With specific reference to Brexit – an issue that we have analyzed extensively – we need to define both its effects on Europe’s new geopolitical configuration and those relating to the structure of European and world finance.
In this phase it is highly likely for the central banks to allow markets to have only a limited reaction to Brexit, without favoring the spreading of contagion with excess liquidity for bailouts and with an unreasonable credit squeeze.
The goal of the national central banks, and certainly of the ECB, will be to confirm the level of interest rates reached last February, with some fluctuations which will allow marginal gains for investors and a different distribution of potential risks.
The Bank of England has set aside over 344 billion pounds for “stability measures”. For the time being they are certainly sufficient.
As to the Stock Exchange, bankers will make it fall to minimum levels quickly so as to subsequently bring it back to more reasonable values – namely 50% approximately – reached immediately after the counting of ballots in the British referendum.
There will be no summer collapse of the stock markets, which could certainly be electorally exploited by the US tycoon Donald Trump, and hence no snowball effect on European economies and financial markets.
After Brexit, however, there is Italy around the corner. It is always worth recalling it.
But what is the real geopolitical effect of the undeniable weakening of the European Union after Brexit?
Meanwhile, all global markets have simultaneously fallen after the news coming from Great Britain and the pound has dropped to its lowest level since 1985.
Hence the effects of an EU internal political choice are crucial and decisive for world markets considering that Great Britain is a country sitting in the UN Security Council since its creation, as well as a member of the nuclear club and a leading military power.
Great Britain is also a country having strong economic ties with China, as evidenced by the visit paid by President Xi Jinping to London last September.
The UK government is determined to make British private capital be invested in the Chinese state-owned companies, not to mention the project to build a large nuclear power station in England mostly with Chinese capital.
It is worth recalling that currently China manages over 155,000 state-owned companies with a total amount of over 104 trillion yuan.
If the British economy falls temporarily into a range between 0.6 and 3%, the UK internationalization and the integration of the Chinese economy into the EU framework will be severely damaged – with seriously negative repercussions also for the rest of Europe.
And even without an expansion of the internal market, which will be further hit as a result of the new unfavorable pound-euro exchange rate.
But what is the real strategic framework in which we move after Brexit?
Let us analyze some medium-long term effects:
a) Brexit makes the prospects for creating the Eurasian system recede further. But it could favor both the EU de facto separation from the NATO strategic framework and the complete weakening of the TTIP negotiations with the United States because a less politically credible EU will certainly not be in a position to face them.
b) The new configuration of the Eurasian system is more complex than we could predict even a few months ago.
c)The integration between Russia and China, the transformations of the Chinese finance and the new Russian posture in the Middle East mean only one thing.
d) In other words, the EU expulsion from its Near Abroad and the elimination of its potential of mediation with the OPEC Arab region, as well as its marginal role in the new equilibria with Iran after the nuclear JCPOA, and finally its possible closure to the Chinese project Silk and Road Initiative, at least at maritime network level.
The solution could come from a EU comprehensive agreement with the Russia-China axis, so as to pacify the Maghreb region, on the one hand, and the region stretching from Central Asia to the Horn of Africa, on the other.
Finally if the EU is not able to stabilize Libya, it will show to everyone it has no geopolitical relevance and this factor will be clearly considered by the other global decision-makers.
The Libyan issue is a typical case of European ignorance and foolishness: the fight against ISIS in Derna, and particularly in Sirte, is now led by the forces of the military operation Al Bonyan Al- Marsoos (“The solid structure”), somehow affiliated with Al Farraj’s Government of National Accord (GNA) but not receiving orders from it.
While the only internationally recognized Libyan government has no control over its armed forces at a time of harsh and bitter confrontation, the international community has no leverage over Libya and, hence, over the whole Maghreb region, which is about to be integrated – not in a fully subordinate way – into the EU economic and regulatory framework.
According to the latest data available, trade between the North and the South of the Mediterranean region has grown by 413% and 321% for Turkey and Algeria, respectively.
Israel has recorded a 10% increase and we shall see how the Middle East and the Mediterranean region will change once the strategic and military agreement between Turkey and Israel will inure all its effects. This agreement – albeit with the Russian military protection – will restore the political-military contacts between Turkey and Israel for the passage of gas networks from the Israeli Leviathan gas field to the Turkish and Cyprus market outlets.
While it is worth recalling the agreement between Russia and Israel for military and intelligence coordination, which requires the actual protection of the Golan Heights from the Shiite jihad raids.
Hence a new Mediterranean framework which makes the EU smaller and strategically marginal, while the United States only plan to seal the Russian Federation on its borders into the Eurasian peninsula and to carry out some destabilizing operations towards the Chinese region, by selectively distorting some Chinese autonomous regions and other Central Asian countries, both through the rift created by the crisis in Ukraine and through autonomous actions from Northern India.
Hence we are faced with a growing Eurasia, characterized by the ever closer union between the Russian Federation and China, while the EU weakens, shrinks and splits, with the now sickening propaganda against the “bad” and “nationalist” British people and against the most fallacious and imaginative approach of current political science, namely “populism”.
If the EU is able to design a strategic system in relation to Eurasia, enabling Europe to expand its borders and make them safe and if NATO becomes a military tool à la carte for its major countries, the end of Europe – the Europe of Robert Schuman, as well as Thomas Mann’s – will be very near.
Time to Tackle the Stigma Behind Wartime Rape
The youngest capital city in Europe, Pristina, is the ultimate hybrid of old and new: Ottoman-era architecture stands amongst communist paraphernalia, while Kosovars who lived through the bloodshed of the 20th century share family dinners with a generation of young people with their sights set on EU accession.
This month, the capital’s Kosovo Museum welcomed a new force for change; Colours of Our Soul, an exhibition of artwork from women who survived the sexual violence of the Yugoslav Wars, showcases the world as these women “wished it to be.”
Colours of Our Soul isn’t the first art installation to shine a light on the brutal sexual violence thousands of Kosovar victims suffered throughout the turmoil of the conflict which raged from 1988 to 1999. In 2015, Kosovo-born conceptual artist Alketa Xhafa-Mripa transformed a local football pitch into a giant installation, draping 5,000 dresses over washing lines to commemorate survivors of sexual violence whose voices otherwise tend to go unheard. “I started questioning the silence, how we could not hear their voices during and after the war and thought about how to portray the women in contemporary art,” said Xhafa-Mripa at the time.
Victims, and their children, pressed into silence
The silence Xhafa-Mripa speaks of is the very real social stigma faced by survivors of sexual violence in the wake of brutal conflict. “I would go to communities, but everyone would say, ‘Nobody was raped here – why are you talking about it?’”, remarked Feride Rushiti, founder of the Kosovo Rehabilitation Centre for Torture Victims (KRCT).
Today, KRCT has more than 400 clients— barely a scratch on the surface given that rape was used in Kosovo as an “instrument of war” as recently as two decades ago. Some 20,000 women and girls are thought to have been assaulted during the bloody conflict; the fact that the artists whose work is featured in the Colours of our Soul exhibition did not sign their work or openly attend the installation’s grand opening is a sign of how pervasive the stigma is which haunts Kosovar society to this day.
As acute as this stigma is for the women who were assaulted, it is far worse for the children born from rape, who have thus far been excluded from reparation measures and instead dismissed as “the enemy’s children.” In 2014, the Kosovar parliament passed a law recognising the victim status of survivors, entitling them to a pension of up to 220 euros per month. Their children, however, many of whom were murdered or abandoned in the face of community pressure, are barely acknowledged in Kosovar society and have become a generation of young adults who have inherited the bulk of their country’s dark burden.
A global problem
It’s a brutal stigma which affects children born of wartime rape all over the world. The Lai Dai Han, born to Vietnamese mothers raped by South Korean soldiers, have struggled for years to find acceptance in the face of a society that views them as dirty reminders of a war it would rather forget. The South Korean government has yet to heed any calls for formal recognition of sexual violence at the hands of Korean troops, let alone issue a public— and long-awaited— apology to the Lai Dai Han or their mothers.
In many cases, as in the case of Bangladesh’s struggle for independence, the very existence of children born from rape has often been used as a brutal weapon by government forces and militants alike. Official estimates indicate that a mammoth 200,000 to 400,000 women were raped by the Pakistani military and the supporting Bihari, Bengali Razakar and al-Badr militias in the early 1970s. The children fathered, at gunpoint, by Pakistani men were intended to help eliminate Bengali nationhood.
Their surviving mothers are now known as “Birangana”, or “brave female soldier,” though the accolade means little in the face of a lifetime of ostracization and alienation. “I was married when the soldiers took me to their tents to rape me for several days and would drop me back home. This happened several times,” one so-called Birangana explained, “So, my husband left me with my son and we just managed to exist.”
No end in sight
Unfortunately, this barbaric tactic of rape and forced impregnation is one that is still being used in genocides to this day. The subjugation of the Rohingya people, for example, which culminated in a murderous crackdown last year by Myanmar’s military, means an estimated 48,000 women will give birth in refugee camps this year alone. Barring a major societal shift, the children they bear will suffer ostracization similar to that seen in Kosovo, Vietnam and Bangladesh.
Initiatives like the Colours of Our Soul installation in Pristina are not only central in helping wartime rape survivors to heal, but also play a vital role in cutting through the destructive stigma for violated women and their children. Even so, if the number of women who submitted their paintings anonymously is anything to go by, true rehabilitation is a long way ahead.
EU–South Africa Summit: Strengthening the strategic partnership
At the 7th European Union–South Africa Summit held in Brussels Leaders agreed on a number of steps to reinforce bilateral and regional relations, focusing on the implementation of the EU-South Africa Strategic Partnership. This includes economic and trade cooperation and pursuing the improvement of business climate and opportunities for investment and job creation which are of mutual interest.
Leaders also discussed common global challenges, such as climate change, migration, human rights, committing to pursue close cooperation both at bilateral level and on the global stage. A number of foreign and security policy issues, including building and consolidating peace, security and democracy in the African continent and at multilateral level were also raised. Leaders finally committed to work towards a prompt resolution of trade impediments affecting smooth trade flows.
Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission and Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, represented the European Union at the Summit. South Africa was represented by its President, Cyril Ramaphosa. EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini, Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness Jyrki Katainen and Commissioner for trade Cecilia Malmström also participated, alongside several Ministers from South Africa.
President Juncker said: “The European Union, for the South African nation, is a very important trade partner. We are convinced that as a result of today’s meeting we will find a common understanding on the open trade issues. South Africa and Africa are very important partners for the European Union when it comes to climate change, when it comes to multilateralism. It is in the interest of the two parties – South Africa and the European Union – to invest more. It will be done.” A Joint Summit Statement issued by the Leaders outlines amongst others commitment to:
Advance multilateralism and rules based governance
Leaders recommitted to work together to support multilateralism, democracy and the rules-based global order, in particular at the United Nations and global trade fora. South Africa’s upcoming term as an elected member of the United Nations Security Council in 2019-2020 was recognised as an opportunity to enhance cooperation on peace and security. As part of their commitment to stronger global governance, Leaders stressed their support to the process of UN reform, including efforts on the comprehensive reform of the UN Security Council and the revitalisation of the work of the General Assembly. Leaders reiterated their determination to promote free, fair and inclusive trade and the rules-based multilateral trading system with the World Trade Organisation at its core and serving the interest of all its Members.
Leaders agreed to step up collaboration in key areas such as climate change, natural resources, science and technology, research and innovation, employment, education and training including digital skills, health, energy, macro-economic policies, human rights and peace and security. The EU and South Africa will, amongst others, explore the opportunities provided by the External Investment Plan. Linked to this, Leaders committed to exploring opportunities for investment, technical assistance including project preparation, and the improvement of business and investment climates to promote sustainable development. Leaders welcomed the conclusion and provisional implementation in 2016 of the EU-Southern African Development Community (SADC) – Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).
Leaders also committed to find mutually acceptable solutions to impediments to trade in agriculture, agri-food and manufactured goods. They agreed to work towards a prompt resolution of these impediments.
Leaders welcomed the new Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs put forward by the European Commission. They exchanged views on foreign and security policy issues, addressed a number of pressing situations in the neighbourhoods of both the EU and South Africa, and welcomed each other’s contribution to fostering peace and security in their respective regions. Leaders agreed to explore opportunities to enhance cooperation on peace and security, conflict prevention and mediation.
Leaders confirmed common resolve to reform the future relationship between the EU and the countries of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States. To this end they are looking forward to the successful conclusion of negotiations for a post-Cotonou Partnership Agreement, that will contribute to attaining the goals of both the United Nations 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development and the long-term vision for African continent – Agenda 2063.
Macron so far has augmented French isolation
French President Emmanuel Macron has recently criticized the unilateral pullout of the US from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) but at the same time expressed pleasure that Washington has allowed France and the other JCPOA signatories to stay in the Iran nuclear deal.
In an exclusive interview with the CNN, Macron said that he has “a very direct relationship” with Trump. “Trump is a person who has tried to fulfill his electoral promises, as I also try to fulfill my promises, and I respect the action that Trump made in this regard. But I think we can follow things better, due to our personal relationship and talks. For instance, Trump has decided to withdraw from the Iran pact, but at the end, he showed respect for the signatories’ decision to remain in the JCPOA.”
There are some key points in Macron’s remarks:
First, in 2017, the French were the first of the European signatories to try to change the JCPOA. They tried to force Iran to accept the following conditions: Inspection of military sites, application of the overtime limitation on nuclear activities, limiting regional activities, including missile capabilities within the framework of the JCPOA.
Macron had already made commitments to President Trump and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to push Iran to accept the additional protocols to the deal, and he pushed to make it happen before Trump left the JCPOA.
Second, after the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, although France expressed regret, they had secret negotiations with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo over the JCPOA.
The result of the undisclosed talks was deliberate delay on the part of the European authorities in providing a final package to keep the Iran deal alive. In other words, after the US unilaterally left the JCPOA, the French have been sloppy and maybe somewhat insincere about making the practical moves to ensure it would be saved.
Third, France has emphasized the need to strengthen their multilateralism in the international system and has become one of the pieces of the puzzle that completes the strategic posture of the Trump Administration in the West Asia region.
Obviously, French double standards have irritated European politicians, many of whom have disagreed with the contradictory games of French authorities towards the US and issues of multilateralism in the international community. Also, France’s isolation and its strategic leverage in the political arena has grown since the days of Sarkozy and Hollande. Some analysts thought that Macron and fresh policies would stop this trend, but it has not occurred.
First published in our partner MNA
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