Friday, 11 March 2011 06:26

Wired in #3: Hybschmann

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When E&M announced the music blog in our newsletter, we got an excited email from one of our readers and Hamburg conference participants, Juliane Schmeltzer Dybkjær, who recommended a band that we needed to cover on Wired in! Hybschmann, a lcoal band in Copenhagen play songs which are easy-going, fun, and have an almost beautiful naivety to them - most interestingly though, they sing in Danish, which could only add to our interest! They consist of five people and got their band's name from their singer and guitarist's last name, (Jeppe) Hybschmann.

E&M: So, first of all: How come you decided to write your lyrics in Danish? 

Hybschmann: Well, because it is with us. It's quite difficult to sing in Danish, but the moment you make a song that actually works, the feeling just makes you want to do more. Our lyrical universe is characterised by Scandinavian feelings, naturalism and impressionism.  

E&M: What are your songs about? Do you write the lyrics together as a band? 

Thursday, 10 March 2011 17:16

Sluggish Partnership

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On February 10th the European Parliament decided to organise the first session of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly for March. Finally, after almost two years after the Eastern Partnership inauguration in Prague, the idea of a joint meeting of 120 deputies, half of whom come from the EP and from the six countries participating in the project may become a reality. The aim of the Euronest is to create a multilateral framework for dialogue that should bring the Eastern Partnership member states closer and try to "tear down" the growing Schengen Wall between them and the EU.

Nevertheless, the fact that it took two years to call the first session of the Euronest is more a sign of the EU's awkwardness in the East than a symbol of some spectacular breakthrough. Of course, it is to the EU's credit but it also still looks like the EU has problems carrying out some of the more ambitious external projects of a supranational community.

Thursday, 10 March 2011 10:29

Ivory Coast: Another Failure of Morality?

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There was a very good point in reaction to my last post, on a no-fly zone in Libya, arguing that the West could not claim to be the moral arbiters for the world. Even though this is not entirely what I aimed at, there are plenty of examples to support this comment. Ivory Coast, a former colony of France, is just the latest example.

Despite regaining some media attention at the moment, the Ivory Coast has been largely ignored since the election last year. The former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara won the elections in a process that the UN called "free and fair" and is internationally recognised as president of Ivory Coast, but incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo refuses to leave office. Reports now claim that supporters of Gbagbo shot at protesters with live ammunition, killing hundreds, maybe up to 1,000 since the elections took place in December.

Unlike Libya's case, which is being broadcast 24 hours a day, Ivory Coast's position is considerably weaker. If you consider it's geopolitical position in comparison to Libya, it does seem to make a difference whether your main export product is cocoa or oil, (and possibly illegal migrants). It may not be surprising then that despite trade sanctions against two Ivorian ports, the European response has been limited to 'concern' over escalating violence (Germany) or hollow calls to the UN to investigate the violence (France). As in the wider Middle East, Europe has once again missed the opportunity to make a bold statement in promoting democracy and liberal values.

The International Crisis Group warns that the rapidly worsening violence "is a serious threat to peace and stability in West Africa" and that the African community needs to prevent an "all-out war". Rather than supporting African attempts to settle this situation, Europe shrinks from pushing this topic firmly onto the international agenda. The time in which Europe can (re-) claim moral righteousness has once again moved further away.

Wednesday, 09 March 2011 13:34

No No-fly zones?

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The demand for a no-fly zone over Libya appears to be particularly prominent in Europe. In demanding it, however, one should be aware of the consequences.

The current situation in Libya is certainly difficult for European observers: people are fighting a dictator – seen by many (and probably rightly so) as a just cause. The European reaction, and West in general, has so far only reacted by getting its citizens out and, in Britain's case, a team of special forces, intelligence personnel and diplomats in, probably for consultations with protestors. The general perception of "we have to do something" remains unsatisfied. In that light, the idea of a no-fly zone over Libya appears to be an attractive solution: stopping Gaddafi's air strikes on his people, as well as preventing fresh mercenaries from coming into the country.

However, as the German weekly Die Zeit correctly argues, talking about no-fly zones also needs to involve talking about war. While imposing a no-fly zone over Libya is generally within NATO's capabilities, one needs to be clear that such action would first include air strikes against all defensive installations. As the head of the US Central Command, James Mattis, argued:

'You would have to remove the air defense capability, in order to establish the no-fly zone. So it — no illusions here, it would be a military operation. It wouldn’t simply be telling people not to fly airplanes.'

Europe needs to ask itself if it really is capable and willing to impose a no-fly zone over Libya. Would Europe send fighter jets to attack targets within Libya and – in the worst case – even accept casualties from airplanes being shot down? At the very least, dangerroom’s David Axe notes that Libya has Africa's largest surface-to-air missile network. Thus, even as Britain and France drafted a resolution imposing no-fly zones Europe should first ask itself: do we really want to take that risk? Or does demanding a no-fly zone imply that the United States is doing the dirty work again? Furthermore, it appears questionable what the imposition of a no-fly zone would actually do to prevent the killings that are going on on the ground.

It is therefore unsurprising that the United States are more reluctant on the topic than European states. Not only are they further away from the scene, which means having to think less about migrants, economic dependency, and oil, but it was clear from the beginning that they would be a key player in imposing such a mechanism. Being involved in Afghanistan and Iraq already brings a heavy burden, getting involved in a third theatre of war therefore appears to be an option for last resort. Therefore, it can probably be seen as a rebuff if the White House chief of staff, William Daley, said:

'Lots of people throw around phrases of 'no-fly zone,' and they talk about it as if it's just a ... videogame or something. Some people who throw that line out have no idea what they're talking about.'

A no-fly zone should still be on the table, but if Europe speaks of it they should also make sure that everyone is aware of the consequences. Being morally right does not seem to be enough in this case. Only if those raising their voices are willing to agree to fight a war and only if this war can be assured to do more good than harm can this be considered a viable option. Currently, it appears, none of this is the case.

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