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The election that changed Belarus

The August 9th presidential election has become a critical event for both the Belarusian society and the ruling elite. The election saw the breakdown of

September 7, 2020 - Maxim Rust

Coronavirus pandemic seriously challenges Russian economy

A combination of socio-economic factors observed in Russia not only indicates that the impact of the coronavirus crisis on the country's economy will be

September 7, 2020 - Oleg Buklemishev

Russian digital authoritarianism at the time of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly accelerated the use of digital surveillance technologies in Russia which had been planned earlier but tested only on a

September 7, 2020 - Maria Domańska

The pandemic’s toll on Lviv

Lvivians have much in common with Italians. They enjoy the company of others and lead social lives. They cannot live without coffee and gossip, and they

September 7, 2020 - Katarzyna Łoza

Hardly a Georgian dream. Confronting COVID-19 in the midst of an election year

Like much of the world, Georgia has experienced the first half of 2020 in a way that could not have been predicted. The ruling Georgian Dream party faced the

September 7, 2020 - Mackenzie Baldinger

The cost of saving Europe’s asparagus harvest

In our “Europe without borders” that stipulates all European citizens have the same inalienable rights, the reality is very far from the ideal. The

September 7, 2020 - Alexandra Wishart

Even before the pandemic, we have been living in isolation

The coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on both Moldova and the breakaway region of Transdniestria. Moldova remains on the so-called “red

September 7, 2020 - Marina Shupac

Will China’s facemask diplomacy pay off?

China has recently engaged itself in Central and Eastern Europe. Its influence in the region may become even stronger as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

September 7, 2020 - Jakub Bornio

Picking strawberries in a pandemic

Recently, there were over two million migrant workers in Poland. When the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic closed down companies and factories, many of them

September 7, 2020 - Magdalena Chodownik Omar Marques

The art of constitutional seduction. The 2020 case of Russia

On July 3rd 2020 Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on the official publication of the revised version of the Russian constitution, based on the Russian-wide voting on amending the constitution. The motivation of the process was clear – to allow Putin to stay in power almost indefinitely. Yet it also reveals the legal tricks and manipulation Russian authorities have used to make significant changes to the country’s legal order.

Imagine you are a skilled autocrat ruling over a nation for a long time. Unlike your dim, obsolete neighbours, you have successfully developed a personalist regime without any flagrant constitutional violations or manipulations. Even if you ever engaged in a constitutional modification process, you have always been careful and attentive, even to the tiniest technical issues of such an enterprise. No one can ever question the legitimacy of your previous endeavours because you are the master of legal disguise.

September 7, 2020 - Oleksandr Marusiak

A triumphant referendum?

Russian officials and state media outlets have called Russia’s recent vote on constitutional amendments a “triumph”. What does the result tell us about the state of Russian society? How did Russians living abroad vote? According to official data, Russians living in the Baltic states voted in favour of the amendments to the constitution at a higher rate to Russians living in Russia or Russians living in other EU countries. Why was this?

On July 1st Russia’s nationwide voting on constitutional amendments – designed primarily to give the current Russian president, Vladimir Putin the opportunity to remain in power until 2036 – came to an end. According to Russia’s Central Electoral Commission, more than 57.7 million voters, or 77.92 per cent of those who voted, supported the amendments, while 15.7 million, or 21.27 per cent, voted against it. The turnout, according to official reports, reached almost 68 per cent.

September 7, 2020 - Olga Irisova

In Church we trust. The case of the Moldovan Orthodox Church

The relationship between religion and society differs in most post-Soviet states. While the Orthodox Church in Moldova clearly enjoys widespread popularity in the country, it has chosen to focus on promoting a “traditional agenda”, often associated with discrimination towards women and minorities.

The Ukrainian Church’s official independence last year raised issues regarding how religion impacts geopolitics in post-Soviet countries. Despite this, the country’s former president, Petro Poroshenko, was neither the first nor the last political leader to use religious sentiments as part of an electoral campaign. The current Moldovan President, Igor Dodon, did so during the country’s previous elections. While there are numerous studies analysing the role of the church in politics and social movements, this discussion investigates the church’s role regarding conflict mitigation or instigation. By examining situations prone to conflict, we can try to determine whether the Orthodox Church in Moldova (OCM) serves the purpose of uniting the people or fostering polarisation. Such an issue remain of great importance for a country where more than 90 per cent of the population declare themselves Orthodox.

September 7, 2020 - Anastasia Pociumban

Dirigisme 2.0. The way to go for the region?

Most countries of Central and Eastern Europe that are now members of the EU developed impressively since the collapse of the centrally planned economy. Yet, Poland and other countries in the region still lack their own capital to compete on a global scale. The merger of Poland’s two state-owned refineries, Orlen and LOTOS, could illustrate a solution – selective state-ownership in crucial sectors.

Economic power is not shared equally across the European Union. Only one out of all EU companies in the Global Fortune 500 ranking is based in one of the new member states that joined the union after 2004. The remaining 112 companies are based in the “old” EU. Yet, as the case of a merger of two state-owned Polish oil companies shows, this unparalleled level of inequality is not being addressed by Brussels.

September 4, 2020 - Jakub Bartoszewski Michael Richter

The Eastern Partnership: Between fundamentals and integration

By signing Association Agreements with some countries of the Eastern Partnership, the EU has embarked on a foreign policy experiment. In essence, it is an offer of integration without accession to promote transformative reforms in neighbouring countries. This necessitates a change in the nature of the support that the EU typically offered in the past.

The European Union has offered the six Eastern neighbourhood countries – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine – a privileged relationship with the eventual aim of economic integration into the EU’s single market. To some, this offer has proven attractive as evidenced by the conclusion of the Association Agreements and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus, however, have opted for a looser relationship within the framework of the multilateral Eastern Partnership.

September 4, 2020 - Katarina Mathernova Kataryna Wolczuk

Zelenskyy’s Ukraine and the Eastern Partnership

In recent years Ukraine has become an informal leader of the Eastern Partnership. Along with Georgia and Moldova, Ukraine seeks more active co-operation with the European Union and advocates expanding its activities. Nevertheless, the further success of the Eastern Partnership will depend on whether the EU succeeds in developing an effective approach that meets the needs, expectations and interests of all partner countries.

This year the Eastern Partnership celebrated its 11th anniversary. For Ukraine, this time is clearly divided into two periods: 1) the pre-EuroMaidan period and 2) the post-EuroMaidan period with the signing of the Association Agreement with the European Union. The political part of the agreement was signed on March 21st 2014 (entering into force on November 1st 2014); while the economic part was signed on June 27th 2014. The aim of the Eastern Partnership (EaP) is to integrate Ukraine and other participating countries with the EU. The EU’s co-operation with its eastern partners is focused on stimulating political and socio-economic reforms. And it contributes to the deepening of political and economic relations, ensuring compliance of domestic legislation with EU norms and standards, as well as maintaining mutual respect for common values.

September 4, 2020 - Hanna Bazhenova Tomasz Stępniewski

Georgia and the EU need to stay focused on integration

The Eastern Partnership can boast a list of accomplishments for Georgia and Georgian society. Yet, it seems clear that the Eastern Partnership was never really considered as a path of membership to the European Union. Georgia’s government and civil society now need to focus on what the next steps in European integration should be.

“Georgia has one of the highest EU support in the world,” said EU Ambassador Carl Hartzell in interview for Georgian TV Formula’s “Droeba” programme. The ambassador added that: “About 250 million euros have been allocated for Georgia in the form of grants. These are new grants and new funding. If we talk about rough numbers, the European Union will allocate about 1.5 billion Georgian lari [nearly 415,000 euros] for Georgia”. It has been eleven years since the Eastern Partnership Programme, suggested by Poland and Sweden, was launched. Georgia, as one of the beneficiaries and one of the leaders of the Eastern Partnership programme, showcases more ambition and put great effort towards its European integration. Today, the Eastern Partnership faces new challenges: What will its future be and what will be the new steps in the process of EU integration for these countries? Any decision regarding future challenges remain very important for Georgia.

September 4, 2020 - Nugzar Kokhreidze

A reality check for Moldova-EU relations

In understanding the impact of the Eastern Partnership in Moldova, it is worth examining what it has failed to deliver for the Moldovan state and society. In this regard, it is a cliché that the strategy “started as a transformative mechanism and ended as a stabilisation and differentiation package of norms and measures”. Moldova has not become more stable or predictable, more prosperous or functional – and definitely not a place where the majority of its citizens would prefer to get old.

By mid-2020, and one year after the fortuitous change of political power in Chișinău (after the politician/oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc fled the country in June 2019), the state of Moldovan-EU relations has continued to be plagued by the same structural institutional pathologies for at least the previous three to four years: systemic corruption, state capture, shady transactions, divisive political identity, beleaguered institutions, legal nihilism, endemic poverty, and the list goes on.

September 4, 2020 - Oktawian Milewski

Failed Expectations? Belarus and the Eastern Partnership

When compared with other members of the Eastern Partnership, Belarus appears to be at the back of the line in terms of projects and endeavours. Belarus has not signed any partnership or co-operation agreements and the last attempt to restart bilateral relations disappeared in October 2019 when Frederica Mogherini’s visit was postponed indefinitely. Perhaps the current political situation in Belarus will provide the EU with an opportunity to reassess its policy towards Belarus and Belarus’s place in the Eastern Partnership.

When the first Eastern Partnership (EaP) Summit took place in Prague in 2009, Belarus seemed to be demonstrating more hope than despair in terms of its internal and external political development. Another wave of western sanctions had just been mitigated and bilateral relations with one of the two major proponents and initiators of the Eastern Partnership – Poland – were reaching a new level of mutual trust and co-operation. Despite the fact that Belarusian president Alyaksandr Lukashenka did not come to Prague himself, unlike his colleagues from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Ukraine (Moldova was also not represented by the head of state), Belarusian media portrayed the Eastern Partnership Initiative as a success of Belarusian diplomacy.

September 4, 2020 - Veranika Laputska

EU-Armenia co-operation at a crossroads

The launch of the Eastern Partnership in 2009 became strategically important for Armenia as it gave a chance for alternatives and a diversification of its partners in the West. The programme not only provided financial assistance to Armenia, but it also enriched the narrative on EU-Armenia relations.

Armenia’s relations with the European Union, within the Eastern Partnership (EaP) programme, have seen many positive developments accompanied by certain setbacks. Thanks to the EaP, the EU has become an important strategic partner for Armenia, introducing a democratic agenda and guidelines for democratic development. Since the EaP began 11 years ago, it has included the signing of significant documents with the EU. Yet due to deviations from the democratic path, Armenian authorities, at times, also backed off on co-operation. The 2018 Velvet Revolution in Armenia showed there is a desire in the country for democracy. Yet despite these changes, Armenia’s foreign policy has not changed, making it difficult to observe tangible results in the advancement of the EU-Armenian relations.

September 4, 2020 - Hasmik Grigoryan

Eastern Partnership and Azerbaijan. Balancing values and interests

Relations between Azerbaijan and the European Union have focused more on economic, reformative and technical issues than political ones. Both sides agree upon an incremental process, which has its own advantages and seems to have prospects for the future.

Azerbaijan is a country with positive attitudes towards Europe and European culture. Since the 19th century Azerbaijani intellectuals, aristocracy and merchants developed intellectual and economic ties with the West; with first and second oil booms at the end of 19th and 20th centuries respectively, Baku became a hotspot for European political, social and economic enterprises. A 2020 survey by EU Neighbours east project identified the EU as the most trusted international institution, enjoying a 41 per cent level of trust (up 13 per cent since 2018). Forty-four per cent of Azerbaijani citizens have a positive image of the EU – an increase of 17 per cent since 2016.

September 4, 2020 - Rashad Shirinov

Memory should be directed at the future

An interview with Ihor Poshyvailo, director of the National Memorial to the Heavenly Hundred Heroes and Revolution of Dignity Museum (Maidan Museum) in Kyiv. Interviewer: Tomasz Lachowski

TOMASZ LACHOWSKI: You are the director of the Maidan Museum, the fundamental role of which is to commemorate events of the Revolution of Dignity that occurred during the winter of 2013 and 2014 in Kyiv. We often understand museums as institutions that present historical events long after they happened. In the case of the Maidan, we are talking about events that happened only several years ago. When exactly did the idea to create a museum appear and how did you manage to develop the project?

IHOR POSHYVAILO: The Maidan Museum as an idea was initiated during the Revolution of Dignity itself. My museum colleagues and I decided to document as carefully as possible what was happening in Kyiv. We realised quite early that what was taking place in the winter of 2013 and 2014 certainly would not be a simple repetition of the Orange Revolution of 2004, and we became well aware that we had to be among and with the people at this exceptional time. The turning point was certainly January 16th 2014, when the so-called “dictatorial laws” were enacted by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine and violent clashes broke out, even though we had been documenting the protests at the very beginning of the movement.

September 4, 2020 - Ihor Poshyvailo Tomasz Lachowski

How an absurd legal case turned into a fight for the future of Russian theatre

On June 26th Moscow’s Meshchansky District Court announced that theatre director Kirill Serebrennikov and his colleagues would face a suspended sentence along with a series of fines. The case of the alleged fraud of the theatre company Sedmaya Studia reverberated throughout the entire cultural community in Russia and abroad.

On June 26th the international theatre community awaited the decision of the Moscow Court regarding the fate of Kirill Serebrennikov. Serebrennikov, a leading director in Russia, was accused of committing large-scale fraud. If found guilty, he could be sentenced to over five years in prison. His case was covered by major European newspapers, from The Guardian to Der Spiegel and Le Monde, and was commented on by various celebrities, both in Russia and abroad. Even those unfamiliar with the case became suspicious when a director with numerous awards, whose work have been shown at festivals in Avignon, Venice and Cannes, was accused of stealing government money, particularly in a country ranked 149th out of 180 in the Press Freedom Index.

September 4, 2020 - Alina Aleshchenko

Armenia’s track record on criminalising domestic violence

In Armenia, traditional values, along with a lack of information on human rights, still reign. Society has not achieved a level of consciousness to oppose fake and easily digestible narratives. The same is true about intentions to ratify conventions criminalising domestic violence. The ratification process-experience has been episodic with manipulation and drama, sparking public emotion and a less-informed discussion on the content.

Domestic violence, according to the United Nations, is recognised as a violation of the fundamental human rights of women. Armenia has subscribed to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) (1979), became a party to the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995) for the advancement of women, and took commitments in the scope of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SCG), where gender equality and empowerment of all women stands as a separate goal.

September 3, 2020 - Valentina Gevorgyan

The challenge of commemoration. Cases from Poland and Germany

The Second World War remains one of the most painful and conflicting episodes of the European nations’ memories. Present conflicts are embedded in history and in the use of history as a political tool. The cases of Poland and Germany illustrate how challenging it can be to commemorate history, especially in a politicised environment.

In Poland during the communist period and until 1989, it was nearly impossible to openly talk about the Second World War. First, due to friendship with the Soviet Union and later, after the fall of communism, Poland was busy creating its own government, introducing the democratic culture and fighting with an economic crisis in order to transform the country it became between 1989 and 2000. After this period, history and commemoration events started to play a very important role for the national and political identity of the country. Like in other Central and Eastern European states, Poland is an example of how history is used as a political tool in the museum narratives and exhibition forms, which also trigger conflicts.

September 3, 2020 - Kristina Smolijaninovaitė

Husband, father, war criminal: Chasing the memory of a Nazi fugitive across Europe

A review of The Ratline: Love, Lies and Justice on the Trail of a Nazi Fugitive. By: Philippe Sands. Publisher: Orion books, London, United Kingdom, 2020.

September 3, 2020 - Maria Suchcitz

Save us all from the liberty, Emperor!

A review of The Union of Salvation. A film directed by Andrei Kravchuk, Moscow, Russia, 2019.

September 3, 2020 - Grzegorz Szymborski

Addressing politics and stereotypes through theatre (during a pandemic)

A review of POSTWEST // guess where. An online cultural festival organised by the Volksbühne theatre. Berlin, Germany, 2020.

September 3, 2020 - Kamil Jarończyk Nataliya Parshchyk

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