< SWITCH ME >
Brilliant sunshine, Hungarian cats and a ‘gossip box’ accompanied the various talks at the GAME OVER Hate study session in the European Youth Centre, Budapest, at the end of September. What do human rights have to do with art, what happens ‘behind the scenes’ in computer games and why is Europe at the heart of it all?
You might be wondering what GAME OVER Hate is. Unless you have been offline for a year, you can’t have missed the large European campaign against hate speech online. Do you remember a casual encounter with the ‘No Hate’ red heart;? Yes, that’s the symbol of the first youth campaign for the recognition of human rights online. The heart represents the chief European values of solidarity and respect in the context of online communication.
17th of May was the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia. Why were hate crime and discrimination hotly discussed across the continent in May? And how is tolerance related to a dynamic economic situation?
Mid-May we saw the results of two important surveys. One was published by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, the other was conducted by two Swedish professors and analysed by a foreign affairs blogger on The Washington Post. The EU Agency questioned LGBT people about their experiences of hate crime and discrimination, while Berggren and Nilsson’s survey explored the correlation between tolerance and economic growth and wellbeing. Although not apparently connected, the results of the two surveys could give an indication of Europe’s progress on the way to racial, gender and sexual orientation tolerance.
UPDATE: This story reflects the situation in Romania on Friday, 6th July 2012. President Basescu has now been suspended by Parliament and will face a referendum on the 29th of July. PNL party leader Crin Antonescu is now the president of Romania, at least temporararily. European and American leaders have expressed clear concerns about the political situation in Romania, all of which have been firmly, even rudely, dismissed by prime minister Victor Ponta. Traian Basescu started his election campaign with the theme "Threats to the justice system" and turned to the people, whom he "never lied to" (ahem..), not even when the goin' got tough. Yeah, we're still a weird country...
It may not come as a big surprise that Romania is a pretty weird country. We have more stray dogs and cats than illegal taxis, we don't like to invest in tourism despite its huge potential, and it takes about ten years to complete a highway which then needs repairs after four months. However, after recent political turmoil, Romania may become famous for something much deeper than any of this - the savagery and stupidity of its political class, the trashing of its own Constitution, and, as much of the international media has already noticed, the breach of every democratic principle out there.
In the last two months we have witnessed the impossible becoming possible. Romanians have always believed their country was a place of all possibilities, but Victor Ponta's government and the centre-left wing ruling coalition (along with every other party and politician) took this belief to the next level.
Mr Ponta, the leader of the Social Democratic Party (PSD), was bound not to get along smoothly with President Traian Basescu, who is supported by the Democratic Liberal Party (PDL). President Traian Băsescu had designated Ponta as Prime Minister after the previous incumbant had fallen to a motion of no confidence, but the members of the PSD were hungry - they hadn't been in power since 2004 and President Basescu has done nothing but criticise their wrongdoings, while the justice system (allegedly under orders from the president) has taken many of them to court for corruption. Political vendettas, they say. On the other hand, anyone who remembers the pre-2004 period, when the PSD was in power, refers to it as the "golden age" of corruption, of threats to the freedom of the press, of total control over the justice system. This is why it's almost impossible to visualise a healthy collaboration between the two parties and this is why Romanians can't choose sides today.