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Is the ‘ASEAN Way’ finally bearing fruit?

For years, ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) was criticized and seen as stumbling block for the improvement of diplomatic relations. Today, this multilateral organization is only a few steps away of forming an economic community and has already concluded free trade agreements with China, Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and India. Have we now been proven wrong in our criticism of ... Read More »

Free but not Fair

With the continuous crisis in Ukraine taking most of the media’s attention, a dubious election in the heart of Europe passed silently. In Hungary, the popular but controversial prime minister Viktor Orbán and his Fidesz-KDNP party retained their power in a seemingly ‘free’ election. Ruling party Fidesz however took preemptive measures to manipulate the outcome, making the elections far from ... Read More »

Turkey: A Country Torn Between Going East or West

By Yuri van Hoef With corruption scandals coming to light in December 2013, Istanbul’s Taksim square once again became the site of major anti-government protests. Earlier, in May 2013, what started as a small environmental protest against the demolition of parts of the park, quickly escalated into full-blown protests against the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ... Read More »

Spain’s identity crisis

Like many countries, Spain experiences increasing pressure coming from right-wing parties due to the economic crisis. Minister Mariano Rajoy has introduced the tightening of abortion laws, meaning an almost total ban on abortion except in the case of rape or severe danger of the woman’s mental or physical state. This proposal comes from the Partido Popular, a conservative center-right party, ... Read More »

Life of a Diplomat: Bridge Over River Nile

‘There is an Arab saying which claims that ‘When Allah created Sudan, he laughed’. Of course, it is impossible, Allah cannot laugh, because nobody saw his face!’, exclaims J. W. Bertens, when he remembers his assignment in Sudan. This is the second part of Checks&Balances’ interview with Jan-Willem Bertens, who was not only a diplomat in Uruguay, Costa Rica and ... Read More »

Hollande’s fall off the governmental pedestal

Recently, it became public that French President François Hollande has been having an affair with actress Julie Gayet for two years. The news reached the headlines of reputable international and European papers and websites such as the BBC and LA Times. Public opinion in France’s neighbouring countries was judgemental to say the least. Surprisingly, the French themselves were rather laconic ... Read More »

The Power of Brazilian Soap Opera

As the Central Intelligence Agency indicates, the fertility rate in Brazil over the last five decades has dropped from six children per women to approximately fewer than two. This substantial shift in the Brazilian demographical records is often compared to the China’s one child policy which has produced similar results. However, if in China the responsibility over declining birth rates ... Read More »

A Spiritual Guidance of the Nation

In a country far, far away there once was a dictator that controlled an entire nation. He was in charge of all three branches of government, plus the economy and the media. Everybody had to do as he pleased. He was the richest man of the country. But the dictator was not satisfied, he wanted more. And so the dictator ... Read More »

Milk, Politics and other Perceptions

Since the early days of this year’s October, Russia has been imposing restrictions on imports of dairy products from Lithuania. Gennady Onishchenko, the chief of the Russian consumer protection service Rospotrebnadzor, has officially declared that some of the Lithuanian products failed to meet the requirements of quality and adequate safety. However, the officials of Lithuania and the European Union consider ... Read More »

Russian Film, Art and Music… In Groningen!

Russia has received quite a lot of attention in the last few weeks. The media have emphasized the new laws on gay propaganda, the upcoming G20 meeting in Saint-Petersburg and of course, Russia’s stance on the possibility of a military intervention in Syria. These are all very important political questions that have rightly received a lot of media attention. But ... Read More »