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The Brexit issue

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The issue of Brexit, namely Great Britain’s exit from the European Union, regards the age-old issue of what really drives the electorate: myths, real or imaginary identities, or short-term material interests? For the great political science and philosophical school of Italian elitism, ranging from Pareto to Gaetano Mosca, the political mechanism is substantially identity-based.

As the Genoese sociologist and economist Vilfredo Pareto maintained, there exist six classes of residues that he positivistically listed as follows: the instinct for combinations; the persistence of aggregates or group persistences (regarded as the old ideals and political myths); the need for expressing sentiments by external acts (activity, self-expression); the residues connected with sociality; the integrity of the individual and last – at that time but not today, with the full obsession of primary instincts and urges – the sex residue.  

With specific reference to derivations, the actions are not logically connected to the result, but they are always so in the conscience of those who take action. Regardless of the political form of the State, democracy, oligarchy, totalitarianism, communism, both residues and derivations provide a logic to the pseudo-rational instincts and symbols which drive to action.

Hence, again for Pareto, the Brexit choice regards two myths: the myth of economic growth for those who still want the United Kingdom to remain in the European Union or the identity myth of the old British Empire, or the de facto UK extraneousness to European politics and economics, in short, to the myths which created the European Union.

These myths regard the end of the long European civil war, as, from the French Revolution (or from 1914) to the Second World War, historians such as Ernst Nolte or, from another political perspective, Enzo Traverso called it.

The myth of peace in Europe through the expansion of trade and domestic revenue, as well as the creation of another myth, namely the myth of Europe as new homeland. Two geopolitical and economic myths in danger. Income growth is not recorded and will not be recorded for a long period of time. The European homeland entails the creation of rituals and symbols replacing the national ones, which has not happened yet.

But Great Britain is de facto alien to the logic of the European civil war: it certainly fought the two world wars, but with mindset, interests and heroism connected rather to its founding myths as autonomous Imperium. Only to yield its global empire to the United States, so as to repay the credits granted for the war, namely to a country which had backed the war effort and participated in it significantly and, with the Cold War, had to keep the dual global confrontation with the USSR. A translatio Imperii which, probably, has not been digested yet by British voters, at Pareto’s “residues” level.

In Gaetano Mosca’s opinion, the ruling class is the whole of hierarchies that materially or morally run a society. Today, in a context of universal globalization, of Pareto’s residues and derivations which are all defined and expressed in the same symbolic languages, where are Mosca’s ruling classes within nations? Can these ruling classes and “moral and material” hierarchies support the inevitably different needs, interests, myths of the various peoples, not yet united in a global large liquid mass?

In each EU Member State globalization has created asymmetric shocks which, managed by mediocre ruling classes, have been magnified in the individual nations, thus creating real transfers of sovereignty. Needless to say, this is Italy’s case, while it is not the case of Great Britain which, during the years of Thatcherism, had followed a crash diet to participate in the defilé of globalization before it began. This is also a central theme to understand Brexit from the philosophical and political viewpoint.

Hence is it currently possible to have cultural globalization applied to the development of political myths and their para-rational connection to interests? Is a unified political myth otherwise possible – a myth which, for irrelevant details, is defined and expressed in the symbolic language of every country? Yes, it is possible with specific reference to the myths of consumption, sexualized and reduced to instinctual images from the mass-media, but certainly not as regards the myths and modes of production, which cannot yet be universalized.

Suffice to consider the differences existing between the made in Italy craftsmanship and the Manchester-style factory. In this regard, Geminello Alvi spoke of the standardizing and impersonal “Chinese ideal” of “capitalism”. This is what I would currently call “Gaetano Mosca’s dilemma”. Are today the ruling classes truly such and are they able to put myths and interests together? The issue lies in establishing whether globalization entails a specific political mythology and its Mosca-style ruling class or not.

Let us revert, however, to Brexit in a strictly economic and financial sense.

Considering that foreign trade is the driver of all contemporary economies, Britain is no exception to the rule: exports, including financial products, account for about 30% of the British GDP. The EU, however, accounts for over 50% of all British exports.

On the other hand, over 50% of UK imports come from the European Union, with over half of these imports coming from Europe which serves as “intermediate asset,” namely useful to produce other made in England goods and services.

About 10% of the total EU exports go to Britain, with a share of goods and services which is about 36% (for services) compared to 64% for manufactured goods. Hence, in bilateral trade between the UK and the EU, trade issues are proportionately more important for Great Britain than for the rest (the rest?) of Europe. Furthermore, within the EU, Great Britain is the largest user of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), with about 50% of FDI coming from Europe and 30% from the United States.

Moreover, it is well known that, since the end of the British rule in Hong Kong – which Margaret Thatcher accepted in 1997, with the last Governor, Chris Patten, who burst into tears – the real financial boom of the London Stock Exchange has started.

The London Stock Exchange is the one which regulates (or owns) most of European financial markets. A record achieved in spite of the EU and certainly not thanks to it. British industrialists point to collapse scenarios, should Brexit be voted by the UK electorate. The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) maintains that UK’s leaving the EU would lead to zero economic growth as early as 2017 and the following year.

Without a free trade agreement following Brexit within 2020, the British GDP might fall by 5% while, according to other scenarios defined by the City investment banks, the GDP would anyway decrease by 3% even with a new trade agreement with the former European partners.

The number and quality of British jobs would be particularly affected, with unemployment which would rise from the current 5.1% by additional three percentage points. Over 80% of the companies associated with CBI believe that Brexit would be a disaster for the British economy, with an estimated cost of 100 billion pounds. In many ways and to many extents, the opinions against UK’s stay in the EU are not less rational.

Obviously the UK exit from the EU would lead to the use of tariff barriers for British goods and services in the European single market, not to mention the difficulty in renegotiating the trade flows with the United States and China, after becoming an economy without the EU size, mass and volume. Obviously the Brexit advocates know this and do not deny the data reported by those who support the British presence within the European Union.

There are the British contributions to the European budget, which are remarkable – and we can still hear the Thatcherite cry “we want our money back!” at the EU meeting of 1980, as well as the speech delivered by the British Prime Minister in Bruges in 1988, when she thundered against “the European super-State exercising a new dominance from Brussels”. The UK contributions to the EU are certainly substantial: for 2015, they amount to as many as 10.4 billion pounds, with an increase equal to 1.3 billion pounds compared to forecasts. However, they account for 0.5% of the UK GDP.

Hence, first and foremost, the UK would save on contributions, but the Brexit advocates think that the difficult action of reconciling the interests of 28 different countries could never foster the British economic interest in global trade negotiations. Furthermore, the Brexit partisans believe that the UK exit from the EU would even foster the economy, since it would enable the British industry to avoid the EU countless laws and regulations. Hence the UK would lose part of the EU-28 market but, by capitalizing on its ties within the Commonwealth, it could enter the new market-world, without the fetters and constraints, reins and restraints of EU regulations.

The Brexit advocates also say that if the large European market is designed – as maintained – to reduce prices, optimize competition and stimulate trade and economic competitiveness, this holds true only if all EU countries are economically identical and work to their full potential. Otherwise for some EU Member States there may be – and, in fact, there are – forms of protectionism hidden in so many regulations which seem to benefit everyone. In fact, considering data, Great Britain’s new growth has the same shape and the same pace as the United States, and not as Germany or the rest of the European Union.

As the Brexit partisans say: “It is Europe that needs us, not the opposite”.

And here the rationality of Pareto’s derivations meets the old mental residues of the Rule Britannia and the special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom, two countries united by many interests and separated by a common language. Here Great Britain’s traditional geopolitical obsession, namely Germany, comes back again. For the Brexit advocates the EU real problem is not Britain, but precisely Germany. Greece has very quickly turned into an export country through the collapse of imports. And this is what Germany wants, because it has to manage its booming exports and it uses the EU as its domestic market, without anyone requiring Germany to reduce its trade surplus.

Hence, for the Brexit partisans, there is a geoconomic problem, namely Germany; a purely free-trade matter, namely the impossibility of really serving the interests of all 28 EU Member States; and, ultimately, the fiscal union – a subject matter never denied before – which never works to promote underdeveloped areas, as is easily demonstrated in the European context.

The British observers who support Brexit view the Union as a giant floundering in an irreversible crisis: in 1973, when Britain adhered to the EU, and many countries were not yet members, the European GDP accounted for 37% of the global GDP. According to the most favourable estimates, in 2025 the EU will only account for 22% of the global GDP. The countries which currently dominate the market-world are the United States and China; even the Commonwealth, as a whole, is larger and performs better than the EU.

In 2020, the workers/pensioners ratio will be 3 to 1 and in 2050 it will be 2 to 1 – namely impossible to sustain – due to technological backwardness, but above all to the generalized aging of the European population.

For the Brexit advocates, the mass of regulations and restrictions for goods made in the UK is hard to swallow and digest: since 2010 the EU has adopted 3,500 new laws which somehow relate to UK companies and their interests. For Great Britain alone, the cost of bureaucracy amounts to approximately 4-5 billion pounds – and this cost is not comparable to the national contribution to the European Union. Dysfunctional bureaucracy, always looking for a sort of “preferential clause” for some Member States, which generates an indirect cost of trade rules for Great Britain equal to 7.6 billion pounds per year.

And since the Lisbon Treaty entered into force in December 2009, the cost of regulations for British companies has amounted to 12.2 billions in terms of extraordinary standards. Furthermore, the Brexit advocates argue that Great Britain’s weight within the EU has dropped sharply: in 1973, when the UK adhered to the European Union, it had 20% of votes, while currently the British government can rely only on 9.5 votes.

Again at financial level, the Brexit partisans do not want the financial transaction tax, the FTT based on the old Tobin Tax model, a tax enshrined in the EU regulations last January. All the analysts who are in favour of Brexit, however, agree on a geopolitical factor: Europe’s irrelevance for Great Britain. This geopolitical factor is connected to the opinion that the British strategic ideal is a balanced Europe, without a leading country, in which the role of power brokers, mediators and strategic leaders can be played.

On the other hand, the advocates of UK stay within the EU maintain that Brexit would diminish the role played by the London Stock Exchange on the rest of European financial markets, attracted by the Stock Exchange of Frankfurt or Paris. Moreover, Ireland would pay a very high price for Brexit, considering it supplies 35% of British agricultural and food products, and it will also be affected by the British natural gas imports after Brexit. Furthermore, Brexit impact on the pound could strengthen the Euro against the British currency, as is already happening.

In short, if Brexit occurs, the EU will lose a large economic market, the second of the European Union, over and above the euro area. It will become increasingly irrelevant at geopolitical level and, above all, it will point the way out to all dissatisfied EU countries, thus creating a likely domino effect which could lead to the end of the European Union or to its economic and political irrelevance.

But there is more: will Brexit – the full recovery of British sovereignty – favour the creation of a single European State to better manage strategic and economic emergencies, in addition to huge immigration flows?

Or will the union rely on a “United States of Europe” model and perspective so as to avoid the EU collapse, but at what pace and for which purposes?

Great Britain is an independent military power; it retains a seat in the UN Permanent Council and, regardless of Brexit, it has no evident interest in adapting to European strategic unification processes.

We could even think of an exchange, with which Great Britain avoids every discrimination against the City, in exchange for UK’s greater involvement in Europe’s collective security. Not to mention the new tensions which would emerge within NATO after Great Britain’s exit from the EU. If identity wins – which, as we have seen, is also based on rational grounds and arguments – we will have Brexit. Conversely if, in the forthcoming referendum, we have an at least apparently “rational” vote, Great Britain’s exit from the EU will be avoided. At least for now.

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

Europe

Economic situation is EU citizens’ top concern in light of the coronavirus pandemic

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In a troubled period marked by the coronavirus pandemic, trust in the EU remains stable and Europeans trust the EU to make the right decisions in response to the pandemic in the future. In the new Standard Eurobarometer survey released today, European citizens identify the economic situation, the state of Member States’ public finances and immigration as the three top concerns at EU level. The economic situation is also the main concern at national level, followed by health and unemployment.

In the new Eurobarometer conducted in July and August, concern about the economic situation is reflected in the perception of the current state of the economy. 64% of Europeans think that the situation is ‘bad’ and 42% of Europeans think that their country’s economy will recover from the adverse effects of the coronavirus outbreak ‘in 2023 or later’.

Europeans are divided (45% ‘satisfied’ vs 44% ‘not satisfied’) regarding the measures taken by the EU to fight the pandemic. However, 62% say they trust the EU to make the right decisions in the future, and 60% remain optimistic about the future of the EU.

Trust and image of the EU

Trust in the European Union has remained stable since autumn 2019 at 43%, despite variations of public perceptions during the pandemic. Trust in national governments and parliaments has increased (40%, +6 percentage points and 36%, +2 respectively).

In 15 Member States, a majority of respondents says they trust the EU, with the highest levels observed in Ireland (73%), Denmark (63%) and Lithuania (59%). The lowest levels of trust in the EU are observed in Italy (28%), France (30%) and Greece (32%).

The proportion of respondents with a positive image of the EU is the same as that with a neutral image (40%). 19% of respondents have a negative image of the EU (-1 percentage points).

In 13 EU Member States, a majority of respondents has a positive image of the EU, with the highest proportions observed in Ireland (71%), Poland and Portugal (both 55%). In 13 other Member States, the EU conjures up a predominantly neutral image for respondents, with the highest proportions observed in Malta (56%), Spain, Latvia and Slovenia (all 48%).

Main concerns at EU and national level

Citizens mentioned the economic situation as the most pressing issue facing the EU – over one-third (35%) of all respondents, a strong increase of 16 percentage points since autumn 2019, and rise from third to first concern. Concern about the economic situation has not been this high since spring 2014.

Europeans are also increasingly concerned about the state of Member States’ public finances (23%, +6 percentage points, the highest level since spring 2015), which moves from fifth to second place on a par with immigration (23%, -13 percentage points), the latter now being at the lowest level since autumn 2014.

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, health (22%, new item) is the  fourth most mentioned concern at EU level. The issue of the environment and climate change has lost ground, down 8 percentage points to 20%, followed by unemployment (17%, +5 percentage points).

Similarly, the economic situation (33%, +17 percentage points) has overtaken health as the most important issue at national level, rising from seventh to first position. Although in second position, health has had a notable increase in mentions since autumn 2019 (31%, +9 percentage points), taking it to its highest ever level over the past six years.

Unemployment has also increased considerably in importance (28%, +8 percentage points), followed by rising prices/inflation/cost of living (18%, -2 percentage points), the environment and climate change (14%, -6 percentage points) and government debt (12%, +4 percentage points). Mentions of immigration (11%, -5 percentage points), are at their lowest level for the past six years.

The current economic situation

Since autumn 2019, the proportion of Europeans who think that the current situation of their national economy is ‘good’ (34%, -13 percentage points) has declined considerably, while the proportion of respondents who judge this situation to be ‘bad’ has increased sharply (64%, +14 percentage points).

At national level, a majority of respondents in 10 countries says that the national economic situation is good (down from 15 in autumn 2019). The proportion of respondents who say the situation of their national economy is good ranges from 83% in Luxembourg to 9% in Greece.

The coronavirus pandemic and public opinion in the EU

Europeans are divided on the measures taken by the EU institutions to fight the coronavirus outbreak (45% ‘satisfied’ vs 44% ‘not satisfied’). However, a majority of respondents in 19 Member States is satisfied with the measures taken by the European Union institutions to fight the coronavirus pandemic. The highest positive figures are found in Ireland (71%); Hungary, Romania and Poland (all 60%). In seven countries, a majority of respondents is ‘not satisfied’, especially in Luxembourg (63%), Italy (58%), Greece and Czechia (both 55%) and Spain (52%). In Austria, equal proportions of respondents are satisfied, and not satisfied (both 47%).

However, more than six Europeans in ten trust the EU to make the right decisions in the future (62%). The most frequently mentioned priorities for the EU’s response to the coronavirus pandemic are: establish a strategy for facing a similar crisis in the future and develop financial means to find a treatment or vaccine (each 37%). 30% think that developing a European health policy should be a priority.

Europeans’ personal experiences of confinement measures were very diverse. Overall, close to three Europeans in ten say that it was fairly easy to cope with (31%), while a quarter say it was fairly difficult to cope with (25%). Finally, 30% say that it was ‘both easy and difficult to cope with’.

Key policy areas

Asked about the objectives of the European Green Deal, Europeans continue identifying ‘developing renewable energy‘ and ‘fighting against plastic waste and leading on the issue of single-use of plastic’ as the top priorities. More than one third think the top priority should be supporting EU farmers (38%) or promoting the circular economy (36%). Just over three in ten think reducing energy consumption (31%) should be the top priority.

Support for the Economic and Monetary Union and for the euro remains high, with 75% of respondents in the Euro area in favour of the EU’s single currency. In the EU27 as a whole, support for the euro has increased to 67% (+5).

 EU citizenship and European democracy

A majority of people in 26 EU Member States (except Italy) and 70% across the EU feel that they are citizens of the EU. At a national level the highest scores are observed in Ireland and Luxembourg (both 89%), Poland (83%), Slovakia and Germany (both 82%), Lithuania (81%), Hungary, Portugal and Denmark (all 80%).

A majority of Europeans (53%) say they are satisfied with the way democracy works in the EU. The proportion of respondents who are ‘not satisfied’ has increased, by 3 percentage points since autumn 2019 to 43%.

 Optimism for the future of the EU

Finally, in this troubled period, 60% of Europeans say they are optimistic about the future of the EU. The highest scores for optimism are observed in Ireland (81%), Lithuania and Poland (both 75%) and Croatia (74%). The lowest levels of optimism are seen in Greece (44%) and Italy (49%), where pessimism outweighs optimism, and France, where opinion is evenly divided (49% vs 49%).

Background

The ‘Summer 2020 – Standard Eurobarometer’ (EB 93) was conducted face-to-face and exceptionally completed with online interviews between 9 July and 26 August 2020, across the 27 EU Member States, in the United Kingdom and in the candidate countries 26,681 interviews were conducted in the 27 Member States.

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Could the EU Make its ASEAN Breakthrough with the Emerging Indo-Pacific Strategy?

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The Indo-Pacific policy guidelines that was announced by the German Federal Foreign Office last week, is a clear signal from Berlin in becoming a shaper for the international order in the volatile region. Entitled “Germany-Europe-Asia: Shaping the 21st Century Together”, the policy guidelines is the second of such document in the European Union (EU) after the Macron administration released its own Indo-Pacific strategy back in August 2019. But considering that Germany is the current president of the EU Council, this policy guidelines has been ever more significant. For one, Berlin has made clear its intention to lead Europe into this new Indo-Pacific charge as the ‘third power’ after the US-led coalition and China ⸺ an aim that is highlighted not just by this German government’s policy guidelines but also, incisively described by the French as the ‘mediating power’.

The release of such document, of course, reverberates different responses from political observers outside of Europe. For instance, Sebastian Strangio sees the German latest move as part of Europe’s reassessment of its approach to China and boldly predicts that other EU nations are to follow suit with their new stand on China. Prominent Filipino expert, Richard Javad Heydarian, meanwhile, is of the view that Germany’s pursuit as the shaper of international order is deliberately focused on the key regions which bear strategic importance to Europe overall. On the other hand, Xin Hua, adopts a pessimistic view on the ability of Europe to influence the Indo-Pacific region. With Berlin’s policy guidelines, the Chinese scholar sees Europe’s reliance on soft power (such as norms diffusion)to influence the Indo-Pacific region, in contrast to the US that projects its hard power in the region through military prowess in the region, will make it less than what it aimed as the shaper of international order.

Be it applause or skepticism, the observers are in the same view that Berlin’s latest move is a drastic shift from its previous ambiguous position on the Indo-Pacific region which has become the hotbed for the Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) vision pushed by the US and its military allies such as Japan and Australia. With this policy guidelines in place, it signals the seriousness of the German government in joining the Indo-Pacific region with the rest of the EU, as a third power that is independent from the US camp and China. What is left is the forming of a full European-level Indo-Pacific strategy and its implementation in the years ahead.

The ASEAN Context

In the ASEAN context, Germany’s move has created two questions that are worthy to ponder. First, how will this emerging Indo-Pacific strategy be different to Europe’s current cooperation policy toward ASEAN as a whole? This is the foremost question to ask among ASEAN member states as the German government’s Indo-Pacific policy  guidelines singled out the Southeast Asian bloc as the country’s focused cooperation partner in different areas of cooperation: climate change, marine pollution, rule of law and human rights, culture, education, science, trade and technology. That said, this is not the first time ASEAN appeared as the important partner for the EU.As a matter of fact, two-way cooperation has been ongoing since the establishment of dialogue relations in 1977.

As of 2020, two EU-ASEAN Action Plans have been agreed upon, implemented and in the middle of enforcement. Within the Action Plan (2018-2022) that runs through the year 2022, a myriad of cooperation areas has been outlined, spanning across political-security, economic and socio-cultural pillars. In particular, those areas of cooperation identified in Germany’s Indo-Pacific policy guidelines are within the trans-regional plan as well. What is new is that Berlin has set security policy as a special focus area for Indo-Pacific cooperation ⸺ a point that is emphasized by the German Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas in his press release following the announcement of the country’s Indo-Pacific policy guidelines. In line with such niche orientation, Germany can readily lead the European initiative to assist ASEAN in the two sub-areas of non-traditional security that do not have substantial cooperation but chiefly important in the coming months and years: cybersecurity and public health security. These two sub-areas will be the best start for the EU’s Indo-Pacific push in the ASEAN region.

Second, how will the EU’s Indo-Pacific approach be different from its current dogmatic approach in its cooperation with ASEAN? By all means, it is no secret that dogmatic adherence to rules and norms remained to be the greatest obstacle for the EU’s full amelioration of ties with ASEAN in the past years. As of today, the EU’s ban of Indonesian and Malaysian imports as well as its unease on Filipino President Duterte and Burmese junta’s human rights records, are the contentious issues that prevented the European bloc to go past its finishing line in negotiating a full free trade pact with ASEAN. From such case alone, it is clear that the European bloc’s normative stance predicated upon Brussels’ strictly defined rules, norms and values on climate change and human rights issues, is in play when comes to international cooperation with ASEAN.

Having said that, Germany’s latest Indo-Pacific policy guidelines do not precisely highlight of its normative stance apart from maintaining the international rules-based order in the volatile region. But on the other hand, Germany’s aim for the EU to become the shaper of such order also sparks an open-ended question of whether its strict adherence to rules, norms and values (as in the present) will continue to be the defining feature of its cooperation with ASEAN. From the Indo-Pacific policy guidelines, this question is yet to be answered by the German government and perhaps, this dilemma is to betackled in the EU’s emerging Indo-Pacific strategy. Should a pragmatic approach is adopted by the EU ⸺ as has been recently demonstrated by the conclusion and enforcement of the EU-Vietnam Partnership and Cooperation Agreement despite human rights concern in the ASEAN member state ⸺ it will definitely clear the normative obstacle for the eventual conclusion of a free trade pact with the Southeast Asian bloc. More than that, it stands to facilitate greater cooperation in all areas of partnership between the two regions.

All in all, the EU’s emerging Indo-Pacific strategy should need to address these two questions that have surfaced fromthe former’s past and current experiences with ASEAN. While the German government’s Indo-Pacific policy guidelines have set new tone to Europe’s engagement with the volatile region, such document has yet to tackle these two difficult questions. Only by tacklingthese two questions will the EU be able to make its much-needed ASEAN breakthroughwith the emerging Indo-Pacific strategy.

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A Recipe For The War

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Authors: Zlatko Hadžidedić, Adnan Idrizbegović*

There is a widespreadview that Germany’s policy towards Bosnia-Herzegovina has always been friendly. Also, that such a policy stimulated the European Union to adopt a positive approach to the Bosnian quest to eventually become a part of the Euro-Atlantic integrations. However, Stefan Schwarz, a renowned German politician, in his recent comment for Deutsche Welle, raised the question of the true nature of Germany’s policy towards Bosnia,from 1992 to the present day.Here we shall try to offer possible answers to this question, so as to present a brief history of that policy.

A history of (un)recognition

Germany officially recognised Bosnia-Herzegovina as an independent state on April 6, 1992.Prior to that, such recognition had been grantedto two other former Yugoslav republics, Slovenia and Croatia,on January 15, 1992. Germany recognised these two states against the advice by Robert Badinter, a jurist delegated by the European Commision to arbitrate in the process of dissolution of the former Yugoslavia, to recognise all Yugoslav republics simultaneously. Under the pressure by Germany, 12 members of the European Community (United Kingdom, Italy, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, Ireland, Luxembourg, Portugal, Greece, Austria) recognised Slovenia and Croatia in January 1992. As Washington Post wrote on January 16, 1992,

The German government hailed today’s event as a historic development and immediately opened embassies in the two republics. But France and Britain, which still harbor doubts about the wisdom of early recognition, said they would wait to see if Croatia fulfilled its promises on human rights before carrying out an exchange of ambassadors.

There is a well-known myth, spread by the diplomats of Britain and France, that ‘early recognition’ of Slovenia and Croatia triggered the war in the former Yugoslavia. Such a claim is both absurd and obscene, bearing in mind that Serbia had already waged war against Slovenia and Croatia and was preparing a military attack on Bosnia for several months. However, the question that should be posed here is, why Germany recognised Slovenia and Croatia separately, instead of recognition of all the Yugoslav republics simultaneously, as advised by Badinter and strongly supported by the US? Does that imply that Germany practically left the rest of the republics to their fate, to be occupied and annexed by Serbia, which controled the former Yugoslav army and its resources? Was it a deliberate policy, or simply a reckless decision? In the same article, WP quotes the then German Minister of Foreign Affairs: 

“The German policy on Yugoslavia has proved correct,” said German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher. “We’ve said for months that if the Community decided on recognition . . . that would initiate a process of rethinking, above all by the leadership of the Yugoslav army.”

Mr. Genscher probably offered a definite answer to that question. Also, the actual response of the Yugoslav army’s leadership to the German push for separate recognition of Slovenia and Croatia, counted in hundreds of thousands of dead and millions of ethnically cleansed in Croatia and Bosnia, testifies to the ‘correctness’ of such thinking. Yet, was it a momentary miscalculation by Genscher, the then Minister, or a long-term German foreign policy towards Bosnia, already projected to be the ultimate victim of the Yugoslav army’s agression?

An answer to this question is not very difficult to reach if we consider the German policy concerning the initiatives for ethnic partition of Bosnia, disseminated through the channels of the European Community. These proposals may have been initiated and instigated by the British Foreign Office and the French Quai d’Orsay; yet, partition along ethnic lines has always been the only European consensus about Bosnia, a consensus in which Germany participated with all its political will and weight.

Appeasement, from Munich to Lisbon

Prior to the 1992-1995 war, the European Community delegated the British and Portugese diplomats, Lord Carrington and Jose Cutileiro, to design a suitable scheme for ethnic partition of Bosnia, and in February 1992 they launched the so-called Lisbon Conference, with the aim of separating Bosnian ethno-religious communities and isolating them into distinct territories. This was the initiation of the process of ethnic partition, adopted in each subsequent plan to end the war in Bosnia. However, at the Lisbon Conference such a ‘solution’ was imposed by Carrington and Cutileiro as the only available when there was no war to end, indeed, no war in sight; and, curiously, it has remained the only concept the European Community, and then the European Union,has ever tried to apply to Bosnia.

Contrary to the foundations of political theory, sovereignty of the Bosnian state was thus divided, and its parts were transferred to the chiefs of three ethnic parties. The EC recognised these usurpers of the state sovereignty, having promoted them into legitimate representatives of their respective ethnic communities. The Carrington-Cutileiro maps were tailored to determine the territorial reach of each of these communities. What remained to be done afterwards was their actual physical separation, and that could only be performed by war, genocide and ethnic cleansing. For, ethnically homogenous territories, as envisaged by Carrington and Cutileiro, could only be created by a mass slaughter and mass expulsion of those who did not fit the prescribed model of ethnic homogeneity. In this way, the European Community created a recipe for the war in Bosnia.Yet, ever since the war broke out, the European diplomats have never ceased claiming that the ‘chaos’ was created by ‘the wild Balkan tribes’, who ‘had always slaughtered each other’. 

No one ever noticed German opposition to the Lisbon principles of ethnic separation and territorial partition, clearly leading to war and bloodshed. Is it, then, possible that German foreign policy was truly surprised by the Lisbon’s bloody outcome? Or the Lisbon Agreement was tailored in the best tradition of the Munich Agreement, as a consensus on another country’s partition between the three leading European powers – Great Britain, France, and Germany –  again,in the name of peace?

Landgrab rewarded

In the following ‘peace plans’ for Bosnia, the European Community was represented by Lord Owen, accompanied by the representatives of the Organization of United Nations, Cyrus Vance and Thorwald Stoltenberg. Although the British diplomacy was clearly dominant in these attempts to find a ‘proper’ model for Bosnia’s ethnic partition, Germany’s Foreign Ministry was always fully present there through its Director of Policy Planning Staff, Wolfgang Ischinger. In the structure of the German Ministry, this position is occuppied by the most senior career diplomat, so that there can beno doubt about Ischinger’s capacity to articulate Germany’s strategic interests. During the process of negotiations under the Vance-Owen and Owen-Stoltenberg plans, Ischinger coordinated German policy towards Bosnia together with Michael Steiner, the head of„SoBos“ (Sonderstab Bosnien), a special Bosnian unit established within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.[i]

During the war in Bosnia, from 1992 to 1995, Germany and the European Community never abandoned the concept of Bosnia’s ethnic partition. In 1994,Germany took a more active role in its implementation within the (informal) International Contact Group, consisting of the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Russia and the US, where Germany was represented by both Ischinger and Steiner. The Contact Group Plan defined the final model of ethnic separation, having led to the ultimate breakup of the Bosnian territory into two ethnically cleansed and homogenised ‘entities’, tailored in accordance with an arbitrary proportion of 51:49%, which was subsequently implemented in the Dayton Peace Accords. The entire struggle within the Contact Group was fought over the percentage and disposition of territory granted to particular ethnic communities, two of which served as Serbia’s and Croatia’s proxies. The principle of ethnic partition was never put in question. In this process, Germany became the exclusive advocate of Croatian interests, in Croatia’s attempts to cede the south-western part of Bosnia, whereas Britain and France advocated the interests of Serbia in its efforts to cede eastern and western parts of Bosnia. To some people’s surprise, the United States was the sole defender of Bosnia’s territorial integrity within the Contact Group. However, under the pressure by the European Community, the US was forced to make concessions, so as to eventually accept the prescribed 51:49% territorial distribution as an’internal reorganisation’ of Bosnia.

The US thus tacitly accepted the European initiatives to reward the landgrab of Bosnia’s territory, performed by Serbia and Croatia, against the UN Charter and international law. The European Community’s leading powers –Great Britain, France, and Germany – claimed that there was no other option but to accept such a landgrab, because the status quo, caused by the neighbours’ military aggression, could not possibly be altered. To strengthen this argument, the European Community also played the main role in imposing an arms embargo on the ‘warring parties’. This embargo effectively deprived the landlocked Bosnian army of the capacity to purchase weaponry and thus alter the status quo and liberate the country’s territory. Here the EC acted as a whole, again, without any dissent on Germany’s or anyone else’s part. 

Whose responsibility?

The Dayton Peace Accords is commonly perceived as an American political project. The partition of Bosnia is thus being interpreted as a concept that emerged for the first time during the Dayton negotiations, and its authorship is ascribed exclusively to the American negotiator, Richard Holbrooke. However, it is not so. The history of Bosnia’s partition clearly demonstrates that this very concept has persistently been promoted by the European Community, and then by the European Union, from the 1992 Lisbon Conference to the present day. Even the notorious partition proportion of 51:49% was determined by the Contact Group, well before the Dayton Conference. A clear responsibility of the US negotiators is that they caved in to the pressures by the EC within the Contact Group. Still, the consistent striving to impose ethnic partition as the sole appropriate concept for Bosnia should definitely be attributed to its real advocates – the members of the European Community. Since Italy and Yeltsin’s Russia certainly played a minor role in the Contact Group, the lion’s share of responsibility for the final outcome, verified in Dayton, belongs equally to three EC powers, Great Britain, France, and Germany. The fact that the British policy-makers conceived the very principle of ethnic partition, that their French colleagues were so enthusiastic about its implementation, while the Germans accepted it as the best available mode of appeasement, abolishes neither of them of gigantic moral and political responsibility for all the suffering the Bosnians have had to go through.

*Adnan Idrizbegović, Independent Researcher, Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina


[i]As consequent advocates of the German foreign policy in the Bosnian episode, both Ischinger and Steiner have continuously enjoyed upward promotion within the ranks of the German foreign policy establishment. Thus Ischinger first took the position of the Ministry’s Political Director under Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel, and then of the Staatssekretär (deputy foreign minister) under Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer.Ischinger also represented Germany at numerous international and European conferences, including the 1999 G8 and EU summit meetings in Cologne/Germany and the 2000 Review Conference of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty at the United Nations, New York. He was also appointed as the European Union Representative in the Troika negotiations on the future of Kosovo in 2007. Since 2019, Ischinger has been co-chairing on the Transatlantic Task Force of the German Marshall Fund and the Bundeskanzler-Helmut-Schmidt-Stiftung (BKHS) and, finally, has become the Chairman of the Munich Security Conference (!). During his mandate in the Contact Group, Steiner was awarded the position of head of the Ministry’s co-ordination unit for multilateral peace efforts. After the war, he served six months (January–July 1997) as a principal deputy to Carl Bildt, the first high representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina. In 1998, he was selected by Chancellor Gerhard Schröder to work as the Chancellor’s foreign and security policy adviser.

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