Archive for the ‘Europe’ Category

11
Dec

Gratz_RevolutiononthemBy Jonas Grätz

In the weeks leading up to the European Union’s Vilnius summit in late November, it seemed all but certain that Ukraine was pivoting West. At the meeting, the EU and Ukraine were expected to sign an Association Agreement, which would have abolished trade barriers between the two and required Ukraine to undergo some EU-mandated political and economic reforms.

But then, days before the summit, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych announced that any agreement with the EU would have to be put off due to reasons of national security. Ukraine, its occasionally authoritarian president had concluded, would not be able to withstand the intense economic pressure that Russia would apply if he signed the deal. Russia’s aim? To goad Ukraine into joining its own Customs Union with Belarus and Kazakhstan, which would preclude association with the EU.

Yanukovych’s unexpected decision has made his job more difficult. Enraged citizens, carrying Ukrainian and EU flags, took to the streets of Kiev to demand that Yanukovych and his government resign. Protestors, mostly from the capital and the country’s Western reaches, have occupied Kiev’s central Independence Square and some administrative buildings for more than a week. For them, the EU is their country’s last hope for better domestic governance and protection of civil rights. They fear that Yanukovych’s latest move toward Russia will further entrench Ukraine’s dysfunctional and ineffective political elite and diminish the country’s independent national identity.

The revolution on Euromaidan, as the protest has been called, in reference to Kiev’s main boulevard, has a hard road ahead of it. It lacks real leadership, and the opposition parties that could fill that role are untrusted by the public and at loggerheads with each other. Still, the anger of a sizable part of Ukrainian society cannot be ignored or discredited. And Yanukovych has nowhere to hide. Even his support base in Ukraine’s east is disappointed. His unreliability — he was for the deal before he was against it — alienated his supporters long ago. Should elections be called, as the protesters insist, he would have little to no chance of winning. Read more…

JONAS GRÄTZ is researcher with the Global Security Team at the Center for Security Studies (CSS) at ETH Zurich.

As published in Foreign Affairs on December 9th, 2013 http://www.foreignaffairs.com

2
Dec

Lord Garel-Jones, Chairman of UBS Latin America and Former United Kingdom’s Minister for Europe, is interviewed by Dr.de Areilza, Dean of IE School of International Relations, on the United Kingdom, the European Union and Latin America.

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21
Nov

Elect a president

Written on November 21, 2013 by Ángeles Figueroa-Alcorta in Europe

TorreblancaBy José Ignacio Torreblanca, Associate Professor at IE School of International Relations

The designation of the German Martin Schulz as the EU-wide Socialist candidate to the presidency of the European Commission is the starting gun for elections that promise to be complicated. He and other candidacies are supposed to breathe some life into elections from which the voters usually stay away in droves, and which are normally disputed more in a national than pan-EU key, and are now under the effects of the crisis and of the Europe-wide boom among xenophobic parties.

With the crisis, confidence in EU institutions has collapsed. If in 2007, 52 percent had a positive view of the EU and 57 percent trusted its institutions, in 2013 these percentages have fallen to 30 and 31. Equally worrying is the weakness of support for the European Parliament. If in 2007, 56 percent trusted the assembly and 28 percent distrusted it, now the respective percentages are 43 and 47, an almost equal division. The European Parliament, which began its career in 1979 with a 62-percent voter turnout, has, in spite of its growing powers, progressively disappeared from the radar of the EU voter, with the turnout sinking to 43 percent in the last elections, held in 2009. This average rate of participation, painful to every Europeanist, conceals worse ones: 19 percent in Slovakia, 24 in Poland and 27 in Romania.

Concerned about the deterioration in their image, defenders of the parliament often argue that national democracies are not much more popular than the EU. And they are right: in general terms, voters are angrier with their own governments and parliaments than with European policy and institutions. Only 25 percent of EU citizens trust their national government or parliament. But this reality offers scant consolation. Disaffection with national institutions is prevalent only in southern Europe, where democracy has suffered as a result of the crisis, but not in the north of Europe, where national democracies are valued for their ability to cope with economic difficulties and, at the same time, impose reforms and discipline on other nations.

Apparently, the citizens of creditor countries do not necessarily want a more united Europe. They want a sort of Europe which is not necessarily the one desired by people in the south of Europe, who prefer a more generous Union which is more sensitive to their needs. Thus, those who hope that the weakness of their democracies may generate support for ceding more powers and sovereignty to the EU seem to be mistaken. Given the experience of recent years, southern citizens would accept ceding more sovereignty to the EU only if it serves to increase the EU’s capacity to deal with their real problems such as unemployment, debt and the lack of economic growth — but not if those powers serve to impose more cutbacks and force the adoption of a model slanted to favor the creditors.

Added to the traditional low turnouts, the situation of economic crisis, the problems of distrust of EU institutions and the rise of populist and xenophobic extreme-right movements, it is clear that the European Parliament, the EU’s most legitimate and democratic institution, is about to enter a political high-risk zone. To call 390 million Europeans to the polls, when half of them (183 million) do not trust the parliament, poses the serious question of what political project to offer to the public. If what we want is attention and visibility for the faces on the slate, it looks a priori like a good idea. After all, ideas and projects do not just float in the air; they need individuals to give them credible form, both to voters and to other candidates. Unfortunately, the EU Socialists have rejected the idea of a face-off between candidates, which might have been very positive. The results: a single candidate, German and from a party allied in government with Chancellor Angela Merkel. If she decides to support his candidacy, which seems likely, we will be right back where we started.

As published in www.elpais.com on November 14, 2013.

19
Nov

abadia

In an interesting seminar, Tomas Abadía, CEO of IADIC International , shared with the MIR class his assessment of current EU-US  transatlantic relations. He touched upon the key issues that define the relations between the two largest economies in the world today: political, economic, and security. Indeed the US and the EU share a common commitment to democracy, peace, prosperity, and stability post World War II. In addition, they represent the world’s largest trading bloc with trade worth more than $2 bn a day. Together they represent 80% of funding for development assistance worldwide and 70% of funding for the UN peacekeeping forces.  However, the recent NSA surveillance scandal has brought tension between key allies.  According to Mr. Abadia, this scandal should not undermine an otherwise solid relationship. Indeed, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership that is currently being negotiated should not be jeopardized by current tensions. This agreement if signed could represent combined gains for Europe and the US of more than 300bn euros a year. For Mr. Abadia, the EU-US strategic partnership is more relevant than ever and the two blocs should strengthen their shared values and interests in the world.

Students had many questions for Mr. Abadia, including questions on the reform on the UN Security Council, IMF, World Bank and other international institutions; on growing anti-Americanism in the world, and on the new balance of power in strategic regions such as Asia Pacific. Mr. Abadia agreed that the UN, IMF and World Bank should be reformed, democratized and made more transparent to reflect the new international order. He deplored increasing anti-Amercanism in the world and suggested that the US and EU further join efforts in foreign policy initiatives, especially in the Asia Pacific, home to half of the world’s inhabitants.

28
Oct

Mrs.Benita Ferrero-Waldner at IE School of International Relations

Written on October 28, 2013 by Ángeles Figueroa-Alcorta in Europe, Foreign Policy, Video

Mrs.Benita Ferrero-Waldner, President of the Foundation EU-LAC and Former European Commissioner for External Relations, is interviewed by Dr.de Areilza, Dean of IE School of International Relations, on the European Union foreign policy and the EU-LAC relations

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