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Central European University main entrance
A magical thing happened last week in Budapest – Europe became one notch more erratic and even less predictable. Viktor Orbán, the democratically elected leader of Hungary, in a befittingly authoritarian fashion, passed new legislation on Tuesday, April 4, reflecting its maker’s fondness of political control of science. The legal amendment was fast-tracked, with only a few hours given to lawmakers to seal the fate of academic freedom in the country. It was also tailor-made to fit the long-standing desire of the Central European University, one of Eastern Europe’s top-level universities, located in Budapest, to collect its things and beat it. Leaving behind such a gash in liberal values, that given time it can swallow Hungary, the European Union and, eventually, Uranus.
Our editor Sam Volpe points you in the direction of a few essays and articles guaranteed to make you ponder. Read about the lengths the European community has gone to in the name of justice, the stunning work being done by volunteers on Lesvos, and the way in which European myth and history has influenced modern fantasy.
Sam, Diaphragm editor and Project Manager
One of Europe's longest manhunts
A few months ago, former E&M editor Frances Jackson recommended reading Julian Borger's writing about the anniversary of the Srebenica massacre. In January, Borger was at it again, with a fascinating account of the hunt for Bosnian Serb war criminal Ratko Mladic. Borger's writing on the Balkans is rapidly becoming unmissable, and is a fantastic advert for the routinely excellent Guardian Long Read column.
Mladic is one of the more two-dimensionally hideous characters of recent history, and this account of his eventual capture is both nail-biting and bathetic. Dive in to read of the increasingly paranoid manner in which Mladic spent his final days of freedom, and to remember some of the groundbreaking work done by the International Criminal Court.
"#UKinEU done. Drama over” tweeted Lithuanian’s president Dalia Grybauskaite right after European Council President Donald Tusk’s announcement that a deal between the European Union and the UK had been struck. But is the drama truly over? The Referendum about the Brexit is still to take place on 23 June 2016 so that Britain’s membership to the EU is all but guaranteed. So then what was this deal about? Does it change anything for the UK or for the EU?
For the British Prime Minister David Cameron, the purpose of the deal was to obtain a European Union closer to Britain’s wishes and demands. In the Conservative manifesto for the 2015 general election he promised reforms that would render UK’s staying in the EU beneficial. This deal will serve as the basis for the “In” campaign. European leaders’ aim was to help the UK remain a member of the EU while protecting the EU’s core values and principles. According to the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, it was also a good opportunity to implement much needed reforms: “Mr Cameron’s demands are far from being demands that are just for Britain. They are also European demands and many of them are justified and necessary”, she said before the deal was struck.
In the wake of last week's "Karlspreis" being awarded to Martin Schultz, president of the European Parliament, guest author Frank Burgdörfer reflects upon this predictable choice and suggests David Cameron as a better candidate given his European achievements.
The city of Aachen has awarded Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament, with the "Karlspreis" – an annual prize named after the medieval emperor Charlemagne. It comes as no surprise at all, as the prize is usually given to people who hold key functions in European institutions. Thus the group of potential recipients is rather limited. Council president Donald Tusk and commission president Jean-Claude Juncker were already awarded the prize. As former president of the European Central Bank Jean-Claude Trichet got one previously, it will most likely be the turn of his successor Mario Draghi next year. Truly exciting...
Do not get me wrong: Schulz definitely has merits with regard to Europe. However, this is not exceptional because we as European tax payers remunerate him well for his work. He has indeed increased and consolidated the EP’s influence over the last years. Still, giving him an award for that is a bit like awarding the Pope for special achievements in the field of leading the Catholic Church.
Are there no committed citizens, innovate business men, progressive researchers or clerics building bridges in Europe? Cartoonists, journalists, historians, teachers or doctors, who have used their positions to give "exceptional contributions in political, economic or spiritual regard for the unity of Europe", as a declaration from 1990 puts it? It seems that the Charlemagne Prize actually puts the city of Aachen more into the spotlight than the awardee – which is in fact often the case with other prizes too.
From the 100th anniversary of the First World War to elections in Slovenia, it's been a busy few weeks for Europe. Frances and Veronica, two of E&M's new editors, share articles that recently got them thinking about the continent.
Frances, Sixth Sense editor
A MEDIA BLINDSPOT
Something rather important happened on 27 June 2014. Game-changing, one might even say – if you can forgive the buzzword – for a good three million people. Ring any bells? It was during the summit of the EU heads of state, if that helps. Still nothing? All right, I'll tell you: it was the day that Albania was finally granted EU candidate status, some five years after its initial application for membership. And to be honest, I don't blame you if you haven't heard about it. By and large, most English-speaking media appear to have ignored this historic decision. At the time of writing, the BBC has not even updated its country profile on Albania to note that following a recommendation from the European Commission the small Balkan nation has indeed become a candidate for EU membership.
In fact, I only stumbled across one article – published in the English-language section of the Deutsche Welle – that really got to grips what the development means for Albania and its people. That said though, I'm not sure I entirely agree with the implication that Albania does not yet "belong to Europe". Surely to be European means more than simply living in a state where the rule of law is observed. And who's to say Albania isn't already European? Geography is certainly on the country's side; history too, I should have thought. Or are European credentials now measured purely in terms of EU membership? Somebody had better break the news to Switzerland...
The escalator at Maidan Nezalezhnosti metro station in Kiev is the longest I've ever seen. It takes a few good minutes to reach the top, which leaves plenty of time to form expectations about what lies at the end of the climb. Yet nothing you read in the news or see in pictures truly prepares you for what happens after you come out of the underground. The Independence Square (or Euromaidan) is a kind of Hemingwayesque resistance city. It smells like burnt wood and rusty iron and improvised kitchens. Here and there fires lit in old trash cans give rise to grey columns of smoke. A few hundred people are already on the Maidan at 9 am in the morning, most of them holding tall Ukrainian flags.
In the centre of the main boulevard, a festival-like stage hosts speeches from opposition leaders and public figures, as well as live performances by popular Ukrainian artists. On the left hand side, there is a large banner of Yulia Timoshenko's elegant portrait looking towards the sky. People are silent and still, listening to the words coming from the stage. I can't understand a word of Ukrainian except when they say "Slava Ukraini!" (Glory to Ukraine), to which people reply unwaveringly, in perfect sync "Heroyam Slava!" (Glory to our heroes).
Next to the stage, on the Trade Unions House - now a bastion of the "revolution" - a huge screen displays a pixelated livestream of those speaking into the microphones. On the other side of the boulevard, a tall metal Christmas tree is now covered in Ukrainian flags, posters made by protesters and cartoons of Ukrainian politicians and Vladimir Putin. No sign of police or the feared Berkut officers anywhere. No sign of traffic or anything that doesn't serve the purpose of the protest. The Maidan belongs to the resistance.