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

By Jan Culik
The Conversation

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.

United in defiance

The leaders of the four so-called Visegrad countries – the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia – met in Prague in the first week of September to discuss the refugee crisis. There, they agreed to emphatically reject Angela Merkel’s call for a more even distribution of refugees and immigrants across the European Union.

Czech prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka and his Slovak counterpart Robert Fico took the message to Austrian chancellor Werner Faymann a few days later at a meeting in Bratislava. Fico went further than Sobotka, saying that Slovakia would only accept refugees who would be willing to integrate fully into Slovak society. And since there are few such people, he suggested, there is no point in introducing compulsory quotas.

This is an argument often repeated by central European politicians. Never mind that it is somewhat hypocritical, given that most of the refugees have already sensed the hostility towards them in these countries and are not seeking to stay.

Two Europes

For years, the post-communist countries of central and eastern Europe were left to their own devices. Western Europe took not even the slightest notice of what was actually going on in the region – culturally or politically. This was true even after the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia joined the EU in 2004.

Now, as this continent-wide crisis deepens, people are beginning to realise (with some surprise) that the post-communist societies of central and eastern Europe have been developing differently to the west. It is starting to look like the presumed unity of values of the 28 countries of the European Union may have been a mirage.

The difference can even be seen in the way religious leaders approach the refugee crisis. While the pope urges Christian parishes to house a refugee each, Hungarian catholic bishopLaszlo Kiss-Rigo, disagrees: “They’re not refugees,” he recently said. “This is an invasion. They come here with cries of ‘Allahu Akbar’. They want to take over.”

Prague catholic cardinal Dominik Duka, spoke in similarly hostile language in a recent radio interview when he said that “the right to life and security of Czech families and citizens are superior to all other rights” and warned against allowing enemies to cross national borders.

While hostility towards refugees is considerable throughout the countries of the European Union, polling suggests Czechs, Slovaks and Hungarians and some of the Baltic countries are the most hostile towards foreigners – wherever they come from. Perhaps the fact that these countries are relatively small, and feel therefore that their culture would be overwhelmed by an influx of foreigners, plays a part in this – although the relative openness towards foreigners in small countries such as Croatia and Ireland might undermine this view.

Racism of course exists in western Europe, but the strength of feeling in this region, among politicians as well as the general public, has caused alarm. Western Europeans are disgusted by how refugees are being treated in the east, which is even beginning to cause diplomatic tension.

“Their semantics are changing,” a Czech diplomat in Brussels recently told a Czech news agency. “They no longer talk about us here as the new EU members, they now refer to us as ‘eastern Europe’.” According to this diplomat, a Belgian delegate at one European meeting even refused to say “hello” to the Czechs.

Meanwhile, people in the east complain that the west simply doesn’t understand what is happening on their borders. As has been noted, the European Union was presented to these countries as an opportunity, rather than an obligation. Now they find they are expected to share in the biggest burden the union has ever had to take on.

“Eastern Europeans believe that they are the ones to be helped, that this was part of the promise of unification,” Bulgarian political scientist Ivan Krastev recently wrote in the New York Times. “Being poorer than western Europeans, they point out, how can anyone expect solidarity from us? We were promised tourists, not refugees.”

This crisis has raised a lot of questions about what it means to be European, nowhere more so than in the east of the continent. Fissures are appearing under the strain and if common cultural ground can’t be found soon, this could signal an end to the union.

Editor’s note: Jan Culik is a senior lecturer in Czech Studies, University of Glasgow. This article originally appeared on TheConversation.com and is reprinted here with permission. All views expressed here are solely those of the author.

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Europe: Anti-Semitism Up, Islamophobia Down

By Sarah Stricker, Ynetnews

Study on ‘group-focused enmity’ conducted by researchers from University of Bielefeld in Germany finds hatred of Muslims decreased over past year, while hatred of Jews and homosexuals growing. Poland defined as most racist country.

Right-wing parties are growing stronger in Europe, and Swiss citizens have even voted in favor of a ban on mosque minarets, yet the fear or hatred of Islam in the continent has dropped over the past year, according to a study conducted in Germany and published Sunday. However, hatred of Jews and homosexuals is on the rise.

For the last eight years, the Institute for Interdisciplinary Research on Conflict and Violence at the University of Bielefeld has been running an annual study called “German Conditions” to learn about “group focused enmity” such as xenophobia, sexism, racism, anti-Semitism, and prejudices against unemployed, disabled, homeless or homosexual people in Germany.

Due to the financial crisis and the fears of the future, poverty and unemployment that are being stoked by that, the researchers expected a rise this year.

But compared to last year’s results (as well as those of 2002), the level of resentment against most minorities declined – sexism and racism even considerably, Islamophobia slightly. There were only two exceptions: Homophobia and anti-Semitism.

Hatred of both groups is on the rise as they are considered to be found also among people of a high status.

Beate Küpper, one of the study’s main researchers, believes that the financial crisis may in fact be a possible explanation for that.

Küpper said that although in comparison to other European countries Germany was on average, it was staggering that in the light of German history, 48% still agreed with anti-Semitic statements.

For the first time, the study also compared xenophobia among European countries like Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Portugal, Poland, and Hungary. According to their findings, the level of prejudices against minorities in Europe is alarming.

About 50.4% of the population agreed that “there are too many immigrants” in their country, 54.4% believe that “the Islam is a religion of intolerance.” Interestingly enough, the percentage of people who believe “that there are too many Muslims” in their country is especially high in those countries that actually have a low percentage of Muslims living in them.

Nearly one-third (31.3%) of the Europeans somewhat or strongly agree that “there is a natural hierarchy between black and white people”. A majority of 60.2% stick to traditional gender roles, demanding that “women should take their role as wives and mothers more seriously.” Some 42.6% deny equal value of gay men and lesbian women and judge homosexuality as “immoral”.

Hiding behind criticism of Israel

Anti-Semitism is also still widely spread in Europe. The team of scientists from the universities of Amsterdam, Bielefeld, Budapest, Grenoble, Lisbon, Marburg, Oxford, Padua, Paris, and Warsaw found that 41.2% of Europeans believe that “Jews try to take advantage of having been victims during the Nazi era”. The highest degree of affirmation was in Poland – 72%, and the lowest in the Netherlands – 5.6%.

One-quarter of Europeans (24.5%) believe that “Jews have too much influence”, and nearly one-third (31%) agree that “Jews in general do not care about anything or anyone but their own kind. On the other hand, 61.9% say that Jews “enrich our culture”, especially in the Netherlands, Britain and Germany.

They study also measured the degree of anti-Semitism hidden behind a specific criticism of Israel’s policy towards the Palestinians that uses anti-Semitic terms such as “war of persecution” and a generalization to “all Jews”.

Some 45.7% of the Europeans (apart for France, where this facet of anti-Semitism was not measured) somewhat or strongly agree that “Israel is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians.” About 37.4% agree with the following statement: “Considering Israel’s policy, I can understand why people do not like Jews.”

Overall, the level of anti-Semitic attitudes varies quite a lot across Europe with comparably lower levels of anti-Semitic attitudes in Britain and the Netherlands and significantly higher levels in Portugal, and especially Poland and Hungary.

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Skilled Labor?

By Sumayyah Meehan, Muslim Media News Service Middle East correspondent (MMNS)

hand-holding-diploma The economic boom and unprecedented growth of the Middle East over the past several years has made it a lucrative venue for employment seekers. Barely scathed by the global economic turndown, that has brought the rest of the world to its’ knees, most Middle Eastern countries continue to ride a wave of economic independence and expansion.

As a result of the sheer speed of growth, an increased demand for skilled workers has evolved. Doctors, nurses, teachers, IT professionals, architects and engineers are just a few of the careers that are in high demand in the Middle East region. However, not everyone seeking a job has the proper credentials and, unfortunately, many people who have already acquired high paying jobs in specialized fields have done so with fake university degrees.

Within the past few months, the extensive reliance of unqualified persons utilizing the services of fake degree mills has come to light. The Spokesman newspaper in Washington State recently published a list of more than 10,000 names of people who have already purchased fake university degrees or were in the process of doing so. The majority of persons on the list were Arab Americans who now face possible criminal charges from the US Department of Justice.

What is most surprising is that the majority of the wealthier Middle Eastern countries like Kuwait, the UAE and Bahrain offer free university education for their nationals. So, it is not necessarily a matter of someone being denied access to higher education but actually it is often about someone lacking the initiative to attend university for the required number of years to earn full accreditation.

With the problem in the international spotlight, some Middle Eastern countries are taking swift action to punish anyone attempting to utilize a bogus university degree to get employment. The United Arab Emirates has launched a stellar campaign to crackdown on anyone currently employed or seeking employment by presenting a fake university degree. Violators face a lifetime ban from working or even entering the UAE and face up to 24 years in prison. In the State of Kuwait, the Public prosecution has received several complaints from employers regarding job seekers presenting phony academic certificates. Most recently, this past week, 19 potential teachers were ordered held for prosecution as their educational certification was proven to be counterfeit by the Ministry of Education.

Obtaining a fake university degree is not difficult. A short trip to Southeast Asia or even Hungary can help someone achieve a PHD or CPA without spending a lot of time or money in school and for a fraction of the cost of a long stint in college. However, the odds are against such persons once they are on the job and cannot fulfill the work that their forged certification claims that they can do. Such was the case recently in Kuwait when a man went to the Ministry of Education seeking a job as a teacher. His forged university degree came from Hungary. However, he could not speak Hungarian or even English and simply claimed that he studied with the aid of a translator.

Unscrupulous degree dealers can be found all over the Gulf region offering a variety of degrees for under $1000 and in less than a month. A local reporter in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia recently exposed one such degree dealer. The dealer advertised on the Internet and communicated exclusively by email or mobile phones to elude detection from Saudi authorities. He promised the reporter “you name it and we provide it”. The degrees for sale bore the name of “Buxton University” in the UK and could be made to order immediately.

The real losers in this scam are the people who hold authentic university certification and now find themselves having to prove that their degree is worth the paper that it is printed on. Degree cheaters have forced most Mideast governments to cast out an overly wide net to root degree violators out, unfortunately authentic degree holders are getting caught up in it as well.

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Did Hitler Want War?

By Patrick J. Buchanan

poland 1933 polemap
   
Poland, 1930 German map of Poland, 1942

 

On Sept. 1, 1939, 70 years ago, the German Army crossed the Polish frontier. On Sept. 3, Britain declared war.

Six years later, 50 million Christians and Jews had perished. Britain was broken and bankrupt, Germany a smoldering ruin. Europe had served as the site of the most murderous combat known to man, and civilians had suffered worse horrors than the soldiers.

By May 1945, Red Army hordes occupied all the great capitals of Central Europe: Vienna, Prague, Budapest, Berlin. A hundred million Christians were under the heel of the most barbarous tyranny in history: the Bolshevik regime of the greatest terrorist of them all, Joseph Stalin.

What cause could justify such sacrifices?

The German-Polish war had come out of a quarrel over a town the size of Ocean City, Md., in summer. Danzig, 95 percent German, had been severed from Germany at Versailles in violation of Woodrow Wilson’s principle of self-determination. Even British leaders thought Danzig should be returned.

Why did Warsaw not negotiate with Berlin, which was hinting at an offer of compensatory territory in Slovakia? Because the Poles had a war guarantee from Britain that, should Germany attack, Britain and her empire would come to Poland’s rescue.

But why would Britain hand an unsolicited war guarantee to a junta of Polish colonels, giving them the power to drag Britain into a second war with the most powerful nation in Europe?

Was Danzig worth a war? Unlike the 7 million Hong Kongese whom the British surrendered to Beijing, who didn’t want to go, the Danzigers were clamoring to return to Germany.

Comes the response: The war guarantee was not about Danzig, or even about Poland. It was about the moral and strategic imperative “to stop Hitler” after he showed, by tearing up the Munich pact and Czechoslovakia with it, that he was out to conquer the world. And this Nazi beast could not be allowed to do that.

If true, a fair point. Americans, after all, were prepared to use atom bombs to keep the Red Army from the Channel. But where is the evidence that Adolf Hitler, whose victims as of March 1939 were a fraction of Gen. Pinochet’s, or Fidel Castro’s, was out to conquer the world?

After Munich in 1938, Czechoslovakia did indeed crumble and come apart. Yet consider what became of its parts.

The Sudeten Germans were returned to German rule, as they wished. Poland had annexed the tiny disputed region of Teschen, where thousands of Poles lived. Hungary’s ancestral lands in the south of Slovakia had been returned to her. The Slovaks had their full independence guaranteed by Germany. As for the Czechs, they came to Berlin for the same deal as the Slovaks, but Hitler insisted they accept a protectorate.

Now one may despise what was done, but how did this partition of Czechoslovakia manifest a Hitlerian drive for world conquest?

Comes the reply: If Britain had not given the war guarantee and gone to war, after Czechoslovakia would have come Poland’s turn, then Russia’s, then France’s, then Britain’s, then the United States.

We would all be speaking German now.

But if Hitler was out to conquer the world — Britain, Africa, the Middle East, the United States, Canada, South America, India, Asia, Australia — why did he spend three years building that hugely expensive Siegfried Line to protect Germany from France? Why did he start the war with no surface fleet, no troop transports and only 29 oceangoing submarines? How do you conquer the world with a navy that can’t get out of the Baltic Sea?

If Hitler wanted the world, why did he not build strategic bombers, instead of two-engine Dorniers and Heinkels that could not even reach Britain from Germany?

Why did he let the British army go at Dunkirk?

Why did he offer the British peace, twice, after Poland fell, and again after France fell?

Why, when Paris fell, did Hitler not demand the French fleet, as the Allies demanded and got the Kaiser’s fleet? Why did he not demand bases in French-controlled Syria to attack Suez? Why did he beg Benito Mussolini not to attack Greece?

Because Hitler wanted to end the war in 1940, almost two years before the trains began to roll to the camps.

Hitler had never wanted war with Poland, but an alliance with Poland such as he had with Francisco Franco’s Spain, Mussolini’s Italy, Miklos Horthy’s Hungary and Father Jozef Tiso’s Slovakia.

Indeed, why would he want war when, by 1939, he was surrounded by allied, friendly or neutral neighbors, save France. And he had written off Alsace, because reconquering Alsace meant war with France, and that meant war with Britain, whose empire he admired and whom he had always sought as an ally.

As of March 1939, Hitler did not even have a border with Russia. How then could he invade Russia?

Winston Churchill was right when he called it “The Unnecessary War” — the war that may yet prove the mortal blow to our civilization.

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