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Modern Migration as a Challenge to European Identity

Elena Kubantseva

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Simultaneously an issue about European identity has aroused along with European Union formation. It is said in the preamble “European Identity Declaration” 1973 that members of the Community decided to elaborate this document in order to reach more precise determination of their relations with other countries and further interaction on formation of unitary Europe.

Appreciation of that is like European identity is concentrated around ideal concept of unitary Europe formation basing on a certain “imagined community”. Identity of the type “we are Europeans” puts in a basis of existence of “European values”: human rights, human freedom, liberal economic, democracy, multiculturalism, Eurocentrism. Cultural space of Europe is represented by a diversity of nationalities, languages, religions. The concept of Christianity may not serve as a measure of European identity, as far as EU is less considered as “Christian area” even in those countries like Germany and France. However, new all-European identity acts as an integral factor of legality attribution to governmental institutes. Authority growth of European Union governmental bodies is supported at the international arena due to common identity as well as serving in the capacity of the representative and guarantor of its citizens’ interests before the interests of other nations.

Traditional views about the Europe’s borders from the moment of EU formation have an impact upon consciousness of European identity. There are different levels of identity: supranational, national and regional – they exist concurrently supplementing each other. Highest-level leaders tend to raise “European identity” over national identity. Historical borders of some regions in Europe do not coincide with ones of the national states, similar division makes difficulties in national state functioning and European nationality formation.

Over recent years Europe has become a centre of international cosmopolitanism. Identity under the terms of globalization experiences transformation, both national and supranational as well. There is a destruction of community’s social borders in the base of transformation process by means of integration and informational exchange. Integration processes in Europe lead to impact strengthening of regional identity and as a consequence to smearing EU interior borders and reinforcement of exterior ones. Several processes proceed in European integration directed upon strengthening of European self-consciousness and thinking. Under such circumstances it is rather complicated to identify differences between the countries of Europe as to their belonging to true European countries. All countries will characterized by certain cultural-social distinctions, like language and culture, however, territorial location of these countries will be a unifier.

Geographical borders of the influencing territory of European civilization are to be an essential element in creation of common space. European civilization is often characterized as Western civilization possessing nowadays more political shade. This civilization has more extended geography than physical border of Europe as continent and part of Eurasia. Certain aspects of western civilization as elements of soft power actively disseminated during the Cold War as a counterbalance to the communist Soviet Union, EU expansion to the East in 2004, apart from political and economic contradictions, emerged discussions about ideological backbones of European integration. EU expansion at the official level was performed under the slogan “return to Europe”, in this context Europe spiting during bipolar world looked like a short period in long-term history of Europe defacing actual position of the western European countries. Grave differences cause possibility of Turkey entry to the European Union. Geographically, only 3% of Turkish territory is in Europe. The leaders of EU member states vacillate in association with the countries from former USSR located in Transcaucasia. Along with the accession to the EU former USSR Republics took a hard anti-Russian stand, thus Europa turned out to be before the choice of its concern in Russia.

By EU extension a revival process is observes as to national self-consciousness, understanding regional languages and cultures significance. It is a defence reaction to the processes of integration globalization, and ethnic diversity of Europe is already the established fact influencing upon internal and social policy of the Union.

European multicultural society is a multicoloured palette of nations, ethoses and small nations residing within the EU territory. Local topos of multiculturalism is a designated area populated individually in a foreign for it social-political and communal environment, diaspora, small ethnic group united by commonality of language, mental, cultural, ethnic and faith traditions. Special feature of multiculturalism is a compromise reaching between traditional and alien migration cultural communities possessing its cultural patterns. However, another question arises regarding exactly what kind of values – cultural-historical, Christian-religious or liberal – shall become basic in formation of European identity and how to combine with their cultural and religious diversity of Europe.

In 2003 investigation was conducted “Solidarity and Religion in European Union: comparative sociological perspective”, where Europe is shown in the section of valuable settings of population. While inhabitants of Northern and eastern Europe are inclined to individualism and post-materialism having their civil rights in priority, and in the countries of Southern and Western Europe religion possesses the first place, however, concurrently, they rather highly appreciate material values. When evaluating population it is essential to consider not only geographical and material state and also history and confession. Low level of religiosity in the countries of Northern Europe, Germany and France is explained by the level of economic development and national policy.

In spite of the in people’s consciousness religion continues to play an important role in the Europeans’ life. Official representatives of Catholic Church strongly pushed for the issues on search and approval of European identity. During the period of discussion and drawing up European Constitution and Lisbon Treaty the church strongly pushed for provision inclusion about Christianity recognition as one of the sources of European integrity under support of the government of some European countries, especially Germany. However, the official edition of Lisbon Treaty included statements about the sources of democratic values, namely freedom, democracy, human rights, equality as well as cultural, religious and humanistic ancestry of Europe were admitted. However, the provision on Christianity was not included into the Treaty, but it was exactly clear what religion under concern. The subject of religion in the issues of European identity remains a relevant topic for discussion. On the part of more religious countries of Europe opinions are declared that Europe shall more precisely define its religious identity in order to uphold its interests in migration issues against the backdrop of globalization.

Many conservative parties state their position in recognition Christianity as a unified religion for EU, the radical parties are also committed for Christianity recognition but from more “Eurocynical” positions considering it to be an element of national identity. Dispute around religion role in Europe arises not only in the issues of European identity and also in the problems of migration and acceptance of new members by EU, for example Turkey. The majority of politicians are sure that general cultural heritage being inextricably connected with Christianity lies in the EU base, upon which Union’s borders shall pass. If not considering all economic and social differences of Turkey and EU, entry of Muslim Turkey to EU is able to introduce imbalance into the attempts to form European identity and reinforce social and cultural-religious diversities.

Outstanding speech of Pontiff Benedict XVI addressed on September 12, 2006 in the Regensburg University called Europe to respect and appreciate its European roots and traditions in order to oppose challenges of the outside world, to which he added Islam as well. This appearance of the Catholic church’s head caused a mass of protests on the part of Muslim people worldwide.

Nationalistic and “Eurocynical” tendencies are growing in strength as to a series of different reasons, where culture, religion, economy and policy are interlinked. Problem of migration and smearing of long-standing identity elements serve as a catalytic agent in creation of more active solutions and actions to maintain European identity. Since 2010 leaders of Great Britain, Germany and France suggested in public about collapse of multiculturalism policy, these statements got a multitude of expert assessments and opions about Europe’s failure to cope with perform actions of “melting pot”, however, these statement did not mean a final reject from the policy of multiculturalism.

After the Second World War the Europeans attempted to weaken the growth of nationalism and gradually to make up general European nationality by means of creating non-governmental institutes. Western-European countries are under a great pressure, they also have to deal with the migration flows from less developed European countries and at the same time to seek refugees assimilation, which arrive from all corners of the world. They have to face with a growth of anti-migration parties within the country (from “National Front” in France to British “United Kingdom Independence Party”) in terms of increased terrorist danger. Some provisions of Schengen Agreement are discredited on different levels of state and regional government with regard to the border control between EU countries; agreement is criticised for insufficient control over the borders inside the Union which facilitates the movement not only the illegal migrants, and increases terrorist hazard.

Issues of migration interaction between the countries are on the agenda with envious regularity. Border control introduction is left in doubt by putting one of European Union’ pillar, however, the facts itself as to this idea emergence points out a publication of questions on national European identity at the opening pages. In 2009 debates broke out in France regarding the national consciousness, however, all turned towards the situation with Muslims in the country. A series of European countries also face speeches of nationalist parties. Certainly, there is a general European tendency, but it includes regional peculiarities. The countries of central and northern Europe are mostly subjected to the nationalist insistences, it is a little bit aside in the Mediterranean world. As to political weight Italian “League of France” and Greek “Chrisi Auge” (“Golden Sunrise”) – they do not pale in comparison with Austrian “Party of Freedom” or French “National Front”.

Accession of ultra-rightists to power at the election campaign in Austria in 2016 fits into common interest of ultra-right ideas throughout Europe. Anti-Islamic dispositions prevailing before only in ultra-right political alliances take a form of popular discontent, which promotes popularity of nationalists organizations throughout EU as well as level criticism on open door policy. Anti-migrants moods are propelled by the movement “Pegida” in Germany. French «National Front» headed by Marine Le Pen in December 2015 won at the regional elections in the north of France and in departments located along the Cote d’-Azur. But now, Marine Le Pen and her party are optimistically disposed to presidential elections.

Apart from attempts to regulate several levels of identity within the frames of European Union, the questions on migrants’ identity arise. Migrants in EU may be divided into two main categories: internal and external. Internal migrants are persons committing movement inside EU borders. Exterior migrants are persons arriving from the third countries in the search of improvement of their material states or seeking out asylum. The biggest threat is represented by the migrants arriving from the countries differencing much from Europe on the type of culture. Their presence poses a threat not only for European identity and also to senses of national consciousness. This threat is displayed in the acts of vandalism, developing crime situations in the countries visited, appearance of illegal networks and groupings.

The questions arise regarding interests representation of people contributing to economic, social and cultural spheres of the country, which do not have in-country citizenship. It may be more likely reported that the image of world, environment apprehension, religion and traditions of migrants differ from generally accepted European rules. Sweden with its Muslim population may be exemplified, where government encourages the work of neo-political communities and unions by consensual discontent of ethnic Swedes. The supporters of integration policy consider that namely negative attitude to creation of political base of interaction with Muslim minorities is to be a main reason of the crisis in the process of integration. Migrants voice protests, including by means of messes as they do not see any legitimate possibility to change something. However, Swedish government attempting to protect ultra-modern secularizing democratic-individualistic Sweden as much as possible against the capture by outdated and inhumane fundamentalists, has chosen its, not much democratic, but plain way: it tries not to admit Islam to political field of its country at all.

On the other part Germany continues accepting migrants involving non-government organizations to this issue. In 2012 “National Plan of Actions” was adopted at the Fifth National Summit, in which tasks and goals were formed and set considering immigrants’ integration, program of arrangement and participants were defined, responsible for conduct, including NGO. About 400 various events were realized (specially-oriented for the youth and other age groups of immigrants) with the participation of funds, public associations of Germans, immigrant organizations, land and municipal authorities. The expenditures of the government for all events performance comprised more than 20 mln Euro. More attention is paid to Muslim communities among different groups of migrants, which German government endeavours to bring under control. The Foundation “Mercator” initiated the opening of graduate schools on Islam theology in the universities in order to solve problems on imams’ lack in Germany. The objective of this program is to train academic staff of high qualification on Islam theology to develop Islam higher education in the country. This program will allow to train its imams being loyal to Germany and German society, who had arrived before mainly from Turkey bringing its traditions being not corresponding to German culture.

European Union demonstrates its ability to integration as a new philosophy of international relations, where Europe’s unity and simultaneously its diversity of national peculiarities interlink. The President of the European Commission Romano Prodi in his address to the European Parliament made the following statement – “Process of European integration and contemporary history serve as recognition of factors converging us as well as those separating us. Extension will be characterised by the first attempt to form a new type of citizenship within the continent. It will bring along unprecedented extension of citizens’ rights and strengthening of the state. The heads of governments constantly seek the ways to reach the greatest solidarity in issues of unity build up with cultural and religious diversity of population.

Agreement on EU establishment is a contract between independent countries agreeing to donate the part of their sovereignty for peace, security, democracy, freedom, human rights and justice. Union’s institutes develop in accordance with needs of society and new goals. EU itself may be considered as an unprecedented pattern on building piece and level of integration, thus, it is vitally important to form a general European nationality. EU government provides state support of symbols creation on European belonging in order to maintain and develop ideas of general identity: passport of European patter, anthem, flag, driver’s licence, introduction of general currency. Due to Schengen Agreement and cancellation of passport control, the citizens of Europe feel their belonging to an integrated geographical space. Political integration of the European countries increases confidence level and mutual understanding between all participants of integration process guaranteeing the rights and freedoms of EU citizen in all Union member-states.

Thus, listed aspects influencing upon the European identity formation as well as close cooperation in the field of policy and economy between EU countries have created a special system, where the states maintained its identity being paid great attention, retaining strong relations and mutual respect. Apart from national identity, the citizens feel belonging to a huge unification – European Union. This kind of identity is a base for integration process strengthening and relations development within the Union.

Integrated Europe has become an attraction object for many migrants, nowadays a problem on the agenda is to build up a new identity in terms of smearing of all-European cultural-religious values due to a great migration flow, and modern European Union – it is 28 independent states having its own identity and which are engaged in one direction to develop general European identity.

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Serbia bracing up for “difficult autumn“

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Serbia is preparing for a “difficult autumn” as it tries to resolve the Kosovo problem, President Aleksandar Vucic said following a visit to the United States. He described the discussions he had had in Washington as “extremely important,” all the more so amid the continuing disagreements over the situation in Kosovo.

“A difficult autumn awaits us, a difficult winter awaits us. First and foremost because of Kosovo,” Vucic said. Pledging continued fight for Serbia and the ethnic Serbs living in Kosovo, he still admitted that Serbia is too small to influence the policies of a “giant” like the United States. Aleksandar Vucic, Kosovo leader Hashim Thaci, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and possibly a senior member of the Trump administration are expected to meet in Paris later this month to discuss the situation in Kosovo. The participants are expected to agree a list of measures to normalize relations between Belgrade and Pristina, including provisions for redrawing Kosovo borders and the transfer of the country’s Serb-populated northern regions to Serbian control. The Serbian opposition strongly rejects the idea of signing such an agreement with Pristina under the auspices of the European Union and the United States.

President Vucic may still be forced to go for it as “the lesser evil,” which may require a certain degree of pragmatism on Russia’s part. According to the new Russian ambassador in Belgrade, Alexander Botsan-Harchenko, who formerly represented Russia in the mediating “troika” overseeing the Kosovo status talks, Moscow “supports and encourages everything regarding the initiative role of Belgrade. If some decisions are made, and if Serbia asks Russia to join a certain group of states, then we can (why not) go for it. But at the same time, our position and our commitment to Resolution 1244 must be taken into account. There is no other option for us and, I think, for Serbia either. We are now ready to contribute to the resumption of dialogue. ”

Serbia’s other option is refusal to continue negotiations with Kosovo and, therefore, to see its application for EU membership suspended. This is a possibility many in Europe and the US are fully aware of.

“The Serbian point of view is that Russia defended its position on Kosovo in the UN and opposed NATO bombings,” former US ambassador to Belgrade, William Montgomery, said, adding that, according to opinion polls, Russia still tops the list of countries Serbians like most.

He described the EU’s position on Serbia’s membership in the bloc as short-sighted and a strategic mistake, emphasizing that the European Union will bear responsibility for the consequences of its failure to do more to bring Serbia into the bloc.

Serbian officials are equally aware of the complexity of the situation. In an interview with the Belgrade-based newspaper Vecernje novosti, diplomat Zoran Milivojevic expects a clash of “big power” interests in the Balkan region: “Serbia clearly occupies an important place in this standoff and will continue doing so since the West has not yet abandoned its interests in this region. Because Serbia plays such a decisive role in the Balkans, it will be the primary target of Western pressure.”

If Serbia rejects a deal with Kosovo, thus complicating its relations with Brussels, it will inevitably have to generally revise its foreign policy priorities and start to actively build up across-the-board cooperation with Russia and other global “centers of power” outside the Euro-Atlantic camp. This also implies closer trade and other economic ties with Russia and its Eurasian allies.

One such cooperation format is the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), which can offer Belgrade a serious trade and economic alternative to European integration, while simultaneously allowing Serbia to serve as a “bridge” in the economic (and, therefore, political) relations between Russia and the West.

Meanwhile, Belgrade is already taking concrete steps in this direction. On August 15, Serbia officially joined the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) as its 73rd member with the country’s finance minister Sinisa Mali describing this as an important event, which offers Serbia access to easy loans to finance the implementation of priority projects.

In addition to members from the Asia-Pacific region, the Beijing-headquartered AIIB, which has been operating since 2016, also has among its members such leading European countries as Britain, Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain.

In October, Serbia may sign an even more economically and politically significant agreement on a free trade zone with EAEU member-countries. According Russia’s envoy in Belgrade, Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko, such an agreement is expected to be inked on October 25.

“This is a significant event, which has naturally attracted a lot of media attention. The EAEU is an effective integration project that meets modern requirements. For Belgrade, the implementation of the document will mark a completely new stage of presence in Eurasia, with an access to a market of over 182 million consumers and a combined GDP exceeding $1.9 trillion,” Botsan-Kharchenko emphasized, adding that “Serbia may eventually become a bridge between the EU and the EAEU.”

Established on the basis of the Customs Union and the Common Economic Space, the Eurasian Economic Union has been in business since January 1, 2015 and currently includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia and Kyrgyzstan, with Moldova having an observer status.

During the August 2019 meeting by the Eurasian Intergovernmental Council  Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev emphasized the need to speed up the preparation of agreements on the EAEU free trade zone with Serbia and Singapore. He also called for expediting the implementation of integration processes within the EAEU itself.

“Negotiations on free trade are successfully underway with Singapore, Israel, Egypt, and an interim agreement on a free trade zone with Iran, an agreement on trade and economic cooperation with China will soon be launched. This gives our goods certain advantages in these countries’ markets,” Medvedev said.  He emphasized that the EAEU also seeks to expand the number of its foreign partners, including through regional organizations such as ASEAN.

“We strongly support such activities. I think that it is necessary to expedite the procedures that are necessary to sign agreements on a free trade zone with Serbia and Singapore,” Medvedev added.

In addition to the EAEU, Serbia has spent the past few years trying to participate more actively in other integration projects outside the Euro-Atlantic area. Since 2013, it has had an observer status at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, and, according to various reports, is now mulling the prospect of its gradual “connection” to the structures of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Increased US and EU pressure on Belgrade concerning the issue of Kosovo recognition will obviously give an additional boost to the abovementioned trend, which objectively meets the interests of the Russian Federation.

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President Macron’s plans and ambitions: Realism or rhetoric?

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In the run-up to the G7 Summit in Biarritz, French media reports focused on the global political and diplomatic plans of President Emmanuel Macron. Journalists say that for President Macron the G7 summit presented a unique opportunity “to return France its historical role of a “ mediator ”in global conflicts and to contribute to outlining a new geopolitical agenda”. How realistic are such ambitions?

France acquired the tradition of demonstrating its sovereign and special international status in the times of Charles de Gaulle. Paris also succeeded in  securing effective mediation in various conflicts under Francois Mitterrand and Nicolas Sarkozy. Playing into Paris’ hands is the nuclear arsenal, the status of a permanent member of the UN Security Council,  and one of the leading roles in the global arms market. France’s mediation efforts have won perhaps the greatest trust among the Western powers. In the past, France was able to speak on behalf of united Europe, while Macron has repeatedly signalled his determination to consolidate the EU foreign policy.

The EU itself has long been showing a “tendency to strengthen its role as a major player in global crisis management.” But in order to expand diplomatic and humanitarian mediation efforts under the patronage of the EU one should follow the current format of making foreign policy decisions within the community, which requires the consensus among all the participants. Thus, to guarantee the agenda and the role claimed by President Macron it is essential to reconsider foreign policy priorities and probably reform the institutions of united Europe. It is also necessary to consolidate and coordinate the increasingly “mosaic” and diverse interests of member states, which are regularly at odds with one another even on issues that are declared by the EU leadership as being of top priority for all member countries. A long-term geopolitical strategy continues to play a significant role too, as a result of which the development of a pan-European foreign policy turns into a frantic search for the “lowest common denominator”.

In the meantime, Macron’s “mediation” on a number of priority issues  has been mostly about defending the interests of France. The second half of last year was marked by relations between the two “locomotives” of the EU – France and Germany – hitting a new level. However, the beginning of February this year saw serious disagreements between the two parties. As it turned out, the interests of Paris and Berlin clash. Regarding the construction of the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline, France managed to impose on Germany “the format that the German government wanted to avoid.”  On the issue of transatlantic trade, the French position blocked the start of negotiations with the US, which was fraught with the introduction of duties against German-made products, in the first place. The EU members managed to overcome this discord only by mid-April. Finally, this summer, after a fierce backstage fight, in which Macron took center-stage, a “compromise” was reached in favor of France. The posts of presidents of the European Commission and the European Central Bank went to candidates who are politically dependent on Paris. This so-called realpolitik inevitably raises the question of whether Macron with his geopolitical ambitions might push Europe to an even greater internal split? In this regard, there have been suspicions that the French president wants to turn the EU countries into an instrument of Paris’s foreign policy agenda.

Some experts believe that Macron’s ambitions are great beyond description, that “his horizon is the future balance of strength in the world.” They talk about his determination to “go beyond European and Atlantic solidarity and return to the concept of multipolarity and multilateralism”. The Champs Elysees seeks to maintain a regular dialogue even with powers whose interests run counter to Western ones; and even with countries that oppose the allies of France. At the same time, Macron is committed to NATO and “is seeking to rely on the concerted effort of the North Atlantic Alliance” in a hope to give the organization a “new impetus”. In addition, Macron’s foreign policy follows clear “ideological principles,” which make his supporters look to him with double hope, while opponents see him as the main obstacle to effective diplomacy. All this restricts his “independence” and the possibility of new agreements.

Finally, many analysts say that Macron’s foreign policy is characterized by controversy. A few days ago he said that he wanted to turn France into a “power of equilibrium.” But just a year ago, he demonstrated strong support for the German idea of transforming the entire European Union into a balancer, “balancing” the international situation. What is closer to Macron, the “individual leadership” of France or the “sovereignty of Europe”? Over the previous two years, being at the top of power, he has significantly changed his views on the transatlantic model of globalism and signaled the need to give a new role to Europe, to “strengthen” its position in the new alignment of forces. A year ago, Macron urged the EU to “guarantee its own security”, since such powers as China and the United States hardly see Europe as an equal force. And if the Europeans fail to quickly change this state of things, then “we are in for a bleak future” . On August 27 this year, as he spoke at a meeting of ambassadors, Macron stated: “we are witnessing the end of Western hegemony in the world,” … “new powers are coming to the fore”, primarily Russia and China.” In this regard, it is important to understand what is behind the frequent change in rhetoric of the current French leader, adaptability of a far-seeing strategist or a time-serving pragmatism of a politician whose major concern is the next elections.

Meanwhile, the mediatory efforts undertaken by Macron while getting ready and holding the G-7 summit were also filled with striking discrepancies. The participants failed to work out a “model” on the Iranian dossier, although the  media had reported a statement by the French president on reaching an agreement on “joint communication” on maintaining a nuclear deal with Tehran. However, it soon became clear that Paris is in no position to influence the United States.  In the Russian direction, Macron yet again tried to “entice” Moscow by the narrative about “Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok.” However, Russia remembers that a little over a year ago Macron spoke as confidently about it as being “non-Europe”, thereby suggesting conflicting trends in international relations – the “Big Seven” is more and more like a relic of the past”,  and a return to this past in its “current format makes no sense”.

What inspires some optimism is the fact that Macron seems to understand that Russia is not the country that can be “excluded from all parties.” The broader its cooperation with Moscow, the fewer problems the West will face. Addressing the French ambassadors during a meeting mentioned above, the French president made it clear “that France needs to reconsider and build new relations with Russia.” But one of the many puzzles he has to solve along the way is the “paradoxical situation” that has developed to date, “when the same countries within NATO and the European Union support opposite political platforms regarding Russia.” As part of the NATO agenda, Europeans are pursuing a policy that combines  a “systematic (military-political) deterrence of Russia” with the need to maintain dialogue, despite the fact that all formal options for such a dialogue are frozen. As part of its own agenda, the European Union, whose 22 members are also members of NATO, terminated a “systematic political dialogue” with Moscow, based on the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, in 2014. At the same time, there are statements about the expediency of selective cooperation – in issues that meet the interests of the EU. “How is it possible to develop selective cooperation without political dialogue?  How is this possible without coordination of mutual interests?” – an expert from the Institute of Europe of the Russian Academy of Sciences asks.

Meanwhile, the world is in acute need for “global legal standards”, and not only for the regulation of traditional “conflict-use of force” challenges. Issues such as climate change, threats to destabilize cyberspace, attacks on informational reality, cross-border social disasters, pandemics cannot be handled effectively at the level of individual states. More and more issues enter “the world level”. And if we are to address them, we need the appropriate “world order”, the harmonization of universal norms so that national governments could work together to “secure effective global governance”.

Russia welcomes and is actively participating in transforming international relations in the direction of “multilateral diplomacy”, “collective efforts at the level of the international community and the regions.” However, are the West as a whole, and France, in particular, ready for “restraint and compliance with the international law and order”, for “working in an open format”, and for abandoning the “ideology-dominated foreign policy”? Are they ready that the new model of diplomacy will be “complex and multifaceted,” sometimes fitting badly if at all into any previous formats in terms of the approaches that will be adopted by all participants.  For example, in the case of the “Big Seven,” Moscow suggests looking at the situation from a broader perspective and discuss the prospects for the Group’s modernization not only through the return of Russia, but also through expansion to include India and China. This transformation into the “Big Ten” may become “a powerful phenomenon in global politics that would change directions, approaches and formats”.

Emmanuel Macron is thus to provide the answers to a large number of difficult questions: to what extent can France be independent in determining its foreign policy? Also, is it possible to effectively play the role of an “intermediary power”, while remaining bound by the “strict obligations to other players”? And wouldn’t it be possible for France, in that case, to find itself squeezed between the “hammer” of the everyday realities of modern international politics and the “anvil” of the maxim, which they say belongs to the French, that genuine realists “demand the impossible”? 

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The Vatican and the Russian Federation

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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Currently the Vatican is the largest and most effective mediator between the various ideological worlds and between the old, great political alliances.

 A system in which the Church operates by mediating both between them and between them and the West.

 This is the case of the Russian Federation, with which the Catholic Church has a special and long-standing  relationship, which started with the mission to the Tsar in 1452 and later continued with a very long story of deep ideological contrast with the Marxist-Leninist State atheism, but also of friendship and support – especially nowadays.

 Full diplomatic relations between the two countries were resumed in 2009, with 178 countries now recognizing the Holy See diplomatically, while in 1978 the Vatican had official diplomatic relations with 84 countries.

 Certainly, the present-day Russia, like the Tsarist and later the Marxist-Leninist one, has an Orthodox Church closely linked, by its very nature, to the political power. Not even Stalin could escape said rule altogether.

 Still today, however, remnants of the past Communist regime can be found not in the mass aesthetics of the current system centred on Vladimir Putin, but in the one focused on some inveterate and deep habits of the population.

 Recently, during a visit paid to the ancient monastery of Valaam, President Putin himself ideologically associated Communism with the Christian tradition.

Still today, many Russians regard Lenin’s Mausoleum in Red Square as a ” sacred place” while, according to reliable statistics, 51% of Russians still admire Stalin.

 Why the return of Stalin’s myth, and exactly now? Because the “Man of Steel” is seen as an enemy of bureaucracy and “elites” and, above all, as the architect of the Soviet great victory against Nazism. 

This shows to what extent the deep tendencies and trends  of contemporary society and the old ideas about the Second World War mix up in popular myths.

 Probably – as Curzio Malaparte already noted in his book, “The Technique of Revolution”, written in 1931 when he was an Italian diplomat to Warsaw – nowadays Stalin embodies the simple and virile assurance and stability of the Russian peasant, while Trotzky acted nervously and unconfidently, “like a modern European intellectual” -just to put it in Malaparte’s words.

 Moreover, the current Russian relationship with the Catholic Church and the other national autocephalous and autonomous Churches stems directly from Putin’s new strategy of expansion into the so-called “near abroad”.

 Ukraine is, in fact, at the heart of Putin’ strategic project. Without Ukraine no expansion is possible, however along with the Caucasus and Central Asia.

 But one of the centres of Ukrainian power and national identity is the Greek-Catholic Church, which still follows a Byzantine rite and is closely linked to Rome.

After the great repression of 1946, it has been the largest and fastest growing religious community in the world.

 The passion with which the Greek-Catholic Church proposes the Social Doctrine of the Church has long been a very credible substitute for Marxist eschatology or, in any case, for the Soviet social ideas.

Currently, however, the relations with the Patriarchate of Moscow are excellent.

Throughout his papacy, however, Pope Francis has always been proposing dialogue instead of confrontation.

Hence,  while the EU and the USA are increasingly opposed to Putin’s Russia, the Vatican listens carefully and deals effectively with Russia.

 The naive superiority – typical of the weak subjects – with which the EU and the USA deal with the Kremlin will be the sign of a harsh defeat, in Syria as in other parts of the world.

In the sixth visit paid by the Russian leader to the Vatican, Pope Francis spoke with him about various international issues.

 Never – not even during Stalin’s rule – did Russia think that the Vatican diplomacy was uninformed or powerless. Indeed, during the Second World War he used it for the matters concerning Hitler and his demise, as well as to deal with the USA, which had already adapted to the Cold War.

Reportedly the Pope and Putin discussed at length about Syria – where the stance of the Holy See is very far from the empty and ambiguous “democraticism” of the West-and about the whole Middle East and its new set-up, as well as about the status of Jerusalem and finally about the moral decadence of the West and, hence, about a sort of alliance between Putin’s Russia and the Vatican to defend ancient and eternal values.

So far, however, the Pope has paid no visit to Russia. Obviously the Synod of the Ukrainian Greek Church would create some understandable problems.

Putin has already had two confidential conversations with Pope Francis, in 2013 and 2015.

 He will be in the Vatican next January, when, an exhibition of Russian art will be inaugurated at the Holy See.

 Foreign Minister Lavrov often has contacts with his counterparts of the Roman Catholic diplomacy, at all levels and constantly.

Here we can find, in essence, the great idea of Pope Francis, his careful and profound opening to the Russian Orthodox Church that counts 150 million believers and has considerable economic power, which has sometimes been used also to rescue public finances.

 In 2016, Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill met in Cuba and a month later the Pope approved the appointment of Archbishop Celestino Migliore as Apostolic Nuncio to Moscow.

In 2017 he was also conferred the Apostolic Nunciature of the Holy See to Uzbekistan.

 The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin,paid a visit to the Russian Federation from August 20 to 24, 2017, expressly invited by the Russian State and by the highest hierarchies of the Orthodox Church.

It was the first visit of a Vatican Secretary of State after 1989 and after the great, historic visit of Cardinal Agostino Casaroli in 1990, immediately after the collapse of the Soviet regime.

 Cardinal Parolin had some “important and constructive meetings” – as he himself defined them – with President Putin, with Foreign Minister Lavrov, with Patriarch Kirill and Metropolitan Hilarion, as well as with some other members of the Patriarchate of Moscow.

Later Cardinal Parolin met with Putin in Sochi. Many of the topics discussed during their conversations are still very confidential, but one of them is already known: the issue of Christians in Syria and all the conflicts in the Middle East, considering that the Vatican recognizes the fait accompli, i.e. the Russian Federation as a great decisive power for the destiny of the whole Middle East.

 They also discussed  the status of Christians in the various areas with an Islamic majority – where the Russian Federation already counts very much – and their possible protection.

Russia is already available, while some Western countries not.

 The following day, when Cardinal Parolin met with Foreign Minister Lavrov, they discussed the fight against terrorism and jihadism, as well as the promotion of a stable dialogue between countries and religions, and finally the protection of ethnic, religious and political minorities in all the possible solutions – partial or not-to the conflicts in the Middle East.

Cardinal Parolin and Minister Lavrov also discussed how to put an end to the clashes in Syria, using both the Astana Accords and the Geneva talks. The Vatican accepts both of them.

 Furthermore, the Secretary of State reminded Lavrov and his aides of the urgent need to re-establish contacts and resume talks between the State of Israel and the Palestinian world, as well as to try and solve the strong tensions in Venezuela, where Russia still has a strong power projection.

Also the Catholic Church, however, has undisputed power.

 Cardinal Parolin never discusses in vain and with an abstract and academic tone.

Later the Secretary of State vigorously outlined to the Russian leadership Pope Francis’ pragmatic and rational position on all the issues under discussion.

We can imagine that, with specific reference to Syria, Pope Francis and his Secretary of State want a concrete commitment by Assad – they implicitly recognize – for the protection and support of the population, as well as the return of refugees to Syria.

With specific reference to Libya, Pope Francis wants the conflict to end immediately, through a credible and substantial dialogue between the parties, possibly supported by the Vatican diplomacy and by the Russian Federation itself, which currently backs General Khalifa Haftar, the strongman of Cyrenaica.

As to South Sudan, the Pope wants President Salva Kiir and the rebel leader Riek Machar to meet and, in fact, a few days later Kiir asked Machar to form a government of national unity.

 One of the many silly conflicts generated by oil and by the carelessness of the most important powers at economic level.

 In addition, Russia seriously supports the Vatican’s efforts in Venezuela to stabilize the local political system peacefully.

Reverting to the Ukrainian issue, with specific reference to the current political and military situation in Ukraine and to the annexation of Crimea, Cardinal Parolin stressed that “international rules shall be fully enforced”.

In fact, the Holy See wants the 2014 Minsk Protocol, which has so far remained dead letter, to be clearly implemented by all parties.

Minister Lavrov clearly appreciated the Vatican support for the Minsk Protocol.

 In short, as can be inferred from the messages of Cardinal  Parolin coming back from his Russian missions and visits, it is good for the West not to neglect and, above all, not to isolate the Russian Federation.

 It would be a fundamental strategic mistake.

Nevertheless, considering this geopolitics based on empty morality and political superficiality, there is not much to hope for in the West.

 Catholics in Russia – the first traditional duty of the Vatican mission there – are very few: 773,000 believers in four dioceses that were established by John Paul II, the Pope  who consecrated Russia to the Sacred Heart of Mary.

 As the Virgin had long wanted in her messages of Fatima.

 The Church of Rome does not proselytize in Russia, but the climate is not yet good for the Roman Catholic Russians.

 And, in this case, the discussions and meetings of Cardinal  Parolin with the leaders of the Orthodox Church were as important as those with Putin and Lavrov.

 Meanwhile, Kirill II suggested the possibility of joint humanitarian operations between the Church of Rome and the Patriarchate of Moscow, especially in the Middle East.

Moreover, the Orthodox Christians will have the relics of Saint Nicholas at their disposal, temporarily transferred from Bari to Moscow and Saint Petersburg.

Hence a new phase has begun, characterized by stable and close relations between Russian Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism, a phase that will certainly not be cancelled in the near future.

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