Friday 19 December 2014

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With the EU growing at the speed of global population while resources melt away, the Union’s interest is increasingly defined on a global scale. Will its Diplomatic Service be able to safeguard these interests? And what future for Europe’s relations across the Atlantic and to the emerging great powers in Asia?


Donald Tusk and the Invisible World

Posted by on 18/12/14

Following his accession to the position of President of the European Council, Donald Tusk received a phone call from President Xi Jinping, and an invitation to visit China. It is not clear whether these initiatives by President Xi were preplanned, but there will be much to discuss when the two do meet. At the ceremony where he took over the position of European Council President Tusk set out his priorities. These raise a number of questions both for the EU and its place in the world, and more specifically for its relations with China.

There were two broad themes underlying Tusk’s priorities. The first is geography. All four of his priorities have geographical element, and three deal with external policy, but their focus is notable for what they leave out rather than what they take in. The first priority is to defend Europe from internal and external enemies. The second is to deal with the European economic crisis. The third to secure Europe’s borders and support those in the neighbourhood who share “our values”. The fourth is to advance relations between Europe and the US.

The invisibility of China and more broadly Asia in Tusk’s worldview is remarkable. One might be forgiven for thinking that what the IMF recognizes as the world’s largest economy or the region that consistently leads the world in economic growth might get a mention based on these facts alone. The question is even wider, as not just Asia but almost every other continent on the globe is entirely absent from his priorities. The focus on domestic challenges is perhaps understandable given the dire problems that the EU and the Eurozone face. The attention to neighbouring countries, for which we can read Ukraine and the problem with Russia, is also understandable. But this leaves out vast swathes of the world, not just China and Asia, as at best secondary considerations. Tusk apparently apparently believes that the EU has no significant global role beyond its own neighbourhood. His focus on the importance of the relationship with the US merely emphasizes this, as there can be no doubt which side of the Atlantic will dominate.

The second key theme in Tusk’s priorities is values. Out of the four areas that he said were crucial for success during his term in office, three directly or indirectly invoked values. The first was to protect the EU’s fundamental values from threats both inside and outside. The third is for Europe to secure its borders and support those in the neighbourhood who share its values. The fourth, without providing any specific objective, again can be said to have invoked values, stating that, “the relations between Europe and the United States are the backbone of the community of democracies.”

There are a number of problems with such a value laden set of foreign policy priorities. The most obvious is that such policies normally exist only as rhetoric rather than substance, another is that they generally do not achieve the goals they proclaim. They are thus usually open to the double charge of both hypocrisy and failure. In the case of China, the EU has long since decided that prioritizing values is not a productive strategy. If the commitment to values is real, priorities that see the world divided by those who hold “our values” and those who do not, the enemies of our values, risks making the EU irrelevant. If China does figure on Tusk’s agenda, a values based approach will diminish rather than increase the EU’s influence in the relationship, and probably also in that with many other Asian countries who are looking for an EU that offers more than lectures about values.

To be set against this, one interesting aspect of Tusk’s priorities is his emphasis on European (“our”) values. His proclaimed goal of defending European values implies that they are only European, rather than making any claim to their universality. This may be realistic, recognizing the limits of claims to universality of European values that often do not travel well beyond their place of origin. But is also implies a lesser global role for the EU, reducing its visibility. A Europe with only European values also means that its position as a normative power, one of its positives often attributed to the global role of the EU, is diminished. This may, however, make Tusk’s value agenda easier for China and others to live with. A Europe that defends European values allows for others to defend their own values as equally legitimate. In the case of China, this has been one of the foreign policy aims of Xi Jinping since he came to power.

All of Donald Tusk’s priorities deal with short-term problems and do not offer a long-term vision. Given the enormity of the EU’s problems, this may be understandable. But this focus has consequences. It is not clear if it is actually Donald Tusk’s intention to make most of the world’s continents invisible to the EU, and Europe invisible on most of the world’s continents, but that is what his priorities imply.

These lacunae should be of concern to Europeans because, in as far as they concern external relations, they fail to take into account most of the world outside the EU. In the case of China, the focus on values may be problematic. But more important is the invisibility of China, which is not just an economic giant but also an important global actor that the EU cannot ignore. China increasingly sees itself in these terms, and frequently asserts the importance of the relationship it has with the EU. Tusk’s priorities will raise questions about how serious the EU is in developing relations with China. At the same time, for China, Tusk’s diminished view of the EU as not being a global actor, and one that is tied to the US, will be a cause for concern,. In China’s multipolar worldview, the EU is, or at least should be, a pole in the global order.

Tusk will no doubt learn on the job. He is not entirely unfamiliar with China, and Asia. While Prime Minister of Poland, he dealt with both. He has visited China, and received high-level visits from Chinese leaders. The phone call, during which Xi reiterated his view of the importance of the EU-China relationship, and invitation to visit China could be read as a reminder that there is more to the world than Tusk’s priorities suggest.

“Junker’s Stimulus Plan Is Unrealistic On Many Fronts”

Posted by on 18/12/14
By Dim Rapidis Dimitri B. Papadimitriou on ECB interest rates policy, deflation, Junkers’s fiscal stimulus plan, debt management and the Stability Pact, US economy, and the economic crisis in Greece.

2015—Can We Make It Different?

Posted by on 18/12/14

The beginning of a new year is a great time to reflect on where we are compared to where we want to be. A few days ago I came across a post by British MEP, Richard Corbett. He wrote about how the pragmatism of the EU is important for solving problems, but “when we focus exclusively on self-interested arguments, we risk forgetting the underlying motivation for what we do – and this is dangerous.”

Mr. Corbett describes three reasons why this is dangerous, and why we should avoid isolationism. I would like to focus on one particular suggestion that he makes there: “The best way to fight the negativity of narrow-minded nationalism is to present an alternative, positive story which shows the myths up [about Europe] for the nonsense they are.”

The problems of self-interest and narrow nationalism that Mr. Corbett points to are definitely on target. And yet, merely pointing out the problem won’t make it disappear. The forces that push for segregation are far greater and deeper than meets the eye, and require a conscious effort on the part of many organizations working in sync to provide a sustainable, long term solution.

Self-interest is at the core of our society. It is the mindset of every society, even social-democratic ones. It is at the foundation of human nature. It is not bad in and of itself, but when idolized and cultivated to an extreme, it becomes nocuous. This is where we stand now on every level—personal, social, national, and international. We’re living in the Me, Me, Me, era, a culture of narcissism. But every therapist will tell you that narcissists don’t see reality for what it is. When the whole of the Western civilization is approaching that state, it is very dangerous indeed.

The cure, therefore, has to include steps toward reversing that trend and establishing a more cohesive society, where solidarity and mutual responsibility are deemed greater than self-promotion. I do subscribe to Corbett’s words that “The best way to fight the negativity of narrow-minded nationalism is to present an alternative, positive story which shows the myths up for the nonsense they are.” And I believe that if we build an education program that gives people a personal experience of social cohesion, we won’t have to worry about narrow-minded nationalism, or any other narrow-minded self-centered approach.

At the ARI institute, we offer such a method, called Integral Education (IE), where people learn to communicate and relate to one another in a completely new way, and on a completely new level. We have implemented it all over the world, from the US to Europe, to the Middle East, and more often than not, in conflict weary societies. The results have been outstanding. Using a few simple rules of discussion, people discover, then cultivate, a new sense of kinship, and wish to preserve it.

The logic behind IE is simple: the world is interconnected and interdependent. Our values, on the other hand, are the complete opposite: self-indulgence, brutal competition, and alienation. By learning the new method of connection among us, we align ourselves with the reality of our lives. This eliminates the conflict between our need to feel superior (due to our ego-prone education) and the interdependent reality of life. When that happens, the “positive story which shows the myths up for the nonsense they are,” as Corbett so nicely put it, emerges by itself, effortlessly.

I encourage you to visit my site, where you will find more information about IE, and please contact me for further discussion about promoting Europe toward a better, more united future.

May 2015 be a year of positive shifts for all of us.


Russia: Uncertain Consequences

Posted by on 18/12/14

In the morning of Dec. 16, the ruble was supposed to rally. Instead, it collapsed. The ruble fell as the current account was improving, something that shows the collapse has had little to do with speculators, but has had everything to do with capital outflows, a signal that domestic investors and depositors have lost credibility in the Russian policymakers. Uncertainty continued on Dec. 17.
With this, political risk in Russia is on the rise. However, the magnitude of this crisis of confidence remains unclear. While Putin’s approval ratings are high, the ruble’s weakening is an indicator of the Russian economy’s dependence on oil prices, as well sanctions and a declining sentiment from the West.
This will likely reflect in statements coming from Russia: there is probably going to be increased assertiveness towards the West, considering that Moscow needs to support the idea, in front of its domestic public, that the economic problems are due to external factors. It remains to be seen what the public reaction will be, considering that this recent crisis comes after a miscalculation on Ukraine and on the background of an oil crisis.
However, depending on how the crisis develops, the West doesn’t want to push Russia over the edge. The interconnections between the Western economies and Russia, considering the contagion risk, are a factor that the West must take into account. There are a lot of questions still to be answered, beginning with the one referring to how severe is the ruble fallout on Dec. 16 and what’s the impact on the financial and economic system of Russia, of Europe and, later on, consider the global implications.

Le Hamas « reconnu » …par le tribunal de la Cour de Justice européenne ?

Posted by on 18/12/14

Le Tribunal de l’Union européenne, la deuxième juridiction des Vingt-Huit, a annulé mercredi pour des raisons de procédure les décisions du Conseil européen maintenant le Hamas sur la liste européenne des organisations terroristes. Le problème politique de fonds reste inchangé. La Cour de Justice de l’Union européenne reste fidèle à sa jurisprudence qui l’a amenée à annuler plusieurs décisions en matière de lutte contre le terrorisme pour non respect des procédures, ce qui a pu l’amener à se confronter dans certains cas au Conseil ; Dans ce cas précis, le Tribunal n’a pas retenu l’argument mis en avant par le Hamas selon lequel il est un gouvernement souverainement élu qui, conformément au principe de non-ingérence, ne peut pas être inscrit sur les listes d’organisations terroristes. Les Etats-Unis et Israël en ont profité pour rappeler leur position traditionnelle de non reconnaissance.

La justice européenne a néanmoins maintenu temporairement les mesures à l’encontre du mouvement palestinien, dont le gel des fonds, pour une période de trois mois ou le temps que les possibilités d’appel soient épuisées.

Le Premier ministre israélien Benjamin Netanyahu a aussitôt appelé l’UE à maintenir les sanctions contre le Hamas estimant que le jugement du tribunal constitue « une hypocrisie stupéfiante » à l’égard de l’Etat israélien.

« Il semble que beaucoup trop de personnes en Europe, sol sur lequel six millions de juifs ont été massacrés, n’ont rien appris (du passé). Nous, en Israël, nous avons tiré les leçons », a dit Netanyahu.

« Nous attendons d’eux (les Vingt-Huit) qu’ils remettent immédiatement le Hamas sur la liste », a-t-il dit dans un communiqué qui présente le groupe palestinien comme une « organisation terroriste meurtrière ».Le Hamas, pour sa part, a salué « la correction d’une erreur historique de l’Union européenne ». « Le Hamas est un mouvement de résistance et toutes les lois et règles internationales lui donnent le droit de résister à l’occupation », a déclaré à Reuters le numéro deux du mouvement, Moussa Abou Marzouk.

Le Tribunal européen insiste dans un communiqué sur le fait qu’il ne s’est pas prononcé sur le fond. »Ces annulations, encourues pour des motifs fondamentaux de procédure, n’impliquent aucune appréciation de fond sur la question de la qualification du mouvement Hamas de groupe terroriste au sens de la position commune », souligne-t-il. Le Tribunal explique son jugement par le fait que les décisions du Conseil européen étaient fondées « non pas sur des faits examinés et retenus dans des décisions d’autorités nationales compétentes mais sur des imputations factuelles tirées de la presse et d’Internet ». Anticipant un possible maintien des sanctions, il ajoute que « les effets des actes annulés sont maintenus temporairement pour garantir l’efficacité de tout futur éventuel gel des fonds ».

Les Etats-Unis ont exhorté l’Union européenne à ne pas modifier sa position concernant le Hamas. »Nous pensons que l’Union européenne devrait maintenir ses sanctions contre le (mouvement) terroriste Hamas », a déclaré une porte-parole du département d’Etat américain, Jen Psaki.

Le mouvement islamiste palestinien Hamas, créé il y a tout juste vingt-sept ans et qui prône la destruction de l’Etat d’Israël, a pris en juin 2007 le contrôle de la bande de Gaza, chassant les hommes du Fatah, le groupe du président de l’Autorité palestinienne Mahmoud Abbas.

Les deux organisations ont signé un accord en avril dernier pour mettre fin à leur brouille, qui s’est traduit par la formation d’un gouvernement d’union nationale composé de technocrates, mais elles ne se sont toujours pas entendues sur l’administration du territoire côtier.

Le gouvernement israélien refuse de son côté de considérer comme un interlocuteur valable tout gouvernement incluant le Hamas tant que celui-ci n’aura pas reconnu l’existence de l’Etat d’Israël et renoncé à la lutte armée. Réagissant au jugement du Tribunal européen, le ministre israélien de l’Economie Naftali Bennett, chef du parti d’extrême droite Foyer juif, a estimé que les Européens subiraient les conséquences de cette décision. « Israël est un pays fort et capable de se défendre contre ses ennemis mais ceux qui souffriront le plus du renforcement des groupes terroristes sont les Européens eux-mêmes », a-t-il dit.

Pour en savoir plus :

     -. Texte de l’arrêt du tribunal (deuxième chambre)(FR) (EN) (communiqué de presse ; langue de procédure)le français)

     -. Jurisprudence de la Cour en matière de terrorisme




Classé dans:droits de la défense, DROITS FONDAMENTAUX, lutte contre le terrorisme

Russia’s Strategic Shift To East Continues: Now India

Posted by on 18/12/14

The steadfast support of the people of Russia for India has been there even at difficult moments in our history. It has been a pillar of strength for India’s development, security and international relations. India, too, has always stood with Russia through its own challenges. The character of global politics and international relations is changing. However, the importance of this relationship and its unique place in India’s foreign policy will not change. In many ways, its significance to both countries will grow further in the future.”

( Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi)

Russia and India made 20 deals in 24 hours (on 11th Dec. 2014) given $100 billion-worth boost to their economies. The economic burden of Western sanctions has pushed Russia to the east in search of business opportunities. During President Vladimir Putin’s visit to India in the presence of he and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi 20 pacts were signed and the two sides ended with US$100 billion commercial contracts. (Source RT )

Rich pickings by both sides included deals worth $40 billion in nuclear energy, $50 billion in crude oil and gas and $10 billion in a host of other sectors, including defense, fertilizers, space, and diamonds. Moscow is seeking greater investment from Indian state-run companies in Russian oil and gas projects, including ones being explored in the Arctic.

New Indo-Russian deals

Putin’s just-ended India trip constitutes a major foreign policy success for the Russian President as he has successfully teamed up with China and India, Asia’s number one and third economies respectively. Some highlights of the Indo-Russia deals:

  • india nuclearRussia would be constructing 12 new nuclear reactors for India in two decades – each will cost $3 billion apiece.


  • Russia holds the world’s second-biggest natural gas reserves and is among the globe’s biggest oil producers. Among the agreements today was a 10-year deal that will raise Indian imports of Russian oil almost 40-fold from current levels. The two nations plan to study the possibility of building a hydrocarbon pipeline system connecting India and Russia, according to a joint statement from Putin and Modi.
  • The $2.1 billion deal that 12 Indian companies dealing in diamonds have signed with Alrosa. Russia’s diamond reserves are more than 1 billion carats, the largest in the world, while Russia’s Alrosa accounts for more than quarter of the global diamond mining.
  • BrahMos cruise missileReviving their good old defense partnership the new Indo-Russian initiative involves Russia producing state-of-the-art multi-role helicopters in Indian factories to cut down on costs and time overruns. This deal will be worth $3 billion once formally signed. In addition India will be at liberty to export these helicopters to third countries.
  • In addition there was also the $2 billion potash deal.
  • Russia would look at participating in the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor project.
  • Moscow is seeking greater investment from Indian state-run companies in Russian oil and gas projects, including ones being explored in the Arctic.
  • Both governments have set-up a Joint working group (JWG) to negotiate the specifications of an agreement, a final agreement would be signed between India and Eurasian Customs Union

(Sources: Al Jazeera , Bloomberg and RT )

The first major political initiative, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, between India and Russia began with the Strategic Partnership signed between the two countries in 2000. Traditionally, the Indo-Russian strategic partnership has been built on five major components: politics, defence, civil nuclear energy, anti-terrorism co-operation and space. However, in recent years a sixth component, economic, has grown in importance with both countries setting a target for US$20 billion in bilateral trade by 2015. The Indo-Russian Inter-Governmental Commission (IRIGC), which is one of the largest and comprehensive governmental mechanisms that India has had with any country internationally.

T50 stealth fighterIndia and Russia have several major joint military programmes including (Source WikiPedia ):


The critics

According The Hindu U.S. is upset at India-Russia deals. A day after Russian President Putin’s visit, the United States criticised India for the agreements signed between New Delhi and Moscow. Responding to a question on the 20 agreements signed, including one on the Rupee-Rouble trade, State department spokesperson Jen Psaki said, “Our view remains that it’s not time– for business as usual with Russia. But beyond that, we’d have to take a closer look at what these agreements entail.”

The U.S. and Ukraine have also expressed unhappiness that President Putin was accompanied by the Crimean Premier Sergey Aksyonov. Mr. Aksyonov is on the sanctions list of the U.S., Canada and European Union for his role in the accession of the former Ukrainian region to Russia in March this year. Mr. Aksyonov initialled a “partnership agreement” between Crimean and Indian businesses, particularly in the area of meat exports. The meeting with the Crimean Prime Minister followed Russia’s decision to allow the import of Indian buffalo meat last week. While the U.S. state department said it was “troubled” by his presence in New Delhi, Ukranian President Petro Poroshenko accused India of putting “money” ahead of “values” and “civilisation”.

Wider context

The wider picture – besides new Indo-Russian cooperation – includes the Sino-Russian cooperation, the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Eurasian Economic Union EEU, the energy war and other bilateral operations. Faced with an increasingly hostile West, Russia is visibly turning East. In particular, China and Russia have become closer, signing a historic gas deal, conducting joint naval exercises, and increasing trade. Russia and China are determined to reduce U.S. and NATO presence in Central Asia to what it was before the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. The SCO has consistently rebuffed U.S. requests for observer status, and has pressured countries in the region to end U.S. basing rights. At present, the SCO has started to counterbalance NATO’s role in Asia.

bricsThe BRICS met 2013 in Durban, South Africa, to, among other steps, create their own credit rating agency, sidelining the “biased agendas” of the Moody’s/Standard & Poor’s variety. They endorsed plans to create a joint foreign exchange reserves pool. Initially it will include US$100 billion. It’s called a self-managed contingent reserve arrangement (CRA). During the July (2014) BRICS Summit in Brazil the five members agreed to directly confront the West’s institutional economic dominance. The BRICS agreed to establish the New Development Bank (NDB) based in Shanghai , pushed especially by India and Brazil, a concrete alternative to the Western-dominated World Bank and the Bretton Woods system.

So in near future BRICS will be trading in their own currencies, including a globally convertible yuan, further away from the US dollar and the petrodollar. All these actions are strengthening financial stability of BRICS – a some kind of safety net precaution, an extra line of defense.

Less than a month after the BRICS’ declaration of independence from the current strictures of world finance, the SCO—which includes China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan—approved India, Pakistan, Iran, and Mongolia for membership in the organization. Also SCO has received applications for the status of observers from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

Bottom line

China and Turkey are now followed by Indo-Russian cooperation. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin held talks with India’s new prime minister Narendra Modi as sanctions-hit Moscow seeks to strengthen energy, defence and strategic ties in Asia. India opposes joining Western sanctions against Russia, and is likely to disregard a caution from Washington that now is not the right time to do business with Moscow.

Most importantly, the just-concluded 15th India-Russia annual summit has laid out a specific decadal roadmap for bringing about a complete transformation in the Indo-Russian bilateral ties and taking them to a much higher trajectory than ever before.

The latest developments in Russia’s strategic shift to East and now to India are in my opinion a strong symptom that alternative poles of power are emerging that soon may present a serious challenge to the U.S.-dominated world that emerged from the end of the Cold War. In my conclusion the era when the IMF, World Bank, and U.S. Treasury could essentially dictate international finances and intimidate or crush opponents with sanctions, pressure and threads are drawing to a close.

The great Eurasian axis between China and Russia boosted by ongoing Western sanctions due Ukraine is already in good motion. The deal done with China and the deal just done with Turkey redirect to these two countries gas that had previously been earmarked for Europe. (More in Is South Stream Pipeline Transforming Itself To “Turk Stream”? ) These deals show that Russia had made a strategic decision this year to redirect its energy flow away from Europe. The Russian response to ongoing Western sanctions has been launching a counter-strategy including the formation of a potential non-dollar trading bloc among major players such as China, Iran, Turkey, India) in the global energy markets. (More about issue in ¥uan and Waterloo of Petro$ ; see also some geostrategic background in my slideshow Some Geostrategic Aspects in Russia vs. U.S. Relationship )

indo-russia deals



China and the Balkans

Posted by on 16/12/14

The presence of China in the Balkans is not new. During the years of the Cold War, China closely cooperated first with Albania and then with Yugoslavia. In fact, Albania was one of the key initiators of the UN resolution 2758 which led to the UN recognition of the People’s Republic of China in 1971.[1]

Towards the end of the 1970s, the relations between Albania and China deteriorated, largely due to the opinion of the supreme Albanian Communist leader Enver Hoxha that the Chinese leadership began taking the revisionist path regarding the classics of Marxism-Leninism.[2]

As the later developments showed, Hoxha’s assessment was right on the mark. It is not surprising therefore that, after the death of Mao Zedong, the Communist party of China began cultivating friendly relations with the openly revisionist and non-aligned Yugoslavia.

During the wars that followed the disintegration of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, China generally took a neutral standpoint and supported the decisions made by the UN Security Council concerning the situation on the ground. This attitude changed during the NATO attack on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (the rump Yugoslav federation, consisting only of Serbia and Montenegro).

At that time, during one of the NATO raids on the Yugoslav capital Belgrade in early May 1999, NATO bombs hit and severely damaged the Chinese Embassy. Three people were killed and twenty injured, including Chinese diplomats.[3] NATO officials blamed outdated maps and other technical details, but the Chinese government was not convinced. Large-scale protest demonstrations took place all over China in condemnation of what was seen as an unprovoked aggression by NATO.[4]

It appears that this brutal infringement by NATO on the sovereign space of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade made the Chinese government re-consider its Balkan policy. Instead of more or less pronounced indifference which prevailed for a decade, it decided to accept the challenge of its Atlantic geopolitical adversary and get involved in the region more closely.

In fact, since 2000, the Chinese trade grew on average 30 percent annually not only with the Balkan countries, but also with their neighbors in Central and Eastern Europe.[5] In April 2012, the Chinese relations with this part of the world were raised on a higher level by the organization of the so-called “16+1″ summit in Warsaw.

The “16″ stood for the sixteen countries of the Central and Eastern Europe (11 EU members and 5 EU candidates) and “1″ for China. There was even the talk of setting up a formal Secretariat and hence becoming an international organization with a legal status.

The first summit in Warsaw focused on the economic side of the relationship and especially on the possibility of Chinese large-scale investments.[6] Having just gone through a deep economic crisis, the Eastern and Central European countries were looking for ways to jump-start their economies and China was basking in the newly found but deserved role of the global player. No wonder that this summit attracted a lot of attention from the European Commission and their transatlantic US allies.

Some observers claimed that yet another rift was being created in the European Union between the so-called “old Europe” (the EU founding members) and the “New Europe” (the former Communist countries). These two “halves” of the EU had already gone through a spate of animosity over the involvement in the Iraq war in 2003.[7]

However, most experts have been uncertain as to whether there is any cause for concern by the EU Commissioners in Brussels and the officials of the US-NATO Empire.

On the level of personalities, last year’s summit in Bucharest involved a new figure on the Chinese side. In between the two summits, Li Keqiang replaced Wen Jiabao, who many consider the ideologue of the Chinese Central-Eastern European-Balkan pivot, in the post of the prime minister. But the Chinese political line remained unchanged.

The Bucharest summit participants adopted certain formal guidelines, concerning increased cooperation in the fields of infrastructure development, science, technology, tourism, etc.[8] The key element in all of this constitute, of course, the credit lines of Chinese banks.

As far as the concrete things go, the prime minister of Hungary, the perpetual EU “rebel”, Viktor Orban got a Chinese commitment to invest more than $2 billion dollars in the Budapest-Belgrade rail line and the host nation Romania was offered up to $8 billion dollars in investments.[9] This is much more than the EU could offer these countries in recent years and I think that it is likely to lead to more problems in the EU internal functioning in the future.

However, no doubt due to the historical as well as recent political ties, Yugoslavia’s legal successor state Serbia, a non-member of the EU, was singled out by the Chinese for a particularly important bridge building project on the Danube. The construction of a 1.5 kilometer long bridge started in 2011 and, though it took longer than expected, the bridge will be officially opened during this year’s “16+1″ summit in Belgrade on December 16 and 17.[10] This is the biggest infrastructure project completed by a Chinese state company (in this case, China Road and Bridge Corporation) in the Balkans so far. Both the Chinese and Serbian officials are announcing “many more” projects to come and this is definitely in line with the Chinese Balkan strategy.[11]

This trend can be seen in the neighboring Montenegro as well. In October 2014, the government of Montenegro signed an agreement with the Chinese Exim Bank on a $1 billion loan for the construction of a stretch of a highway through Montenegro to be built by the already mentioned China Road and Bridge Corporation.[12] This decision, however, encountered strong dissent from the opposition parties which claimed that the loan would enormously increase the already high public debt and that the government entered into a corrupt construction scheme in order to further enrich its business cronies.[13] Many even questioned the necessity of constructing the highway at all.

However, it is not for those reasons (no matter what they say publicly) that the global economic levers of the US-NATO Empire, the IMF and the World Bank, oppose not only this particular highway project, but also other Chinese investment projects in the Balkans and the Central and Eastern Europe. They know well that what is taking place here is truly a battle for geopolitical influence and power. The US-NATO Empire has lost the aura of invincibility it had during the last two decades and the emerging multi-polarity of the world is getting its Balkan reflection as well.

This geopolitical battle is still in its beginning phases, but I expect it to intensify in the coming years, especially as China and Russia (which is a traditional ally of many Balkan countries) come to cooperate more closely not only in the economic, but also in the political and the military sphere, and as the daily functioning of the EU institutions begins to show more and more tear & wear under the pressure from the warmongering circles in Washington and London.















Originally published by Sibel Edmonds’ BFP. December 15, 2014.


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.

Most national embassies and consulates will be closed by 2040

Posted by on 15/12/14

The EU and its 28 member states maintain the most extensive network of diplomatic representations on earth. This situation will become financially unsustainable and no longer necessary after the creation of the European External Action Service which is running 140 missions today.

Diplomatic representations have become very expensive; their cost has kept rising through increased safety measures and the need to pay high salaries for qualified personnel and premiums for the growing number of hardship posts. That is why member states have come under pressure for cutting costs and closing embassies and consulates.

Thus the Netherlands will lower the expenditures for their Foreign Ministry by a quarter until 2018; and the new Belgian government has decided to reduce its diplomatic missions from 137 to 104. Both countries will do this within the framework of comprehensive reforms with the purpose of cutting budget expenses.

The EU is definitely over-staffed with diplomatic personnel and missions.

EU Delegations have largely taken over political and economic reporting for EU headquarters in Brussels and national capitals. They should also progressively assume consular duties for EU citizens, especially issuing visa where still required and organising assistance to EU citizens in situations of natural catastrophes and political unrest.

Member states` diplomatic missions should focus on promoting business contacts to the extent that joint chambers of commerce do not do so, as is the case in some major business centres like Beijing or Tokyo.

For cost reasons member states are therefore likely to close most of their diplomatic missions during the coming 25 years and rely on EU missions.

What may look like a revolution today will be perfectly normal by 2040. The transition should take place smoothly and start as of today with intermediate stages like pooling missions or offices of several member countries.

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 10.12 2014

About a dog and an innovation-friendly vision

Posted by on 15/12/14

Last Monday, I took part in the Rzeczpospolita daily newspaper’s economic debate entitled ‘The end of the free market? Origins of the crisis’. Three questions were sent to the participants by the host:

  • Have capitalism and the free market discredited themselves?
  • What is the alternative to the free market? Which economic system should we choose?
  • Should Poland increase the involvement of the state or of the market?

I am quoting the questions here to outline the context of the debate, which revolved around the most fundamental aspects of the political system and the relationship between the state and the market. Has the global financial crisis, whose effects are still felt today, altered the laws of economics, for instance by taking interest rates, the key tool for controlling inflation, away from central banks? Those interested will find the account of the debate in the newspaper, while I would like to take this opportunity to elaborate on the dog metaphor which I invoked in the conclusion of my answer to the third question.

Seeing that two of the previous speakers, asked about what Poland should do to ensure economic growth at a reasonable rate, argued that the country needed to look for its competitive advantage in entrepreneurship and innovation (because the growth model based on cheap labour is running dry), I decided to focus on how this should be accomplished.

The issue is not with the extent of involvement of the state and the market, but with the state’s responsibilities and the way the market operates. The state should become involved primarily where the market is not enough, which justifies the state’s role in overseeing today’s markets and creating new ones. This is done not only through appropriate institutions, such as banks and stock exchanges, whose scope and quality depends on the quality of the state, but also through suitable regulations and rules of operation. Nowadays reality is changing before our very eyes. New, revolutionary technologies emerge, giving rise to associated products and services which change the rules of the economic game, making regulatory adjustments necessary. If these adjustments are not made fast enough, the economy pays the price, suffering depressed growth, which is something that can be avoided. Examples abound.

In the oil and gas industry, where I work, this leads to regulatory uncertainty regarding shale gas exploration and production in Poland. Currently, after four years, this uncertainty has been significantly limited. Alas, in the meantime, however, American companies (which have the necessary know-how) lost interest in making investments in Poland, having been drawn by the prospect of the U.S. ban on gas exports being lifted, which has turned Poland from a potential shale gas producer into a potential importer of LNG derived from American shale. Europe’s CO2 emissions trading market, which is in need of a thorough overhaul, is yet another example.

What should Poland do? Improve the quality of the state by fine-tuning its presence to the needs of the economy. The state should withdraw its involvement from production and modernisation projects, as businesses can handle these areas with ease. Since running state institutions is costly, funnelling funds into the two areas is a waste of the taxpayer’s money. However, there are certain areas where, despite its involvement being very needed, the state is either absent or its presence is insufficient. What I am talking about here is creating visions for Poland’s growth. It appears to me that because state institutions fail to investigate the topic, they are unable to make proper use of the results of the studies that certain universities carry out. In any case, such academic research does not aim to create alternative visions for Poland’s growth or its place on the economic map of Europe and the world, but rather to develop tools which can be used to create such visions.

Poland has so far managed without a vision for growth, because we have taken economic transformation and modernisation as a priority. Busy building a market economy, we have failed to notice that we have achieved tremendous success in securing continuous economic growth and a steady rise of incomes. Having joined the club of high-income countries, we are facing yet another challenge – to ensure further growth of per-capita incomes. Mimicking others in enforcing cost (salary) controls will not help us meet the challenge. So far we have been creating a second Japan and a second Norway, and now we are working on a second Denmark, or so the politicians say. Now it’s high time to choose our own way.

Poland needs a course of its own to serve as the fulcrum for the research paving the way to innovation. Primary research gives rise to new products and technologies, which are not immediately usable. They are like Lego bricks in that they can be used to build anything we need. Those who played with Legos as a child will remember that new bricks matched previous sets and offered entirely new possibilities. What I am saying is essentially that we should focus on financing those primary and applied research projects which are geared towards practical applications, rather than the research whose sole objective is to be published. Doing so by funding research with public money, we are shifting onto the state the part of the risk associated with the first stage of the process whereby an idea is transformed into a product. Many ideas will fail, while others will have to wait for the right time, but some will be transformed into new technologies and prototypes which will attract the attention of venture capitalists. Furthermore, to avoid spreading out the financial potential too much, we need a vision for growth. Today, Poland does not have such a vision as there exist no state institutions whose business it would be to create such visions. It is essential that the life of such institutions, the visions their create and the research their pursue be perpetuated by subsequent administrations. Such institutions must be created.

This where the dog comes in, a black-and-white terrier digging vigorously in Sopot’s sandy beach. I first noticed it during my morning walk and thought the creature was trying to reach water. When I was coming back an hour later, I saw an impressive ditch, which grew further as the excavations continued. It was apparent that reaching water was not the plan after all. No discernible purpose could be seen, as the dog did not seem interested in connecting the ditch to the sea. Tired, the terrier continued digging. The moral of the story is that if you do not know where you are going, every road will get you nowhere.


Russia encroaches on the Baltics

Posted by on 14/12/14
Russia is very persistent in the pursuit of the goal to expand its influence inside the EU at all levels and in all spheres. Moscow is constantly seeking opportunities to influence European politics and public opinion and to turn them to its own advantage. The Kremlin effectively uses numerous Russian-speaking diasporas in the EU Member States; it also provides financial support to a large number of pro-Russian organizations. Adhering to this policy line, Moscow has appeared capable to consolidate its positions in some European countries, in particular, the Baltic states. The Kremlin runs large-scale propaganda campaigns in these countries through the media which are under its control, e.g., notorious “Russia Today” and newly presented “Sputnik”.

One of the most effective leverages used by Russia for lobbying its interests is intense cooperation with the left-wing and the far-right-wing parties. For the last few years leftists, ultra-rightists and nationalists have managed to enlarge their electoral base and to increase the number of their parties’ representatives in the national parliaments and the European Parliament, exploiting economic problems and social discontent.

The Kremlin is using a whole bunch of mechanisms and instruments to deepen collaboration with these forces. Special funds and information centers creation, conferences and fora organization, exchange of visits, sharing of the best dirty campaigning practices are pressed into service. Meanwhile Moscow doesn’t forget about financial incentives to the top people and leaders. In fact, it’s a well-tuned and smoothly running bribery scheme. They are rendered assistance in exchange of some “insignificant” turn in the future. Qui pro quo. Usually they are asked to back or oppose a certain decision. One can see the impressive output of these coordinated actions. Some far-right and nationalist parties, for instance, expressed their approval for the “independence referendum” in the Crimea and acknowledged its results to please Russian tutors. The international community condemned even the fact of conducting this illegal voting; Russia’s allies, however, sent their observers to the Crimea… and there were many of them: “Jobbic” (Hungary), the Front National (France), the Freedom party of Austria, the Flemish interest (Belgium), the Attack party (Bulgaria).

Russia has been working hard to cement its influence in the post-Soviet and Eastern-European countries for a long time. The Revolution of dignity in Ukraine and signing the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement struck a blow to Russia’s imperial plans. The Kremlin reacted aggressively and violently. Russia annexed the Crimea and became a sponsor of the warfare in the Eastern Ukraine. Putin’s regime can’t afford Ukraine’s drifting apart towards the EU because it may set a precedent which the other former Soviet republics and the federal subjects of Russia will likely want to follow (It will surely lead to breakup of Russia).

Therefore, some experts consider that Ukrainian scenario recurrence in Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania is rather probable. Latvia is the most obvious target for the Kremlin’s campaigns. There is a large Russian diaspora there and an influential pro-Russian political alliance “Concord center”. However, Putin acts more cautiously towards the EU Member States. Russia’s threats are rendered by Eurasianism spinners and odious politicians (Vladimir Zhirinovsky and those of his ilk).

The Kremlin is effectively conducting propaganda among Russian-speaking population to form favorable for Russia public opinion. It is feeding popular dissatisfaction and sponsoring street protests. Moscow defames the Baltic states by manipulating public opinion and political mudslinging. It forms the image of Nazi-states, where Russian-speaking citizens are deprived of their rights; the governments cultivate hostile attitude towards Russia and Russians, etc.. Opinion polls confirm that the level of negative perception of government home policy is increasing among Russian-speaking population in the Baltic states, in particular, in Lithuania which is known for its anti-Russian stance.

Russian propaganda is disseminating the idea of so called “Russian world”. Taking actions through friendship societies, Russian language fans’ clubs, Russian compatriots abroad associations, Russia laboriously strengthens its humanitarian influence. Such organizations as “Good Russians”, “World without Nazism”, “Russian movement”, “For the progress in Latvia”, “The republic of Uzupis” are of great help to Moscow.

The Kremlin combines humanitarian expansion with threat of war. For instance, this year Russian warships approached to Latvia territorial waters more than 50 times. Russian aircraft also repeatedly conduct maneuvers near the Baltic states’ airspace. However, Moscow is not able to intimidate the Baltics because they are NATO members and the Alliance will always protect them. NATO has already approved wide-ranging plans to boost its defense capacities in the Eastern Europe, aiming to reassure anxious allies about Russia’s military ambitions. The Baltic states’ governments have already expressed their complete readiness to resist Russian war threats. Dalia Grybauskaite, the president of Lithuania, unequivocally called Russia a ”a terrorist state that is engaged in open aggression against its neighbor”. She is sure that if Russia “is not stopped then that aggression might spread further into Europe”.

Lithuania is planning to increase its defense budget by 40% in 2015. Moreover because of a rise in the activity of Russian forces in the western part of the Russian Federation, Lithuania made a decision to put several of its rapid response units on a higher state of preparedness. The country is also taking part, together with Poland and Ukraine, in the formation of a joint military init to participate in peacekeeping operations. Latvian president Andris Berzins has announced the defense budget increase up to 2% GDP. Estonia has taken measures to strengthen its defense capabilities too. The government has requested NATO to deploy its contingent in the country.

The Baltics has also agreed actions to withstand Russian propaganda. They consider that it’s necessary for the EU to finance alternative media broadcasting in Russian, to develop communication strategy towards Russia and toughen the EC regulations concerning audiovisual sector content.

Der Ölpreisverfall

Posted by on 14/12/14

Der historische Rutsch des Ölpreises unter sechzig Dollar ist beides gleichzeitig – ein Weihnachtsgeschenk und ein Warnsignal… Der tiefe Fall des schwarzen Goldes birgt aber auch erhebliche Gefahren, zunächst wirtschaftspolitische. Denn klar erkennbar geraten diejenigen Staaten, deren Volkswirtschaft vor allem vom Ölexport abhängt, in erhebliche Turbulenzen…

Wirklich gefährlich wird der niedrige Ölpreis durch die massiven Auswirkungen auf Russland. Präsident Putin hat in all den Jahren seiner Macht nicht dafür gesorgt, dass die russische Ökonomie effektiv umgestellt wird: weg vom bloßen Öl- und Gasexport, hin zu einer breiter aufgestellten Wirtschaftstätigkeit. Russland, ohnehin gebeutelt von den Sanktionen des Westens infolge der Ukraine-Krise, gerät als Wirtschaftsmacht ins Schlingern. 2015 könnte der Crash kommen.

Besonders aber muss der Ölpreisverfall ein Alarmsignal für die Europäische Zentralbank sein. Denn die billige Energie schickt die Preise noch stärker auf Talfahrt, als sie es ohnehin schon sind – in Deutschland auf den tiefsten Stand seit fast fünf Jahren. Irgendwann könnten sie nicht mehr beherrschbar sein. Das Gespenst der Deflation, der gefährlichen Spirale von sinkenden Preisen, zurückhaltender Nachfrage und einbrechender Produktion, steht schon vor der Tür. Der Eurozone könnte eine lange Rezession, eine dahinsiechende Ökonomie nach dem Muster Japans drohen. Vor allem für die Währungshüter im neuen Frankfurter EZB-Turm ist der Absturz des Ölpreises alles andere als ein Weihnachtsgeschenk.

Road to ‘Palestine 194′ passes through Brussels

Posted by on 11/12/14

While some global regions work on the as entangled as innovative federalist idea of going beyond the Westphalian setting of borders and national States, some other actors are still struggling to see their own national recognition respected as their sovereignty to be deployed throughout all the legal means on their territories. This is the history of the multi-speed history of the mankind; this is another possible interpretation of T.L.Friedman’s narrative of the Lexus and the olive tree. But there is a halfway point were these two realities draw near, and from this necessary meeting both entities may gain new life and mutual benefits, and the ideal locus for the meeting is the debate regarding the Palestinian Statehood recognition within the EU.

If not now, when? If not the EU, who? These two questions summarize the mind-set of policy makers and prominent scholars in the West regarding the diplomatic recognition of Palestine as State.

 For the purpose of having a clearer picture of the situation in Europe, it may be useful to dust off the old-fashioned stance of West here, since the EU itself winded up being divided on the umpteenth political issue: whether to diplomatically recognize the Palestinian Statehood or not, in full compliance with all the thorny points it would drag with. A sort of Iron Curtain still separated the official positions of EU Member States regarding the recognition issue as only looking eastwards it was possible to find States recognizing Palestine, as following the Soviet legacy. Then, the Swedish vote broke the ice in October enlarging the number of EU Member States which recognize diplomatically the status of Palestine. The Swedish initiative, actively backed by the freshly appointed centre-left government, acted as a trigger, or at least set an alarm clock, to refresh the debate within the whole European territory. Seen the persistence of the negative continental monetary and economic performances as well as the pressing issues in the ministerial socio-economical programmes, the whole long-standing Palestinian affair persists being in the EU Member States’ agenda, but for sure not at the top of it. Nevertheless, the months of October marked a peculiar point first of all due to the Swedish vote and the mobilisation of the House of Commons MPs, followed by Irish, Spanish, French and Belgian interest on top. Besides, the appointment of Federica Mogherini as High Representative for EU External Action Service almost immediately appeared doomed to significantly push the process, as openly shown by her first official visit. She had barely stepped foot into her Brussels’ office when she visited Gaza, the Occupied contended territories and Israel before moving to the Donors conference held in Egypt for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip. Withal, her determination to try to solve, or at least come about a point in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, came crystal clear since the quiz-style hearing she sat in front of the MEPs in early October. Forty years may seem not many for a woman serving as chief of EEAS, but definitely too many for the ranging Israel-Palestine conflict shaking the Middle East. During the last plenary seat of the EP, Mogherini returned on the issue by endorsing the Hemicycle in Strasbourg to come about to the change that the world is waiting for too long, to move a significant step forward in the Palestinian Statehood affair. The EU can find the role that best suits itself in the process of peace and security in Middle East so to change the ad infinitum feature that this affair gained, “[the EU] can be the first political player in the region to facilitate a dialogue. A dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians, but also a dialogue that for the first time really has the chance of being regional.”(1) For those puzzling over the timing, asking to themselves “why now”, it may be useful to recall the stalemate status of the “2013-14 Direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians” initiative lead by the US Secretary of State Kerry, which officially collapsed in April 2014. Moreover, the Israeli initiative to “clean” Gaza from its terroristic-affiliated inhabitants has significantly affected the orientation of the public opinion, both in the Territories, both in Europe. The massive operation launched by Netanyahu’s government left on the ground ruins and desperate people in Gaza, whose only hopes lie in the engagement of external unbiased actors to settle the dispute. The summer bombings coupled then with the vote passed in the Knesset in November to speed up the identity-based main feature of Israel due to security concerns. Conversely, the blood events in Jerusalem Synagogue hastened the feeling that the prolonged silence and inaction performed by the international community would have only lead the situation to a sheer escalation. A new ball game shall be set so to engage all the parties to change their attitude. Apparently, the lesson has been learnt, albeit a bit out of time, by the Abbas led Palestinian National Authority (PNA), with the launch of diplomatic initiatives benchmarking the new clothes of the potential 194th Country in the UN. “The recognition of the state and even the negotiations are not a goal in itself, the goal in itself is having a Palestinian state in place and having Israel living next to it” (2), as the HR had to say in Strasbourg, grounds the perception that there will not be peace without a Palestinian entity recognized as a State, equally Israeli security passes through the establishment of Palestine.


Old patterns and game-changers The EU is not the US, no doubt about it. It does not hold the same set of sticks&carrots which its Transatlantic partner is provided with, neither it is a State speaking with one-single voice. Nevertheless, the EU has significant aces and leverages to be played in the post-US Middle East. Since the launch of Obama’s strategy to lessen the US footprint in the region, the EU shall claim its pivotal role in the settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute leveraging on its double-role: as biggest donor for the Palestinian, and as first-class trade partners for Israel. Becoming fully aware of its role, the EU may be at the head of the peace process that for so long has been suffering from the lack of mutually-trusted lead negotiator. The diplomatic recognition may give considerable reliability to EU’s initiatives as it would follow the prescription of the 1999 Berlin declaration on the recognition of Palestine and the implementation of the UNSCR 242 (3). From a more concrete economic perspective, the recognition of Palestine would couple with EU financial support to the PNA. As abovementioned and recognised in the latest World Bank Factsheets, the EU’s payer role has benchmarked the path towards the establishment of a State in Palestine, despite all difficulties clinched with the Israeli occupation of parts of its territories and restrictions imposed by this situation. Although, without a willing Palestinian leadership able to channel the funding and empowered to make the right use of them, the risk is that the EU financial endowment may be managed by terroristic groups financing malicious purposes and grounding Israeli security concerns. The forthcoming EP vote itself, if favourable to the recognition of Palestinian Statehood, would activate a positive mind-process of Palestinians’ perception of the role played by diplomacy discarding the choice of undertaking violent and extremist actions. Despite of all the feelings moved by the initiative, the recognition issue must not be upfront. Back to 2012, when the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s status was upgraded by the positive vote of the UN General Assembly from “observer entity” to “non-Member Observer State” and the passage was perceived as an historical achievement (4). It was indeed, but as relevantly underlined by the international doctrine regulating the recognition, the act is the outcome of political contacts and decision, and does not forcedly flow into the real and effective practise of sovereignty on the territory. Indeed, due to its unilateral and political nature, the practice opens to the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two subjects, besides giving evidence to the political willingness of the pre-existing State to recognize and consider as peer the other entity of this political equation. Seen the number of States and international organisations negotiating or having formulated political and/or economic agreement with the PNA, it is a slight signal of appreciation of the to-be Palestinian State as capable to engage in such practices and perform as State within the international community scenario. Not negligible are the fences hindering the PNA to exercise power over the Territories deemed to be Palestinians, as for the issue related to the borders of the putative State. Registering the opposition of the main political force in Gaza – Hamas– the two-State solution seems to be mostly accepted as the only one viable, meanwhile there is no glimmer from Israel to re-discuss the return to the 1967 borders, either for the status of Jerusalem and the access to religious sites. The sustained Israeli plan of settlement expansion echoes the concerns of a significant part of the international community, whose dissent may be depicted with the labelling of products coming from the settlement as the only regime of sanctions possible promoted by the EU on July 2013. Standing the FTA and economic integration between Israel and the EU, the guidelines issued by the Institutions have been implemented in the practice to sanction a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention’s ban on territorial occupation and illegal settlement. Thus the PNA waits to open the process to be recognised as member of the International Criminal Court to see the opening of the prosecutor’s investigations so to bring in before the court probation of specific incidents and violation– a move announced by Abbas as part of his strategy aiming to the Palestinian Statehood widespread recognition. It is noticeable that the meaning of the Palestinian Statehood recognition can be translated as the unsustainability of the Occupation, and not be mistaken as an anti-Semitic attempt to cancel Israel from the Middle Eastern map. MEPs initiative to recognize the state of Palestine is expected to encourage the end of hostilities between Israelis and Palestinians, or at least to breach on the stalemate gained by the prospects of peace in Middle East. Hopefully, the forthcoming vote in Strasbourg will not let again the olive branch fall from negotiators’ hands.



(Anita Nappo)



 Further suggested readings:   


Classé dans:Actualités, BREVES

Why Montenegro should pursue military neutrality

Posted by on 11/12/14

Taking part in the protests against poverty and war held during the NATO Summit in Chicago in May 2012, Vietnam war veteran Ron McSheffery stated: “I am in total support of stopping NATO and stopping the slaughter of innocent civilians. If we took the money we spent on bombs and put it into green energy, we wouldn’t need to keep the sea lanes open for oil transport”. In my opinion, McSheffery articulated a humane, rational, and thoughtful attitude.

It is humane because it values the human dignity of each individual, the right of the every human being to a serene and prosperous life as well as the commitment to the tolerant and peaceful coexistence of all the differences.

It is rational because it places the values of scientific development, technological progress, and global solidarity in the distribution of resources above the production, sale and use of weapons and underscores the fact that all wars must be ended at the negotiation table.

It is thoughtful because, behind the rhetoric of global power players about freedom and human rights, it detects and reveals the mechanisms for the satisfaction of the geopolitical interests of capitalist oligarchies.

I believe that this kind of humane, rational, and thoughtful attitude about the Montenegrin foreign policy means giving one’s support for the military neutrality of Montenegro. Here are at least three reasons.

First, can anybody seriously dispute the humaneness of non-participation in violence and war and the promotion of peaceful resolution of disputes? That this is not possible is also understood by those in Montenegro who oppose military neutrality. This is why they claim that by entering NATO, Montenegro would never again participate in wars. But, this claim is not credible. In the last twenty years, NATO participated in at least three wars and its most powerful members logistically supported several more. The NATO membership would mean that the Montenegrin tax payers would be forced to bear the burden of financial participation in war operations. Instead of the investment in education and retirement benefits, health and disability insurance, the money of taxpayers would go into machine guns, bombs, and armored car vehicles. Montenegrin soldiers would be put in danger of getting wounded or killed far away from their families and homes, in the deserts of Asia and Africa. The vast majority of Montenegrins would be subjected to emotional, psychological traumas, while the war benefits would be split between the global capitalist oligarchies and their corrupted puppets in the Montenegrin government. And, as it always happens, the children of the poor would be sent to the frontlines, while the children of the rich would get away. Do we want that? Is that humane?

If, so far, we have concluded that neutrality is essentially humane, we still have to check whether it is rational. The opponents claim that the NATO membership will cost less than military neutrality. Is their claim true? One look at the military budgets of militarily neutral European countries is enough to ascertain that all of them spend less than the agreed upon NATO standard of the 2 % of the GDP. According to publicly available information, Ireland spends 0.7%, Austria 0.8%, Switzerland 0.9%, Finland 1.4-1.6%, Sweden 1.5% and Malta 1.7%. And not only that. It is important to note that the vast majority of citizens in these countries, which are all except Switzerland the members of the European Union, strongly supports the policy of military neutrality. It is evident that for these citizens, military neutrality is not only humane, but also rational, choice.

The interplay of humaneness and rationality is the ideal of all political communities. The policy of military neutrality enables the attainment of at least one dimension of that ideal. However, the question remains as to what extent this policy is thoughtful in the current Montenegrin political context. Does it mean that if Montenegro does not enter NATO, it will somehow remain outside the community of democratic countries, left at the mercy of the corrupt authoritarian regime which is in power at this time? The answer to this question makes necessary the honest appraisal of the fact that those countries which are democratic in their domestic political order do not behave particularly democratically in the sphere of international relations. They generally have one standard for their citizens and another for all the rest. If one carefully examines the foreign policy of the United States, one rather quickly becomes aware that the US has broken and continues to break many international agreements, including the Charter of the United Nations. The documents made public by Edward Snowden for instance show that the institutions of the US government in a monstrous fashion violated the right to privacy of tens of millions of people around the planet. Can we therefore ever have confidence that the activities of the US officials are, or can be, the model of democratic behavior and respect for the rule of law?

On the other hand, neither the socialist Yugoslavia, nor many of the countries in the Non-Aligned Movement, were democracies by the standards of the official Washington, but did they not give an immeasurable contribution to the improvement of the quality of life on Earth as well as to the prevention of the nuclear Armageddon between the two superpowers? Today, for instance, the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) play a more positive role in the search for the more just distribution of global resources than the countries which founded NATO. This is why it is intellectually disingenuous to claim that by not entering NATO, the democratic development and economic growth of Montenegro will be in any way slowed down or stopped. Military neutrality means open and friendly cooperation with all countries, while respecting mutual interests and reflecting universal values. It is the only authentic road to the prosperity of Montenegrin citizens and the respected status of Montenegro in international affairs. Montenegro, as the place of confidence both for the West and for the East, is at the same time humane and rational and thoughtful choice.

Originally published in the Montenegrin daily newspaper Vijesti on January 13, 2014. Translated into English by the author.

Flucht über das Mittelmeer

Posted by on 10/12/14

Über 3000 Menschen sind in diesem Jahr bei ihrer Flucht über das Mittelmeer ertrunken. Das ist die offizielle Zahl der UN, wahrscheinlich mussten weitaus mehr Flüchtlinge auf ihrem Weg in eine bessere Welt ihr Leben lassen. Die Bestürzung über das Massensterben wird sich schnell legen, und morgen werden wir diese Zahl vergessen haben. Wir dürfen uns aber nicht damit abfinden, dass diese Menschen sterben mussten. Natürlich wird es nicht gelingen, alle Flüchtlinge zu retten – genauso wenig, wie es realistisch ist, alle Verzweifelten an unseren Außengrenzen aufzuhalten. Aber die Not kann gelindert werden. Es müssen legale Wege geschaffen werden, wie Flüchtlinge nach Europa kommen können.

Die EU könnte in Programme investieren, die Menschen aus Krisengebieten wie Syrien ohne bürokratisches Asylverfahren in sichere Drittstaaten vermitteln. Möglich ist auch die Vergabe humanitärer Visa. Oder Flüchtlinge sollten auch außerhalb der EU, in Drittstaaten wie Tunesien oder der Türkei, Asylanträge für Europa einreichen können. Diese Möglichkeiten werden von EU-Staaten blockiert. Sie befürchten, dass ein zu menschlicher Umgang mit Flüchtlingen zu steigenden Asylbewerberzahlen führen könnte. Lieber werden die Toten im Mittelmeer in Kauf genommen.