Europe & EU
International Relations > Regions
Europe, despite its overall decline in the wake of WWII, remains one of the most important regions in the world.
European states share similar political systems and, despite the differences, have a relatively homogeneous "background culture" based on democracy, the rule of law, human rights, economic liberalism and the Christian religion. In economic terms, despite the recession that affected it in the aftermath of the global financial crisis of 2008, the Old Continent still counts a highly-developed economy. Europe is also the homeland of the world's most advanced, yet debated, regional integration experiments, namely the EU. Finally, most European states are close allies of the United States, through the membership to NATO.
Still, Europe is facing serious challenges today.
The eurozone crisis has not only resulted in a serious economic slowdown with sensible social consequences, but it also had notable political effects. The traditional political parties lost some of their grip to the benefit of a wave of populist movements; and the EU has been accused of being unable to manage the crisis, with many voices calling it an instrument of (German) economic imperialism and even questioning its legitimacy and existence. While the worst phase of the crisis seems to be over and recovery appears to consolidate, the situation will continue to affect the European continent and especially the EU, whose foundations and institutions have suffered significantly. The decision of the UK to leave the European Union (Brexit) now marks the political debate and its consequences will not be negligible, especially as it sets a precedent that other countries may imitate in the future.
Another major issue is the massive flow of immigrants to Europe in the past few years. Similarly to the economic recession, this new crisis has fostered social and political tensions (including with the pre-existing foreign communities), favored the emergence of new populist political forces, and it further delegitimized the EU due to its difficulty in handling the situation.
Partly linked to this, the recent wave of terrorist attacks all over the continent has equally fomented political turmoil and created a sense of insecurity among the population.
Moreover, these events contributed in creating new divergences with Turkey, a candidate to EU membership and already part of NATO; as well as an important trade partner for many European states. Especially in the wake of the attempted coup in July 2016 and the subsequent centralization of power by Turkish President Erdogan (itself the continuation of a trend that was already in place), the relations between the EU and its members on one side and Turkey on the other have worsened; and managing the partnership with Ankara will be a major issue in the future.
In traditional security terms, a field where the EU is practically powerless, it is NATO and its member states (including the US) that play the preeminent role. In this sphere, the main concern is Russia, especially following its annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the following conflict in eastern Ukraine. This resulted in a new effort to modernize the national militaries and in the highest period of tensions with Moscow since the end of the Cold War. Still, these events are also - if not mainly - the result of erroneous policies towards Russia and eastern Europe. Given Russia's importance as an energy provider for Europe and the huge risks linked to an open conflict with Russia - a vast country with a strong military and most importantly a powerful nuclear arsenal - avoiding an escalation is paramount for peace and stability in Europe.
A challenge of different nature comes from China, in the form of its ambitious "One Belt, One Road" initiative to revive trade between East Asia and Europe. On the one hand, this project will bring massive Chinese investment in the continent, thus favoring its economic recovery; but on the other hand, it will also result in a geoeconomic penetration by Chinese firms into Europe, and as a matter of fact several major European firms and infrastructures have been acquired by China-based corporations.
In short, Europe is facing various challenges, and the way it will handle them will determine the role the continent will play in the upcoming years.
Having studied international relations in Europe and as an European myself, I have a good knowledge of the region; including its states, the EU, NATO and in general the issues and challenges affecting the continent.
Below you will find my reports on Europe.
Belarus After Lukashenko: The Next Ukraine?
Belarus is a country that rarely attracts mediatic attention. Yet, things may change in the years ahead.
In power since 1994, President Lukashenko granted the country stability, albeit under an authoritarian government. But his rule will not last forever, and at that moment Belarus will be at a crossroad in terms of both domestic and foreign policy.
Considering Russia's geopolitical interests, if the post-Lukashenko transition is not managed carefully by both national and European decision-makers, there is the actual risk that Belarus will turn into another Ukraine; with detrimental consequences for regional stability.
If this interests you, read my analysis here (only for Geopolitical Monitor subscribers).
Photo credit: kremlin.ru (modified)
The Geopolitics of the Black Sea
Since the protests in Ukraine, the subsequent annexation of Crimea and the conflict in the Donbass, the Black Sea region has become one of the theatres of the ongoing NATO-Russia confrontation. Multiple interest collide in the area, in both strategic (access to the Mediterranean) and economic (pipelines) terms.
With no resolution in sight for the Ukrainian conflict, the US is increasing its military presence in Romania. Amid a complicated feud with Turkey due to its ambivalence, America is also seeking closer security ties with Greece to hedge against the risk of Turkey befriending Russia. In response, Moscow will attempt to destabilize NATO members in the Balkans.
Full article here (only for Geopolitical Monitor subscribers).
Is the European Union On The Edge Of A Civil War?
Is the European Union on the Edge of a Civil War?
A simple question, yet a rather shocking and dreadful one.
If we observe the current status of the EU, its future appears uncertain at best. Brexit is unfolding. A trade conflict with the US is looming. Social tensions are growing due to the combined effects of the debt crisis and of immigration flows from extra-EU countries. Consensus is lacking over the evolution of the common institutions, and anti-EU political forces are on the rise all over the continent (the new Italian government is just the latest example and probably strongest expression of this trend).
In such a context, it seems that the Union is destined to be more and more divided, to the point that French President E. Macron stated that the EU is experiencing a "civil war" over its fundamental values.
This prompted me to raise the provocative question. And interestingly, if we observe the past, we can see that the situation of today's EU is strikingly similar to that of another "Union"; namely the United States at the eve of the War of Secession. Will the EU also plunged into civil war, as the US did in the 1860s?
Full article available here on Eurasia Review.
EU: “Ever Closer Union” Hits a Wall with the Visegrád Four
Viktor Orban's re-election as PM in Hungary and Macron's "civil war" statement are both indicators of the diverging visions on the EU: one in favor of more integration, the other wanting to protect the core sovereign rights and the national identity of member states. The latter is embodied by the four countries forming the Visegrád Group, whose influence in European affairs is increasing.
Now, beyond the politicized discourse surrounding the V4 states, the existence of these diverging visions is a fact. Both are legitimate and present their pros and cons. Moreover, behind the vision supported by the Visegrád countries there are precise historical causes and geopolitical factors; which must be taken into account to understand their stance.
Full article here (only for Geopolitical Monitor subscribers).
Photo credit: Kancelaria Premiera, Flickr, modified
The Catalan Independence Referendum: History, Politics and International Law Interplay
This long comment focuses on the independence referendum in Catalonia held on October 1st 2017, an event that attracted significant attention by the media, especially after the moves by the Spanish central government to block it.
The aim of this article is not to examine the political debate around it in Spain and in Europe, to assess its economic impact, and even less to determine “who is right” and whether Catalonia should become independent or not. Instead, what I wish to do is to raise two often neglected but extremely important aspects of the issue, namely the historical roots of the Catalonian separatism and the problem’s nature from the perspective of international law.
Full article available here on Eurasia Review.
Analysis of Ion Berindan’s article “Not another ‘grand strategy’: what prospects for the future European security strategy?”
This brief paper is a summary and an analysis of an article written by Jon Berindan in 2013 on the theme of the European Union's grand strategy. I wrote this paper in late 2016 as part of a course titled "European common foreign, security and defence policy" that I attended during my Master's program at Université Catholique de Louvain. It is a short academic work, but it offers useful reflections on the EU's main strategic publications (namely the 2003 European Security Strategy, ESS; and the 2008 Report on the Implementation of the European Security Strategy, RIESS) and their evolution through the years. Berindan's full article can be found here.
At the beginning, I summarize Berindan's conclusion on the changes in the EU's grand strategy. Basically, he argues that the Union is still not a "world power", and that therefore it is too early to talk of a "grand strategy" for it akin that of the United States or other states; still, the EU has at least shown its willingness to become a "world power".
At that point, I comment his statements. First, I contest his definition of "grand strategy" as being the exclusive prerogative of a "world power". Then, I examine the concept of "power" and its application to the EU. I show that the real distinction here is based on the means, the methods and the objectives of the Union as an international actor. Since the EU is able to employ various tools to pursue its goals, I argue that it is legitimate to talk of a "EU grand strategy". Next, i show how the two ESS papers that Berindan examines are consistent with the EU's nature. Finally, I examine the 2016 Global Strategy (GS) published by the EU, I show how its content is partially consistent with Berindan's observations; as its ample scope makes of it a form of "grand strategy" that Berindan would consider premature for the Union.