In an alternative universe, what if Yugoslavia still existed? NATO’s expansion, the Cold War still being waged, the so-called democratic western nations destroying freedoms in the name of democracy, we’re already living World War III.
At this crucial juncture in history, it’s absolutely imperative that we examine what has transpired the last 25 years. Yugoslavia and western intervention there, is perhaps the best place to begin. This article calls to question the peace that might have been. More importantly, it calls to question whether or not peace was ever a democratic goal.
Can you imagine Europe today with Yugoslavia as a key player among nations? I can. Yugoslavia was in fact, one of the greatest cultural and human experiments in history. Formed in the crucible that was the conflict in between the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire, Yugoslavia melded together people’s of both cultures, and in ways not seen since the time of Alexander the Great’s assimilation of peoples after immense conquest. The experiment, if I may call it that, lasted a little over half a century. The ideal was, to form a single state for all southern Slavic peoples. While Yugoslavia’s creation was partly a geo-strategic move on the part of Britain and France, in order to restrain or block Germany, the underlying idealism was sound and just. The provisions of the so-called “Corfu Declaration” called for what amounted to a constitutional monarchy not unlike England’s. Rights and suffrage, and core principles of something known as the Illyrian movement, were promising aspects of early Yugoslavia. Even though King Alexander would eventually suspend the constitution and elections, the melding of ethnic groups and cultures still showed promise. War, political machinations, internal and external pressures preyed heavily always on this fledgling world power. As has been the case in many such experiments, ultimately authoritarian rule became the necessity, even desirable.
To end the history lesson, when the national hero turned Dictator and world celebrity, Josip Tito was firmly in control, Yugoslavia played on the world stage. Then when his power waned, opposing forces found their foothold. No scholars or politicians speak of it today, but Tito’s part in establishing the Non-Aligned Movement of nation states was magnanimous and extremely significant, especially for the people who now live in Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, and the other former Yugoslav regions. I’ll get into this further along, but for now it seems important to outline this Non-Aligned Movement’s ideals.
The NAM’s foundations were built in Belgrade in 1961 by the initial ideas of Tito’s Yugoslavia; India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru; Indonesia’s first president, Sukarno; Egypt’s second president, Gamal Abdel Nasser; and Ghana’s first president Kwame Nkrumah. To be concise here, maybe reflecting one of NAM’s greatest proponents, Cuba’s Fidel Castro. In a speech given during the Havana Declaration of 1979, Castro laid out the real purpose behind NAM, saying the movement should strive for:
“The national independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of non-aligned countries” in their “struggle against imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism, racism, and all forms of foreign aggression, occupation, domination, interference or hegemony as well as against great power and bloc politics”
So essentially, the NAM was to be an independent movement of nations in between the great powers, with the idea of negating the Cold War was in novel and interesting one. Of course the major powers engaged in this new political and idealistic warfare had at their core strategy, the inclusion of every one of these fledgling independents. As we see today, the battle goes on to fragment, divide and render powerless, countries and peoples everywhere on the globe. This can be seen most easily in the carving up of the former Yugoslavia, and in the fact the resulting states have shown no inclination to be part of NAM now. Instead, the EU and NATO have been the gravitational pull that moves Croatia and the others. We see the prevalence of “Cold War” strategy in the fact Belarus and Azerbaijan are the only two members of the Movement in Europe, Azerbaijan and Fiji being the most recent entrants, having joined back in 2011. However, the 2012 NAM Summit saw higher attendance than any previous year, a bit of a sign of our crisis time now, I expect. With a declared purpose of “world peace”, and fundamental rights and integrity as its dogma, NAM was and is a valid theoretical mediating framework. But let me return to the fantasy case for Yugoslavia now.
Looking at the breakup of Yugoslavia in retrospect, framing what is Washington geo-strategy everywhere takes solid form. The Clinton administration’s actions at that time have been parlayed and propagandized with the same Orwellian “doublethink” the public is mystified with today. Reading Washington think tank propaganda like that of the Brookings Institute reveals this. In “Decision to Intervene: How the War in Bosnia Ended” from 1998, author Ivo H. Daalder begins:
“While many have written eloquently and passionately to explain Washington’s—and the West’s—failure to stop the ethnic cleansing, the concentration camps, and the massacres of hundreds of thousands of civilians, few have examined why, in the summer of 1995, the United States finally did take on a leadership role to end the war in Bosnia.”
The truth is a much simpler reality. No one needed a think tank to discover why President Bill Clinton hesitated to intercede in Bosnia. Clinton was in fact, continuing the policies of his predecessor, George Bush the senior, to destabilize the Yugoslavian socialist success. We know now that US covertly trained insurgents played a vital role in fragmenting the region via an organization known as the Atlantic Brigade, which fought in the Kosovo war at the side of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), numbering some 400 armed fighters (Also see Cristian Science Monitor of 1999). There’s not space within this report to reveal the subterfuge and death dealing that came about because of US proxy wars in the former Yugoslavia. I will direct the reader to an expert.
David Hackworth is gone now, he succumbed to cancer a few years back. The legacy of “soldiers against war” goes on, only with different proponents like those at Veterans Today and elsewhere. As for Bill Clinton’s playing at reluctance in the region once known as Yugoslavia, the sordid history of genocide and graft seems endless now. Another story I found, the tale of a Frenchman who trained with the Atlantic Brigade, it calls to mind Ukraine, Libya, and Syria of late. You see “patterns” lead us to the truth more often than not, ask any criminal profiler. The ghastly killing fields of the legitimate country of Yugoslavia, the investments in carving up the pieces left over, stain the hands of US presidents, British lords, and neo-Nazi German industrialists.
In an interview with a French mercenary names “Jacques’, Jean-Luc Porte reported back in 1999 how the US backed “Atlantic Brigade” was formed up. The skin head killer of Serbs and Croatians, by his own admission, outlines for us how fascism and Nazis akin to those seen in Ukraine of late, made up a killing brigade effecting the dismemberment of a former great nation. Wounded, rethinking his service to the cause, the Frenchman who joined other multinationals in Albania bore the mark of “HOS for Ustashis,” a proud brand of Croatian Nazis who joined the Germans in World War II. Not unlike the Banderites of the Ukraine crisis, the various proxy wars in the Balkans were manned by lethal killers from abroad. And top American officials knew full well the breed of murderers they pulled the strings on in Kosovo and throughout the Balkans. Yugoslavia, you see, became the template for Afghanistan and Iraq, Arab Spring, and the current anti-Russia onslaught. The names of Madeleine Albright, Javier Solana, General Wesley Clark and others continue to reverberate. In the former Yugoslavia the friends of key players in government planned a literal carving feast of potential creditor nations and investment bonanzas. The tale of this genocide in the name of democracy is almost too awful to speak of. Most of the people of these nations were set back 200 years, into a kind of medieval existence without hope. The only glimmer of possibility for most former Yugoslavians is quite naturally, the EU and its NATO protectors.
As I write this American, Brit and German planners are already carving up Syria. This Rand Corporation plan is not surprisingly clinical, even matter of fact, about partitioning a sovereign state. For those unaware, Rand Corporation is the Big Brother of all hegemonic think tanks. If you see it in print from these guys, the US military industrial complex invested money in it – period. Certainly there was genocide on both sides of the Albania-Kosovo conflict, as well as the other wars in the Balkans. This is not the point really, for the totality of catastrophe is what I am focused on. First of all the people of the united Yugoslavia no longer have any real voice. Secondly, the breakup of that nation has led to the death or dislocation of millions now. This is another story. But my “fantasy” Yugoslavia should be an eye opener. Let me conclude.
Yugoslavia was built on an idea that Southern Slavs would not remain a weak and divided people. A united nation of Yugoslavia was not easy prey for imperialist intentions like we see taking place today. It is a fact, that after World War II, socialist Yugoslavia became something of a European success story. Between 1960 and 1980 the country had one of the most vigorous growth rates in the world: a decent standard of living, free medical care and education, a guaranteed right to a job, one-month vacation with pay, a literacy rate of over 90 percent, and a life expectancy of 72 years. To my knowledge, not one of the Balkans states that were created can claim half this prosperity. It was this prosperity which caused western interests to want to destroy Yugoslavia.
Yugoslavia’s multi-ethnic citizenry also had affordable public transportation, housing, and utilities. The not-for-profit economy was mostly publicly owned, not exactly the poster child for western democratic love obviously. The county could not be allowed to compete with Germany, France, and especially Britain, and the London and Luxembourg bankers could not extract their billions in a socialistic system. Yugoslavia had to die, and the Reagans, Bushs, and Clintons helped make it happen. Award winning author, political scientist, and Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C., Michael Parenti has outlined the Yugoslavia disaster many times. According to Parenti, the U.S. goal has been to transform the Yugoslav nation into a Third-World region:
- incapable of charting an independent course of self-development;
- a shattered economy and natural resources completely accessible to multinational corporate exploitation, including the enormous mineral wealth in Kosovo;
- an impoverished, but literate and skilled population forced to work at subsistence wages, constituting a cheap labor pool that will help depress wages in western Europe and elsewhere;
- dismantled petroleum, engineering, mining, fertilizer, and automobile industries, and various light industries, that offer no further competition with existing Western producers.
Does this strategy sound familiar? Remember the Rand Corporation plan for Syria. Were Ukraine, Donbass, and Crimea understood before the Euromaidan? What is the plan for Russia? This is where the metal meets the meat my friends. In the Balkans catastrophe the West demonized the Serbs. In Libya it was Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, in Syria it is Assad, and the pattern goes on with Vladimir Putin as the biggest trophy head to put on some banker’s den wall. If that sounds contrite, I am sorry, this is the world we live in now. By the power of sleeping American citizens drugged stupid with worthless trinkets of super-capitalism – the world is being taken over by tyrants.
But what if Yugoslavia had survived? What if the great ethnic-socialist experiment had worked? It’s safe to say our world would be totally different today. For one thing, the EU with the Non-Aligned Movement of nation states (NAM) operating within its current boarders would be less potent, far less influential geo-politically. All of Europe might have led to Belgrade, and from there into the six republics now fighting for crumbs from Brussels. To galvanize how my fantasy Yugoslavian nation might look, I’ll leave you with the relative economic situations of current Balkans states, and the Yugoslavia GDP in 1991, positioned at 24th among world nations. As former President Ronald Reagan used to say; “Are you better off?”
As of 2015, Bosnia and Herzegovina is 112th economically, and conditions are worsening. Still the poor Bosnians think joining the EU will solve all problems. Croatia is currently 76th in the world economically, but Bloomberg just named the country one of the 10 worst on Earth. Macedonia ranks 130th, with agriculture being the only real industry, unemployment in the country is above 30%. Montenegro, despite the sheer beauty of the tiny country, is 149th among world nations. Like some other former republics, Montenegro believes EU ascension will solve everything. Serbia is ranked 87th in GDP, and seems more stable in many regards than her contemporaries. Slovenia ranks 81st in GDP, and is for some a potential miracle if tourism and other industries continue to grow there.
From a personal perspective, I recall a moment of prosperity in the former Yugoslavia, the 1984 Olympics at Sarajevo. Those were the first Winter Olympics ever held in a Communist nation, as I recall. The torch relay through Dubrovnik, then Split, Ljubljana, Zagreb, and countless other Yugoslavian cities, culminated in a proud moment in Sarajevo. The names of the gold medal athletes there have become blurred in my mind now, but the little wolf mascot Vučko, created by the Slovenian painter Jože Trobec is framed in my mind’s eye for some reason. A cartoon here in Yugoslavia at the time, the little wolf represented the people of these Balkans nations well. Wolves are prominent in Yugoslavian fables, they are the embodiment of courage and strength and the also symbolize winter. And as I type these final letters, I think about what the courageous and strong people of Yugoslavia might have won had their destinies not been interrupted by outsiders? All I know is, 24th place is a far cry from 149th in the Olympics. As for Yugoslavia, that nation is gone forever.
First published by New Eastern Outlook under the title: A Yugoslavian Fantasy: 24th versus 149th Place
EU to mount decisive summit on Kosovo
The European Union is planning to hold an important summit on Kosovo in October this year with a view to get Belgrade and Pristina to normalize bilateral relations. French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will pose as guarantors of the deal. Reports say a senior US official may take part in the Paris summit as well. The participation of the American side was strongly advocated by the authorities in Kosovo, headed by President Hashim Thachi.
If this scenario goes ahead, Serbia may face pressure from both the USA and the EU. The West plans to require Belgrade to not only de facto recognize Kosovo but to confirm the course for European integration – which, according to Brussels, means departure from a comprehensive partnership with Russia and from the signing of a free trade agreement with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) scheduled for the end of October.
Given the situation, Serbian leaders are set on consolidating Belgrade’s position in the forthcoming talks by reducing international support for Pristina. To this end, Belgrade is trying to persuade countries that previously recognized Kosovo’s self-proclaimed independence to reconsider their positions and withdraw their statements. Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic has already announced in wake of consultations on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly that the number of countries that recognize Kosovo’s independence will dwindle by the end of this year. According to Dacic, such countries will make up less than half of the world community.
According to the Serbian Foreign Minister, the Serbian delegation led by President Aleksandar Vucic succeeded in holding talks in New York with representatives of about a hundred states on withdrawing recognition of Kosovo’s independence. “The President spoke with representatives of some states about strategic issues, about a dialogue with Pristina, but there were also many meetings dedicated specifically to the status of Kosovo and Metohija. As the president announced, our citizens can be sure that in the near future the number of countries that will withdraw or “freeze” their recognition of Kosovo will increase,”- Ivica Dacic said.
In recent years, the number of countries that recognize Kosovo’s independence has decreased, though so far mainly due to small American and African states. Among them are the Comoros, Dominica, Suriname, Liberia, Sao Tome and Principe, Guinea-Bissau, Burundi, Papua New Guinea, Lesotho, Grenada.
The persistency with which the US and the EU is trying to “press” for the normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina and force Serbia to cut down on its active cooperation with Russia has yet again pushed the Serbs into streamlining their national foreign policy priorities. According to available data, Brussels is ready to slap more conditions on Belgrade, including the most painful of the Balkan issues, not only on Kosovo, but also on Bosnia and Herzegovina. For one, as Serbian Minister of Technological Development and Innovation Nenad Popovic said, one of the conditions for Serbia becoming a member of the EU could be recognition of the “genocide” in Srebrenica.
This is confirmed by Zoran Milosevic, an expert at the Institute for Political Studies in Belgrade, who sees the new condition as nothing unexpected, since some EU member states, and also Switzerland, have passed a law that envisages criminal liability for the denial of the so-called “genocide in Srebrenica.” Some European countries are already following suit having drafted the relevant bills to be submitted to parliament. “Something of this kind was proposed by the High Representative of the international community in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Valentin Inzko. What is the point of adopting laws in defense of this counterfeit on the genocide in Srebrenica if they do not make a condition for Serbia’s membership in the EU?” – Zoran Milosevic points out. The mere word “condition”, he says, signifies that Serbia “is treated as a minor who needs to grow to perfection and fight tooth and claw to enter the EU”. Serbia “accepted this burden of its own free will” the day its parliament passed a resolution according to which the country’s strategic goal is European integration, ” – said the Serbian expert.
He also made it clear that it was by no means accidental that Brussels never announced the full list of conditions for Serbia’s membership in the European Union: “If they did, it would tie the hands of pro-Western Serbian politicians. So they release more and more conditions gradually, one after another. First, it was about recognizing Kosovo – whether this is a condition for EU membership or not. It turned out that it is. Now it is about the recognition of “genocide” in Srebrenica. It is said that Serbia’s entry into NATO will also be a condition for joining the European Union. And, as in the previous cases, we are wondering if such a condition exists or not. As a result, it will turn out that there is. ”
Where Brussels’ pressure on Belgrade is particularly noticeable at present is Serbia’s intention to sign a free trade agreement with the EAEU at the end of October. According to the Minister of Trade of Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC) Veronika Nikishina, negotiations between the EAEU and Serbia on the creation of a free trade zone are over with the parties involved preparing to sign the agreement on October 25. Nikishina says the document will be signed in Moscow by the prime ministers of the five member states of the EAEU, the Prime Minister of Serbia Ana Brnabic and the Chairman of the EEC Board Tigran Sargsyan. Even though Serbia has agreements on a free trade zone with three of the five EAEU members – Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, the transition to a common free trade regime has several advantages, emphasizes Veronika Nikishina: “Three bilateral deals that were signed earlier and were not fully identical are being harmonized, giving Armenia and Kyrgyzstan the opportunity of preferences in preferential trade. ”
Also, a trade agreement provides access of the EAEU members to the Serbian market: “For example, it concerns certain kinds of cheeses, some strong alcoholic drinks, and cigarettes from Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, which could not enter the Serbian market under the free trade regime. And it also spreads on various types of engineering products that have also been removed from bilateral agreements.” “In other words, we give a fully-fledged free trade status to Kyrgyzstan and Armenia and improve the existing bilateral free trade arrangements for Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia,” – the Minister for Trade of the EEC emphasizes.
According to Serbian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications Rasim Lyayic, an agreement with the EAEU may allow the country to increase its export volumes by nearly 1.5 times. According to the minister, in 2018 Serbia’s trade turnover with the EAEU countries amounted to about 3.4 billion dollars, of which 1.1 billion accounted for exports, mainly to Russia. Exports into the EAEU will increase to $ 1.5 billion within a few years after the agreement comes into force, the Serbian Deputy Prime Minister predicts.
According to the Bruegel International Analytical Center, in 2016, 62% of all Serbian imports came from EU countries, 8.3% from China, 7.9% from Russia. 64% of the republic’s exports go to the EU, 17.8% to other Balkan countries, 5.3% to Russia.
Naturally, the EU is more than concerned about Serbia’s trade and economic policy following a different direction. Brussels has already warned the Serbian government that a free trade agreement with the EAEU could harm integration with the EU. “You can’t follow several directions at once,” – said Slovakian Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak, thereby warning Belgrade and expressing the position of his counterparts in the European Union: “If you are serious about Europe, you must make decisions that bring you closer to it, but this move is totally out of line. ”
Meanwhile, Serbia maintains composure and has no intention of giving up on the plans. Explaining his country’s decision to conclude an agreement with the EAEU, Rasim Lyayic said that it follows economic agenda alone: “It is not about politics, but about trade.”
According to the minister, a refusal to sign an agreement with the EAEU would call into question a free trade agreement with Russia.
The EAEU is calm about warnings addressed to Serbia, – Veronika Nikishina says: “Until Serbia becomes a full-fledged member of the European Union, it has full autonomy in its trade policy. “In our agreement there are no obligations on the formation of a trade regime between Serbia and the European Union, which is absolutely impossible to imagine.” Nikishina made it clear that until Serbia joins the EU, “we are trading with it in a regime we consider appropriate, and we will upgrade this regime.” As for Serbia entering the EU (which is a matter of remote future), in this case “all agreements of this kind, including our agreement, naturally, will have to be terminated,” – Veronika Nikishina says.
Nevertheless, there is no doubt that pressure on Belgrade, both in terms of recognizing Kosovo and in connection with relations with Russia and the EAEU, will boost considerably in the coming weeks. In these conditions, the Serbian authorities will obviously have to assume a more determined position with regard to the country’s list of national priorities.
From our partner International Affairs
EU politicians turn to “ball of snakes” to make own careers
Some of EU politicians are very successful in making their careers using the weak points of the European Union member states.
Current tensions between Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and NATO (including EU countries) lead to the development of many expensive programs and projects that European taxpayers have to pay for.
Current security situation provides a huge space for ambitious politicians. Those, in turn, involve the population of European countries in an arms race, trying to achieve personal goals at the expense of frightened citizens.
Thus, such statements as: “we’re at war”, “Russia and China threaten Europe and the Word”, “we need to increase defence spending” are populist in nature and distract attention of people from more pressing social issues. The more so, loud statements let such experts be in the centre of attention in European politics.
Thus, new European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has flagged her ambition for political weight to take more responsibility for defence programs and projects.
“That’s likely to trigger turf wars with EU national governments, NATO and the United States over who should be in charge of European military cooperation and the West’s lucrative defence industry,” writes Paul Taylor, a contributing editor at POLITICO and a senior fellow at the think-tank Friends of Europe.
Franco-German efforts to press EU countries to buy European military equipment rather than U.S. vehicles and weapons have not been successful yet. But taking into account the pertinacity of French and German politicians in the EU governing bodies it could become a reality. Though the Baltic countries, the Netherlands, and Poland, are suspicious of such plans.
“They simply want the best value for money and quality for their limited defence budgets. The Poles and Balts believe they get an unspoken extra level of bilateral defence insurance if they buy U.S. equipment beyond NATO’s mutual defence clause.” explains Paul Taylor.
This is one of the few cases when small Baltic States oppose European influencers – France and Germany. On October, 2 in his interview to Europäische Sicherheit & Technik, Raimundas Karoblis, the Minister of Defence of the Republic of Lithuania said that he hates even the subject of European military autonomy. He totally relies on NATO.
So, in this fight for decision making in the European Union only one side will loose – people of the countries who will pay for NATO or European defence projects.
People are only the tools of satisfaction of political ambitions. In case of peace in Europe they will pay for excessive amount of military equipment and foreign personnel deployment. In case of war they will be the targets of missiles.
Sovereignty versus nature: Central and Eastern Europe not ready to fight for environment at all costs
While attending the UN Climate Summit in New York, French President Emmanuel Macron urged European environmental activists to look in the direction of some countries of Eastern Europe, in the first place, those that this summer came up against the “EU initiative to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050”.
The 2050 deadline was first voiced in a report prepared last year by the UN Intergovernmental Commission on Climate Change. According to the authors of the Report, humanity will be able to avoid the worst effects of climate change if it reduces greenhouse gas emissions to zero by the middle of the century. The proposal in support of the United Nations initiative by EU countries put forward by the European Commission in November last year envisages a set of measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions next to zero; and to compensate for the residual emissions by taking agricultural and technological measures aimed at extracting carbon from the atmosphere. In March this year, as members of the European Council discussed the details of the initiative, the initial reaction, according to media reports, was “cautious”. Only 8 EU member states supported it unconditionally.
However, “the situation had changed a lot” by May: the G8 addressed the other EU members with a proposal to fundamentally step up efforts to avert climate change. The participants in the discussion suggested channelling for these purposes a quarter of the total EU budget for the period 2021-2027. In addition, they proposed to introduce a ban on EU subsidies for projects that could worsen greenhouse gas emissions into the environment. And they also called for supporting the Community’s commitment to the “zero emission” target by 2050 “as a deadline.” . According to observers, what led to a rapid change in the attitude of many EU countries to the issue was a wave of environmental protests that swept through a number of major European cities, including London, Brussels, Stockholm, Paris and Berlin. Also, the change in attitudes could be attributed to the success of the “green parties” in the elections to the European Parliament held in May.
In Eastern Europe, the new “super-ambitious” climate initiatives were met with outright mistrust. During a summit in Brussels at the end of June, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and, with certain reservations, Estonia, blocked a clause on the implementation of the “2050 Initiative” in the EU strategy for 2019–2024 . Instead of clearly defined obligations of the European Union, with a fixed deadline of 2050, vague wordings were added to the final document. Under the new agreement, only an “overwhelming majority of member states” intend to achieve a zero impact of their economies on the climate, the so-called “climate neutrality”, by 2050 . The refusal of EU members to unanimously support the new climate strategy has also cast doubt on the commitments undertaken by the EU under the Paris Climate Agreement. At the moment, all EU countries are obliged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent of the 1990 level by 2020. And by 40 percent by 2030. However, many member states cannot meet these requirements, some “significantly”. The decisions taken in Paris in 2015 require signatories to prevent a rise in global temperature by more than two degrees Celsius. And “ideally”, the temperatures should not increase by more than 1.5 degrees.
Countries of Eastern Europe came up against the new commitments even despite the “softening” of the original wording. Technically, the EU may soon get back to discussing the initiative: after the EU presidency goes to Finland, the issue can be added to the agenda again. Finland is one of the most ardent supporters of stepping up measures to address climate change. However, the recent failure means that, in practical terms, the EU will be able to return to the problem only after 2024. As they explain their position, the Polish authorities focus on preserving the country’s energy security, – up to 80 percent of the country’s electric power is still generated using coal. Warsaw also advocates a substantial increase in subsidies from the EU budget for upgrading the energy sector. The Prime Minister of the Czech Republic has pointed out that it is impossible to predict what course the events will take in 30 years. Finally, a country’s formal endorsement of the “2050 Initiative” does not necessarily presuppose unconditional support for the EU climate policy in practice. According to the NGO Climate Action Network Europe, in addition to Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Estonia, a cautious position has been demonstrated by Bulgaria, Lithuania, Slovakia, Romania and Croatia. Austria, Greece, Cyprus and Latvia have a number of reservations.
What are countries of Central and Eastern Europe afraid of? First of all, they fear for the economy. Decades after they switched to market economy, their per capita income is 2 to 2.5 times less than in Germany or France. Less diversification of economies, technologically and infrastructurally outdated generating capacities – all this puts Eastern Europeans on the losing side against the background of the more developed members of the European Union. Meanwhile, many leaders of Central and Eastern Europe owe their popularity with voters to the high rates of economic growth. It is no accident then that the success of the “greens” in Eastern Europe was much more modest than in the west and in the center. Eastern European voters are literally frightened by the high cost of today’s “green” technologies, which promise far from clear prospects and only after decades. Politicians cannot but take into account public sentiments at home. In addiiton, the EU economy is slowing down. Even Germany, whose production chains attract many suppliers from the “east”, teeters on the brink of recession. Not surprisingly, environmental issues in such a situation are fading into the background.
In addition, the ambitious slogans about the forthcoming triumph of “green” technologies do not always have a leg to stand on. In February The Economist reported that the income level of traditional energy companies is still higher than the performance of renewable energy projects. The global demand for oil continues to grow by 1-2 percent yearly – just like in the previous fifty years. Most environmental activists are still driving cars and using airplanes. It would be premature to rely on breakthrough technologies, which are not available for mass production yet. The volume of investments in renewable energy sources around the world is about 300 billion dollars a year – a drop in the ocean compared to investments in the development of fossil fuels. And even though they talk much about the early arrival of electric cars, in 2030, up to 85 percent of cars will still be running on internal combustion engines.
Meanwhile, the “2050 Initiative” in its current form is too vague to sound convincing, does not contain any, at least preliminary, estimates of potential costs or possible damage to economic growth. Given the situation, it is very difficult to convince the majority of voters that measures aimed at reducing harmful emissions will not inflict a catastrophic blow to their personal well-being. What makes it all worse is not only by the “bad example” of the USA, which many CEE countries are looking to. After America withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement in 2017, the Trump administration has been taking steps to revive the national coal industry. Even such environmentally advanced countries as France and Germany have yet to devise a policy that could convince wide sections of society of the benefits of higher prices for eco-friendly products and services. One of the motives behind mass protests of the “yellow vests” in France was fears that that the government would boost taxes under the pretext of the need to “spend more on “green “technologies.” As for tax cuts to stimulate the economy, the proposal is not popular with top-level officials in most EU countries. Meanwhile, fiscal incentives, which encourage public support for technological and cultural changes that come handy for combating climate change, are seen by specialists as one of the most reasonable measures that can alleviate the fears of skeptics.
Since most countries of the world are characterized by a “mixed” picture of the “pluses” and “minuses” of global warming, many people in the east of the EU are questioning the point of introducing a fundamental change to the economic structure of several decades in an attempt to reverse the negative climatic phenomena in the environment. Should we focus instead on political, economic and social measures that would help individual countries and associations to adapt to the objective trends in nature? Or, could it be an attempt, under the guise of solving environmental problems, to restrict development opportunities for competitor countries, either present or potential.
In the conditions of ever-increasing rivalry between states, the environmental issue becomes a convenient and attractive tool to discredit the opponents. East Europeans point out that rich countries, including Great Britain and Germany, are still using coal in order to maintain their economic growth. In many cases, it means tax exemptions and even budget subsidies. A dramatic reduction in the use of coal for production purposes and heating needs may require extensive political efforts, including an increase in subsidies from EU funds, for which Western members of the alliance will not be ready for years to come. For some environmental groups, the struggle for the protection of the environment outweighs any objective needs for the development of both individual territories and entire states. At times, it is next to impossible to separate the recklessly sincere idealism from the “lobbying of new-type corporate interests”. As a result, criticism of the fuel-based development model turns out to be an instrument of competition that promotes the interests of the green economy — which is, as it has become clear in recent years, far from ecologically perfect.
The conflict over how to harmonize the environmental policy runs the risk of becoming yet another confirmation of an alarming trend for the EU of late. It turned out that “subsidies from the European Union are no longer part of its policy, which was designed to compensate for the internal imbalance in the EU, but rather a kind of gift for loyalty. We mean the well-known ‘divide-and-rule’ policy ”, a deliberate separation of countries and regions in the Community that are not ready to unconditionally follow the decisions which are passed by the leading countries and Brussels.
Is the EU able to “overcome the de facto economic, social and cultural inequalities” which are still visible among its members? Or will these inequalities be joined by ecological and climatic ones over time?
Finally, radicalism among the ecologists frightens even Western Europeans. Emmanuel Macron demonstrated skepticism over the statements made in the UN by Greta Thunberg, a young Swedish activist who became known throughout the world in 2018 thanks to the idea of a global environmental “strike of school students”. According to the French leader, Thunberg’s “radical” position is destructive because it could trigger antagonism in society. The day earlier, German Chancellor Angela Merkel praised the activist’s speech in the UN, adding, however, that Thunberg had overlooked a number of key trends. The German leader spoke about new technologies and innovations that “play a significant role in energy and climate protection”.
The crises of the past decade have “revealed the ever-growing differences within the European Union”, and have significantly undermined the previously unquestionable authority of “old” Europe in the eyes of many residents of the East. Against the background of a continuing asymmetry in the socio-economic situation, many CEE countries have managed to overcome the effects of the global crisis better than their Western partners. A number of observers have even outlined the prospects of turning Central and Eastern Europe into a “new driver” of economic growth within the entire EU. Under these conditions, it is not surprising that East Europeans are set on preserving the freedom of socio-economic maneuver in climate change issues in order to avoid their unjustified politicization. Russia shares these kinds of aspirations. By ratifying the Paris Climate Agreement, Moscow declares its readiness by joint efforts to work out such a paradigm of relations with nature that would meet the interests of long-term development. Russia is striving to strike a balance between a clean and safe environment, on the one hand, and the preservation of national competitiveness, on the other.
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