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LYMEC Policy Debate #1 Recap

LYMEC Policy Debate #1 Recap

How to Deal With Citizens From Authoritarian States 

 

Introduction 

LYMEC held its first policy debate online on Wednesday 26 October. The theme of the debate was how to deal with citizens from authoritarian states. We had the pleasure of welcoming lots of our Member Organisations including our Ukrainian friends from European Youth of Ukraine (EYU) and Russian colleagues from Vesna Youth Movement. 

Members from Momentum Tizenx highlighted the importance of defining what authoritarian means and how the issue is framed. In response to the war in Ukraine, countries have been dealing with Russian citizens differently. In countries such as Hungary, they are experiencing democratic backsliding which is not the same as authoritarianism. It is important to recognise the different political regimes operating in each country and take situations on a case by case basis. 

Members from EYU argued that authoritarianism is not new to Russia and questioned why Russian citizens only decided to speak up when the idea of conscription was being introduced. This is despite Russia’s violence in Ukraine beginning in 2014 with the annexation of Crimea. Russian refugees are being placed in the same centres as Ukrainian refugees in European countries such as Germany. Here, male Russian refugees are violently attacking Ukrainian refugees. Certain countries have also made it easier for Russian minority groups to gain visas to come to Europe. This is despite Russia attempting to destabilise peace in Europe. 

Protests

Colleagues from Vesna Youth explained there have been anti-war protests and anti-Putin movements since 2014. However, many opposition group leaders and politicians have been killed. There is a fear to speak out against Putin as there may be deadly consequences. Propaganda is being created by the Kremlin to make Europe and other Russians believe that all Russians support the war. While there are some provocative Russians carrying out attacks on Ukrainians in refugee camps, the majority are attempting to stay out of trouble and find a better life for themselves in Europe. The speaker from Vesna indicated that the asylum policies have been ineffective and that many are awaiting visas to move to Europe. While Ukrainian lives are in danger everyday, the speaker highlighted that many groups such as LGBTQIA+ individuals are in danger in Russia and hate groups have been created to terrorise them. European Youth of Ukraine said that Russians only came out to protest the mobilisation of their citizens and not the actual war. Vesna Youth stated that young people in Russia are now regretting their decision to remain apolitical but are afraid to protest for fear of ending up in prison or being subjected to violence. 

 

LYMEC Policy and Visa Ban 

European Youth of Ukraine stated that it would be impossible for LYMEC to create a singular policy on how to deal with people fleeing from authoritarian states as every country is different and has different legal regimes. LYMEC should have general policies focusing on a global reaction to armed conflict for example. Our President, Dan-Aria Sucuri indicated that LYMEC needs to draw red lines on what we would say in our policy proposals. Felix Schulz proposed that LYMEC should take a more general perspective as there are many countries outside of Europe which are experiencing armed conflict, death and destruction which LYMEC do not have a stance on.

Regarding the tourist visa ban for Russians, it was suggested that a more generic approach LYMEC could take would be banning all tourist visas in countries which have a simplified procedure and calling for the removal of access to cheap visas for Russians. European Youth of Ukraine stated that if all Russians were welcomed into the EU, they may attempt to impose their values on natives and threaten democracy. The violence which is being seen in Ukraine and in refugee camps carried out by Russian men, could spread further into the EU countries which welcome them. Our Polish Members from Nowoczesna indicated that we must unite as one Europe and believed that we should not allow those fleeing conscription to come to the EU. While there should be some exceptions, such as those fleeing oppression and opposition, there are fears that the Baltic states would take in more Russian minorities than other countries, thus threatening democracy. IMS Felix Schulz indicated that there are people who flourish under authoritarian regimes but many citizens attempt to flee these countries in search of a better life. Better intelligence is needed in EU Member States to decide on whether to accept these refugees are not. Each individual coming from authoritarian states should be assessed on a case by case basis. He indicated that we should not only care about an issue when it becomes geographically close to us. All human life is precious.

Conclusion

The approach of taking each case individually was widely agreed upon. Vesna Youth highlighted that it is hard to oppose the regime in Russia due to generalisations and assumptions that all Russians want the war. Personal sanctions would be much more effective. Our Swiss colleagues from Jungfreisinnige Schweiz called for greater economic sanctions to be placed on Russia but we must be careful in ensuring people do not believe the Russian propaganda. 

It was agreed by everyone at the debate that more needs to be done to support Ukraine and military weapons should be sent from EU countries to assist them in fighting in the war. 

We wish to thank everyone for attending the debate and sharing their opinions and valuable inputs. We hope to organise another debate with a different topic in the coming months.

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