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How Yugoslavia was Syrianized 25 years ago

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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

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New anti-Russian sanctions to hit European energy sector

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The US plans to tighten sanctions against Russia, scheduled for November, is causing growing concern from the international business community, in the first place, from Europeans and those economic areas in which key players demonstrate maximum interdependence, including in the energy sector.

Among those who lashed out at the US intention to impose restrictions on Russian companies Rosneft, Gazprom and LUKOIL similarly to sanctions slapped on US Rusal in April this year, is the head of British Petroleum Bob Dudley. BP owns 19.75% of Rosneft shares and is Rosneft’s major private shareholder.

According to Bob Dudley, in the event of such a tightening of US sanctions, the European energy system will crumble. “I do not think this will happen. If you impose sanctions like Rusal on Rosneft, Gazprom or LUKOIL, you will cut off European energy systems, which is a little bit too much”, he said as he spoke at an Oil & Money 2018 Conference in London.

Bob Dudley is fully aware of the contemporary realities and the potential of Russian companies, particularly since BP and Rosneft have been developing a variety of joint projects. In 2015 BP acquired 20% in the Srednebotuobinsky field in Eastern Siberia and has been prospecting for oil within the framework of a joint venture with Rosneft – “Ermak Neftegaz”.

Reports say the share in the Russian company accounts for a third of the total production of British Petroleum. “In general, we consider Rosneft a fairly good partner,” Bob Dudley said in an interview with The Bloomberg, an American business news agency.

At present, the US Congress is considering two packages of anti-Russian sanctions. In the case of “spotting Russia’s attempts to influence the course of elections in the United States”, the White House is to block the resources of major Russian banks, including Sberbank, VTB and Vnesheconombank, and energy companies. Among the latter are  “Gazprom”, “Rosneft” and “LUKOIL”.

The forecast by the BP chief that the European energy sector will face severe crisis should the US Congress launch new sanctions echoes the moods that are gaining strength in Europe. A statement to this effect came from the Eastern Committee of the German Economy (Ost-Ausschuss der Deutschen Wirtschaft e. V.) which represents the interests of about 350 German companies and associations operating in Russia and other former Soviet republics, as well as countries of South Eastern Europe. The Committee’s Managing Director Michael Harms said that business in the European Union should not suffer because of cooperation with Russia. According to reports released in Germany, Western sanctions and Russian counter-sanctions have “negatively affected” more than 70% of German companies since March 2018. A study conducted by the above organization reveals that 94% of these companies would prefer the existing sanction regime against Russia eased. The East Committee of the German economy has expressed “tremendous concern” over the possibility of the US imposing new sanctions against Russia and against European companies running  joint projects with Moscow, including those involved in the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.

“We believe that any attempts to see implementation of sanctions in an extraterritorial format are unacceptable and at odds with international law,” Michael Harms said. He deems as inadmissible the imposition of sanctions on European business for cooperating with Russia.

This position is shared by top management of the French energy giant Total, which has been pursuing a number of joint projects with Russia which are vital for ensuring Europe’s energy security, including in the production of liquefied natural gas (LNG). In an interview with the French edition of Capital, Total CEO Patrick Pouyanne questioned the very effectiveness of anti-Russian sanctions – in other words, he doubted the key factor that caused their coming into effect: “I believe that the sanctions are ineffective. What they lead to is the fact that leaders consolidate forces around themselves without changing their policies.”

“Business communities in most European countries – the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Spain – believe that sanctions should be lifted at an early date. Some experts think that this should happen gradually but business thinks differently,” – says Ernest Ferlenghi, president of Confindustria Russia, an association of Italian business in Russia, who is a staunch opponent to sanctions. “Every lost day provides an opportunity for our competitors, especially in Asia. They have vast opportunities, particularly the Chinese, for investing money in various projects. They become more competitive due to a strong financial resource,” – emphasizes the Italian businessman.

Significantly, the most critical position on the further tightening of sanction against Russia has come from countries and companies which guarantee stability on the European energy market, in particular, those representing Germany and Austria. The Vienna-based newspaper Der Standard cites in this connection the successful activities of the Austrian energy concern OMV: “OMV relies on Russia, its CEO Seele maintains good relations with Russia. The head of the state-subsidized concern has managed to secure what he had already succeeded in achieving as head of BASF subsidiary Wintershall – participation in the development of a large gas field in Siberia, Urengoisky.” “As for the second major project – the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Germany to Russia through the Baltic Sea – Seele enjoys political support”, – the newspaper says.

By introducing sanctions against top Russian energy companies that closely cooperate with European business the Donald Trump administration is in fact trying to make use of national legislation to secure the US financial and economic interests in Europe. According to reports, one of the reasons for tightening sanctions is the currently observed positive trends in the implementation of Russian projects in areas where the US is particularly vulnerable  – the export of pipeline gas and the production of LNG.

As for Russian gas supplies to Europe – which Washington sees as a direct competition considering its own liquefied natural gas supplies – this year PJSC Gazprom has the potential, for the first time after 2011, to reach a production level of over 500 billion cubic meters of gas annually. At the same time, annual exports to foreign countries can hit a record high of over 200 billion cubic meters.

Meanwhile, Russia’s PJSC NOVATEK, which mainly deals with LNG production, has announced the discovery of a gas condensate field with reserves of at least 320 billion cubic meters in the Arctic, on the North Obsk license area in the waters of the Gulf of Ob. This field can become a resource base for NOVATEK’s third LNG producing facility, the Arctic LNG-3. “The discovery of a new field is an important starting point for one of our future Arctic LNG projects. The North-Ob field is unique in terms of its reserves, boasts an advantageous geographical location, and has a huge resource base. On top of that, the experience we have gained suggests that we have every potential for the successful implementation of the new LNG project,” – said Leonid Mikhelson, Chairman of the Board of PJSC NOVATEK.

By 2030 the company expects to bring LNG production to 57 million tons per year, and provided extra resources have been tapped – up to 70 million tons. This will enable Russia to successfully compete with the top LNG producer, Qatar, thereby leaving the United States far behind.

Success of Russian energy projects and expansion of Russia’s ties with European partners in energy and other major sectors of the economy present, in the eyes of the administration of US President Donald Trump and the Congressmen, a key threat to American business interests. This is what underlies Washington’s “sanctions” policy and European leaders have increasingly been making a point of it lately.

First published in our partner International Affairs

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EU-Republic of Korea Summit: Building on a well-established partnership

MD Staff

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The 9th EU-Republic of Korea Summit took place on 19 October in Brussels. It marked the 55th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the EU and the Republic of Korea and set the stage for a further strengthening of bilateral ties.

Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission and Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, represented the European Union at the Summit. The Republic of Korea was represented by its President, Moon Jae-in. The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini and EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström also participated, alongside several Ministers from the Republic of Korea.

“In 2011, the EU agreed its first Free Trade Agreement with an Asian country. That country was the Republic of Korea”, said President Jean-Claude Juncker. “The beneficiaries of this agreement have been our citizens and our businesses, but if our trade relationship is to reach its full potential, we need to ensure that it is being implemented properly. At the same time, we must continue to dispel the notion that protectionism protects, continue to invest in multilateralism, and continue to increase our cooperation in sustainable development and the implementation of the Paris climate agreement. I am confident that in the years to come, our relations will be even more dynamic and our ties even stronger than now.”

Presidents Juncker, Tusk and Moon committed to further develop the EU-Republic of Korea Strategic Partnership, which is underpinned by three concrete pillars: an enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement; an ambitious Free Trade Agreement; and a Framework Participation Agreement for EU crisis management operations. The Summit provided an opportunity to explore further areas for cooperation within the Strategic Partnership.

Discussions focused on the situation on the Korean Peninsula, the broader situation in the world, and trade relations. The Summit also provided an opportunity for the initialling, by the European Commission and the Republic of Korea, of a Horizontal Aviation agreement and the signing of a Joint Statement committing to work closely together to fight against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing.

Jointly addressing global challenges

The EU and Korea are united by common values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. The Leaders reaffirmed their strong commitment to multilateralism and the international rules-based order, politically and economically, while also supporting global action on climate change and the environment. The EU and Korea will continue promoting free, fair and rules-based trade, modernising the WTO-based multilateral trading system, and maintaining international cooperation against protectionism.

The Leaders discussed a number of pressing issues on the global agenda, chief among them prospects for achieving lasting peace and security on a Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons and finding a comprehensive solution through diplomacy, while fully implementing the relevant UNSC Resolutions. The EU supports the Republic of Korea’s efforts and diplomatic initiatives, in particular the three inter-Korean Summits and the US-DPRK Summit, and the implementation of their outcomes. The EU sees the development of inter-Korean relations, the denuclearisation of, and the establishment of a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula as vital for peace and security not only in East Asia, but for the entire world. In this context, the EU stressed the requirement for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to completely, verifiably and irreversibly dismantle all its nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, ballistic missiles and related programmes and facilities.

The EU and the Republic of Korea reiterated their commitment to maintaining close coordination on foreign and security issues. In the field of crisis management, the EU and the Republic of Korea will continue the good cooperation under the EU-Republic of Korea Framework Participation Agreement, through which the Republic of Korea has regularly contributed to the EU’s naval counter-piracy operation off the coast of the Horn of Africa, EU NAVFOR Atalanta. Similarly, they discussed and agreed to cooperate more closely on implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and achieving its Sustainable Development Goals, and will bolster their bilateral policy dialogue on international development issues and promote joint cooperation in areas and third countries of mutual interest, notably in Asia and Africa.

Expanding the bilateral agenda to bring further benefits to citizens

The leaders recalled that the EU-Republic of Korea Free Trade Agreement has been an economic success that has increased wealth on both sides. The EU is Korea’s 3rd largest trading partner and Korea the EU’s 8th largest; annual trade in goods between the EU and Korea is now worth about €100 billion. With that in mind, the leaders exchanged views on how to ensure that our citizens and businesses can reap the full benefits of the agreement. The EU highlighted several important issues: for example, ensuring the full implementation of the long-standing, binding labour commitments under the Trade and Sustainable Development Chapter; opening the Korean market to EU beef from all EU Member States; and fully implementing commitments in the area of intellectual property rights, including protecting new Geographical Indications.

The Summit also provided an opportunity for the European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, and Kim Young-Choon, Minister for Oceans and Fisheries of the Republic of Korea to sign a joint statement committing to work closely together to fight against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing.  The Republic of Korea is the fourth country with whom the EU signs such a joint statement as part of its efforts to tackle the most serious threats to sustainable fishing and to marine biodiversity in the world’s oceans, with devastating environmental and socio-economic consequences. The new partnership, in line with the objectives of the EU’s Ocean Governance strategy, will help exchange information about suspected Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated activities, enhance traceability of fishery products and promote sustainable fishing through education and training.

Excellent progress has been made in the area of transport, where this week the European Commission and the Republic of Korea initialled a Horizontal Aviation Agreement on certain aspects of air services. The agreement will restore legal certainty to all 22 bilateral air services agreements that the Republic of Korea has with EU Member States by bringing these into conformity with EU law. The number of passengers travelling directly between the Republic of Korea and the EU has grown on average 10.1% over the past five years, totalling 3.4 million passengers in 2017. Currently, direct passenger flights are operated between 10 EU Member States and the Republic of Korea. The Horizontal Aviation Agreement reflects this growth in the EU-Republic of Korea aviation market and should serve as a catalyst for increased flows.

Leaders also stressed their commitment to implementing the Paris climate agreement. To translate this political commitment into concrete projects, the EU has set up a platform to exchange best practice on climate action and support the implementation of the Korean Government’s Emissions Trading System (ETS) to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement. The EU’s Partnership Instrument also financially supports exchanges of cultural practitioners and artists from both the EU and Korea, economic cooperation between companies, as well as the promotion of research and teaching on EU-related issues in Korea, adding to the overall breadth of the relationship.

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ASEM Summit: Europe and Asia – Global Partners for Global Challenges

MD Staff

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The 12th ASEM (Asia-Europe Meeting) Summit took place on 18-19 October in Brussels, bringing together 51 countries, as well as EU and Asian institutions. Under the title “Global Partners for Global Challenges”, leaders addressed some of the world’s most pressing issues.

Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission and Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, represented the European Union at the Summit. Heads of State or Government of the 28 EU Member States, Switzerland and Norway, in addition to 21 Heads of State or Government from Asian countries, as well as the Secretary General of ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), were also invited. The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini, and the Vice-President of the European Commission for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, Jyrki Katainen, also participated at the Summit.

“We want to give our relationship with Asia, which is already very dynamic – as illustrated by the numerous trade and cooperation agreements we have, fresh impetus“, said President Jean-Claude Juncker at the Summit’s plenary session this morning. “Only a multilateral approach will enable us to confront global challenges. This is why I reiterate our commitment to support multilateral organisations in all their efforts, including the United Nations and the World Trade Organisation – a World Trade Organisation that we have to reform together, so that its rules correspond better to the new realities. It is by acting together that we will be able to preserve our planet […], contribute to resolving conflicts, eradicate poverty, reduce inequalities, […] and that we can better manage migration flows and develop free and fair trade.”

“What Europe and Asia agree together matters not only for the two of us, but for the entire world. Together we represent 55% of global trade, 60% of global population, 65% of global economy and 75% of global tourism; together we represent a real global power“, said the High Representative/Vice-President, Federica Mogherini at the Summit’s press conference. “We come out of this two-day Summit with a reinforced global partnership between Europe and Asia. It has allowed us to translate our global weight into concrete policy initiatives – on regional and international security, foreign policy issues, climate change action, free and fair trade, and the digital agenda to name a few. Together, we can make a real difference for the world.”

A Chair’s Statement, covering the wide range of areas discussed and focussing on ASEM’s three pillars – namely political, economic and financial, and social and cultural – has also been issued.

Sustainable connectivity between Europe and Asia

In his address at the Summit’s plenary session, President Juncker highlighted the importance of investing in more sustainable connectivity between the European Union and Asia. The European Union has this week adopted a new strategy on connecting Europe and Asia, building on the proposal of the European Commission and the High Representative in September. With financial, environmental, and social sustainability at the core of the EU’s approach to connectivity, the EU’s objective is to develop sustainable connectivity networks across the digital, transport, energy and human dimensions, as well as to strengthen partnerships at the bilateral, regional and international levels, in particular to ensure a rules-based approach and interoperability of standards.

As a contribution to enhancing Euro-Asian connectivity, as well as to demonstrate the huge potential of the relationship, the European Commission has this week launched the ASEM Sustainable Connectivity Portal, offering policymakers, researchers, businesses and other stakeholders alike a wealth of data on the political, economic and societal relationships between the two continents. A full press release and factsheet are available online. In parallel to the Summit, a number of events to bring Europeans and Asians together are taking place in Belgium, such as the ASEM Cultural Festival, the Young Leaders’ Summit, the Business Forum, the People’s Forum for civil society, the Labour Forum and the Parliamentary Partnership Meeting.

Strengthening EU-Asia bilateral ties

In the margins of the ASEM Summit, the European Union signed a number of bilateral agreements to deepen and expand its relations with Singapore and Vietnam respectively.

President Juncker,President Tusk and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz signed, together with the Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Long, the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement. In the presence of the leaders, EU High Representative/Vice-President, Federica Mogherini and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Singapore, Vivian Balakrishnan signed the EU-Singapore Framework Agreement on Partnership and Cooperation and Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström and Mr S Iswaran, Minister for Communications and Information, and Trade Relations of Singapore signed the EU-Singapore Investment Protection Agreement. These agreements represent a significant step forward for a more comprehensive and mutually-beneficial relationship between the EU and Singapore, opening new opportunities for European producers, farmers, service providers and investments, as well as strengthening political and sectoral cooperation through more formal and intensive exchanges for example in environment, climate change and counter-terrorism.

The European Union is also stepping up its relations with Vietnam. Earlier this week, the European Commission adopted the EU-Vietnam trade and investment agreements, paving the way for their signature and conclusion. The trade agreement will eliminate virtually all tariffs on goods traded between the two sides. The agreement also includes a strong, legally binding commitment to sustainable development, including the respect of human rights, labour rights, environmental protection and the fight against climate change, with an explicit reference to the Paris Agreement. Today, the EU and Vietnam signed a Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade Voluntary Partnership Agreement. The Agreement will help improve forest governance, address illegal logging and promote trade in verified legal timber products from Vietnam to the EU, and other markets. In addition to the variety of social, economic and environmental benefits associated with better management of the forestry sector in Vietnam, the licensing will simplify business for timber traders.

EU-ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting

Following the ASEM Summit, a Leaders’ Meeting between the European Union and ASEAN took place. President Jean-Claude Juncker and President Donald Tusk, accompanied by EU High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini represented the European Union, whilst the Association of Southeast Asian Nations was represented by the Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong, as the country holding the ASEAN Chairmanship for 2018, the Prime Minister of Thailand, Prayut Chan-o-cha, as the country which will hold the Chairmanship of ASEAN in 2019, and the ASEAN Secretary General, Lim Jock Hoi.

“The EU’s partnership with ASEAN is founded on common interests across many areas. We share common values – in the European Union and in the founding charter of ASEAN – which need to be respected by all”, said President Juncker at the opening of the Leaders’ Meeting. “Proof of our intense cooperation is the number of agreements with Singapore that we have just signed. These, I hope, will be the first in a long series of such agreements with ASEAN countries, and will eventually result in a region-to-region agreement.”

At the Leaders’ Meeting, alongside matters of trade, connectivity and transport, leaders addressed global peace and security challenges, including climate change, non-proliferation, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – the Iran nuclear deal, counter-terrorism, maritime security and migration. They agreed to strengthen the EU-ASEAN relationship, in particular to address global challenges and to work together to reinforce the rules-based international order and multilateralism.

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New anti-Russian sanctions to hit European energy sector

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