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The file of the refugee crisis remains open

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The massive influx of migrants – Arab and African refugees to Europe – is unanimously considered to have triggered this summer the most serious refugee crisis after the Second World War.

However, its causes have not been profoundly analyzed or stated and admitted by the important European political decision-makers involved in this crisis. This is the reason why the public opinions and assessments on the real causes that took migration to this level are often opposed. Until now, the official statements, comments and analyses of the crisis have been very numerous, diverse, contradictory and often inflammatory, having increased tensions while the massive groups of migrants were moving towards the center of Europe.

Starting from the information and videos constantly presented by the international media, we can say that the peoples living on the European territory, which have already entered the era of knowledge with the 21st century – a century of information, are currently dealing with an extremely serious and unprecedented state of insecurity following the world wars. The opposing statements, the irrational augmentations of the armament race including the nuclear one and the threat of using these weapons, the great maneuvers USSR vs. US, the troops of the Warsaw Treaty vs. NATO and vice versa, the Soviet military invasion of Czechoslovakia (1968) or the political-military tensions within the international relations have never created such chaos and decisional instability in Europe. As for the crisis in Yugoslavia, it is true that there have been serious military confrontations that caused numerous deaths, but at least they were somehow controlled, being kept within the geographic limits in which they appeared. At the end, due to NATO and the EU’s management, they did not induce a war psychosis that could extend to the entire continent.

At present, the level of the migration is extraordinary – Arab and African refugees form large groups of people including men and women of different ages, including old people and have a heterogeneous structure in ethnicity and in terms of the origin country, social class and profession, possibly even in terms of religion, other than the Islamic one.

The simultaneous and quite immediate mobilization of so many people and the creation of these groups, even the fact that they left their homes and their towns, cannot be considered as being spontaneous decisions. It is true that there has been bombing and war in their towns, as it happened in Syria and Libya, but that could have led to separation and not to the creation of groups. Therefore, their movement in groups of hundreds or thousands of people choosing various routes, optimal to get to the center of Europe, raises a lot of questions about the spontaneous character of this migration. There are currently discussions about the agencies of international tourism as being turned into real “business centers” that offered passports and money. Who is behind all of these and which was the purpose for giving them money? Who do they cooperate with in Europe and in the embarking locations? Conflicts between the rebels had started a long time ago in the migrants’ countries and the high level of insecurity generated this inherent and predictable migration. So the migration that Europe is dealing with at present is not a new phenomenon. It has been known for some time. And even so, it looks like there was nobody to study it in the most profound detail. The intelligence services and the embassies that remained in the region were not aware of how this migration began and developed? While travelling to their destinations, the migrants have had a violent and excessive behavior, especially at border crossings, being determined to achieve the goal they set when embarking in this great adventure. Therefore, there are sufficient reasons for some of them to be looked at with suspicion. In the context of a phenomenon amplified by migrants originating from Ukraine, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq etc, these suspicions indicate that there is a migration mafia operating at present and sending people towards the center of Europe. The assessment can definitely be proved and it is being led be certain hidden interests – geopolitical or demographic ones, including the need for cheap labor, and in my opinion, we cannot rule out the participation of Russia and Germany either from it.

Considering the reactions and administration of this migration by its possible future “hosts”, it seems that its development has surprised the entire Europe, causing chaos and panic in the European countries crossed by the migrants. Confusion existed also at the decisional level of the European countries involved and of the current EU management. It is obvious that the ingravescence of the migrants’ crisis has been accompanied by more intense manipulation, propaganda and informative intoxication. These are the manifestations specific to the informational war initiated by the Russian Federation. Tactically speaking, they were mainly focused on Ukraine and Syria during the last two years. Strategically, as Moscow declared openly and repeatedly they aim at destabilizing the EU and NATO. Within contexts completely different, they have been turned into main targets established in a short-term and medium-term strategy extended in the Eurasian perimeter. Now, the Syrian file, connected to the consequences of the Arab spring file distracts attention from the Russian war on the Ukrainian territory. I am under the impression that the West’s support for Ukraine could not only be “neglected”, but it has already become an important point on the agenda of negotiations with Russia on the fight against the Islamic State and settlement of the situation in Syria.

Premises of instability

All the above-mentioned certainly represent serious premises for instability and insecurity in Europe, favorable to Russia and skillfully used by Kremlin.

In view of the current international geopolitical context, and particularly the European one mentioned above, I am convinced that the current leadership in Kremlin has been constantly practicing an aggressive and blackmailing diplomacy with the US and Western Europe for a long time, using only provocative statements and threats of nuclear attacks on the NATO members as well as direct military operations or hybrid operations.

Correlating Russia’s favorable results in Ukraine, with immediate effects in the explosion of migration towards Europe this summer, we note that Moscow’s strategy has achieved its purpose – the destabilization of the EU. A serious and worrying reality has been created that could affect the future existence of the Union. If until this moment we were talking about it based on gaps in the functioning of the EU or on the unwanted support of skepticism, at present we notice that there is no longer solidarity between its members and the diplomatic and political-military relations have turned to be so tense and serious that even conflicts appeared at the border. The general situation of Europe at present is influenced by the flow of migration, premises have been created that define the maximum state of security threats for a country, which could be compared to what the history of art theory and military strategy calls imminent war.

The management of the migrants’ crisis vs. a new modus operandi

The problem that concerns and worries the entire population of the world refers to the causes that led to this situation of imminent war. In order to do this, I think we should have a clear picture of this phenomenon – the immense flow of migrants towards Europe. To this end, I consider that the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the Borders of the European Union Member States has done its job. Its report – Annual Analysis of Risk – 2015 published in FRONTEX in April 2015 presented centralized data and information about the migrants, information that came from the responsible institutions during the border control operations. At the same time, the report presents an estimation of how the migration could continue on its favorite routes, particularly the ones that converge towards Europe. Thus, there is a special EU structure for migration which presents annual reports on the development of migration in the neighboring regions of the continent with the potential of producing migrants. In this context, it is difficult to understand why the national powers and the high officials leading the EU did not take any preventive measures in order to reduce the tide of migrants to Europe since they had at hand all the necessary details in order to make efficient and appropriate decisions presented in an analysis of risk compared to the previous years.

According to the Report mentioned above, the illegal border-crossing at the EU’s external borders has reached a new record, being registered 280,000 people more than during the previous year. Most of the migrants originated from Syria and they later on asked for asylum in the EU. This significant increase was stimulated by the very high number of legal approvals for entrance in the EU, which led in fact to a new modus operandi. At the same time, the Report informs that since September 2014 the migrants have started to use cargo boats in order to get from Turkey to Italy, near Mersin. This is a multi-million business for the groups of organized crime and it extended in other countries as well. I consider that all this information was known by the intelligence services. An operational communication system might have not functioned between the countries passed through by the migrants’ groups which could have generated opportune and efficient actions for monitoring. However, when the media presented the increasing tendency of deliberate attempts to use commercial ships for the migrants, communication occurred and the International Maritime Organization got directly involved in the maritime transport industry in order to save migrants.

The report also mentions the fact that the record number of illegal migrants imposed the use of important resources for immediate assistance, superior to those used for registration and details regarding the migrants’ origin. Could this be an excuse for the confusion created at the frontiers? The Report also informs that after having been saved, the migrants continued their route to other member countries and “nobody knows where they are within the EU and that is a vulnerability of the EU domestic security”. In my opinion, this is due first of all to the lack of communication with the migrants, both at the borders and during their movement on the territory of the European Union, They should have been identified or their leaders should have been in constant communication with the people authorized to accompany them. The truth – as presented by the international media – indicates a lack of communication between the national structures of the transit countries, responsible and directly involved in the permanent monitoring of the migrant groups. If this communication existed at the lowest level possible, instead of cooperation there were provocations and violent confrontations that could have turned into much more than the so-called “regrettable incidents at the border” as it happened at the border between Hungary and Croatia. The lack of responsible communication appropriate to the modern society was one of the characteristics in the crisis management of the flow of migrants, starting from the location where the groups were created to the movement of the groups at the external border of the EU and on its territory.

Most of the migrants were discovered in the Central Mediterranean region, totaling 170,000 people. In the eastern Mediterranean region were found 50,800 people. It is important to note that the conclusion of the Report regarding the Hungarian leadership according to which at the end of 2014, the number of migrants increased suddenly at the terrestrial border between Hungary and Serbia, which makes the route West Balkan (with 43,357 illegal migrants) become the third most important route for illegal migration towards the EU. Budapest must have known about it at that time, but it did not tell its neighbors about the intention to build the long-disputed fence. Maybe it would have been a solution since the country was the most exposed country, but the situation could have been discussed in advance. The lack of communication cannot be an excuse for the unfriendly tension shown by certain Hungarian officials, going down to the lowest level of behavior and diplomatic decency in relation with the natural demands of the neighbors that expected explanations. Fear could appear in relation to Hungary as well, suspecting that it would deliberately create tense situations with the neighbors. Associated with the distances from the norms and standards of the EU, they must certainly be included in the country’s foreign policy objective of getting close to Moscow. This kind of fear was also induced in our country, emphasized by the famous American historian Larry Watts, who reveals in his works the manner in which the bilateral relations between Hungary and Romania have been established according to coordinates previously set by Moscow. The Russian leaders, regardless of their name and period, have always wanted that relations between our country and Hungary were tense and denigrated in the opinion the West, particularly in the view of Washington. This statement can no longer be argued as long as it is proven with documents, mostly from the archives of the CIA and of the US Department of State. Nevertheless, this is another story that needs to be discussed in detail on another occasion.

The clandestine mechanized migration mentioned in the report published in FRONTEX increased significantly from 599 in 2013 to 3,052 in 2014. Traffic at the Bulgarian border with Turkey increased ten times.                  

In 2014, approximately 9,400 attempts of illegal border-crossing were identified from countries neighboring the EU/Schengen zone. Inter-community movement within the EU indicates an increase from 7,867 in 2013 to 9,968 in 2014 (an increase of 27%). Therefore, for the first time, more illegal documents were discovered during the Schengen-EU travel than during the cross-border control of the people coming from third countries.

The easing of illegal migration remains a significant threat for the foreign borders of the EU. The number of people facilitating migration has increased from 7,252 in 2013 to 10,234 in 2014. The increase was mainly registered in Spain, Italy and Bulgaria. There were approximately 114,000 people banned to enter the EU, which represents an 11% drop as compared to 2013. The drop is a record consequence as compared to 2013, when an important number of Russian citizens were denied entrance because they did not possess a valid visa.  

In 2014 there were 441,780 people found living illegally in the EU, which represents an increase as compared to the previous year. Most of the increase was due to people from Syria and Eritrea which later asked for asylum. A total number of 252,003 people coming from other countries were asked to leave the EU based on an administrative or legal decision, representing a 12% increase as compared to 2013. In 2014 there were 161,309 people who returned to their countries after leaving the EU, a similar figure to 2013.

The perspective of the Report mentions the probability of a high number of illegal border-crossing in the EU as well as the possibility that a high number of immigrants need assistance for search and rescue (as well as international protection) particularly south of the Union’s border on the routes from the East and Central Mediterranean regions. There are also chances that numerous migrants cross the border legally, ask for asylum and be able to continue their travel in the European Union.

Most of the risks come from the use of false documents. The falsification and use of false documents undermines not only border security, but also the domestic security of the European Union.

These risks are common to almost all member countries because they are associated with the flow of people and controls at the border, requesting constantly higher performance in the specialized control expertize. Most of the criminality in this domain implies documents for entrance in the EU and there are indications of using less sophisticated documents such as identity documents or passes.

Generally, any kind of migration, especially the one that got out of control, can be used to organize espionage and terrorism. If we think about the spatial and temporal dimensions of the current flow of migrants towards the heart of Europe, it is clear that there are opportunities for such activities. The temptation is high and must be taken into consideration. If the Report mentions the terrorist threat that could be facilitated by the current migration, it means that the authors have information supporting the statement. The Report mentions the extremists in the Syrian conflict and the radicalization of young Islamists. At the same time, the serious and extended situation in Syria attracted many foreign fighters, including EU citizens that have double citizenship. The criminal actions of ISIL against humanity demand attention according to the level of this threat.

When choosing between xenophobia and humanity, solidarity loses

Europe’s very complex situation with influxes of migrants also evidenced the lack of human solidarity and political will as shown by the different views of the important EU leaders about the integration of the refugees and the inconsistent support of the declared policies. The opinions of Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has been the informal leader of the EU and initiated the economic exclusive austerity measures, were expected to top the smaller or bigger European opinions referring to the current refugee crisis. Recent history indicates that the personality of this important official did not impose in the decision-making process, as chancellor and leader of an alliance of parties that supports her, but the great German finance and economic interests. This is the only way in which we can explain its inconsistency in the policy for the refugees. Initially, the offer of receiving 800,000 refugees launched the idea that Germany relies on this work force to save its economy. Shortly afterwards, there was strong criticism to this concept and Germany changed its mind. I mention here the opinions of Horst Seehofer, Bavarian State Premier and leader of the Christian-Social Union (CSU). His opinion did not coincide with the position of the governing ally Angela Merkel because he considered this policy “an error”. After this statement, the German newspaper “Bild” said that the Bavarian officials are preparing to “shut down” the border with Austria, which the newspaper called “a significant change of the refugees’ policy”. Indeed, shortly afterwards trains were no longer allowed to travel from Austria to Germany. The German Minister of Internal Affairs, Maiziere, confirmed that Germany will temporarily introduce controls at the border with Austria due to the large number of refugees coming towards Germany.

The magnitude of the migrants’ flow and its unpredictable evolution has brought into discussion the process of assimilation in the European countries. Normally, this assimilation must be in accordance with the capacities of every European country, be it even a member of the European Union. Uncommon for the integrity of the European values that lay at the basis of the Union and later allowed its development was the violent characteristic of discussions which have put forward terms like national quotas, mandatory quotas and volunteer quotas. In my opinion, this view of the migrants annuls from the very start the principle of solidarity and once again negatively influences cohesion within the EU and even its existence. There were serious discussions at all levels and the public comments and statements of the member countries indicate that xenophobic attitudes have reappeared. The determination in accepting or rejecting these unfortunate quotas represents another dark page in Europe’s history, which we could easily call “the Mediterranean drama: assigning national quotas for immigrants”. It would be unwise and even dangerous to say that a European country is xenophobic, particularly in the current context. I will focus only on the quotas, asking one single question to the “inventor” of the operational methodology of this new “mechanism made in the EU” with the purpose of assigning refugees. Therefore, which are the criteria that set the mandatory national quota for every state? I believe it is based on arithmetic as long as the values are thousand or tens of thousand and end with smaller units like 4837. Arithmetical scrupulosity should not make politics look absurd or ridiculous. Even if the software of the computer, be it the most modern one, would round off the quota, our imposed example will be – 4840 (gain of humanism), but the imposed quotas associated with financial sanctions with values probably given by a smart software (values from 0-infinite) bring the whole process close to dictatorship. History proved that the absurd, the incredible and many others belong to dictatorship and not to democracy. Probably the German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel will also reveal the name of the inventor since we are told that “Europe fell into contemp” after the failure of the ministerial reunion in Brussels organized to set the quotas for the refugees in the EU.

Cui (quid) prodest?

After the serious controversies in the EU and following Germany’s decisional instability under the government of Angela Merkel, the other EU members did not hesitate to protect their interests, at any cost. After seeing that “institutional communication of every member country at a domestic level and within the community was locked in the boxes hidden behind armchairs existing at all levels of leadership, including the management of the EU” in the context of the management of the refugees’ crisis, we also note that “the European diplomacy has failed in front of a steel fence” with no exception.             

The unusual statements and the tense situations used by the European diplomacy in international relations setting its entrance into “the era of migration crisis” are arguments that account for my statements above.

According to “NapocaNews”, Laszlo Kover, President of the Hungarian Parliament announced that Hungary refused the request of the United States to accept immigrants in the EU, accusing Washington of being responsible for the conflicts that generated refugees and offered as an example the fence built by the United States at the border with Mexico. The Hungarian official does not understand that his statement according to which “the European crisis is going through a profound intellectual and moral crisis that generates a political crisis” rebounds upon himself after having initiated this uninspired diplomatic dialog with the US. We remind the Hungarian official that the US is a strategic partner for Europe’s security, despite the interests of some nostalgic Germans for the noisy marches on Berlin’s streets that existed in the past. In this context, it is a good idea to republish some information that appeared in “Romania Liberă” quoting AFP, according to which the mayor of Dachau, Florian Hartmann issued a press statement saying that “an add-on of the former Nazi camp in south Germany will be upgraded as shelter for homeless people, including refugees”. The future occupants were described by the mayor as “the weakest members of the society”. According to the Swiss publication “Tribune de Geneve”, “the Dachau project is not unique in Germany”. At the beginning of 2015, the local authorities started a project in order to transform the former add-ons of the camp from Buchenwald (built similarly to the Dachau camp) into shelters for the immigrants.

The “high-level” diplomatic dialogue between Austria – Hungary about the refugees must be mentioned again due to some statements made public by Reuters. In an interview for “Der Spiegel”, the Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann criticized in very strong words the manner in which Hungary manages the crisis of the refugees, saying that “the measures adopted by Viktor Orban’s government remind of the Nazi period” and the packing of people in trains hoping that they would be taken someplace else “reminds of the darkest period from our continent”, referring to the Holocaust practiced by the Nazis during the Second World War. His Excellency Werner Faymann referred directly to his Hungarian counterpart and added that “The Hungarian Prime-Minister Viktor Orban acts irresponsibly by calling these refugees immigrants with economic motivation”.                         

In response, the Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Peter Szijjarto, made some serious statements about the Austrian officials: “Austria has been carrying out a campaign of lies against Hungary for several weeks…The statements made by Mister Faymann are irresponsible, undignified for a political leader of the 21st century and they impede the identification of solutions to the refugee crisis”.        

Another “small diplomatic calumny” is the confrontation Budapest-Bucharest, generated by the same steel fence that Hungary announced as planned to be built at the Romanian border. The relations France-Hungary, Slovenia-Croatia, Hungary-Croatia, Hungary-Serbia have been characterized by the same violent dialog about the fence. The violent language and the wording used by the official opponents from all sides are much under the representation of their countries. I am one of those who consider that Hungary, like any other EU member country, has the right of establishing its own defensive measures since one of the important travelling routes for the refugees crosses its territory and, fortunately for us, not the Romanian territory. Moreover, I consider that under the strong pressure of the migrants, much more profound than in any other country, Hungary was forced to adopt these measures, since the management of the EU proved to be inexistent. However, the head of the Hungarian diplomacy should have understood that it was not the fence that disturbed, but the lack of communication on this theme with the neighbors of this country.

Diplomacy is an art and the practice of negotiations between the representatives of nations and groups. This definition does not annuls the fact that those involved in this art must be artisans of a quality directly proportionate to the power of the state being represented or compensating what it misses. Any storm in a glass turns into a tsunami. The attitudes and violent statements outside the traditional, common diplomatic framework lead to belligerent positions of the parties. Unfortunately, if it is being manifested in an institutionalized framework accepted by the parts, like the NATO or EU membership, and if it is based on a series of Euro-Atlantic and European values and principles, being often characterized by more or less serious arguments, it proves the deep misunderstanding of the world we are living in and an almost childish reason. The discussion could have another interpretation if the strategic objectives of a party’s foreign policy were directly or indirectly oriented towards another current geopolitical and geostrategic manifestation in Europe. In this context, as the American State Secretary John Kerry said about creating an alliance against ISIL, “Diplomacy becomes crucial”.

 

First published by the INGEPO Consulting’s Geostrategic Pulse    

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The projection of Turkish power in the Eastern Mediterranean

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The recent military conflict between Greece and Turkey over potential gas fields located in disputed waters is linked to a complex historical and political conflict between the two nations, so geographically close, but also culturally and politically distant. The superpowers have problems and alliances linked to the two countries, thus globalizing the conflict. Furthermore, all the countries concerned need the cooperation of Greece and Turkey in various fields such as the refugee crisis.

It is symptomatic of the changing nature of geopolitics, geoeconomics and the aftermath of Covid-19. The frictions reflect Turkey’s strategic rebalancing. The conflict in the eastern Mediterranean is mainly the result of a dispute between Turkey and Greece. Two aspects in particular of this balance of power form an explosive mixture in the Eastern Mediterranean, firstly the conflict stems from the fact that there are no agreed maritime borders between Turkey and Greece. The two countries contest their mutual claims on maritime territories and thus contest their respective rights to search for underwater energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea.

Secondly, Turkish policy in the Middle East has helped lure other powers into maritime conflict.

The rift between Turkey and its eastern Mediterranean neighbors mainly affects Cyprus. While the Republic of Cyprus is internationally recognized as a sovereign state, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus has only been recognized by Ankara since its establishment in 1974. And above all, it sees the southern part of the island as secessionist. Turkey has longstanding objections to exploration licenses Cyprus offers to international energy companies, including ENI and Total. These licenses are mainly concentrated in the south and southwest of the island. These zones are included in the exclusive economic zone claimed by Cyprus but which, according to Ankara, violates its continental shelf as well as the territorial waters belonging to.

International law currently offers few possibilities for resolving maritime complaints. The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea states that coastal nations are entitled to a 200 mile exclusive economic zone where they can claim the rights to fishing, mining and drilling. But shorter distances in the eastern Mediterranean force states to settle on a negotiated dividing line. Turkey’s position adds further complexity to these issues: Turkey is in fact not a signatory to the UN convention and defends a different interpretation of maritime rights, arguing that the waters adjacent to the Greek Cypriot administration remain an integral part of the continental shelf of Turkey.

The agreement of 27 November 2019 signed between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj defined a maritime border between the two signatories. The agreement was the most important signal of Turkey’s ambitions. The text delineates a 35-kilometer line that will form a maritime border from the southwestern coast of Turkey to the north of Libya, and crosses the areas claimed by Greece and Cyprus. It tilts the balance of power in the eastern Mediterranean in favor of Turkey. This disrupts the planned route of the 1,900-kilometer Eastern Mediterranean gas pipeline that would carry gas from Israel through Cyprus and Greece to southern Europe. Greece called on the United Nations Security Council and NATO to condemn Turkey’s maritime agreement and for this expelled the Libyan ambassador to Greece. Apparently, as a countermeasure to Turkey’s tactics, Israel, Cyprus and Greece have teamed up to carry out the Eastern Mediterranean pipeline.

It must be said that Ankara has the ambition to be an energy hub for Europe. The Turkish state wishes both to guarantee the Turkish Cypriots a share of future gas revenues and to free Turkey from its dependence on Russian gas supplies. Erdogan had sent his own drilling vessels into disputed waters north-east and west of Cyprus, as well as south of Kastellórizo.

Turkey fears it will be cut off from most of the Aegean Sea and therefore from major sea routes if Greece unilaterally expands its territorial waters and creates new areas of maritime jurisdiction. Erdogan responded by adopting a more assertive line with more aggressive rhetoric. The Turkish government says that as long as talks on maritime disputes are pending and Greece and the Republic of Cyprus continue to do research or drilling, Ankara will too. For their part i Greek officials say Turkey’s new policy is what has reignited the dispute and strained Ankara’s relations with its neighbors. Greeks are increasingly concerned about the safety of hundreds of islands that are very close to Turkey.

Whether it is Turkey or Greece, the two countries are using the migration issue to exert pressure. The situation on the Greek-Turkish borders in fact remains tense and very unstable; the current status quo in the region has all the hallmarks of a hybrid battle. Turkish officials and security forces push migrants to the neighboring country, often even helping them with illegitimate means. Meanwhile, the press and social media are fully used to shape public opinion in favor of interested parties. Propaganda in this context plays a vital role in this conflict. In addition, Ankara also uses its strategic position with the Bosphorus Strait and threatens to close the US Incirlik base to serve its interests.

Turkey has pursued an aggressive and expansive policy in its region for the past decade. This Turkish government approach is steeped in neo-Ottomanism and pan-Islamism. We find in this approach the ramifications of a much older school of Ottoman imperialist thought. The wave of bellicose maneuvers by the Turkish government can be attributed to the 2016 coup attempt, which gave the Erdogan government carte blanche to implement its long-sought power projection policy.

The government’s strategy to create a sense of successful foreign policy in the country, and thereby destroy most of the opposition parties, involves a discourse that emphasizes national interest. This vague but extremely useful term has had a paralyzing effect on the various opposition factions in the country, as they are unable to formulate a counter-narrative without risking being accused of lack of patrioticism. Very often the analysis of modern Turkey’s foreign policy as neo-Ottoman politics ends with the assertion that Erdogan and his party are nostalgic for the restoration of Ankara’s influence in the ancient regions of the Ottoman Empire.

If we take the example of Libya, one of Turkey’s goals in Libya is to completely control the country’s market and establish economic dependence on Turkey. It should be added that Turkey has signed two memoranda with LNG, one on military support and the other on demarcation at sea. Under the maritime border demarcation agreement, LNG has supported Turkey’s demands on part of the waters of Greece and Cyprus. Furthermore, Ankara intends to exploit any gas reserves on the Libyan coast. Indeed, in exchange for military support, Ankara imposed a treaty on Tripoli to take control of a significant portion of the country’s oil and gas wealth and forced LNG chief Fayez Sarraj to support its territorial claims in neighboring countries. This is a classic example of Turkish imperialist politics.

As a result, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Turkey has engaged in the past two years in a remarkable series of geopolitical foreign interventions from Syria to Libya via Cyprus and more recently alongside Azerbaijan. Some have called it Erdogan’s “New Ottoman Empire” strategy. Yet a collapsing lira and a collapsing national economy threaten to unexpectedly put an end to its great geopolitical ambitions. To date, in 2020, the lira has fallen 34% against the US dollar and 70% over the past five years. While some believe it would increase Turkey’s exports of goods, what it does is expose the entire Turkish banking system and economy to a colossal debt explosion. It can also be noted that at this point Erdogan’s interventions met with unserious sanctions or opposition from the EU. One obvious reason is the high exposure of EU banks to Turkish lending. Spanish, French, British and German banks have invested more than $ 100 billion in Turkey. Spain is the most exposed with 62 billion, followed by France with 29 billion. This means that the EU is walking on eggshells, unwilling to pour more money into Turkey but hesitant to precipitate a collapse on economic sanctions.

The eastern Mediterranean has become a hot spot for the natural gas industry. The discoveries have generated growing interest among several international oil companies and countries. It all started with Noble Energy (based in Texas) which announced the discovery of the Tamar field off the coast of Israel in 2009, with an estimated capacity of 280 billion cubic meters. In the space of two years, Noble Energy announced two further discoveries: the Leviathan field, also off the coast of Israel, in 2010 and the Aphrodite field, in Cypriot waters, in 2011. This has reinforced regional ambitions to make the Eastern Mediterranean a gas exporting region. . These ambitions were also based on two assessments made by the US Geological Survey (USGS) in 2010, which estimated the presence of nearly 9.8 trillion cubic meters of undiscovered technically recoverable gas and over 3.4 billion barrels of petroleum resources in the area. However, the real turning point (for regional energy ambitions) came in 2015 when the Italian Eni announced the discovery of the gigantic Zohr gas field off the coast of Egypt. With its 850 billion cubic meters of estimated average gross resources, the Egyptian offshore field is the largest ever discovered in the Mediterranean Sea. It should be added that these fields have another feature: geographical proximity. Thus was born a regional alliance with a pipeline project that excludes Turkey from the energy dynamic. The presence of natural gas has become an axis of cooperation and rivalry in the region. It can be said that gas is the main motivation behind Erdogan’s maneuvers. Indeed, Turkey’s unique geopolitical situation stems from the fact that it is poor in hydrocarbon reserves while its neighborhood has abundant resources. It is therefore imperative for Ankara to maintain stable energy ties with neighboring energy-rich countries or regions. In line with Turkey’s growing domestic demand, efforts to focus on energy security have become an integral part of the country’s foreign policy over the past two decades. The search for hydrocarbons, in particular natural gas, has become a fundamental geopolitical and geo-economic objective for the country.

The rationale for Turkish natural gas policies can be described by three aspects:

1. Being a country dependent on imports, Turkey’s main objective is to guarantee its access to natural gas supplies to satisfy its internal demand.

2. aims to diversify its current supply structure and counterbalance Russia’s dominant role in its energy portfolio.

3. Turkey aims to strengthen / increase its integration into the regional energy security architecture by promoting its role as an energy transit country and a potential hub for supplying Europe.

At the moment, the Eastern Mediterranean region does not supply gas to Turkey, with the exception of market agreements with Egypt. However, it emerges as a critical point on the Turkish foreign policy agenda, as the region is viewed by Ankara not only through the prism of energy security, but also through the prism of its protracted conflict with Cyprus and in the broader context of competition for regional power in the eastern Mediterranean.

In line with the above, it is possible to identify at least five key factors that explain Turkey’s greater involvement in the Eastern Mediterranean:

1. Turkey looks for potential gas reserves in its waters that could bring economic benefits to the country.

2. Turkey does not want to be excluded from developing a new regional energy agenda and is ready to protect its interests.

3. Turkey intends to be an energy transit country that could strengthen its role as an energy hub and undermine rival projects such as the EastMed pipeline.

4. Turkey intends to involve other countries in the region to support its objectives, as seen in the case of the maritime border agreement with the government of national agreement based in Tripoli in Libya, to promote its position by preventing it from doing so. way for others to gain influence;

5. Turkey intends to demonstrate its capabilities as a military power in the eastern Mediterranean.

The Greek-Turkish crisis is likely to influence the shift in the balance of power in the Eastern Mediterranean region. It is possible that over time the United States will relocate its military base from Incirlik to one of the military installations in Greece. Athens wishes to modernize and strengthen the army and navy to contain Ankara. Greece, Cyprus, France but also regional actors such as Egypt and Israel do not agree with the Libyan-Turkish synergy. Analyzing the differences in this balance of power, it is clear that Erdogan appears to be in a position of strength. But from this analysis it also emerges that Ankara does not have sufficient capacity to realize its imperialist ambitions .

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Recovery action plan of the Union: On Next Generation EU & a New Independent authority?

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The first address of the European Commission since the pandemic was one highly anticipated by all the citizens of the EU block. On September 16, President Ursula van der Leyden took it upon herself to reveal the EU’s roadmap for a post-Covid world following the approval of the recovery funds last July which constituted a breakthrough and sent a welcome signal in terms of cohesion and solidarity on the part of the 27 members.

Aside from paying tribute to our frontline workforce and praise the courage and human spirit showed by all in the face of virus spread, van der Leyen set out what she called NexGenerationEU; a movement to breathe new life into the EU but also and most importantly to adapt and lead the way into shaping tomorrow’s world. Through her speech, the president highlighted roughly 8 key themes which will be at the centre of this new European era’s agenda for the next 12 months, in accordance with the cardinal principles of trust, tolerance and agility. In other words, the 750 billion recovery funds raised extra-ordinarily will be directed towards the following areas:

1° Economy: the Union members must all breed economies that offer protection, stability and opportunities in the face of the continuous health crisis with a specific wish expressed for a stronger Health union – and thereby an extension of the Union’s competencies on the matter – but also the advent of European minimum wages.

2° Green Revolution: the Union will adopt more radical attitudes towards mitigating climate-change and safeguarding our planet, starting with the ambitious aim of becoming the first climate-neutral continent by 2050 through the EU’s Green Deal. So called ‘lighthouse’ high-impact and hydrogen-based projects will become an additional focus.

3° Technology: Europe has to step up its game and become a digital leader through securing industrial data and using it to support innovation. Delineating the use of AI by regulating the field, creating a secure EU e-identity and ensuring connectivity deployment so as to fully cover rural areas are also high on the list.

4° Vaccine management: The Union praises the open approach followed up until now in facing the virus whilst many others have opted for withdrawal and undercutting of cooperation. Having served as an example regarding vaccines research and funding, the EU must uphold its policy all the way to the finish line and ensure its accessibility for every citizen around the world.

5° Multilateralism: the current international order system needs some rethinking and international institutions need reform in order to de-paralyze crucial decision-making in urgent situations. This starts with the EU taking faster univocal positions on global issues (Honk-Kong, Moscow, Minsk, and Ankara) and systematically and unconditionally calling out any HR abuses whilst building on existing partnerships with EU’s like-minded allies.

6° Trade: Europe will be made out as a figure of fair-trade by pushing for broker agreements on protected areas and putting digital and environmental ethics at the forefront of its negotiations. Global trade will develop in a manner that is just, sustainable, and digitized.

7° Migration: A New Pact on Migration will be put forward imminently as to act on and move forward on this critical issue that has dragged for long enough; in that regard every member state is expecting to share responsibility and involvement including making the necessary compromises to implement adequate and dignifying management. Europe is taking a stand: legal and moral duties arising from Migrants’ precarious situations are not optional.

8° Against hate-inspired behaviours and discriminations: A zero-tolerance policy is reaffirmed by the Union by extending its crime list to all forms of hate crime or speech based on any of the sensitive criteria and dedicating budget to address de facto discriminations in sensitive areas of society. It is high time to reach equal, universal and mutual recognition of family relations within the EU zone.

Granted, the European ‘priorities forecast’ feels on point and leaves us nearly sighing in relief for it had been somewhat longed for. The themes are spot on, catch words are present and the phrasing of each section is nothing short of motivational with the most likely intended effect that the troops will be boosted and spirits lifted subsequently. When looking closer to the tools enunciated for every topical objective, there seems however to be nearly only abstract and remote strategies to get there.

This is because a great number of the decisive steps that the Union wishes to see be taken depend on the participation of various instruments and actors. Not only does it rely for most on the converging interests, capabilities and willingness of nation States (inside and outside the euro zone), but it is also contingent on the many complex layers and bodies of the Union itself. And when a tremendous amount of the proposed initiatives for European reconstruction is reliant on such a far-reaching chain of events, it simply calls into question the likelihood for the said measures and objectives to be attained – or at the very least in which timeframe.

One might then rightfully wonder whether good and strong willpower coupled with comprehensive projections can be enough. And perhaps in the same vein, whether we can afford to wait and let it play out in order to find out? In his recent writing Giles Merritt, founder of the platform ‘friends of Europe’ tends to suggest we most certainly do not have the luxury of waiting it out and not pushing the forward thinking even further. Indeed, according to him, Europe could and should do more. More than a call for action and change that might end up echoing and fading in the depths of the EU’s bureaucracy, the Union would be expected to back up its ambitious intentions with the setting up of an independent planning agency to ‘ensure revolutionary ideas and projects are speedily implemented’, to borrow Merritt’s words.

Whilst van der Leyen’s announcement was promising and efficient in that it sent an important message – the EU is wanting to get in the driver’s seat – only the follow-up with radical motions such as the creation of a readily available tool to implement fast and impactful changes can lend support to a claim that Europe is in a position to resolve current internal and external EU challenges, and more generally to bounce back from conceded decline suffered in the most recent decades.

As a matter of fact, Diplomat Ali Goutali and Professor Anis Bajrektarevic were the firsts to make an analysis in that sense as they articulated their proposal for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) earlier this year. Faced with similar challenges and need for sharper thinking and tools in order to be at the forefront of the economic and technologic challenges ahead, the OIC had relied heavily on its Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation and agenda reform to reinforce its cooperation and innovation capabilities as a global player.

Nevertheless, Goutali and Bajrektarevic already felt months ago that additional steps ought to be taken for the OIC to be able to respond swiftly and reaffirm further its mandate of facilitating common political actions. To that end, it was suggested that a mechanism for policy coordination in critical times – the Rapid Reaction Capacitation – in charge of, primarily, vaccines management and AI applications should be introduced. Furthermore, the stakes behind the urgent need of strengthening our international order through cohesive endeavours are evidently the same for both the EU and the Arab World. That is to permanently leave behind a pseudo-competitive nation-based attitude that is nothing but a relic from the past and has achieved little in the context of the Covid outbreak.

Hence, if such an independent body was to be established, all three authors agree that it could gather the indispensable political power and resources to carry out the desired reforms on multilateralism, cyber and digital infrastructures, Covid recovery measures or geopolitical partnerships. Necessarily streamlined in order to avoid undue blockades, these new regional bodies could be composed of energetic forward thinkers across the private and public sectors empowered to map out and act on adequate strategies for a post-Covid world. This is because we all share the same goal: achieving solidarity not only on paper or as a conceptual motto but in real life and in real time. And after all, didn’t von der Leyen herself concur with that line of thinking as she enjoined Member states to move towards qualified majority voting to avert slow and cumbersome decision-making processes?

It seems pretty clear to me that such discussions in relation to the aggressiveness in actions and potential bureaucratic barriers might raise an old-as-the-world yet still very important questions: Should we, Europe, be ready to risk losing some of the legitimacy or democratic aspects of our political bodies in order to gain in speed and efficiency in times of crisis? And if not, considering the embracement of some of our supra-national entity’s actions is already on shaky grounds, how can we ensure that such bold measures may still be reconciled with maximal legitimacy given our equally urging need for unity?

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Deciphering EU’s new investment deal with China

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The perceived economic gains of the Comprehensive Agreement on Investments (CAI), which the 27-nation European Union recently struck with the People’s Republic of China, come at the cost of disregarding human rights, which the Western bloc is known for, amid clear and irreconcilable systemic differences.

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The closing days of 2020 saw the European Union and China striking a deal known as the Comprehensive Agreement on Investments (CAI), thereby concluding seven long years of negotiations, as per the year-end deadline. China is also the EU’s biggest trading partner after the United States, but a strategic and systemic rival too.

The European Commission, Brussels-based executive arm of the EU, primarily led the negotiations on behalf of the bloc. Germany, being the holder the EU Council Presidency and led by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s continued push, combined with Beijing’s last-minute concessions, proved instrumental in expediting the process of finalising the CAI before the end of 2020.

However, the deal will still have to wait for a formal ratification by both sides and an approval by the Strasbourg-based EU Parliament, a tougher task, before finally setting it on course to be effective in a couple of years’ time, if not by early 2022.

Better rules, level-playing field for European businesses

The EU, by this deal, aims to widen the access for European companies to lucrative Chinese markets, with billion-plus consumers, on a wide range of sectors, particularly in services such as healthcare, finance, cloud-computing and air travel, among others, that has always been restrictive to foreign players in the past.

The deal could bring in a level playing field in the conduct of European businesses in China wherein Chinese state-owned enterprises will no longer be given preferential treatment through subsidies, thereby promoting fair competition and ensuring transparency in technology transfers. Newer possibilities for the expansion European businesses in China will be opened.

The CAI also promise better rules, investment protection, and an investment dispute settlement mechanism within two years of signing, which will replace all the separate bilateral investment treaties currently signed between China and EU member states. The EU maintains that the main purpose of this new deal is to address the economic imbalance in its relations with China.

However, the most striking aspect of the CAI is that, for the first time, China commits to follow accepted standards on climate and labour aspects, even though in a vague form. And for the EU, the timing of this deal with China is significant as a way of signalling its reengagement with the world in the aftermath of a post-Brexit scenario.

At the same time, the CAI reaffirmed reciprocal access for Chinese companies into European markets, which they always had. So, the deal matters to Europe, more than it matters to China. So, the real question is the extent of compromises which European negotiators had to make to strike the deal with the Asian superpower.

The issue of forced labour in China

Many EU member countries and the US had been apprehensive about the human rights situation in the northern Xinjiang province of China where there have been evidences and investigations on the use of forced labour from the media and elsewhere, which has not been duly factored in while concluding the investment deal.

It has been alleged that in the past several years, the Chinese government has forced over a million Uighur minorities in Xinjiang to perform seasonal labour against their will and are often underpaid. But, the Chinese government has repeatedly denied such allegations.

Many European lawmakers believe that China is not interested in fully complying with international agreements after signing it and is not a responsible and trustable partner. The presence of mass detention camps in this province, as verified by satellite imagery and other documents, is also a human rights concern which the EU was not supposed to ignore, considering its historical commitments to human rights.

US concerns and strategic rivalry

The incoming Biden administration has also raised concerns about the CAI, stating that it would “welcome early consultations” with its European partners on shared concerns surrounding China’s unfair economic practices, hinting at the issue of forced labour and the deal’s lacking on the question of enforcement of human rights.

Being a security and strategic partner of the US and part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), any such deal which EU and its member countries sign with its strategic rival, China, could effectively undermine American-led efforts to counter the strategic and geopolitical threat posed by Beijing’s aggressive and expansionist policies around the world.

It also flies in the face of an incoming Biden administration which is openly committed to mend relations with allies in Europe that had been worsened under Donald Trump. Many experts in the US have felt the EU should’ve waited for a few more weeks until the Biden administration takes charge to form a co-ordinated approach, as it related to their common systemic and strategic rival, China.

Moreover, the deal comes at a time when individual EU members such as Germany and the Netherlands have recently released their own outlook on the Indo-Pacific strategy, which is perceivably aimed at containing China’s rise and to ensure balance of power in the region. Meanwhile, France’s outlook is in existence for two years now.

Way ahead for implementation

The deal has now been reached at the technical level, paving way for a final ratification. But, getting the deal through the European Parliament, which attaches far more significance to human rights concerns than the Commission and the Council, is going to be a tough task, as many European legislators are increasingly sceptical of Chinese intentions and commitments to any deal.

The coming months are going to be crucial with regard to how the European legislators will debate and take forward the deal to the next level.

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