International Tension: Don’t Let the Sparks Start a Fire

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In an important two-part piece (read part 1 here) Erik Redli looks at the state of Eastern Europe. In this second part, he looks at how small sparks of tension can be dealt with before they start a fire.

At the moment it might seem that tensions between Ukraine and Russia are only the problem of the ‘marginal parts' of Europe. However, the consequences could sully the whole community. Look at the protesters in Aachen in the video below during the speech by Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. 

They gathered to support the Prime Minister's attempts to join the EU. But a much more rowdy group of pro-Russian activists were giving the police a hard time on the opposite side of the square. A little spark could start a fire and the problem could spread into one of the cultural centres of Europe. Therefore, EU politicians support dialogue and integration.

However, it must originate in the ‘marginal parts' of Europe, where the focal point of the problem is. You can hardy change the minds of the protesters in Aachen if they bring the negative opinions and prejudices from their home country. The smaller the fire, the easier it is to extinguish the prejudices.

A debate in my hometown of Šahy was one of the local attempts to maintain a controlled fire, as small tensions are necessary to encourage competition. The forum participants involved at the European Charlemagne Youth Prize in Aachen agreed that it requires more activity, aimed especially at the young people.

Hungarian essayist Georgy Konrad argued that the issue of children choosing between a father and mother is given a new dimension when the parents are of different nationalities. And as I already outlined, the children will get the negative stereotypes at home. Kids at school make fun of other nationalities and when I ask them for a reason, they don't know. They have just adopted the idea of estrangement.

Childhood is the crucial period for developing bad and good habits for the rest of life. If we don't put the children on the right way and show them the difference between an abuse and a joke, the jokes might grow into bias and hatred. And this is only one step from a conflict, possibly re-kindled by an ambitious politician.

Back in Aachen, I asked a young Ukrainian about his view and solution to the situation. He said that once the conflict had been triggered by Putin it is hard to stop. If Ukraine tried to stop it alone, it would result in even more violence. Therefore they look for help from Europe. The Prime Minister who gave the speech is seen as the best choice capable of solving the situation. But how can Europe help with the problem if the people in the areas themselves are biased? One of the solutions is debates and projects similar to the Danube Bridges.

Erik Redli is a university graduate from Slovakia who lived in London for much of his graduate life. Follow him on Twitter @erikredli and read more of his posts here.

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