust studies and intercultural dialog.

My work at the museum primarily consisted of giving tours of the permanent exhibition Traces of Memory and welcoming visitors at the reception desk. The role of the guide is not only to tell the story behind some selected photographs or to suggest possible interpretations, but also and especially, to explain to the visitor how to read the exhibition’s sections in combination with one another. Further tasks may vary depending on the interns’ individual skills and on what is going on currently  at the Museum. The other tasks I carried out for the Education Department included preparing reports of feedback surveys, translating texts from English into German, organising ice-breaker and entertainment activities for visiting groups, leading workshops and training new interns.

Overall, working at the Galicia Jewish Museum has been a very positive experience. The atmosphere was relaxed and stimulating, the museum’s staff helpful and, most important, the interns’ work was valued and trusted by everyone.

Based on my personal experience as a third semester Euroculture intern, here are some suggestions I would like to share with those MA Euroculture fellow-students wishing to follow a placement at the Galicia Jewish Museum or at a similar institution: Continue reading “Internship Experience and Advice 2015-2016”

Playing by two different playbooks: John Mearsheimer on Ukraine, the students of Krakow on John Mearsheimer

Eoghan Hughes
Edited by Elizabeth White

I had not realised just how controversial Professor Mearsheimer was going to be until he delivered this line:

“The conventional wisdom in Europe is that the US is a benign hegemon.”

Looking at the smirks scattering across the room, I got the feeling that Mearsheimer would have been quite surprised by what the students were actually thinking. Later, when he suggested that the Ukraine embrace its role as a ‘buffer’ state, nestled between the EU and the Russian Federation, the scowls could have peeled paint from the walls — but that, Mearsheimer explained, was something he had expected.

John Mearsheimer, a professor of the University of Chicago and one of America’s most influential theorists on international relations, cut an odd figure at Krakow’s Uniwersytet Jagielloński. He delivered his lecture, “Why the West – not Putin – Is Responsible for the Ukraine Crisis”, to a full house in the main hall of the Collegium Novum, surrounded by images of Polish kings, Copernicus and the rich blues and reds of the room’s intricate décor. Scrutinised by students from the East and West, from Russia, the Ukraine, Poland, France, Germany, Ireland, the US and more, you could almost believe he had forgotten who his audience was, with his talk of the aggressive expansion of NATO, the ‘peeling’ of Ukraine from Russia, and the sound logic of Putin’s decision to annex the Crimea. Yet Mearsheimer was well aware of his audience, and past experience had taught him what to expect.
Just a few weeks previously, in Warsaw, he had been confronted by several Ukrainian women, who were “so mad” that he had been afraid that they “might kill [him]!” He said this with an easy laugh that characterised the good humour with which he approached this grave topic. That wasn’t the first time he had made people angry, and it won’t be the last.

Mearsheimer’s argument tends to get him in trouble, he concedes.

 

The intricacies of Mearsheimer’s arguments are well beyond the scope of this piece, as they span several articles, lectures and books, but a sketch of his major points might give you some idea of the trouble he can find himself in.

The central idea underlining Mearsheimer’s theory is that Great Powers are very paranoid about their security: if a perceived threat intends to expand towards the border of Russia, then, in realist terms, Russia as a Great Power must do all it can to prevent this from happening. An advocate of the ‘Great Powers’ school of thought, Mearsheimer thus contends that the Ukraine crisis has its roots not in any delusions of Vladimir Putin, but in a concentrated policy by the EU and US of gradually expanding eastwards towards Russia. This expansion was fueled by the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, which allowed for Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland to join the military alliance in 1997. Russia, under Yeltsin, opposed NATO expansion but they had little power to prevent it. According to Mearsheimer, NATO “got away with it” because of Russian weakness, not because the nature of the country’s politics had changed.

In 2008 a NATO proposal to allow Georgia and Ukraine to join the alliance caused a powerful backlash from the recovering Great Power. Russia under Putin had regained international maneuverability and would go to great lengths to prevent further expansion. Months later the Russo-Georgian war scuppered any immediate plans for accession. This conflict served as a stark prophecy of what was to come for Ukraine.

The EU, comprised of many NATO nations, is considered yet another envoy of the alliance. Therefore, EU expansion in the Ukraine, made all the more likely by the Association Agreement, would have constituted a direct threat to Russia’s borders. Putin, according to this theory, was given little choice but to annex the Crimea and destabilise eastern Ukraine, when the Ukraine-EU Association treaty came close to fruition, bettering the country’s prospects for membership of NATO and of abandoning its age-old function as a buffer between Russia and Western Europe. According to this reasoning, Mearsheimer claims, Putin is a “rational actor,” not the “second coming of Adolf Hitler”, and this action in the Ukraine, far from being expansionary, is in fact reactionary. Russia, being a declining power in terms of population and economic significance, has no resources for a long-term war, and knows very well that an invasion of the Ukraine would be self-destructive.

“In the modern world, conquering and occupation are a recipe for disaster” says Mearsheimer, referencing the Afghan war and the occupation of Iraq. Putin, he claims, is a strategist and knows well that such an effort would end badly. Instead, to maintain Russian security, Putin has decided to “ruin” the Ukraine: a strategy which, even if it is morally reprehensible, still makes sense on the part of Russia. Putin, as Mearsheimer puts it, is playing politics according to the rules of Great Power theory, the playbook of the twentieth century.

This is what he pinpoints as the major flaw in the western assessment of the crisis. NATO and the EU are playing by a different playbook to Russia; they are playing by the book of international law and the ‘new world order’ established by the fall of the USSR. This has allowed NATO to position itself as a benign entity, and sell its expansion as something more political than military. Yet Putin and Russia do not buy this, and have made clear in the past, according to Mearsheimer, that NATO expansion will be treated as an aggressive act.

Mearsheimer’s critics, when not addressing his logic, tend to focus on his moral position. One Ukrainian observer later commented that Mearsheimer’s point of view showed a lack of integrity or concern for the democratic will of the Ukrainian people, something the scholar himself denies.

Instead, Mearsheimer claims that the Ukraine is caught between “two gorillas”: the western alliance comprising NATO and the EU to the west, and the Russian Federation to the east. He believes that the current policy of sanctions and a soft power approach won’t work because Russia is concerned with its security, not its economy. A Great Power, he claims, can be willing to “absorb” a lot of damage in the interests of its security. Instead, the West must change its tactics.

For Mearsheimer, the most important aspect of a new plan towards the Ukraine crisis is for it to be realistic. A realistic approach would involve abandoning the sanctions against Russia, putting a stop to the expansion of NATO and the EU eastwards and focusing on building a cooperative partnership with Russia, something Mearsheimer believes will be necessary to deal with the crises in the Middle East, as evidenced by the Syrian situation, and against an expansive China.

On top of that, he believes the Ukraine, instead of seeking to become a member of either the EU or the NATO alliance, should optimise its placement as a buffer between the two ‘gorillas’, seeking financial partnership from both, and reap the benefits of serving as a meeting point between East and West, akin to Austria’s position during the Cold war, where it served, in Mearsheimer’s theory, as a meeting point for the two sides.

Knowing this, one student asked, why would NATO or the EU seek to add the Ukraine, a country with little to no strategic value in military or economic terms, to the West?

“I don’t understand what we are doing!” Mearsheimer replied, throwing his arms and casting a look upwards. He may think of Putin as a rational actor, but he certainly has his doubts about the ‘West’.

 

Mearsheimer’s talk was always going to be controversial, and the student reaction was diverse and telling of the audience. Aside from the aforementioned comments from some Ukrainian students, other students, generally from European countries with a longer history of European integration, had a variety of responses, from the negative to hearty praise. One commentator, fellow Euroculture student Galina Thieme had this to say:

”I experienced Professor Mearsheimer’s lecture on the current crisis in Ukraine to be refreshingly honest and rational as opposed to most mainstream intellectual and medial opinion makers, who constantly blame Putin and offer uncritical support of Poroschenko. Instead of pouring more gasoline into the fire, in my opinion Mearsheimer provided feasible solutions, taking into account Ukraine’s critical geographic position and the divide of its society in ethnic Russians and ethnic Ukrainians.”

For others, Mearsheimer’s theories relating to Russia failed to account for its actions, or at least did not convince them as to why it would be wise to change strategy vis-à-vis EU and NATO expansion, which was seen by one Polish student, who would prefer not to be named, to be the best strategy for “containing Putin”.

A student of European politics from Portugal, on the other hand, found Mearsheimer’s talk interesting, but was troubled by his seeming lack of understanding of current European thought on these issues, especially in the way he perceived the average European’s opinion on US foreign policy.

This gap between the students and Mearsheimer manifested itself in a number of ways. Indeed, in addition to a cultural gap, there seemed to have been a significant generational gap.

During the Q&A, Mearsheimer responded to a question on security by alluding to the slim but real possibility that a cornered Russia may resort to nuclear warfare. He compared the current policy, involving sanctions and doubling down on the Eastern Neighbourhood Policy, as placing a single bullet in a gun with a thousand chambers, and then putting the gun to our head and pulling the trigger.

For many students, the nuclear scare of the cold war isn’t a memory, but a note in a history textbook. For Mearsheimer, however, who had earlier referred to himself as a “dinosaur” of twentieth century politics, this threat has as much importance as any crisis of modern Europe.

Mearsheimer’s lecture was revealing in two very different ways; both in the provoking perspectives it offered on this defining crisis of EU foreign policy, and in the way it highlighted certain gaps that exist — between the perspectives of the United States and the European Union, between the world views of different members of Europe, and between the concerns of one generation and the next. Mearsheimer offered an important alternative to the narrative adopted by the West and challenged a new generation to think seriously about this crisis on their own terms, rather than relying on the conventional wisdom espoused by the current world order. Playing by different playbooks we may be, but as long as universities like Jagiellon continue to offer a platform to speakers from the entire political spectrum, and promote a dialogue about their views, our different playbooks do not have to mean that we are playing for different teams.

The opinions expressed in this essay do not necessarily represent the views of The Euroculturer.

 

Second-semester Experiences, 2015

Bilbao: Aupa!

Félicie Villeronce
Edited by Michelle Perry

On boring things:

Finding a place to live is probably going to be one of your biggest worries over the two years you will spend as a Euroculture student. You will soon be living out of one big fat suitcase, and you will master the art of bookings, security checking and visa applications.

What I recommend:

Use the university student accommodation system. It’s easy to use (Google Docs) and reliable.

Plus: avoid all the troubles of finding private accommodations while living and studying abroad and make new international friends. (Or not. No one forces you to.)

Minus: you most probably won’t get to live with locals, which could be a shame if you’re trying to learn or improve your Spanish! If this is the case, Facebook might be your best friend. Check out local groups for flatshare, or browse through some local websites. The process will take you longer, but it is worth it. (A friend of mine – an outsider to the Euroculture progamme – was living with three lovely Spanish guys, and it made his Erasmus experience unforgettable.)

Oh the weather! If you thought moving to Spain meant sea, sex and sun, well, it’s not exactly what you’re gonna get in Bilbao. The climate being oceanic on the Atlantic coast, I suggest you pack a pair of wellies. On the other hand, you should also get yourself a bathing suit and a pair of sunnies, because it does get better. (I started going for a swim around April in Bilbao. Not even lying!)

University life. I know that’s also one of the big question marks here. At the University of Deusto, typically, bachelor students have classes in the morning, and masters students in the afternoon. My schedule (you might not get the exact same one but something close to that) was roughly three hours of classes per day from Monday to Thursday, almost always in the afternoon (starting at 3pm). You might occasionally get a class on Friday morning, but you’ll get over it. Continue reading “Second-semester Experiences, 2015”

Second Time a Charm?

Wawel Castle in Krakow, Poland
Wawel Castle in Krakow, Poland

Heather Southwood│southwood28@gmail.com

In Goettingen I was one of approximately twenty Euroculture students, in Krakow that became one of nine, in Indianapolis I couldn’t sit in Starbucks on campus for long without someone I knew walking in, so when I made the decision to return to Krakow for my fourth semester, as one of three I knew it was going to be a shock to the system.

For the first two semesters, my closest friends had been those fellow MA Euroculture 11-13 students, who I studied with, lunched with, cooked with, drank tea with, ate copious cookies with, stressed over deadlines with, partied with and later lived with… you get the picture.

In Goettingen, lunch in the Mensa was a regular daily occurrence and coffee breaks had the potential to be of greater frequency than that of productivity in the library. During my second semester in Krakow all the Euroculture students had lived in the same building, we were in and out of each other’s flats with alarming regularity. You wanted strong coffee – see Penelope. You needed chocolate – go to Sarah.  You wanted custard – only Larisa understood that one! We wanted to visit a bar – just run up and down the stairs knocking on doors and you’ll soon have company.

So, at the start of the fourth semester, as I sat in my temporary room, suitcase on the floor, rain drumming against the window, having just arrived in Krakow from the UK, with the knowledge my fellow Euroculture classmate would not be arriving for another two weeks, I wondered, had I made the right decision for my final semester?

“Krakow was a city in which I felt I could really live, it was fun, affordable, stunning…”

Everyone makes their decision as to where they are to spend their fourth semester based upon their different priorities, with many different things being important only to themselves. For me, it was the city; Krakow was a city in which I felt I could really live, it was fun, affordable, stunning, there was always something going on. However, as the rain fell and I knew I had some flat-hunting to do to find the right apartment; I thought back to all my friends in Goettingen and questioned the decision I had made. I was tired from travelling, and therefore grumpy – I’ll admit it, and running with the assumption that in fact Goettingen was as though it had been exactly in my first semester. In my mind, I would be visiting the Mensa, having coffee, chatting in the library. It didn’t take me too long though to realise that just as Krakow for fourth semester was going to be different, it would be the same for the Goettingen students.

One of the great things about Euroculture is the ability to explore a new place and culture within and (occasionally) outside of Europe. However, the fourth semester is different, there are less classes, there is a thesis deadline looming in and you are living in a city you’ve experienced before. It’s easy to assume it would be the same, some of the same people will be around you, you’ll know the streets, the market days… It was not.

“In our second semester we knew very few Polish students, I hoped my fourth semester would not be the same…”

In our second semester we knew very few Polish students, I hoped my fourth semester would not be the same. In fact, some may say that was a challenge I set myself… I quickly realised, however, how much that challenge would affect my whole semester. A friend and I were invited on a trip with Polish European Studies students to Warsaw. Thankfully, neither of us actually spoke much Polish, as such, when decisions as to where to go, where to eat, even during a press conference, we could shrug at each other awkwardly, solidarity in our ignorance. However, in the evening, with the help of a beer or two, gone was the initial shyness and it turns out the Polish students were happier to speak their fluent English and we were happy to give them a laugh with our faltering Polish skills. When twelve students share a hostel room for a weekend, friendships quickly emerge and there wasn’t a week which went by without some kind of Warsaw trip reunion, friends bringing friends of friends, snowballing in to a great group of friends giving us an insight into Polish culture. Of course, there were also always the second semester students in Krakow to hang out with, drink with, and have dinner with. In my tired (I’ve just arrived in Krakow and my suitcase was really heavy) haze, I’d forgotten that with fourth semester comes the opportunity to meet the new students of the second semester. There was always the opportunity to talk about Euroculture, internships, the run up to the IP (at my end – without the worry), and to smile at the things we found new and interesting in Krakow.

“I made many Polish friends and finally felt like I was getting some ‘inside’ knowledge on the city…”

Over the semester, I made many Polish friends, I spoke more Polish than I ever had in my second semester in Krakow and I finally felt like I was getting some ‘inside’ knowledge on the city. I visited my friends’ bakery for an afternoon coffee hit, was cooked lunch, I was even educated as to which Polish cheese (and many other food niceties) to try by Beata a fellow MA Euroculture 11-13 student and Pole. I followed the news stories in Krakow more. As the semester progressed, I realised how ignorant of Polish news I had been in my second semester and how by following the news, chatting about current Krakow events with my friends, it changed the way I understood the city.

As a fourth semester student, our Eurocompetence III class had become the writing of a grant application which we actually planned and implemented during the IP, as the Urban Challenge. At the first class, with Luc and Karolina, Euroculture Krakow Staff, running the class, out-numbered the only student, me, I learnt that when it’s a small class, there is no one to hide behind. However, I didn’t need to hide, it didn’t feel like a class, it didn’t feel like on one side there are the staff on the other the students, it felt like a collaboration and a friendship. Working with the staff on the IP, seeing the other side of the IP, was a unique opportunity, the gala dinner was somewhat bittersweet and emotional as it began to hit us that this was our final semester, in fact, by this point, I had written and defended my thesis, it was a celebration but also, we knew, the end.

If you had said to me in advance of my fourth semester in Krakow, I would have scoffed that initially I would have questioned my decision of Krakow. I had told myself it would be different, I knew that. I wanted it to be different. In America, I surrounded myself with American students and found out how much of a difference it made, being invited into many American homes including at Thanksgiving, to see how they lived. In Poland, it made the world of difference, I felt at home, I made friends who I have already seen in London this summer and will meet some more in Manchester this week. I learnt about Krakow and other polish cities through the stories and tours of friends and residents.

“So, second time a charm?”

Euroculture was an incredible experience and opportunity for me, living abroad in places I hadn’t contemplated living in before. No one semester stands out to me as being better than others, each was a unique opportunity, I can’t compare them, each one was different and if I had chosen Goettingen instead of Krakow, I know my fourth semester there would have been different again. The fourth semester felt like a bridge out of Euroculture, I felt like I was preparing for ‘real life’ within the safety net of Euroculture.

So, second time a charm? Absolutely, yes in fact, as much as I’m excited about not having to pack my life into 20 kilos for four months for a while, I wouldn’t mind hitting rewind and doing it all again.

Heather SouthwoodChief Copy Editor

Heather is from Manchester, completed her undergraduate in Law before studying MA Euroculture at the University of Göttingen, Jagiellonian University, Krakow and IUPUI, Indianapolis. Her research interests include human rights, religious rights and inclusive citizenship. Currently, she is living back in the UK, working with suppliers in Europe and the Far East, constantly challenging her intercultural communication skills every day.