NEWS http://www.donskis.lt/p/en/1 NEWS Sat, 27 Sep 2014 00:00:00 +0300 en Sat, 27 Sep 2014 00:00:00 +0300 Leonidas Donskis Appointed ISM Vice-President for Research http://www.donskis.lt/p/en/1/1_/2281 <p style="text-align: justify;">Prof. Leonidas Donskis, a former euro parliamentarian and prominent public activist, was appointed vice-president for research at ISM University. He will begin in his new position on 22 September.&nbsp;</p> Prof Donskis will be responsible for strengthening research and doctoral studies, improving strategy, and increasing the internationalisation of the two activities. He will also be responsible for networking in the research and doctoral student community and for the publication of research articles in professional literature. Another important area of his activity is strengthening contacts between academics and business, searching for new opportunities for cooperation, discovering creative potential in business, and employing it on a bigger scale. "I always admired the atmosphere of creativity and international spirit and the modern approach to higher education at ISM. I see this university as one of the best business schools in Eastern and Central Europe, a unique laboratory combining business and research,&rdquo; the new vice-president for research&nbsp; at ISM University of Management and Economics said.&nbsp; &nbsp; Prof Donskis acquired his doctoral degree at universities in Vilnius and Helsinki. He is an associate professor at the latter institution of higher education. Donskis is also an author and has compiled seventeen academic books in English and twenty-five in Lithuanian. His works have been printed by prestigious publishing houses in the United States and Europe and translated into fourteen languages. He has worked and given lectures at universities in the United States, Great Britain, Italy, Sweden, Estonia and Hungary. He is a member of the editorial staff of academic magazines and is a prominent public activist. Prof Donskis holds honorary doctorates at the University of Bradford in the UK and Valahia University of Targoviste in Romania. &nbsp; "Prof Donskis is one of the most acknowledged and respected Lithuanian academics. His experience, work abroad, and a wide field of academic interests will help us to create an even more intensive academic life at the university and get researchers involved in new projects and even wider academic networks. The professor knows perfectly the Nordic academic culture that relates us to our founder, BI Norwegian Business School, and in which we conduct international doctoral studies and other academic projects with universities abroad. We will continue to expand our team with experienced specialists from Lithuania and other countries as we seek to become regional leaders in research and studies,&rdquo; Vilius Kontrimas, president of ISM University of Management and Economics, said. &nbsp; The main areas of academic research at ISM University of Management and Economics are strategic planning, marketing, organisational behaviour, entrepreneurship and innovations, economics, and political science. In association with the Baltic Management Development Association, academics from the Baltic countries, Norway and Russia, the university publishes the Baltic Journal of Management, the only academic journal investigating management trends in the region. The first international programme of doctoral studies in the field of management encompassing the entire Baltic region was started at the university. ISM University&rsquo;s activity is acknowledged and recognised internationally: ISM was entrusted to organise the main European conference on research in entrepreneurship, RENT (Research in Entrepreneurship and Small Business), and the first session of the Association for Strategic Management in the Baltic countries took place at the university. There are such prominent academics among the ISM honorary doctors as Prof Geert Hofstede, Dr Ichak Adizes, Prof Peter Lorange, and Prof Robert Shiller, Nobel Prize winner in economics. &nbsp; <p style="text-align: justify;"></p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Prof Donskis will be responsible for strengthening research and doctoral studies, improving strategy, and increasing the internationalisation of the two activities. He will also be responsible for networking in the research and doctoral student community and for the publication of research articles in professional literature. Another important area of his activity is strengthening contacts between academics and business, searching for new opportunities for cooperation, discovering creative potential in business, and employing it on a bigger scale. "I always admired the atmosphere of creativity and international spirit and the modern approach to higher education at ISM. I see this university as one of the best business schools in Eastern and Central Europe, a unique laboratory combining business and research,&rdquo; the new vice-president for research at ISM University of Management and Economics said. &nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Prof Donskis acquired his doctoral degree at universities in Vilnius and Helsinki. He is an associate professor at the latter institution of higher education. Donskis is also an author and has compiled seventeen academic books in English and twenty-five in Lithuanian. His works have been printed by prestigious publishing houses in the United States and Europe and translated into fourteen languages. He has worked and given lectures at universities in the United States, Great Britain, Italy, Sweden, Estonia and Hungary. He is a member of the editorial staff of academic magazines and is a prominent public activist. Prof Donskis holds honorary doctorates at the University of Bradford in the UK and Valahia University of Targoviste in Romania.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">"Prof Donskis is one of the most acknowledged and respected Lithuanian academics. His experience, work abroad, and a wide field of academic interests will help us to create an even more intensive academic life at the university and get researchers involved in new projects and even wider academic networks. The professor knows perfectly the Nordic academic culture that relates us to our founder, BI Norwegian Business School, and in which we conduct international doctoral studies and other academic projects with universities abroad. We will continue to expand our team with experienced specialists from Lithuania and other countries as we seek to become regional leaders in research and studies,&rdquo; Vilius Kontrimas, president of ISM University of Management and Economics, said.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The main areas of academic research at ISM University of Management and Economics are strategic planning, marketing, organisational behaviour, entrepreneurship and innovations, economics, and political science. In association with the Baltic Management Development Association, academics from the Baltic countries, Norway and Russia, the university publishes the Baltic Journal of Management, the only academic journal investigating management trends in the region. The first international programme of doctoral studies in the field of management encompassing the entire Baltic region was started at the university. ISM University&rsquo;s activity is acknowledged and recognised internationally: ISM was entrusted to organise the main European conference on research in entrepreneurship, RENT (Research in Entrepreneurship and Small Business), and the first session of the Association for Strategic Management in the Baltic countries took place at the university. There are such prominent academics among the ISM honorary doctors as Prof Geert Hofstede, Dr Ichak Adizes, Prof Peter Lorange, and Prof Robert Shiller, Nobel Prize winner in economics. &nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</p> NEWS http://www.donskis.lt/p/en/1/1_/2281 Thu, 11 Sep 2014 00:00:00 +0300 Wag the Dog. Russian Style http://www.donskis.lt/p/en/1/1_/2282 <p style="text-align: justify;">The extreme power of manipulation, in terms of public opinion and imagology, and its political and moral implications are well revealed by one film that has contributed to the critique of today&rsquo;s controlling political structures. This is Barry Levinson&rsquo;s film&nbsp;Wag the&nbsp;Dog. The film tells us the story of Hollywood producer Stanley Motss and Washington&rsquo;s spin doctor Conrad Brean, who are supposed to save the White House due to the President&rsquo;s scandalous romance.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The duet of Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro reveals with skill a world of people who are talented, but also amoral and value disoriented. At any rate, the revelations of instrumental mind and instrumental morality are not the only merits of this great film. This film, created in 1997, foreshadowed a military campaign in Yugoslavia (the film mentions Albania) during the height of Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky&rsquo;s sex scandal. Of course, it would be silly to claim, wearing a serious face, that the war in Yugoslavia was required because of U.S. domestic politics, and as a means of smothering the scandal. "Pacifist&rdquo; Western Europe wanted this war perhaps even more than "militaristic&rdquo; America. The U.S. was the wand that was used to solve the problem.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">But this film leaves an impression due to its emphasis on something else - it just so happens that a war can be fabricated. Just as, as it turns out, one might direct public opinion in such a way that a war would be wanted or even much desired. Create an artificial crisis, sacrifice a few dozen innocent lives to a political Moloch, increase people&rsquo;s sense of insecurity - and, everyone, in a flash, almost overnight, will want both a firm controlling hand, tough rhetoric, and, perhaps, even war. In short, something similar to being beyond good and evil.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">In fact, the film in question predicted something even more dangerous and sinister than it was able to articulate and address along the lines of its characters&rsquo; monologues and dialogues.&nbsp; In the contemporary world, manipulation by political advertisement is not only capable of creating people&rsquo;s needs and their criteria of happiness, but also capable of fabricating the heroes of our time and controlling the imagination of the masses through successful biographies and success stories. These abilities make one pause for thought about a "velvet&rdquo; totalitarianism - a controlled form of manipulating consciousness and imagination that is cloaked as liberal democracy, which allows the enslavement and control of even the critics.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Yet the question remains whether these forms and methods of manipulations, brainwashing and conditioning can be used by dictatorships, thuggish regimes, and rogue-states more successfully than by democracies with all their marketing techniques and paraphernalia.&nbsp;Wag the Dog, like other similar productions of cinematography, rests on the assumption of infinite manipulations as an offshoot or a side effect of mass democracy. In so doing, it missed the point that military regimes can have much more success in this than their democratic adversaries. In fact, this is high time for the West to wake up and see the world around us for what it is. We are witnessing the resurgence of real rather than velvet or imagined totalitarianism in Russia. Public opinion was made and remade there as many times as the regime wanted it to be, and hatred for Ukraine was manufactured in accordance with the need for an enemy. Ukrainian "fascists&rdquo; become the appropriation of the term that best describes its user, for the more Russian propaganda speaks about the Ukrainian fascism, the more family resemblance Russia itself bears to Nazi Germany with all its hatred as a method to approach reality, Goebbels-type propaganda, and toxic lies.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Never before has George Orwell&rsquo;s&nbsp;1984&nbsp;and its vocabulary been as relevant as it is now, due to the sliding of Russia into barbarity and fascism with incredible speed and intensity. A series of interrogation scenes between O&rsquo;Brien and Winston Smith with all allusions to the Communists and the Nazis as the na&iuml;ve predecessors of Oceania, who had an ideology and who allowed their victims to become martyrs, sound now as the best eye-opener since Putinism entered the phase of war and terror: the Newspeak, two minute hate, and the jackboot trampling on the human face for the sake of unlimited power have finally acquired the points of reference.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">It is a fascism with no real ideology, for a set of tools to boost the morale of its thugs and terrorists consists of the worn-out clich&eacute;s and recycled slogans largely borrowed from the Italian and Hungarian fascisms with some Serbian additions from the times of Slobodan Milosevic, and with Nazi cherries on top. Irredentism, the need to reunite the disunited nation, the world turned against the righteous people, the necessity to defend history for the sake of its reenactment - these are all ghosts and specters of twentieth century fascism.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The tragedy of Russia is that its population falls prey to the Kremlin&rsquo;s spin doctors with their ability to create virtual and TV hyper-reality that had hidden reality from the masses. Ukraine for the Russian incarnations and successors of Goebbels, such as Vladislav Surkov, has become exactly what Albania was for Barry Levinson and his film - a piece of virtual reality fabricated for the sake of domestic policies. The funny thing is that the excessive and obsessive use of the term "fascism&rdquo; appears as a form of cognitive dissonance of Russian fascism: be quick to apply your own name or title portraying your enemy - then you will appropriate the name and will absolve yourself from it.</p> NEWS http://www.donskis.lt/p/en/1/1_/2282 Mon, 08 Sep 2014 00:00:00 +0300 Moral Blindness and Ukrainian Lessons http://www.donskis.lt/p/en/1/1_/2278 <p>In 2013, I have written conjointly a book with Zygmunt Bauman, one of the greatest thinkers of our times. It is a book of an intense philosophical dialogue on the loss of sensitivity. The title of our book,&nbsp;Moral Blindness, was Bauman&rsquo;s idea, and it came out as an allusion to the metaphor of blindness masterfully developed in the Portuguese writer Jos&eacute; Saramago&rsquo;s novel&nbsp;Ensaio sobre a cegueira&nbsp;(Essay on Blindness). Yet the subtitle of the book,&nbsp;The Loss of Sensitivity in Liquid Modernity, came out from my own theoretical vocabulary, albeit with Bauman&rsquo;s touch - his books would be unthinkable without the adjective "liquid,&rdquo; be it liquid modernity or liquid fear or liquid love. Much to my delight, this book will have a second life in the Ukrainian language and culture. (Continue...)</p> NEWS http://www.donskis.lt/p/en/1/1_/2278 Fri, 15 Aug 2014 00:00:00 +0300 And Then There Was a Team http://www.donskis.lt/p/en/1/1_/2272 <p>Sitting in downtown Wrocław and raising a glass of wine, my friend, cultural attach&eacute; of Lithuania in Poland, and I both found ourselves absorbed by an exciting chat about Polish football. All of a sudden, a sharp historical association crossed my mind. Exactly forty years ago, in 1974, the then seemingly unbeatable Brazil was defeated twice - first by Holland and then by Poland. 1974 was not the time of Brazil. It signified the arrival of a different epoch.&nbsp;(Continue...)&nbsp;This text was originally published by "Gazeta Wyborcza" in Polish.&nbsp;</p> NEWS http://www.donskis.lt/p/en/1/1_/2272 Wed, 09 Jul 2014 00:00:00 +0300 A Unique Parliament http://www.donskis.lt/p/en/1/1_/2268 <p style="text-align: justify;">14 July 2009 appears to have been an historic date that indicated two hundred and twenty years from the beginning of the French Revolution. One would have expected a celebration of the date trying to embrace the new reality of Europe, first and foremost, its unique and historically unprecedented solidarity.One would have thought that that day marked the reconciliation of Europe, the Old and the New, to use Donald Rumsfeld&rsquo;s parlance - especially in the light of the election of the Polish MEP Jerzy Buzek, the former prime minister of Poland and one of the heroes of the Solidarity movement, President of the European Parliament. A unique chance opened up to put many things behind us, including frequent clashes of the moral and political sensibilities of "two Europes,&rdquo; meaning the Old Europe&rsquo;s liberal and tolerant attitudes to human diversity, and the New Europe&rsquo;s old-fashioned infatuations and reactive conservatism.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The 2009-2014 European Parliament seems to have been at a crossroads of the EU. The Euro crisis, the slowdown of European economies, and drastic austerity policies accompanied by difficult and noisy national debates both in EU parliaments and in the European Parliament - all these were a significant part of the European Parliament members&rsquo; life and work. Everything began with the 2009 summer of the contractions of austerity, and everything culminated with the 2014 winter of our discontent as a failure to sign the Association Agreement between the EU and Ukraine resulted in the EuroMaidan Revolution in Kiev. This metaphor is a paraphrase of the title of a famous novel. As we know,&nbsp;The Winter of Our Discontent&nbsp;is the title of John Steinbeck&rsquo;s last novel published in 1961. The title is a reference to the first two lines of William Shakespeare&rsquo;s&nbsp;Richard III: "Now is the winter of our discontent / Made glorious summer by this sun of York.&rdquo;</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">In fact, we had the springtime of our discontent which followed the winter of our discontent, although the latter gave us hope that the world may have changed for the better. The EuroMaidan Revolution in Kiev appears to have been a genuine anti-criminal revolution which dealt a blow to the Kremlin and scared its Master. Criminalization of politics and, conversely, politicization of the criminal world was and continues to be the sword and the shield of the political system created by Vladimir Putin and his regime. Wherever they go leaving a frozen conflict and an ethnic conflict that they manufacture we see criminal gangs in power. This was the case in Transnistria, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia, and this is the case in Crimea now.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">This is to say that the 2009-2014 European Parliament witnessed a major change in world politics and also in the entire system of international relations. The new world which we embraced and celebrated after the fall of the Berlin Wall is over now. The European security system is nearly finished after severe and cynical violations of international law and of the 1975 Helsinki Accords by Russia. The world we live in will never be the same. July 2009 promised us a difficult time of &nbsp;the Euro crisis and austerity, yet it appears now to have been just a beautiful overture to a dramatic and gloomy opera.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">In addition, the 2009-2014 European Parliament bore family resemblance to all classical and deeply conventional European and national institutions - with the Christian Democrats, Socialists, and Liberals in the lead, and with the radicals of all shades safely relegated to the margins. The 2014-2019 European Parliament is highly likely to become a different ball game, though. The 2014 elections to the European Parliament did make a difference. We cannot pretend any longer that far right voices and Euroskeptics are still a tiny minority that is easily to relegate to the margins of EU politics. The shocking victory of UKIP in the UK (27 % of votes) coupled with the triumph of Le Front National (FN) in France (one fourth of all votes). Coupled with genuine fascist parties, such as the Golden Dawn of Greece, and Jobbik of Hungary, the far right and anti-immigration parties, such as UKIP, FN, and Geert Wilders&rsquo; Party of Freedom in the Netherlands will make up quite a noisy minority of around 140 voices in the newly elected European Parliament.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">These forces are not only anti-EU - they are essentially anti-European and pro-Kremlin. Suffice it to recall their praise up ton the skies for Vladimir Putin as a supposed defender of conservative, family-based, and traditional values, which allowed Nigel Farage and Marine Le Pen to close ranks with Jobbik - a miserable and disgraceful alliance, to say the least. Even more so was the moment of truth and self-exposure when Farage in one of his recent interviews went so far as to suggest that two grave mistakes made by the EU were the adoption of Euro and the accession of Eastern European countries to the EU with all their social mobility and dignity they got (not to be embarrassed anymore by Western European immigration officers with their intrusive questions and poorly concealed disdain for Eastern Europe, I would add).</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">All the aforementioned details may throw more light on the 2009-2014 European Parliament where I have had a privilege to serve as an MEP on behalf of Lithuania. I acted as a member of ALDE-Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, one of the most pro-European political families in the European Parliament whose members were such prominent legislators and European policy makers as Andrew Duff and Guy Verhofstadt, to name just a few. ALDE has also seen such celebrity figures of European culture and politics as the former Polish foreign minister Bronislaw Geremek, a hero of the Solidarity, and also a worldwide famous historian, and Gianni Vattimo, one of the most celebrated philosophers in Italy and Europe. I have been working with colleagues whose dedication to human rights, civil liberties, liberal values, and Europe left me fascinated and inspired.<br /><br />This piece was wriiten by Leonidas Donskis on the request by the former British MEP and ALDE colleague Bill Newton Dunn, who will use the text for his 2009-2014 term European Parliament memoires volume.&nbsp;</p> NEWS http://www.donskis.lt/p/en/1/1_/2268 Tue, 08 Jul 2014 00:00:00 +0300 I stała się drużyna http://www.donskis.lt/p/en/1/1_/2267 <p style="text-align: justify;">Pewnego wieczoru, siedząc przy kieliszku wina na wrocławskim Rynku, dyskutowałem z moją przyjaci&oacute;łką, attach&eacute; ds. kultury ambasady litewskiej w Polsce, o polskiej piłce. Rozmawialiśmy, a jakże, w kontekście brazylijskiego mundialu. Nagle dotarło do mnie, że oto r&oacute;wno przed 40 laty rzekomo niepokonana Brazylia przegrała dwa razy - najpierw z Holandią, a potem z Polską. (Continue...)</p> NEWS http://www.donskis.lt/p/en/1/1_/2267 Fri, 04 Jul 2014 00:00:00 +0300 A wake-up call for Europe http://www.donskis.lt/p/en/1/1_/2276 <p>"We are coming,&rdquo; says Nigel Farage, the leader of UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party), and co-chair of the Europe of Freedom and Democracy group in the European Parliament. As if to say that this is just his time, Farage comes up with the punch line directed straight to Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament: "Please don&rsquo;t pretend that nothing has happened. You know perfectly well that it has. And the day is nigh when all your EU institutions will be plain dead.<br /><br />"We are coming.&rdquo; I am paraphrasing his phrase, yet I can vouch for its credibility and content. So the message is clear - if we are to believe the most theatrical and eloquent political clown I have seen over the past five years that I spent as his fellow member of the European Parliament (2009-2014), that&rsquo;s the beginning of the end of the EU. Needless to say, the news about the death of the EU is slightly exaggerated. Christian Democrats, Socialists, Liberals, and Greens will outweigh an increasingly visible minority of the far right led by Marine Le Pen and Nigel Farage. When the time comes, conventional and pro-European groups will easily achieve a decisive and crucial majority over pivotal issues of the EU. Yet at one point we willy-nilly have to agree with Nigel Farage.<br /><br />The 2014 elections to the European Parliament did make a difference. We cannot pretend any longer that far right voices and Euroskeptics are still a tiny minority that is easily relegated to the margins of EU politics. The shocking victory of UKIP in the UK (27 percent of votes) coupled with the triumph of Le Front National (FN) in France (one fourth of all votes). Coupled with genuine fascist parties, such as the Golden Dawn of Greece, and Jobbik of Hungary, the far right and anti-immigration parties, such as UKIP, FN, and Geert Wilders&rsquo; Party of Freedom in the Netherlands will make up quite a noisy minority of around 140 voices in the newly elected European Parliament. First and foremost, these forces are not only strongly anti-EU oriented - they are essentially anti-European and overtly pro- Kremlin. Suffices it to recall their praise for Vladimir Putin up to the skies as a supposed defender of conservative, family, and traditional values, which allowed Farage and Marine Le Pen to close ranks with Jobbik - a miserable and disgraceful alliance, to say the least.<br /><br />Even more so was the moment of self-exposure when Farage, in one of his recent interviews, went so far as to suggest that two grave mistakes made by the EU were the adoption of the euro and the accession of Eastern European countries to the EU, with all their social mobility and dignity they got (not to be embarrassed anymore by Western European immigration officers with their intrusive questions and poorly concealed disdain for Eastern Europe, I would add). Well, what can you say after this? Let us make no mistake: not only do Poland or the Baltic States appear as the stronghold of European value orientations as opposed to pro-Kremlin and Putinesque farce of UKIP and FN; in this context, Ukraine and its anti-criminal revolution with the EU on the lips of Maidan protesters come as a powerful antidote against the political grotesque of populism in EU countries.<br /><br />At the same time, it becomes increasingly obvious that the times when the Kremlin had its useful idiots in the West primarily among leftist intellectuals with all their misguided politics and self-imposed moral and political blindness are gone; instead, the new useful idiots of the Kremlin come straight from the far right - theses are people who choose to believe that Vladimir Putin is the hope of European neo-conservatism. I have already described elsewhere this phenomenon in terms of the new Fascist International with its headquarters in Moscow. However tempting, we cannot reduce the entire analysis of the 2014 elections to the EP to the moral shock. True, it is something like a heavy hangover and a wake-up call for the EU, yet this is the right time to find the answer to the question: What happened? What happened was easy to expect, especially in the light of a difficult rivalry between Jean-Claude Juncker and Martin Schulz over the post of president of the European Commission, where Juncker&rsquo;s high profile as a confessed federalist made it impossible for the UK to back him.<br /><br />Add to this domestic nuances in the fight between British conservatives and UKIP (as the latter tries to fish in the same waters of British Euroskepticism and exceptionalism), and you will have, if not a cul-de-sac, then at least a difficult predicament for British politics. The 2014 elections should serve as a wake-up call and reminder that Euroskepticism is far from a force majeur or natural disaster: instead, it is a collective sentiment of European citizens skillfully exploited by populist parties and translated into a warcry, a quasi-program, and a pseudo-vision of the future.<br /><br />It suffices to beat the drums of threat and portray the EU as a specter of velvet totalitarianism, or else demonize Brussels, and behold the mandate - you can win the elections to the despised European Parliament, an institution which Mr. Farage hates and holds in contempt, even refusing to attend the meetings of his committee, yet this does not prevent him from being well paid by it. No program or vision is needed - just an imagined monster onto which you project all your discontents and worries caused by modern politics and life. The EU is at a crossroads, and the time is up. We are at the peril of failing Europe. If we needed a clear signal, we got it after these elections.<br /><br />&copy; 2014 The Baltic times. All rights reserved.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> NEWS http://www.donskis.lt/p/en/1/1_/2276 Thu, 03 Jul 2014 00:00:00 +0300 L. Donskis Starts his Activities as Honorary Consul of Finland http://www.donskis.lt/p/en/1/1_/2266 <p style="text-align: justify;">On July 1, 2014 Finland&rsquo;s Honorary Consulate was opened in Kaunas, which will be overseen by newly appointed Honorary Consul Leonidas Donskis. Linas Linkevicius, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania, stated during the opening ceremony the importance of the consulate for the cultural interchange. According to him, the new honorary consul, a well-known academic, public figure and former Member of the European Parliament will contribute considerably to bring Finnish and Lithuanian cultural and academic societies together. (Continue...)</p> NEWS http://www.donskis.lt/p/en/1/1_/2266 Wed, 02 Jul 2014 00:00:00 +0300 L. Donskis at the International Lithuania Congress in Wroclaw http://www.donskis.lt/p/en/1/1_/1806 <p style="text-align: justify;">On May 29-30 Leonidas Donskis took part at the second international Lithuania Congress in Wroclaw. At the event, academics and experts discussed Polish-Lithuanian relations, the first decade of the Polish and Lithuanian membership in the European Union, Lithuanian history, culture and language. Here you can find an interview with L. Donskis, given during the congress.&nbsp;</p> NEWS http://www.donskis.lt/p/en/1/1_/1806 Mon, 09 Jun 2014 00:00:00 +0300 The springtime of our discontent http://www.donskis.lt/p/en/1/1_/1800 <p>The title of this writing is a paraphrase of the title of a famous novel. As we know, The Winter of Our Discontent is the title of John Steinbeck&rsquo;s last novel, published in 1961. The title is a reference to the first two lines of William Shakespeare&rsquo;s Richard III: "Now is the winter of our discontent / Made glorious summer by this sun of York.&rdquo;<br /></p> In fact, this is the springtime of our discontent, which follows the winter of our discontent, although the latter gave us hope that the world may change for the better. The EuroMaidan Revolution in Kiev appears to have been a genuine anti-criminal revolution which dealt a blow to the Kremlin and scared its Master. Criminalization of politics and, conversely, politicization of the criminal world was and continues to be the sword and the shield of the political system created by Vladimir Putin and his clique. Wherever they go, leaving a frozen conflict and an ethnic conflict that they manufacture, we see criminal gangs in power. This was the case in Transnistria, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia, and this is the case in Crimea now. It is too obvious to need emphasis that Russian ambitions in Ukraine went beyond Crimea, but here in Kaunas there is a strong sense of how history tends to repeat itself. A feeling of being back in time with such code names as Munich, the Sudetenland, Hitler, Daladier, and Chamberlain is much stronger than it would have been any time earlier after the fall of the Berlin wall. We bid farewell to the holy naivete of Francis Fukuyama&rsquo;s vision of the end of history, as if to say: "Welcome back to the twentieth century!&rdquo; We are parting with Fukuyama just to be on the way to Putiyama, as Andrei Piontkovsky, a brilliant Russian political analyst and essayist, once put it with his wit and elegance. It must have been five years ago when I came up, in a seminar with high-ranking EU and American officials, diplomats, politicians, and academics, with a comparison of Putin&rsquo;s Russia and post-Weimar Germany. I insisted on the rise of a revisionist state in Russia with a strong sense of injustice seemingly done by the West to the USSR and with the resulting wave of chauvinism, neo-imperialism, and fascism. Some colleagues took this remark quite seriously, yet others (especially Germans) thought that it was overstretched and overblown. I leave it to my gracious readership to decide who was right and who was wrong at that time. Kaunas is a city deeply embedded in the twentieth century with its cult of power and cruelty, violence, criminal regimes, and politics of forgetting, as Milan Kundera would have it. Kaunas was the provisional capital of Lithuania before the Second World War. In this city, the history of prewar Lithuania ended with the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1940. Kaunas was much hated and feared by Soviet authorities throughout the Soviet period - first and foremost as a symbol of independent Lithuania and as the stronghold of Lithuania nationalism. Kaunas is a city with several planes of identity and historical memory, yet most important is its sensitivity to the vulnerability of small Eastern and Central European nations. It is a city where the Republic of Lithuania stopped existing. However, one thing makes a crucial difference here. For now, Kaunas is an academic town where Vytautas Magnus University, closed down by the Soviets after WWII and then reestablished by Lithuanian emigres from the USA, became a symbol of present Lithuania. Two presidents of this university were American scholars of Lithuanian background, and the university itself is a bilingual institution where English is the second language of instruction. Since this liberal arts university, reestablished in 1989, was an anticipation of Lithuania&rsquo;s independence which came one year later, we have a good reason to regard its American component as deeply symbolic for both Kaunas and Lithuania. (Incidentally, Vytautas Magnus University has recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of its resurrection - the event took place on April 25, 2014). Back in those tragic days in 1940, Lithuania was a fragile state with no loyal and committed friends in Europe. The Baltic States were not "a European necessity,&rdquo; as one British diplomat put it once. Present Lithuania, like the two other Baltic States, finds itself in a different world. The country&rsquo;s accession to NATO and the EU in 2004 seems to have been the pivotal event in its modern history. Even now when Russia threatens the world order challenging the system of international relations, Kaunas and Lithuania are as safe and secure as they have never been before. Yet we know that "never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.&rdquo; The spark of genius and sensitivity shared by John Donne and Ernest Hemingway is as relevant for humanity today as never before. The same applies to William Shakespeare and John Steinbeck, whose words and pronouncements of wisdom can best serve as the reminder that our yesterday will be tomorrow, and our tomorrow was already yesterday. <p style="text-align: justify;">In fact, this is the springtime of our discontent, which follows the winter of our discontent, although the latter gave us hope that the world may change for the better. The EuroMaidan Revolution in Kiev appears to have been a genuine anti-criminal revolution which dealt a blow to the Kremlin and scared its Master. Criminalization of politics and, conversely, politicization of the criminal world was and continues to be the sword and the shield of the political system created by Vladimir Putin and his clique. Wherever they go, leaving a frozen conflict and an ethnic conflict that they manufacture, we see criminal gangs in power. This was the case in Transnistria, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia, and this is the case in Crimea now.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">It is too obvious to need emphasis that Russian ambitions in Ukraine went beyond Crimea, but here in Kaunas there is a strong sense of how history tends to repeat itself. A feeling of being back in time with such code names as Munich, the Sudetenland, Hitler, Daladier, and Chamberlain is much stronger than it would have been any time earlier after the fall of the Berlin wall. We bid farewell to the holy naivete of Francis Fukuyama&rsquo;s vision of the end of history, as if to say: "Welcome back to the twentieth century!&rdquo; We are parting with Fukuyama just to be on the way to Putiyama, as Andrei Piontkovsky, a brilliant Russian political analyst and essayist, once put it with his wit and elegance.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">It must have been five years ago when I came up, in a seminar with high-ranking EU and American officials, diplomats, politicians, and academics, with a comparison of Putin&rsquo;s Russia and post-Weimar Germany. I insisted on the rise of a revisionist state in Russia with a strong sense of injustice seemingly done by the West to the USSR and with the resulting wave of chauvinism, neo-imperialism, and fascism. Some colleagues took this remark quite seriously, yet others (especially Germans) thought that it was overstretched and overblown. I leave it to my gracious readership to decide who was right and who was wrong at that time.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Kaunas is a city deeply embedded in the twentieth century with its cult of power and cruelty, violence, criminal regimes, and politics of forgetting, as Milan Kundera would have it. Kaunas was the provisional capital of Lithuania before the Second World War. In this city, the history of prewar Lithuania ended with the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1940. Kaunas was much hated and feared by Soviet authorities throughout the Soviet period - first and foremost as a symbol of independent Lithuania and as the stronghold of Lithuania nationalism. Kaunas is a city with several planes of identity and historical memory, yet most important is its sensitivity to the vulnerability of small Eastern and Central European nations. It is a city where the Republic of Lithuania stopped existing.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">However, one thing makes a crucial difference here. For now, Kaunas is an academic town where Vytautas Magnus University, closed down by the Soviets after WWII and then reestablished by Lithuanian emigres from the USA, became a symbol of present Lithuania. Two presidents of this university were American scholars of Lithuanian background, and the university itself is a bilingual institution where English is the second language of instruction. Since this liberal arts university, reestablished in 1989, was an anticipation of Lithuania&rsquo;s independence which came one year later, we have a good reason to regard its American component as deeply symbolic for both Kaunas and Lithuania. (Incidentally, Vytautas Magnus University has recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of its resurrection - the event took place on April 25, 2014).</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Back in those tragic days in 1940, Lithuania was a fragile state with no loyal and committed friends in Europe. The Baltic States were not "a European necessity,&rdquo; as one British diplomat put it once. Present Lithuania, like the two other Baltic States, finds itself in a different world. The country&rsquo;s accession to NATO and the EU in 2004 seems to have been the pivotal event in its modern history. Even now when Russia threatens the world order challenging the system of international relations, Kaunas and Lithuania are as safe and secure as they have never been before.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Yet we know that "never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.&rdquo; The spark of genius and sensitivity shared by John Donne and Ernest Hemingway is as relevant for humanity today as never before. The same applies to William Shakespeare and John Steinbeck, whose words and pronouncements of wisdom can best serve as the reminder that our yesterday will be tomorrow, and our tomorrow was already yesterday.<br /><br />&copy; 2014 The Baltic times. All rights reserved.&nbsp;</p> vel. As we know, The Winter of Our Discontent is the title of John Steinbeck&rsquo;s last novel, published in 1961. The title is a reference to the first two lines of William Shakespeare&rsquo;s Richard III: "Now is the winter of our discontent / Made glorious summer by this sun of York.&rdquo; In fact, this is the springtime of our discontent, which follows the winter of our discontent, although the latter gave us hope that the world may change for the better. The EuroMaidan Revolution in Kiev appears to have been a genuine anti-criminal revolution which dealt a blow to the Kremlin and scared its Master. Criminalization of politics and, conversely, politicization of the criminal world was and continues to be the sword and the shield of the political system created by Vladimir Putin and his clique. Wherever they go, leaving a frozen conflict and an ethnic conflict that they manufacture, we see criminal gangs in power. This was the case in Transnistria, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia, and this is the case in Crimea now. It is too obvious to need emphasis that Russian ambitions in Ukraine went beyond Crimea, but here in Kaunas there is a strong sense of how history tends to repeat itself. A feeling of being back in time with such code names as Munich, the Sudetenland, Hitler, Daladier, and Chamberlain is much stronger than it would have been any time earlier after the fall of the Berlin wall. We bid farewell to the holy naivete of Francis Fukuyama&rsquo;s vision of the end of history, as if to say: "Welcome back to the twentieth century!&rdquo; We are parting with Fukuyama just to be on the way to Putiyama, as Andrei Piontkovsky, a brilliant Russian political analyst and essayist, once put it with his wit and elegance. It must have been five years ago when I came up, in a seminar with high-ranking EU and American officials, diplomats, politicians, and academics, with a comparison of Putin&rsquo;s Russia and post-Weimar Germany. I insisted on the rise of a revisionist state in Russia with a strong sense of injustice seemingly done by the West to the USSR and with the resulting wave of chauvinism, neo-imperialism, and fascism. Some colleagues took this remark quite seriously, yet others (especially Germans) thought that it was overstretched and overblown. I leave it to my gracious readership to decide who was right and who was wrong at that time. Kaunas is a city deeply embedded in the twentieth century with its cult of power and cruelty, violence, criminal regimes, and politics of forgetting, as Milan Kundera would have it. Kaunas was the provisional capital of Lithuania before the Second World War. In this city, the history of prewar Lithuania ended with the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1940. Kaunas was much hated and feared by Soviet authorities throughout the Soviet period - first and foremost as a symbol of independent Lithuania and as the stronghold of Lithuania nationalism. Kaunas is a city with several planes of identity and historical memory, yet most important is its sensitivity to the vulnerability of small Eastern and Central European nations. It is a city where the Republic of Lithuania stopped existing. However, one thing makes a crucial difference here. For now, Kaunas is an academic town where Vytautas Magnus University, closed down by the Soviets after WWII and then reestablished by Lithuanian emigres from the USA, became a symbol of present Lithuania. Two presidents of this university were American scholars of Lithuanian background, and the university itself is a bilingual institution where English is the second language of instruction. Since this liberal arts university, reestablished in 1989, was an anticipation of Lithuania&rsquo;s independence which came one year later, we have a good reason to regard its American component as deeply symbolic for both Kaunas and Lithuania. (Incidentally, Vytautas Magnus University has recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of its resurrection - the event took place on April 25, 2014). Back in those tragic days in 1940, Lithuania was a fragile state with no loyal and committed friends in Europe. The Baltic States were not "a European necessity,&rdquo; as one British diplomat put it once. Present Lithuania, like the two other Baltic States, finds itself in a different world. The country&rsquo;s accession to NATO and the EU in 2004 seems to have been the pivotal event in its modern history. Even now when Russia threatens the world order challenging the system of international relations, Kaunas and Lithuania are as safe and secure as they have never been before. Yet we know that "never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.&rdquo; The spark of genius and sensitivity shared by John Donne and Ernest Hemingway is as relevant for humanity today as never before. The same applies to William Shakespeare and John Steinbeck, whose words and pronouncements of wisdom can best serve as the reminder that our yesterday will b NEWS http://www.donskis.lt/p/en/1/1_/1800 Wed, 04 Jun 2014 00:00:00 +0300 The New Fascist International http://www.donskis.lt/p/en/1/1_/1729 <p>In his book of correspondence with the noted French writer Michel Houellebecq, Public Enemies, the French journalist, activist and philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy wrote on present Russia: "Not only does this Russia inspire no desire in me, it fills me with horror. I&rsquo;d go so far as to say that it frightens me because I see in it a possible destiny for the late-capitalist societies. Once upon a time, during your postwar &lsquo;glory days,&rsquo; the middle class was terrorized by being told that Brezhnev&rsquo;s communism was not an archaism restricted to distant societies but rather a picture of our own future. We were wrong: it was not communism but postcommunism, Putinism, that may be the testing ground for our future.&rdquo;&nbsp;(Continue...)</p> NEWS http://www.donskis.lt/p/en/1/1_/1729 Sat, 17 May 2014 00:00:00 +0300 The New Fascist International http://www.donskis.lt/p/en/1/1_/2043 <p>In his book of correspondence with the noted French writer Michel Houellebecq, Public Enemies, the French journalist, activist and philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy wrote on present Russia: "Not only does this Russia inspire no desire in me, it fills me with horror. I&rsquo;d go so far as to say that it frightens me because I see in it a possible destiny for the late-capitalist societies. Once upon a time, during your postwar &lsquo;glory days,&rsquo; the middle class was terrorized by being told that Brezhnev&rsquo;s communism was not an archaism restricted to distant societies but rather a picture of our own future. We were wrong: it was not communism but postcommunism, Putinism, that may be the testing ground for our future.&rdquo;&nbsp;(Continue...)</p> NEWS http://www.donskis.lt/p/en/1/1_/2043 Sat, 17 May 2014 00:00:00 +0300 The Failed Lingua Franca of Eastern Europe? http://www.donskis.lt/p/en/1/1_/1721 <p>The Russian language may have failed as an imperial project of becoming a lingua franca in Eastern Europe, but many brilliant minds of the region are inextricably linked to the language. Today, Russian is increasingly seen as a tool of political domination over the former republics of the Soviet Union.&nbsp;(Continue...)</p> NEWS http://www.donskis.lt/p/en/1/1_/1721 Mon, 05 May 2014 00:00:00 +0300 The Failed Lingua Franca of Eastern Europe? http://www.donskis.lt/p/en/1/1_/2044 <p>The Russian language may have failed as an imperial project of becoming a lingua franca in Eastern Europe, but many brilliant minds of the region are inextricably linked to the language. Today, Russian is increasingly seen as a tool of political domination over the former republics of the Soviet Union.&nbsp;(Continue...)</p> NEWS http://www.donskis.lt/p/en/1/1_/2044 Mon, 05 May 2014 00:00:00 +0300 Last EP plenary session in Strasbourg http://www.donskis.lt/p/en/1/1_/1717 <p>Last week, the 2009 - 2014 term European Parliament held the last plenary session in Strasbourg and bid farewell to one of the EP seats, Strasbourg, which they visited more than fifty times in the last five years. With this plenary session, the usual work of the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) finished. After the Eastern, the politicians will not return to their offices in Brussels and will instead stay in their countries. Some will prepare for the EP elections in the end of May and some will finalise their career in this institution and prepare for the future challenges.</p> <p>However, the last plenary session agenda did not signalise the end of the term. Four days in Strasbourg were filled with numerous questions representing the whole spectrum of the tasks of the EP, from foreign policy and banking union to the use of plastic bags.</p> <p>From Ukraine to the North Korea </p> <p>From the very beginning of the events in Maidan, the question on Ukraine is one of the crucial questions on the EP agenda. In every plenary session, MEPs discussed the situation in the most important EU eastern neighbour with representatives from other EU institutions and in most cases adopted resolutions which include much stronger wording compared to that of the EU Council, the Commission or the European External Action Service. The April plenary session was no exception. On Wednesday, just before the Geneva talks between Ukraine, EU, US and Russia, the MEPs discussed the situation with the Commissioner for Enlargement &Scaron;tefan F&uuml;le. On Thursday, the EP adopted a resolution on Russian pressure on Eastern Partnership countries and in particular destabilisation of eastern Ukraine.</p> <p>The resolution with was tabled also by Leonidas Donskis on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), urges the EU Council to be ready for the economic sanctions, calls for measures against Russian companies and their subsidiaries, particularly in the energy sector, as well as Russian investments and assets in the EU, and for all agreements with Russia to be reviewed with a view to their possible suspension, and to swiftly apply an arms and dual-use technology embargo for this country.</p> <p>Although during the last months the EP paid a lot of attention to Ukraine, it also still continues observing and publicly denouncing human rights abuses around the world. One of the most effective ways to do it are urgency resolutions which are adopted during every EP plenary session. Tabling these resolutions and deciding on their relevance is one of the tasks of the members of the Subcommittee on Human Rights, because they have the latest information and are constantly in contact with non-governmental organisations and independent observers. In the last EP plenary session, as usually, three urgency resolutions on cases of breaches of human rights, democracy and the rule of law were adopted. The countries concerned this time are Pakistan, Syria and North Korea. The resolution on North Korea, tabled also by the ALDE coordinator for human rights, Leonidas Donskis, reacts to the report on violations of human rights released by the UN Commission of Inquiry in February. As usually, the Democratic People&rsquo;s Republic of Korea (DPRK) refused all cooperation with the UN officials drafting this report. The MEPs support the findings of the UN Commission that &lsquo;systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations have been and are being committed by the DPRK, and in many instances, the violations found constitute crimes against humanity based on State policies&rsquo;. These crimes entail extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation. The EP believes that it is time for the international community to undertake concrete action and to end the perpetrators&rsquo; impunity. It also demands that those most responsible for the crimes against humanity committed in the DPRK be held accountable, brought before the International Criminal Court and subjected to targeted sanctions.</p> <p>Towards the stronger banking union and more transparent lobbyism </p> <p>The European Parliament continues work on good functioning of the banking union and instalment of checks which would help to avoid painful consequences in the case of a crisis. In April, the EP adopted new rules which ensure that the future problems of banks are solved using their own resources and not taxpayers` money to bail them out. During the economic crisis, many banks&rsquo; losses were transferred onto the taxpayer. The new system ensures that bank owners (shareholders) and creditors (primarily bondholders) will be first in line to absorb losses the bank could incur. In addition to that, countries in the banking union (all the Eurozone and possibly opt-ins) will share a bank-financed &euro;55 billion single resolution fund, to be established gradually over 8 years. MEPs made sure that the banking union is created as soon as possible and is used in a justified way. All these rules have already been negotiated with the EU Council, and will therefore enter into force immediately.</p> <p>During the last EP plenary session, MEPs also repeatedly dealt with the necessity to draw very clear rules for the lobbying organisation active in Brussels. In its resolution, the EP urged other EU institutions to make the Transparency Register set up in 2011, compulsory. To date, an estimated 75% of all relevant business-related organisations and approximately 60% of NGOs operating in Brussels have signed the register. Although the Parliament has always wanted the register to be compulsory, it has proved difficult to find a suitable legal basis for this in the EU Treaty. Therefore now the EP asked the Commission to table a proposal for this, by the end of 2016. MEPs also called for incentive measures to encourage lobbyists to sign the register. They include facilitating authorisation to organise or co-host events on EP premises for registered lobbyists, allowing participation of registered lobbyists as speakers in committee hearings. At the same time, the non-registered organisations should face restricted access to EP premises.</p> NEWS http://www.donskis.lt/p/en/1/1_/1717 Wed, 23 Apr 2014 00:00:00 +0300 No time for goodbye speeches in the last DROI meeting http://www.donskis.lt/p/en/1/1_/1716 <p>This April, the agenda of the European Parliament is often marked with words "the last". Next week, MEPs will hold the last 2009 - 2014 term plenary session in Strasbourg. Before it, the last committee and delegation meetings take place in Brussels. The Subcommittee on Human Rights (DROI) met for the last time last Tuesday. As usually, its agenda featured a big number of very important topics and at the end of the day no time for goodbye speeches was left.</p> <p>The last DROI meeting also included topics put forward by Leonidas Donskis, coordinator for human rights of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE). Mr Donskis presented a study commissioned by the subcommittee and written by a number of external researchers on psychiatry as a tool for coercion in post-Soviet countries. Mr Donskis also listened to the report of the delegation to Kazakhstan which was initiated following his proposal earlier this year.</p> <p>Tradition of psychiatry as a tool of coercion continues in Russia</p> <p>An important topic of the last DROI meeting was a hearing on the situation in Russian prisons. Speakers on this topic included members of "Pussy Riot" and founders of the human rights organisation "Zona prava", Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina who were released from prison last December, and chairman of the Board of Human Rights Center "Memorial&rdquo;, Sakharov prize winner Oleg Orlov. They provided the latest information on the situation in Russian prison which imprisons one of the highest percentages of population in the world. Among the problems named by human rights activists are overfilled prison cells, lack of medical services, poor quality food, ban on letters, exhausting work conditions, corruption, no accountability for prison personnel, and no accessibility for international observers and human rights defenders. The organisations run by the speakers work to ensure legal services for imprisoned citizens and an opportunity to speak about the shortages of the Russian judicial system without fear to be prosecuted.</p> <p>Nadezhda Tolokonnikova noted that the use of psychiatry as a toll of coercion which was so widespread in Soviet times is still persistent in Russia. According to Tolokonnikova, this tradition is becoming stronger. As an example she named the case of Mikhail Kosenko, participant in the Bolotnaya square events, who had to undergo compulsory psychiatric treatment. During their imprisonment, Tolokonnikova herself and her "Pussy Riot" colleagues were diagnosed with psychological disorder which leads to provocative behaviour.</p> <p>Testimonies of the guests from Russia are the best proof that psychiatry as a tool of coercion is still applied in post-Soviet countries, especially, in Russia. This phenomenon not only harms the science of psychiatry, but is also a significant human rights problem. The academic study commission by the Subcommittee on Human Rights and conducted by the Global Initiative on Psychiatry (GIP) reveals that the use of psychiatry methods for non-medical reasons is not necessarily supported by governments. It rather represents a persistent tradition inherited from the Soviet past. One of the directors of GIP, Professor Robert van Voren and his team pointed out existing problems, like the lack of understanding, and adhering to international human rights standards and professional ethics, rampant corruption (e.g. by selling false diagnoses) and strong influence by the pharmaceutical industry that is in fact only interested in commercial gain. However, the researchers highlight that in some cases and under specific political circumstances, some governments still use psychiatry as a tool of coercion. The study names several examples, including the above mentioned case of Kosenko in Russia or the case of Zinaida Mukhortova in Kazakhstan.</p> <p>In their recommendations, the authors of the study suggest to include the phenomenon of psychiatry as a tool of coercion in all human rights dialogues with Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and other Central Asian countries, support doctors, civil organizations and initiatives which work to change the existing situation, establish more rehabilitation centres which are necessary for people who experiences psychiatric abuse.</p> <p>This study was presented by Leonidas Donskis following his extensive work on this issue in the European Parliament. In the end of his speech, Mr Donskis thanked human rights defenders from Russia. "Thank you for your courage, your meaningful work and your fight", - said Leonidas Donskis in Russian.</p> <p>The hearings on the situation of prisons in Russia organised by the Subcommittee on Human Rights can be followed here starting from 16:03. The speech of Leonidas Donskis starts at 16:52.</p> <p>Kazakhstan takes note of EP criticism</p> <p>In the end of March, a delegation of the Subcommittee on Human Rights visited Kazakhstan. In the face of negotiations on EU-Kazakhstan Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, this visit was an important sign for the government of Kazakhstan that human rights abuses in this country will not go unnoticed by the European Parliament and other EU institutions. Leonidas Donskis, who is one of the most active MEPs working on Kazakhstan, initiated this visit convincing his colleagues that it is absolutely necessary at this point.</p> <p>The government of Kazakhstan, seeking to be acknowledged as a Western country, opened many doors to the delegation of the European Parliament. MEPs were able to discuss the human rights situation with the highest officials, to pose questions related to political prisoner cases, and to visit some prisons. In spring of 2013, after the adoption of the EP urgency resolution on the situation of human rights in Kazakhstan, initiated by Mr Donskis and his colleagues, and many letters by the MEPs addressed to the highest officials and diplomats, the government relocated Vladimir Kozlov, the leader of the opposition party "Alga!", to a prison not far away from Almaty. Before, Mr Kozlov was imprisoned hundreds of kilometres far away and was not allowed to see his wife and other family members. Kazakhstan also reacted to numerous letters by Mr Donskis and other EP members regarding other political prisoners, some of whom were released later on. Such moments are the best proof that the efforts of MEPs can have very tangible results and even change the destiny of human lives. They belong to the work of politicians who decided to concentrate on human rights and show that some changes are possible even in countries very far away from Western standards of democracy and human rights.</p> NEWS http://www.donskis.lt/p/en/1/1_/1716 Wed, 09 Apr 2014 00:00:00 +0300 European Parliament finally adopted "Magnitsky list" http://www.donskis.lt/p/en/1/1_/1715 <p>Finalising their 2009 - 2014 EP term, this week parliamentarians returned to the Brussels plenary hall. After two years reconstruction works to repair roof constructions, the hall opened to host a short EP plenary session. Usually, every year twelve regular plenary sessions are held in Strasbourg and additional six two-day sessions in Brussels, but in the last two years all short sessions had to be cancelled.</p> <p>This week, MEPs finally adopted the so-called Magnitsky list, voted on tariff cuts for Ukraine, backed the decision to end roaming charges for using a mobile phone in other EU countries, voted on discharge of the implementation of the general 2012 EU budget, and for the last time this term, discussed foreign policies issues with the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Caterine Ashton.</p> <p>32 Russian citizens linked with the Magnitsky case not welcome in the EU</p> <p>European Parliament and especially, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) group and human rights coordinator of this group, Leonidas Donskis, finished this EP term with a symbolic victory. After two years intense work, the EP finally confirmed the so-called Magnitsky list which includes Russian officials and citizens who are suspects in the case of Sergei Magnitsky. Russian lawyer Magnitsky died in custody in 2009 following inhuman treatment, torture and refused medical assistance. He is still trailed posthumously and his family is persecuted. MEPs named 32 persons related to the death of the lawyer who disclosed a huge scale public funds embezzlement scheme. MEPs propose to cancel EU visas of these persons and to freeze their and their families` assets in the EU. Half of these persons are also included in the 2012 US Magnitsky law.</p> <p>European Parliament called for action on the Magnitsky case in numerous resolutions and in 2012 requested the EU Council to draft a list of Russian officials related to this case. However, the High Representative Catherine Ashton was not able to include this question in the agenda of the Foreign Affairs Council. Therefore, the EP liberals who are frontrunners on this question and have close ties with colleagues, friends and family of S. Magnitsky, drafted such list themselves and proposed it for the whole European Parliament. This idea received backing in the EP Committee on Foreign Affairs and later on in the plenary session.</p> <p>On Wednesday, after the adoption of the resolution and in the presence of the widow of Sergey Magnitsky and his son, ALDE group leader Guy Verhofstadt stressed that it is now up to the Member States, High Representative Ashton and the European External Action to react, and to implement visa bans and asset freezes. "I hope that Ms Ashton will include this question in the agenda of the upcoming Foreign Affairs Council. Member states, which do not agree to introduce sanctions for the persons on the Magnitsky list, will have to explain why they support Russia`s criminal gangs", - said G. Verhofstadt.</p> <p>Leonidas Donskis is the only Lithuanian politician in the inter-parliamentary Sergey Magnitsky group which unites parliamentarians from different countries who fight in their parliaments for transparent investigation into the death of Sergey Magnitsky and punishment of those responsible. Mr Donskis works closely with the colleagues of Magnitsky and is one of the authors in the book edited by Elena Servettaz "Why Europe Needs a Magnistky Law: Should the EU follow the US?".</p> <p>Support for the Ukrainian economy</p> <p>On Thursday morning, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Caterine Ashton, addressed the European Parliament for the last time. She outlined her main achievements representing the EU and named the biggest challenges for the future EU foreign policy. The speech by Ms Asthon was dominated by the events in Ukraine. Once again she repeated that the EU does not recognise the referendum in Crimea and its annexation to Russia is illegal. She stressed that the EU will use all diplomatic, political and economic measures to force Russia to respect international law. Ms Ashton invited all EU institutions and Member States to support Ukraine`s democracy and economy with all possible means.</p> <p>Later on Thursday, MEPs voted to cut custom duties on imports from Ukraine. This measure will remove 94.7% of&nbsp; &nbsp;EU tariffs currently charged on industrial goods imports from Ukraine and reduce them for the remaining handful of industrial goods. It will also remove EU tariffs on over 80% of Ukraine&rsquo;s farm produce exports. This unilateral measure will boost Ukraine&rsquo;s struggling economy by saving its manufacturers and exporters &euro;487 million a year.</p> <p>These new rules will be implemented as of May and apply until 1 November 2014, or until the EU-Ukraine association agreement enters into force. MEPs believe that this measure means strong political and economic support for Ukraine and will help to cope with the pressure from Russia and economic and financial difficulties in the country. Besides, it is a unilateral agreement and Ukraine will not have to introduce similar tariffs for EU goods.</p> <p>This proposal was backed by 531 votes to 88, with 20 abstentions. The measure still requires the formal approval of the EU Council of Ministers. The EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has already announced that the preferences "will start to be applied within a few weeks&rdquo;.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> NEWS http://www.donskis.lt/p/en/1/1_/1715 Thu, 03 Apr 2014 00:00:00 +0300 EU attention to Central Asia only sporadic http://www.donskis.lt/p/en/1/1_/1705 <p>Last week, European Parliament`s Subcommittee on Human Rights discussed EU human rights policies in Central Asian countries: Kazakhstan, Kirgizstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. A group of experts from Germany and Spain presented a study on this topic conducted for the Subcommittee on Human Rights.</p> <p>Studies or research papers conducted on request of the European Parliament which analyse a situation in specific countries or regions and evaluate EU policies in certain area is an instrument which Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) can use in their work. It has to be noted that because of a very high price of such studies, every EP committee can only order a few studies every year as agreed by all political groups. Therefore, the topics chosen represent are those most relevant and most needed at the time being. A request to conduct a study on EU human rights policies and engagement in Central Asian countries was tabled by Leonidas Donskis, member of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) group and human rights coordinator for this group.</p> <p>During his term in the EP, Leonidas Donskis worked intently on the former Soviet countries, including Central Asia. MEP has soon noticed that the old Europa and Western politicians are much less sensitive to this region and naturally concentrate their efforts on Africa and other post-colonial regions. However, the situation of development and human rights in Central Asian is as grave and urgent as in Africa. Working on a number of EP documents and resolutions, Leonidas Donskis sought to include these forgotten countries, and to talk about the problems in Central Asia in the context of the EU policy on human rights.</p> <p>As showed by the study, which outlined a lot of shortages of EU policies and engagement, Central Asia is indeed one of the forgotten regions by the EU. The relations between the EU and Central Asian countries entered a new phase in 2007 when a new EU-Central Asia partnership strategy started. The new beginning raised hopes that the EU will more successfully act in this region and contribute to solve some of its most urgent problems. Amongst central EU priorities in Central Asia are human rights, good governance, rule of law and support for democratization. In order to reach these goals, various political and financial instruments were established. However, according to the authors of the study, financial assistance and support for democracy and human rights is limited and the existing funds are first of all directed to solve technical problems in judicial system (for example, to reform prisons). This way, more profound and complicated problems of human rights in these countries are ignored. Therefore, EU influence on the situation of human rights in Central Asia is insignificant with strong authoritarian regimes in the region preventing any progress in this field. Limited EU leverage, incoherence of its internal policies and inadequate evaluation of the implemented projects makes the situation even worse.</p> <p>Recommendations put forward by the authors of the study highlight that in order to reach concrete results in EU initiated human rights dialogues it is crucial to formulate clearly and publicly what reforms EU wants to see in Central Asian governments. Support for human rights in Central Asia will only be successful when human right projects will evolve from single projects to a consistent and extensive EU engagement in the region and the stress on the same issues in all EU foreign policy tools. EU soft power should be combined with public diplomacy. Unfortunately, the EU has avoided officially expressing critical remarks on Central Asian governments so far. Questions of human rights were often excluded from the high level meetings giving priority to trade and security issues.</p> <p>In his speech in the Subcommittee on Human Rights, Leonidas Donskis reminded actual human rights problems in Central Asia which he dealt with during the term in the EP. They include child labour in cotton fields in Uzbekistan, crackdown on civil society and opposition in Kazakhstan and others. The video record of the meeting can be found here. The speech of Leonidas Donskis starts at 11:16:45.</p> NEWS http://www.donskis.lt/p/en/1/1_/1705 Wed, 26 Mar 2014 00:00:00 +0200 Crimea conflict discussed in Strasbourg http://www.donskis.lt/p/en/1/1_/1701 <p>Not surprisingly, the conflict in Ukraine was once again the central question in the European Parliament`s plenary session agenda in Strasbourg this week. Illegal Russia`s aspirations to annex the Ukrainian Crimean peninsula and the reluctance of president Putin to respect the international law dominates the agendas not only in EU institutions, but in all important geopolitical organisations and in the most powerful countries around the world.</p> <p>The situation in Ukraine was not only in focus in an extra plenary debate dedicated to this topic and the EP resolution adopted on Thursday. It also figured in the debate on the EU Council meeting in Brussels on March 20 - 21 which is the last one in this EP term. With the end of the term approaching, the agenda also included numerous topics related to the ordinary life of EU citizens. The MEPs voted on stricter data protection rules, adopted common standards for vehicle checks, proposed to strengthen the rights of air passengers and to introduce common charger for all mobile phones. Additionally, the latest documents prepared by Leonidas Donskis in the Subcommittee on Human Rights were also adopted in this plenary session.</p> <p>Stronger words on the situation in Ukraine</p> <p>Wednesday`s main plenary debate, called without any ambiguity `on Russia`s invasion in Ukraine`, featured the President of the European Commission Jos&eacute; Manuel Barroso, Commissioner for Enlargement &Scaron;tefan F&uuml;le and representatives from the Greek presidency. Different than during a similar debate in February, this time almost all MEPs refrained from diplomatic expressions and have openly criticised Russia`s politics. Earlier cautious MEPs, mostly from the Western Europe, refraining from offering Ukraine `too much`, have now joined the representatives from Poland, Czech Republic, Sweden and Baltic states who have continually supported Ukraine`s European aspirations. MEPs admitted that EU diplomacy dedicated to solve the crisis in Crimea has been unsuccessful so far and that economic sanctions are crucial now. Although these measures would hurt not only Russia, but also EU members, politicians urged to stop thinking that Europe is helpless. A huge proportion of Russia`s export is directed towards the EU and this makes it possible for Europe to isolate Russia.</p> <p>The situation in Crimea is not only a conflict between Russia and Ukraine, but a threat to the European security and peace. Therefore, MEPs strongly criticised member states which continue to export arms to Russia or plan to develop energy projects. This allows financing Putin`s actions against Ukraine with the money of the European tax payers paid for gas and oil. Some MEPs admitted that the EU has no strategy for Ukraine and the achievements reached so far are attributed to the efforts of single member states. However, most politicians encouraged to delay these discussions and to concentrate all efforts to prevent the annexation of Crimea.</p> <p>On Thursday, the EP adopted a resolution which urged Russia to immediately withdraw all its military forces from Ukrainian territory. MEPs condemn its `act of aggression in invading Crimea` as a breach of international law, declare Crimea&rsquo;s plans to hold a referendum on its accession to Russia to be illegal and warn that Russia&rsquo;s actions pose a threat to the security of the EU.</p> <p>Resolution welcomes the EU Council decision to suspend visa liberalization and partnership talks with Russia and say that in the event of Russian annexation of Crimea the EU should quickly impose an arms and dual-use technology embargo, restrictions on visas, an asset freeze and measures against Russian companies, particularly in the energy sector. MEPs applaud the EU&rsquo;s decision to provide Ukraine with a &euro;11 billion aid package, sign the political chapters of association agreement and enact immediate customs tariff cuts for EU imports of Ukrainian good. They also call upon it to speed up visa liberalisation with Ukraine. The full text of the resolution can be found here.</p> <p>Leonidas Donskis who also tabled this resolution on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), draw attention to the situation of Crimean Tatars and urged to defend the rights of this ethnic minority introducing a separate paragraph on this topic in the final text. L. Donkis has organised a number of events where Crimean Tatars, who were expelled from their lands by Stalin and were allowed to return some 50 years late, had an opportunity to talk about their problems in the EP. Crimean Tatars who identify themselves with Ukraine`s European aspirations, have already addressed the international community asking to supports Ukraine`s territorial integrity. Their situation after the annexation of Crimea might tremendously worsen.</p> <p>Documents prepared by L. Donskis voted</p> <p>This plenary session included some documents, preparing which Leonidas Donskis, ALDE group`s coordinator for human rights, represented the EP liberals. One of them is a report on eradication of torture in the world. This report and amendments tabled by L. Donskis were adopted in the Committee on Foreign Affairs in February and now the whole European Parliament voted on the document. You can find more information about this report and L. Donskis` role preparing it here.</p> <p>European Parliament also voted on the EU priorities for the 25th session of the United National Human Rights Council taking place in March in Geneva. L. Donskis acted as ALDE shadow rapporteur in the preparation process of this document. Talking in the debate on this document in the plenary session on Wednesday, Donskis used the opportunity to once again underline the main priorities of his agenda during the last five years, including the situation of human rights and democracy in Russia and other post-Soviet countries, caste-based discrimination, situation in Tibet. The whole speech can be found here.</p> <p>Finally, on Thursday the European Parliament voted on two urgency resolutions which were tabled by Leonidas Donskis on behalf of the ALDE group. These are the resolution on the sentencing of demonstrators involved in the Bolotnaya Square events in Moscow and the laws recently adopted in Uganda and Nigeria further criminalising homosexuality.</p> NEWS http://www.donskis.lt/p/en/1/1_/1701 Fri, 14 Mar 2014 00:00:00 +0200 Leonidas Donskis receives Commission`s feedback report http://www.donskis.lt/p/en/1/1_/1700 <p>More than one year passed since in the last Strasbourg plenary session of 2012 the European Parliament adopted the Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World 2011 and the European Union`s policy on the matter by 482 votes in favour, 48 against and 83 abstentions. This report was prepared by the Lithuanian MEP, human rights coordinator of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), Leonidas Donskis.</p> <p>The report, which is one of the most important EU documents on human rights, evaluated the situation of human rights in the world und EU actions in this area in 2011. It also includes recommendations on how to reach better results in this EU priority policy field. Leonidas Donskis calls his work as a rapporteur the biggest achievement of his term in the European Parliament. Indeed, not every MEP can become the main rapporteur of this document and for those outside of the two biggest political groups, social democrats and conservatives, this is even more challenging.</p> <p>As the end of 2009 - 2014 EP term is approaching, it is worth evaluating the results of this document and to assess the effectiveness of the comments, proposals and recommendations expressed by the EP. The report of the European Commission corresponding to the EP`s document analyses the efforts and actions of the Commission in the fields pointed out by the EP.</p> <p>The report by the Commission on the implementation of Annual Report on Human Rights highlights the topics also underlined by Mr. Donskis. One of them is the inclusion of the basic human rights standards in international trade agreements between the EU and third countries. The European Commission names concrete examples when human rights aspects were included into new trade agreements and also the cases when the agreements were not signed precisely because of the human right breaches in some third countries. The Commission stresses the importance of the freedom of expression, a priority area for the EP liberals, which is nowadays especially significant in the face of digital revolution and demographic changes around the world.&nbsp; The Commission informs about various instruments and strategies it is preparing, which will help civil society organisations and individual citizens to freely use internet and all opportunities it offers without being afraid of censorship and even imprisonment practiced in some authoritarian regimes.</p> <p>Besides, the report outlines the efforts of the Commission to demand Russia to start an independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky&nbsp;and to punish those responsible. It also includes the actions to fight caste-based discrimination which causes suffering of more than quarter million people around the world.</p> <p>However, not all points raised by Leonidas Donskis in the Annual Report on Human Rights are dealt with. These issues include the establishment of the EU Special Representative for Tibet and the problems surrounding EU companies which enable authoritarian regimes to spy on dissidents and human rights defenders. Instead, the Commission points out that it can only deal with issues which fall under its competence.</p> <p>EP liberals support the initiatives which allow the Parliament to track the results of the documents adopted by MEPs. ALDE group actively works to ensure that such procedure is applicable not only for the regular EP documents, like the Annual Report on Human Rights, but also for very important urgency resolutions on human rights which the EP adopts in order to immediately react to gross violations of human rights and democracy around the world. Publicly accessible and well-prepared feedback reports by the Commission or other EU institutions is not only a great tool for MEPs to plan their future work, EU policy executors, but also for non-governmental organisations and civil society who can follow the work of EU institutions in concrete areas and exercise democratic control.</p> NEWS http://www.donskis.lt/p/en/1/1_/1700 Thu, 13 Mar 2014 00:00:00 +0200