NPE researchers around Europe: experiences from UK and Ukraine

17.12.2017 

PhD researcher and NPE member Paula Tulppo gives her impressions about the conference "The Democratic Recession and Europe in Flux: Everyday Perspectives Workshop"; while Dr. Hanna Lempinen shares some thoughts about her visit to Cernobyl nuclear power plant   

Democracy – so easy to proclaim, not so easy to see in practice. That came visible in the “Democratic Recession and Europe in Flux: Everyday Perspectives´ Workshop” in Canterbury, England, in which I participated on September. The event was organized in Canterbury Christ Church University by The Academic Association for the Contemporary European Studies (UACES), together with the Collaborative Research Networks (CRN), Europe and the Everyday. In the workshop researches from several European universities and research units got together to discuss about the state of democracy and the fundamental changes in Europe that have been going on during the past few years. The presentation dealt with issues like the accountability turn and crisis of democracy, the citizenship in times of crises including status, rights and identities in disintegrating multilevel politics, the democracy situation in the Western Balkans, the cartelisation of party politics including political competition and Eurosceptic parties in Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. 

Sometimes there are big hopes about the democratic development but the reality turns out to be different. This brought up Dr. Eva Polanska-Kimunguyi from London School of Economics in her presentation. She talked about the situation with democracy in Poland. She argued, that as the third decade of democratic transition comes to an end in Poland, the desire to control the media amongst political parties remains high. She also mentioned that the government in Poland engages in outright authoritarian practices, reversing the outcomes and openly rejecting the principals of democratic transition.

Being in England, also Brexit was one of the topics in presentations as well as in the dinner conversations. The term “democracy” refers to a system of government in which the citizens exercise power. Sometimes people have said that Brexit is a democratic choice made by citizens and of course, in practice they are right. Then again, someone can ask, is a rise of the political populism that has been going on for a while in different countries around the world also democracy? How to influence citizens´ opinions so that the citizens make choices and practice democracy the way someone wants to? These kind of questions came to my mind in the workshop while I was listening to the keynote presentation of Emeritus Professor Karl Cordell from the University of Plymouth, who talked about populism and the future of Europe. Democracy is more complicated matter than someone might think.    

 

An Arctic view was brought into this workshop in the context of the EU and its´ cross-border cooperation on the northern border between Finland and Sweden. The EU is large organization in many ways and there is a construction that aims to keep up the democracy in the EU. How well the voice of local people is heard in the EU when it comes for example to develop their home region? And on the other hand, how much local people use the democratic opportunities the EU offers? That is something to consider since after all, democracy is necessity.