Archive for the ‘Regions’ Category


Defeat and victory

Written on September 28, 2015 by Waya Quiviger in Democracy & Human Rights, Europe, Op Ed

No one can ignore this result. Everyone, including the government, must react. The elections held in Catalonia on Sunday night were incredibly significant. Despite the confusion over the character of the vote – was it a plebiscite or an election – and despite the poor quality of the debate during the campaign, the voter turnout was extraordinary, setting a historic record for regional elections of this kind.

In effect, the turnout not only exceeded that of the 2012 polls, but all of those that came before. What’s more, the number of voters rose in all areas, whether urban or rural. As such, the September 27 polls should bring about great consequences.

But what are those consequences? The outgoing regional premier, Artur Mas, positioned the vote as a plebiscite on the future of the region. “We want a plebiscite and that is what we will have,” he said at the close of the campaign. Meanwhile, Antonio Baños, the leader of the CUP party, a radical pro-independence group, stated before the polls that the pro-secession forces would need to win at least “50% of the votes, because these elections are a plebiscite.

As EL PAÍS pointed out before the elections were held, the desired character of a plebiscite on independence was deceptive, given the nature of the elections – people were voting for parties, not a single question – and due to the lack of a legal framework.

With nearly 100% of the votes counted, the pro-secession parties did not reach half of the votes cast. But it is clear that the Catalan citizens have revealed themselves to be severely fractured into two blocs. The plebiscite on independence that the pro-independence groups wanted has been lost. This is a fundamental factor, in particular in an international context – especially when in other countries voting on similar questions an ample majority is usually required (Montenegro, Quebec, for example). Read more…


Published on 28/09 in


Russian Power Projection

Written on September 25, 2015 by Waya Quiviger in Europe, International Conflict, Terrorism & Security, News, Security

Putin Doesn’t Care if Assad Wins. It’s About Russian Power Projection.

MOSCOW — Vladimir Putin wants Syria to know it still has a friend in Russia. Last week, more than a dozen military flights from Russia to Syria reportedly delivered six T-90 tanks, 15 howitzers, 35 armored personnel carriers, 200 marines, and housing for as many as 2,000 military personnel. Moscow has also reportedly delivered surveillance drones, attack helicopters, armored carriers, over two dozen fighter aircraft, surface-to-air missiles (including an SA-22 air defense system), and four Su-30 aircraft. Russia also established a new base south of Latakia, Syria’s northern port city, and is continuing the expansion of its naval base in Tartus, about 50 miles south of Latakia.

Despite this serious uptick in military assistance to Damascus, Russian government officials and analysts in Moscow noted in conversations over the past few days that the Kremlin is not planning a major military offensive in Syria, belying recent press reports. Nor does Moscow plan to send ground forces to Damascus to shore up Assad’s flank. Rather, with Assad’s forces continuing to lose ground, Moscow wants to ensure it has a voice in any effort to reach a political solution to the conflict. Its military presence is designed to force Assad’s foes — the United States included — to respect its interests in Syria, while strengthening its hand as a regional power broker.

Moscow has provided significant diplomatic and military support to the Syrian regime since the 1970s. This support has included training and equipping the Syrian military, as well as intelligence cooperation. In exchange, Moscow has enjoyed access to the Tartus naval base (currently, its only military facility outside the former Soviet Union), while Syria has long supported Soviet and Russian efforts to limit the influence of the United States and its mostly Sunni allies in the Gulf. In the current conflict, Moscow has portrayed Assad as the most effective bulwark against the type of radicalism that animates the Islamic State, arguing that Washington’s insistence on Assad leaving power is dangerously naïve, given the lack of viable alternatives. Earlier in the conflict, the Kremlin did invite members of the Syrian opposition to Moscow; but Russian officials were reportedly disappointed with the outcome of their conversations. Read more…



By Helena Schwertheim, 2014/2015 MIR Alumnus 

Between the 24th and 26th of August 2015, I was lucky enough to attend a forum on the future of democracy in Latin America in the capital of Colombia, Bogota. As it was organised by the Club of Madrid as part of the Club’s Next Generation Democracy (NGD) project, other attendees included ex-Presidents from the region such as Vicente Fox (Mexico), Laura Chinchilla (Costa Rica), Cesar Gaviria (Colombia) and Luis Alberto Lacalle (Uruguay), just to name a few. From the academic world experts from the Wilson Centre, The Economist columnists, members of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and practitioners from the Inter-American Development Bank, Organisation of American States and other institutions. Discussion provided analysis of the current crisis of democracy on the continent, using the experience and knowledge of those present. The aim was to move past simple diagnostics to provide practical recommendations and proposals of how to improve democracy. After all, the motto of the Club of Madrid is “democracy that delivers”.

The forum was divided into three days; on the first the aim was to provide an analysis of the current crisis facing Latin American democracy, while the second day we split into working groups to conceive concrete proposals and avenues of action. The final day was more of a presentation of the findings; in the historical centre of Bogota the event took place in the Colon Theatre, with students and media attending as well as the current President of Colombia, Manuel Santos. However by the third day I had met enough ex-Presidents and experts to be only mildly impressed by this spectacle.

Read more…


SEMINARIO: España y la Comisión Europea

Written on September 16, 2015 by Waya Quiviger in Europe

logo 22 sept

Joaquin Almunia
Vicepresidente de la Comisión Europea y Comisario Europeo de Competencia (2009-2014). Comisario Europeo de Economía (2004-2009)
José Candela
Funcionario de la Comisión Europea (1986-2014)
Marie-José Garot
Directora del Centro de Estudios Europeos/IE

Martes 22 de septiembre 14:00 – 16:00 Lugar: Campus IE Serrano, 105 Aula S-001 28006 Madrid De 14:00 a 14:30 Buffet frío De 14:30 a 16:00 Seminario Se ruega confirmación. Plazas limitadas:


It took a temporary partition to end the war that tore apart Bosnia in the 1990s. Why not do the same for Syria?

In one sense, a partitioned Syria is already visible, its contours drawn by the front lines of the civil war. President Bashar al-Assad has retreated from territory that was too difficult for his overextended forces to hold, giving up the attempt to reimpose nationwide control. (That doesn’t mean he’s on the run. Iran and Russia have made it clear they won’t let that happen.)

Kurds hold the area near the Turkish border, having driven out Islamic State.

The competing factions in areas held by Sunni Arab rebels make for a more complicated picture, but a map of how the front lines looked this summer shows the outlines of a potential partition of Syria into three parts. The red designates regime control. The yellow is Kurdish. The green and black are Sunni Arab, including the area now controlled by Islamic State. (The white is sparsely populated desert.)

Fabrice Balanche, a researcher at the Group for Research and Studies on the Mediterranean and Middle East in Lyons, France, has been mapping Syria’s ethnic and religious communities since long before the war. He was pilloried in 2011 for saying that Western confidence in the inevitability of Assad’s demise was misplaced, and that civil war and Syria’s disintegration would result. He is, if anything, less sanguine today:

We have a de facto partition, but nobody wants to recognize this partition. In Damascus, there are posters everywhere about a unified Syria. The opposition say no we don’t need a partition. But we will have one.

Read more…

Posted on Sept. 14 in; written by Marc Champion

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