The conflict between Russia and Ukraine is putting Europe’s societies to the test

The conflict between Russia and Ukraine is putting Europe's societies to the test
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The economic, geopolitical and social consequences of all these developments have been profound – something the continent has not seen for decades. The calls for peace and stability grow stronger every day.

by Xinhua writers Fu Yiming, Chen Chen, He Miao

, Dec. 26 (Xinhua) — In 2022, the protracted conflict between and Ukraine, the series of problems caused by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) expansion and the energy crisis have all caused serious headaches everywhere. Europe.

Adding fuel to the fire were the West’s series of sanctions against Russia and the arms deliveries to Ukraine.

The economic, geopolitical and social consequences of all these developments have been profound – something the continent has not seen for decades. The calls for peace and stability grow stronger every day.

GEOPOLITICAL TRANSFORMATION

“At first I was positive about (being conscripted) and thought it would be a year of good experiences. But now that we might join NATO, I’ve changed my mind,” Wilhelm Waldenlind, an 18-year-old Swede, told Sweden’s Television in April.

He is not alone. Sweden is about to join NATO, and the prospect of the country saying goodbye to decades of neutrality has divided the public. And along with the increasing influence of the far-right political spectrum, the development has led some analysts to admit that “anything is possible”.

The conflict between Russia and Ukraine is putting Europe's societies to the test
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Under NATO’s Article 5, which sees an attack on one member state as an attack on all, Sweden, once a full member, could eventually be forced to wage war – a perspective Waldenlind and many others refuse to entertain.

Meanwhile, Finland, which shares a 1,340-kilometer border with Russia, said it would build a 200-kilometer barbed wire fence along that border next year, a decision criticized by some experts as irrational.

Finland’s and Sweden’s decision to abandon their long-standing neutrality and NATO’s expansion to Russia’s borders threaten to destabilize the region and Europe as a whole. Finland and Sweden could easily find themselves fighting a war on their own territory with Russia, a neighbor with whom they have lived in relative peace for decades.

NATO’s expansion plans have attracted criticism in both Nordic countries. , leader of Sweden’s Left Party, warned that “it risks leading to escalation in our immediate area”. Agnes Hellström, president of the , said in a statement that with its decision to join NATO, “Sweden contributes to making the world more militarized and polarized. NATO membership does not make Sweden or the world safer or more democratic – – rather the opposite.”

The conflict between Russia and Ukraine is putting Europe's societies to the test
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The Finnish Peace Committee emphasized in a statement that lasting peace in the world cannot be built on a security policy based on weapons and alliances and that alignment would not increase security in Europe, but a further escalation of military tensions instead. NATO’s admission of new members would also exacerbate the division of the world into military blocs, thereby complicating negotiations and cooperation.

Sweden and Finland simultaneously submitted their formal requests to join NATO in May 2022, and were later invited to join the alliance at the NATO summit in Madrid in June. The accession protocols for both countries were signed on July 5 and must now be ratified by all NATO allies, of which Hungary and Türkiye have yet to give the green light.

ECONOMIC FRAGILITY

On November 21, top executives of 49 major multinational companies, including Orange, Ericsson, Unilever, AstraZeneca, Volvo and BMW, met at a banquet at the Elysee Palace in Paris. Their host, French President Emmanuel Macron, has reportedly tried to persuade them not to move production lines to the United States.

Macron’s message was clear: stay in Europe and choose France for your future investments. The French president reportedly argued that the participating industrial power plants should resist the lure of lower US energy prices and the Reduction Act (IRA) and should not be operated abroad for fear of the ongoing Ukraine or energy crisis.

The conflict between Russia and Ukraine is putting Europe's societies to the test
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In fact, Europe seems to be losing its attractiveness to companies, and the IRA in the US trying to heavily subsidize EV-related industries in the country is further exacerbating the situation in Europe. Consequently, a quarter of German companies are considering moving production to other countries, the Federation of German Industries has warned. Sweden’s battery manufacturer Northvolt is also preparing to leave Germany for the US

At the same time, the successive rounds of sanctions imposed by the West on Russia have upset the status quo in business across Europe. The tough measures intended to target Russia’s energy sector are hurting Europe itself even more, with the worsening energy crisis, record high inflation and the looming threat of recession.

The conflict between Russia and Ukraine is putting Europe's societies to the test
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Germany, which is heavily dependent on Russian gas, is facing an unprecedented energy crisis, which could have profound consequences. Germany’s ifo institute for economic research recently said the country was heading into recession and predicted its economy would shrink by 0.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2022. The German predicted an economic contraction of 0.4 percent for next year .

In Britain, the (BoE) pointed to consecutive double-digit inflation rates recently and warned that the third-quarter decline in the country’s economic output likely marked the start of a recession that could last until the end of next year and possibly into 2024.

Sweden, the largest Nordic economy, also has to contend with sky-high inflation not seen there for decades. The country’s central bank (Riksbank) has been forced to abandon its negative and zero interest rate policy – ​​lasting more than seven years – and raise the key rate aggressively to avert the cost of living crisis, but to little avail. The Swedish government has said the country will enter a recession next year that is expected to last until 2025.

COMMUNITY CONCERNS

Together with his wife and two sons, aged 4 and 10, Labiz, 44, arrived in Poland from Ukraine in early March after a harrowing nine-hour wait at the border.

He is one of the 1.5 million Ukrainian refugees who had fled to and settled in Poland on December 13, according to figures released by the (UNHCR). Labiz witnessed firsthand the societal effects of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. The massive humanitarian crisis triggered by the conflict has displaced millions of Ukrainians to neighboring European countries, which are now struggling to cope with the influx.

Since the start of the conflict, more than 8 million Ukrainians have crossed the border to enter Poland, the Polish border guard said, adding that there were still an average of 20,000 new arrivals per day.

With many of the new arrivals looking for temporary or long-term accommodation, there has been an increase in demand on the housing market in almost all major Polish cities. The subsequent shortages have driven up rental and sale prices.

The conflict between Russia and Ukraine is putting Europe's societies to the test
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In the first two weeks after the start of the conflict in February, ad impressions on Otodom, a popular property service in Poland, increased by 166 percent. Experts at another real estate service, GetHome, said the number of apartments available for rent in Warsaw, Gdansk and Poznan fell by 34 percent to 40 percent in the first month of the conflict. Rental prices in Warsaw have risen by an average of 31.6 percent in one year, according to a joint analysis made by real estate companies Morizon and Gratka.

School is another problem. The number of Ukrainian children enrolled in Polish schools for the new school year that began in September totaled about 185,000, Poland’s Education Minister Przemyslaw Czarnek has said.

“I think the challenges are in the education system and health care, because again half of these new arrivals are children. Even before the war, our shortage of teachers was quite acute,” Dominika Pszczolkowska, a political scientist at the University of Warsaw. Center of Migration Research, told Xinhua, stressing that the influx of another 100,000 Ukrainian students would make the shortage even more acute.

The conflict between Russia and Ukraine is putting Europe's societies to the test
© Provided by Xinhua

Poland will have spent 8.36 billion euros (8.87 billion US dollars) on housing, health care and other services for Ukrainians by the end of this year, the highest amount among member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). the organization said in October.

But with increasing “host society” fatigue, the hospitality of the host nation – already beset by the energy crisis, soaring inflation and a sluggish economic outlook – is being tested like never before.

Labiz told Xinhua that he was grateful for the Polish people’s help during the past difficult months and has always felt at home in the country.

Still, he said he wanted to return to his homeland. “I will go home as soon as the conflict ends.” (Xinhua reporter Zhang Zhang from Warsaw also contributed to the story.)

Source: sn.dk

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