ukraine – AEGEE-Europe | European Students' Forum AEGEE (Association des Etats Généraux des Etudiants de l’Europe / European Students’ Forum) is a student organisation that promotes cooperation, communication and integration amongst young people in Europe. As a non-governmental, politically independent, and non-profit organisation AEGEE is open to students and young people from all faculties and disciplines – today it counts 13 000 members, active in close to 200 university cities in 40 European countries, making it the biggest interdisciplinary student association in Europe. Wed, 15 Nov 2017 17:59:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.5.11 Position Paper on the EU Eastern Partnership Programme /position-paper-on-the-eu-eastern-partnership-programme/ Thu, 31 Jul 2014 08:02:38 +0000 /?p=5471

BACKGROUND

The Eastern Partnership (hereinafter “EaP”) Prague Summit in May 2009 launched a strategic and ambitious EaP Programme as a specific dimension of the European Neighbourhood Policy. In 2013, the European Union evaluated the achievements of its European Neighbourhood Policy and, more specifically, the level of cooperation with its Eastern neighbours.

Within the last 4-5 years, most participating countries in the EaP Programme (includes – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine) have successfully implemented a number of required reforms at home and abroad (i.e. improvements to domestic democratic processes, international economic cooperation agreements, and thoroughly negotiated and signed Association Agreements).([1]) To that end, the EaP Programme has introduced a new kind of Association Agreement that encompasses the following key elements: Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements with countries willing and able to enter into such an engagement, gradual integration in the European Union (EU) economy, easier travel to the EU through visa liberalization, and sophisticated measures to tackle illegal immigration.

The negotiated Association Agreements for EaP countries (Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine) have addressed numerous issues including political close association with the EU, political reforms, dialogue and cooperation on foreign and security policy issues, and economic cooperation and trade. As a consequence, these agreements have encouraged cooperation in the fields of migration, rule of law, human rights, fight against crime and corruption, protection of personal data, and cooperation against trafficking and terrorism. However, they do not guarantee nor envision EU membership for EaP countries. Nevertheless, the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (hereinafter “DCFTA”) is a part of the negotiated agreements that affords EaP countries the opportunity to develop European-oriented functioning national economies, which would enable them to overcome considerable financial difficulties (insofar as they are focused on market competition, technical barriers for implementation of free trade, intellectual property rights, export duties and restrictions, and sanitary and/or phytosanitary measures).

The EU-EaP Vilnius Summit was a landmark event in the context of the EaP Programme, insofar as it dispelled any myths that Association Agreements and DCFTAs are secret documents that are unavailable and withheld from the public. Ultimately, the Vilnius Summit had mixed results: while Georgia and Moldova initialed and signed Association Agreements and DCFTAs with the EU, Ukraine and Armenia did not sign or initial agreements of their own due to political reasons and newly undertaken international commitments towards the third parties. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan signed the Visa Facilitation Agreement with the EU, thus breathing new life into the visa dialogue between the two sides. However, the EU gained better knowledge and experience about how to approach each partner country after the Vilnius Summit.

The EaP Programme is a policy that seeks to create opportunities for everyone. In terms of the principle of conditionality (i.e. “More for more – and less for less”), we can reasonably argue that Eastern partners take into consideration the progress which the respective partner countries have achieved, thus: the more they are reforming – the more assistance they will receive from available European institutions. In this sense, the EaP Programme is grounded in political association based on the notion of shared European values and principles, not to mention the commitment of the Eastern neighbours to enroot those values in their own domestic political affairs and act in the spirit of the principle “more for more.”

AEGEE-EUROPE AND THE EASTERN PARTNERSHIP PROGRAMME

Through our experience in a large European students’ network, we have seen how unequally educational/work /social opportunities are distributed among young people in the eastern and western parts of European continent. AEGEE-Europe is deeply convinced that ensuring equal opportunities for young people all over Europe will be beneficial for the continent at large. In support of the ongoing EaP Programme, AEGEE-Europe established the AEGEE EaP Project in 2011, as a mean of improving the knowledge of EU Member States and the EaP Programme States citizens about the existing challenges and visions of further European integration.

The AEGEE EaP project takes into account the principles of the EaP Programme and adds a youth perspective to it. We perceive a huge need for intercultural youth exchange in order to develop active citizenship and democratic participation in an integrated and developing Europe. When trying to establish a partnership of equal states and equal peoples, as it is the goal of the European Union and the EaP Programme, one significant need is to learn about each other’s perspectives for a shared future, to define common values on which this future can be built, and, at base, to get to know each other and become familiar with the political and social landscape in neighbouring countries.

As a pan-European organisation, the members of the AEGEE EaP Project stand in solidarity from a multitude of perspectives, building and strengthening a common European identity. This diversity of perspective has allowed us to develop the AEGEE EaP Project in a way that meets the needs of young people from all over Europe.

AEGEE-EUROPE RECOMMENDATIONS ON THE EASTERN PARTNERSHIP PROGRAMME

EU Should Ensure the Sustainability of Ongoing Reforms in EaP Countries:

Within the last four years, various reforms and EU funded projects have been launched and implemented in all EaP Countries. However, the sustainability of all implemented programs and reforms should be considered as a high priority for the EU in a long term strategy. The sustainable and visible results of these projects may eventually encourage greater multilateral dialogue and integration of EaP countries with the EU. Taking into account the variety of ongoing EU funded programmes in all EaP countries, AEGEE-Europe recommends that the European Commission ensures the sustainability of the reforms, calls upon the European Council and EU Member States to take further actions in this direction.

EU and EaP Individual Partners Should Boost Visa Liberalization Talks:

AEGEE-Europe stands for a democratic, diverse and borderless Europe that is socially, economically and politically integrated, and values the participation of young people in its construction and development. The young people and youth workers are increasingly mobile across Europe. Most of the EaP countries have already successfully finalized and begun to implement provisions of the Visa Facilitation and Readmission Agreements with the EU. However, even in “facilitated conditions,” the existing visa regimes are a huge obstacle to the mobility of young people. In this regard, AEGEE-Europe once again strongly encourages the European Commission and the Schengen Area Countries Authorities to develop certain and unified successful, tested model of online visa application schemes, and to establish shared one-window mechanisms for registering, applying, submitting and receiving Schengen visas, thus avoiding any possible situation in which young people’s, students, volunteers and/or workers’ right to mobility may be threatened.

As it has been mentioned in the Final Joint Declaration of the Eastern Partnership Youth Forum in Kaunas (October 22nd -25th, 2013), the support for young people’s mobility needs to happen  at every level as well as continued negotiations on the abolishment of visa requirements for young people, especially from EaP countries.([2])

In accordance with Focus Area 3 of Strategic Plan 2014-2017 of AEGEE-Europe ([3]), Visa liberalisation remains a shared objective of individual EaP partner countries and the EU alike in furtherance of “people to people” contacts.

AEGEE-Europe strongly recommends that the national authorities of individual EaP partner countries take constructive and feasible steps to provide grounds for well-managed, organised and secure mobility, thus advancing the ambitious Visa Liberalisations Action Plans with the EU.

EaP Individual Partner Countries Should Undertake Individual Reforms in the Judiciary:

AEGEE-Europe strongly encourages and calls on all EaP individual partner countries to make further steps in strengthening democracy, and guaranteeing respect for human rights and rule of law. We suggest that they take these steps by reforming their judiciaries and strengthening just law enforcement at home, thus excluding any possibility of prosecution based on political views, religion, and gender. We deeply regret any arrest or acquisition based on the political activities of EaP partner countries’ citizens, even if their views contradict to the respective government’s official platform.

These views are reinforced by the Joint Declaration of the Third Eastern Partnership Summit (organised in Vilnius on November 28th-29th, 2013), which highlights the continued need for human rights work in Eastern Partnership countries.([4])

Enhanced Focus on the Role of Civil Society and Youth

The participants of the Vilnius Summit recognize the valuable role of civil society within the Eastern Partnership Programme, insofar as civil society constitutes an integral element of a well-functioning democracy. As a full member of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum (hereinafter EaP CSF) since 2011, AEGEE-Europe would like to highlight the contribution and impact of the EaP CSF in the promotion of democracy, protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and guarantee of cross-border cooperation throughout the Eastern Partnership region. The establishment of the permanent secretariat of the EaP Civil Society Forum ([5]) and support provided within the framework of the Neighbourhood Civil Society Facility ([6]) are other welcome steps towards more structural engagement of the civil society in the process of the European integration of the Eastern neighbours. AEGEE-Europe deeply believes in the further strengthening of the EaP CSF National Platforms ([7]). In this regard, AEGEE-Europe deeply encourages the EU Delegations in all EaP countries to set up and intensively promote special tools, such as the Civil Society Dialogue website of the EU Delegation in Armenia ([8]), aimed at providing civil society actors with the opportunity to exchange their views on a number of issues relevant to the future development of EU-EaP relations.

AEGEE-Europe deeply encourages further involvement of representatives of youth organisations in the Civil Society Forum (CSF) Multilateral Platform meetings. We gladly welcome the launch of the Eastern Partnership Youth Forum which took place in Kaunas on October 22nd-25th in 2013. We intend to support the further EU-EaP youth side events. We recommend that the EU and the EaP individual partners increase dialogue with youth organisations and make the Eastern Partnership Youth Forum an annual event. In so doing, they would give participating individuals and organisations space to share alternative views of the work, direction and goals of the Eastern Partnership. A strong and consolidated youth presence will powerfully promote civic activism and “Europtimism” in the EaP region.

EaP Individual Partner Countries Should Promote the Recognition of Youth Work:

As it has been mentioned in the Final Joint Declaration of the Eastern Partnership Youth Forum in Kaunas, “the further development of youth worker competencies are needed in order to reach out to and involve minority groups in ways that other sectors can not. More specifically, youth workers need support and training in inclusion, diversity, participatory approaches, citizenship, democratic processes and human rights education. They should be empowered to identify and react to the needs of young people and the communities they work in. Training courses, competency recognition and qualification processes need to be developed and implemented. Quality inclusion youth work practices contribute to the recognition of youth work.”([9]) Accordingly, we recommend that EaP individual partner countries’ national authorities adopt long term strategies that will be responsive to the needs of young people and youth workers of the specific EaP country.

Further EU-EaP Cooperation in the Field of Education:

In the fields of higher education and non-formal education, AEGEE-Europe encourages the EU to support and/or implement well-based promotional campaign in the EaP partner countries on  promote the new “Erasmus+” programme, thus giving young people and students the opportunity to get acquainted with new procedures and possibilities affiliated with the programme. It is our belief that the opportunities afforded by “Erasmus+” will enable EaP individual partner countries to tackle issues such as youth employability and active participation in democratic life.

Greater Focus on the Civic Education of the EaP Countries

In compliance with the Focus Area 4 of Strategic Plan 2014-2017 of AEGEE-Europe ([10]), we encourage all relevant stakeholders of the EaP individual partner countries national authorities to pay special attention to the matters related to the civic education of students and young people. Civic education addresses knowledge, skills and attitudes in fields such as human rights, democratic participation, intercultural communication and sustainability. AEGEE-Europe contributes to the development of responsible citizens through non-formal educational programming, but we need to include such competences in the educational curricula of all European countries in order to have a lasting and meaningful impact.

AEGEE-EUROPE: ABOUT US

AEGEE-Europe was established 29 years ago with the vision of creating a unified Europe, grounded in democracy and respect for human rights, by bringing together students with diverse cultural backgrounds. Today, AEGEE-Europe is Europe’s largest interdisciplinary youth organisation, which includes 40 countries, 200 cities and more than 13,000 members. AEGEE-Europe enjoys participatory status in the activities of the Council of Europe, consultative status at the United Nations, operational status at UNESCO and membership in the European Youth Forum. On various occasions, Mr. Herman Van Rompuy, Mr. Jose Manuel Barroso, Mr. Martin Schulz, Mr. Stefan Fuele and Baroness Catherine Ashton have expressed their support of AEGEE-Europe activities and have given their patronage to several pan-European initiatives of the Association in the Eastern Partnership region.

 


[7] Since mid-2011 EaP Civil Society National Platforms have been established in all six Partner countries. National Platforms are valuable tools that facilitate the achievement of the goals of the Eastern Partnership in each of the respective EaP countries. They were created for the purpose of ensuring active involvement of each partner-country’s civil society in cooperation with national authorities, offering recommendations for successful implementation of EaP projects, establishing stable relations with European civil society organisations, and facilitation of communication with EU institutions at the central and local level.

[8] Please see  http://www.eu-cso.am/

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The shooting down of the flight MH17 in Ukraine should be a wake up call for Europe /the-shooting-down-of-the-flight-mh17-in-ukraine-should-be-a-wake-up-call-for-europe/ Fri, 18 Jul 2014 20:19:12 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=1087 The shooting down of a Boeing 777 on July 17th is a shocking reminder of the fact that, while the international community divides its attention between the bombing in Gaza and the holiday destination of the German world champions, the situation in Eastern Ukraine has degenerated into a civil war whose consequences are unpredictable. AEGEE-Europe has been paying continuous attention to the situation and we are worried that this attack can lead to a crossing of accusations and an escalation of the conflict.

The current and the new boards of AEGEE-Europe would like to express their condolences to all families and friends of the 298 victims, and especially to the Dutch nation, that lost 189 citizens according to the first reports. The country declared Friday a day of mourning for the victims.

But this shocking attack has to be a wake up call for Europe. There are many other victims of this conflict that lasts for several months already: dozens of casualties on both sides, journalists, thousands of refugees that are fleeing the region because of fear or the lack of opportunities that have come as a result of this separatist conflict. Europe cannot leave Ukraine alone; it is the moment to make a big stand for peace and get involved in the pacification of the region. Cooperation with Russia is essential if we want to succeed in putting an end to this conflict.

However, the authorship of the attack is still unclear. Rumours point to the separatist faction, and the fact that they are putting obstacles to the investigation does not help their cause. Additionally, media has recently shown that the pro-Russian faction owned several units of heavy armament. In fact, several airlines have already been avoiding the aerial space over the Dnipropetrovsk region over the past months as a preventive measure, but Eurocontrol (the European air traffic management organisation) has not closed it for navigation until today.

AEGEE-Europe believes that transparency and extensive investigation of this and other incidents in Eastern Ukraine are necessary to determine responsibilities and find the key to solve the conflict, and therefore should be a requisite for the EU support to the Ukrainian government, in line with the 18th point of the Joint Motion of the European Parliament For A Resolution on Ukraine (2014/2717) issued on Wednesday, the day after the plane was shot down.

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“If we don’t cry out, who will?” /if-we-dont-cry-out-who-will/ Wed, 04 Jun 2014 10:28:31 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=1076 Commeorating 25 years of the Tianammen Square massacre

As a European students’ organisation, we do not often look beyond Europe in these days while so many conflicts are happening in our continent. But today we do. We want to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the crackdown of one of the biggest students’ protests in history, the Tianammen Protests in China, with a million of students demanding for reforms towards freedom and opening of the communist regime. “People were disappointed in the government. They thought, If we don’t cry out, who will?” says Kenneth Lam, who was 20 then. When the Chinese government decided to send the army to stop the protests, hundreds (or thousands) of civilians were killed, and a strong secrecy was imposed. Even today, the Chinese government is obstructing those who want to commemorate or investigate what happened, as International Amnesty denounces.

In spite of the efforts of the Chinese government, the massacre hit the news all over the world. The iconic picture of the man stopping the column of tanks became a symbol of peaceful struggle for democracy. This was a  turning point in history in many levels, and is very relevant this year, when students’ have demonstrated all over our continent demanding more democracy. The Tianammen square can be these days in the Gezi Park in Istanbul, in the Maidan Square in Kyiv, at the streets of Tuzla; it can happen at any time, in any other European city. AEGEE-Europe calls for the European governments to refrain from any violence and to respect the democratic rights of the protestors, to take into consideration the demands of their citizens: in most cases, they just want a more democratic society, more opportunities to participate in the decision process and a better future.

We want to remember all the people who died fighting for their rights in China in 1989, and all those citizens (and specially the students) who faced hard repression from police, got gassed, beaten, severely injured and even killed in the last 12 months in Europe. We are proud of you and we support your demand for democracy anywhere you are.

You can read more in this complete article in Time Magazine.

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Tense situation in Ukraine the days before their most important elections. /tense-situation-in-ukraine-the-days-before-their-most-important-elections/ Thu, 22 May 2014 09:56:12 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=1059 Even though most western media have shifted attention from Ukraine, AEGEE-Europe / European Students’ Forum is still concerned about the situation in the country. We pay close attention to the Eastern regions, where several independence referendums were conducted some days ago. Regarding the absence of the international observers, and the lack of a legal framework to hold these consultations, neither the government of Ukraine nor the international community give validity to the results, but this seems to have little importance these days.

The situation in the country is very unstable. On the one hand, the provisional government (established once President Yanukovich fled Ukraine last February) is supposed to govern until the upcoming presidential elections scheduled on May 25th, but it was never fully recognised by the eastern parts of the country, which massively voted for Yanukovich during the elections in 2010. In addition, some of the proposals of the provisional government raised the tension with Russian-origin and Russian-speaking Ukrainians, such as the attempt of cancellation of the 2012 “language law” (that allows regions to adopt more than one language for official purposes if they are spoken by at least 10% of the local population) which was perceived as an attack to the Russian-speaking community. Even if interim president Oleksandr Turchynov vetoed this proposal before it came into force, the harm was already done.

On the other hand, the Russian intervention in Crimea, and its subsequent independence and annexation to the Russian Federation, created a dangerous precedent. The agreement signed on April 17th in Geneva by all parties to deescalate the conflict was never respected, with each party accusing the other of breaking it. As a result, the regions of Luhansk and Donetsk are following the break-away scheme and have become de facto independent territories. The Russian Federation has still not announced whether it will recognise them as independent or not, a prior step to the possible inclusion in the Federation later on. This uncertainty is allowing new illegitimate powers to take control over a huge part of the Ukrainian territory, and brings deeper instability to the region.

The last weeks had seen a dramatic increase in confrontations in those territories. The pro-independence groups have clashed first with the supporters of the territorial integrity of Ukraine, and later and more violently with the police and army units deployed by the Kyiv government in an attempt to defend the territorial integrity of Ukraine by stopping the independence referendum. The presence of these troops and the violence of the confrontations have been reported to have caused many indecisive voters to opt for the independence in the referendum, aggravating the problem they were supposed to solve.

AEGEE-Europe condemns all kinds of violence. In regions such as Donetsk, Luhansk and Odesa (especially in cities such as Sloviansk, Kramakorsk and Mariupol), confrontations have caused death of dozens of civilians, including gruesome acts such as setting on fire a building where a group of protesters had taken refuge, with more than 40 people burned alive. The role of the police and army troops has to be to protect citizens, and to prevent demonstrations from becoming violent confrontations that increase the number of casualties; but episodes of civilians being shot by police or army have been reported. This cannot be tolerated. Therefore AEGEE-Europe calls for an independent, big scale investigation to determine responsibilities and clarify the role of external powers and extreme-right groups such as the Pravyi Sektor in the radicalisation of the confrontations.

The situation in these regions is close to a civil war, with skirmishes from both sides and casualties on a daily basis. Another war, a media and propaganda one, is fought from both sides, making it extremely complicated to understand what is really happening in the region. The fact that journalists are among the victims of gunfire, and frequently threatened and kept captive, is another proof of how far the situation has arrived.

The days before the Ukrainian elections next Sunday will be extremely unstable, as the increase of victims in the past days after some relatively calm days cries. We express our will that the whole Ukrainian society refrains from any form of violence, in order to allow democracy to work free from external pressures. As part of a new project to support democracy in Europe, our organisation has sent a delegation of 21 members as International Observers, in cooperation with local organisations and after participating in OSCE trainings. We hope for a new, fresh leadership coming out of these elections, strong enough to put back Ukraine on track and to close this dark chapter of the country’s history.


Written by Miguel Gallardo, Comité Directeur AEGEE-Europe.
With the contribution of the Eastern Partnership Project of AEGEE-Europe and different members of AEGEE from Russian and Ukrainian locals.
Pictures from EaP project, @pmarsupia and @MaximEristavi

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How the hero of Lviv became Putin’s worst enemy /how-the-hero-of-lviv-became-putins-worst-enemy/ Wed, 21 May 2014 11:22:19 +0000 /?p=5275

Ambitious youngsters strive for a European, free Ukraine

If there is one question that comes to the minds of the Europeans when they read or hear news from Ukraine these days it is: “what to think about the situation in this country?” After the first massive enthusiasm, support of Euromaidan and the condemnation of the Russian annexation of Crimea, opinions drifted apart. We were greatly touched by our discussions in Kyiv and Lviv and would like to share with you what we have learned from the young Ukrainians and which conclusions did we draw from our visit to the country that is on everyone’s lips. We feel this is especially relevant now when opinions are drifting further away than ever, the news keep bombarding us with significant events that change the context of the debate and because we were shocked by some of the arguments of people and media in Ukraine and abroad. As a reaction to the deaths in Odessa, the first contributor on the Debating Europe platform, where our topic about the role of young people during Euromaidan was discussed, stated:

“The Euromaiden thugs are a bunch of Neonazis who burnt alive 42 people last night”.

This standpoint, one that seems to be shared by most of the Russian propaganda channels, appears to be picked up by European politicians at the far left and the far right. Marine Le Pen, the leader of the French party Front National, openly supports Moscow’s position and many other right wing parties in Europe (even in the UK) follow her lead. Even more, some American journalists openly support a possible invasion of Ukraine by Russia, one of them stating that: “seventy years ago, Russia defeated fascism in Europe. It is time to deliver that honourable blow again”.[1]

So, wait a minute… is it really the case that Ukraine is involved in a conspiracy of Neonazis, backed-up by the CIA in order to get rid of all Russians and Jews?

Courageous as we were, we dared to visit the country itself in order to ask young people in Lviv about their views on the situation.

Lviv: beautiful, peaceful and hopeful

Lviv 2One of the first things that strikes you when you enter the city of Lviv by train is its beautiful train station. Upon entering, the long-gone spirit of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire can be sensed in all the little details: the small stones in the road, the pretty houses and the magnificent buildings like the opera theatre. This student city in the West of Ukraine breathes a peaceful atmosphere with old trams slowly passing by and old people selling traditional clothes at the market. Apart from this old heritage of a perished empire the city contains a lot of ambitious young people and great innovations. Some of the highlights of its small-business innovations are its bars that are slowly becoming world-famous. One of them is the “House of Legends”- a 4-floor establishment with a dragon attached to it and great thematic decorations in all its tiny pubs. Another is the place called “Communal” where we had our presentation, a sunny and welcoming cafe that is open 24 hours a day. People could use flexible workspaces, get free drinks and food and even sleep in this place for only one euro an hour.

In this great environment we had a discussion with students from Lviv about the current situation in Ukraine. We considered the new ways of youth participation in Ukraine and the impact of Euromaidan on this phenomenon. Moreover, we asked about their attitude towards the happenings in the country with regards to the separatist movements in the East and the role of Putin in the conflict. It seemed that all of them agreed that the Euromaidan movement has fundamentally changed something in the attitude of the youth in Ukraine. For months it had been a daily fact of life: after university was finished you went to the square in order to join the other protesters. Lviv has a unique position in this respect while it is the place where Euromaidan started and the university professors; clerical leader and even its mayor actively supported the movement. Euromaidan has boosted many youth initiatives and made youngsters more interested in joining organizations that support their social surroundings; it opened up their eyes to the importance of building a strong civil society.

As for political participation, the impact of Euromaidan was different. The events showed the corrupted, greedy and undemocratic nature of Ukrainian politics, which doesn’t make it very attractive for young people to get involved in it. Though their stance had changed from a-political before Maidan to very political after Maidan, none of the participants was considering joining a political party. At the same time, they had a very strong stance on the current political situation in the East. When we asked them what do they think Ukraine should do in case the Eastern part of the country would be in danger of being lost, almost all of them agreed that Ukraine would have to fight for it. Especially as long as the influence of Putin in that part of the country remains so strong and there is no chance for an honest debate about the position of these regions, Ukraine should not accept separation and counter it with military intervention if necessary.

After the discussion, our impression of Lviv was one of a wonderful city with young people that live between hope and fear. How did this beautiful place become the centre of so much anger and hatred from the side of Putin and its supporters? How did it become a place where fascists would be roaming the streets and attacking those who don’t support the Ukrainian state? In order to find out about this we have to dig a bit into the Ukrainian history.

Kryjivka, the most dangerous restaurant in the world

Lviv 2Interestingly, part of the answer to these questions can be found in one of the famous restaurants of the city – Kryjivka. It has become a popular place for tourists from within and outside of Ukraine and has a very peculiar way of serving its guests. It is build like a bunker of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army during and after the Second World War and upon entering each guest has to state the password “Heroyam Slava” (“glory to the heroes”) upon the welcoming words “Slava Ukrayini”(“glory to Ukraine). The personnel are all dressed up as members of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army carrying guns and looking for Russians amongst the guests. If they suspect a guest to be Russian, they arrest him during the dinner and he gets send to a prison cell in the restaurant (this even happens with Dutch people that pretend to be Russian). In the cell, the guest has to answer a couple of questions like “who is Yanukovych” and “who is Putin”. Although this show seems very entertaining and innocent for the unknowing tourist, it has become a subject of controversy in Ukraine and reflects a deeper historical context. A pro-Russian Ukrainian politician who wanted to enter the restaurant but refused to state “Slava Ukrayini” was denied entrance. This became a scandal in the country and this politician later even stated that anti-Semite propaganda was being spread at Kryjivka.

The historical context of Kryjivka reveals the anti-Russian sentiments in the region and the Russian conviction that Lviv is the root of all evil in Ukraine. This goes back to the artificial famine of the 30’s that was caused by Stalin’s Soviet regime and killed millions of Ukrainians in Eastern Ukraine. Lviv and its surroundings have been a source of resistance against any external power that would deny them their cultural and political independence as Ukrainian people. The leader of the Ukrainian resistance was Stepan Bandera, a nationalist and a freedom fighter. He is hailed as a hero in Lviv, but is a very controversial figure in parts of Ukraine, Russia, Poland and the EU in general. Kryjivka is a symbol of Bandera’s heritage and the Ukrainian resistance against its oppressors.

What do these experiences tell us about the situation in Ukraine? First of all it shows that history is still very present in Western Ukraine and in the conflict in the region. Secondly, it teaches us that we should be weary that the images we see and the reality we experience do not always coincide. Although the sentiments in the region are indeed centred on a controversial figure this does not imply that the people are in any way fascist or xenophobic. Reality can only be sensed when actually being in Lviv and talking to the people. What you see then is that the youngsters are mostly fighting for a better future in which they can fully develop their ambitions. They’re fighting for a free, European Ukraine.

 

 



[1]http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2014/05/04/putin-send-troops-ukraine-finian-cunningham/

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AEGEE-Europe Regrets the Referendum in Crimea /aegee-europe-regrets-the-referendum-in-crimea-2/ /aegee-europe-regrets-the-referendum-in-crimea-2/#comments Tue, 18 Mar 2014 08:59:22 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=975 On March 16, 2014, upon the prior decision of the National Rada of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, the referendum was held on the future status of the territory of Ukraine and possible succession of Crimean Autonomous Republic to the Russian Federation.

We consider this referendum as illegal and illegitimate and contradicting first of all to the Constitution of Ukraine. Though the right of self-determination exists (UN Charter, Article 1), the situation is more complex in the peninsula as Crimea is voting to be not only independent but for joining the Russian Federation. Secondly, such referenda should be agreed upon by the country’s government whereas in this case, Crimea organised it by itself, which relates to secession rather than self determination. In addition, the referendum happens in a context of illegal occupation by unidentified military forces (likely to be Russian) of the territory of Ukraine,  which is in violation with the Memorandum on Security Assurances in Connection with Ukraine’s Accession to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapon (Budapest Memorandum of 1994) where the Russian Federation agreed to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine, thus its results could not be recognized. We deeply regret the organization of this referendum itself. In our belief it would bring only additional tensions and escalation of the regional situation, thus harming directly the regional security.

A woman casts her ballot at a polling station during the Crimean referendum, in Sevastopol, Ukraine, Sunday, March 16, 2014. Residents of Ukraine's Crimea region are voting in a contentious referendum on whether to split off and seek annexation by Russia. (AP Photo/Andrew Lubimov)

In our deep conviction, the Ukrainian people should decide their future as a united and independent nation. In this regard, only diplomatic and peaceful talks with the respect of all international law norms (including territorial integrity of Ukraine) may allow Ukraine, Russian Federation and the European Union to avoid the further escalation of the situation. However, the results of Crimea Referendum could not be considered as legitimate and they only complicated future efforts to resolve crisis. In all our previous statements we stated clearly for numerous times, that there is no grounding allowing Russian Federation to intervene in Ukrainian internal affairs through its respective actions in Crimean Peninsula.

In addition to this, we strongly call  the EU Ministers of Foreign Affairs to evaluate as soon as possible the existing situation over Crimea and decide on certain and urgent measures/sanctions against the Russian Federation, in line with the declaration of the EU Heads of State and Government of the EU of 6 March, unless the Russian side would not take real actions and moves for the de-escalation of the existing situation. The EU should speak and act in one voice: separate negotiations and solutions are not an option anymore for overcoming the existing deadlock.

Simultaneously, we encourage all our AEGEE members in Ukraine, and particularly in AEGEE-Sevastopol, to continue their further activities in a working routine and in the European spirit of AEGEE/European Students’ Forum.

Written by Armenak Minasyants, the Policy Officer of AEGEE-Europe for European Neighbourhood Policy.

AEGEE Eastern Partnership Project Team

 

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AEGEE-Europe condemns the new Ukrainian freedom-limiting legislation /aegee-europe-condemns-the-new-ukrainian-freedom-limiting-legislation/ /aegee-europe-condemns-the-new-ukrainian-freedom-limiting-legislation/#comments Fri, 17 Jan 2014 16:05:42 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=871 The members of AEGEE-Europe / European Students’ Forum are deeply concerned with the recent adoption by the Ukrainian Parliament (Verhovna Rada) of a new draft law that would severe multiple basic freedoms in the country. The law was approved on January 16th during a very irregular Parliamentary session, and is now waiting to be signed by President Viktor Yanukovych.

 

Photo: Reuters

AEGEE, as a non-governmental, politically independent, and non-profit organisation, has proclaimed in its statement of principles that freedom and human rights are essential elements of a European society. Through respecting these values, we strive and stand for an inclusive society where citizens enjoy equal opportunities and rights. In this context, we oppose and deeply condemn any law which in any sense could limit the fundamental rights of the Ukrainian citizens, impede their freedom of assembly and speech, and put under the state control the activities of rightful civil society actors such as independent NGOs and think tanks.

We would like to express our strong support to all representatives of the Ukrainian civil society, and specially the members of our branches in the Ukrainian territory. We are convinced that the signature of this draft law, which contradicts the current Constitution of Ukraine and through a process that violates the existing national parliamentary procedures, is against the interest of the Ukrainian citizens.

At the same time, we fear that this anti-democratic law, which directly contradicts to the European commitments of Ukraine such as the European Convention of Human Rights, may lead to an aggravation of the stagnation of the EU-Ukraine relations. Even though the door to Ukraine’s integration with the European Union remains open (as most of the EU high ranked officials commented, see for instance the speech of Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament), we consider that in case of adoption of this law the negotiations may remain closed for an uncertain period of time.

Moreover, AEGEE-Europe would like to denounce the spread of similar laws in other countries of Europe, even inside the EU, as the case of the Spanish ‘Citizens Safety Law’ proposal, which also was signaled by Nils Muiznieks, the Council of Europe commissioner for human rights. At a time when citizens are demanding more democracy, these laws against fundamental rights just go in the opposite direction.

Written by Armenak Minasyants, Policy Officer of AEGEE-Europe for European Neighbourhood Policy.

 

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AEGEE stands with the pro-European Ukrainians /aegee-stands-with-the-pro-european-ukrainians/ /aegee-stands-with-the-pro-european-ukrainians/#comments Fri, 22 Nov 2013 17:53:35 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=809 AEGEE-Europe, shocked by the very recent decision of the Ukrainian Government to suspend the process of preparation for signature of the Association Agreement and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement between the EU and Ukraine at the EU-EaP Vilnius Summit, would like to present the following statement:

Within the last 4 years, Ukraine has signed the visa facilitation agreement and implemented many reforms, which led to the perspective of signing the Association Agreement and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with the EU in the next days. For the last 15 months, we all were closely following the way of Ukraine to the EaP Vilnius Summit, and on many occasions we have expressed our sincere hope for the success of this process. However, there were more than two sides involved into this story. Russian Federation has always considered Ukraine as its resource partner and a strong candidate for joining the so called “Customs Union”, which includes Kazakhstan and Belarus. At the high point, when it has been announced that Ukraine is taking the pro-European external political direction, the pressure from the Russian Federation towards Ukraine has peaked.

In our statement of September 16, 2013 we shared our concerns and condemned the economic coercion exerted by the Russian authorities towards Ukraine, Moldova and Armenia. However, the Russian Federation, not taking into account the calls from the EU institutions and officials that the EaP program was not established to harm bilateral relations of the EaP countries with the Russian Federation,  has extended its pressure to the media blackmailing campaign focused on possible European integration of Ukraine. Even under such pressure from its’ Eastern neighbor, the Ukrainian government was still planning to sign the mentioned agreements in Vilnius. Therefore, the statement made by the Ukrainian government on 21st of November was shocking not only for any common Ukrainian citizen, but also for the European Union. One of the countries that has shown the biggest interest and has made bigger efforts in the European Integration over the past years is now making a sudden u-turn in its external policy and stopping the required preparations for the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius, to be held next week.

At AEGEE-Europe, we would like to state our serious concerns on such decision. We join the statement 131121/04 of the EU High Representative Catherine Ashton on Ukraine and underline that – as a panEuropean student association standing for liberty, democracy, and respect for human rights and the rule of law – we are fully supporting the European integration of Ukraine as an example for all other countries of the EaP programme. We stand strong with our commitment to the members of AEGEE in Ukraine, young people, students and all Ukrainian citizens in their will for the European integration and better future. We hope that the Ukrainian government, Parliament and President will take into account  the raising movement of #Euromaidan. AEGEE-Europe once again expresses its strict condemnation towards the political and economic pressure exercised by the Russian authorities, since they are in conflict with the right of each sovereign state to decide its political roadmap for the future.

Since its establishment in 1985, AEGEE strives for a democratic, diverse and borderless Europe, which is socially, economically and politically integrated, and values the participation of young people in its construction and development. Exactly 20 years ago the first Ukrainian local representation of AEGEE join our Network, which we consider to be a clear indication of the fact that the European community and fundamental values since the collapse of the Soviet Union have become also part of Ukraine and the Ukrainian civil society. Since 1993 there have  been more than 10 local representations/branches of AEGEE established around Ukraine which led to broad promotion of the European values and European education programmes among the local students and young people. Our association has always supported will of the Ukrainian students to build better society and bring their country closer to the European dream.In regard to our support of the ongoing Eastern Partnership Programme, in 2011 we established AEGEE Eastern Partnership Project, which currently works on the priority directions of the leading EU institutes and brings additional thematic impact to the actions of our organisation. Since 2011 we have been working for both sides: promoting European Values and European Union in 6 countries of the EaP programme as well as raising awareness in EU on current actions in the EaP region, promoting cultural heritage and history of EaP regions, closely following development of the EaP programme as well as the progress done by every single country.

Written by Alla Resheten, Project Manager of the AEGEE-Europe EaP Project, and Armenak Minasyants, Policy Officer of AEGEE-Europe for European Neighbourhood Policy.

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