Overcoming the margins: intersectionality.

By Elena Alban.

Even if in advanced and developed countries, the judiciary system has developed consistently during the history and many results have been reached in the recognition of human rights toward all humankind, in the practice people still face many obstacles in having their rights granted.

In the article “Mapping the margins: Intersectionality. Identity Politics and Violence Against Women of Colour” by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, the issue is focused on the difficulties that black women face in denouncing acts of violence in the U.S. According to the article, the problem within the African-American communities concerns the suppression of domestic violence mainly for two reasons.

First of all, according to Crenshaw’s view, there is a resistance from the community itself in recognizing such a type of violence, by privileging other rights, such as the fact that saving the honor of the family from shame has the priority over the violation toward the woman. Moreover, most of the time violence is not denounced for the will of the minority community not to disrupt the integrity of the community and not to be stereotyped as a violent community. There is a general tendency within antiracist discourse to regard the problem of violence against women of color as just another manifestation of racism.

Secondly, according to a field study of battered women’s shelters located in minority communities in Los Angeles, the refusal to denounce battering or rape comes from women themselves. They are more reluctant to call the police and the authorities as there is a generalized community ethic against public intervention.

These feelings are a consequence of the racist policies of the past. Moreover, they have contributed to shifting what was born as segregation during the Jim Crow period into what is seen today as congregation, based on the assumption according to which the black community is seen as a “safe place”. Indeed, in the past in the US, because of racism, black communities developed as closed communities, where all black people could find a safe shelter from the intervention of the State. Nowadays, this sense of belonging and inclusiveness is still present and strong.

As Crenshaw writes, this mentality and approach toward an ongoing changing world are limiting the evolvement of those communities that first of all need to see their rights to be recognized by public authorities. Isolating themselves contributes to the adoption of the identity-politics approach by the State. In particular, this approach limits the category of black women that are not fairly taken into account in policies provided by the States.

The problem of identity-politics issues is that it ignores intragroup differences. It is based on the identification of groups following specific targets, such as black or white, man or woman, middle-class person or worker, …. It risks falling in stereotypes that crystallize the identity of a person reducing it to a mere single category. Mainly, the category of black women is a convergence of two different categories: sex and race. These two categories, taken individually, normally define policies against sexism (based on white women’s experiences) and against racism (based on black male experiences). It is in this context that policies do not take into consideration an intersection between the two phenomena. Indeed, black women are less likely to have their cases pursued in the criminal justice system, because of limited meaningful intervention by institutions based on a non-intersectional context that do not foresee cases of multiple-subordination.

Moreover, besides sexism and racism, other status can affect the access of black women to escape from situations of battering or rape, like the immigrant status. An example is provided by the Immigration Marriage Fraud Amendments of 1986, according to which a person who immigrated to the United States to marry a United States citizen or permanent resident had to remain “properly” married for two years before applying for permanent resident status, at which time applications for the immigrant’s permanent status were required by both spouses. Predictably, under these circumstances, many women are not willing to leave from an abusive marital situation in order not to be deported. As reported by Crenshaw, when facing the choice between living with your batter or being deported, many immigrant women decide to choose the former one.

That’s why Crenshaw introduced an important concept in the literature on the violence against women: intersectionality.

Intersectionality refers to what can be called “multiple identities”: it is a concept used to understand how different dimensions can affect different grounds of one’s identity.

Intersectionality helps us in understanding why policies generally fail in addressing a type of subordinated group that does not fall within the categories provided by the identity-politics approach, such as black women, but also immigrant women too.

In particular, by applying this type of study in Europe, given the refugee crisis of 2015, intersectionality should become a fundamental principle on which creating policies focused on the integration of immigrants in the European society. It obliges authorities to take into consideration the fact that “new-comers” arrived in Europe do not always shape the European basic values and many times discriminations are placed within their original cultural background. National and European authorities should be aware of these aspects and of the fact that they can obstacle the enjoyment of rights in Europe, by producing policies that take into consideration the people to whom they are destined. It means, with reference to women, not to conceive them just as immigrant women, but to take into account the different degrees of subordination that are imposed on them because of their race, because of their class, their gender, because of cultural factors, etc…. Intersectionality implies to take into account different aspect shaping one’s identity to create policies that could better address the needs of people.


But who will be more affected?

By Elena Alban.

On the 23rd June 2016, an event marked the history of the United Kingdom and the European Union.

«Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?>> was the question that could change the future of Europe. And it did, even if the referendum that took place in the UK was a consultative one, not legally binding, and whose results were far from being clear and decisive. The “leave” percentage won over the “remain” one just for 3,78% more, as BBC data reported.

A strong difference in the reception of the European Union can be detected in the different age of people voting “remain” or “leave”. According to BBC data, young people seem to trust more the European Union and to see it as an opportunity for their future.  In particular, the Brexit will have substantial implications on students:

  1. The automatic direct of the citizens of the EU to enter directly in the UK will be no more granted: there will be the necessity to have the passport;
  2. It will be required a visa or a work permit to enter the country;
  3. The touristic visa will last only 3 months and for what concerns the working visa, it will be easier to access jobs for skilled workers (researches, doctors, etc…) than for unskilled workers like “pizzaiolo”, barmen, etc…
  4. Studying in the UK will become more and more an opportunity destinated to an elite as the cost of education in Great Britain is higher than in Europe and many European citizens will be disadvantaged by the fact that part of the funds used to study there were provided by the EU through the application of different programmes such as the Erasmus +.

With reference to the last point, recent news has shed light on the Erasmus+ programme. On the 30th of January 2019, the European Commission proposed a set of emergency measures to avoid the interruption of the mobility period of the students of the Erasmus + Programme in the case the UK would leave the EU without an agreement.  According to the European Commission, the regulation should grant that in the day in which the UK will leave the EU, Erasmus + mobility periods should not be interrupted. This rule should be valid for all the activities financed by the Erasmus + (including international activities in countries not part of the programme) that started before the 30th of March 2019, both for European citizens in the UK and for English citizens in the EU.

And for those who started their mobility period after the 30th March 2019?

The Commission proposed an emergency cross-sectional regulation based on more restrictive measures and specific conditions as specified in the “Council Regulation on measures concerning the implementation and financing of the general budget of the Union in 2019 in relation to the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the Union”.

The destiny of the Erasmus + programme is not known. It will depend on the will of the UK and the EU to find an agreement and to renegotiate the programme not to deny students an important opportunity as the Erasmus+ is.

However, at the end of the story, what this sad situation leaves us is a strong sense of disappointment.

Besides the will to reach an agreement in order to go on granting students the opportunity to study in the UK, being the mainland of the English language, the international language used all over the world, the Brexit is the result of a losing approach toward the construction of a more united world. Cutting the bridges with the rest of Europe is the sign of the disbelief on the European Union. It could make sense, as the European Union is full of incoherencies and lacks, but it is important to look at all these negative aspects by balancing them with the positive ones. The EU is not perfect and it will never be as such, but it is the best result of international cooperation ever achieved in the course of history. To make it work, the solution is not to get away from it, but to stay in it, to get your country involved, to make your voice be heard. Escaping is never the solution as neither isolation. To get a stronger Union, there is the need for more dialogue and listening at the higher institutional level and, most of all, there is the need of creating a common culture and a common awareness on the principles on which our European society is based and that have granted more than half a century of peace for the first time in Europe. Culture is the key point to building a strong basis to deal with future challenges that mankind will have to face. These new challenges do not always refer only to events caused by human decision (such as wars, conflicts, …), but they will oblige mankind to deal with problems that it is not even able to manage, such as climate change.

The Erasmus+ is one of the best achievements of the EU in reaching an important goal like this: it helps in creating a common culture through the confrontation among different knowledges, through dialogue and mutual understanding, through strengthening links among people of different countries to create a more favourable environment for cooperation and collaboration.

Isolation cut you off the game and, in an interdependent world like ours, it will be worst first of all for UK citizens than for the European ones.


The refugee status: a distinctive factor that must be understood as such.

By Elena Alban.

“Financial inclusion means that individuals and businesses have access to useful and affordable financial products and services that meet their needs – transactions, payments, savings, credit and insurance – delivered in a responsible and sustainable way.”

World Bank definition.

Financial inclusion plays a vital role in reducing poverty and promote a sustainable economic growth. Access to and use of financial services help people manage their cash flow, become more resilient to shocks and participate in business activities and life-cycle events by investing assets.

As the financial market has developed consistently in the last decades, nowadays more and more people can access to a broader range of financial products and can benefit of it.

Anyway, there are still groups of people that lack even the most basic financial products, for instance a current account or insurance.

Financial inclusion has become an essential element to achieving the goals of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, such as reducing inequality, poverty, gender gap, hunger, getting a decent work and sustaining economic growth.

With reference to Europe, the 2013 Report on good practices on Financial Inclusion provided by the CeSPI gives evidence of the fact that financial inclusion has entered more and more the national agenda’s priorities of States.

The problem that governments must face since the last decade concerns mainly the refugee crisis of 2015, that has produced an unstable environment both at political and economic level.

In order to analyse the relation between migration and financial services, it is necessary to take a look at some fundamental variables affecting the financial needs of migrants. In this context, an important aspect is to look at what kind of migrations States and the financial system have to deal with, taking into consideration the background from where these people come from.

Refugees escaping from conflicts, such as the Syrian ones, have completely different needs than economic immigrants.

They have lost everything. When they arrive in a new country, there is the need not only to offer them shelters and protection, but to introduce them to the host society, to allow them to become independent and responsible of their own choices and to start a new life.

Thus, with reference to the refugee status, States must be more strongly committed in implementing not only civil and political rights, but also social and economic rights, given the precarious and difficult situations these people come from.

A deeper cooperation between governments and the bank sector can be a successful action plan in order to create new policies to face the dramatic phenomenon of social exclusion.

It is in this framework that financial inclusion takes place. It is a powerful concept to allow people to get access to the financial services and products, that are necessary to provide them with the basis on which to build a kind of economic stability. Moreover, financial inclusion is more and more essential in advanced economies, such as in Europe, where the financial system has already developed and plays a vital role in people’s life.

Several practices have been implemented at the national level. Examples are the housing associations or the Toynbee Hall in UK, the Santander bank action plan and El Plan Nacional de Educaciòn Financiera in Spain, or ADIE in France. Anyway, according to the 2013 Report on good practices on Financial Inclusion provided by the CeSPI, the majority of these practices are based on an universal approach, meaning that they do not concern specific groups of the population, but they are mainly focused only on disadvantaged and vulnerable subjects at risk of social exclusion, given their poverty status, to avoid to use the immigrant category as a distinguishing factor.

The issue here is that the migrant category, in particular the refugee one, is a distinctive factor and it must be concerned like that, as refugees rely on a economic and social basis completely different from that one of citizens or of economic immigrants in the host country.

Even if according to the Geneva Convention of 1951, refugees have to be reserved the same rights as those of immigrants from other countries, when talking about positive obligations of the State, there is the need to create ad hoc financial inclusion policies for the refugee category. Some practices adopted in Germany, such as Investitionsbank Berlin’s program to give microcredits to refugees, have given evidence that this will benefit not only the host advanced European societies, but also the refugees too. Through a stronger cooperation between the normative and the private sector, it is possible to create a more favourable environment for both actors participating in the financial system.

Being poor in a rich country maybe is worst than being poor in a poor one. In advanced economies poor people are left alone, society runs fast and it does not care if you are put of the game. That’s why financial inclusion becomes so important: it is the key to get and achieve the most basic services (such as a salary) to get your rights be respected.


Buone pratiche di Inclusione Finanziaria: uno sguardo Europea, CeSPI, 2013

Geneva Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, 1951


If at the end you feel good for nothing, freedom is just another word.

By Elena Alban.

“It is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism”

Fredric Jameson

This is a strong statement that, unfortunately, hides some truth.

Mark Fisher, a famous English cultural theorist, used this expression several times in analysing the crisis of 2008-2010. Specifically, in his book “Capitalism Realism”, he emphasises how, nowadays, there is so much surrounding the widespread sense that this form of exasperated and globalized capitalism seems to be, not only the unique viable political and economic system, but also that it seems impossible even to imagine a coherent alternative to it.

The Frederic Jameson’s statement is, thus, used by Mark fisher to explain how people feel, when embedded in a system they are not able to manage: they fear losing their jobs, their pensions, … for them it is easier to imagine the end of their lives than the end of capitalism.

In particular, Fisher talks about a sort of capitalism linked to a current of thought that developed in the 80s until today: neoliberalism. Fisher claims that our societies, our liberal democracies have been overcome by the exasperation of that freedom on which capitalism and free trade are based. An exasperation that reduces freedom to the mere rational choice, without taking into consideration other factors affecting human decisions. In this context, the free market is untied by ethic and moral constraints, identifying itself with the romantic ideal of a perfect society, based on a perfect competition, where all people act as efficient and informed entrepreneurs, able to maximize their own interests.

But could this ideal society even remotely reflect the reality?

Of course, not. Neoliberalism is a limited concept, as it takes into consideration only one part of human personality in making decisions, making choices and living everyday life. Indeed, on the other hand, it neglects those aspects of the human being that cannot be foreseen by rationality, that cannot provide certainty, that can fall out of rules, norms, routines, without having necessarily a rational or comprehensive justification. Moreover, it takes for granted that self-interested ways of action are just positive, by realising own’s freedom and by letting it invade others’ spheres of freedom.

It is a concept that cannot be compatible with the democratic one.

In the article “Good For Nothing”, published in “The Occupied Times” in March 2014, there is evidence of it. According to Mark Fisher, powerless, depression, resentment are the outcomes of the neoliberal system. In particular, depression is the illness of our society and it lays on the contradictory idea of what Fisher calls “reflective impotence”: on one hand, the concept of “responsabilization” has been a successful tactic of the ruling class; on the other hand our society teaches us according to the line of thought called “magic voluntarism”. The responsabilization criterium encourages each member of the subordinate class into “feeling that their poverty, lack of opportunities or unemployment is their fault and their fault alone” (Article “Good For Nothing”). “Magic voluntarism” refers to the “dominant ideology and unofficial religion of our contemporary societies”, according to which “it is within every individual’s power to make themselves whatever they want” (Article “Good For Nothing”).

So you find yourself without the sufficient means and tools to change your life (and it is your fault), but you are taught you can do everything, you can choose what you want to be. You are in a jail, you do not have the keys to open the door, but you can open the door, if you want. Depression takes place, when you understand you are not the kind of people who can act to change the system, so let’s say… you feel good for nothing.

Depression is what people suffer when political institutions are not able to counterbalance the economic system.

By starting from the assumption that it’s not man who is made for economics, but it is economics made for man, the liberal economic system in itself is not bad. Anyway, the invisible hand of Adam Smith can work and provide for positive outcomes if all human facets are taking into account. So, where the economic rationality cannot solve the problem, there is the need of the State and politics in intervining and giving solutions to what at least concerns the most basic human rights issues.

We stand for liberal democracies: it means we stand for a free market system, respectful of human life and freedom, mutually limited and balanced by a political one, defending the fundamental rights of mankind, the democratic principles and the rule of law. Liberal democracies are based on the rule of law, not on the rule of money and there are some areas you cannot put a price on and that should be granted for all, such as health and education.

Not only workers, unemployed and retired people are affected by this decadence of the welfare state, but a special focus should also be reserved to young people, in particular students.

Today, a bachelor degree alone is not enough, so people feel obliged to do a master. It is better to be specialised in a particular subject. The more qualifications, experience and skills you have on your CV, the more chances you have in getting a job in your studied subject.

Neoliberalism is always on the run, it does not wait for anyone. You have to be prepared, to enter the system you have to be already taught.

In this way education stops to be a right, it becomes an economic investment, no more a social one.

So can a right be bought?

When our most basic rights are deprived of their human inherent nature and become just market goods, at that point it’s hardly surprising if we just feel good for nothing

M. Fisher, “Capitalism Realism”, John Hunt Publishing, 2009

M. Fisher, “Good For Nothing”. The Occupied Times, 2014


The opening of a new scenario: the first European Union rule of law crisis.

By Elena Alban.

The Article 2 of the European Union Treaty states: “The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail”.

Nowadays, democratic values seem to be in danger, even in Europe, where most of the times they have always been taken for granted. At the European Economic and Social Committee Conference on  “Fundamental Rights and the Rule of Law – Trends in the EU from a civil society perspective”, held on the 5th of November 2019, in Brussels, the Group on Fundamental Rights and the Rule of Law (FRRL) reported the perception (and the reality) of a general crisis within European democratic culture.

The Brexit and the rise of populism have been born in an unsatisfactory political and economic environment, that has not been able to provide answers toward the crisis Europe is still facing today.

Indeed, the European Union presents a strong and consistent lack, what is better known as “democratic deficit”.

The term “democratic deficit” is used to put in evidence the inaccessibility perceived by the EU ordinary citizens toward EU institutions and policies, due to their complexity. It reflects the absence of an effective European policy, able to provide appropriate answers to the new challenges of the recent years, such as the migration and refugee crisis and the recessionist economic crisis. Actually, the concept does not refer to the inability of European institutions on reacting to these phenomena, but it better concerns the fact that at EU level, citizens do not feel themselves involved. In this regard, populist movements and separationist movements are born as the expression of feelings of anger and disappointment in relation to a world that seems extraneous toward own’s ordinary life.

At the EESC Conference, the president of the LIBE Commission, Juan Fernando Lòpez Aguilar, emphasized the fact that “EU was never meant to be just a market, economic, financial project”.

It was destined at a political goal, that reached its first real turning point in 2009 with the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. In particular, he pointed out the importance to link article 2 of the European Union Treaty with article 7, in order to solve the so-called “Copenhagen dilemma”. Indeed, with reference to article 7 the decision of suspension of some rights, as a consequence of the violation of article 2, is submitted only to the competence of the Council (a political body), as the role of the EU Court of Justice concerns only procedular prescriptions (article 269, Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union).

Rule of law, democracy and the respect of fundamental rights are the basis of European Union and it must be imperative for States to respect them, as they are crucial for mutual trust, market and friendly environment.

In this context, the “Copenhagen dilemma” is an extremely high important problem EU institutions have to face, when talking about democracy, as it implies consequences for those Member States that do not respect the Treaty of Lisbon.

Thus, here is the problem: as EU governance cannot still be identified as attributable to the one of a State entity, but it is reflected in the form of “no government”, how can EU effectively act in order to prevent such democratic crisis within Member States?

How can EU manage to put in action more sever policies toward the unrespect of the fundamental values, without finding itself submitted to national self-interested policies?

CIVIL SOCIETY is the answer.

If top down actions cannot work, because of the strong power Member States have within the European context, there is the need to change direction. European Union approach needs to be bottom up. Even if all EU policies are integrated to own’s ordinary life through the State, it does not mean that EU institutions should be totally unlinked to citizenship. The key weapon to face such a global crisis of democracy is to look at where democracy effectively lies: to citizens.

Civil society plays a fundamental role, both for the Member States and for the European Union as it is the scenario in which all policies take place. Even if at the institutional level some EU organizations of civil society are already functioning (like the Conference of NGOs), there is evidence of the need to rethink a stronger cooperation, especially in these years of crisis.

A cooperation that can take life in different forms: through promoting a shared European culture, through the education of citizens on the functioning and the values of EU as an international organization, through the building of new bounds with the activity of the Council of Europe (that plays a vital role in the respect of human rights, by providing every year an annual report on the 47 Member States, and so on the 28 EU Member States too), through a collaboration with NGOs to organize more on-spot visits on countries or through the deepening of monitory mechanisms in Member States (such as the one promoted by the FRRL group on the annual rule of law cycle with a final report synthetizing positive and negative developments and trends that, consequently,  shall be discussed within the Parliament and the Council).

The democratic deficit is not a consequence of populist and separationist crisis, it is the cause and the cause does not lie within member states only, but firstly within EU.

The European Union must take actions: it must involve the direct recipients of its own policies in order to make citizens become aware of what a wonderful project it is aimed to be, if people first decide to stand for it.


Isn’t it time to change our minds?

By Elena Alban.

On the 24th and the 25th October 2019, the 8th University-Business forum was held at Mont Des Art, in Bruxelles. The Forum brought together policymakers, representatives from higher education, business and other stakeholders to discuss and debate the role of university-business cooperation for innovation and sustainable development. The conferences that took place were focused on the actual need of integrating university training with the activity of firms. Entrepreneurship, sustainability and digitalization have been at the centre of the debates.

It was underlined the importance of creating a strong cooperation between students’ learning and their involvement into the labour and market world. This necessity was supported by the fact that it must be part of the priority agenda of politics, economics and education adopting both different technics of teaching and learning at university and a different approach toward education by entrepreneurs and firms.

During the conferences, it was highlighted the fact that a mutual relationship exists between the market world and the educational one. Firms should invest in higher education and universities in order to promote research and development from which they themselves can benefit. Universities should accept the evolution to which knowledge is subjected nowadays, especially due to the digital revolution of the last decades. We are not talking about a kind of knowledge that lasts for some times (as in the past); we are talking about an ongoing changing knowledge, that develops day by day. It is in this context that universities should adopt an approach more focused on making students become more proactive, more challenging and creative toward the external world, in order to offer to the labour market human capital able to keep up the speed of the technological and digital challenges.

A key-point of the conference was, indeed, the concept of lifelong learning, meaning the fact that due to all these types of evolutions (from the educational to the digital to the environmental ones), learning (at all ages) never ends, neither for firms as for universities.

The university-business cooperation was so included in a broader framework based on sustainable development. Borhene Chakroun, secretiariat of UNESCO, reminded the goals of the 2030 Millennium Agenda, among which poverty and inequality, sustainable development, digitalization, gender equality, health, climate change and education are the main top priorities and he emphasized how important is to create a stronger link between innovation, education and entrepreneurship in order to face these challenges.

The Forum was a great space of discussion and confrontation and brilliant and smart ideas from universities, start ups and companies were exposed during the meeting.

Anyway, to put them into action, it is necessary to consider also the type of space in which we are going to act.
All these beautiful projects risk to remain abstract ideas when introduced in the actual neoliberal context that is governing the world today.

We speak of entrepreneurship in a world that does not allow to take risks.

We speak of digitalization skills in a world that runs too fast, in a world that does not allow to the same creators of those skills the time to experience their new inventions, as other innovations are already required. In particular, digitalization is a subtle theme. There is no doubt on the necessity  of supporting technological and digital innovation for what concerns science and the study of the world around us, but we should look also at the other side of the medal: the risk concerns the fact that artificial intelligence could replace not only technical and scientific skills, but also human responsibilities that individuals should have toward the society and toward each other.

We speak of risking and being proactive. As highlighted from the forum panel “Developing an entrepreneurial culture”, firms do not risk, they do not invest on education and on research.

And do you know why?

Because education and research need time, a time that our economic system, aimed at increasing the value of its final production, is not able to conceive.

In this context it is difficult for a student to become proactive: they go out from an academic environment that did not teach them the ability to fail and they enter a labour market that does not allow them to fail.

There is the necessity to change our mind, to adopt a different approach toward education, work, business. We have not to be focused only on the final result of our action, but we need to look also at the way through which we can get the goals, because, as in the words of an Italian writer, “a tree with much foliage and few roots is uprooted at the first gust of wind. In a tree with many roots and few foliage, the sap barely flows. Roots and foliage must grow in equal measure, you have to stay in things and stand on them, so that in this way you can offer shade and shelter, in this way in the right season your tree will cover itself with flowers and fruits.” (Susanna Tamaro, 1994).

IHAVET – 1st Transnational Meeting in Ruse, Bulgaria

By Diogo T. dos Santos

On the 20th and 21st of May, ECEPAA was in Ruse, Bulgaria, for the first IHAVET transnational meeting. The planned agenda was successfully accomplished within roughly two days. Those attending were ECEPAA, the leading organization of the project, First Private School Leonardo da Vinci (Bulgaria), the hosting partner of the transnational meeting, and the following participating organizations: Agrupamento de Escolas de Silves (Portugal), CIEP ASBL (Belgium), CONNGI (Italy), Eurocircle Association (France), and the 2nd Vocational High School of Katerini (Greece).

On the first day (20th), after a warm welcoming by the hosting organization and the agenda presentation by ECEPAA, all participating organizations involved in IHAVET gathered for giving their corresponding presentations for illustrating the main activities with which they work with, as well as eventual projects they are recently engaged in. Every organizations seemed to be interested in each other’s work and purpose, also given the fact that three of them were schools, hence creating a comparative discussions as far as curriculum framework and student’s activities are concerned.

Afterwards, ECEPAA had the floor as to review IHAVET objetives and activities planned for everyone and also highlight the fundamental internal communication guidelines between partners. The first day of the IHAVET 1st Transnational Meeting was wrapped up with a debriefing of all major topics discussed and decisions taken thanks to the cooperation played by every single participating organization involved in the project.

On the second day (21st) the meeting was held at the the First Private School Leonardo da Vinci, at where the principal gave an introduction about their school and explained how the educational system works and is organized in Bulgaria.

It is relevant to highlight that, on this second day, the potential dates on which the next transnational meetings will take place were arranged. The second transnational meeting is planned to be held in Marseilles, France, organized by Eurocircle Association. As for the third one, it will be arranged in the city of Silves, Portugal, having the Agrupamento de Escolas de Silves in charge of hosting the other participating organizations.

Shout-outs to the First Private School Leonardo da Vinci and their notable dedications to their pupils. Every participating organization felt warmly welcome by both the professors and students. There has clearly a very good job being done in there.

Participating organizations’ members also visited the classrooms where the classes were being held to have a quick view of how the school environment was like, as well as to have some quick chats with the pupils (in the English language).

Afterwards, participating organizations were surprised by an introduction of the First Private School Leonardo da Vinci conducted by the pupils. A short theatrical play was also performed by the students, and it was dedicated to emphasizing the importance of water, one of the elements of nature and subject matter of the performance.

ECEPAA would like to thank all the participating organizations for the cooperation shared so far as for IHAVET, with special regards to the organization, dedications, and friendliness showed in the first transnational meeting.

Watch what happened in Ruse!

European Youngsters: How to Engage Them in the EU

By Diogo T. dos Santos

The European Economic and Social Committee has recently released a study entitled “Youngsters and the EU: Perceptions, Knowledge and Expectations” with preliminary findings on how adolescents between the ages 14 and 18 regarding the European diversity. Apart from having desk research and a literature review done, a survey was conducted with teenagers of five Member States: France, Germany, Italy, Romania, and Sweden. Plus, in Brussels, the survey was carried on in the European Schools in the same language groups of those countries as for having comparative results between the national schools.

Among all positive and negative outcomes of the study, some of them were highlighted by ECEPAA.

Positive Outcomes

In general—namely both in European and national schools—pupils tend to regard that belonging to the European Union benefits them personally, given the fact that they perceive language and culture learning as something important.

It is important to note that those students at European schools, though, are more likely to have traveled to other EU countries, hence being more inclined to define themselves as Europeans. That also led to the conclusion that pupils are very open to having friends of other EU nationalities—that is to say, they are more open to diversity, which leads to the other finding indicating that pupils associate being European with openness towards different cultural backgrounds.

Another relevant catch was that students in both schools are curious to learn more and regard it a required step for better involvement, participation in the EU as a whole. Having learned about the importance and roles of the European institutions could definitely ignite more engagement of EU citizens over time.

European schools pupils, through the means of quizzes questions, proved to have a better understanding of the functioning of the EU. However, the study indicates those students still learn more from their families, friends, and other written materials.

Negative Outcomes

All in all, students perceived the EU as just moderately effective at tackling global challenges, though realizing the benefits of the European Union both personally and in their corresponding local communities.

As for having formal opportunities to learn about the EU system and its institutions at school, pupils do not feel that they have it adequately. In general, they have claimed to have only an average understanding of the European Union. In one school, for instance, complaints of neglect of the administration were pointed out as curricula are overloaded and there is no time for discussing extra-curricular topics. Another correlated shortcoming is that, when there is classes or courses on the missing topics, complaints tend to be the dissatisfaction with poor or not interactive.

“[…] complaints of neglect of the administration were pointed out as curricula is overloaded and there is no time for discussing extra-curricular topics.”

And finally, students tend to hold the position that the EU institutions do not listen to the opinions of the young people face to face, arguing, at the same time, that there should be a solution for that as for creating a more efficient channel of communication between them and EU officials and representatives.

What actions are still to be taken?

The study recommends that more communication is engaged, which can be accomplished by the other recommendation that is making use of social media and the internet for sharing more reliable information directly to young people.

Creating a mainstream learning possibility into the school curricula to provide more information to youngsters is another potential solution. That would stimulate and forge consistent knowledge and critical thoughts on the role and importance of the European Union and its institutions. Besides, the recommendation on face-to-face exchanges between youngsters and the EU would create the possibility of collecting more realistic complaints and requests from the public.

ECEPAA is for the recommendations risen by the people in charge of the study at the European Economic and Social Committee. Our general position is that European and national schools reach the same quality level concerning the teachings and learning material on the European institutions and its roles, as well as updates on important events which can directly affect the lives of European citizens.

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Global Compact for Migration: has it failed?

By Diogo T. dos Santos

Last Thursday, April 25, ECEPAA attended the conference “Global Compact for Migration: Controversy and Media” at the Press Club Brussels Europe. The talk was on the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration non-legally binding agreement adopted by most UN Member States in December 2018, in Morroco.

However, not every country was in accordance with the objectives of the agreement. Though it had more of a symbolic nature, the five countries that voted against and twelve abstained ones had perhaps something in common.

What is the Global Compact for Migration?

It would have been an inter-governmentally negotiated agreement of non-binding nature to comprehensively and holistically comprehend all fields of international migration. Such an agreement was an opportunity for ameliorating the governance on migration, approaching major issues of the recent circumstances migrates face around the globe.

[…] judgement about ways of securing borders and on the criteria for admitting legal residency or granting citizenship is among the pillars of a country’s sovereignty not subject to international instruments.

The 23 objectives for international migration

The process of mediation between the member states ended up in twenty-three (23) objectives:

  1. Collect and utilise accurate and disaggregated data as a basis for evidence-based policies
  2. Minimise the adverse drivers and structural factors that compel people to leave their country of origin
  3. Provide accurate and timely information at all stages of migration
  4. Ensure that all migrants have proof of legal identity and adequate documentation
  5. Enhance availability and flexibility of pathways for regular migration
  6. Facilitate fair and ethical recruitment and safeguard conditions that ensure decent work
  7. Address and reduce vulnerabilities in migration
  8. Save lives and establish coordinated international efforts on missing migrants
  9. Strengthen the transnational response to smuggling of migrants
  10. Prevent, combat and eradicate trafficking in persons in the context of international migration
  11. Manage borders in an integrated, secure and coordinated manner
  12. Strengthen certainty and predictability in migration procedures for appropriate screening, assessment and referral
  13. Use migration detention only as a measure of last resort and work towards alternatives
  14. Enhance consular protection, assistance and cooperation throughout the migration cycle
  15. Provide access to basic services for migrants
  16. Empower migrants and societies to realize full inclusion and social cohesion
  17. Eliminate all forms of discrimination and promote evidence-based public discourse to shape perceptions of migration
  18. Invest in skills development and facilitate mutual recognition of skills, qualifications and competences
  19. Create conditions for migrants and diasporas to fully contribute to sustainable development in all countries
  20. Promote faster, safer and cheaper transfer of remittances and foster financial inclusion of migrants
  21. Cooperate in facilitating safe and dignified return and readmission, as well as sustainable reintegration
  22. Establish mechanisms for the portability of social security entitlements and earned benefits
  23. Strengthen international cooperation and global partnerships for safe, orderly and regular migration.

The Ones Against

United States, Hungary, Czech Republic, Poland, and Israel were the ones against the Global Compact for Migration. Some of them posed their reasons and drew our attention.

The representative of the United States clarified their position by explaining that the goals and objectives of the agreement were “inconsistent and incompatible” with American law and policy, stressing on the idea that judgement about ways of securing borders and the criteria for admitting legal residency or granting citizenship is among the pillars of a country’s sovereignty irrespective of international instruments.

Can these acts be considered nationalist, being taken by populist governments?

Poland, in the same line, affirmed that the Global Compact is not the correct instrument for handling the migration phenomenon, turning out not to serve the best interest of the nation and its people. Polish government, therefore, maintains the sovereign position as for restringing the admission of non-nationals.

To what extent do international decisions affect a country’s sovereignty?

Israel’s prime minister had already instructed their foreign minister that the agreement should not be signed, justifying the act given that they have a committed duty to protect their borders “against illegal infiltrators.”

The Ones Abstained

The ones abstained were Austria, Australia, Algeria, Bulgaria, Chile, Singapore, Italy, Latvia, Romania, Switzerland, Libya, Liechtenstein. Some of them call ECEPAA’s attention given the role they play in Europe in the migration decisions and discussions.

Austria, for instance, affirms that the human right to migrate is not included in their legal order, and that the distinction of a legal or illegal migrant, which was assumed to be “clear” in the country, would be ruined with what the agreement poses.

Italy, more briefly, decided that a postponed discussion had been already scheduled for a parliamentary debate precisely on the Global Compact for Migration. For that reason, therefore, they also abstained from the agreement.

Has it failed, then?

Well, as a matter of fact, it would be nonsensical to assume that such an agreement would have failed with 152 countries voting for it, regardless of its non-binding aspect. It is clear that the international community, as a whole, is inclined to act in accordance with international instruments.

However, some of the countries that were either against or abstained from the Global Compact for Migration have important international and, more specially, European roles. Italy is considered one of the point of access for migrants who come through the Mediterranean Sea. Such an abstentions of theirs might suggest that there is still reluctance to the migration issue. If you add Hungary, Poland, Austria, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, and Romania to the equation, one is able to view that the division on migration policies reform is still present.

Naturally, ECEPAA attempts to cope with the responsibilities of integrating European citizens through its projects, researches and active work between partners from all over Europe.



Nationalism and Populism: how they affect migration talks.

By Diogo T. dos Santos

ECEPAA has recently been at the high-quality conference “Nationalism and Populism: The Future of Europe?” held at the University of Kent in Brussels. The speakers and panelists that composed such a meeting had an outstanding intellectual exchange and considerable levels of both input and output. That was possible for two reasons: diverse fields of activity and diversified perspectives from both the panelists and audience, who generated thought-provoking questions for discussion.

The topics on nationalism and populism have been posed as crucial to the future of the European politics and also as a reason for division between member states, which has consequences in more specific fields (for instance, that of migration policy reform). The panels focused on potential difficulties to be faced by European governments with regards to migration, security and defense, and the role of media.

As a keynote given by Dr. Richard Sakwa, some very interesting remarks were pointed out, and an overview of the current global context that is related to nationalism and populism was given with some very convenient observations. One of them, for example, was the misuse of the so-called “crisis in Europe” as a reference to what is currently occurring in Europe. As a matter of fact, according to Sakwa, such a crisis is indeed taking place in certain parts of Europe, though the “crisis” is actually for the refugees themselves and other specific regions across the globe.

“[…] the ‘crisis’ is actually for the refugees themselves […]”

Regarding the notions of populism, more specifically, Sakwa mentioned it as being sometimes regarded as an instrument of political renewal (referring to recent “updates” of the political agenda and discussion), as though it were seen as “the authentic voice of democracy,” of the people; whereas it has also, paradoxically, been referred to as “anti-pluralist” and not considering people’s voice as important. As a matter of course, this given notion is that of a general view when confronted with what the world is living nowadays with the rise of many populist and nationalist governments (either left- or right-wing).

How does is affect migration discussions?

The first panel of the conference “Securitisation of the Migrant: At the Border & Beyond” brings particular attention to ECEPAA. It had the participation of Gulwali Passarlay, spokesperson for refugees and asylum seekers, Pia Klemp, human-rights activist, Kumut Imesh*, who has been active in supporting and assisting migrants and is currently living in France as a refugee, and Marianna Karakoulaki, humanitarian reporter.

A very heartbreaking but true information mentioned during that discussions is that about half of the refugees and displaced people in the world are children. It was asserted that migration itself is not a security matter; rather, security talks and decisions are based on “fear” and on the fact that migration might “bother” a specific community. Those factors might be the motives which lead an individual hold a position that is in accordance with a populist and, potentially, nationalist parties’ discourse and propaganda.

Are governments creating policies and environments that foster both its citizens and newcomers to integrate and assimilate each other’s customary practices and beliefs?

As far as the discussion went on, it was agreed that populist political propaganda becomes very opportunistic by posing past economic and/or social challenges a country was having before as if their causes were strictly related to refugees, asylum seekers.

Another interesting thing pointed out was that the definition of the word “refugee” is still not well comprehended by the majority. Besides the distorted notion populist candidates give, the media is also the one to blame for communicating a distorted meaning of the term to the public, hence conducting people to imprecise conclusions and incoherent associations. Certain people, then, are not as engaged in the happenings and are easily influenced by populist rhetoric**.

“[…] the media is also the one to blame for communicating a distorted meaning of the term to the public […]”

If there is a struggle or a clash between different cultures, is it not better to approach these issues via intercultural means rather than multicultural ones?

There are questions that should not fade away in face of what history has showed us and of what society is witnessing right now.

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*Kumut Imesh has taken part in a documentary in which he attempts to retrace and retake the same paths he walked through in his journey to Europe. You can watch the documentary for free at:

**During the discussion, the speaker referred to “right-wing” politicians. However, as the author of this article and in the light of my own understanding and opinion, I claim that the same influential effect can be noted under any political or ideological orientation.

All notes were taken from the presentations and exchange of ideas done at the conference.