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Chaos or Cosmos? it is a simple choice

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Geopolitics bookGeopolitics – Europe of Sarajevo 100 years later by Anis Bajrektarević

The book “Geopolitics – Europe of Sarajevo 100 years” gives to its readers an insightful analytical view for geopolitics in Europe and answers critical questions which influenced the European history and defines the current geopolitical developments. Dr. Anis Baijeracterviec, a philosopher, university professor and former carrier diplomat, wrote a book which could be characterized as his “handiwork of brain and heart”.

Bajrektarević’s intrusive analytical view examines the geopolitics in the international and European “strategic chessboard” during the last 100 years. The authors argues that the political landscape of today’s Europe had been actually conceived in the late 14th century, gradually evolving to its present shape. The relations of great powers, the role of energy- generating products in the modelling of global relations and the creations of present crisis points, the destiny of Near East states help the readers to fully understand the European history and to realized how the geopolitics shape the future of states and people.

For his previous book Geopolitics of Technology – Is There Life after Facebook, published by the New York’s Addleton, former Austrian Foreign Minister Peter Jankowitsch has said: “Insightful, compelling and original, this book is an exciting journey through the rocky field of geopolitics. It is also a big-thinking exploration of the least researched aspects of the discipline, which will leave no one indifferent. This book, written by an experienced lawyer and a former career diplomat, cleverly questions how we see the world, and acts as an eye opener.”

And, the World Security Network’s Senior Vice President, rt. Brig general of the German Army, close aid to the former NATO Gen-Secretary Manfred Wörner and author of 5 books on security, Dieter Farwick has noted: “The presence and future of our globalised, interwoven world has become so difficult to comprehend that many people refrain from even trying to understand it. It is the merit of Professor Anis Bajrektarevic to fill this gap with excellent analyses brought together in his brilliant book. It is a must read for those who want to get a better understanding of the complex world and who want to contribute to a better and safer world.”

“Anyone involved in the advancement of Geopolitics will treasure this book because it provides useful views on nowadays critical questions related to the geopolitical transition. Professor Anis treats technology, climate change, sovereignty, energy and multiculturalism in a new and impressive way” concludes on his previous book, Dr. Tiberio Graziani, President of the Rome-based IsAG Institute on Advanced Studies in Geopolitics.

Endorsing his newest book, ‘Geopolitics – Europe of Sarajevo 100 years later (Dobra Knjiga, bilingual English-Bosnia edition), Yale university doctor, philosophy of history professor Emanuel Paparella notes: “A year or so ago I began reading and pondering the political writings of Prof. Anis Bajrektarevic. Plenty of food for thought, I am still reading them. What attracted me to them was their invariable lucidity and coherence of thought buttressed by well reasoned and well balanced logical arguments culminating in insightful conclusions. This is quite rare nowadays and when encountered it comes across like a breath of fresh air. What prevails nowadays are political tracts that often espouse and promote an ideology, often fanatically defended tooth and nail and in- variably leading not to dialogue or symposiums but to diatribes generating much heat and little light… To be convinced of all this, all that the reader has to do is pick up Bajrektarevic book and begin reading. One will not be disappointed.”

Member of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, professor of political science of the Moscow’s Lomonosov University, Andrei V. Manoilo endorses the following about the book: How does the current geopolitical stage in Europe and worldwide look like? How can we define current international order and power constellation? Is it a multilateral world or is it Pax Americana? Or do we experience “end of history” after the collapse of bilateral world? All these issues are thoroughly examined in the book of Prof. Anis Bajrektarevic “Europe of Sarajevo 100 years later – From WWI to www” which is a complex study on geopolitical affairs in Europe in its historical dimension. It’s a concise description of paradigmatic shifts in the international agenda during the last 100 years. The book gives us a key for understanding the origins of pan-European ideas which stipulated the formation of the EU and well beyond.”

Finally, the editor of this book, one of the leading European experts on the medieval Balkans, member of the Academy of Science prof. Lovrenovic concludes in his endorsement:

‘Not many people have enlightened the dissolution not only of Yugoslavia and East but also of a system of values like professor Bajrektarević. Since the following texts bring the necessary geopolitical context, where the author is more than undisputed, essential for the understanding of behavioural political practices of liberal democracies, from the 1990s until the present day, they can help us on our path of recovering the self- confidence and self-esteem – those categories without which there is no meaningful human existence. If we forgot them, this book will serve as our reminder…The author decodes the relations of great powers, the role of energy- generating products in the modelling of global relations and the creations of present crisis points, the destiny of Near East states which pay the high price of their geopolitical position. He is interested in the ancient and deep historical processes which gain their full meaning in the present light, the European and global peace treaties, constants and variables of history: the domino-effects of modern history. His views on contemporary history of Europe and the World are situated within evolutional currents of humanity, providing us with a specific image of the human development and the planet which the humans inhabit. We spend, arrogantly and irresponsibly, creating carbon in the name of profit, the history of future. “How did we” – asks the author – “develop this necrophilic obsession? How did we manage to focus our human and economic development on carbons, and steadily develop the so-called ‘technologies’ that apparently take us right into a collision course with the universe and with everything that surrounds our biosphere?”… Our history, claims professor Bajrektarević, is a history of “geopolitical imperative”. “In other words” – the author stresses – “our crisis cannot only be ecological, as it never was financial – our crisis must be moral”… We needed a history of South Eastern Europe like this, within the history of the World, to expand our narrowed horizons and to, at least for a moment, reduce the anxiety of transition which – does anyone know this – leads: where?

We live in a Europe of genocide and unification: from WWI to www. as the author states, the carrier pigeon was exchanged by the Internet but, how did we change within ourselves and how have we prepared for the technological advance without which our life overnight became unthinkable? Comparing the psychological consequences of Gulag and Google the author concludes: “This is a cyber–iron cage habitat: a shiny but directional and instrumented, egotistic and autistic, cold and brutal place; incapable of vision, empathy, initiative or action. It only accelerates our disconnection with a selfhood and the rest. If and while so, is there any difference between Gulag and Goo(g)lag – as both being prisons of free mind?”…

All of these, and other numerous issues, find their sensible answer on the following pages. The historical questions of yesteryear in the interpretation of the author become the questions of the present, tomorrow – existential, planetary: questions of the threatening ecologic holocaust. Therein lies the attraction of this book – in the balanced combination of micro and macro perspectives, in an interdisciplinary approach to a complex historical course. From its first to its last page, the reader feels the erudition of a Wissenschaftler who is interested in a scientific view of the World, but a view which does not remain on the level of description but rather offers us concrete solutions – can anybody hear them? The author’s knowledge captivates and mesmerises: historiography, the history of ideas, religions, civilizations, art, literature, poetry, modern technologies – deep insights into historical mechanisms represented in a simple way that is accessible to the average reader, and all of this with the “implacability towards hypocrisy and the falsehoods of sacred things”, in the spirit of Erasmus of Rotterdam. “Why do we stubbornly insist on an inadequate civilizational navigation?!”, is the question which permeates the very essence of our advance, but ethically fallen civilization. The man has, it seems, created history which he cannot control any more but, on the contrary, it controls him (imprisoned by geopolitical imperative) – this is one of the conclusions which comes after reading professor Bajrektarević’s book.

“Chaos or Cosmos” – says the author – “it is a simple choice”.’

 

Anis H. Bajrektarević, Anis H. Bajrektarević, professor and chairperson for international law and global political studies, Uni- versity IMC-Krems, Austria. This native Sarajevan, besides this very title, authors the book FB – Geo- politics of Technology (Addleton, New York 2013), and the forthcoming No Asian century. He is both teaching and research professor on subjects such as the Geopolitics; International and EU Law; Sustainable Development (institutions and instruments). On the subject Geopolitical Affairs alone, professor has over 1,000 teaching hours at his university as well as in many countries on all meridians. His writings are frequently published in over 50 countries in all five continents, and translated in some 20 languages worldwide. He lives in Vienna, Austria.

Journalist, specialized in Middle East, Russia & FSU, Terrorism and Security issues. Founder and Editor-in-chief of the Modern Diplomacy magazine.

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Iceland’s Historic(al) Elections

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The morning of September, 26 was a good one for Lenya Run Karim of the Pirate Party. Once the preliminary results were announced, things were clear: the 21-year-old law student of the University of Iceland, originating from a Kurdish immigrant family, had become the youngest MP in the country’s history.

In historical significance, however, this event was second to another. Iceland, the world champion in terms of gender equality, became the first country in Europe to have more women MPs than men, 33 versus 30. The news immediately made world headlines: only five countries in the world have achieved such impressive results. Remarkably, all are non-European: Rwanda, Nicaragua and Cuba have a majority of women in parliament, while Mexico and the UAE have an equal number of male and female MPs.

Nine hours later, news agencies around the world had to edit their headlines. The recount in the Northwest constituency affected the outcome across the country to delay the ‘triumph for women’ for another four years.

Small numbers, big changes

The Icelandic electoral system is designed so that 54 out of the 63 seats in the Althingi, the national parliament, are primary or constituency seats, while another nine are equalization seats. Only parties passing the 5 per cent threshold are allowed to distribute equalisation seats that go to the candidates who failed to win constituency mandates and received the most votes in their constituency. However, the number of equalisation mandates in each of the 6 constituencies is legislated. In theory, this could lead to a situation in which the leading party candidate in one constituency may simply lack an equalisation mandate, so the leading candidate of the same party—but in another constituency—receives it.

This is what happened this year. Because of a difference of only ten votes between the Reform Party and the Pirate Party, both vying for the only equalisation mandate in the Northwest, the constituency’s electoral commission announced a recount on its own initiative. There were also questions concerning the counting procedure as such: the ballots were not sealed but simply locked in a Borgarnes hotel room. The updated results hardly affected the distribution of seats between the parties, bringing in five new MPs, none of whom were women, with the 21-year-old Lenya Run Karim replaced by her 52-year-old party colleague.

In the afternoon of September, 27, at the request of the Left-Green Movement, supported by the Independence Party, the Pirates and the Reform Party, the commission in the South announced a recount of their own—the difference between the Left-Greens and the Centrists was only seven votes. There was no ‘domino effect’, as in the case of the Northwest, as the five-hour recount showed the same result. Recounts in other districts are unlikely, nor is it likely that Althingi—vested with the power to declare the elections valid—would invalidate the results in the Northwest. Nevertheless, the ‘replaced’ candidates have already announced their intention to appeal against the results, citing violations of ballot storage procedures. Under the Icelandic law, this is quite enough to invalidate the results and call a re-election in the Northwest, as the Supreme Court of Iceland invalidated the Constitutional Council elections due to a breach of procedure 10 years ago. Be that as it may, the current score remains 33:30, in favor of men.

Progressives’ progress and threshold for socialists

On the whole, there were no surprises: the provisional allocation of mandates resembles, if with minor changes, the opinion polls on the eve of the election.

The ruling three-party coalition has rejuvenated its position, winning 37 out of the 63 Althingi seats. The centrist Progressive Party saw a real electoral triumph, improving its 2017 result by five seats. Prime-minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir’s Left-Green Movement, albeit with a slight loss, won eight seats, surpassing all pre-election expectations. Although the centre-right Independence Party outperformed everyone again to win almost a quarter of all votes, 16 seats are one of the worst results of the Icelandic ‘Grand Old Party’ ever.

The results of the Social-Democrats, almost 10% versus 12.1% in 2017, and of the Pirates, 8.6% versus 9.2%, have deteriorated. Support for the Centre Party of Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson, former prime-minister and victim of the Panama Papers, has halved from 10.9% to 5.4%. The centrists have seen a steady decline in recent years, largely due to a sexist scandal involving party MPs. The populist People’s Party and the pro-European Reform Party have seen gains of 8.8% and 8.3%, as compared to 6.9% and 6.7% in the previous elections.

Of the leading Icelandic parties, only the Socialist Party failed to pass the 5 per cent threshold: despite a rating above 7% in August, the Socialists received only 4.1% of the vote.

Coronavirus, climate & economy

Healthcare and the fight against COVID-19 was, expectedly, on top of the agenda of the elections: 72% of voters ranked it as the defining issue, according to a Fréttablaðið poll. Thanks to swift and stringent measures, the Icelandic government brought the coronavirus under control from day one, and the country has enjoyed one of the lowest infection rates in the world for most of the time. At the same time, the pandemic exposed a number of problems in the national healthcare system: staff shortages, low salaries and long waiting lists for emergency surgery.

Climate change, which Icelanders are already experiencing, was an equally important topic. This summer, the temperature has not dropped below 20°C for 59 days, an anomaly for a North-Atlantic island. However, Icelanders’ concerns never converted into increased support for the four left-leaning parties advocating greater reductions in CO2 emission than the country has committed to under the Paris Agreement: their combined result fell by 0.5%.

The economy and employment were also among the main issues in this election. The pandemic has severely damaged the island nation’s economy, which is heavily tourism-reliant—perhaps, unsurprisingly, many Icelanders are in favor of reviving the tourism sector as well as diversifying the economy further.

The EU membership, by far a ‘traditional’ issue in Icelandic politics, is unlikely to be featured on the agenda of the newly-elected parliament as the combined result of the Eurosceptics, despite a loss of 4%, still exceeds half of the overall votes. The new Althingi will probably face the issue of constitutional reform once again, which is only becoming more topical in the light of the pandemic and the equalization mandates story.

New (old) government?

The parties are to negotiate coalition formation. The most likely scenario now is that the ruling coalition of the Independence Party, the Left-Greens and the Progressives continues. It has been the most ideologically diverse and the first three-party coalition in Iceland’s history to last a full term. A successful fight against the pandemic has only strengthened its positions and helped it secure additional votes. Independence Party leader and finance minister Bjarni Benediktsson has earlier said he would be prepared to keep the ruling coalition if it holds the majority. President Guðni Jóhannesson announced immediately after the elections that he would confirm the mandate of the ruling coalition to form a new government if the three parties could strike a deal.

Other developments are possible but unlikely. Should the Left-Greens decide to leave the coalition, they could be replaced by the Reform Party or the People’s Party, while any coalition without the Independence Party can only be a four-party or larger coalition.

Who will become the new prime-minister still remains to be seen—but if the ruling coalition remains in place, the current prime-minister and leader of the Left-Greens, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, stands a good chance of keeping her post: she is still the most popular politician in Iceland with a 40 per cent approval rate.

The 2021 Althingi election, with one of the lowest turnouts in history at 80.1%, has not produced a clear winner. The election results reflect a Europe-wide trend in which traditional “major” parties are losing support. The electorate is fragmenting and their votes are pulled by smaller new parties. The coronavirus pandemic has only reinforced this trend.

The 2021 campaign did not foreshadow a sensation. Although Iceland has not become the first European country with a women’s majority in parliament, these elections will certainly go down in history as a test of Icelanders’ trust to their own democracy.

From our partner RIAC

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EU-Balkan Summit: No Set Timeframe for Western Balkans Accession

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From left to right: Janez JANŠA (Prime Minister, Slovenia), Charles MICHEL (President of the European Council), Ursula VON DER LEYEN (President of the European Commission) Copyright: European Union

On October 6, Slovenia hosted a summit between the EU and the Western Balkans states. The EU-27 met with their counterparts (Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Kosovo) in the sumptuous Renaissance setting of Brdo Castle, 30 kilometers north of the capital, Ljubljana. Despite calls from a minority of heads of state and government, there were no sign of a breakthrough on the sensitive issue of enlargement. The accession of these countries to the European Union is still not unanimous among the 27 EU member states.

During her final tour of the Balkans three weeks ago, German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated that the peninsula’s integration was of “geostrategic” importance. On the eve of the summit, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz backed Slovenia’s goal of integrating this zone’s countries into the EU by 2030.

However, the unanimity required to begin the hard negotiations is still a long way off, even for the most advanced countries in the accession process, Albania and North Macedonia. Bulgaria, which is already a member of the EU, is opposing North Macedonia’s admission due to linguistic and cultural differences. Since Yugoslavia’s demise, Sofia has rejected the concept of Macedonian language, insisting that it is a Bulgarian dialect, and has condemned the artificial construction of a distinct national identity.

Other countries’ reluctance to join quickly is of a different nature. France and the Netherlands believe that previous enlargements (Bulgaria and Romania in 2007) have resulted in changes that must first be digested before the next round of enlargement. The EU-27 also demand that all necessary prior guarantees be provided regarding the independence of the judiciary and the fight against corruption in these countries. Despite the fact that press freedom is a requirement for membership, the NGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urged the EU to make “support for investigative and professional journalism” a key issue at the summit.”

While the EU-27 have not met since June, the topic of Western Balkans integration is competing with other top priorities in the run-up to France’s presidency of the EU in the first half of 2022. On the eve of the summit, a working dinner will be held, the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, called for “a strategic discussion on the role of the Union on the international scene” in his letter of invitation to the EU-Balkans Summit, citing “recent developments in Afghanistan,” the announcement of the AUKUS pact between the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom, which has enraged Paris.

The Western Balkans remain the focal point of an international game of influence in which the Europeans seek to maintain their dominance. As a result, the importance of reaffirming a “European perspective” at the summit was not an overstatement. Faced with the more frequent incursion of China, Russia, and Turkey in that European region, the EU has pledged a 30 billion euro Economic and Investment Plan for 2021-2027, as well as increased cooperation, particularly to deal with the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Opening the borders, however, is out of the question. In the absence of progress on this issue, Albania, North Macedonia, and Serbia have decided to establish their own zone of free movement (The Balkans are Open”) beginning January 1, 2023. “We are starting today to do in the region what we will do tomorrow in the EU,” said Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama when the agreement was signed last July.

This initiative, launched in 2019 under the name “Mini-Schengen” and based on a 1990s idea, does not have the support of the entire peninsular region, which remains deeply divided over this project. While Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro are not refusing to be a part of it and are open to discussions, the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti, who took office in 2020, for his part accuses Serbia of relying on this project to recreate “a fourth Yugoslavia”

Tensions between Balkan countries continue to be an impediment to European integration. The issue of movement between Kosovo and Serbia has been a source of concern since the end of September. Two weeks of escalation followed Kosovo’s decision to prohibit cars with Serbian license plates from entering its territory, in response to Serbia’s long-standing prohibition on allowing vehicles to pass in the opposite direction.

In response to the mobilization of Kosovar police to block the road, Serbs in Kosovo blocked roads to their towns and villages, and Serbia deployed tanks and the air force near the border. On Sunday, October 3, the conflict seemed to be over, and the roads were reopened. However, the tone had been set three days before the EU-Balkans summit.

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German Election: Ramifications for the US Foreign Policy

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Image source: twitter @OlafScholz

In the recent German election, foreign policy was scarcely an issue. But Germany is an important element in the US foreign policy. There is a number of cases where Germany and the US can cooperate, but all of these dynamics are going to change very soon.

The Germans’ strategic culture makes it hard to be aligned perfectly with the US and disagreements can easily damage the relations. After the tension between the two countries over the Iraq war, in 2003, Henry Kissinger said that he could not imagine the relations between Germany and the US could be aggravated so quickly, so easily, which might end up being the “permanent temptation of German politics”. For a long time, the US used to provide security for Germany during the Cold War and beyond, so, several generations are used to take peace for granted. But recently, there is a growing demand on them to carry more burden, not just for their own security, but for international peace and stability. This demand was not well-received in Berlin.

Then, the environment around Germany changed and new threats loomed up in front of them. The great powers’ competition became the main theme in international relations. Still, Germany was not and is not ready for shouldering more responsibility. Politicians know this very well. Ursula von der Leyen, who was German defense minister, asked terms like “nuclear weapons” and “deterrence” be removed from her speeches.

Although on paper, all major parties appreciate the importance of Germany’s relations with the US, the Greens and SPD ask for a reset in the relations. The Greens insist on the European way in transatlantic relations and SPD seeks more multilateralism. Therefore, alignment may be harder to maintain in the future. However, If the tensions between the US and China heat up to melting degrees, then external pressure can overrule the internal pressure and Germany may accede to its transatlantic partners, just like when Helmut Schmid let NATO install medium-range nuclear missiles in Europe after the Soviet Union attacked Afghanistan and the Cold War heated up.

According to the election results, now three coalitions are possible: grand coalition with CDU/CSU and SPD, traffic lights coalition with SPD, FDP, and Greens, Jamaica coalition with CDU/CSU, FDP, and Greens. Jamaica coalition will more likely form the most favorable government for the US because it has both CDU and FDP, and traffic lights will be the least favorite as it has SPD. The grand coalition can maintain the status quo at best, because contrary to the current government, SPD will dominate CDU.

To understand nuances, we need to go over security issues to see how these coalitions will react to them. As far as Russia is concerned, none of them will recognize the annexation of Crimea and they all support related sanctions. However, if tensions heat up, any coalition government with SPD will be less likely assertive. On the other hand, as the Greens stress the importance of European values like democracy and human rights, they tend to be more assertive if the US formulates its foreign policy by these common values and describe US-China rivalry as a clash between democracy and authoritarianism. Moreover, the Greens disapprove of the Nordstream project, of course not for its geopolitics. FDP has also sided against it for a different reason. So, the US must follow closely the negotiations which have already started between anti-Russian smaller parties versus major parties.

For relations with China, pro-business FDP is less assertive. They are seeking for developing EU-China relations and deepening economic ties and civil society relations. While CDU/CSU and Greens see China as a competitor, partner, and systemic rival, SPD and FDP have still hopes that they can bring change through the exchange. Thus, the US might have bigger problems with the traffic lights coalition than the Jamaica coalition in this regard.

As for NATO and its 2 percent of GDP, the division is wider. CDU/CSU and FDP are the only parties who support it. So, in the next government, it might be harder to persuade them to pay more. Finally, for nuclear participation, the situation is the same. CDU/CSU is the only party that argues for it. This makes it an alarming situation because the next government has to decide on replacing Germany’s tornados until 2024, otherwise Germany will drop out of the NATO nuclear participation.

The below table gives a brief review of these three coalitions. 1 indicates the lowest level of favoritism and 3 indicates the highest level of favoritism. As it shows, the most anti-Russia coalition is Jamaica, while the most anti-China coalition is Trafic light. Meanwhile, Grand Coalition is the most pro-NATO coalition. If the US adopts a more normative foreign policy against China and Russia, then the Greens and FDP will be more assertive in their anti-Russian and anti-Chinese policies and Germany will align more firmly with the US if traffic light or Jamaica coalition rise to power.

Issues CoalitionsTrafic LightGrand CoalitionJamaica
Russia213 
China312 
NATO132 

1 indicates the lowest level of favoritism. 3 indicates the highest level of favoritism.

In conclusion, this election should not make Americans any happier. The US has already been frustrated with the current government led by Angela Merkel who gave Germany’s trade with China the first priority, and now that the left-wing will have more say in any imaginable coalition in the future, the Americans should become less pleased. But, still, there are hopes that Germany can be a partner for the US in great power competition if the US could articulate its foreign policy with common values, like democracy and human rights. More normative foreign policy can make a reliable partner out of Germany. Foreign policy rarely became a topic in this election, but observers should expect many ramifications for it.

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