Disobedience, a key to unlocking Europe

By Gaël De Santis

If it obtains a parliamentary majority, the New Popular, Ecological and Social Union (NUPES) intends to break with certain European rules. It is a strategy that aims to transform the EU from top to bottom to get out of the dogma of competition and austerity.

Read More »

Petr Drulák: The war in Ukraine is a result of arrogance

Interview with the Czech foreign policy analyst and former diplomat about war in Ukraine and what might be the way out of it

Veronika Sušová-Salminen, Małgorzata Kulbaczewska-Figat

Cross-border Talks spoke at the end of April 2022 to Petr Drulák – former deputy minister of foreign affairs of Czechia and former Czech ambassador to France. We asked him about the roots of the current conflict, which he discussed with great detail, following the post-Cold War relations between the USA, Europe, Ukraine and Russia. He also had a take on the possibility for a peace deal between Russia and Ukraine. Finally, he also provided a perspective that takes into account the interests of Central and Southeastern Europe. In Drulak’s view our region is not interested in prolonging the war. But the Czech foreign policy expert also makes a number of different very precise observations, that show a European, more precisely: Central European view about the conflict by someone knowledgeable on international affairs.

Read More »

Małgorzata Kulbaczewska-Figat: Poland is Ukraine’s indispensable ally

A comment by Cross-border Talks’ editor in the context of the media hype about Ukraine planning to give a special status to Polish citizens.

On Saturday 21 May 2022 the Polish president Andrzej Duda paid an unexpected visit to Kyiv and spoke to the members of Ukrainian parliament or the Verkhovna Rada. The Polish president was actually the first head of a Western state officially invited to Ukraine to speak to the members of parliament since the Russian invasion. And the moment in which he appeared in Kyiv was quite important.

The war has been raging for three months. The interest of the international public in Ukraine seems to be lessening. So for Ukrainians inviting a Polish president is a way of making international public opinion again interested in Ukraine. They do that to show once again that Ukraine still has powerful friends in the West – not only the United States, but also an important country in the center of Europe.

Read More »

Pornification of war

Humanity walks “an optimist” path to post-humanity with war, porn and money merging in a Holy Trinity

Doru Pop

This article was published on 19 May 2022 on Doru Pop’s blog

Since the early days of the conflict in Ukraine, Pornhub, one of the largest providers of online pornographic content, has introduced special categories such as “Girls from Ukraine” or just the “hashtag” “Ukranian (women)”. At the same time Pornhub blocked users from Russia, when they tried to access the platform they were greeted with the Ukrainian flag. 

The fact that on various porn sites searches for Ukrainian women and girls have increased dramatically is less odious than the information provided by a recent report that Russian soldiers who invaded Ukraine not only raped and murdered women, but filmed and then uploaded to porn sites some of this heinous activity. There have also been cases of online self-promotion where Russian soldiers have been encouraged by their wives to rape Ukrainian women, one of the most “famous” becoming Roman Boikovsky, about whom the Ukrainian intelligence claims that his wife Olga encouraged him to rape Ukrainian women on the condition that he “protects” himself during intercourse.

Read More »

Ukraine war and the left: We need a discussion, not censorship

It’s the XXI century, we have most crucial things to achieve together – but we cannot even discuss the war crisis we are in now. How can we work on much more complex issues, if some of us do not even want to have a real debate?  How are we presenting ourselves in the eyes of decision-making elites? Are they more vigilant now, aware that a social-oriented left can pose a challenge to them – or relaxed seeing this farce of unity and discussion?

Comment by Wojciech Łobodziński

Position of the Polish, more broadly speaking, Central-European left-wing forces on the conflict in Ukraine for some might be uncanny. It is not easy for Western left-wing activists to watch the enthusiasm for NATO and to hear calls for more arms for Ukraine -yet, knowing the history of the region allows to understand the background of such a position. And the war, with its chaos and constantly developing events, is not making the debate easier.

In fact, the debate is hardly taking place. And I need to say that: there are also some limits after which disapproval becomes censorship, provoking hatred between international comrades. Needless to say, this is absolutely counter-productive: if we do not discuss issues from our diverse viewpoints, how can we work together for a better world?

Read More »

Sergiu Miscoiu: The EU will be social, or there will be no EU

Interview with the Romanian political scientist about a number of issues dealing with EU reform and the role of Central and Southeastern Europe in the EU.

Vladimir Mitev

Cross-border Talks interviewed the Romanian political scientist and expert on EU affairs Sergiu Mișcoiu in the context of the renewed discussions for EU reform, following the completion of the deliberations, called Conference on the Future of Europe. 

We discussed:

– how much of a success is the announced opening to the public for consultations, called Conference on the Future of Europe;

– why the EU continues to be elites-led and the conference mostly reaffirmed the already followed agenda;

– how should we see Emmanuel Macron’s proposal for concentric circles of integration or European political community, opened to non-member from the neighborhood – as encouragement for the non-member to engage the EU or as a discouragement for their efforts to become full members;

– how should we perceive the efforts of Western Europe to impose reforms on EU’s East in fields such as energy transition, anti-corruption and EU defense; 

– what can EU’s East learn from Western Europe on the issue of rising energy prices and EU as a market;

– what could be the future role for Romania and Bulgaria within the EU.

Read More »

War in Ukraine and polarisation in Bulgaria

Stories of civilizational choice between West and East hide the collapse of contemporary Bulgarian society

Ognian Kasabov

This article was published on the website of the Bulgarian organisation KOI (Collective for Public Interventions) and is an attempt to think critically and balanced about what the Italian intellectual Roberto Savio called “the suicide of reason”

The war, the media argue, is not a time for nuance, but for taking a stand. Russia’s aggression against Ukraine continues to exacerbate attitudes around the world. The lines are hardening. Things that until recently seemed only an option, and an extreme one at that, are beginning to look like the only option. Bridges are burning, resolve is growing.

Yet the specific contours of polarisation in Bulgaria speak only of political gridlock. The passions around the monument to the Third Ukrainian Front in Sofia are just a passage in a relentless crescendo of buffoonery [there’s talk of a kind of war between two camps – an anti-Russian which wants to paint or “attack” the monument to the Soviet army, and a pro-Russian which defends the monument of attackers – translator’s note]. For months we have been deafened about our “civilizational choice” to be part of Europe or, on the contrary, about the unbreakable bond between Bulgaria and Russia.

Our society is involved in a clash of identities, problematic not only for its intellectual and historical incoherence, but at least as much for the danger of deepening the diseases that are destroying our country.

Read More »

Jean-Luc Mélenchon: we can conquer the power

A Cross-border Talks’ interview with Gael de Santis – a journalist at l’Humanite, in which he analyses the results of the French presidential elections of April 2022

The leader of the left-wing political tendency in France tries to convince the public to support the united list of the left at the parliamentary elections in June 2022

Diego Chauvet and Julia Hamlaoui of l’Humanité 

Jean-Luc Mélenchon is the leader of French left-wing political party France Unbowed. Previously, he was a MEP and one of the founders of the Left party in France. In the recent presidential elections, he got 21,95% of the vote and almost made it to the second round. 

Following the April 2022 presidential elections, there were signs that a part of the French public has grievances towards both leading candidates for the Elysee Palace – Emmanuel Macron and Marine le Pen. Mélenchon tries to attract the vote of those who look for a third way: a social France. 

The interview was first published on 28 April 2022, before the left-wing parties in France agreed to form NUPES:  New Popular Union, Ecological and Social. 

This interview has been translated and republished by Cross-Border Talks thanks to participation in the Media Alliance led by transform!italia. Special thanks for co-operation go to the Italian magazin Left.

Read More »

Who will make the change in Bulgarian-Romanian relations?

Could Bulgarian-Romanian relation be challenge for theorists and practicians of change (source: Pixabay, CC0)

Among other things, Europe Day 2022 in the Bulgarian city of Rousse was also the occasion for a Bulgarian-Romanian celebration of the 15th anniversary of the accession of the two countries to the EU. In the context of the war in Ukraine, local activists and representatives of institutions developing Bulgarian-Romanian relations gathered on a ship in the Danube, in an event demonstrating the Bulgarian government’s desire for better ties with Romania

Vladimir Mitev

Just a few months before the Russian military intervention in Ukraine, both Bulgaria and Romania formed their current governments and intensified their diplomatic and political relations. A number of diplomatic visits took place between their governments and heads of states. Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov’s visit to Bucharest at the end of April 2022 came up with a decision to open a new border crossing between the two countries at Ruse-Giurgiu which will manage the passenger and cargo flow of the ferry link planned to be reopened between the two cities. Plans for five new bridges between the two countries were also announced, one of them at Ruse-Giurgiu. 

That being said, political relations between the two countries have been less intensive for quite a long time during the era of Bulgarian prime minister Borissov. The spirit of competition between the two countries used to be easier to be observed while cooperation between them at the level of states was not so evident. 

In this context, an event was held on 9 May 2022 on a ship in Rousse to mark the 15th anniversary of the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the EU. Organized by the Austrian Embassy in Bulgaria (with the help of the Austrian Library in Ruse) and the Ministry of Transport (whose minister – Nikolai Sabev – is from Rousse and shows interest in development of infrastructure in Northern Bulgaria), the “celebration” took place on the ship “Rustchuk” in the presence of diplomats from European embassies and local politicians from Ruse. A representative of the Romanian Embassy was present.

Read More »

Victory Day is international heritage. It does not belong to Putin

What could I wish to us all in Central and Eastern Europe on the Victory Day? First and foremost, peace. And second, that one day we would all conmemorate the end of WW2, understand its meaning, honour the victims and the fallen – and not use the day for short-term political propaganda.

One of my last memoirs from Russia: it is summer, the pandemic time, appeals to get vaccinated are everywhere in the famous Moscow subway. Yet, another posters appear even more numerously. They carry a two-word message: Strana Pobediteley, a country of the victorious. Some of the posters feature 18th-century admiral Fyodor Ushakov, others – the medieval prince Alexander Nevsky, yet another ones – Marshal Georgiy Zhukov. They are everywhere. The military commanders watched me stepping onto a local train, or electrichka, on Moscow-Belarussian station. I could see them again even at the most isolated stops in the forest. The station infrastructure may have been desolate, but the posters kept reminding: this is Russia, the country of the victorious.

Never forget to be the citizen of the country of the victorious. A portrait of Marshal Zhukov on display inside of Moscow Metro, July 2021.

I could observe the Victory message undergo an evolution over the consecutive years of Putin’s Russia. For it was Putin who introduced the every-year massive 9 May military parade – in the Soviet Union, it was held no more than three times. While the burdens of Russian capitalism became harder and harder to bear for average citizen, the state seemed to suggest: the identity based on 9 May and the heroism of ancestors should compensate for all the sorrows of living. And the official memory of Victory was consciously crafted. The state propaganda comfortably forgot to mention that the Soviet Union was a non-capitalist state, preferring to emphasize the role of the Russian Orthodox Church during the war instead. National pride was to replace questions about the current situation. If you are a citizen of the ever-victorious country, how can you complain about prices going high, bad housing opportunities and growing inequalities?

We can realize how cynical this propaganda is only when we take into account how dear is the memory of Victory for Russians. The Immortal Regiment marches, in which people carry the photos of their ancestors who fought and/or fell in the war, may have been invented as part of Putin’s state memory politics, but they are full of genuine emotions. There is no Russian family without war memories, some heroic, others horryfing. „Victory Day is the feast with tears in the eyes” – says a popular Soviet song, and this is not an exaggeration. In Soviet times, the veterans met one another in city parks, looking for odnopolchaniye – the frontline comrades, sharing stories, drinking and singing war songs. There was no huge military parades on the Red Square, with the exception of the year 1945 and then two ’round anniversaries’ in 1965 and 1985.

The popular memory emphasized that the Red Army men and women defended their country and fought to secure a peaceful future for next generations. Peace, not military supremacy, was the key word.

Using the memory of war to build up an imperial propaganda and to turn people’s attention away from unjustices of Russian capitalism has already been a mockery. This year, when the ‘anti-nazi’ rhetorics was used to justify an invasion of Ukraine and the destruction of Ukrainian cities, another level of cynicism was reached. Putin’s 9-May ‘explanations’ how Russia had to stage a preventive strike before the supposed Western attack were just mere additions to the general script. The official history came to a point in which Russia is fighting the eternal and always victorious war against fascism, which is found everywhere when needed.

Over the years, while the Russian state was building this official memory of Victory, the Central-Eastern European anticommunists developed their own. They taught us to forget that the Nazis actually planned to destroy Slavic people, just like they planned and ruthlessly executed the annihilation of the Jewish populations. They told us that there was nothing to celebrate on 8 or 9 May. They insist on conmemorating the anticommunist post-war fighters and forgetting those who fought the Nazis on the Eastern Front. Polish soldiers who participated in the final battle of Berlin were just Communist collaborators, we can hear from the staunchest right-wingers.

The Immortal Regiment marches through Nizhny Novgorod, a large city on the Volga, 9 May 2015. Even if this kind of conmemoration was inspired from the above, it is a highly emotional moment for the participants. They are not forced to come there: they pay hommage to their family members and make sure their sacrifice was not in vain. Photo source.

In 2022, while Putin was explaining to his compatriots why Ukraine must have been attacked, the head of Polish Institute of National Remembrance announced that for our region, there was no Victory at all – just the beginning of the second occupation. A more cruel occupation, our anticommunists often add.

As simple as that: we are told that five decades of the people’s republics were a tragedy greater than mass killings and systematic extermination of the Nazi occupation period.

From this point, one easily jumps to another level of propaganda: our Central-Eastern European countries do not develop fast enough, because they were destroyed by the Soviets back in 1945. The Communists are to be blamed for modern peripheral capitalism’s failures.

Graves of Soviet soldiers painted with red, beginning of March 2022, Soviet cemetery in Katowice, Southern Poland. Outrage against Putin’s war led to several such accidents in Poland. Also, the Institute of National Remembrance envisaged the dismantling of some Soviet Army and Polish People’s Army monuments that somehow survived the big decommunization wave of 2015-2016. According to the Institute’s head’s statements, Putin’s army is no different than the Soviet Army.

We may be outraged by Putin’s war propaganda, mixing up pure fascination with military force and bad historical parallels. But the total rejection of Victory is not an answer. We could also put it another way round: idolizing the Victory and forgetting about dark sides of Stalin’s state and army is not a constructive reaction to the dismantling of Red Army monuments in Poland, Czechia and elsewhere. Polish anti-communists suggest that we need a collective memory totally different from what is promoted by Russia, in order to be immune for Putin’s propaganda. But the real cure for propaganda is the truth, and understanding that history is not black & white.

Besides – if we forget that our grandfathers helped to defeat Nazism back in 1945, how is this supposed to stop Putin from bombing Ukraine in 2022?

The war history of Central-Eastern Europe deserves more than just being exploited in political games. We need this memory, for we will never understand our realities if we simply forget what happened back in 1945, 1941, and 1939. And no matter if we choose 8 or 9 May for the celebration, we need an honest historical examination of what happened before, during and after the war. Why that disaster happened – and what changed in the lives of Central and Eastern Europeans once their states became people’s republics. We need to understand how and at what price the Nazism was beaten – and why it was not beaten forever.

Subscribe to Cross-border Talks’ YouTube channel! Follow the project’s Facebook and Twitter page! And here is the podcast’s Telegram channel!