Tag Archives: Soviet Union

Navalny conviction means Putin forever?



Anna van Densky

COMMENT: Barring of Russian politician, and fighter against corruption, Alexei Navalny turns next year presidential elections into a soap a long time before it starts. The powerful opponent of Vladimir Putin is out of the race, so Kremlin can be sure there will no unpleasant surprises while opening of ballot boxes.

The farse of the politically motivated trial does signal a clear message to the Russians, and to the world: the autoritarism is there to stay. In a way Putin beats Leonid Brezhnev record of 18 years: from inauguration on 7th May 2000 to potential 2024 makes his reign 30% longer that the tzar’s late Soviet stagnation.

The mechanical removal of Navalny is meaning Russia’s return to it very self developing from crisis to crisis, with biological renewal of the leadership over periods of stagnation in between.. “White tzars, red tzars, grey tzars”, – Johan Le Carre’s definition of Russia’s political history can’t be described better in a few words.

Will the Catalan Republic become an EU member state?


cataloniaJordi SOLE, MEP, OPINION

The emergence on new states in Europe is nothing new. In fact, many European states emerged at the end of the 20th century: from the Baltic States that regained independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union, through Czechoslovakia’s split that created the Czech Republic and Slovakia, to the breakup of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which gave birth to no less than seven new states.

The novelty today is that, while these countries did not immediately join the European Union and some of them even took a long and yet unfinished journey towards the Union, an independent Catalonia will claim its right to remain part of the Union, as Catalonia has been a partner in this common project since 1986, has always defined itself as one of the most pro-European countries in the continent, and pro-Europeanism remains a unifying element among Catalonia’s main political parties.

The EU has neither a direct precedent nor a clear policy for what is commonly known as internal enlargement. In fact, EU treaties provide the framework for countries to join the EU and to leave it, but the continuity in the EU of a new state emerging from within the EU is neither explicitly rejected nor foreseen in the treaties.

Nevertheless, the EU has accepted the redefinition of member states’ geographical limits on a number of unexpected cases in the past, adopting pragmatic solutions based on negotiated agreements. That was the case when East and West Germany merged, and also when Greenland decided to leave the EU, but not Denmark, in a referendum.

Furthermore, the EU is committed to the promotion of democracy, which is endorsed as a fundamental principle in its Treaties, and could never punish Catalans (who also enjoy European citizenship rights) for exercising this basic principle in a referendum.

Finally, it is in the economic interest of the EU and its member states –also that of Spain– to include the Catalan Republic among the EU member states, as Catalonia has strong commercial potential, is a strategic location for trade, and is a net contributor to the EU budget.

Thus, there is no reason to think that the EU will not be pragmatic again and will not defend its own economic interests by not taking the Catalan Republic on board.

Jordi Solé


Georgian food toursim to EU


Zurab Matcharadze, Georgian journalist, correspondent of ‘Rezonansi’ newspaper


Today the European Parliament voted in favor of granting the citizens of Georgia the right to 90 days visa to Schengen zone. I do not know about the European Union, but for Georgia it is a  historic decision, being the only tangible result for a regular citizen of the country to the  Euro-Atlantic integration.
This road was long. In June 2005 Georgia unilaterally abolished visa requirements for EU citizens, but the dialogue with the EU on visa liberalization started only in June 2012.
Today the Georgians  support the government’s course towards European integration, but unfortunately the economic situation does not leave much space for enthusiasm. Despite the economic growth, the rate of the national currency – lari to euro has fallen by 40%, subsequently the tourist trip will no longer be an affordable leisure. Having in mind that between Georgia and the EU there is already a functioning Association Agreement, and a comprehensive and free trade agreements, for the representatives of business the visa-free will be an asset in reaching out to potential partners. Having in mind the thousands of Georgians citizens living  in the EU for their relatives it will be an enormous relieve to visit family freely.

However in short-term the visa-free will not have a decisive influence on the mood in society, perhaps, it will not even strengthen the pro-Western sentiment. Moldova is an example, where a visa-free regime with the EU is already in force, but the country has chosen the election of a pro-Russian president.

From the other hand  the visa-free will neutralise expanding anti-Western propaganda, which represents European values as hostile to the Georgian identity. From now onwards, everyone will be able to travel and to see the “decadent West.”

The decision of visa-free removed a huge problem that could harm relations between Georgians and European. Europeans ought  to understand that to a large extent the public opinion is shaped by the presence or absence of sense of injustice.

Georgia believes that the visa-free, although not associated  directly with the issues, but was honestly ‘earned’ by  Georgian peace-keeping in Afghanistan and Kosovo, with the assistance to EU crisis management in Africa. A regular Georgian citizen believes they have earned it.  But after all the agreed criteria for the visa-free, and the failure of some of the EU member-states to adopt a decision without referring to halt mechanism, linking Georgia to the migration crisis, although so far not one illegal migrant had claimed the asylum, or a  blown out of proportion problem of Georgian crime, these issues made a Georgian man in the street felt, that he is treated by Europe unfairly.

In Georgia, the older generation has some “bright” memories about the Soviet times, when they could fly to Moscow for 37 rubles just to dine. Today the price on flights to Europe starts from 19.99 euros, meaning that for pro-European-minded youth it opens a window of opportunities, and for more older, more skeptical and nostalgic public, reminiscent of their “Soviet Motherland” visa-free can mean a revival of a good old tradition of food tourism. Bon appétit!

Kyrgyzstan: new education system


 Birgit Wetzel, OPINON

The shock sits deep, even today, seven years later.

Kyrgyzstan Kyrgyzstan took the final place in the Pisa test, the students had the worst results from 75 participating countries. That was in 2010. The leaders of the country awoke. They had to do something, but how?

“So, this is the main message from PISA: stay ambitious; Work harder to reach your full potential, no matter how you get out of the miserable situation.“ the study says.

The situation was difficult for the small country with its population of about 5 million, whose high mountains cover the vast majority of the country, whose rugged borders separate ethnic groups and whose neighbors show little willingness to cross-border cooperation on all sides. The state fund was weak, ground treasures are few.

Co-operation in Central Asia was difficult after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Nationalities rediscovered their peculiarities, set boundaries, and marched against each other. National leaders in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan rivaled over power and influence.

While new, stiff or rigid structures were being established in the three large territories, the Kyrgyz drove their leaders out of office when they were corrupted or no longer driven by the will of the people. Revolutions shook the capital Bishkek until the path to self-determination and democracy stabilized.

It should go further, and education plays a decisive role. Kyrgyzstan has a young population – the average age is 24. Until now, half of the country´s work force works abroad, mostly in Russia. In order to raise creativity, to create jobs within the country, and to regulate the destiny of the state itself, Kyrgyz youth needs new and better educatio, kindergartens, schools and universities.

The Pisa results gave the decisive impulse. A panel of experts was established along the lines of the groups that the government had already used for reforms in other areas in May 2014. The new Education Public Advisory Council, or EPAC for short, creates transparency and identifies the necessary reforms, informs the public and brings forward the proposals for improvements to governmental bodies. There they are discussed and implemented, that is the goal.

The new body EPAC has already brought forward a lot of weak spots on which urgent action must be taken to ensure that Kyrgyzstab has a future as an independent country. Where, what, when should happen and how, that is where the panel works now. The EU supports the necessary steps for education reforms with programs such as the project “Fostering and Monitoring the Education Reforms in the Kyrgyz Republic” co-funded by Kyrgyz NGO BIOM and Konrad Adenauer.

Coordinator and Assistant to the Board of Reform is Khanat Kubatbekov. He welcomes the work of the reform groups and notes that Kyrgyzstan is the only country in Central Asia where public councils or reform groups would work successfully. It was not until 2014 that they were launched. Therefore, their tasks and objectives are not yet known to all. Trust still needs to grow. This sometimes makes their work difficult. At the same time, he considers the work to be important: problems are identified, examined more closely, research results and experts are consulted. As a result, the government receives suggestions for improvement. It is not always easy to find a common language, he admits, but the biggest problem is corruption.

This is what other members of the 11-member EPAC Group are also aware of. They have already set up a long list of topics: several thousand children do not attend school, the average age of teachers is 50 years, which is too high, while the salaries are too low. The education of teachers must be updated, as many of them teach with old methods and standards. No wonder, because there are far too few new books. Even among the students, only 80% are proud owners of schoolbooks. Modern works should soon be downloaded via the Internet, interactive books, which will also be available in Kyrgyz, Russian and Uzbek. But since only 8% of the schools have Internet so far, there is still much to be done.

The school hours are to be extended, the preschool period will increase again from three to 12 months, the offer for a second language should rise and teachers should receive further training. Because it costs a lot of money, international donors such as the UN, UNICEF, US AID, and the EU are providing funding in various areas.

Until all reforms are implemented, it will probably take seven years, expert expect. But EPAC is the driver of modernization and the reforms are running.

Each child is now registered and is accompanied on his school career. Some 75,000 teachers received training in regional centers over the last three years. The Pisa shock was a healing shock, which the EPAC met with great energy. A lot has happened in a short time, but many things still have to be done.

Our children need competences, says Larissa Marchenko, the education expert. The state is being transformed into a democracy, the economy is transferred into a market economy. Since, the children need the appropriate knowledge. They must be able to compete on the international labor market. Many people still leave because they find no suitable job in Kyrgyzstan. This is to change. When children leave the school, they should enter the labor market or continue training. In any case, however, they should be able to make decisions as a socialized citizen of a modern democracy.

Birgit Wetzel, Berlin-Bishkek