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Friday, 18 February 2011 07:40

The Key to Belarus

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"The European Union holds the keys that could free the Belarusian demonstrators from prison." These were the words that ended Eva Nyaklyaeva's speech in the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee debate on the latest Belarusian election on January 12th.

Eva Neklyaeva, currently living in Finland, is a daughter of the jailed presidential candidate Vladimir Neklyaev, who was lucky to be alive after being severally beaten by Specnaz troops. Vladimir Neklyaev is one of about 700 Belarusians who have been imprisoned because of "destruction and barbarism" as President Lukashenko said after a mass demonstration of about 40 thousand participants which took place in Minsk after the announcement of the election results. According to Lukashenko, he "authoritatively" had to "end the destabilising wars in the country". That was not just an empty promise. All across Belarus activists, journalists are visited and harassed by the KGB. To sum up, the situation of people who are not placing themselves in the fictional 80% majority who agreed for the 4th term of Lukashenko, is not to be envied. 

It was not only the Belarusian democratic opposition who lost the last election. The EU strategy towards the last European dictator also failed. Throughout the whole of Lukashenko's reign since 1994, the EU has tried different methods to deal or cooperate with Minsk. There were better (1999-2000, 2008-10) and worse (1997-99, 2002-04, 2005-08) periods but in general Lukashenko has been playing with the eurocrats as well as with the divided Belarusian opposition.  

Wednesday, 16 February 2011 16:20

Karl-Erik Norrman and the European project

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From 14th till 20th of February E&M author Christian Diemer will be one of about 60 selected international participants attending the academy "Arts as Cultural Diplomacy" at the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy (ICD) in Berlin.

The ICD is a cool thing. Mark C. Donfried, its founder and director, is a cool guy. The participants, having travelled to Berlin from all over the world (including Nigeria, Mexico and Australia), must be a cool group. But is Karl-Erik Norrman a cool guy as well? The Swedish ex-ambassador to Spain is the second speaker at the prestigious gathering's opening ceremony.

Talking about Sweden, he is reserved and a bit ignorant. The Swedish myths: the bizarre notion of Bergmanesque melancholy, ABBA, H&M, and IKEA. The Swedish facts: a rich country with a formidable social welfare system. A country that has lived 500 years of history without occupation (though occupying others) and 200 years without war. Why would such a country need cultural diplomacy to sell itself to the rest of the world? Sweden sells just as it is!

Talking about Europe, Mr. Norrman becomes more ambitious. In response to the criticism that Europe is merely an economic and political project run by technocrats and bureaucrats in Brussels, the retired ambassador established the European Cultural Parliament. Following the message of the late violinist Sir Yehudi Menuhin that "the artists need a parliament", by now 160 musicians, painters, philosophers, sculptors etc from over 43 (!) European countries are giving their input on what Europe could become beyond politics and economy. Members are eligible from countries such as Azerbaijan or Iceland. "It almost breaks my heart to say that Canada is not a European country, when we have so much in common with them as well!"

Friday, 11 February 2011 10:29

Two ways to change E&M, Express yourself!

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E&M is about making Europe more personal and we want our new Sixth Sense to be about YOU! That’s why we’re giving you two exciting opportunities to express yourself on our pages. With just one email you can paint our site with your own colour and sound.

OPTION 1. 'IMAGES OF EUROPE'

We want to know what your corner of Europe looks like: Where is home? What’s your favourite view? Where’s the most stunning place you’ve visited? Share your images of Europe and be a part of our forthcoming interactive map of the continent.

There are only two rules; it has to be your own work, and it has to be truly unique. (some ideas: It could be a village scene, unique graffiti, fields, monuments, A painting, A photo, anything you can only find there… etc.) ~ And feel free to send more than one!

OPTION 2. 'THE TRANSNATIONAL MUSIC BLOG' 

Rike Maier is setting up a weekly music blog exclusively for readers of E&M. Our aim is to cover unheard acts from across Europe. That’s where you come in: do you have a favourite local band that no one has heard about, or are your friends playing small venues for no money? All styles welcome, so send us their website/details and we’ll interview them and feature their music!

(Please supply: First name, age, and city/country with all submissions (so we can thank you for it!) and in option 1 a few sentences on what/where your ‘image’ is -  and send to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

E&M relies upon your inspiration, so show us what Europe means to you!

The E&M Editors x

Thursday, 03 February 2011 15:15

Louis, Max and Freddy

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The French, not the Greeks, invented today's Europe and did so through bloodshed and tragedy. Rejecting the feudal-absolutist class society, realising the ideas and values of the enlightenment, 1789 was the birth of what would become a commonly shared notion of democracy and human rights throughout Europe. Yet 1789 also proved how dramatically a supreme moral vision can turn into its opposite through its very implementation – likewise a dilemma of persistent relevance. A German poet was early in grasping that, and tried to lead France on his alternative path to democracy: Friedrich Schiller.


Friedrich Schiller lived in Weimar. This sleepy little town was never a place for revolutions. On a court building of the little duchy of Schiller's time, a bon-mot of Kurt Tucholsky now reads: "Due to bad weather conditions the German revolution took place in music." And even that was still a far cry from 1789: when in France human rights were proclaimed in the name of "liberté, égalité, fraternité" (liberty, equality and brotherhood), it would still take almost a century for any German sense of "Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit" (unity and justice and freedom) to become reality.


At the time when the Bastille fell, many prominent intellectuals in all the German territories and duchies were enthusiastic about what was happening in neighbouring Paris. Close friends of Schiller's were among them, and he himself had been counted as one of the most progressive thinkers of the enlightenment era and an uncompromising critic of feudalist despotism. But he also seemed to be uncertain; especially when the prison's governor, who had been granted a free pardon, was murdered and his head carried through the streets of Paris. When Schiller's colleague Körner explicitly inquired about his opinion on the revolution in a letter, he left the question unanswered in his reply.

Photo: Copyright free
Friedrich_schiller
Friedrich Schiller, 1793

Then the French revolutionaries appointed Schiller honorary citizen of France, in acknowledgement of his novel Die Räuber. That was on the 26th of August 1792. One week later 1,500 royalist prisoners were massacred in Paris. King Louis, degraded to common citizen Louis Capet, was put in jail. Soon Maximilien de Robespierre, president of the National Assembly, would proclaim "the despotism of freedom in the struggle against tyranny", and his ally Antoine St.-Just would state: "a republic is based on the complete extermination of anything opposed to it." Now Schiller was not just unenthusiastic, he was sincerely worried.


In the early days of 1793, he seriously planned to travel to Paris and make a fiery speech in front of his new fellow citizens. His plan was to stop the execution of the imprisoned monarch by convincing the members of the National Assembly of his vision on how their revolutionary goals could become reality; that only the aesthetic education of man could create a society that could implement the ideals of enlightenment on a non-violent basis!


Abandon the guillotine, rush to the theatre, experience how the lovely and the sublime catapult your mind into a free play between reason and the senses, within a state of disinterested pleasure! Watch and behold the beautiful and become a freer, better human being!

He wrote that in 1799, and his Letters on the aesthetic education of man can be considered a bright antithesis to the bloody rebirth of European democracy in France. Instead of Tucholsky's teasing of the Germans, Schiller envisioned a revolution not in the arts but through the arts.


But Friedrich Schiller was not there to save Louis Capet. The King's head rolled on the 21st of January 1793, a "measure of welfare", as Robespierre had called it. Robespierre's own head followed on 28th of July 1794. Schiller stopped reading French newspapers because these "slaves of the brutes" disgusted him.


Still I remain curious about what Robespierre's reaction would have been had Schiller really shown up at the National Assembly. The passionate poet spoke in a strong Swabian dialect.

NEXT ISSUE 01.04.2018