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Theresa May’s foreign policy

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] H [/yt_dropcap]ow to define the post-Brexit foreign policy of Prime Minister May? The question is not simple at all and shows a series of new and unexpected signs. Meanwhile, Theresa May’s primary project is to increase her own international role outside traditional alliances so as to make up for the loss – scarcely relevant at military level, but highly symbolic – of the UK presence in the European Union.

Last September the Tory government led by Prime Minister May hosted the Qatari emir, Sheikh Al-Thani, to start new political and financial relations with the Emirate, with the sale of various leading-edge technologies for Defense.

Furthermore a new British attaché will be posted to Qatar, so as to support the UK strong commitment in the country, also at training level.

In mid-October Prime Minister May also hosted the King of Bahrain, Ahmad bin Isa al Khalifa, and, in her welcome speech, she underlined “the strong support for the efforts designed to make the Gulf region safe”.

Also Oman, a UK traditional friend, as well as the other United Arab Emirates, will shortly receive support from Great Britain, which will build new military bases in the region.

The Great Britain of Gertrude Bell and Christine Granville is back again.

Again a woman, Theresa May, is rebuilding the communication and strategic network with the Middle East.

Not to mention Al Sisi’s Egypt, already in the blacklist of “universal democracy” lovers which, however, Theresa May views as a bulwark of the new extra-European and non-EU policy of the reborn Great Britain.

It is a line which has emerged as early as the meetings held last August between Prime Minister May and the Egyptian leader Al Sisi.

The issue of the current Egyptian regime’ stability is of utmost importance.

If Al Sisi’s government collapses, the Muslim Brotherhood and the sword jihad will come back both towards the Maghreb region and the Sinai Peninsula – hence Israel.

Clearly Great Britain wants to act as a new security axis in the Middle East, by connecting all the Emirates’ areas, which have so far been a strategic void for the West, thus controlling the passage ways from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean and establishing its independent network for China’s new “passage to the West”, its “Silk Road”, namely the Belt and Road Initiative.

The human rights mystics, very active also in Great Britain, have always criticized this choice by Prime Minister May to communicate with the “authoritarian countries” of the Gulf and the Maghreb region.

If Egypt collapses, however, all the Suez Canal will fall into unfriendly and often jihadist hands, with unimaginable and very dangerous consequences for the whole Mediterranean region.

Obviously neither the French and Italian pious souls nor the other EU naïve idealists think to these things which, however, are at the heart of the UK strategic project and, for example, Russia’s and China’s.

Not to mention Israel, of course.

Last October the British Ambassador to Jerusalem, David Quarrey, officially declared that “Brexit opens up new opportunities for Great Britain and Israel to work even more closely together”.

On the one hand, as is also the case with some other European governments, Great Britain criticizes the Jewish State’s policy vis-à-vis the occupied territories but, on the other hand, it sells many weapons to Israel.

From April-June 2016 to date, Great Britain has exported to the Jewish State 65 million pounds worth of munitions – a figure to be compared with the mere 9.5 million pounds for the whole 2015.

Furthermore Great Britain is the second largest arms exporter in the world.

By also predicting that after Brexit – as brilliantly planned by an Italian air force general, Gen. Camporini – the EU will have the opportunity of creating a single EU army, Theresa May has set up a new military investment plan to the tune of 178 billion pounds so as to build two new large aircraft carriers, with a power projection plan which will probably make Great Britain a new global power.

As at the times of Edward Montagu and Robert Blake.

The British military statements make us easily guess that this new UK presence in the seas, “like the one of the Empire and beyond” – as Prime Minister May says – will be applied to the expansion of the UK interest to Asia, in close connection with China’s.

Brexit is what Theresa May wants it to be: a new UK autonomous and global project; a foreign policy free from the European shackles in the Middle East; a strong and stable relationship with China before the latter focusing its attention on and addressing to the countries still members of the European Union.

Moreover, Prime Minister May wants to strengthen the limited and lukewarm relations with the Russian Federation – a situation which has been lasting since the “Litvinenko affair” – and, together with Putin, she has set a new agreement between both countries’ security agencies for air safety and the exchange of first-hand intelligence.

Even in this case, Theresa May is well beyond the EU childish geopolitics, which currently regards Russia only as an “authoritarian nation”.

In the phone call made on August 9 by Theresa May to Putin, they rebuilt good relations and organized a series of British participations in the forthcoming high-level political and historical events.

This is not something irrelevant: the British ships which, by passing through the Arctic, brought food and other items to Arkhangelsk is a historical fact, but also a symbol, and foreign policy also lives on symbols.

Today Great Britain wants to establish new relations with Russia not only to strengthen bilateral trade, but also to use the strong networks that Russia already owns throughout Eurasia.

What Prime Minister May is seeking, after the British stay in the EU strategic void, is a new internationalization of the British power.

It is worth recalling that from 2009 to 2012 Russia increased its imports from Britain by 75%.

And, after Brexit, as soon as the EU has begun to think about what the new capital of international finance could be, Great Britain has re-established all its channels with Russia, and later with China, so as to open to the capital coming from Eurasia – something which is not possible for the EU.

Currently, with the new prospects opened up by the relationship between Russia and the United States, Prime Minister May’s foreign policy is effective and far-sighted, while the EU keeps on postponing the solution of the strategic equation between Europe and Russia.

Furthermore, as repeatedly stressed by Theresa May, all this new range of choices for British foreign policy regards “the new return of free trade”, namely the free movement of goods, also free from the EU shackles.

Hence Prime Minister May will be increasingly tough on immigration, which is the sore point of Brexit, but will seize this opportunity to rebuild the British global strategy: competition with the EU in foreign policy and presence in new markets; reconstruction of the British military force and of its old power projection in world seas – all the more so that EU will never create its own independent military force.

This strategy will also include geostrategic support to China and the Russian Federation, in addition to redefining British policy in the Middle East, with strong support for Israel and simultaneous support for the Arab world that counts and which can really change equilibria.

A strategic project which will put an end to the EU tired petitions of principle and will recreate – on new bases – the traditional link between Great Britain and the United States, considering the foreign policy of President-elect Trump, who has already secretly sent out his intelligence people in key countries.

After the mad geopolitical idealism of the past decade, a wise assessment of world equilibria is back again.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs "La Centrale Finanziaria Generale Spa", he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group and member of the Ayan-Holding Board. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d'Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: "A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title of "Honorable" of the Académie des Sciences de l'Institut de France

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Europe

From Davos to Munich

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An overview of the views and attitudes of European officials during the Davos and Munich Conference and their comparison with each other suggests that the security, economic, and political concerns of European countries have not only not diminished but are increasing.

During the World Economic Summit in Davos, the Chancellor of Germany and the President of France both gave a significant warning about the return of nationalism and populism to Europe. This warning has been sent in a time when Far-Right movements in Europe have been able to gain unbelievable power and even seek to conquer a majority of parliaments and form governments.

In her speech, Angela Merkel emphasized that the twentieth century’s mistake shouldn’t be repeated. By this, the German Chancellor meant the tendency of European countries to nationalism. Although the German Chancellor warning was serious and necessary, the warning seems to be a little late. Perhaps it would have been better if the warning was forwarded after the European Parliamentary elections in 2014, and subsequently, more practical and deterrent measures were designed. However, Merkel and other European leaders ignored the representation of over a hundred right-wing extremist in the European Parliament in 2014 and merely saw it as a kind of social excitement.

This social excitement has now become a “political demand” in the West. The dissatisfaction of European citizens with their governments has caused them to explicitly demand the return to the twentieth century and the time before the formation of the United Europe. The recent victories of right wing extremists in Austria, Germany and…, isn’t merely the result of the nationalist movement success in introducing its principles and manifestos. But it is also a result of the failure of the “European moderation” policy to resolve social, security and economic problems in the Eurozone and the European Union. In such a situation, European citizens find that the solutions offered by the moderate left parties didn’t work in removing the existing crises in Europe. Obviously, in this situation “crossing the traditional parties” would become a general demand in the West. Under such circumstances, Merkel’s and other European leaders’ warnings about the return to the twentieth century and the time before the formation of the United Europe simply means the inability of the Eurozone authorities in preventing the Right-extremism in the West.

These concerns remain at the Munich Security Conference. As Reuters reported, The defense ministers of Germany and France pledged to redouble their military and foreign policy cooperation efforts on Friday, inviting other European countries to participate if they felt ready to do so.
In a speech to the Munich Security Conference, German defense minister Ursula von der Leyen said Europe’s countries would not be able to respond nimbly enough to global challenges if they were stymied by the need to decide joint foreign policy approaches unanimously.

“Europe has to up its pace in the face of global challenges from terrorism, poverty and climate change,” she said. “Those who want to must be able to advance without being blocked by individual countries.”

Her French counterpart Florence Parly said any such deepened cooperation would be complementary to the NATO alliance, which itself was based on the principle that members contributed differently depending on their capacities.

“The reality has always been that some countries are by choice more integrated and more able to act than others,” she said.

The push comes as Germany’s political class reluctantly concedes it must play a larger security role to match its economic pre-eminence in Europe, amid concerns that the European Union is unable to respond effectively to security concerns beyond its eastern and southern borders.

But in their deal for another four years of a “grand coalition” government, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives and the Social Democrats have agreed to boost spending on the armed forces after years of post-Cold War decline.

The deal, which must still be ratified by the Social Democrat membership, comes as Germany reluctantly takes on the role of the continent’s pre-eminent political power-broker, a role generations of post-war politicians have shied away from.

Days after U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis reiterated President Donald Trump’s demand that European countries spend more on their militaries, Von der Leyen pledged to spend more on its military and the United Nations, but called in return for other countries not to turn away from mulitlateralism.

The pledges come as the EU seeks a new basis on which to cooperate with Britain, traditionally one of the continent’s leading security players, after its vote to leave the EU.

Earlier on Friday, the leaders of the three countries’ security services said close security cooperation in areas like terrorism, illegal migration, proliferation and cyber attacks, must continue after Britain’s departure.

“Cooperation between European intelligence agencies combined with the values of liberal democracy is indispensable, especially against a background of diverse foreign and security challenges,” they said.

First published in our partner Tehran Times

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Election Monitoring in 2018: What Not to Expect

Alina Toporas

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This year’s election calendar released by OSCE showcases a broad display of future presidential, parliamentary and general elections with hefty political subjecthoods which have the potential of transforming in their entirety particularly the European Union, the African Union and the Latin American sub-continent. A wide sample of these countries welcoming elections are currently facing a breadth of challenges in terms of the level of transparency in their election processes. To this end, election observation campaigns conducted by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the Council of Europe, the Organisation for American States (OAS), the United Nations Electoral Assistance Division, the National Democratic Institute, Carter Center and even youth organisations such as AEGEE and Silba are of paramount importance in safeguarding the incorruptibility of election proceedings in fraudulent and what cannot be seen with the naked eye type of fraudulent political systems, making sure elections unfold abiding national legislation and international standards.

What exactly does an election observation mission supposed to accomplish?   

An election monitoring mission consists of operational experts and analysts who are all part of a core team and are conducting their assignments for a period of time varying between 8 and 12 weeks. Aside from the core team experts and analysts, there can be short-term or long-term observers and seconded observers or funded observers. Joining them, there is usually a massive local support staff acting as interpreters and intermediaries. Generally, an election observer does not interfere with the process, but merely takes informative notes. With this in mind, it is imperative of the observer to make sure there isn’t any meddling with votes at polling stations by parties and individual candidates; that the people facilitating the election process are picked according to fair and rigorous benchmarks; that these same people can be held accountable for the final results and that, at the end of the day, the election system put in place by the national and local authorities is solid from both a physical and logical standpoint. Oftentimes, particularly in emerging democracies, the election monitoring process goes beyond the actual process of voting by extending to campaign monitoring.

In practical terms, the average election observer needs to abide by certain guidelines for a smooth and standardised monitoring process. Of course, these rules can vary slightly, depending on the sending institution. Typically, once the election observer has landed in the country awaiting elections, their first two days are normally filled with seminars on the electoral system of the country and on the electoral law. Meetings with candidates from the opposition are sometimes organised by the electoral commission. Talking to ordinary voters from builders to cleaners, from artists to businesspeople is another way through which an election observer can get a sense of what social classes pledged their allegiances to what candidates. After two days in training and the one day testing political preferences on the ground, election day begins. Since the early bird gets the worm, polling stations open at least two hours earlier than the work day starts, at around 7am. Throughout the day, observers ask voters whether they feel they need to complain about anything and whether they were asked to identify themselves when voting. Other details such as the polling stations opening on time are very much within the scope of investigation for election monitors. Observers visit both urban voting centres and rural ones. In the afternoon, counting begins with observers carefully watching the volunteers from at least 3 metres away. At the end of the day, observers go back to their hotels and begin filling in their initial questionnaires with their immediate reactions on the whole voting process. In a few weeks time, a detailed report would be issued in cooperation with all the other election observers deployed in various regions of the country and under the supervision of the mission coordinators.   

Why are these upcoming elections particularly challenging to monitor?  

Talks of potential Russian interference into the U.S. elections have led to full-on FBI investigations. Moreover, the idea of Russian interference in the Brexit vote is slowly creeping into the British political discourse. Therefore, it does not take a quantum physicist to see a pattern here. Hacking the voting mechanism is yet another not-so-classic conundrum election observers are facing. We’re in the midst of election hacking at the cognitive level in the form of influence operations, doxing and propaganda. But, even more disturbingly, we’re helpless witnesses to interference at the technical level as well. Removing opposition’s website from the Internet through DDOS attacks to downright political web-hacking in Ukraine’s Central Election Commission to show as winner a far-right candidate are only some of the ways which present an unprecedented political savviness and sophistication directed at the tampering of the election machinery. Even in a country such as the U.S. (or Sweden – their elections being held September of this year) where there is a great deal of control over the physical vote, there is not much election monitoring can do to enhance the transparency of it all when interference occurs by way of the cyber domain affecting palpable election-related infrastructure.

Sketching ideational terrains seems like a fruitful exercise in imagining worst-case scenarios which call for the design of a comprehensive pre-emptive approach for election fraud. But how do you prevent election fraud? Sometimes, the election observer needs to come to terms with the fact that they are merely a reporter, a pawn which notwithstanding the action of finding oneself in the middle of it all, can generally use only its hindsight perspective. Sometimes, that perspective is good enough when employed to draft comprehensive electoral reports, making a difference between the blurry lines of legitimate and illegitimate political and electoral systems.

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Can Europe successfully rein in Big Tobacco?

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Photo by Mateo Avila Chinchilla on Unsplash

In what looks set to become the ‘dieselgate’ of the tobacco industry, a French anti-smoking organization has filed a lawsuit against four major tobacco brands for knowingly selling cigarettes with tar and nicotine levels that were between 2 and 10 times higher than what was indicated on the packs. Because the firms had manipulated the testing process, smokers who thought they were smoking a pack a day were in fact lighting up the equivalent of up to 10, significantly raising their risk for lung cancer and other diseases.

According to the National Committee Against Smoking (CNCT), cigarettes sold by the four companies have small holes in the filter that ventilate smoke inhaled under test conditions. But when smoked by a person, the holes compress due to pressure from the lips and fingers, causing the smoker to inhale higher levels of tar and nicotine. According to the lawsuit, the irregularity “tricks smokers because they are unaware of the degree of risk they are taking.”

It was only the most recent example of what appears to be a deeply entrenched propensity for malfeasance in the tobacco industry. And unfortunately, regulatory authorities across Europe still appear unprepared to just say no to big tobacco.

Earlier this month, for instance, Public Health England published a report which shines a positive light on “tobacco heating products” and indicates that electronic cigarettes pose minimal health risks. Unsurprisingly, the UK report has been welcomed by big tobacco, with British American Tobacco praising the clear-sightedness of Public Health England.

Meanwhile, on an EU-wide level, lawmakers are cooperating too closely for comfort with tobacco industry executives in their efforts to craft new cigarette tracking rules for the bloc.

The new rules are part of a campaign to clamp down on tobacco smuggling, a problem that is particularly insidious in Europe and is often attributed to the tobacco industry’s own efforts to stiff the taxman. According to the WHO, the illicit cigarette market makes up between 6-10% of the total market, and Europe ranks first worldwide in terms of the number of seized cigarettes. According to studies, tobacco smuggling is also estimated to cost national and EU budgets more than €10 billion each year in lost public revenue and is a significant source of cash for organized crime. Not surprisingly, cheap availability of illegally traded cigarettes is also a major cause of persistently high smoking rates in the bloc.

To help curtail cigarette smuggling and set best practices in the fight against the tobacco epidemic, the WHO established the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2005. The first protocol to the FCTC, the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products, was adopted in 2012 and later ratified by the EU. Among other criteria, the Protocol requires all cigarette packs to be marked with unique identifiers to ensure they can be tracked and traced, thereby making smuggling more difficult.

Unsurprisingly, the tobacco industry has come up with its own candidates to meet track and trace requirements, notably Codentify, a system developed by PMI. From 2005 through 2016, PMI used Codentify as part of an anti-smuggling agreement with the EU. But the agreement was subject to withering criticism from the WHO and other stakeholders for going against the Protocol, which requires the EU and other parties to exclude the tobacco industry from participating in anti-smuggling efforts.

The EU-PMI agreement expired in 2016 and any hopes of reviving it collapsed after the European Parliament, at loggerheads with the Commission, overwhelmingly voted against a new deal and decided to ratify the WHO’s Protocol instead. Codentify has since been sold to the French firm Impala and was rebranded as Inexto – which critics say is nothing but a front company for PMI since its leadership is made out of former PMI executives. Nonetheless, due to lack of stringency in the EU’s draft track and trace proposal, there is still a chance that Inexto may play a role in any new track and trace system, sidelining efforts to set up a system that is completely independent of the tobacco industry.

This could end up by seriously derailing the EU’s efforts to curb tobacco smuggling, given the industry’s history of active involvement in covertly propping up the black market for cigarettes. In 2004, PMI paid $1.25 billion to the EU to settle claims that it was complicit in tobacco smuggling. As part of the settlement, PMI agreed to issue an annual report about tobacco smuggling in the EU, a report that independent researchers found “served the interests of PMI over those of the EU and its member states.”

Given the industry’s sordid history of efforts to prop up the illicit tobacco trade, it’s little surprise that critics are still dissatisfied with the current version of the EU’s track and trace proposal.

Now, the CNCT’s lawsuit against four major tobacco firms gives all the more reason to take a harder line against the industry. After all, if big tobacco can’t even be honest with authorities about the real levels of chemicals in their own products, what makes lawmakers think that they can play a viable role in any effort to quell the illegal cigarette trade – one that directly benefits the industry?

Later this month, the European Parliament will have a new chance to show they’re ready to get tough on tobacco, when they vote on the pending proposal for an EU-wide track and trace system. French MEP Younous Omarjee has already filed a motion against the system due to its incompatibility with the letter of the WHO. Perhaps a ‘dieselgate’ for the tobacco industry might be just the catalyst they need to finally say no to PMI and its co-conspirators.

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