Note from the editors
Change often happens without much noise — gradually, unnoticed, or already forgotten. That’s why, in this first issue of AWE magazine, we shed light on the silent (r)evolutions of the past, present and future: from the women’s march on Versailles, to a media revolution in Turkey, to a Danish island community spearheading sustainability.
Because the loudest revolutions are often silent.
This magazine is produced by the Are We Europe Foundation.
Kyrill Hartog & Eline Schaart
David MOUNTAIN | Edinburgh
Ramin GHARAVI | Paris
Rhiannon DAVIES | Istanbul
Anna SARASTE | Berlin
T H E P A S T
T H E P R E S E N T
In the past year, European politics has seen revolutions and evolutions, dissolutions (governmental) and disillusions (people). There’ve been protests and counter protests, legal overhauls and the odd parliamentary brawl. Whether through silent methods and shadowy stakeholders, or cachinnating heckles from policy rollers – this year has had it all.
But we won’t frame this year’s major events with a cheap Dr. Seuss veneer. Politics is serious: if you think different you’re delirious.
… So without further ado, from us to you, here’s what’s been going on in 2002*:
*We picked a year that rhymed.
The Skripal affair (aka John Le Carre’s unfinished novel)
The residents of Salisbury, England, probably never thought their town would be the focus of an international espionage dispute. On March 4th this year, Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious on a bench in the quiet cathedral city, and what followed was a serious row between Russia and the West, involving diplomatic expulsions and sarky tweets. With Cold War 2.0 in full swing, it’s gone to show that the opaque world of espionage is alive and well. You’ll get to meet some of these shadowy individuals behind major policy developments in Ramin Gharavi’s ‘Power Without Glory: The Shadow Government’.
France’s youngest ever president has brought his can-do gusto to all areas of French society, but not everyone has been a fan of Macron’s ‘Make France Great Again’ angle, particularly a certain politician on the other side of the Atlantic with a comb-over and a penchant for trademarks. Whether it’s his controversial labour reforms, his controversial higher education reforms, or his railroad reforms (you guessed it, controversial), a large number of French citizens have had a bone to pick with the Great Reformer. The French president can take some solace in the fact that protests are nothing new, as David Mountain points out in his article on the largely forgotten role of women in the French revolution.
A Most Intense Anniversary
Talking about Brexit at this point is like droning on about ‘The Hand of God’: it happened, people, but it’s time to move on. Unlike Maradona's, ah, ebullient act, Brexit, or ‘B-day’, comes with its very own set of anniversaries. The anniversary of the referendum outcome, and the anniversary to celebrate/bemoan the triggering of article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, and possibly the anniversary of when Nigel Farage started wearing that Indiana Jones inspired hat (not sure who Shortround is, possibly Boris Johnson). March 29th marked the triggering of article 50, with newspapers on the day pointing out that with only one year to go before Britain leaves the EU, time is running out to resolve the Irish border and negotiate a future trading relationship.
Renewing the Future (on a 5-year lease)
We couldn’t have a spread on news without talking about Donald Trump. The incumbent POTUS decided to pull out of the Paris Agreement in June 2017, which left the world without a key player in the fight against climate change. Thankfully China and the EU have stepped up to the plate, with the latter investing billions in clean energy directives and sustainable biofuels: by 2020 the bloc is aiming to service 20% of its total energy needs through renewable sources, cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20%, and increase energy efficiency by… you can probably guess. These are all small steps in the EU’s climb towards a low-carbon economy, and reducing its carbon footprint to a thumbprint. But there are people who don’t want to wait that long: Amélie Drouet has written a fantastic piece on how these self-organising communities in Denmark and France are busy creating shared renewable technologies to speed up the fight against melting ice caps.
Elections, Elections Everywhere
Italy, Austria, the UK, Germany, The Netherlands, Czech Republic, Hungary, Malta. This isn’t our travel wishlist, rather the number of EU nations that have held general elections in the past 12 months. Many have had ramifications for the bloc, with a worrying amount of eurosceptic parties either gaining political ground, like the AFD in Germany, or gaining enough votes to form a government, like the Northern League in Italy, or the far-right Freedom Party in Austria. Later this year, a country that has been waiting to join the EU for some time will hold its own elections. Turkey has had a complex relationship with Brussels ever since accession talks began in 2005, with Erdogan ruthlessly cracking down on dissidence, suppressing press freedom and generally imprisoning anyone he’s not a fan of. If that’s something you want to know more about, flick over to Rhiannon Davis’ article on the ‘The New Media Revolution in Turkey’.
The Cambridge Analytica Footlights
Like, tweet, share (personal information unbeknownst to the user), repeat. The ongoing Cambridge Analytica/Facebook scandal has been one of the biggest stories of 2018. The social media giant managed to let 87 million users’ data fall into the hands of Cambridge Analytica, a dubious outfit that specialise in “psychological warfare” and voter influencing, and played a role in both the 2016 U.S. elections and the Brexit campaign. The whole debacle outlined a number of issues with data protection, how rapidly social networks can be manipulated, and how many variations Mark Zuckerberg knows of ‘I’ll have to get back to you on that’. The EU has been playing catch-up with tech companies for years, but with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming into effect in May this year, the bloc will be setting the global standard for personal data privacy. Coincidentally, Facebook shifted one and half billion users from their servers in Ireland to California, which puts them out of reach of the GDPR. Obviously the GDPR is a good thing: it goes after large companies that mishandle data. But what about the flipside, when governments become too apt in the ways of harvesting information and surveillance? Anna Saraste explores this issue in her illuminating article and infographic, Europe’s Intelligence post-Charlie Hebdo.
Law & Order
Poland has had one of the most troubled relationships with the EU in the past 24 months. There are multiple arguments and accusations, which range from Poland demanding war reparations from Germany (to the tune of $850 million), or the EU demanding that Poland stop logging in the Bialowieza forest. The biggest spat has centred around the Law and Justice Party (PiS) reforming the rule of law in Poland, which the EU denounced as unconstitutional. The controversial reforms were enough for Brussels to trigger Article 7 of the Lisbon Treaty, which would see Poland stripped of its EU voting rights. That’s very unlikely to happen however, as it would need every EU country to sign off on the idea, and Hungary has promised to veto the whole thing. Regardless, the tension between Poland and the EU hasn’t dissipated, and it’s just a further example of the emerging rift between more conservative, nationalist European governments and their liberal counterparts.
T H E F U T U R E