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Category archive for: International Relations

Fencing off the east: how the refugee crisis is dividing the European Union

Written by Jan Culik.

Having finished construction of a razor-wire fence along its border with Serbia, Hungary now plans to extend it to Romania. Tampering with the fence is punishable with prison or deportation.

These are its latest moves in a stand-off between the thousands of migrants trying to reach Europe through Hungarian territory.

Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán has said that this is a “German problem”, not a “European problem”, while leaders in western Europe talk about a shared responsibility.

Two very different responses to the crisis are emerging on each side of Europe. The west might be failing to handle the crisis well but the east is simply rejecting any role in it. Resentment is building on both sides and is threatening European unity. Continue reading Fencing off the east: how the refugee crisis is dividing the European Union

Of War and Words

By Anna Huber

In the second academic term of 2014/2015 I was asked by the United National Society (UN Soc) of the University of Nottingham to attend the London International Model United Nation (LIMUN) 2015 conference.  LIMUN is a student-organised event, in which students have to represent assigned countries throughout the conference, simulating a United Nations (UN) conference. LIMUN aims to build an understanding of global challenges and encourage participants to find solutions to future global problems that are compatible with the aims and principles of the UN.

Like any other UN conference, LIMUN involves research, debating, writing skills and public speaking. Whereas the former three skills are well thought by our department, I think that the latter is a skill that can only be fully gained by your own individual efforts. Additionally, attending lectures where you are confronted with issues such as the uneven growth and exploitation of developing countries, democracy having the potential to lead to tyranny of the majority and the misuse of nuclear weapons – demonstrate how essential public speaking is in order to make your voice heard! So even though seminars tend to make even the quietest students speak up during heated debates (especially when it comes to private schools), I believe that many students still hesitate to confront people on these challenging issues rather than introducing others to their thoughts. I therefore decided to join the UN Soc and sign up to a conference as soon as the opportunity arose which is how I ended up at the LIMUN in London.

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Reflections on the Srebrenica Massacre

By Annabelle de Heus

Twenty years have passed since the events that took place in the small eastern town of Srebrenica; one of the UN’s designated ‘Safe Areas’ where thousands of Muslim refugees had sought solace at the height of the Bosnian War. Despite being under the protection of western peacekeeping forces, the town was overrun in July 1995 and over the days that followed over 8000 men, women and children were massacred by Bosnian Serb forces under General Ratko Mladic. As world leaders have come together in Bosnia to join its commemoration, the search for the remains of victims in the killing fields of the Drina Valley continues. So too does the complicated process of uncovering where responsibility for the mistakes that have been made ultimately lies. Whilst military leaders Mladic and Karadzic are awaiting trial in the International Criminal Tribunal of the Former Yugoslavia (ICTFY) in the Hague, the focus also shifts once again to the role of the Dutch and the wider  international community. This short article seeks to briefly look back at the events of 1995 in the light of recent new research.

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Axis of Evil or Access to Diesel? Reflections on the Iraq War

By Andreas Bieler.

How can we understand the dynamics underlying the Iraq war in 2003? My latest article with Adam David Morton, entitled ‘Axis of Evil or Access to Diesel? Spaces of New Imperialism and the Iraq War’ is now published in the journal Historical Materialism and attempts to address this question.

In our analysis, we argue that the Iraq war did not simply reflect the unitary decision by the U.S. state to assert its interests in the global political economy, nor was it the result of co-operation by a group of allied capitalist countries to secure access to oil in the Middle East. Equally, we reject the notion that the use of military force reflected the interests of an emerging transnational state. Following on from our International Studies Quarterly article and in contrast to the above positions, our main focus is to assert the philosophy of internal relations as the hallmark of historical materialism. Thus, transnational capital is not understood as externally related to states, engaged in competition over authority in the global economy. Instead our focus shifts to class struggles over the extent to which the interests of transnational capital have become internalised or not within concrete forms of state and here in particular the U.S. form of state.

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The Many Faces of Social Media: Challenging the Social Media Democracy Nexus

By Ignas Kalpokas

The conventional narrative about social media and political change tends to be a rather simplistic one: a relatively strong causal relationship between the use of modern communication technologies and democratic change is presumed. Although on some occasions this causation (or, at least, correlation) might hold, there is a different side to social media as well: one of facilitator to non-democratic regimes or instigator of violence. In fact, social media do not have intrinsic qualities of their own but are, instead, dependent on offline conditions. Having established that, the post then moves to the application of social media for influence operations as part of hybrid warfare.

To begin with, social media are usually said to have added a new tool to the social movement repertoire. The new media allow them to access and share information that is not available on mainstream media either because of economic or political pressure or because it simply relates to an issue that is not (yet) high enough on the agenda. Moreover, social media enable instant sharing of new and grievances and, coupled with smartphones, tablets, and other devices capable of capturing and instantly uploading images, allow the development of a new type of activist – an engaged ‘citizen journalist’ who is usually more effective in timing, access, and the immediacy of the cause than any representative of conventional media can be. These developments by themselves help democratise the public sphere and change the way in which citizens relate to it: instead of being passive users, they now become crucial influencers. Social media also have the potential of shifting the balance of power: instead of vertical public communication dominated by heavyweight political and media actors (which, not uncommonly, are one and the same), they can create multidirectional flows of communication.

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Europe and the Disaggregation of Cyberspace

By Ignas Kalpokas

‘Cyberspace’ has, for the most part, been one of those terms that are constantly used and yet difficult to define. However, one attribute is commonly held to be unquestionable: its indivisibility. As the argument goes, there is only one cyberspace that transcends state borders and regional specificities, thus bringing the world closer together and challenging traditional power relations. It is also seen as a fundamentally decentralised environment that is impossible to control. However, that is not necessarily what the future holds, and Europe might be teaching the world how to carve out its own distinct piece of cyberspace.

Cyberspace itself has acquired quite a few connotations: it is a source of information, a medium of self-expression, a tool for empowerment of groups that would not otherwise be heard, a work tool and contributor to employment through the growth it generates, a marketplace used for commercial activities of every kind, etc. Moreover, access to it is often even considered to be a new fundamental human right. Hence, cyberspace is global by both design and usage. Given this context, it is difficult to imagine anything but a single universal cyberspace. However, an important distinction needs to be made: between cyberspace, the Internet, and the physical layer. The latter refers to the infrastructure required for the signals to travel and reach the intended destination, the Internet is the medium of communication, while cyberspace is the experience enabled by the Internet. Not all of those elements are likely to change in the same manner (or to change at all). In fact, both the Internet and the physical component underpinning it are likely to remain as they are, i.e. global. But cyberspace as experience is going to change.

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The rise and rise of Narendra Modi

By Katharine Adeney

As the results began to be released at the end of the Indian election in May 2014 (which took over 5 weeks to complete) it became apparent that Modi had managed what few, if any, observers would have predicted; a majority of seats for one party: his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).  As the results rolled in, soon-to-be prime minister Modi preached a message of unity, promising to ‘keep everyone together’, and, despite the overall majority secured by the BJP, to continue to work with his alliance partners in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

Modi was Chief Minister of the state of Gujarat in 2002 when a massacre of between 1-2000 Muslims took place. Although he has never been convicted of crimes relating to this massacre, which human rights organisations concluded were abetted by the state, several people associated with the BJP were.  Many countries consequently refused him visas (including the UK and the US).  These visa restrictions were lifted when it became likely that he would be India’s next premier.  That Modi was a controversial choice as prime ministerial candidate can be shown by the fact that one of the partners of the BJP in the state of Bihar resigned from the BJP–led NDA alliance in protest at his elevation in 2013.  Many observers were unsure if the BJP would manage to appeal beyond its core base with Modi as their leader.

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Promises, promises in the Croatian Presidential Elections

By Mladen Pupavac and Vanessa Pupavac

“I won’t let anyone say that Croatia won’t become prosperous and rich. Croatia will be among the most developed countries of the EU and the world, I promise you here tonight”.

So promised Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic of the Croatian Democratic Union party (HDZ) after winning the 2014-15 Croatian presidential election and becoming the first female president of Croatia.

The electoral race was very close. Kitarovic won 50.74% and the previous president Ivo Josipovic of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) 49.26% of the popular vote. In absolute terms, the difference between the two candidates was only around 30,000 votes, with the number of spoiled ballots twice that number at around 60,000.

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A new political turn for Indian Kashmir

By Andrew Whitehead

The 79-year old Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was sworn-in on Sunday (1st March) as the new chief minister of the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir. Attending the ceremony in the state’s winter capital of Jammu was India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. For his party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), it was a landmark moment. For the first time, a party often described as Hindu nationalist is in power in Jammu & Kashmir, India’s only Muslim minority state and its most disaffected.

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Six lessons from the initial failed international response to Ebola

By Catherine Gegout

The Ebola virus has killed more than 9,000 people – about 2,000 in Guinea, 3,000 in Sierra Leone and 4,000 in Liberia. The outbreak started in Guinea in December 2013, but the Ebola crisis really started in April 2014 when it began to spread.

The initial international response was deemed “totally inadequate” by British MPs. Since then efforts have improved, but here are six lessons that can be learned from the problematic initial response – from the problems highlighted by the MPs – and especially pertinent to those states that have the capacity to react to epidemics.

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