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The week that was: is identity a battle between light and darkness? ǀ View

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After a short hiatus, we’re back with our usual weekly View round-up where we take a look at the hot topics that have had you talking over the last few weeks. From calls for populist Viktor Orbán to be ejected from the EPP to the flow of dark money between Russia and Iran, we aim to give you a flavour of the opinions here on View that have driven debate across Europe and beyond over the last month.

When we hold a mirror up to ourselves, what do we see? Identity is paramount to our sense of self, of course, but do others perhaps see the same in us as we do? These are all questions posed in Jordan Peele’s new horror film ‘Us.’ In the film, we meet the Wilson family who meet their doubles, shadows of themselves that represent their darker sides. In short, it is about “how we cope with our own inner darkness,” writes contributor Meredith Clark.

The notion of having a hybrid identity – one where good and bad are both represented - has been applied to many contemporary political leaders, particularly in this, the age of populist strongmen. Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán often finds himself placed in this company of fellows. His party Fidesz is one of the largest in the European People’s Party (EPP) caucus in the European Parliament, making him a prominent actor on the right of European politics. While the EPP aims to defend democratic and liberal values, Orbán’s commitment to these principles have been called into question. Democratically elected, he has nonetheless been branded an autocrat with dictatorial tendencies, showing what some describe as a double identity, as Daniel Kelemen and Laurent Pech argue in their article calling for Fidesz to be ejected from the EPP.

Orbán is not necessarily the only political figure on the European stage who conceals a different side to his or herself. Does French president Emmanuel Macron - despite his polished veneer - harbour a darker side. Contributor Eoin Drea, at least, believes that he has let his mask slip in respect to his real motivations to change Europe. “It’s not a new golden age for Europe he’s proposing, but simply the latest iteration of French-led centralisation and protectionism,” he writes.

Putin’s Russia has long been considered as having a dual identity. The vision of Russia portrayed domestically is not the reality reflected on the international scene where its motivations are questioned and mistrusted. It is perhaps because of things like the flow of dark money from the country to other pariah states, for instance, Iran, which was raised in an op-ed this month by Sir Graeme Lamb. He writes: “Like Russia, Iran has proved itself again and again to be both blatantly two faced and a serial bad actor on the world stage, posing a threat to Europe’s interests domestically and abroad.”

Another threat to European security is the return of former Islamic State combatants. There has been a furore, for instance in the UK, over the citizenship of IS-affiliated fighters who wish to come back to their home country. While there is little dispute that there should be punishment for these individuals, the fate of their children is less certain. As contributor Jean-Nicolas Paquet-Rouleau argues, these children are caught in limbo in refugee camps and risk being cast out solely because of their parentage, something that should not be allowed to happen.

Honourable mentions go to several of our contributors over the past month whose pieces you should take the time to read. First, Vít Novotný discusses the ongoing dilemma of how to deal with migration in the EU, with member states failing to find effective solutions because of a reticence to commit funds. Next, we put Middle East tensions under the microscope as Karen Abuzayd looks at how Gaza has become a diplomatic and political football to the detriment of the peace and security of those living there.

Identity can often be hampered by a loss of independence. Rijad Mehmeti writes movingly about his experience of having cerebral palsy and the impact it has on his life and equality with other children. Obviously part of the issue is a lack of healthcare funding and support, something Hadley Stewart also raises in his op-ed about the goal of eliminating new cases of HIV in England and Wales by 2030, a pipe dream without adequate funding to make it a reality.

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