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Eurostar Reduces its Services

October 21, 2016


If you have ever travelled from the UK to continental Europe, you may have used Eurostar to get there. Eurostar provides a high speed train service from the UK to France, and to Belgium as well via the Channel Tunnel. Since 1994, more than 130 million passengers have utilized Eurostar trains. Eurostar is considered a better alternative to flying to reach more than 100 destinations across Europe.



Although Eurostar is a fast and convenient method of travelling within Europe, recent attacks in Paris and Brussels have resulted in a reduction of its train services. By the end of 2016, Eurostar plans to cut around 80 jobs along with serval of its daily services. In a recent interview, Eurostar chief executive, Nicolas Petrovic, attributed a 3% decrease in ticket sales to the Paris/Brussels attacks, Brexit, and the migrant crisis.

Eurostar train

Getty Images ©

Eurostar has yet to announce which services it will remove from it schedule. Job removals will come primarily in the form of voluntary redundancy or sabbaticals. Since the recent attacks, visitors are less willing to visit Paris and Brussels where Eurostar has major stops. A reduction in sales has resulted in an annual slide £21 million for the company. In response to a cut in train services, Eurostar hopes to extend the size of its trains. Although Eurostar is going through a turbulent period, the company’s main priority is to protect the interest of its employees.



Is it a Timeout for Possible NFL Expansion in London?

October 13, 2016

Regent Street in Central London was heavily draped in NFL advertising for the recent game between the Indianapolis Colts and Jacksonville Jaguars.

The National Football League (NFL), under the leadership of Commissioner Roger Goodell, has ambitious goals to double the NFL’s current revenue to $25 billion dollars by 2027. As the NFL has managed to jump from 18th to the 6th most watched sport in the United Kingdom in a matter of a few years, a team in London is becoming more and more of a lucrative option.

However, with the recent Brexit vote causing widespread uncertainty throughout the UK, leading to a drop in the economy, the NFL faces the dilemma of whether or not to continue to pursue establishing a team in London.

Prior to Brexit, a main draw to establishing a team in London was that London is easily accessible to fans living in mainland Europe, thus increasing attendance, expanding global reach and increasing overall revenue. With the uncertainty of how Brexit will affect the movement of people for those individuals holding a EU passport, the NFL might opt to delay establishing a team in London until clear terms are established between the EU and the UK after (if) article 50 is triggered.

Another option for the NFL is to establish a team in an alternative international city. For example, Mexico City, with a strong centralized fan base, has repeatedly been viewed as a viable option to place an NFL team if the Brexit terms are not favorable to the NFL.

In the end, the NFL is just one of the many organizations that has to wait and see how the Brexit vote plays out.



Protests, Violence Mar German Unity Day Celebrations In City Of Dresden

October 5, 2016

Earlier this week Germany celebrated “Tag der Deutschen Einheit,” or “Day of German Unity,” which commemorates reunification between East and West in 1990. Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Joachim Gauck, and parliament leader Norbert Lammert, among other German leaders travelled to the eastern city of Dresden for the festivities.

Dresden is the cultural capital of the former GDR, often referred to as the Florence of the Elbe. It has become an increasingly popular destination for tourists and Germans alike thanks to its: world-renowned  baroque-style architecture, views of the Elbe river, strong university, thriving nightlife, and the beautiful “Saxon Switzerland” nature just south of the city. Though more recently it has gained a new reputation as a stronghold for right-wing extremism, thanks in part to being the home of the anti-immigrant PEGIDA movement (Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West). Along with marches, xenophobic attacks in the city have become increasingly common (Dresden is just 60 kilometers away from Bautzen, which has recently dominated headlines due to the clashes between asylum seekers and far-right nationalists). Just a week ago bombs went off in the city, putting into question the safety of the October 3rd celebrations.

What should have been a day of celebration on October 3rd was quickly overshadowed by protests against Merkel and her ruling CDU party. The chancellor was met with chants of, “Merkel must go” and “Traitor to the people.” A record number of police and security forces were present in Dresden to maintain peace and order. Merkel’s unpopularity in the east is at an all-time high due to her decision to remain steadfast in her refugee policy. The East, in particular the state of Saxony, where Dresden is located, has seen support for the anti-foreigner AfD (Alternative for Germany) party rapidly grow over the past two years.

Merkel used the events to highlight a further issue, the deep-rooted differences between the East and West that still exist 26 years after reunification. She herself, as well as president Gauck, were both citizens of the former GDR. This issue has again come to the forefront in German politics, as right-wing populism has spread its roots over the former GDR, capitalizing on economic hardship and anti-foreigner sentiment. This is not to say that similar situations do not exist in the West (where the AfD has also found marginal success), however, as former parliamentary leader Wolfgang Thierse noted, xenophobic attacks are four or five times more likely to happen in the five east German states.

Merkel is in the midst of tackling multiple issues on multiple fronts: Brexit, balancing diplomatic relations with Russia and the United States, the refugee crisis, trade deals with the United States and Canada, and the German federal elections a year from now. It is now safe to add right-wing domestic terrorism to that list.








How do you like your Brexit, Hard or Soft?

September 30, 2016


Three months have passed since the citizens of Britain voted to withdraw from the European Union. Negotiations on the transition period have not commenced, but questions have been rised as to how to deal with the issues of trade and immigration. These themes have dominated the discourse prior to the vote and will continue to loom over the coming months.


Since the referendum vote, Theresa May, former British Prime Minister David Cameron’s replacement, has promised the British people to secure a settlement that will address free movement and a suitable trade deal. It is possible that the primary focus of negotiations will revolve around the possibility of free trade with Europe and EU migration controls.

Hard or Soft Brexit?

The analogy of a soft or hard yolk has been used to describe the relationship of the UK post-Brexit. On one end of the spectrum, the transition can be “hard”. This would entail the UK not compromising on the issue of freedom of movement and withdrawing from the EU single market. If this were to occur, the UK would then trade with the remaining EU members as a country outside of Europe based on current regulations set by the World Trade Organization. In the short-term, the UK and EU would more than likely implement tariffs and other trade barriers. A less extreme settlement or “soft” Brexit, would involve UK membership in the EU single market and some form of free movement.

Non-EU Country Relationships

Norway provides an example of a possible path for the UK to follow. As of now, Norway has complete access to the EU single market. However, Norway is obligated to make financial contributions and must abide by a series of EU laws. Furthermore, freedom of movement applies to Norway which allows EU citizens to live and work in the country. Norway is part of the European Economic Area (EEA) which also includes countries such as Iceland and Liechtenstein. This agreement allows these three countries almost complete access to the European single market. Nonetheless, EEA countries are still subject to certain obligations that result from EU legislation.


When negotiations commence, the British government has insisted that immigration curbs would encompass a pivotal part of the Brexit settlement. Supporters of the Leave contingent have supported the use of a “points-based” system such as the Australian model. Prime Minister May has rejected such a model on the basis that it would limit the control of the government. Others have called for a hybrid system that would combine several models. One alternative model would be similar to the visa waiver program that is currently implemented by the US. Such a model would be applicable to Britons going to the EU, and require a fee to visit the EU without the requirement of a full visa.

Future of the UK

It appears that the UK may not be able to have its cake and eat it too. The vote has been cast, and the citizens of Britain have been heard. What lies ahead will take months and possibly years to finalize a settlement. Whether the UK upholds the result of the referendum is a matter that the government will have to resolve.




Incredible Iceland

September 23, 2016

For the last three years I have seen various travel posts regarding the interesting cuisine, friendly people, and drastic landscapes of a small Island country in Europe: Iceland.  This past summer I was fortunately able to make it over to Iceland at the end of a teaching assistant position in Europe.

My plan was simple: rent a car, camp as much as possible, and road trip around the Ring Road (the main highway that circles the island) for two weeks.



The Ring Road can be seen here in red and circles the Island

For a college student like myself on a tight budget, a great way to save money in Iceland is by camping.  As long as property isn’t clearly marked and fenced off you can pitch a tent just about anywhere.


For an island the size of Ohio, Iceland offers a wide range of incredible landscapes.  From glacier lagoons, to black sand beaches and the endless waterfalls, chances are Iceland has something to offer for anyone who is looking to experience nature up close.


Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

Iceland sits directly on top of two tectonic plates, the Eurasian tectonic plate and the North American tectonic plate.  Essentially, Iceland has been formed by these tectonic plates over millions of years and has some of the most active volcanoes and hot springs in the world.  As these volcanoes explode, the landscape is transformed over and over again, offering different and ever-changing scenery to visitors.  Examples of this can be seen in the following pictures.


Svartifoss and the basalt columns were shaped from volcanic lava millions of years ago.


Volcanic black sand beaches along the western coast of Iceland.

Another great way to see Iceland is through the multiple excursion companies located around the island.  Offering a competitive price, these excursion companies will take you places you simply cannot get to on your own.  For example, I splurged on a whale watching tour in northern Iceland.  Frankly I didn’t want to get my hopes up and be disappointed if I didn’t see any whales, however to my amazement we saw an entire pod of Humpback whales, approximately sixteen of them.


Just one of the many Humpback whales seen on the tour


At the end of the whale watching tour we were able to fish for cod on our way back into town.



Making Sense of the Latest German Regional Election

September 15, 2016


© John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images


Last week the German federal state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern held their regional elections. The upstart AfD party (Alternative for Germany), were the big winners, garnering 20.8 percent of the vote and winning 18 seats in the state parliament. The traditional big three parties, the CDU (Christian Democrats), the SPD (Social Democrats), and Die Linke (The Left), all lost seats. The CDU lost 2 seats and earned 19 percent of the vote, down 4.1 percent. The SPD lost 2 seats and earned 30.6 percent of the vote, down 5.1 percent. Die Linke lost 3 seats and earned 13.2 percent, down 5.2 percent. So what does this mean for Merkel, the CDU, and Germany as a whole? Firstly, it is important to understand the AfD party.

*Statistics provided by:

Understanding the AfD:

The party was originally founded by Bernd Lücke in 2013, an economist and former CDU member, on the basis of Euroscepticism, with its central issue focusing on the failed common currency of the Euro Zone. Lücke was a staunch opponent of bailouts for struggling southern European states.

The party began to attract right-wing populist voters, and the central platform of the party turned from Euroscepticism to anti-immigration and anti-Islam, as Chancellor Angela Merkel and Germany opened its doors to hundreds of thousands of refugees in 2014-2015. This key shift prompted Bernd Lücke to step down and form a new party, Allianz für Fortschritt und Aufbruch (Alliance for Progress and Renewal). The new leader of the AfD party is former scientist, Frauke Petry. Petry is no stranger to controversy, mostly recently calling for the term “Völkisch“to be destigmatized. The term is most commonly associated with Nazi racial ideology. She has also called for the use of armed force for those attempting to entry the country illegally. The appointment of Petry signified the party’s shift to what many might call the far-right. One belief the AfD holds is that Islam is not compatible with German culture and society, which is a view held by an increasing amount of Germans. It is worth noting that there is a party even further right than the AfD, the NPD (the inheritors of the National Socialist Party). The AfD party has gained momentum in recent local elections and in all likelihood will be a player in next year’s federal elections.

Understanding Mecklenburg-Vorpommern:

Mecklenburg-Vorpommern has 1.6 million inhabitants, less than half the population of Berlin. The state is located in the former East Germany, in the far Northwest of the country. The state is mostly rural, relying economically on Baltic Sea tourism during the summer months. The state ranks last of all the German federal states when it comes to GDP per capita, and 4th to last when it comes to unemployment rate.

It is also important to note that Mecklenburg-Vorpommern is considered chancellor Angela Merkel’s turf, having served there as a member of the Bundestag (federal parliament) for the Stralsund-Nordvorpommern-Rügen district of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern since 1990. Evidently many in her home state believe she has simply not done enough to secure Germany’s borders and curb in the influx of migrants, which is ironic, considering Mecklenburg-Vorpommern is only required to take in 2.04165 percent of Germany’s asylum seekers, or roughly 30,000. This puts the ratio at roughly 1 asylum seeker for every 164 Germans in the state

*Statistics provided by:

Any discussion of anti-immigrant sentiment in the former East Germany is not complete without discussing the Litchenhagen riots which occurred in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in August of 1992. The riots occurred in state’s largest city, Rostock. For four days, xenophobic mobs rioted outside apartment blocks housing asylum-seekers in the Rostock district of Lichtenhagen. Though no one was killed, far-right extremists raided and set fire to a building housing asylum-seekers, petrol bombs and stones were thrown, and hundreds of arrests were made. The riots attracted thousands of spectators, who stood by cheering and applauding. The lack of response by local and state politicians and police was heavily criticized following the incident. Many around the country asked why more wasn’t done to protect those under assault and why the riots were allowed to rage for four days. The riots are ever present in the German social memory of the state. Also present in the German social memory of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern is the state’s most prominent soccer club, Hansa Rostock, which is known around the country for having a fan scene that is heavily associated with far-right politics. For many, the election results in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern did not come necessarily as a surprise, given the AfD’s growing popularity, the economic hardships faced by the state, Merkel and the CDU’s lack of action regarding the refugee crisis, and the state’s reputation and history as a hotbed for far-right extremism.

What does it mean for Germany?

The rise of the AfD could spell serious trouble for Merkel’s CDU party in the coming year. The election in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern showed that though the flow of migrants into the country has slowed since its peak in mid-2015, the issue is ever present on the mind of voters. The AfD could continue to tap into the CDU’s more conservative voters who believe Merkel and her ruling coalition have not done enough to curb the influx of migrants. The CSU (Christian Social Union), which is the Bavarian branch of the CDU, has been vocal about the need for Merkel to tighten up her refugee policy. The leader of the CSU and minister president of Bavaria, Horst Seehofer, has blamed Merkel’s disastrous refugee policy for the success of the AfD. Merkel is steadfast that the AfD’s success will not allow her and her party to be pulled to the right.

The next state elections will be held in Berlin (a city-state) on September 18th, where the presence of asylum-seekers on a day-to-day basis is much more visible than in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. It is unlikely that the AfD will find the same success in Berlin that they found in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, but it remains unclear. Polling numbers have the AfD receiving between 2 and 15 percent of the vote, which illustrates another difficulty in Germany, getting accurate polling numbers and information on potential AfD voters. The AfD is currently unrepresented in the Berlin state parliament so winning any type of representation would be considered a monumental victory for the party and would give them further legitimacy in the minds of voters. The next federal election is not until fall of 2017. Will the AfD maintain their momentum or will the movement lose steam and fade away? The answer could have rippling effects across the continent.

*Polling statistics provided by:


The Enchantment of Transylvania

September 9, 2016

Alberto Sostre at Rasnov Fortress


On June 3rd, 2016, I embarked on my first ever trip to Romania to commence field research for my master’s thesis through the Institute for European Studies.


For two months I volunteered and traveled throughout Transylvania in the north and visited various cities in the south of Romania. Transylvania has a unique blind of Romanian and Hungarian influences since it was formerly part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire prior to WWI. Transylvania is quite synonymous with Hungarian Prince Vlad III aka Vlad the Impaler born in Sighisoara and the tail of Dracula written by Bram Stoker. However, Transylvania has so much more to offer than a fictional tail written by an Irish author. From the diverse rich cuisine to the picturesque landscape, I came to fall in love not only with the region, but with Romania as a whole.

I was living in a predominantly Hungarian speaking area so Romanian was of no use. I often mixed up my basic Hungarian and Romanian to the amusement and chagrin of many locals. The locals were so welcoming and hospitable during my time there, and willing to share so much of their culture with me. In Romania I felt at home and was immensely sad to leave.


Through the generosity of the School of Public & Environmental Affairs and the Russian & East European Institute at Indiana University, I obtained support that would allow me to gain such a wonderful academic and life altering experience. My research revolved around a volunteer placement at a center for individuals with severe disabilities in Cristuru-Secuiesc (Romanian) or Keresztúr (Hungarian).

The volunteer placement was facilitated by Care2Travel, an organization in the city of Miercurea-Ciuc (Romanian) or Csíkszereda (Hungarian). Volunteerism in Romania is a relatively underdeveloped concept so Care2Travel was created with the intent of improving the volunteering community in Transylvania and tackling the social problems of the area. I was a volunteer in the special needs care program and was placed at a partner center in Cristuru-Secuiesc. My research focused on social and economic integration of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Romania during the pre- and post-revolution period.

Along with my work at the center, I also traveled to other areas to visit non-profits and speak with a social worker and a professor in the field of disability rights.

Follow-up Trip

Although I am now back in Bloomington, Indiana to finish my final academic year, I will be returning to Romania for the winter holiday. I cannot express how much of an impact Romania has had on my life. I do not know what the future holds, but I would love someday to become Dutch Ambassador to the country. Romania and its people will forever hold a very special place in my heart.