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United States of America?

Cafe Europe Revisited
PANDEMIC / How coordinated or in solidarity is Europe really?


In the sequel to Cafe Europa (1997) the Croatian journalist and author Slavenka Drakulić (b. 1949) takes us back to what went wrong, and what went right in Europe after communism until the pandemic, and how everything is connected.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Europe no longer lived up to our fantasies. Europe were accused of creating economic injustice – with a lack of work and money for their citizens. The European Union played a crucial role in leveling out social and economic disparities and working for peace, security and a better life for all. Some countries were more European than others – where the citizen's economic and social welfare came first. At the same time, the EU created a growing fear of globalization and immigration.

Culture and national affiliation were explicitly linked to religion, and vice versa. This applied to everyone, believers or not. To be Croatian meant to be Catholic, to be Serbian meant to be Orthodox, and so on. The religious roots are still a large part of the identity of the various countries in Europe.

EU membership began in the stomachs of citizens.

Drakulić mentions in this context the wars in the former Yugoslavia between 1991 and 1995, where nationalist propaganda equated with religion was a triggering cause. Nation og Religion was used to identify the enemy.

The same is done today with refugees, where an entire nation is reduced to one religion. She cites Trump's Muslim ban as an example: "Today, refugees and immigrants are not seen as individuals, not even as members of a nation – they are reduced to a religious identity – whether they are believers or not. And all Muslims are suspected of being terrorists. "

The food scandal in the EU

As Drakulić writes in Cafe Europe Revisited, the EU was accused in 2017 of producing food of inferior quality, but with the same brand, to countries in Central and Eastern Europe compared to the food produced in Western Europe. She writes that the food scandal demonstrated that EU membership began in the stomachs of citizens

The then President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, stated in 2017 that he «does not accept that the food sold in some parts of Europe is of poorer quality than in other countries, despite the fact that it is the same brand. Slovaks do not deserve less fish in their fish sticks, Hungarians less meat in their meals and Czechs less cocoa in their chocolates. "

In 2018, the European Commission announced that they banned food of varying quality throughout the union.

Gender differences in the EU

In 2018, Sweden passed a new law that requires the consent of both parties during sexual intercourse, otherwise it is considered rape, even if there is no violence. Norway and several other European countries still have none consent clause, which makes it easier to get away with rape.

Slavenka Drakulic

The Metoo campaign in the USA and Northern Europe is different than in Southern and Eastern Europe, where several countries are virtually untouched. Women's voices are silenced in these areas. As a Norwegian woman in Austria, I notice large gender differences compared to Norway. Women should not shout so loud here. The gender differences are more or less accepted by both parties. On the outside, you are happy as it is. Drakulić writes: "In very patriarchal cultures, girls grow up with sexual harassment as normal behavior."

In Poland, it was introduced last year abortionprohibition. In Austria, you have to pay over NOK 6000 for an abortion (it is not included in the public health service, which is free), and a consultation with a psychologist is mandatory in the process of having an abortion. In Norway, you can have a home abortion within two days, if you are early in the pregnancy, completely free.

Drakulić summarizes the lack of response to Metoo in Eastern Europe with women being afraid of exposing themselves to ridicule and hostility from the rest of society, with possible consequences on the work front. There is no tradition for women to express their problems. In Scandinavia and North America, the opposite is normal.

Slavenka Drakulic

Corona nationalism

Public health insurance in several European countries was established in the early twentieth century. Later, Canada, Australia, Japan and New Zealand also introduced public health insurance. Health insurance originated in the German Empire when Chancellor Otto von Bismarck in 1883 made it mandatory for employers to pay for health insurance (Krankenversicherung) with low-paid workers. The same practice is still going on.

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which was introduced in 2006, makes it possible for all EU / EEA citizens to receive the same public health service within the EU / EEA. During the pandemic, public health insurance became crucial for all EU citizens.

If they wanted life-saving treatment, they became debt slaves for the rest of their lives.

In the USA, health discrimination was noticed among those who could not afford health insurance. Several were not offered life-saving treatment when the pandemic broke out, and lost their lives because of this. If they wanted life-saving treatment, they became debt slaves for the rest of their lives. Studies show that the black population suffered (and still suffers) most from the pandemic, due to poor social and economic living conditions and lack of health insurance.

Vaccine nationalism

In the beginning of pandemicone, when Italy was the European epicenter, none of the EU neighboring countries helped them. Rather, the nations took care of their own citizens. Shortly afterwards, the borders were also closed. Several countries, such as Germany, France and the Czech Republic, issued bans on the export of medical equipment, including protective equipment such as masks and gloves – which were badly needed in Bergamo and Bologna at the time. The European one solidarityone was nowhere to be seen. Only when the individual states gained control over their own nation could one slowly see that they began to help each other.

European solidarity was nowhere to be seen.

It became a kind of internal competition about which countries fought the virus best. New Zealand became one of the first countries in the world to completely eliminate the virus. Other countries in Europe struggled, especially in the capitals.

Subsequently, countries around the world began to develop coronary vaccines. Germany became the first country in the world with a fully developed vaccine. The couple Özlem Türeci and Ugur Sahin, of Turkish origin, developed it in their company BioNTech.

Vaccine nationalism was underway. EU/EEA countries were allocated vaccines based on population density. In Vienna, many citizens lied about being relatives of at-risk patients in order to be vaccinated before everyone else, which they were. Vaccinethe system is based on trust i Østerrike, and in Vienna several so-called relatives of at-risk patients were vaccinated before the at-risk patients. There were only a couple of reports in the media about this. The biggest newspapers such as Falter and Der Standard did not even cover the case.


We are now in a situation where countries all over the world are competing for the ranking in the full vaccination of their population. Among other things, Austria is trying to negotiate with Russia to buy the Sputnik vaccine for its citizens, which will then be an agreement outside the EU. Israel became the first country in Europe to fully vaccinate its population in record time. Now the country is more or less completely reopened.

Poor countries outside Europe's borders are struggling with the pandemic and access to vaccines. India experienced complete collapse of health care while the rest of the world watches and dreams of when they can travel on vacation. Selfishness and double standards prevail.

Pinar Ciftci
Pinar Ciftci
Ciftci is a journalist and actor.

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