Russia – AEGEE-Europe | European Students' Forum AEGEE (Association des Etats Généraux des Etudiants de l’Europe / European Students’ Forum) is a student organisation that promotes cooperation, communication and integration amongst young people in Europe. As a non-governmental, politically independent, and non-profit organisation AEGEE is open to students and young people from all faculties and disciplines – today it counts 13 000 members, active in close to 200 university cities in 40 European countries, making it the biggest interdisciplinary student association in Europe. Wed, 15 Nov 2017 17:59:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.5.11 The shooting down of the flight MH17 in Ukraine should be a wake up call for Europe /the-shooting-down-of-the-flight-mh17-in-ukraine-should-be-a-wake-up-call-for-europe/ Fri, 18 Jul 2014 20:19:12 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=1087 The shooting down of a Boeing 777 on July 17th is a shocking reminder of the fact that, while the international community divides its attention between the bombing in Gaza and the holiday destination of the German world champions, the situation in Eastern Ukraine has degenerated into a civil war whose consequences are unpredictable. AEGEE-Europe has been paying continuous attention to the situation and we are worried that this attack can lead to a crossing of accusations and an escalation of the conflict.

The current and the new boards of AEGEE-Europe would like to express their condolences to all families and friends of the 298 victims, and especially to the Dutch nation, that lost 189 citizens according to the first reports. The country declared Friday a day of mourning for the victims.

But this shocking attack has to be a wake up call for Europe. There are many other victims of this conflict that lasts for several months already: dozens of casualties on both sides, journalists, thousands of refugees that are fleeing the region because of fear or the lack of opportunities that have come as a result of this separatist conflict. Europe cannot leave Ukraine alone; it is the moment to make a big stand for peace and get involved in the pacification of the region. Cooperation with Russia is essential if we want to succeed in putting an end to this conflict.

However, the authorship of the attack is still unclear. Rumours point to the separatist faction, and the fact that they are putting obstacles to the investigation does not help their cause. Additionally, media has recently shown that the pro-Russian faction owned several units of heavy armament. In fact, several airlines have already been avoiding the aerial space over the Dnipropetrovsk region over the past months as a preventive measure, but Eurocontrol (the European air traffic management organisation) has not closed it for navigation until today.

AEGEE-Europe believes that transparency and extensive investigation of this and other incidents in Eastern Ukraine are necessary to determine responsibilities and find the key to solve the conflict, and therefore should be a requisite for the EU support to the Ukrainian government, in line with the 18th point of the Joint Motion of the European Parliament For A Resolution on Ukraine (2014/2717) issued on Wednesday, the day after the plane was shot down.

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Tense situation in Ukraine the days before their most important elections. /tense-situation-in-ukraine-the-days-before-their-most-important-elections/ Thu, 22 May 2014 09:56:12 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=1059 Even though most western media have shifted attention from Ukraine, AEGEE-Europe / European Students’ Forum is still concerned about the situation in the country. We pay close attention to the Eastern regions, where several independence referendums were conducted some days ago. Regarding the absence of the international observers, and the lack of a legal framework to hold these consultations, neither the government of Ukraine nor the international community give validity to the results, but this seems to have little importance these days.

The situation in the country is very unstable. On the one hand, the provisional government (established once President Yanukovich fled Ukraine last February) is supposed to govern until the upcoming presidential elections scheduled on May 25th, but it was never fully recognised by the eastern parts of the country, which massively voted for Yanukovich during the elections in 2010. In addition, some of the proposals of the provisional government raised the tension with Russian-origin and Russian-speaking Ukrainians, such as the attempt of cancellation of the 2012 “language law” (that allows regions to adopt more than one language for official purposes if they are spoken by at least 10% of the local population) which was perceived as an attack to the Russian-speaking community. Even if interim president Oleksandr Turchynov vetoed this proposal before it came into force, the harm was already done.

On the other hand, the Russian intervention in Crimea, and its subsequent independence and annexation to the Russian Federation, created a dangerous precedent. The agreement signed on April 17th in Geneva by all parties to deescalate the conflict was never respected, with each party accusing the other of breaking it. As a result, the regions of Luhansk and Donetsk are following the break-away scheme and have become de facto independent territories. The Russian Federation has still not announced whether it will recognise them as independent or not, a prior step to the possible inclusion in the Federation later on. This uncertainty is allowing new illegitimate powers to take control over a huge part of the Ukrainian territory, and brings deeper instability to the region.

The last weeks had seen a dramatic increase in confrontations in those territories. The pro-independence groups have clashed first with the supporters of the territorial integrity of Ukraine, and later and more violently with the police and army units deployed by the Kyiv government in an attempt to defend the territorial integrity of Ukraine by stopping the independence referendum. The presence of these troops and the violence of the confrontations have been reported to have caused many indecisive voters to opt for the independence in the referendum, aggravating the problem they were supposed to solve.

AEGEE-Europe condemns all kinds of violence. In regions such as Donetsk, Luhansk and Odesa (especially in cities such as Sloviansk, Kramakorsk and Mariupol), confrontations have caused death of dozens of civilians, including gruesome acts such as setting on fire a building where a group of protesters had taken refuge, with more than 40 people burned alive. The role of the police and army troops has to be to protect citizens, and to prevent demonstrations from becoming violent confrontations that increase the number of casualties; but episodes of civilians being shot by police or army have been reported. This cannot be tolerated. Therefore AEGEE-Europe calls for an independent, big scale investigation to determine responsibilities and clarify the role of external powers and extreme-right groups such as the Pravyi Sektor in the radicalisation of the confrontations.

The situation in these regions is close to a civil war, with skirmishes from both sides and casualties on a daily basis. Another war, a media and propaganda one, is fought from both sides, making it extremely complicated to understand what is really happening in the region. The fact that journalists are among the victims of gunfire, and frequently threatened and kept captive, is another proof of how far the situation has arrived.

The days before the Ukrainian elections next Sunday will be extremely unstable, as the increase of victims in the past days after some relatively calm days cries. We express our will that the whole Ukrainian society refrains from any form of violence, in order to allow democracy to work free from external pressures. As part of a new project to support democracy in Europe, our organisation has sent a delegation of 21 members as International Observers, in cooperation with local organisations and after participating in OSCE trainings. We hope for a new, fresh leadership coming out of these elections, strong enough to put back Ukraine on track and to close this dark chapter of the country’s history.


Written by Miguel Gallardo, Comité Directeur AEGEE-Europe.
With the contribution of the Eastern Partnership Project of AEGEE-Europe and different members of AEGEE from Russian and Ukrainian locals.
Pictures from EaP project, @pmarsupia and @MaximEristavi

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AEGEE-Europe Regrets the Referendum in Crimea /aegee-europe-regrets-the-referendum-in-crimea-2/ /aegee-europe-regrets-the-referendum-in-crimea-2/#comments Tue, 18 Mar 2014 08:59:22 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=975 On March 16, 2014, upon the prior decision of the National Rada of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, the referendum was held on the future status of the territory of Ukraine and possible succession of Crimean Autonomous Republic to the Russian Federation.

We consider this referendum as illegal and illegitimate and contradicting first of all to the Constitution of Ukraine. Though the right of self-determination exists (UN Charter, Article 1), the situation is more complex in the peninsula as Crimea is voting to be not only independent but for joining the Russian Federation. Secondly, such referenda should be agreed upon by the country’s government whereas in this case, Crimea organised it by itself, which relates to secession rather than self determination. In addition, the referendum happens in a context of illegal occupation by unidentified military forces (likely to be Russian) of the territory of Ukraine,  which is in violation with the Memorandum on Security Assurances in Connection with Ukraine’s Accession to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapon (Budapest Memorandum of 1994) where the Russian Federation agreed to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine, thus its results could not be recognized. We deeply regret the organization of this referendum itself. In our belief it would bring only additional tensions and escalation of the regional situation, thus harming directly the regional security.

A woman casts her ballot at a polling station during the Crimean referendum, in Sevastopol, Ukraine, Sunday, March 16, 2014. Residents of Ukraine's Crimea region are voting in a contentious referendum on whether to split off and seek annexation by Russia. (AP Photo/Andrew Lubimov)

In our deep conviction, the Ukrainian people should decide their future as a united and independent nation. In this regard, only diplomatic and peaceful talks with the respect of all international law norms (including territorial integrity of Ukraine) may allow Ukraine, Russian Federation and the European Union to avoid the further escalation of the situation. However, the results of Crimea Referendum could not be considered as legitimate and they only complicated future efforts to resolve crisis. In all our previous statements we stated clearly for numerous times, that there is no grounding allowing Russian Federation to intervene in Ukrainian internal affairs through its respective actions in Crimean Peninsula.

In addition to this, we strongly call  the EU Ministers of Foreign Affairs to evaluate as soon as possible the existing situation over Crimea and decide on certain and urgent measures/sanctions against the Russian Federation, in line with the declaration of the EU Heads of State and Government of the EU of 6 March, unless the Russian side would not take real actions and moves for the de-escalation of the existing situation. The EU should speak and act in one voice: separate negotiations and solutions are not an option anymore for overcoming the existing deadlock.

Simultaneously, we encourage all our AEGEE members in Ukraine, and particularly in AEGEE-Sevastopol, to continue their further activities in a working routine and in the European spirit of AEGEE/European Students’ Forum.

Written by Armenak Minasyants, the Policy Officer of AEGEE-Europe for European Neighbourhood Policy.

AEGEE Eastern Partnership Project Team

 

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#FreeTheArctic30 /freethearctic30/ Sun, 06 Oct 2013 06:56:10 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=746 Company wrecks climate. Climate melts ice. Company prepares to drill even more oil. NGO protests drills. Coast guard attacks NGO’s boat. Crew are called pirates. Pirates are locked up. The end.

Or is it?

Today, October 5, in 160+ cities around the world citizens stood together with the Arctic 30, their families, friends, and colleagues. #FreeTheArctic30 became a global cry for justice, as those 28 Greenpeace activists, along with 2 freelancers are in a Russian jail, facing piracy charges. Criminal charges which even Russian president Vladimir Putin has dismissed.


Following a successful protest at the Prirazlomnaya oil platform in 2012, Greenpeace activists attempted to board the rig again on September 18. Their mission: to stop Gazprom from producing the world’s first Arctic oil. Oil which Greenpeace and other environmental organisations say is neither wanted nor safe, given the extreme circumstances and remote location of Arctic drilling.

The activists barely began their climb up the side of the platform though, as they are hosed down with icy water by Gazprom employees, with 2 of them being captured at gunpoint and taken aboard a vessel of the Russian coast guard. Less than 24h later, while in international waters, their support ship the Arctic Sunrise is boarded and taken over by armed FSB forces, and towed to Murmansk, Russia.

According to several international law experts, this armed boarding and capture of a foreign (Dutch) ship in international waters constitutes a breach of international maritime law (UNCLOS). Ironically, after days of legal uncertainty, the Arctic 30 have now themselves been charged with piracy under Russian law, thereby creating a post factum pretext for the illegal boarding of the Arctic Sunrise.

While people gathered in peaceful protest from Seattle to Sydney and from Cape Town to Moscow, adding their presence to the more than 1 million emails sent to Russian ambassadors the world over, the Arctic 30 remain imprisoned in Murmansk. If convicted, they could face sentences of up to 15 years of jail. They are being treated as criminals, though their only crime consists of peaceful protest against practices which are putting the health of the fragile Arctic at serious risk.

As an organisation which above all values respect for human rights, in particular freedom of speech, AEGEE-Europe is deeply concerned about the situation of the Arctic 30. Each one of us should be given the liberty to peacefully express their views on the society they live in, without fear of political or criminal persecution. The Arctic simply is not a playground for ill-prepared mining companies, a topic AEGEE’s own Environmental Working Group will take up in its upcoming meeting.

AEGEE-Europe therefore wholeheartedly supports the Arctic 30, their families, friends, and colleagues in these difficult times. We further applaud the Dutch government for its decision to take legal steps to gain the release of the Arctic Sunrise and its crew, activists, and freelancers. Adding our voices to those of Amnesty International, WWF, and 1 million others, AEGEE-Europe calls upon the Russian authorities to immediately #FreeTheArctic30.

Written by Mathieu Soete, AEGEE-Europe’s Policy Officer for Sustainability.

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From Russia with Love, European youth claiming for rights and freedom of speech /from-russia-with-love-european-youth-claiming-for-rights-and-freedom-of-speech/ Mon, 24 Sep 2012 10:39:42 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=55 On the morning of Monday, September 24th, AEGEE-Europe, through its president Luis Alvarado Martínez, participated in a flashmob-like protest denouncing the violation of freedom of speech and youth rights in Russia, during the opening ceremony of the 9th Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for Youth, in Saint Petersburg.

Youth representatives claiming for stronger youth rights in Europe

Using the Pussy Riot masks as a symbol of these violations, around 20 youth representatives from International NGOs, including AEGEE, JEF, ESN and Obessu, together with delegates of several National Youth Councils, stood up in silence wearing masks when Peter Matjašič, the president of the European Youth Forum, was reading his final speech, where he spoke up for youth rights, freedom of expression, and anti-discrimination, especially in the case of gay rights. The young representatives stood silently during the whole speech, while several youth minister nodded in approval, making it  impossible for the Russian representatives to ignore the claim of European youth for freedom of speech and human rights.

AEGEE-Europe took part in this protest because we consider that it is important to continue striving for human rights, and especially for youth rights.  Each one of us should be given the liberty to say and express their views on the society they are living in, without fear of political persecution.

AEGEE-Europe is member of the European Youth Forum and shares its vision for human rights in all countries of Europe.

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