Monday 26 January 2015

Currently browsing 'Enlargement'

Where is Europe set to go after the 2004 and 2007 enlargement waves? Are the Western Balkans next to join? Can the other ex-Yugoslav republics be kept out once Croatia has become an EU member state? And most controversially: What future for Turkey and Europe?

 

Avoid chaos, bet on the young democracies

Posted by on 26/01/15
By Coen van de Ven Tunisia is praised as ‘country of the year’ by The Economist. Libya has fallen into dissension. Egypt is back at the point it was before the revolution. The EU seems more eager to help democracies rather than chaotic states.

NATO membership goes against the interests of Montenegrin citizens

Posted by on 18/01/15

“Montenegro should be a force for peace and solidarity in the world, and not a small cog in the machine of the new Crusades”.

In an interview with the Montenegrin National News Agency (MINA), published 10 January 2015, the Chairman of the Movement for Neutrality of Montenegro (MNMNE), Professor Filip Kovacevic, stated that, in the first part of 2014, many government officials and their “Atlanticist mentors and highly-paid lobbyists” claimed that Montenegro would get an invitation to join NATO at the organization’s summit in Wales last September.

“At the same time, I publicly stated that this would not happen. Now it is easy to see who was right. Getting the invitation depends on the overall geopolitical dynamic in Europe,” said Kovacevic, asserting that we would see more and more skepticism toward the policies of Washington, especially given the open confrontation with Russia, which came about as a result of US imposition of its Atlanticist, neoliberal priorities on the European Union, which caused a great deal of economic damage.

According to Kovacevic, this means that NATO’s influence, whose only reason for existing is “the military occupation and intelligence surveillance of Europe by the Anglo-American, imperial centers of power”, will gradually weaken.

“In line with this trend, NATO will not have enough strength to expand further and it will find it more and more difficult to keep even the present member states together,” said Kovacevic.

He pointed out the example of Turkey which does not follow the aggressive NATO politics of sanctions against Russia, but instead has negotiated long-term economic projects worth billions of dollars.

Kovacevic expected the same tendency to manifest within other NATO member states as well, especially those whose historical tradition encompasses very close relations with Russia.

“Those who conceptualize and implement Anglo-American foreign policy, it seems, bit off more than they could chew, and now what will happen is that they will be unpleasantly awakened from their dream of global domination by the coordinated activities of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa),” warned Kovacevic.

According to him, if Montenegro enters NATO, it will be due to no fault of its citizens, but due entirely to “the corrupt dealings of the regime of the prime minister, Milo Djukanovic” that the country finds itself on “the losing side of history”.

This, asserted Kovacevic, would have dangerous repercussions for the citizens of Montenegro, and is also absolutely unacceptable from the perspective of the Montenegrin anti-hegemonic, libertarian historical tradition.

He claimed that during the six and a half decades of its existence, NATO intelligence services have done numerous things, of which there is much evidence, to subvert democracy and human rights in the member states under the directives of Washington and London.

“It is enough to mention only the criminal, anti-democratic ‘Operation Gladio’ in Italy, and there were similar operations in other European countries as well. That is why NATO’s tutoring Montenegro on its ‘lack of the rule of law’ should be taken as a insult to the historical truth, and to the hundreds of innocent victims of such operations,” noted Kovacevic.

Commenting on NATO demands for the reform of Montenegrin Agency for National Security (ANB), Kovacevic stated that those demands articulated NATO’s wish to fill the Agency with its own puppets and spies.

“This does not mean that citizens will be under less invasive and humiliating surveillance because the priority of NATO has never been to curtail the abuses of its member states’ secret services. At the same time, this could lead to dangerous consequences because these NATO-controlled individuals could, against the national interest of the Montenegrin citizens, involve Montenegro in conflicts with NATO’s enemies, which are becoming more and more numerous,” added Kovacevic.

He said that under NATO’s urgent pressure and insistence, the government of Montenegro founded another intelligence agency: the Military Intelligence Agency. “There is very little that is written about this secretive Agency, whose activities are just as much a threat to the democratization of Montenegro as the activities of the ANB.”

Kovacevic stated that it was not surprising that public support for NATO membership was low, and he interpreted it as indicative of the ‘geopolitical sophistication’ of ordinary citizens in Montenegro.

“Montenegrin citizens do not want to participate in imperialistic attacks on nations whose only fault is that they do not want to have their natural and economic resources under the control of Anglo-American financial centers. Montenegro should be a force for peace and solidarity in the world, and not a small cog in the machine of the new Crusades,” he said.

Asked whether the Movement for Neutrality (MNMNE) plans any activities which advocate holding a referendum on Montenegro’s NATO membership, Kovacevic stated that everything the organization did was geared toward making the referendum inevitable.

“Regardless of the opinion of corrupt members of the Montenegrin Parliament and their NATO lobbyists, membership of any international organization, let alone an organization such as NATO, limits the country’s sovereignty. This is why the only politically legitimate route is to directly ask citizens their opinion. Any other way is equivalent to a coup d’etat,” he warned.

Answering the question as to what MNMNE’s activities would be in case of an invitation to NATO membership, Kovacevic said that MNMNE is a new geopolitical force in Montenegro which will only get stronger in the coming period and acquire even more allies in the world.

“The members of our International Advisory Board are world-famous intellectuals, noted for their fight for global justice. We also received strong support from former US Congressman Dennis Kucinich and other influential international figures,” he noted.

According to Kovacevic, the progressive international community recognizes the dedication of MNMNE to just relations between peoples and nations, as well as “our desire to turn Montenegro into a favorite destination for all people of good will.”

“We will work on a new conception of Montenegrin foreign policy, which will enable it to host the headquarters of certain international organizations, for instance the BRICS bank. This will lead to the significant investment in local infrastructure and a lot of new job openings,” he pointed out.

Kovacevic reiterated that the examples of other militarily neutral countries in Europe and beyond show that it is not true that neutrality would cost more than NATO membership.

“NATO member states will have to spend at least 2 percept of GDP on defense, whereas all neutral states spend considerably less. Claims about the costs of neutrality offered by the Government are not to be believed because corrupt officials do not want to consider in a rational and calm manner any alternatives to NATO membership.”

Kovacevic stated that it has been a while since he had publicly called for the Minister of Defense, Milica Pejanovic-Djurisic, to resign due to the continued participation of Montenegro in the “expensive and useless” NATO mission in Afghanistan, which did not fulfil any of its stated goals.

“To throw away millions of euros in the deserts of Afghanistan while more and more citizens of Montenegro lose their jobs and fall below the poverty line is the height of alienation and arrogance. In this, as in many other areas of activity, the Ministry of Defense is a textbook example of irresponsibility to citizens, superciliousness towards its employees, and servility towards the imperial centers of power,” he underlined.

Kovacevic said that this was the reason why he approached the Ministry’s statements with a great deal of skepticism. “And anyway, their projections last only until they get another phone call from NATO headquarters in Brussels.”

Asked if he was satisfied with the way political parties that are against NATO membership present their views to the public, and whether MNMNE would intensify cooperation with them, he replied that MNMNE cooperates with everyone who believes that Montenegro has a mission to fulfil in the world, a mission which consists of building bridges of trust among different nations, cultures, and civilizations.

“With all, including political parties and non-governmental organizations, MNMNE cherishes the culture of dialogue, and we believe that we will continue to play a constitutive role in a new and different Montenegrin foreign policy,” concluded Kovacevic.

Translated by Filip Kovacevic
//

Adriatic Ionian Programme 2014-2020 – A new transnational ETC programme

Posted by on 15/01/15

On 6th October 2011 the European Commission adopted a draft legislative package for the Cohesion Policy for the funding period 2014 - 2020. According to the draft regulations, European Territorial Cooperation will be continued and even reinforced as separate cohesion goal. The existing strands of cross-border, transnational and interregional cooperation will be maintained.

The European Commission presented its views on the future transnational programme areas on 18 December 2012 to be adopted by means of implementing act. The new regulatory framework (EC Draft Common Provision Regulation, Annex 1, Article 7(2) and Draft ETC Regulation, Article 3(3) provides that relevant transnational cooperation programmes shall assist the implementation of macro-regional strategies to ensure a consistent approach between them.

According to the proposal, the European Commission has proposed that the present area of the South East Europe Programme Transnational Cooperation Programme be covered in the next programming period 2014-2020 by two transnational programmesDanube and South East Gateway. These two new programmes will support the development and implementation of two Macro Regional Strategies: Danube and Adriatic-Ionian Regions. The European Commission proposal on 2nd August 2013 revised the geographic scope as well as the name of one of those programmes, South East Gateway, to Adriatic Ionian Programme in order to ensure coherence with the respective forthcoming EU macro-regional strategy. A third transnational programme in the area was proposed by the EC in December 2013: Balkan-Mediterranean.

For more information please go to the following link: http://www.southeast-europe.net/en/about_see/adriaticionianprogramme/

 

Die EU in der Türkei

Posted by on 16/12/14

50 Jahre lang, so wettert Erdoğan, habe die EU die Türkei vor der Tür stehen lassen. Aus Brüssel, so seine klare Aussage, lasse man sich  jedenfalls nicht mehr belehren. Was Presse- und Meinungsfreiheit für die Türkei bedeuten, das wird in der Türkei definiert. Und der islamisch-konservative Präsident gibt dabei unmissverständlich den Ton an. Sein Vorgehen gegen regierungskritische Journalisten gleicht einem Rachefeldzug… Vor einem Jahr waren massive Korruptionsvorwürfe gegen Erdoğan, seine Familie, einige Minister und Parteifunktionäre erhoben worden. Tausende ermittelnde Polizisten und Staatsanwälte sind daraufhin versetzt oder entlassen worden. Von den Korruptionsvorwürfen ist nichts übrig geblieben – Aufklärung im Stile Erdoğans.

Am Dienstag beginnt der Prozess gegen 35 Fußballfans, denen die Staatsanwaltschaft einen Umsturzversuch vorwirft. Sie hatten sich an den sogenannten Gezi-Protesten im Frühsommer 2013 beteiligt. Widerstand gegen das System Erdoğan, so die klare Botschaft, wird immer zweckloser. Mit der wachsenden Machtfülle entfernt sich der türkische Präsident immer weiter von den Kopenhagener Kriterien für die Aufnahme in die EU. Aber das, so hat er deutlich gemacht, spielt für ihn eine immer geringere Rolle. Erdoğan gibt den starken Mann am Bosporus. 52 Prozent haben ihm im August die Stimme gegeben. Das, davon ist er überzeugt, gibt ihm das Recht, Demokratie und Rechtsstaatlichkeit nach eigenem Empfinden zu definieren.

Wer kann ihn aufhalten? Die Medien als vierte Gewalt hat er weitgehend unter Kontrolle. Kluge demokratische Politiker ärgern sich zuweilen über die Medien und ihre Berichterstattung. Aber sie wissen, dass es innerhalb demokratischer Gesellschaften Korrektive geben muss. Konstruktive Kritik ist für eine demokratische Ordnung überlebenswichtig. Diktaturen neigen dazu, Kritik als feindlichen Akt, als Verrat oder persönlichen Angriff zu werten. Daraus kann sich eine Neurose der Macht entwickeln. Genau darunter leiden Autokraten und Diktaturen im Nahen Osten seit Jahrzehnten. Je weiter die Türkei von Europa abrückt, desto näher kommt das Land dem Nahen Osten. Präsident Erdoğan spielt dabei eine zentrale Rolle.

Turkey’s EU Accession Negotiations should now be suspended

Posted by on 15/12/14
By Andrew Duff This Turkey will not join this European Union. Why? In short: Turkey is becoming less and less European.

Did Hahn hint a change in EU’s policy towards Bosnia?

Posted by on 30/09/14

It almost went unnoticed in today”s hearing of Johannes Hahn, Commissioner-designate for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, in front of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs commitee. But a little sentence will surely make for further discussion.

In the fade out of one of his many statements on the challenges in Bosnia, Mr Hahn said, that the country must move “from the Dayton logic to a Brussels logic”. MEPs in the commitee did not follow up on the line and Mr Hahn did not provide any explanation. Also, being explicitly asked about it in the press conference following the hearing, Mr Hahn did not further illustrate what he meant exactly by this statement.

The fact, though, that his press team (supposedly) retweeted the following tweet during the hearing, adds to the suspicion that the new Commission might actually rethink the EU’s policy towards Bosnia.

But moving away from the “Dayton logic” would mean no less than fundamental constitutional changes.  Today’s system builds on the agreement signed in Dayton, Ohio in 1995 to secure peace in Bosnia after three years of bloodshed and a brutal and genocidal war. According to the agreement, the multi-ethnic country was seperated into two political entities: one republic – Republika Srpska, dominated by Bosnian Serbs – and one federation – of muslim Bosniaks and Croats.

On the one hand, the Dayton Agreement secured peace in Bosnia in 1995. On the other hand, it has kept the country in political stalemate ever since. Today, in the eyes of most observers, Dayton is the biggest obstacle of a positive political and economical development of Bosnia, which faces unemployment over 40 per cent and whose economy has basically not grown since 2008.

Since Bosnia to this day is supervised by the international community, a change in EU policy could in fact be the overdue game changer for the country. A change that at this point in time is more needed than ever before.

2014 saw a number of big events that even worsened the dire situation in Bosnia. Failed wage bargains in the industrial town of Tuzla in February led to violent protests all over the country. Buildings had been set on fire, people had been injured. Following the protest, people started to organize themselves in plenums in order to get in control of their own destiny and no longer depent on inactive and corrupt politicians for their prospering. But the people’s plenum only lasted for a few weeks, until large parts of the country have been severely hit by the biggest floods in a century.

Whether the Juncker Commission is really up for the change has yet to be seen. On October 12th, people in all parts of Bosnia will head to the polls to elect a new leadership for their country, including the three presidents, the House of Representative and the leaders of the entities.

Perhaps key foreign policy figures in the new Commission wait for the outcome of the elections, to go ahead with these plans, announce them and eventually start putting them in place once they will enter office on November 1st. Or, perhaps Mr Hahn’s little side remark, is nothing to be further concerned with - which, of course, would not change anything - fewest of all the troubling situation for the people in Bosnia.

If there is one cause for optimism that came from 2014, it’s the fact that the unrests and the needs caused by the floods did not trigger any ethnical conflicts. That might be yet another signal that the country, almost 20 years after the end of the war, is ready to move on. The EU, for its part, should not hesitate to assist in this endeavour.

Full disclosure: My attendance at the ongoing #EPhearings2014 has been made possible upon invitiation by Michel Reimon, Austrian MEP and member of Greens/ALE, and funding by the European Parliament.

Turkey is EU’s stronghold against the ISIS

Posted by on 28/09/14

The Islamic Caliphate (i.e. and not “State” as many refer to it, as it is neither sovereign nor recognized) has been regarded as one of the biggest threats for the Western world and for the always-fragile stability in Middle East. With incomparable organization, power, execution pace, and strong influence, and with funding from unknown sources, the Islamic Caliphate seems drawn from history books referred to the crusades of tens of thousands of Christian knights crossing Europe to fight against and conquer Jerusalem from Saladin and his Muslim fighters.

The brutality and harshness of Caliphate’s fighters is strange to the Westerners, who forget NATO’s atrocities in numerous cases in the recent past, as for instance during the invasion in Iraq in 2003. Both European and US citizens are not familiar with the decapitation of their own journalists, nor with the massive massacres of Iraqis, Syrians, Kurds, men, women and children. In our “delicate” or “human” perception of war and battle, we are more familiar with the image of NATO’s aircrafts, highly-equipped soldiers and officers that march in  Middle East, in perfect shape and condition, being escorted by the mighty Apache helicopters. Our perception of warfare ends there – and then the cameras shut down and information gets restricted. In the contrary, the jihadists are sending decapitation videos, videos of massacres, and threatening messages against the Christians, insisting that their doom’s day has finally arrived.

In this respect, and regardless of the military invasion of the US and possibly of other allies, the role of Turkey is of paramount importance as a stronghold against the march of the Islamic Caliphate towards the European Union.  Turkey possess both the military capacity to strike back the jihadists, as well as the power to balance or ignite conflicting interests within their leadership.

Without confirming nor denying any contact with Islamic Caliphate’s leaders, President Erdogan can determine developments in the region and assume an effective mediating role on behalf of the wider front against the Caliphate. He can also incite these developments that could impede or control the entry and activation of jihadists in the EU both via Turkey or through the Eastern Balkans. His renouncing to embark in the US invasion, despite the pressure exerted by President Obama – a situation that resembles a lot with that of 2003 when President George W. Bush was insisting that US troops need to pass through Turkish soil to invade Iraq, but Erdogan was turning him down –  proves that he possibly has a certain plan on how to confront with the Caliphate, without forcing Turkey to get involved militarily alongside the US. From that prism, and as long as the goals of perseverance of the Islamic Caliphate are unknown, Erdogan prefers to stand by, shaping an image of confidence and determination in the media that his decision is driven by long-term incentives in the light of safeguarding Turkey’s security.

Should his decision proves accurate, both in terms of restraining the Islamic Caliphate, as well as in terms of weakening its influence ,with or without military involvement, it is certain that he would have achieved something big in a another field of negotiation: given his decision to (re)itinerate Turkey towards the EU and thaw membership negotiations, the balance of power between Brussels, Berlin, Paris and London from one side, and Ankara form the other side, would definitely lean in favor of the latter.

The Formation of the Juncker Commission and its impact on the Western Balkans

Posted by on 19/09/14

It has been a very politically engaging end of summer this year, with a brand new institutional reshuffling in Brussels. Following the May parliamentary elections, the EU appointed its new leadership for the next 5 years. After the latest events of this summer – the spread of violence, insecurity and political turmoil in Ukraine, Gaza and Iraq/Syria – all eyes are now again on the EU and its capacity to face these geopolitical challenges. One of the biggest changes brought by the newly announced Juncker Commission is the way it has restructured the foreign policy component. Before the official announcement, when a leaked document containing a provisionary version of the Commission was circulating in the press, many were speaking about the possibility of the enlargement portfolio to be dropped completely. In reality it was not, but the message is still not very encouraging for the Western Balkans.

On 15 July 2014 Jean-Claude Juncker was elected to become the next President of the European Commission by a strong majority of 422 votes in the European Parliament. On that occasion, Juncker noted his straight-forward goal: “The EU needs to take a break from enlargement”. He argued further that “during my Presidency of the Commission, ongoing negotiations will continue, and notably the Western Balkans will need to keep a European perspective”.  Such a stance is both strong and ambiguous. This approach leaves open the question of whether new negotiations will be started and whether the EU will undertake an effort to resolve the issues precluding countries from moving towards accession talks. After that statement, some feared that he might even completely drop the Enlargement portfolio in the Commission, which sparked a debate about what the perspectives of the Western Balkans would be in this context. This prophecy was not fulfilled, or at least not entirely. On 10 September we found out that Enlargement will not be given a stand-alone portfolio in the new European Commission. Johannes Hahn from Austria (EPP) will be in charge of the restructured portfolio called ‘European neighbourhood policy and enlargement negotiations’. So we can cool off; enlargement has not disappeared. But the second part of the title sends a handful of political messages.  For many this may be seen as a downgrading, or even as a sign that Europe considers its expansion plans and the Western Balkan region itself (where, after all, most of the candidate and potential candidates are) to be of lesser importance.

I personally believe that we should avoid the extreme opinion stating that from now on the enlargement process is completely frozen. It’s true, there is no more single portfolio focused on enlargement per se, but enlargement negotiations have remained in focus. This clearly shows that the process must go on. But the question is how. The enlargement process will in all likelihood continue, the Commission will still monitor the progress annually and the main road maps for each country will remain in place. What will definitely change, however, is the impetus given to the process, which will directly affect the cost-benefit calculations of already weakened EU-oriented Balkan reformists.  I believe that there is no need for alarmist tones, which might suggest that the enlargement process not being at the top of the EU’s foreign policy agenda will lead to an outburst of tensions and possibly a new eruption of violence and war. These fears are unrealistic and miscalculate both the EU’s and the Western Balkans’ reactions.

The possible implications of neglecting the Western Balkans

In the midst of this debate, we should be reminded that the enlargement process is conducted not just by politics, but also by EU conditionality and the adoption of EU norms; it’s fundamentally a very complex web of multi-level governance structures representing both EU and candidate and potential candidate countries. Both sides are responsible for the results and for delaying integration. I don’t agree with people who blame the EU for its enlargement fatigue and disengagement from the Balkans, but neither do I agree with the ‘Balkan sceptics’ who put the entire blame on the corrupt political class and persistent ethno-nationalist bargaining that did not consider EU accession as a priority. I would plead for a more realistic picture that highlights both the EU Member-states ‘enlargement fatigue’ and the Balkans’ ‘accession fatigue’.  And such a Gordian knot needed a change. The Stability and Association Agreements took years to be implemented and in most of the cases they were delayed and politicized by both potential and candidate countries. But some Member states contributed to this process as well by vetoing the continuation of the process (the example of Macedonia and the name issue with Greece stands as the most striking example). We must also admit that an internally divided EU has proven to be powerless to make real changes to Balkan political dynamics of polarization, zero-sum games, and toxic nationalism.

As Austria’s Johannes Hahn got the redefined neighbourhood portfolio, this field has assumed geostrategic importance in the light of the Ukraine crisis and it has evidently superseded the enlargement package. This leaves out any prospect of high-speed accession that has animated reforms in most of the former Yugoslav republics in the last 10 years. There are some serious reasons for this: first, there is Juncker’s own anti-enlargement conviction, which points to economic reasons for ‘deepening’ the 28-EU, rather than expanding it; second, there has been the harsh rhetoric of political forces within EU member states that have associated enlargement with the negative trends of greater migration and insecurity of labour markets, which struck a populist chord as we have seen during the latest European elections; third, there was also the stagnation of the integration process and the lack of progress in several countries where the reforms seemed to deteriorate.

When taking these arguments into consideration, the Juncker formula for leaving enlargement behind is not a surprise. But one should not overlook the possible negative effects. These are the main points that one should keep in mind when considering neglecting the Balkans:

(1) The EU has a symbolic meaning for the Balkans. It should not give up on its Europeanization vocation in the Western Balkans as it may lose a large amount of effort and money it has already invested. Even in the midst of its own internal crisis and the worsening global crises from Ukraine to Iraq, Europe cannot afford to neglect the one region in which the EU has assumed full leadership as a foreign and security policy actor. We should not forget that the conflicts that devastated the Balkans during the 90’s provided the catalyst for the idea of an EU with security responsibilities (as comprised in the European Security Strategy in 2003 and which contributed to the new Common Security and Defense Policy). This should not just be a symbolic and demagogic ambition merely for marketing purposes, but rather an assumed long-term project for crisis management based on EU soft power. Even though EU’s transformative power in the region has been limited, the massive EU presence in the Balkans has a geopolitical stabilizing purpose and that should not be forgotten.  We should be aware of the fact that negative developments in the Balkans could reverse all the valuable gains in the region, increase instability in other countries on the EU’s immediate borders, and further weaken Europe’s credibility and cohesion.

(2) An important lesson that we can draw from the past is not to discuss Balkan problems only when they become absolutely impossible to ignore. The profound problems that keep fragmenting societies in the Western Balkans are not going to solve themselves overnight. Keeping them out the spotlight might be very dangerous, as unresolved issues may come to the surface in the upcoming period. And as Russia continues to use its levers in the region, the crisis in Ukraine could have spill-over effects that could damage European interests where it hurts most.

(3) The situation in both Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYRoM) is deteriorating, with both countries facing challenges from dysfunctional power-sharing frameworks that elites use to block the path towards the EU. We already had some signals in February, when violent protests broke out in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and this summer in FYRoM, too. In Serbia and Kosovo, the progress made in recent years is at risk of being reversed. Last year’s EU-brokered First Agreement of Principles Governing the Normalization of Relations between Serbia and Kosovo was at the time hailed as the biggest success of EU’s foreign policy, after the creation of the EEAS. At the moment its implementation is largely frozen, with both Prishtina and Belgrade blaming each other of a lack of responsibility and engagement. As the EU is distracted by its own transition, new elections are slated for Kosovo, which is in the midst of its biggest political crisis since independence, and Serbia strengthens its relation with Russia.

To conclude, I would like to argue that the EU needs to achieve policy success in a European region that is striving for EU membership. As such, it cannot afford a failure in the Balkans, especially after its delayed and unsuccessful intervention during the dissolution of Yugoslavia. Looking at the massive drawbacks in the last years, it seems that the Balkans will unfortunately require more rather than less European diplomacy and international statecraft. This engagement will need to be taken seriously in order to tackle challenges such as real democratization and reconciliation. In this context, whether Juncker’s solution of redesigning portfolios was the best solution remains to be seen. But the impact of this decision on the Balkan region is not to be underestimated.

About the Author: Miruna Troncota is a postdoc researcher at the National University for Political Science and Public Administration in Bucharest with a focus on Postconflict Europeanization in the Western Balkans. She has recently completed her PhD in International Relations at the National School for Political Science and Public Administration in Bucharest. She held research fellowships at Berlin Graduate School for Transnational Studies, at the University of Ljubljana and was an intern at the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She is involved in promoting European integration through cultural diplomacy in the Western Balkans. Miruna joined FutureLab Europe in 2013.

 

Macedonia rams into yet another ‘historic’ controversy with Bulgaria

Posted by on 15/09/14

“On the occasion of the 1150th anniversary of the mission of Saints Cyril and Methodius to Great Moravia, the Czech Television and Barrandov Studios Prague, along with co-producers from Slovakia and Slovenia, have shot a film entitled “Cyril and Methodius – The Apostles of the Slavs“. This historical saga, under the directorship of Petr Nikolaev, is advertised as the first Czech movie in the “docudrama” style (similar to analogous historical productions of BBC).

The film publicity, however, has angered the spirits on the Balkan Peninsula, who have been focused on the following claims:

“This Czech-Slovak project is conceived as Pan-European and takes into account also the historical facts and events that have relevance for other nations, including the Poles, Russians, Macedonians, Serbs, Greeks, etc. The project was also presented to “His All Holiness” Bartholomew (Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome, and Ecumenical Patriarch, the presiding Archbishop of the World Orthodox Church) and received a positive response.”

Firstly, a number of reactions have come from Bulgaria. As is known, the First Bulgarian Empire saved the work of the two holy brothers Cyril and Methodius by hospitably accepting a group of their disciples and appointing them as prelates, bishops and teaching priests in the medieval Literary Schools of Preslav and Ohrid to pioneer the translation of religious books to Slavic (Old Bulgarian) language, thereby spreading throughout Europe both the Glagolian Slavic script and the in situ created Cyrillic Slavic alphabet (which is today used by many nations around the globe). Hence, the Bulgarian public opinion and media have been revolted by the omission of Bulgarians among the nations which the film addresses.

Simultaneously, the Greek observers and media have been extremely irritated by the explicit mention of “Macedonians” as a nation whose ethnicity is currently questioned by both Greece and Bulgaria, due to numerous historical reasons. Greek media have also been astonished that a film with such claims has allegedly been endorsed by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, given his firm previous position not to recognise either a Macedonian state name, nation and language (as per the steady policy of Greece), or a Macedonian Orthodox Church (as a result of its uncanonical schism with the Serbian Orthodox Church).

In turn, the media in the Republic of Macedonia have indeed been excited by the alleged “recognition” of a Macedonian nation by the Czech movie makers and the Ecumenical Patriarch. Thus, the Macedonian media did not miss the opportunity to bombard their EU neighbours with a new massive cannonade of hatred speech by using plenty of rather colourful epithets and expressions (often of racist nature) which make every untrained ear to blush from shame.

As a result of all this media noise, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has issued an official statement on behalf of His All Holiness Bartholomew to declare the following:

“In connection with mass media publications in Greece, FYROM, Bulgaria and elsewhere regarding the production of a Czech film about the life of the holy Thessaloniki Apostles Cyril and Methodius, which concern a presumed position allegedly expressed by His Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, we state hereby that the Patriarch has nothing to do with the case of this film, whence we categorically deny everything published on that occasion.”

In the light of this unambiguous declaration, the most logical question is what might be the motivation which urged the cinema makers to advertise their film by misusing the Ecumenical Patriarch’s name in such a deceptive way? Is it only due to the understandable wish for adding prestige and intriguing moviegoers in order to increase public interest and resulting sales?
Observers, who are familiar with the political life in the Republic of Macedonia, suspect however some hidden reasons driven by much stronger material and political interests.

Pro-opposition Macedonian media published lists of dozens of companies and properties in the Czech Republic, claimed to be owned or controlled by Sasho Mijalkov – a cousin of the Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and key member of his nepotistic governmental clan. Mr. Mijalkov is a graduate of the Prague University and director of the country’s secret services (Administration for Security and Counterintelligence). Macedonian authorities are extremely sensitive towards any release of information regarding this “Czech trace”. For instance, one of the opposition leaders, Mr. Ljube Boškoski, who attempted to unveil these mysterious estates in 2011, has been eavesdropped during the whole electoral campaign which ended with his immediate arrest, accusation, conviction and jailing. Then, under unclear circumstances in the prison, he signed letters of excuse to Mijalkov, Gruevski himself and his mother, whose names have been involved in the scandal. Thus, the case of Ljube Boškoski has been mentioned in the 2012 Human Rights Report of the US Department of State as an example for political imprisonment.

On this background, evil tongues on the Balkans repeatedly blamed the Czech Commissioner Stefan Füle for not applying all stringent EU accession criteria to the Macedonian EU candidacy and for alleged attempts to accept the country through the “back door”.

The above suspects have also been enhanced by the previous involvement of the Czech Barrandov Studios in co-producing of the highly controversial Macedonian film “The Third Half” which embittered the bilateral relations between Bulgaria and the Republic of Macedonia.

In conclusion, the unfortunate promotion of the recent Czech production “Cyril and Methodius – The Apostles of the Slavs”, by exploiting misleadingly the Ecumenical Patriarch’s name, demonstrated clearly how circumstances beyond the cinematography and historical truth can spoil a noble initiative. Instead of uniting people and nations to enjoy a piece of art and to celebrate together the two holy brothers and illustrious Patrons of Europe, a counterproductive effect of creating controversies and confrontation might be achieved. It seems that the human nature did not change so much between the 9th and the 21st Centuries.”

Miroslav Rizinski
Civil society activist, political observer and
former political prisoner in the Republic of Macedonia (2007-2011).

Do we need a Commissioner for #Enlargement?

Posted by on 08/09/14
By Dimitris Rapidis Sweden’s Foreign Affairs Minister Mr Carl Bildt and other diplomats have expressed concerns over the decision of President-elect of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Junker, to abolish the position of EU enlargement commissioner. Are they right to be upset?

Russian Muslims Under Prejudice and Turkey Keep Silent?

Posted by on 04/09/14

In April 2014, the District Court of Kaliningrad (Russia) decided to ban the construction of a mosque in the southern city park. The judge granted the prosecutor’s claim, thereby recognizing the illegal administration of Kaliningrad permission to build the mosque. This decision caused outrage in the Muslim community of the city that was not surprising, because the Muslim community that numbers 100 thousand people is seeking permission for construction of a mosque in Kaliningrad for 21 years, and all in vain. There were donated more than $2 million for the mosque construction, but all the time building faced with restrictions, so as it is already 9th place where Muslim community tries to create the first mosque in the city. Such a situation is a fight against those of other religions, and nothing other, and the country’s leadership controls it. Muslims of Kaliningrad have already appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin asking him to reconsider the decision taken by politically engaged individuals in the government, but still there was no answer … Well it is unlikely to appear, because the policy pursued by Moscow “Russian world” is incompatible with a multi-faith religious communities. In recent years, there were built more than 150 temples, 30 chapels and three monasteries in Kaliningrad, there are Catholic and Lutheran congregations and even the splendid building of the Mormon church, although frankly miserly amount of Mormons in the region, but still, all these religious buildings are Christian. Muslims from originally German city of Königsberg (official name of Kaliningrad until 1946) should apply not to Putin but to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who could affect to the President of Russia. Indeed, there is a huge ten-million Muslim community in Germany, which knows no abuses and restrictions on religion, and Merkel’s influence on Putin is essential. German Turks have almost any problems with construction of mosques and in society at all. At the same time, Russia has a huge number of right-wing movements which preach religious intolerance and racism towards other religions and skin colors. Usually these movements accompanied by slogan “For the Russian world” and “Russia for the Russian”. In this context could we should remember last year fights in Muslim localities near Moscow, where Russians killed Muslims from the Asian regions of Russia. The Russian leadership has probably forgotten the consequences of the struggle against Islam, even hidden. Islam and modern Russia – are indivisible and what is Islamic fundamentalism is well known to the Russian people, who suffered thousands of casualties, including civilians, as a result of the confrontation with the Muslim population. A question arises: why leaders of Muslim communities, which have a weight in the president’s entourage, are silent, why a man like Kadyrov defends the religious beliefs of his fellow citizens of the Russian Federation, who leaves in another region? The answer is simple – they are bought up at the grassroots by Putin and will not conflict with him because of someone’s religious beliefs that are contrary to the criteria of the “Russian World” created in the corridors of the Kremlin. If this is an attitude of Russians to “their” Muslims, it’s frightening to imagine how they will relate to the Muslim population of the Crimea, which is originally an Islamic region with a long history. Indeed, many respected people have been denied entry to the Crimea, including Mustafa Dzhemilev, former head of the Crimean Majlis, in April awarded the Order of the Republic of Turkey. So why Turkey keep silence, why Erdogan keep silence? After all, Turkey sees itself as a regional leader of the Black Sea region and do not pay attention to the increasing pressure on the Muslim population of Russia. Or their ambitions do not match with the real potential? Time will show, but now we will observe how the Muslims of Russia continue to pray in the streets of Russian cities, as long as Putin allows them …

Kosovo et Union Européenne : des progrès, mais tout n’est pas réglé

Posted by on 29/07/14

La Commission européenne a salué le 24 juillet dernier les progrès du Kosovo dans la mise en œuvre des exigences de la feuille de route sur la libéralisation des visas. Pour elle le Kossovo a bien progressé, même si de nouveaux efforts s’imposent pour permettre aux ressortissants de ce pays de se déplacer sans visa.

Dans son second rapport, la Commission relève que le Kosovo a pris des mesures importantes pour mettre en œuvre sa législation dans tous les domaines couverts par la feuille de route pour la libéralisation du régime des visas : « la réadmission semble à présent fonctionnelle ; le système de réintégration est opérationnel ; la gestion des frontières, les migrations, l’asile et le système de justice pénale kosovar ont bénéficié de réformes importants » constate la Commission. Toutefois de nouvelles mesures restent nécessaires pour satisfaire pleinement aux exigences de la feuille de route sur les visas. Le rapport invite le Kosovo à favoriser la réintégration durable des personnes rapatriées, à améliorer la précision de son état civil, à déployer son système d’information sur les visas ; à renforcer l’indépendance du pouvoir judiciaire et à obtenir des résultats crédibles en matière de décisions de justice dans les affaires de criminalité organisée et de corruption.

Un tel programme n’est pas une mince affaire.

La Commission a également évalué les effets potentiels de la libéralisation du régime des visas sur la sécurité et les flux migratoires et a conclu que la suppression des visas obligatoires pour les citoyens du Kosovo comportait certains risques pour l’UE en matière de sécurité et de migration. La Commission constate en effet depuis 2012 une augmentation sensible de la traite des êtres humains en provenance du Kosovo et le rapport annuel de l’EASO pour 2014 indique également une augmentation considérable du nombre du nombre de demandes d’asiles déposées dans les Etats membres de l’UE par des citoyens Kosovars. La Commission recommande au Kosovo de prendre des mesures supplémentaires afin d’atténuer les risques de la libéralisation du régime des visas en matière de sécurité et de migration. La Commission se veut optimiste et ne veut décourager personne, mais constatons qu’il y a encore beaucoup de pain sur la planche ! Remarquons cependant que cela ne fait que seulement deux ans que les uns et les autres se sont engagés dans ces travaux dignes des travaux de Hercule : nettoyer les écuries d’Augias.

Pour en savoir plus

     – . Deuxième rapport de la Commission européenne (EN) http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/home-affairs/what-is-new/news/news/docs/second_commission_assessment_en.pdf (FR) http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/home-affairs/what-is- new/news/news/docs/second_commission_assessment_fr.pdf

     -. Document de travail des services de la Commission accompagnant le rapport (EN) http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/home-affairs/what-is-new/news/news/docs/accompanying_staff_working_document_en.pdf

 


Classé dans:Actualités, BREVES

EU enlargement freeze: Romania unites with Republic of Moldova

Posted by on 17/07/14

Long before the actual elections that lead to a new European Parliament, the leaders of the most powerful states had asserted that the European Union would stop its enlargement.

This direct restriction is interesting given the fact that we have all presumed that enlargement is about standards and not necessarily about economic interests.

Should we imply that until now European Union enlargement has occurred without adherence to standards but because this was the wish, and now it’s not? This type of restriction, just for the sake of not disturbing the Russian Federation seems more like an act of cowardliness rather than of supporting a democracy.

Public declarations in this sense represent a heavy blow for the pro-European parties in Balkans and East Europe where Russia is working hard.

The most eloquent example is the situation in Republic of Moldova where the actual political class, helped by the Romanian brethren over Prut, has managed to implement almost everything it had set out.

The fact that the European Union will stop its expansion fell like lightning in Chișinău, the capital of the second Romanian state. Elections will take place this autumn and the entire electoral programmed focused on the accession to European Union. As the alternative to the actual political class is represented by the communist pro-Russian left that does not want to hear about the European Union but of a New Berlin Wall- this time on the Prut River- the existence of a backup plan is compulsory.

This plan was anticipated by the Romanian president Traian Băsescu, one of the most influential and experimented leaders of the European Union. In the moment Russia had already intervened in Ukraine, when the Association Agreement to EU was being ratified, the Romanian president said: if the Republic of Moldova is banned from joining EU, than the reunification of these two Romanian states is the new national project of Romanian.

We recall that Romania and the Republic of Moldova formed one state until the end of the Second World War when, as was the case of Germany, the disintegration of the country was decided by Stalin.

An aspect that should not be neglected is that more than 50% of Moldova’s citizens support the unification with Romania, while the interest for EU is lower. Over 80% of Moldova’s citizens are Romanian ethnics, a great part of them claiming this right through the restoration of their citizenship. Therefore the elimination of visa for the Romanian in Republic of Moldova had no effect as  the majority of them already had the right to free circulation.

The first European state that ratified the Association Agreement of Republic of Moldova with EU was Romania. When this thing happened, politicians in Parliament of Chișinău and Bucharest delivered rousing discourses affirming that this was a step towards the restoration of the historical truth which is, as in the case of Germany, the unification of Romania with the Republic of Moldova.

EU’s decision of freezing the enlargement opens a new polemic on the Chișinău-Bucharest axe, the alternative of unification prevailing over the European Integration.

As a strong Romania is a threat to Russia’s domination in East Europe it is expected that its agents will also activate within the European parliament or through various political voices.

In the meantime the public declaration of freezing EU enlargement was a great strategic mistake because it opened the way for the Russian Federation to impose regimes favorable to it in East Europe as well as the Balkans.

 

Open letter to Juncker: Why EU enlargement matters

Posted by on 13/07/14
Guest blogpost by Shenoll Muharremi, Executive Director at the Development Group LLC, Prishtina. He is an expert on EU membership processes and economic development. * * * Open letter to EC President Designate Jean Claude Juncker Why EU Enlargement matters There have been discussions if the next European Commission should keep position of the Enlargement [...]

Anti-union & pro-union in Scotland: total confusion

Posted by on 06/07/14
By Kathleen Garnett With the Scottish vote for independence just a few short months away EU Perspectives examines the role-reversal effect this is having on some Conservative and UKIP politicians. A phenomena resembling a pantomime farce but which to all intents and purposes is masquerading as serious politics.

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