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  1.  One of the questions that Namibians most ask to foreigners is: “Is this your first time in Africa?” I normally answer “No, I have been to Morocco, but Morocco is not the real Africa”. After five months living in Windhoek I realise that Namibia is also not the “real Africa”, at least not the real Africa as many people might think. The German influence can be seen in the Namibian cities, names of some streets are still shown in German, but the German influence can also be seen in the architecture of some buildings.


    Namibia is the land of the braves who fought for their independence decades ago against the South African domination. Namibia celebrated its 27th anniversary this year. Unfortunately, South Africa also left some seeds from the apartheid in Namibia, most of the white and black people still do not mix in public spaces, but they coexist peaceful in the territory that both call home.

    Namibia is the second least densely populated nation, just after Mongolia. You can drive kilometres without seeing a single person, house or car- something we cannot even imagine in Europe. The over two million Namibians predominantly live in the big cities- the capital, Windhoek, and the two coastal cities of Swakopmund and Walvis Bay. The North of the country has the biggest concentration of population, as it is less dry than the south.

    Located in the centre of the country, Windhoek is Namibia’s biggest city with over 300,000 inhabitants. Where previously a small settlement had existed in close proximity to the hot springs, German troops saw its strategic geographical value. Although clean and well-organised, Windhoek was constructed horizontally with large skyscrapers confined to the city centre, giving it a large surface area.The lack of good public transportation is a problem, but is solved by the several taxis always going around the city.

    Located on the Atlantic Ocean coast, Swakopmund is still only four hours from Windhoek making it a convenient weekend getaway for residents of the capital city. Besides it German influences, it was near Swakopmund that the Portuguese explorer Diogo Cão became the first European to arrive on these lands. Swakopmund and Walvis Bay are between the sea and the desert, probably the only part of earth that a desert meets the sea, making this one of the highlights of the Namibian tourism industry. The Namib desert is also the oldest desert in Earth.

    Game reserves are also very famous in Namibia, everywhere you can find a lodge in the middle of nowhere that will give tourists the opportunity to see wild animals while having a peaceful rest. Ethosa is the Namibian national park with more visits, a must stop when visiting the country. Wild animals running freely in protected areas can be seen as the “real Africa”, but Namibia is more than a game drive.

    Indigenous people still live in some parts of Namibia, they are the decedents of the first humans on earth, holders of a great legacy that must be protected as the wild animals. The Fish River Canyon and Sossusvlei are also a must stop, for those who like adventure. The best way to travel in Namibia is renting a car, prices are normally as in Europe, so is better to have a group of friends to share the car and the accommodation, but be aware Namibians drive on the left side and it can be dangerous to drive in Namibia has the traffic accidents happen very often.

    Drought is one of the biggest challenges for Namibia, in fives months I probably saw rain in a total of two weeks, and most of the rainy days where just after my arrival in February, when it was Summer still. Seasons in Namibia are different from Europe, for us Winter means rain, for them it means drought, and no Namibia is not always hot, in Winter Windhoek can have temperatures below zero. So pack a jacket if you are going to visit Namibia during their Winter.

    Namibia is considered by some the Switzerland of Africa, not because the countries are similar, but because Switzerland is a good example of Europe, as Namibia is a good example of Africa. The stability achieved after its independence, has been able to put the country in leading positions in ratings, when compared with other African countries, but Namibia has its challenges and should face it. The young will play an important role in the country.

    You should definitely put Namibia in your travel list and do not miss nothing of this amazing country.



  2. Resistance or opportunity for the European Union

    The “old continent” has centuries of history that culminated with the EU, an integrative regime (Agnew, 2009, 191), based on the diversity of its citizens: “United in diversity”. Through economic integration, the EU was able to achieve peace and stability in a continent destroyed many times by wars, and is now an example of how diversity can work together to achieve a common welfare.

    However, the financial and Euro crisis showed the problems of global capitalism in medium income countries, such as Greece, Portugal and Cyprus. Those countries saw their sovereignty diminished as international organisations, such as IMF, had to interfere in their policies with economic programs in order to get the financial support that those countries needed. They were also dependent on reports and credit ratings from private companies, such as Moody’s and Fitch. The Eurozone crisis showed that states do not have total sovereignty if they are in a weak economic situation, and this was the main reason for a resistance to the current EU status quo.

    The resistance

    The economic crisis, as well the migrant crisis, are outcomes of globalisation that Honkyns and Rai refer as uneven and fragmentary, opening the possibility for resistance (2005, 9), where the “counter-Empire” appears (Hardt and Negri, 2000, 219). This definition of globalisation can be used to explain the current situation in the EU. The expansion of capitalism without strong regulations in a region so diverse as the 28 member-states exacerbated the inequalities between them. Europe saw the decline of the “embedded liberalism” provoking discontentment in its citizens, with many demonstrations happening against the current situation in the EU member-states.

    Alter-globalisation movements such as the “indignados” in Spain, are not alone in the resistance. New political movements are also part of the forces challenging the current status quo of the EU, which seek an alternative mode of governance with less external interference. This also led to the rise of self-determination movements, that are now reviving the nation-state concept in Europe, where many nations are not represented by a state. Those movements are now challenging the countries that once defended self-determination in Africa, during the last century, but now are against them.

    The self-determination movements tend to be seen as anti-globalisation forces (Hylland, 2014, 158), but the Scottish and the Catalan referendums can be understood as a local resistance against, and taking back sovereignty from, the state, and not a resistance to globalisation. People of that nations are tired of being under the rule of other states, and the economic crisis provoked more anger against central governments. Those nations are looking for independence from a state, but at the same time want to keep their ties with the EU and other international organisations. This shows that despite their local/national battle for independence, where they will gain sovereignty, they still want to have a role in the global world, being part of international organisations to which they would have to delegate some of their sovereignty.

    The opportunity

    The globalisation phenomenon puts the emphasis on the global, and sometimes the local/territory is forgotten, but reterritorialisation occurs in tandem with globalisation (Scholte, 2005, 75-78). As a regional entity with a global role, the EU is a great example of this.  State sovereignty has also been shaped according to this new trend (Agnew, 2009, 190). The physical territory is still more important to states than their sovereignty. For example, Spain delegates some sovereignty to regional entities, such as Catalonia, and to supranational entities, such as EU, but does not allow the division of its territory. European states need to change their perspective on territory and sovereignty, and adapt it in order to increase integration between member-states.

    Globalisation, much like the EU, is a complex realm of interactions between the local, national and global politics and the juxtaposition of these policies matters (Amin, 2002, 397), as it is essential to understand the global network of people, states and supranational organisations. To understand what the EU is facing we need to take into account those perspectives. People (local) are not happy with their institutions at national and supranational level (national and global), as they were affected by austerity measures and saw some of their rights denied. It could be said that the economic crisis is one of the reasons for the rise of self-determination movements that had been dormant while there was prosperity and welfare for all in the EU.

    Looking to the whole figure, we can see that the juxtaposition of varied factors in a space like the EU created political challenges to its status quo, but the “counter-Empire” resistance can be the opportunity for the EU to act against a globally uneven world, even within its borders. Perhaps the EU needs to go back to the “embedded liberalism” so as to give force to the diversity that it represents, where each nation will be the driving force of a social-economic union under a “federal umbrella”.

    Nations such as Scotland or Catalonia would be represented with the same rights and duties of other nations in a European Federation of Nations. For this, states would need to delegate more sovereignty, even lose it, and reorganise their territory for “more Europe”. This will not happen easily as territorial control and sovereignty is still important for the states, but the self-determination of nations would be the opportunity that the EU was looking for to become a de facto federation: a political-economic-social earthquake that would provoke the will for a strong change in the status quo of the EU.

    ______________

    References

    Agnew, J. 2009. “Globalization & Sovereignty”. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.

    Amin, A. 2002. “Spatialities of globalization”. Environment and Planning A 34(3): 379‑568.

    Hardt M. and Negri Antonio. 2000. “Empire”. in Ritzer, G. and Z. Atalay (eds.). Readings in Globalization. Harvard University Press 2010. pp. 217-226.

    Hoskyns, C. and S. M. Rai. 2005. “Gendering International Political Economy”. University of Warwick. CSGR Working Paper No 170/05. May 2005.

    Hylland Eriksen, T. 2014. “Globalization: the key concepts”. Bloomsbury.

    Scholte, J. A. 2005. “Globalization: A Critical Introduction”. Palgrave Macmillan (second edition).





  3.  The following article should serve only as a short introduction to a future, honest discussion over the issue of immigration into Europe. Optimistically (and with the help of commenters), the conversation should evolve into a broader discussion of immigration as a concept, Islam within majority-Muslim states, the moral and practical clashes of Europe and Islam, and perhaps attempts to formulate solutions for how to better accommodate those escaping the horrors of war, disease, famine, and other crises without crumbling our own understandings of culture and society. It is impossible to write an article successfully without defining such key words revolving around this debate, including what exactly we mean by ‘immigration’, or ‘borders’, or ‘values’, or even ‘Islam’. Consequently, each subsection requires a rich dialogue, substantiated by empirical evidence and theory as its bedrock, to act as a checks-and-balance system to such a debate.

    Borders are necessary. No borders generates unstructured chaos in both the metaphorical and literal senses. On the other hand, completely open borders would regulate the flow of a dilution of a nation-state. A middle ground must be found within this dilemma; a balance between justice and mercy. The central dialogue over immigration into the West revolves around the competing virtues of justice [for Europe] and mercy [for immigrants]. Arguably, by this point in time, the balance has shifted in favor of mercy, outweighing equity for Europeans. A complex system cannot endure a drastic change so briefly, therefore encumbering the fragility of the European federal system (one that already is far too broad and far too diverse in opinion) would only exacerbate domestic tensions. 

    Europe makes the following mistake by spreading its arms too wide open: it fails to distinguish between foreigners who understand Europe’s values, and foreigners who have their own set of ethics. The assumption here is that individuals who have lived in states which have not developed functional individual rights (in comparison to Europe) can by some means promptly adhere to European laws without shedding their customs. More so, one must look within these polities, and consider that if they have not been governed well, or governed corruptly, for long periods of time, the very values held collectively are flawed. Thus, how can an individual, originating from an environment with an impaired value structure, simply be relocated to a foreign destination and assume they will coexist accordingly? In what way can Europe know for certain this individual will somehow demonstrate a hidden, but supposedly inherent, inclination towards democracy and whatever freedoms define Western society? To be accepted by Europe does not translate into breathing the same air as Voltaire and Locke (Murray, 2017).

    A shift in perspective is required. The long list of terror attacks in Europe the past years were carried out under one banner, and despite the debate over Islam’s radical nature or not, these attacks are not a result of a Western failure to properly formulate integration policy. Of course almost all these attacks were not perpetrated by immigrants. Of course almost all these immigrants are escaping horrors foreign to Europe. But what about underlying sympathies for the terrorists’ motives? What about the reactions in both Europe and the Muslim world to the attacks? These questions reveal far more about the conflict of values between both ‘blocs’. For instance, as a counterfactual scenario, what would be the retaliatory response by the Middle East or Islamic African nation-states if ‘radical’ Christians perpetrated such heinous attacks in their states? It would be a disservice to those discriminated by the authority of such states to suggest these states would simply criticize the adherents of ‘radical’ Christianity and adopt a multicultural public image, as Europe has done. Moreover, one should look at the Muslim response within Europe to such atrocities, such as one in four Muslims within the UK having sympathy towards the perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo attacks (Saul, 2015). 

    If the murder of cartoonists breeds ‘sympathy’ within a subsect of our population, the values underpinning such a group should be cautiously investigated, considering its contradictory position to Western norms. Therefore, when discussing the inclusive language with which we communicate with immigrants, perhaps rigidly conveying the language of exclusion, and what will not be tolerated in the Western community, is warranted, in order to best assimilate them within a climate of free speech (arguably, the cornerstone of the West, and what binds us to reason and civilization). One must be just as cautious when advocating for the improvement in transgender, or gay, or women’s rights whilst simultaneously promoting the absorption of Muslim immigrants into Europe: such concepts are likely to be anathema to these immigrants, whose lives hinge on principles conflicting with such rights. Additionally, with regards to intolerance, one need look at the dangers of Muslim communities within Europe, and how gay Muslims, or Muslim reformers, or apostates are targeted by the intolerance of other Muslims (Carrell, 2016).

    This article is not founded on bigotry, or on an aversion to diversity. Of course most people escaping the horrors of war, disease and famine only seek safety for their family and to prosper. But what of the insidious nature of ideology, especially when inserted within a dissimilar culture and political system with irreconcilable viewpoints?  Rather, this is a plea to fellow Europeans over if this continent - this community - is understanding the deeper risks of rapidly absorbing migrants. Are we willing to accept people whose societal, cultural, and religious values are perfectly antithetical to our own? 

    The ‘cultural baggage’ of Islam’s views towards women, homosexuality, apostates, forced female circumcision, the Jewish community, or even representative democracy and political freedoms, is untenable under the umbrella of ‘Europe’, which is rooted in values of freedom from oppression and a strict code of moral truths. Therefore, if these foreign principles are adhered to, beyond the point of reason or what Europe should tolerate, one must contemplate what is left of Europe?

    Bibliography:

    1.Carrell, T. (2016) Man who murdered Glasgow shopkeeper Asad Shah in sectarian attack jailed. The Guardian [online], Tuesday 9th August. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/aug/09/tanveer-ahmed-jailed-for-murder-glasgow-shopkeeper-in-sectarian-attack [Accessed on 27 July 2017]

    2.Heneghan, T. (2011) Sarkozy joins allies burying multiculturalism. Reuters [online], Friday 11th February. Available from: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-sarkozy-multiculturalism-idUSTRE71A4UP20110211 [Accessed on 27 July 2017]

    3.Murray, D. (2017) The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam. London: Bloomsbury.

    4.Noack, R. (2015) Multiculturalism is a sham, says Angela Merkel. The Washington Post [online], Monday 14th December. Available from: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2015/12/14/angela-merkel-multiculturalism-is-a-sham/?utm_term=.7261683492fd [Accessed on 27 July 2017]

    5.Noack, R. (2016) 2,000 men ‘sexually assaulted 1,200 women’ at Cologne New Year’s Eve party. The Independent [online], Monday 11th July. Available from: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/cologne-new-years-eve-mass-sex-attacks-leaked-document-a7130476.html [Accessed on 27 July 2017]

    6.Perraudin, F. (2016) Half of all British Muslims think homosexuality should be illegal, poll finds. The Guardian [online], Monday 11th April. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/apr/11/british-muslims-strong-sense-of-belonging-poll-homosexuality-sharia-law [Accessed on 27 July 2017]

    7.Saul, H. (2015) One in four British Muslims ‘have some sympathy for motives behind Charlie Hebdo attacks’. The Independent [online], Wednesday 25th February. Available from: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/one-in-four-british-muslims-have-some-sympathy-for-motives-behind-charlie-hebdo-attacks-10068440.html [Accessed on 27 July 2017]

    8.Taylor, J. and Wright, O. (2011) Cameron: My war on multiculturalism. The Independent [online], Saturday 5th February. Available from: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/cameron-my-war-on-multiculturalism-2205074.html [Accessed on 27 July 2017]

    9.Willsher, K. (2016) France in shock again after Isis murder of priest in Normandy. The Guardian [online], Tuesday 26th July. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/26/france-shock-second-isis-attack-12-days [Accessed on 27 July 2017] 

  4. The SDP Government still wants to take control of the Judician System

    It hasn't been long since the Social-Democratic government of Bucharest tried to legalize some forms of corruption and pardon hundreds of politicians imprisoned for corruption, which led to the biggest protests in Romania after the fall of the communist regime, with more than 600.000 people taking the streets. Many people, journalists and poiticians, from Romania and EU, accused the government trying of change the legislation only to help the leader of the SD party - Liviu Dragnea (already convicted for election fraud) get away with his other corruption charges.

    People hoped that the wicked games were over and that the rule of law was finally left to be. That was until yesterday, when the Government in Bucharest announced its new draft law which, as many opinion leaders and journalists argue, would politicize the judicial system. If the new law will be adopted, the head of the Prosecutors' Office and the Anti-Corruption National Agency (known for its outstanding work in the fight against corruption in the last years) would be appointed directly by the Government, without the involvment of the President, which would basically put Liviu Dragnea - the convicted president of the SD party - in command of the most important anti-corruption agencies of Romania.

    Street protests have already been announced in most major cities of Romania for the coming days.

    How should EU respond to this kind of democratic flaws?

    Is democracy in danger in Eastern Europe (after similar political crisis in Poland and Hungary)?

    Sources: https://www.romania-insider.com/romanias-justice-min-wants-remove-president-naming-chief-prosecutors/ 

    http://www.ziare.com/tudorel-toader/ministrul-justitiei/tudorel-toader-a-decis-sa-i-faca-un-cadou-lui-liviu-dragnea-i-a-oferit-justitia-1478317 



  5. After September 11, the idea that “multiculturalism is dead” appeared. Since then multiculturalism policies have been under attack in most Western societies, being labelled as a failed policy. Some critics, such as Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek in an interview to the Euronews channel, have gone as far as to define multiculturalism as “inverted racism”.  They question why, if everyone is the same, supporters of multiculturalism try to understand, and even ‘celebrate’, differences between people. In order to create a more tolerant society, Žižek defended creating a code of conduct for people who had different life experiences.

    Julia Kristeva, the Bulgarian-French philosopher, considered a reference point for feminism and multiculturalism, has abandoned the idea of political correctness. She now says that many of the ideas used by feminist activists, gays and ethnic leaders are outdated. For her the assertion of ethnic and religious identities erodes democracy, the way to reverse this is by giving more importance to the individual freedom over communitarianism.

    The most liberal countries in Europe, like Netherlands and Denmark, have shifted from policies of multiculturalism to monoculturalism, thinking that this would prevent the further rise of far-right political parties, but these policies are having reverse results as societies are getting more divided. By saying multiculturalism is dead, European leaders are abandoning their old values to make relatively small political gains. Monoculturalism is not the solution, and multiculturalism is not entirely dead.

    William S. Smith suggests that by supporting multiculturalism we “will produce future leaders with an attitude of tolerance toward different cultures and a respect for worldwide diversity who will foster international comity”. For a diversity and peaceful world we need to accept and respect our differences, self-restraining our character to prevent conflicts.

    Multiculturalism policies failed because of a broken relationship between the State and the wider society. The success of multiculturalism relies upon the combination of effective policy-making by the State and the resourcefulness of civil society managed by intermediate bodies.  Europe, known as the ‘Old Continent’ is getting even more older. With fertility rates going down, there will be limited population growth without migration, and without a young workforce the States will not be able to finance their economies. Instead of pointing to the death of multiculturalism, Europe should be trying to create a more tolerant society that will permit the continent’s economy to grow while receiving immigrants to work in our countries. European countries will continue to need workers for their economies, the increase of immigrants will increase the diversity within cities and solutions to promote stable social relations between different social, religious or ethnic communities are needed.

    António Guterres, the current United Nations Secretary General and former UN High Commissioner between 2005 and 2015, declared that “migration is not the problem but the solution” for an aging Europe. “When elected officials hesitate to choose between values and the next election, I would advise them to choose values. If they go for short term [electoral gain] they will lose both, because there will always come a time when they lose an election. At that point, it becomes very hard to recover the values that have been abandoned.”.

    Globalisation is underway and there is no way back- Western and Eastern, Northern and Southern people will have to live together in this globalised world, both will have to learn how to live in a new society, learn to respect the differences of each one in order to have a peaceful coexistence. As Guterres said, we should not abandon our values, we should preserve the rights and culture of minorities, while we ensure the values of the majority of the population. The cultural mosaic in Europe is not over, the cultural diversity will continue to rise, people from different cultures will continue to arrive and live in our neighbourhoods.

    Confrontation will always occur. While this is human nature, a more tolerant society that respects different cultures needs to be constructed. For this, Europe needs multiculturalism policies modelled on countries like Canada or Azerbaijan. “United in diversity” is the motto of  the European Union, but European leaders and even European citizens might have forgotten that Europe is what it is because, between our cultural diversity, we have found a common ground that permitted us to be united for peace. The civil society, with the right policies, can push multiculturalism further in our societies, making us remember why we are united with our differences.



  6. Europe is home to many cultures and, in an attempt to promote a peaceful coexistence, the European Union have been supporting integration and social cohesion policies in order to better receive the migrants, but around 2002 the rhetoric had changed. Nicolas Sarkozy in France, Jose Maria Aznar in Spain, David Cameron in the United Kingdom and Angela Merkel in Germany (the only one that remains in power) were some of the voices that began to talk about the failure of the policy of multiculturalism after 2010..

    When the EU accepted new member States in 2004 and 2007, fears of a massive wave of migrants from the East to the West of Europe resulted in the establishment and maintenance of immigration restrictions on Bulgarians and Romanians to countries like France and Germany.  Now with the refugees crisis, more pressure has been mounting on member states to receive more migrants, alongside the rise of right wing political parties have been a reality around Europe, which creates an hostile environment for multiculturalism policies.


    The current problems Europe faces are not related to the cultural mosaic that characterises the old continent, but rather because of the increasing acts of racism and xenophobia against immigrants. While has been a failure of multicultural policies in European countries to achieve the desired goal of peaceful integration of foreigners, assimilation should not be seen as the solution.  Migrants have the right to keep their cultural background, but common values have to be shared and traditions respected in order to keep a peaceful coexistence.

    In Germany, for instance, Turkish people and other southern Europeans who arrived to work in German factories were considered as “Gastarbeiter”(or ‘guest workers’). As Merkel said in 2012, Germans thought they would be back to their countries after two years, but instead they brought their families. Over decades, German nationality was denied to these people as the “Jus Sanguinis” rule only permitted those with German parentage to get German nationality. The policy of multiculturalism in Germany was developed to not approach the Turkish immigrants during years.

    In 1998, when France won the World Cup, it was considered a model country on issues of multiculturalism. Nowadays reality is not quite the same. France is facing troubles, as the far right movement is rising, treating immigrants as scapegoats. One of the newsworthy cases is about the use of the burqa by Muslim women, but there are other worrying cases that illustrate this clash of cultures in Western Europe. The recent economic and migrant crisis that affects Europe has opened the discussion about multicultural societies.

    In the last years we have not only seen high levels of social unrest, but also a ‘cultural unrest’- a term created in 2008 by Moufakkir to refer the passage of a euphoria to an antagonist of cultural relations. The cultural unrest comes in the wake of the culture shock. For example, the Netherlands, often seen as among the most liberal countries, has been changing their multiculturalism policies. As in France, this can be explained by several factors including the increasing vote share being won by ultranationalist political parties.

    In a case study about the relations between Dutch and Moroccans, it is noticeable  that Dutch citizens who have visited Morocco are more open and easily accept Moroccan immigrants in Netherlands. On the contrary, people who have never had contact with Morocco have a pessimistic view of Moroccan immigrants. Travel tends to change the way people think about a country and its local population, making those who travel more willing to accept immigrants in their own country.  Thus travelling opens minds. The Erasmus programme, designed by the European Commission to develop a more tolerant and open society across Europe, is a great example of this.

    In an article from the Migration Integration Policy Index about Europe’s multicultural policies, we can conclude that EU members States have accepted several EU common policies on multiculturalism, but what happens is that those policies mainly refer to cultural rights leaving aside the immigrants participation in the social and political life. Developed by Queen’s University at Kingston in Ontario, Canada, the Multiculturalism Policy Index analyses the development of policy between 1980 and 2010 in twenty-one Western democracies. It shows a correlation between the increase of legislation concerning multiculturalism and the increase in the foreign-born population.  

    However, another study carried out by the Science Centre Berlin for Social Research shows that multiculturalism policies stagnated around 2002, when far-right political parties began to rise in Western Europe. This also coincides with September 11, which created more differences between national citizens and immigrants rights.

    Multiculturalism policies have shown that they have long-term effects, but the rise of right-wing political parties in Europe are leading politicians to opt for short-term policies with often detrimental repercussions. European Governments are leaving their multiculturalism policies behind in an attempt to control the rise of the nationalist movements, but Europe needs more multiculturalism as it faces one of the greatest mass-migration in its history. The Old Continent has been a cultural mosaic and governments should act to preserve their rich cultural diversity, bringing tolerance and respect for all those who have decide to live in Europe.



  7. Dear Visitors and Readers,


    My name is Greece. My history dates back over a millennium before Christ. My home is surrounded by the Mediterranean, Aegean, Ionian and Cretan Seas. Over many years, innumerable people have spoken of me and declared their love for me. They still come, every year from every corner of the Earth, to see my beauty and listen to my music- to feel my energy.


    In this letter, I would like to thank you again this year for the auspicious respect to my home. I would also like to seize the opportunity to emphasize that visiting me is a matter of happiness for me and my people. It is true that, in recent years, I have faced a wide variety of problems and have found myself influenced by many domestic and foreign situations. Taking into consideration the negotiations about my debt in the recent Eurogroup, my role in the Cypriot problem, the impacts of Euroscepticism and the problem with Turkish aggressive policy in the Aegean Sea, I am here to offer you the warmest hospitality for this summer to make it better from the last.


    First, I offer you the possibility to choose between forest or sea landscape for your vacations. Even though many people adore my sea and my islands I have a lot of to do in a forest village for summer. A great choice for excursions into nature is Pelion where you can combine sea and forest, fish and meat, or swimming and mountain-walking. Also, my center, Athens, is a place you can visit for a summer of culture and education- thousands of people choose Athens for its Acropolis. The wide variety of museums and ancient sightseeing such as Roman Agora, Acropolis Museum and the rock of Acropolis on its own can make your summer not only amusing but also educational and inspiring. I also have to mention that a summer afternoon walk in Plaka or Thisseio is totally worth it for feeling the vibes of Greek civilization and History.

    To continue, the majority of my visitors come to my home to visit my many islands. I have the Ionian islands, the Cyclades, the Dodecanese, the islands of the Northeast Aegean Sea, the Sporades, the islands of Argosaronikos and the biggest ones Crete and Evia.


    Let’s start with the Ionians- Kefalonia, Corfu, Zakynthos, Lackaday, Ithaca and Kithira. Located on the West of my home, near Italy, you can enjoy the crystal waters of the Ionian Sea.  You can see the shipwreck of Zakynthos, live to the peace rhythms of Ithaca, and explore the island of Corfu where Princess Sissi of Austria grew up (the art-filled palace in which she lived, Achilleion, still stands). It is true that many centuries ago the Ionian Islands were occupied by Venetians so these Islands offer you the opportunity to see the architectural influence of that era.


    However, it is the Cyclades- my precious gems of Santorini, Mykonos and Tines- that are perhaps most favoured by visitors. Wherever you stand in my wonderful Santorini, you can experience its natural beauty. In Caldera and Imerovigli, you can enjoy the view of the volcano amid the backdrop of a magical sunset. If you’re looking for an island that never sleeps, then you will find it on the crowded beaches of Mykonos- Psarrou, Panormos, Platys Yialos, Paraga, Kalo Livadi, and Ayia Anna. Wherever you go, the clubs, bars and restaurants provide an array of entertainment until the early hours of the morning. This is especially true of downtown Mykonian Chora (also known as Matoyiannia). Holy Tinos, on the other hand, is the opposite. Home of the Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Mother, also known as Panayia of Tinos, many visitors and pilgrims alike come to bask in its magnificence. Also, Syros Paros Andros, Sifnos, Naxos and many other islands of the complex of Cyclades welcome you to explore and enjoy the sea the food and my hospitality.


    Located to the North East of my home, in the Aegean Sea you can visit Samos, Chios, Lesvos, Icaria. Samos is known for its Nectar, a sweet Moscato wine and for its beautiful sightseeing such as Iraio which is declared of Statute of World Heritage of UNESCO. In Chios, you can taste the famous mastiqua- a liquid material of our mastiqua trees in the forests. It is worth coming to Lesvos to visit the village of Molyvos and the downtown of Mytilene. Moreover, Icaria is known as for the longest life span because of the peace and quiet lifestyle and habitude. In this complex of the Northeast Aegean Islands you can visit the island of the Victory of Samothraki.

    Additionally, in my home and my sea there are the Argosaronikos Islands where the most significant ones are Spetses, Aegina, Hydra, and Salamina. Spetses and Hydra are not only the home of the oldest navy families, but the birthplace of Manto Mavrogenous and Laskarina Bouboulina (two of the most significant women in the navy during the Revolution of 1821). Nowadays, these two islands have opened their oldest fortresses for historical sightseeing.


    Known as the island of Chevaliers, Rhodes looks over the complex of Dodecanese and is the third most populous island. It is home to one of the 7 Wonders of the World- the famous Colossus of Rhodes. On the island there is the hill of butterflies, as well as numerous churches, monasteries and palaces. In the 1990s, the municipal police of Rhodes rode horses leading the town to be known as ‘the City of Knights’. Rhodes also has its own Acropolis in the traditional area of Lindos. The complex of Dodecanese is completed by Kos, Karpathos, Leros and many other islands that follow Rhodes.


    I would to finish with my biggest one, Crete. It is the most numerous island in my sea. It is surrounded by the Cretan and Libyan Sea. That’s why in the South the temperature is on top in summer. Crete has a separate way of life. I can describe Crete as an autonomous island with nothing to miss for every person that visit her. Magnificent landscapes, wild nature, crystal waters, Cretan nutrition, traditional and modern amusement are only the basic of Crete. Minoan civilization is totally worth to explore. Coming to Crete, you see an island separated to four counties of Chania, Iraklion, Ayios Nikolas and Rethymno. Briefly you can explore the wonderful Bali at Rethymno, the Old Port of Chania and the traditional landscapes of Ierapetra and Sfakia, you can visit the modern town of Iraklion and then to travel to Ayios Nikolaos to the areas of Siteia, Vai and Chrisi.

    To conclude, I would like to emphasize that my home is ready to offer you the best of whatever you ask. I have organized every day the possibility to travel by ship, by airplane by every mean of transportation in every place of me. I am here to offer you the warmest hospitality once again this summer to make this experience more than a lifetime one. Do not hesitate to feel my energy, listen to my music, enjoy my sun, taste my products, swim to my sea and photoshoot every corner of my home and to be educated from my history.



    Welcome to my Home!


    Yours Faithfully,
    Greece  


     



  8. Nowadays fewer than 15% of countries are ethnically homogeneous, provoking the need for modern societies to develop a means to coexist peacefully. Thus two main definitions for multiculturalism began to emerge.  The first definition focuses on the relation between different cultures and how these interactions create a shared link between different traditions. The second definition focuses on isolating cultures in order to preserve the cultural identity by protecting minority cultures from becoming homogenous with the dominant culture. .


    In sociology, ‘multiculturalism’ is a term used to describe the existence of several cultures in a community, presupposing the acceptance and promotion of its cultural traditions. In a political context, the term can have different meanings. For example, multiculturalism can be defined by the advocacy of respect of different cultures in the society, connected to the cultural diversity policies which promote the maintenance of different traditions, or in other cases multiculturalism means the policies used by the authorities to approach each social group.

    Seventy years ago, a Cuban anthropologist, Fernando Ortiz, created the concept of ‘transculturation’, meaning that two different cultures can be united and mixed to create a new culture (neoculturation). This definition can be used to explain a lot of interactions between different cultures around the world. To explain it, Oritz used the case of Spanish colonisation in Cuba, which he considered a failed transculturation. The transculturation process is a long path of interactions between two cultures, and the integration process has several steps before a perfect harmony is reached. The last step culminates with a peaceful coexistence- the creation of a new, culturally-integrated society in which there are no differences between people and everyone has access to the same institutions without discrimination. Unfortunately this phase is not achieved by many cultures because of ethnocentrisms such as religion and traditions.

    Mary Louise Pratt, a professor in New York, have a different concept about the interaction of cultures: “the contact zone”. This term is used to describe the cultural shocks, when different cultures are fighting for their values. This can also be observed in colonial times. The coloniser tries to impose his own culture and religion upon the indigenous population, like the Portuguese and Spanish did during the Discoveries of the fifteenth century. Here the multiculturalism must be seen beyond the human activities, like a multidimensional understanding of culture.

    In ‘Multiculturalism Without Culture’, Anne Phillips uses feminism as the principal basis to develop her ideas about multiculturalism. Philips says that multiculturalism challenges feminism by subordinating the rights and interests of women to the supposed traditions of their cultures. She develops multiculturalism in a way that the definition is not linked with any culture. For Phillips, culture is no longer something immutable and dominated but something fluid. It is not the group that have rights but the individuals, because they are the most important element in societies.

    The multitude of definitions and understandings of culture and multiculturalism illustrates the complexity of approaching the cultural mosaic that is our society. Nowadays multiculturalist political ideologies have embraced disadvantaged groups, such as the LGBT+ community or indigenous people, for instance. All these definitions are important to understand the multiculturalism policies adopted by the States as each government has their own views about multiculturalism.

    In 1971, Canada became the first country in the world to adopt multiculturalism policies, and it continues to be recognised as one of the best examples of multiculturalism.  Unfortunately, policies regarding multiculturalism in Western European societies are going backwards. The Netherlands and Denmark, once beacons of liberalism and tolerance, are beginning to adopt policies reflecting the increasingly prevalent attitudes of monoculturalism among their respective populations.

    Unfortunately genocides did occur many times in our history. Would it not be better to live in a multicultural world where we learn from our differences, than to live in a monocultural world in which we are all the same? Multicultural societies should be open minded and have space for all cultures, traditions, religions and tastes. We can all live together under the same home, if we respect each other.




  9. Paris is one of the biggest cities in Europe with a long story to tell. Most of the time it will be a love story, but you might not fall in love with the City of Love at the first glance (most French people do not like it either). My first time in Paris was in 2013- two short days just to get my visa for my European Volunteer Service in FYR Macedonia, and I did not fall in love with the city. Two years later and I was back for a longer spell. Paris was the destination of my first internship. I had not chosen the city, but rather was sent there with no other option. 


    I was in Paris during the attacks. Luckily not ‘“there”, but I was not far away. A terrible night and an awkward week that left Europe in shock by what happened on November 13th. Paris was not Paris.  A desert city on Saturday, a city frightened by any rumble-tumble on Sunday and a suspicious city commuting during the week. For a moment Paris was not the City of Lights, was a city of darkness. No one expected that, no Parisian has ever seen their lifestyle attacked. The city recovers, but it does not forget.

    The Conference of the Parties 21 (COP21) was held in the suburbs of Paris where an historical agreement was achieved. Paris was Paris again. The French capital was again leaving its mark on world history. While the auspicious agreement has been ratified by almost all member-states of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), this is still not enough.

    Being Portuguese, I have to refer two more historical events. For the first time in Portuguese history, a President of Portugal celebrated the National Day outside of Portugal. Portugal’s National Day is a day to celebrate Camões, but also the Portuguese communities who live abroad. Paris, being home to more than one million of Portuguese citizens and descendants, was the right city to celebrate the date. The other historical event to take place in Paris was Portugal beating France to win the UEFA European Championship for the first time in their history.  One of my happiest days in Paris.

    While these are historic moments that made my stay in Paris different, I had other great moments- the big metropolis has always something happening: festivals in the streets, music at museums, Christmas lights and markets, amazing gardens, and shopping everywhere. Something that cannot be missed, however, is sitting on a terrace with French wine and a cheese board overlooking the daily life of Parisiennes.

    Paris is also home to the well-known Louvre, where you can get lost for hours and are still not able to see all the rooms. And do not try expressing admiration for I. M. Pei’s Glass Pyramid that has stood outside the museum since 1989- the French deteste it, just as they did the Eiffel Tower after it was built for the Exposition Universelle in 1889. But can anyone now imagine Paris without the Eiffel Tower? No, we cannot. The Eiffel Tower is now the city’s lighthouse that makes the nights of Paris even more beautiful.

    Paris is also a city of small and nice places. Around the Marais or Montmartre you will find unique neighbourhoods with special stories that will make you feel like you are no longer in a big city. La Villette has the modern spirit of the city, while the Île de la Cité preserves the origins of Paris. Small parks in the middle of the city like Buttes-Chaumont, Montsouris and Monseau are the perfect escapes for a picnic or a run. If you are brave enough, it would be worth running  from the Louvre to La Défense, crossing the Tuileries, Champs-Élysées and the Arc de Triomphe.

    If you are going to Paris you cannot miss The Orsay Museum and the Pompidou Centre, the amazing French crêpe in front of the Cité Internationale Universitaire, and squares like Place de la Contrescarpe and Place du Marché Sainte Catherine are the ideal place to enjoy a glass of wine. The Place de la République is also a mandatory stop, and has been the place of many demonstrations and memorials. In the Canal Saint Martin you will find the perfect places to brunch after having partied the night away in one of the many clubs in the vicinity..

    Paris is still not one of my favourite cities but, after one year living as a Parisien, I have to confess that it is not that bad.  As the famous Portuguese Poet, Fernando Pessoa, said once about Coca-Cola “primeiro estranha-se, depois entranha-se” which means "at first is strange, then it becomes entangled”. This is how I feel about Paris. I did not liked the city when I first arrived, but I learnt how to like it, and I must admit that now I kind of miss it.




  10. “As the world expected (and feared)”, Erdoğan won the referendum last april, sweeping new constitutional powers to the Turkish President. More than a victory of the “evet” campaign or a victory from both the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) -the two main parties supporting the yes campaign., this was a victory of Erdoğan himself.Yet it was not the victory that he expected. The Erdoğan’s pyrrhic victory was not worthy of big celebrations with just a difference of 1.4 million votes, not allowing the President to show to the West that he has the support of all Turkey’s population.

    Instead, what we see from the referendum results is that Erdoğan was not able to ensure that a big majority would give credibility to his presidential ambition, even with all the State resources used by the yes campaign (leading to an unfair campaign). Turkey is now a country even more divided, the opposite of what the President asked for. Turkish people during the campaign were very polarised and is predictable to stay like that during the near future. 

    Referendums are not to be compared to the general elections, but an inevitable comparison has to be done. If we compare the results from the referendum against those from last elections in Turkey, the AKP and MHP together lost more than 4 million votes. While the opposition parties such as the Republican People's Party (CHP) and the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), who supported the “hayir” campaign, scored 6.5 million votes more, still Erdoğan claims that got more Kurdish votes than before.It is safe to say that he lost popular support in all big Turkish cities.

    This does not mean that people have lost trust in Erdoğan. The referendum was about regime changes, not about political parties. Despite the huge support for AKP since 2002 elections, a 48.7% of the Turks who voted did not wish a presidential system for Turkey, which gives more power to the President, without checks and balances, just as autocratic regimes work. I believe that the true reality about the AKP’s support will come up with the elections in 2019.

    The CHP and the HDP will have to show that they are charismatic enough to keep the votes from the referendum and also be able to minimise the polarisation. The role of the Kurds in the following election will be important. If the HDP is not able to cross the 10% threshold, the AKP would get more seats, leaving the Kurds and other minorities in a more complicated situation, worse than the current one, where many of the HDP lawmakers have been imprisionedand Kurdish mayors have been replaced by AKP trustees.

    Under the AKP rule, Turkey has changed from a secular democracy with strong ties with the West, to a conservative Islamist autocracy with increasing ties to the East. Erdoğan during the first mandates as Prime-minister was able to stabilise the Turkish economy and started a peace process with the Kurds, in foreign affairs the AKP government improved the relations with the European Union and turned Turkey into a model for the new Arab world, after the Arab Spring.

    Nowadays Turkey is still an emergent market, not only because of its strong economy, but also because of its growing soft power in international affairs: Turkish Embassies and the TIKA cooperation projects have been growing all around the world since AKP took power. Erdoğan’s response to the Gezi Park protests mark a switch in how the international community turns its eyes on Turkey. From a model leader, Erdoğan started to be criticised for his increasing authoritarian power, which have gradually intensify after the coup attempt on July 15th, putting many of their old allies in jail and creating new enemies within the West.

    The relations with the European Union had their ups and downs, nowadays it is a complicated relation with Erdoğan calling Germany and The Netherlands Nazis and challenging the refugees agreement with the EU, even proposing an EU referendum regarding the accession process that has been paralysed for years. Turkey, as a member of NATO and its strategic position at the European doorstep, is a State that cannot be left aside by the EU. Erdoğan knows that and will keep playing with the West until he can secure new friends around the world.

    The recent decision from the Council of Europe to reopen a monitoring probe into Turkey over concerns about democracy and human rights, just after the referendum is to be taken with caution. Relations with the EU will worsen and is one more signal that Turkey's bid to become an EU Member State will remain frozen for years until the Turkish Republic respects the rule of law. This will push Turkey even more close to Russia, something that NATO would not like to see as Turkey represents the second military force of the alliance.

    Turkey has now only one leader, stronger than the former Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, father of the Turks, that was able to end the Ottoman Empire and establish a Secular Republic, unfortunately a new Sultan might be just around the corner. Erdoğan got what he wanted, but instead of a united Turkey around him, he has created a divided Turkey. The battle during the referendum was also between Kemalists and Erdoganists, with Kurds (and other minorities) in the middle, which represent three of the most important factions in Turkey.

    How will they manage to live under the same regime? We do not know that, but in the upcoming years we will see how they will be living side by side, while their President polarises their homeland even more. The crackdown against Kurds has already started, but it will be more complicated for Erdoğan to turn against the founder of the Turkish Republic. Unconsciously or not, he might have already started a clash with the Kemalists.

    Secular feelings and Kurdish identity in Turkey are still strong, and might give a surprise in the next Presidential elections. After the referendum, the CHP was able to change the focus from secular to justice, showing the lack of justice that Turkish people is facing since the failed coup that plunged the country into a state of emergency. The opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu started the “Justice March” in Ankara, after one of the CHP members was sentenced to jail. Kılıçdaroğlu, or as he is currently known “Gandhi Kemal”, has been followed by thousands of people to Istanbul, only using signs with the word “adalet”,meaning justice in Turkish.

    More than a regime change, the referendum was about the future of Turkey and its people. The majority has chosen to give more power to Erdoğan, which the West has to respect as it was the will of the Turkish, but now more than ever Turkey’s destiny is in Turkish hands. The “Justice March” is a good example on how Turkish people can, by peaceful manners, join forces against the increasing authoritarianism of the President. Turkey can still be a role model for the world and have a booming economy, respecting the rule of law. Or, Turkey can become a hell for journalists and opponents, a country where human rights and democracy are no longer respected with a shrinking economy. It is not (only) up to Erdoğan to decide the future of Turkey, Turks still have the power to vote and they are the ones who will decide the future of Turkey in the next elections.