13
Jan

Catalonia’s new president

Written on January 13, 2016 by Waya Quiviger in Democracy & Human Rights

ARTUR MAS, who over five years as president of Catalonia led the region’s drive for independence, stepped down over the weekend after failing to form a government. His successor, Carles Puigdemont, is an even more fervent secessionist. In a speech in 2013 he vowed, quoting a Catalan journalist executed under the dictator Francisco Franco, that “the invaders will be expelled from Catalonia”—referring to the Spanish government. Indeed, it was Mr Puigdemont’s longstanding commitment to independence, which much of his centre-right Catalan Democratic Convergence (CDC) party has only embraced in recent years, that enabled him to form a government where Mr Mas had failed. It won him the trust of the far-left Popular Unity Candidacies (CUP) party, whose members had blocked the re-election of the pro-business Mr Mas but apparently consider Mr Puigdemont a more trustworthy radical.

Three months after elections were held, Catalonia’s independence movement now has control of the region’s government. But that control has come at a cost to the secessionists’ image. For years, the separatist movement has successfully sold itself as cool, kind and progressive. Backers of continued union with Spain were scorned as reactionaries, or even the inheritors of Franco’s legacy. Now, senior members of the independence movement worry that it will be identified with the CUP, whose raised fists and chaotic assemblies frighten conservative, middle-class Catalans. Mr Puigdemont’s CDC has traditionally represented a reassuring sense of order. The small but newly powerful CUP represents radical change on all fronts. Read more…

 

Posted in the Economist on Jan. 11th, 2016; http://www.economist.com/

11
Jan

10 Conflicts to Watch in 2016

Written on January 11, 2016 by Waya Quiviger in International Conflict, Terrorism & Security

 

10 Conflicts to Watch in 2016

 

Pulling together a list of the wars most in need of international attention and support in 2016 is challenging for all the wrong reasons. For 20 years after the end of the Cold War, deadly conflict was in decline. Fewer wars were killing fewer people the world over. Five years ago, however, that positive trend went into reverse, and each year since has seen more conflict, more victims, and more people displaced. 2016 is unlikely to bring an improvement from the woes of 2015: It is war — not peace — that has momentum.

That said, there are conflicts whose urgency and importance rise above. This year’s list of 10 is weighted toward wars with the worst humanitarian consequences: Syria and Iraq, South Sudan, Afghanistan, Yemen, and the Lake Chad basin. It includes those in influential and functioning states, like Turkey, as well as those that have collapsed, like Libya. It features conflicts that are already bad but are poised to get much worse without intelligent intervention, such as Burundi, as well as tensions, such as those in the South China Sea, that are simmering but have yet to boil over. The list also considers the hopeful example presented by Colombia, where considerable progress is being made toward ending a 51-year insurgency.

Half of the conflicts on this year’s list involve extremist groups whose goals and ideologies are difficult to accommodate through negotiated settlement, complicating efforts to plot a path to peace. Looking ahead to 2016, it’s time to dispense with the notion that fighting against violent extremism suffices as a plan for world order — or even the basis of a solution for a single country like Syria. To be sure, stopping the abominations of the Islamic State and other jihadis is vital, but it also exposes policy dilemmas: The fear of what follows the demise of authoritarians (Iraq and Libya being prime exhibits) creates a strong incentive to back repressive regimes, but order based solely on state coercion is not sustainable. The dramatic increase in the reach and influence of jihadis over the past few years is a symptom of deeper trends in the Middle East: mounting sectarianism, a crisis of legitimacy of existing states, and escalating geopolitical competition, particularly between Saudi Arabia and Iran. When the enemy comes from within a given region, military action directed from abroad is more likely to aggravate than assuage.

Read more…

 

Published on 3 Jan. 2016 in foreignpolicy.com

By Jean-Marie Guéhenno; Jean-Marie Guéhenno is president and CEO of the Brussels-based International Crisis Group.

 

8
Jan

The 20 Percent World

Written on January 8, 2016 by Waya Quiviger in Culture & Society, Op Ed

If you want to pick a number for 2016, how about 20 percent? Look around the politics of the Western world, and you’ll see that a lot of once-unthinkable ideas and fringe candidates suddenly have a genuine chance of succeeding. The odds are usually somewhere around one in five — not probable, but possible. This “20 percent world” is going to set the tone in democracies on both sides of the Atlantic — not least because, as anybody who bets on horse racing will tell you, eventually one of these longshots is going to canter home.

Start with President Donald Trump. Gamblers, who have been much better at predicting political results than pollsters, currently put the odds of the hard-to-pin-down-but-generally-right-wing billionaire reaching the White House at around 6-1, or 17 percent. Interestingly, those are roughly the same odds as the ones offered on Jeremy Corbyn, the most left-wing leader of the Labour Party for a generation, becoming the next British prime minister. In France, gamblers put the likelihood of Marine Le Pen winning France’s presidency in 2017 at closer to 25 percent, partly because the right-wing populist stands an extremely good chance of reaching the runoff. Geert Wilders, another right-wing populist previously described as “fringe,” perhaps stands a similar chance of becoming the next Dutch prime minister.

Other once-unthinkable possibilities could rapidly become realities. America’s version of Corbyn, Bernie Sanders, whom Trump recently described as a “wacko,” is currently trading around 5 percent, no worse than Jeb Bush. Plus, Sanders has assembled the sort of Corbynite coalition of students, pensioners and public-sector workers that tends to outperform in primaries. If Hillary Clinton stumbles into another scandal, the Democrats could yet find themselves with a socialist contending for the national ticket. Read more…

Published on Jan. 3, 2016 by John Micklethwait in Bloombergview.com

 

7
Jan

Those of us who’ve worked on foreign affairs for decades disagree often and about much, but the advent of 2016 finds us all in agreement, to the point of cliché, on one thing: We’ve never seen a world so chockablock full of complex, dangerous and interlocking issues. For anything comparable in modern times, you’d have to go back to the late 1940s and the chaos following World War II.

Prediction now is as perilous as it was back then. Dozens of issues are rushing toward us, headlong, but we’re plunging in and highlighting the five biggest global issues of 2016: Syria, Iran nukes, China, Russia and the EU, and oil prices. In each of these areas, changes in one direction or another would be truly consequential — that is, they would ripple out broadly, like rocks thrown into the geopolitical pond.

To be sure, other issues, like cybersecurity, North Korea and climate change, will have short- and long-term effects, and, of course, no one is thinking about what inevitably will surprise us. Still, it’s a safe bet that the following five will absorb much of the world’s foreign policy attention in 2016. Here’s why:

1. Dealing With Syria

The country, now heading toward year five of a gruesome civil war, must come first. How the conflict evolves in 2016 will affect everything from the fate of the Islamic State to the European migration crisis, the stability of regional neighbors, volatility on the oil market, the status of Russia, and the terrorist threat level inside the United States.

The U.S. is pursuing a two-pronged strategy: gradually increasing military pressure on the IS by bombing, while seeking a diplomatic settlement satisfactory to Syria’s competing factions and the major powers trying to protect their conflicting interests — the U.S., Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. The big benefit of this strategy is that it minimizes the United States’ chances of getting sucked into a quagmire.

But the big risk is that it is eminently gradualist — and assumes that the Islamic State is gradualist too. That is wrong. The IS continues to grow rapidly and expand geographically. Despite some recent setbacks – Iraqi forces appear close to recovering Ramadi city – the IS will likely achieve the capability to carry out or inspire more attacks like those on Paris and San Bernardino long before our gradualist strategy achieves its goal. Read more…

 

Published in  on Jan. 4, 2016 in http://www.ozy.com/

By John McLaughlin

The author, deputy director and acting director of the CIA from 2000 to 2004.

31
Dec

A Happy New Year for Europe?

Written on December 31, 2015 by Waya Quiviger in News

As the European Union prepares to enter the new year, it faces an almost perfect storm of political challenges. The strategy it has used in the past – barely muddling through a series of calamities – may no longer be enough.
Of course, the EU is no stranger to crisis management. The euro crisis, for example, was widely expected to destroy it; but, after a couple of years of tough summits, the issue was more or less handled. Greece remains in poor shape, but it has retained its EU and eurozone membership. And the EU now has stronger mechanisms for economic-policy coordination.
But the situation today is far more demanding than anything the EU has seen so far – not least because of the sheer number of serious challenges that Europe faces. Far from the “ring of friends” that EU leaders once envisioned, the European neighborhood has turned into a “ring of fire,” fueled largely by the combination of Islamist terrorism and Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine. The idea that the EU, with its open societies and firm rule of law, would inspire those values in surrounding countries has been turned on its head, with the disorder of Europe’s near abroad projecting tensions and instability into the Union.
One of those challenges is the surging refugee crisis, fueled by conflict in the Middle East, especially Syria. To be sure, only a tiny fraction of those who have been displaced are currently seeking to enter the EU, and the million refugees expected to arrive this year represent only about 0.2% of the EU’s population. But when so many arrive in so short a time in just a few countries, the EU’s capacity to manage the influx has been overwhelmed, and controls at some borders within the Schengen Area have been restored.
In 2016, EU countries can be expected to get a handle on the immediate challenge, agreeing to key steps to control borders and share the burden of migration more equitably. But the longer-term challenges – integrating the refugees into European society and countering the rise of xenophobic political parties – will be far more difficult.
Even without the refugee crisis and its aftershocks, the EU would be facing a demanding agenda. Progress on both the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and a single digital market are central to the EU global competitiveness, as are efforts to implement the planned capital-markets union. As if that were not enough, a new “global foreign and security strategy,” to replace the one that was developed during the more optimistic days of 2003, must be in place by June.
To fulfill this demanding agenda, the EU must be at its best, cooperating effectively on multiple fronts simultaneously. That will be extremely difficult at a time when the United Kingdom is flirting with withdrawal. Although it seems increasingly likely that British Prime Minister David Cameron will strike a deal with his European counterparts by February, the chances that British voters will endorse the deal in the subsequent referendum, which Cameron has promised to hold in 2017, are probably no higher than 50/50.

Read more at https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/european-union-crises-brexit-by-carl-bildt-2015-12#ljsqb1lyrzoDSxOH.99

Carl Bildt was Sweden’s foreign minister from 2006 to October 2014 and Prime Minister from 1991 to 1994, when he negotiated Sweden’s EU accession.

1 7 8 9 10 11 210

We use both our own and third-party cookies to enhance our services and to offer you the content that most suits your preferences by analysing your browsing habits. Your continued use of the site means that you accept these cookies. You may change your settings and obtain more information here. Accept