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Flashy BMW cars, a pristine villa in downtown Geneva, United Nations diplomatic credentials, and close to 2.2 million EUR in profit: welcome to the lucrative life of a UN cigarette smuggler.

UN flag

Source: Flickr

In August, two employees of the diplomatic mission of Iraq to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland were accused of abusing their diplomatic status to illegally funnel over 600,000 cigarettes into France over the course of 3 years in order to sell on the black market. The plan involved using a German firm to acquire heaps of duty-free cigarettes, only to have them stored in a warehouse near the Geneva airport and eventually trucked to the Rennes region of France to have them sold on the street.

The accused were able to purchase duty-free cigarette due to their diplomatic status at the Iraqi mission, according to the Swiss Federal Customs Administration, which first gave news of the incident to the Sonntags Zeitung newspaper. It was later confirmed by the Iraqi Embassy in Bern in press release.

The two staff members of the Iraqi mission were fined 155,000 EUR and 110,000 EUR for cigarette smuggling, a fraction of the 2.2 million EUR in tax savings they were able to acquire.


From 2017 on all cigarette packs in my host-country France have to be sold in the format of the so-called “neutral pack”. This implies that the pack will have the brand name in a neutral font, a colourless pack as well as even bigger warning labels and shocking pictures of tobacco-derived diseases. This government measure mostly intends to discourage young people from smoking, but it fails to do so. It actually does quite the opposite.


Source: Flickr

The lead example for the plain packaging proponents and those who generally favour tough restrictions on tobacco is Australia. The country has very high taxes on tobacco, heavily regulates smoking in public areas and in 2012 it became the first country worldwide to make plain packaging for cigarettes compulsory.

Studies prove plain packaging wrong

At the Department of Economics at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, a 2014 study analysed the (possible) effects of plain packaging on the smoking prevalence of minors in Australia, and clearly showed that for young people between the age of 14 and 17 the neutral packaging had absolutely no effects on their consumption:

“Altogether, we have applied quite liberal inference techniques, that is, our analysis, if anything, is slightly biased in favor of finding a statistically significant (negative) effect of plain packaging on smoking prevalence of Australians aged 14 to 17 years. Nevertheless, no such evidence has been discovered. More conservative statistical inference methods would only reinforce this conclusion.”


This post was submitted by Campagne Liberali.

Starting today, the “Campagne Liberali” on-line platform will be active with the aim of increasing the information and diffusion of scientific methods in the public debate. “Campagne Liberali” sustains the freedom of choice: citizens should be free to choose what to eat without having to be misinformed by campaigns that lead to unscientific opinions, most of the time spread by populist movements and lobbies, or by NGO’s spurred by entirely different interests.

The first initiative will be in favour of palm oil, one of the most discussed ingredients in the last few months. Furthermore there will be space for scientific studies and analysis on the topic. “Liberals have always supported science and the scientific method. We want to defend the right of citizens to make their choices freely, and to base themselves on rational and scientific information” said Lorenzo Castellani, promoter of “Campagne Liberali”

“The platform Campagne Liberali – continues Castellani – intends to give voice to those who asks to be free to eat what they want, included foods that contain palm oil like Nutella. We want to give voice to who opposes anti-scientific populism and are convinced that the hate and fury of those who repudiate the principles of science and objectivity can be contrasted with facts and rationality”.

More in general the platform will host daily points by representatives of the liberal, scientific, and economic world that agree on the right to freely choose products and services in the food industry on the basis of scientific feedback.

For almost 20 years now Ukraine has been struggling to enforce the provision of the Constitution which proclaims that ‘Ukraine is a welfare state’, while the notion ‘under the rule of law’ has been continuously neglected. The authorities don’t care about bribery in courts, or about unclear laws that are not effectively applied, but they pretend to be very concerned about your welfare. This became even more grotesque in 2003, when one of the judges of the Constitutional Court said that ‘welfare’ is a compulsory trait of the state and cutting government spending on social welfare in case of financial crises was unfair and discredited the latter. Fairness is what the political class always appeals to in Ukraine. The problem with defining it in the light of government spending on education arose two months ago when the Minister of Finance initiated changes to the scholarship system, according to which the number of students who receive scholarships has to be decreased.


The University Library in Kyiv. Source: Flickr

There is no such thing as a free lunch, but in Ukraine there is such a thing as a university scholarship, a monthly amount of money provided by the government to 75% of those students who got a free place at university. More than 30% of government spending on higher education is used to cover scholarships – not to improve the quality of education. At the same time approximately 15% of the Ukrainian state budget is wasted on the educational sphere as a whole, since the majority of educational establishments are publicly funded. Regardless of the fact that there are more than 500 of them, each offers a wide variety of programs, a state-funded place and a scholarship, the amount of which is generally 20 euros a month. In comparison, the amount of a minimum wage is 50 euros. Sounds like a fairytale, right?


During its transition to a market economy, Serbia has, like many ex-socialist countries, experienced high unemployment. In 2006, the Serbian government introduced a new subsidy programme aimed mainly at attracting foreign investment and bringing down the double-digit unemployment rate. Throughout the last decade members of the government praised the programme saying it put tens of thousands of people to work and that the government got the invested money back very quickly through taxes and social insurance contributions. The opposition disputed these claims and criticized the lack of control and transparency tied to the process of awarding subsidies. What is interesting is that this divide continued even though there was a shift of political partes in power in the meantime, so former opposition started praising the programme, while the party formerly in charge began to criticize it. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate remained stubbornly high reaching the peak of 23,9% in 2012.


Workers on an assembly line. Source: Flickr

In a nutshell, the programme works like this: A company starting an investment project (e. g. opening a new factory) in Serbia may receive up to €10 000 (which is about the double of the country’s per capita GDP) per new employee depending on conditions like the size and location of the project. The company is required to employ a certain minimum number of workers, which ranges from 15 in the least developed to 50 in the most developed areas, and secure at least 25% of the project financing. Subsidized firms also have to commit themselves not to lower the number of employees for three or five years, depending on the size of the firm, after reaching an agreed upon level of employment.


This year the Vilnius Regional conference, titled ‘The Baltic Way,’ took place on September 24th at the University of Applied Sciences. Organized by European Students For Liberty, in cooperation with Lithuanian Liberal Youth, this event managed to gather more than 100 students from all over the country and welcomed more than 20 well known speakers from different fields. 

VilniusRCThe Baltic countries have now been free for more than a quarter of a century. Therefore, this event was organized with the aim to commemorate the years of liberty the Baltic countries have already lived through, by showing how actively we, the youngest generation of free states, have been working to achieve open, modern and self-fulfilled societies. For this reason, we gathered not only people, but also ideas to show our commitment to not just accept the status quo of liberty, but to fight for more and more pro-liberty ideas in practice.

Students For Liberty is an international millennial grassroots organization based in over 100 countries with 140,000 students in our network and is present at over 1,700 universities worldwide. Nevertheless, the spread of the ideas of liberty can’t ever be finished. This year we will host more than 24 conferences across the continent and one of them was organized in Vilnius, as a symbol of the libertarian ideas’ spotlight in the Baltic region.


“Without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom; and no such thing as public liberty, without freedom of speech: Which is the right of every man, as far as by it he does not hurt and control the right of another; and this is the only check which it ought to suffer, the only bounds which it ought to know.” – Cato Letter’s, NO. 15 “Of Freedom of Speech”

Cato the Younger:Cato the Younger

The figure of Cato the Younger is known for his strong opposition to the law of Caesar and, more recently, by the appearance of the Cato Institute in 1977, which owes its name to essays written in the eighteenth century under the pseudonym of Cato.

Cato the Younger (95 B.C. – 46 B.C) was a senator from the Roman Republic. He was a strong advocate of republican principles, fervently facing other political and military Romans such as Pompey (initially his opponent) and Julius Caesar. He expounded his ideas of limited and representative government, separation of powers and exemplariness of public officers at a time when populism, abuse of power, contempt for institutions and corruption spread like cancer and staggered the foundations of a five-century state.

In the turbulent period of the First Triumvirate (60 B.C. – 53 B.C), Julius Caesar was shown to be a figure contrary to Cato. Caesar wanted absolute power, and his weapons to achieve it were political demagoguery and corruption. Cato foiled the plans of Caesar to gain power by these means, and made him face the threat of standing trial for multiple crimes and irregularities, which left Caesar no choice but to use force, thus starting a civil war.

Once the war was started, Cato stood by the Senate and constitutional government. Thereby he faced Caesar in Italy, Greece and Africa. Despite the fierce struggle on behalf of a noble cause, there was no guarantee of victory, and the enemy, a general with superior skills in the art of war and carnage, ended up winning.


In an attempt to better share our current activities with our network, SFL is beginning an SFL Around the World blog post series.  At the beginning of each month, each region will post an update to their regional blog page to share their current activities.  Please stay tuned for more updates next month!

Regional Conference in Yerevan14435136_1583021635057047_3409898675591691727_o

On September 17 we kicked off this Regional Conference season in Yerevan, Armenia, where 30 students gathered to learn more on how the ideas of liberty can make Armenia a better place. The conference in Yerevan was not only the first conference of the season, but also our first conference ever to be held in Armenia! Several great speakers discussed, among other things, the influence of private initiative on social change, the possibilities for fair trade in a free trade environment, and Classical Liberalism in modern day Armenia. The Yerevan conference was a great start of the season, with 18 more conferences to come! For more information on our upcoming conferences, visit esflconferences.org.

Liberty Evening in Prague14542587_978913938884144_4189227516316523974_o

Also on September 17, a Liberty Evening took place in Prague. At this informal event, participants could enjoy a beer during a short lecture, a discussion, and do some networking afterwards. Over 60 participants turned out to hear more about the topic of this evening: the zero interest-rate policy.


Regional Conference in Vilnius

One week later, on September 24, the city of Vilnius, Lithuania, was the stage of the second conference of this season, which ESFL organised in cooperation with Lithuanian Liberal Youth. Over 130 participants enjoyed talks about entrepreneurship in Lithua14482016_1593352814023929_3974130265740027054_onia, the sharing economy, and liberalism in the Baltics, and could share their experiences live on social media under the hashtag #TheBalticWay. The conference hosted more than twenty speakers, amongst whom Ramūnas Vilpišauskas (Director of the Institute of International Relations and Political Science at Vilnius University) and Lukas Savickas (Head of Policy and Public Affairs at Investors’ Forum).

Leadership Forum in Prague

On September 214435127_971960709579467_6390529450754396944_o8 the first Czech Leadership Forum of this academic year was held in Prague, where 20 of our local student leaders joined forces to prepare for the new semester. The Local Coordinators attended a day full of lectures on a variety of topics, such as social media marketing, negotiation and fundraising, and how to best communicate the ideas of liberty.



Maastricht Lecture on Private Healthcare 

In cooperation with SCOPE Academy, Maastricht Students For Liberty organised a lecture on private healthcare, titled “Private Healthcare: How I stopped worrying and love the competition!” Health economist Frederik Cyrus Roeder came all the way from Berlin to speak at this great event at the University of Maastricht. He challenged the common assumption that private healthcare is only for the rich, and discussed the possibilities for liberalization and market forces to bring down the burden of disease and make healthcare more accessible and affordable.

Hackers Congress Paralelní Polis, Prague 30/9-2/10/2016

Paralelni Polis organizes its 3rd annual Hackers Congress in Prague, a 3-day conference where open minded people from economics, IT and art meet to discuss future of our freedoms in the context of the most recent technological evolution. This year topic is decentralized economy and decentralization in general presented by more than 40 great speakers from all around the world. Already interested? Read below how to get 20% discount on your three-day pass


Paralelni Polis is a famous non-profit organization in Prague. It runs several independent projects with freedom as the overarching theme and Hackers Congress is the yearly highlight of its activities. It is a premier event for freedom activists, tech-lovers, and crypto-enthusiasts celebrating the age of digital freedom and decentralization. This year’s HCPP16 is going to bring together 400 attendees and over 40 speakers. We would love to highlight some speakers, who we consider to be the most interesting ones for you, as European Students for Liberty.

The keynote speaker of the conference will be Andreas Antonopoulos, world renowned Bitcoin guru and author of books The Internet of Money and Mastering Bitcoin. He will be accompanied by Pamela Morgan who will speak about practical implementation of decentralized law without the state. Heart of every true free-marketeer will be pleased by talk of Sam Patterson who will give a talk about OpenBazaar, the first decentralized global marketplace running on Bitcoin. The HCPP16 is also going to feature Jamie Bartlett, author of the book The Dark Net, who was also supposed to speak at European Students for Liberty Conference 16. Really interesting is going to be the so-called Intel Exit, done by activist artists Peng! Collective. They are going to call officers working in intelligence agencies and persuade them into leaving the secret service. We are also delighted that you will have the opportunity to have Juraj Karpiš, author of the book Bad Money which was also dubbed as the “Slovak bible of Austrian Economics” who is going to speak about Bad Money as the lifeblood of a big state. Then we have in store one of the most vocal advocates of personal liberty, founder, and president of the Free Republic of Liberland Vít Jedlička. ESFL is also going to have its own speaker, Kevin Flanagan Coombes who is going to talk about Ancient Irish Anarchy.

Beside the rich speech schedule, there will be movie screenings, virtual reality games, drone presentations, 3D printed fashion show and workshops. And of course several great afterparties.

Since you are a friend of liberty and decentralization, you have the great opportunity to get a 20% discount (300CZK/11€) by doing one simple thing! Just publicly share this article or www.hcpp.cz website on your social site with hashtags #FreedomIsDecentralized #HCPP16 with a personal comment. Send the link to the organizers at [email protected] In a short time, you will get a promocode for a cheaper ticket. Promotion lasts till 29/9 23:00 CEST.

More information at hcpp.cz

Tickets available at for 1490 Kč/55€

Facebook event here

Author Pavol Fukatsch, Martin Šíp

In the winter semester of 2015/2016 I’ve taken part in an academic research at the University of Passau to compare via a qualitative analysis the Wikipedia articles on various conflicts, like the Palestine-Isreali conflict, the Ukraine conflict of 2014 or the Refugee crisis in Germany, in different languages. The aim of the group research was to find out whether Wikipedia is a reliable source of information in the field of current international or non-international conflicts.


Source: Flickr

Wikipedia as you know is a free, open content online encyclopedia created through the collaborative effort of a community of users known as Wikipedians. Anyone registered on the site can create an article for publication; registration is not required to edit articles. The site’s name comes from wiki, a server program that enables anyone to edit website content through their Web browser. “Wiki” is a Hawaiian word meaning “quick”.

The results of the research were stunning since we discovered that there is a clear connection between an article in a certain language and its governments position on a certain conflict. I researched the Wikipedia-entries on the Russo-Georgian war of 2008. The article in Russian used 86% Russian media as their source and another 3% of sources from Russian influenced territory. The English article used approximately 89% Anglo-Saxon sources. Even the article from a tiny country like Lithuania in the Lithuanian language used 25% of it’s own national media as their source of information. This shows that there is a lot of trust in the national media, which mostly reflect a governmental position towards a certain conflict. When I looked at the other 11% of the English Wikipedia article’s sources, they were mostly from countries that have a strong alliance with the US Government. The Lithuanian Wikipedia article on the other hand used 15% Georgian sources and 8% Russian media sources – so clearly the Lithuanian audience considered the Georgian information as “more reliable”.