Islamophobia had been fuelled by the response of the West to 9/11 – Tarja Cronberg Member of European Parliament
Thursday 28 March, 2013 – THE OSLO TIMES EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEWS –
(C) MEP Tarja Cronberg with (R) Editor in Chief of The Oslo Times Hatef Mokhtar along with Pia Nordberg Counsellor – Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland in exclusive session at Conference for Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, Oslo, Norway – March 5th 2013. photo: The Oslo Times.
It is indeed our privilege to welcome the Member of European Parliament Tarja Cronberg in an exclusive interview session with The Oslo Times. The Oslo Times would also like to thank you, upon your participation in the historic conference recently held Oslo for Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons.
TOT: As a participant to the Oslo Conference on Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, where nearly 130 countries attended the conference to support the initiative and to put a check to the growing threat of nuclear arms race in the world. Our question to you is that:
a.) Does this conference has achieved its agenda and if so, then in what respect / manner?
b.) Whether after this conference will we are able to witness any sudden shift in the nuclear policy framework of any country with quest for this deadly resource?
Tarja Cronberg: It achieved the agenda in the sense that it provided new perspectives on nuclear arms. The threat of nuclear arms is well known but needs to be repeated time and time again. The message seemed to be: the probability for a nuclear explosion is greater than ever before and no country has the necessary preparedness.
The sudden shift was that none of the five nuclear countries were present.
TOT: Being as the chair of the European parliament Iran delegation, member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and Subcommittee of Security and Defence.
a.) How do you see the progress has been made so far with Iran in terms of the countrys nuclear program?
b.) What have been the reasons behind the constant failure of nuclear talks being held between Iran and P5+1 group countries?
c.) What changes you have found in Iran stance for its nuclear program? And how do you see the concern made by Israel and other important regional strategic allies of the EU have been addressed so far with these negotiations with Iran?
Tarja Cronberg: One of the biggest problem of the negotiations might be that until now, no one has been willing to act first. Iran has asked the sanctions to be relieved before it does anything and the west has demanded even the proof of ending the enrichment before relieving the sanctions. One Turkish politician said it in a nutshelf “so far the west has been wanting diamonds but offering only peanuts”.
In February in latest P5+1 negotiations there were some small signs of finding common ground as the sanctions were on the agenda and the west was willing to discuss Iran’s right to enrichment.
However, time is running out since Iranian presidential elections will be held in June.
TOT: Europe is going through the worst phase of its economic crisis due to which many of the prominent EU members like the UK, Greece, Portugal etc have indicated at regular intervals that they might leave the union.
a.) How justified these reports are about these countries leaving the union?
b.) Does these kinds of declarations or indications are making the EU more vulnerable to the crisis? If so; then how and in what sense …
Tarja Cronberg: One has to distinguish between the euro zone and the EU. I do not think any member state is ready to leave the EU. UK is traditionally keeping the other foot outside and has not decided to join euro area. The UK agreement may have to be negotiated a new. Countries may leave the eurozone due to the economic crisis. This will not affect the EU as such.
TOT: Last year was one of the toughest for the EU where Germany has lead the front for Austerity measures that has witnessed its major criticism and fall in popularity among the masses during elections in France and Greece.
a.) Whats in your opinion as being a Member of European Parliament these austerity measures and economic bailouts to the governments and banks of many consecutive member countries has made an evident impact on the lives of the people?
b.) Whether these austerity measures also affects the other economically unaffected EU member countries like Germany who has been the main advocate of these sudden austerity measures?
c.) And does these kinds of rash and tough decision taken by the European Parliament affects the newly included members of the union in sense; like Hungary, Romania, Poland and others ?
Tarja Cronberg: The austerity measure have been necessary on the one hand in order to cut the expenses and to stop the growth of debt. But on the other hand we have seen that the measures were at points too tough, too sudden. The policy has now changed to a more sustainable one that emphasizes growth and employment. This is very important as the unemployment has skyrocketed in many counties. The situation of the youth is especially difficult.
The European parliament has not been involved in the bailout package process as such. Many parliamentarians, including the Greens, have criticized the austerity policy from early on.
TOT: With the inclusion of East European countries as members to the EU, have resulted in the large influx of immigrants from these countries that has made many of the major European economies to take conservative and protective standings against this growing demographic change in their society.
a.) Does these kinds of measures and boycotts of certain ethnical populations from Eastern Europe like the Roma, Bulgarian and Polish communities have denied advantages of being fully fledged European communities closely integrated with the rest of their European counterparts?
b.) How do you see this kind of multi cultural society has affected the politics and demographics of the EU?
Tarja Cronberg: The immigration inside EU has been seen as a threat sometimes. But it has not been as a big phenomenon as many expected. We also need the mobility of EU, to find the workforce that is needed. The immigration should be taken as an asset. The immigrants have to be integrated in the society and into the political system. This has started to happen, and this is indeed the best way to get their voice and concerns heard in the society.
The traditional minorities like Roma face exclusion. The EU has been active to tackle the problem by introducing national Roma strategies. This is a strong signal to member states to take responsibility in Roma integration and fight against discrimination.
TOT: Finland too has been going through the recessionary economical situations, as being one of the most notable and prominent political figure of the country;
a.) How do you see the government policies have been in lines with the current demand of the Finnish economy?
b.) What are the steps that your party has taken to address the concerns of the people in their respective constituencies where you and your party members have been in power?
Tarja Cronberg: The recession has hit hard especially the traditional sectors of Finnish economy. The government has now decided to lower the corporate tax to 20 %.
I hope that this is an effective measure for growth in Finland, but on the other hand regret that we also seem to participate in the aggressive taxation competition in EU and Europe. We should work towards a common corporate tax in EU instead. This has been the goal of the greens for a long time.
TOT: Apart from the critical economics and political situations the Europe is going through, there is one more of major concern that now has been doing rounds of politics, has also been felt as a pinch in the speeches of various European leaders during elections and among the very European native society as well as even in certain decisions taken by some European countries. We are talking about the growth of Islamophobia in Europe.
a.) Why Muslims and their conservative nature of their culture are being seen as threat to the native European society?
b.) What are steps that are being introduced by European Parliament to accommodate and integrate Muslims and their culture in the European system and the society?
c.) Does the government of Finland and your party are working to formulate any policy framework in order to address the issues by this Islamic influx in the country and in the region that has changed the demographics of many countries in Europe?
Tarja Cronberg: Islamophobia had been fuelled by the response of the western governments to 9/11 . The measures of “war on terrorism” have been alleviated, and this change in the policies hopefully will soften also some prejudices in Europe. It will be a long process as the policies have breached human rights.
Unfortunately, also some of the far-right groupss have taken advantage of fuelled islamophopbia and they have used their own means to provoke it.
The European parliament has called EU to abolish religious intolerance. This includes islamophobia.
In Finland the immigration has been small-scale compared to many countries. Anyhow the immigrants that have come, have found it difficult to get employed. We have proposed to deal with the problem by integration measures such as language and other training, and with different forums for cultural exchange.
Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Espen Barth Eide opening the Conference for Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons: photo – The Oslo Times.
TOT: How do you place Norways policies and commitments towards promoting peace and stability in Europe and in the world?
Tarja Cronberg: Traditionally Norway has been very active on peace and stability and in Finland it is seen as superpower, even as an example, of peace building. I am very delighted that also nuclear disrmament has become a priority for Norway.
TOT: European Parliament has shown its concern over critical media and human rights situation in Hungary and in other countries like Greece specifically; which forced Brussels to even consider revoking Hungary’s voting rights in the European Parliament;
a.) What are the other steps that have been taken to address the human rights violations in Europe?
b.) Does these kinds of events and serious violations have tarnished the image of the EU as peaceful and democratic institution?
Tarja Cronberg: Firstly these would be the voting rights of Hungary in European Council and council, not in the European parliament. The members of the European parliament have been selected by the Hungarian people and do not represent their government directly. Article 7 which defines this punishment method is a heavy tool, if being used, and would most probably be enough to solve the situation.
In Hungary, extremist parties have gained popularity in the last year, like in Greece. The crisis and austerity measure have made the situation worse in many countries.
Democracy and peace are our core values, but it seems we cannot take them as granted, not even in EU. This is a worrying development that is best tackled with developing social equality inside EU and in the member states.
TOT: In the last two years, the bursting of Arab Spring series all across the Middle-East region in the quest for establishing democracy has remained a challenge for European institutions to channelize the government formations and constitutional procedures in the affected Arab countries like Syria, Egypt etc..
a.) How far do you think that the EU has been successful in advocating the cause of democracy in these countries?
b.) Is it wiser to support the arm rebellions against the autocratic regimes and other establishments in the countries like Syria and Libya?
c.) Whether the EU has any policy for disarming the rebels and bring them to account for war crimes committed by them or by the respective; regimes of their Arab countries?
Tarja Cronberg: The EU could have questioned the rule of law in some Middle East countries already before the Arab Spring and not only after that. The Europaen parliament has pointed out several examples on also rather questionable cooperation between EU countries and Egypt and Libyan regimes such as as importing E-technology that could be used for tracing people who were taking part in revolution or to monitoring and censoring the internet. The other important lesson was the importance of working closely with the civil society and not only with governments. I hope in these ways we have also been able to learn from the Arab Spring.
Selling arms to Syrian rebels is very problematic in many ways one of the points being the individual decisions by EU-countries on arms exports. We are at the moment in the process of negotiating a new arms trade treaty. What is the point of having common framework of arms trade (and denying arms trade to conflict zones) if during conflicts all the countries will not follow the common agreements?
The people responsible for war crimes in Syria should definitely be taken to ICC and the MEPs have emphasized that in several occasions.
Tarja Cronberg: It is crucial to understand that Russia is already in many ways integrated in EU. The Cypros case should be the final eye-opener on what comes to Russian role in the EU. Finland is the first gate to the EU for Russia and therefore Finland should also be the first to act in defining Russia’s current role in Europe.
TOT: Since; the formation of the EU, the viability of the Council of Europe has been in question over these years. Did the growth of the EU have over shadowed the importance of the Council of Europe?
Tarja Cronberg: EU has of course taken a strong role in co-operation among EU states. Council of Europe is still a relevant player, especially as it covers also non-EU countries.
TOT: How would you rate the situation of human rights and freedom of speech in Finland?
Tarja Cronberg: Relatively good. There is still some problems that have been also raised by NGOs, one of them being that the option for obligatory military service, the civil service is longer than the military service, and works as a punishment for people who do not wish to go to the army.
Poverty, exclusion and unemployment are common also in Finland; I am worried especially of the situation of the youth who do not get access to labor market easily, but also of the long-term unemployed. Right for work is an important social right.
All Rights Reserved – The Oslo Times.