Publicat în 3 mai 2017, 18:39 / 554 elite & idei

Antonia Colibasanu: Your Geopolitical Strategic Focus

Antonia Colibasanu: Your Geopolitical Strategic Focus

by Antonia Colibasanu

In the Balkans, talk about „Great Albania” has been spreading around. This is not a new theme and it has been used before in campaigning speeches – in countries fearing such a possibility, but also in Albania proper. The topic has made it into the European mainstream media editorials as this time, it is closely linked to the political crisis in Macedonia. President George Ivanov, close to the Party for Macedonian National Unity party (VMRO-DPMNE) which has held power for the last 10 years,  has refused to give the mandate for forming a government to the coalition formed of the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) and the Albanian party Democratic Union for Integration. He said that the SDSM agreed to greater use of Albanian in Macedonia and, because of that would facilitate the fragmentation of the country, according to a plan designed in Tirana that ultimately envisages the formation of the Great Albania. The discourse is dangerous as it fuels inter-ethic hatreds and threatens the stability of the region. The U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary Hoyt Yee visited Macedonia on between Apr. 30 – May 1 to help end the political crisis, after violent clashes took place in parliament on Apr. 27 when the Albanian ethnic Talat Xhaferi was elected Speaker. The Bulgarian President Roumen Radev, in Brussels on the occasion of the special European Council meeting on Brexit, has discussed about the Macedonian crisis with European Council President Donald Tusk and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini. Russia has condemned both the U.S. and the EU for „destructive meddling” in Macedonia. While stability in the Balkans directly affects the EU stability, considering the close neighborhood, Russia is interested in getting the region closer to Moscow and away from the Western influence. While there’s no easy fix in sight for the current crisis in the Balkans, roots for instability will continue growing.

After the Council of Europe parliamentary assembly voted on April 23 to impose the monitoring procedure on Turkey, President Erdogan announced on May 1 that Turkey will hold a referendum on whether to continue pursuing membership in the European Union. The EU leaders have also taken the decision in December to informally freeze the accession talks. But the fact that Turkey was not going to become a member of the EU has long been clear. After 2008, as the EU has struggled with socio-economic problems, Ankara lost interest in becoming a member. It already enjoyed membership in the customs union which paid off in terms of business. Adopting European regulation was difficult and the country’s leadership values have slowly modified, currently being different than those of the EU. The news doesn’t come as a shock. But it does pose the question of whether such political option will modify relations with the EU states – and how. This refers to both economic and security related issues, as the Turkish governance model changes together with the country’s role in the region.

The Austrian Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka said in an interview on Apr. 25 that Austria favors the extension of border controls. This comes after reports earlier this month pointed that there were superficial arguments making the case for extensions last time that the Commission discussed the matter. In May, the Commission will again read on the member states opinion on border controls (https://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/what-we-do/policies/borders-and-visas/schengen/reintroduction-border-control_en). But even if it disagrees on the arguments provided, it cannot go against a decision taken by a member state on protecting its territory. This weakens the case for Schengen, further deteriorating the practicalities of unity within the EU.

On May 7, France will decide between Emmanuel Macron and Marinne Le Pen for president. While Macron has been the favorite in the first election run (24%), Le Pen got a record number of votes for the far right (21.3%). This is not surprising – France has dealt with both economic and security problems that have affected not only the country’s regions, but also the urban and rural areas differently. The main issue during the final days of the election campaign appears to be the definition of the French power in Europe. While Le Pen favors the exit approach, Macron has said the EU needs reform in order for France to remain engaged within the Union. No matter the name of the French president, he or she will face the constraints of presidency (and no, exit is not an option for France – unless it will suddenly become an island). More importantly, the next French president will face the reality of France being both a Northern and Southern European power.

The British Prime Minister Theresa May called for early elections to be organized on June 8 (elections were not due until 2020). Considering the latest polls for her and the Conservative Party, her decision is politically correct. More, taking into account that both France and Germany have elections this year and negotiations on Brexit can’t really take place until after the two have new governments installed, the timing for British elections is rightly chosen. As the electoral campaign develops, it is important to focus on whether the currently „Remain”-leaning Parliament is likely to change or not. That will help better understand what kind of negotiations over Brexit will follow, even if chapters and details will remain unknown.

The U.S. carried a limited strike on the Syrian Sharyat airbase near Homs on Apr. 6 in response to earlier news reports related to Assad regime chemical weapons attack on the Syrian population. This was the first confirmation that constraints apply to all presidents in the very same way, even if the PR campaign prior to and after taking office differs. It provided an opportunity for those anti-Trump supporters (who said he’d be different than all previous presidents) to show that he really isn’t that different – and for that, they have found yet another reason to criticize him. The attack also pointed to those who were cheering „the normalization ties” to follow between Russia and the U.S. that they can’t be. With no interest in any kind of „follow-up” actions (and surely no interest in heathen conflict), nothing else happened on this front. But the U.S. strike was a wake-up call for many on the reality of politics after elections.

If you found this report useful, please forward it to your friends who may be interested in learning more about the most important geopolitical trends as seen from South Eastern Europe! To receive an update every month, they can register here: http://eepurl.com/czO2xn or by sending a message to antonia@colibasanu.ro

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