Citizens Initiative in Europe

ICE (Citizens Initiative in Europe) is a French association created in 1989 after the fall of the Iron Curtain. It was, at the beginning, the product of a common belief, shared by a group of men and women who founded the organisation, that living in Europe was not conceivable without establishing strong bonds of basic solidarity between Europeans.

For more than twenty years, ICE has pursued the goal of providing a public arena for intellectual exchange as well as social and political thinking, putting forward the basic principles of resistance to the irrationalities and limitations of democracy that have affected Europe much too often - a forum independent of economic powers, religious authorities, governments and political parties.

A Russian power that crushes its opponents

by Véronique Nahoum-Grappe and Bernard Wach
Published in
Le mot d'ESPRIT - 29/04/2021

At a time when Alexei Navalny, Vladimir Putin's latest victim, is in great danger, a summary of the crimes of the Russian authorities against its opponents and democracy is essential. These twenty years of political criminality bear witness to a principle of fierce hatred against the rule of law.

"If we had wanted to, the case would have been brought to a conclusion." During his press conference on 17 December 2020, Putin thus rejected the accusations of poisoning Alexei Navalny (20 August 2020). In a tone of derision full of venomous innuendo - a deliberate and effective choice of style of the current rhetoric of power in Russia - this leader of a great country utters a funny phrase: in the very denial of the assassination attempt, he confesses the pride of crime when it is successful! These are words full of threats, and with the majesty that the impunity granted to well-done assassinations gives. Of these sentences uttered by the great mafias to suggest that the habit of killing others with impunity constitutes their usual form of life. Which is, quite exactly, the truth here. At a time when Alexei Navalny, Vladimir Putin's last victim, is in great danger, a brief reminder of the known assassinations of the Russian authorities against its opponents and democracy is essential. This is just the tip of the iceberg: how many victims whose deaths were as invisible as life?

"The great political criminals are always underestimated because their latest misdeeds make us forget the long series that precedes them."

Before this list, we must quickly mention the heavy bibliography concerning the history of Russia's role on the international scene over the last twenty years: a power sitting on the second Chechen war (August 26, 1999 - February 6, 2000), a bloody war marked by war crimes and crimes against humanity, which ends up setting up a fanatical and grotesque dictatorship regime , submitted to the Kremlin. A war that was triggered by deadly attacks in Moscow, where the role of the FSB was denounced very early in the courageous investigations of the late Anna Politovskaya. On that basis, we should open up the range of the diversity of violations of the rights of civilian populations in the world for which this power is responsible, such as the frightening list of its vetoes at the Un, saving murderous regimes from their populations such as the Syrian regime. We should also count these innumerable oblique maneuvers and more and more unveiled now, where sinister clandestine militias make dirty shots in the shadow of the wars of others; where, in another register, armies of hackers are at work to twist the reality of the facts on the ground where they are pouring out. All this forming a mephitic halo around military actions totally out of the nails of international law, actions of predation where this power thinks it is in its square meadow. Is Putin's long-term strategy just an almost nostalgic dream of a return to the borders of the Russian, Tsarist or Stalinist empire? For Marie Mendras, the "Putin system", which is not very nostalgic, must also be defined by the systemic crushing of any rule of law within the national space. A crowd of peaceful and unarmed demonstrators taking to the streets to demand the rule of law is the worst enemy of the "Putin system".

The great political criminals are always underestimated because their latest misdeeds make us forget the long series that precedes them. Here we only propose the list of proven crimes, known but forgotten. It leaves aside police manoeuvres and a whole style of repression, such as beatings by the police or nationalist groups encouraged by virulent denunciations in the official press, constant threats against activists, grotesque trials against them, the broadcasting on television news of films concerning the sexuality of political enemies. , the obscene instrumentalization of the legal system, which is multiplying police harassment, arbitrary layoffs, etc. These practices concern all activists: trade unionists, environmentalists, members of humanitarian NGOs, artists, journalists and lawyers who denounce abuses of power, crimes, corruption and mafia behaviour at all levels of society.

This phase of Russian post-communist state crime began with the second military intervention in Chechnya in September 1999, when Putin, head of the FSB for two years, became prime minister of Boris Elstine, who resigned at the end of December. Putin was interim president, then elected president with 52% of the vote on March 26, 2000. In 2021, manipulations of constitutional rules and laws would allow him to remain in power until 2036.

April 2003 - Shooting of deputy and chairman of the Russian Liberal Party Sergei Yushnkov.

2004 - Dioxyne poisoning of Ukrainian candidate Viktor Yushchenko with probably by Russian and Ukrainian services.

October - Journalist Anna Politkovskaya is shot dead. She worked for the newspaper Novaya Gazeta and was investigating the violation of human rights by the Russian army in Chechnya and the Chechen attack in Moscow. She had been the victim of an attempted poisoning two years earlier.

November 2006 - Polonium poisoning in London of former spy Alexander Litvinenko.

January 2009 - Shooting of Anastasia Baburova, environmental journalist in Novaya Gazeta and Stanislav Markelov, lawyer of a young Chechen kidnapped and tortured by a Russian general and lawyer of Anna Politkovskaya, of Mikhail Beketov, ecologist and editor-in-chief of Khimkinskaya Pravda, investigating corruption, beating and invalid since his beating in 2008.

July 2009 - Journalist Natalia Estemirova, a member of the NGO Memorial, is shot dead in Grozny. She was investigating the crimes of the Russian army in Chechnya and had worked with Anna Politkovskaya and Stanislav Markelov (a crime attributed to Ramzan Kadyrov, Putin's man in Chechnya)

November 2009 - Death in prison of Sergei Magnitsky, imprisoned, deprived of care for kidney stones, he is beaten to death. He was one of the lawyers of the Hermitage Capital fund, confiscated by the mafia of the regime and he had denounced the corruption of the regime.

2012 - Strong suspicion of gelsenium poisoning of Alexander Perepilichny, Russian businessman and whistleblower. The British government denies this, but independent investigations by media, police and secret services confirm the poisoning.

March 2013 - Assassination by strangulation and hanging of oligarch Boris Berezovski in London.

July 2014 - Poisoning of Timur Kuashev, journalist and human rights defender in Naltchik.

February 2015 - Shooting in Moscow of opponent Boris Nemtsov, a member of Open Russia, created by former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

March 2015 - Assassination of Ruslan Magomedragimov, Lezgin autonomist of the Sadval movement, in Kaspiisk, Dagestan, probably by the same FSB team that poisoned Navalny. Sadval's leader was stabbed to death a year later.

May 2015 - Poisoning of journalist Vladimir Kara-Murza, an opponent, a member of Open Russia who survives the poisoning.

February 2017 - New poisoning of journalist Vladimir Kara-Murza who survives.

March 2018 - Poisoning and death of double agent Sergei Skrypal and his daughter in London by two Russian military security agents.

April 2019 - Attempted poisoning of the writer Dmitry Bykov who later claims that it was an accident.

August 2019 - A Georgian of Chechen origin Tornike Kavtarashvili was shot dead in Berlin by a Russian agent arrested shortly afterwards.

August 2020 - Failed poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny and sentenced to two years in prison for violating judicial review after a conviction in 2014.

The boundless repression of the opposition continues until today, when Alexei Navalny is imprisoned after returning to Russia despite the risks, to continue to mobilize opposition to the regime. He is ill and remains at the mercy of the regime, even though he has stopped his hunger strike. The world accompanies his planned killing, whatever the aleas and reversals of situation that will have to be made history. The beheading of the social movement that supports him is underway: on April 19, the Kremlin declared as "terrorists and extremists" all the associations, institutions and parties that support Navalny, which will allow them to make unfair trials and to imprison many activists and sympathizers.

As under the Soviet regime and for more than fifteen years to come, Russia is crushing its opposition, which, for its part, is not giving up, even in the minority, with a courage that commands admiration. There were approximately 1800 arrests during the protests of 21 April 2021. For this, the democratic opposition in Russia deserves all possible support. But something else has emerged from all this political crime over the last twenty years, such as its aroma of reduction, its essential principle: a fierce and fierce hatred against the slightest sign of social functioning that is even a little democratic.This hatred is based on a mafia culture that places political violence as a source of male pride; and it is this culture that, confusing de facto impunity with the proof of its legitimacy, allows in its dirty wars, as in Chechnya and Syria, the use of the worst crimes against humanity as a deliberate and normal tactic. This political hatred, growing with success and impunity, produces an exponential unfulfilledness, which is often illustrated by the history of absolute powers, which aging tyrants can no longer imagine letting go. And they always end up, as they started, by threatening the borders of others. It is therefore also the future of Europe that is at stake, and which requires us to try everything to save Navalny.

Call for the creation of a European Foundation for the Prevention of Environmental and Health Crises

To read and support the call

Over 70 high-level European scientists mainly in the fields of biology, epidemiology, climatology, environment, call for the creation of a Foundation for the prevention of Environmental and Health Risks.

Why should the civil society across Europe support this call?

The Covid 19 crisis both generated isolationism and revealed the need for more solidarity at all levels. This ambivalence is likely to be recurrent each time we face a new crisis or in case of a second Covid wave.

Europe has been one of the most affected regions in the first months of the pandemic and was close to dislocation being unable to articulate a specific vision and to deploy an effective and coordinated response in line with its core democratic values in contrast to the authoritarian efficiency of China or the laissez-faire of the United States of America.

The economic consequences of the sanitary crisis will deepen the already existing inequalities according to status, sectors, company sizes, countries, amidst four decades of growing economic inequality resulting with the rise of populism that threaten the very foundation of our common achievements in Europe.

In this context, the necessity that has arisen from the crisis of strengthening the exercise of public power at the local and State level should remind Europe on its urgent need to find or regain its legitimacy. But its success requires the emergence of a true European citizenship with which everyone can identify.

Everyone must contribute, from the most anonymous to the wealthiest. A European Foundation funded by wealthy individuals and backed by a Scientific Committee represents a strong and exemplary response to the risks that have come to light.

In its very principles:

  • The foundation perpetuates solidarity between Europeans and contributes to make solidarity visible while strengthening the core European value they defend. It gives meaning and more consistency to the concept of European citizenship, built not only by States but also by civil society.
  • It provides donors the opportunity to take their share in the common effort and to do so collectively. It revitalizes the European spirit by testifying that the accumulation of private wealth cannot be an end in itself.

By its operation:

  • Over time, it supplement the numerous public and private funding mechanisms that support research with a fund specifically dedicated to new action-research combining scientific capacity and field actions, and to innovative technologies focused on preventing both families of major risks, environmental and health ones, and putting together at best European skills.
  • In times of crisis, it will be able to facilitate emergency research activities, partnership between European key actors, deployment of resources, independently, based on solidarity and efficiency criteria, through a reactive tool, complementary to the State and Union action but not subject to the same legal constraints or to arbitration between national priority and international solidarity.
  • ICE - 24/06/2020

    COVID-19 and Europe

    Several scientists, among whom six biologists are founding members of ICE. In this singular period, our European engagement leads us to reflect on the European response to the Covid-19 crisis, on the expectations towards Europe in this context, on the difficulties of having effective responses, on the differences between national responses, on the limits to European solidarity - and finally to elaborate on possible improvements in the functioning of the European Union. The actions that we plan on proposing will be commensurate with the means of a small organisation with few resources, but willing to freely share our ideas.

    With a few known variations, which can be hard to fully understand and explain, COVID-19 has impacted all of Europe in a fairly similar way.

    Significant and Positive Milestones

    Europe's actions to help the European countries facing the crisis are numerous but mostly focused on the economy, since health policies are entirely the responsibility of states, with limited exceptions: the Commission and the Parliament may issue some recommendations and the European Union Solidarity Fund can respond to major natural disasters.

    Nonetheless, the following list of actions which have been carried out or are being considered gives a list of significant achievements:

    • Joint repatriation of European citizens stranded outside its borders.
    • Suspension of the provisional freeze on resources allocated to the European budget, which has led to allocating up to 7.5 billion euros for hospitals.
    • Emergency allocation of a 140 million Euros budget towards research on Covid 19, including a vaccine.
    • Release of 800 million euros from the European Union Solidarity Fund.
    • Implementation of a limitation of medical exports outside of European borders if internal needs are not covered.
    • Closure of the Schengen area and of the external borders of the EU from March 17 to May 15.
    • Possibility of closing national borders, without stopping the circulation of essential supplies.
    • Exception to the 3% public deficit rule.
    • Repurchase of debts of European states by the European Central Bank up to 750 billion euros.
    • 200 billion Euros loans by the European Investment Bank to support businesses in trouble.
    • Mobilization of the European Stability Mechanism to guarantee loans from member states up to 240 billion Euros.
    • SURE mechanism guaranteeing loans up 100 billion to mitigate unemployment risks in member states.
    • Plan to double the European budget from 1% to 2% of European GDP.

    Obvious shortcomings and failures

    The most serious failure is the lack of solidarity and sharing of health supplies: European states have competed on the market for masks, drugs, equipment instead of making common cause. This has had a heavy impact on the supply itself and on the capacity to negotiate prices. In the absence of clear sharing rules, we do not give to our neighbours what we may need in the near future. It is appropriate to recall a historic precedent: during the war of 1914-1918 and in 1939-1940, France and Great Britain had entirely pooled their logistical means and supplies on the international markets, putting in place a mechanism of equitable distribution between the two countries. Jean-Monnet, who would become one of the European founding fathers, was one of the French officials involved in the scheme in the two wars.

    In the absence of a European health agency, one attempt was initiated by France which initiated the "Discovery programme" of clinical trials of coronavirus drugs. This study was not relayed in Europe, other countries have instead joined the Solidarity clinical trial programme piloted by the World Health Organisation - and can certainly not be faulted for having done so.

    The direct borrowing capacity of the European Union, Europe, in other words its capacity to emit Eurobonds, was opposed by the established stumbling block of Northern "virtuous" Europe, which is against any sharing of the financial burden without a strict control of budget deficits, while southern Europe countries, who are experiencing deeper financial problems, were in favour of the Eurobond mechanism. The lack of Eurobonds leads to uneven borrowing rates by Member States (the "spread") which in turn induce varying crisis response capacities in different countries.

    The urgency of the situation did not significantly accelerate the negotiation and decision-making processes of the European Council. Proposals by the EU Commission must be approved by heads of state, sometimes by the European Parliament or by national parliaments. The European Union is dependent on Member States and their democratic institutions, with a very low budget of its own. Thus the European Institutions are not well suited to handle situations of crisis.

    But Member States are in hardly better shape. Although Health Policies are within their exclusive competence, they have shown, to varying degrees, their unpreparedness (in particular the lack of ICU beds and in handling homes for elderly people. National bureaucracies have been slow to react. Without calling into question the principle of subsidiarity leaving health policies to Member States, it is urgent to help the European Union to acquire bring more agility and to show more solidarity in the face of crises that are sure to happen again - but of course differently.

    by Michel Marian and Bernard Wach

    Updated on 05/04/2021