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Theresa in Arabia: Engaging beyond trade

Samantha Maloof

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] T [/yt_dropcap] he UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s visit to Bahrain this week for the Gulf Cooperation Council summit is a bid to strengthen ties with the GCC member states ahead of Britain’s exit from the European Union, but it is also a chance for the UK to nudge some of its key partners toward long-overdue respect for human rights and democratic reforms.

On the face of it, of course, this is just one in a series of trips by May to salvage the UK’s trade ties amidst Brexit uncertainty. In a statement about the visit released this past weekend, May emphasized the importance of cooperation between Britain and the GCC in the realms of counter-terrorism, Gulf investment in cities across the UK, and British investment that will hopefully help the Gulf states pursue major reforms.

Given the recent history of Bahrain, however, such high-profile engagement was bound to spark controversy. A number of campaign groups have urged May not to ignore human rights issues in pursuit of free trade deals with Middle Eastern countries. Amnesty International has been one of the most outspoken, saying in a statement ahead of May’s visit that British ministers have acted like “overexcited cheerleaders” for Bahrain’s “woefully inadequate” reforms since the 2011 crackdown on the country’s democracy movement. Amnesty notably questioned the effectiveness and independence of two UK-backed human rights institutions in Bahrain, which the NGO described as “PR exercises.”

Downing Street obviously anticipated these responses, emphasizing in its statement: “We don’t uphold our values and human rights by turning our back on this issue. We achieve far more by stepping up, engaging with these countries and working with them.”

There is certainly cause for cautious optimism in the fact that May is not just the first British PM but also the first woman leader to attend a GCC summit. The occasion will is not only an opportunity for British and Gulf businesses, but also a chance for the UK to effectively broach touchier subjects with the GCC member states.

First and foremost, though, will be the hunt for business prospects. London has reportedly identified £30 billion of “high-value opportunities for British businesses across fifteen different sectors over the next five years in the Gulf.” May hopes to form a new joint working group with GCC members to examine a possible new UK-Gulf free trade agreement, and her government has emphasized that the Gulf states are collectively Britain’s largest investor and the second biggest non-European export market.

That the UK and Gulf states like Saudi Arabia already enjoy strong trade ties is going to become increasingly important as Riyadh and the region’s other oil-dependent nations try to diversify their economies. UK exports to Saudi Arabia exceeded £5.5 billion last year, making Britain one of the Saudi’s top 10 trading partners. There are more than 200 joint venture British-Saudi businesses inside the Kingdom, worth more than £17.5 billion. These companies and others employ about 30,000 British nationals.

The hope on both sides is that this cooperation will expand further as a result of the Vision 2030 program, which seeks to promote cultural openness within the Kingdom in addition to reducing dependence on oil and attracting foreign investment. The privatizations and non-oil growth the program is aiming for can only be successful with the help of outside backers, and Saudi leaders see Britain as one of the countries whose expertise and financial clout will be integral to bringing their work to fruition.

With her eagerness for closer economic ties, May evidently feels the same way. The British PM specifically mentioned Vision 2030 in her speech to the GCC leaders, announcing the historic Mansion House in London would host an event on the Gulf’s economic transformation programs next year. In addition to bringing down trade barriers, she also insisted the UK would be the region’s “partner of choice” in pursuing reforms. With so many trade and investment opportunities at stake, a closer relationship is obviously in the self-interest of both sides.

May’s speech might have been focused on the financials, but human rights campaign groups should not dismiss her presence as nothing more than a favor to business interests. By engaging in trade talks with the GCC member states, the UK does more than boost its credibility, its capital, and its standing as a key ally. It also puts itself in a more strategic position when it comes to pushing these nations forward in spheres beyond trade and investment.

For one, May’s very participation in the summit is in and of itself a repudiation of the limits placed on female participation in political life in the region. Beyond that, increasing Britain’s economic clout among the Gulf emirs will make any statement on rights or norms more impactful. These countries are far more likely to listen to a partner sitting down together at the same table than they are to an outsider shouting at them from the next room. Just across the water from Bahrain, Iran provides a ready example of why that latter approach doesn’t work.

Of course, it will take years and likely decades of reforms before those living in the Persian Gulf states enjoy women’s rights and freedom of expression the way they are taken for granted in places like Britain. However, the seeds of change are there, as promising recent events like the anniversary of Saudi female participation in elections go to show. By casting herself as an indispensable partner, Theresa May is setting herself up to help those seeds grow more in the future.

Samantha is a freshly minted graduate in International Relations based in Cairo, currently working as a research assistant in a small think tank looking at development and inequality in Africa

Europe

The Aegean Dilemma: Turkish-Greek Complexity Challenging European Solidarity

Alexandros-Ioannis Papamatthaiou

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On the 12th of February2018, a Turkish coast guard patrol rammed into a Greek patrol boat near the Imia islands (Kardak in Turkish). The pair of uninhabited islands has been a source of dispute between Greece and Turkey since a military crisis in 1996, which almost resulted in war. The collision has been the climax of a number of Turkish violations on Greek territorial waters and airspace, which have damaged Greek-Turkish relations and escalated the tensions between the two countries. In this article I argue that Turkey’s geopolitical advantages over the US and the EU embolden it to pursue an ambitious foreign policy in the Aegean Sea, while its toxic domestic politics necessitates that it must do so. This combination creates a ticking time bomb for crisis in the Aegean Sea.It is time for the EU to act.

Turkey’s control of refugee flows has EU hands tied

The Syrian crisis has increased Turkish power over European nations that receive the greatest part of refugee flows. Currently, over 2.5 million Syrian refugees reside in Turkey. Turkish officials have threatened to force an influx of Syrian refugees into Europe, a situation that would destabilize already complex tensions within European states and further the far-right political crisis of Europe. The potentiality of this development provides Turkey with a favorable bargaining position over many Western European governments, which are interested in actively averting extremist actions against immigrant populations in order to prevent sectarian divide.

In addition, the waning desire of the Turkish administration to join the EU has removed any leverage the EU had over Turkey. In the past, Turkey has been willing to engage in bilateral talks with Greece over territorial disputes, mainly in an effort to withdraw Greece’s veto over its potential membership in the EU. However, Brexit and the emergence of anti-European movements in founding members like France and Italy, has caused Turkish officials to have second thoughts about the prospect of joining a union on the verge of collapse, according to reports. This development has reduced the bargaining advantage Greece previously enjoyed.

The US is unlikely to react in the event of a crisis

Since the time of the Cold War, American policymakers have viewed Turkey as a key ally against the Soviet Union and now Russia. The proximity of Turkey to Southern Russian cities favors the deployment of strategic nuclear weapons, while, most significantly, the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits create a double chokepoint that checks Russian maritime activity from the warm ports of the Black Sea. This means that in the case of conflict, if Turkey cooperates, Russia’s supply lines from the south could be shut down.

The location of Turkey, north of the Levant, gives Turkish leaders influence in Middle East matters as well and the ability to affect the political situation in both Syria and Iraq. The proximity of Turkey to the Syrian conflict allows it to intervene militarily as it did through Operation Olive Branch in Afrin in January. Turkey also holds a large portion of the Tigris and Euphrates river basins, which hydrate the majority of agricultural land in Syria and Iraq. In the past, Turkey has used its control over these river flows as a bargaining tool to curb Kurdish militant activity along its borders with the two countries.These geopolitical facts give Turkey a unique advantage in influencing politics in the Middle East, both directly through military operations and indirectly through river flows.

Turkey’s capacity to contain the Russian navy in a time of a crisis, its ability to directly get involved in the Syrian war, and its influence on the prosperity of Iraq, gives influence over key American strategic objectives: namely, keeping Russia under control, maintaining peace in the Middle East, and ensuring the stability of oil outflows. Despite the status of both Greece and Turkey as members of NATO, the US is unlikely to risk bringing Turkey and Russia closer diplomatically and tempting Turkey to intervene more often in the Middle East.

How are Turkish domestic politics exacerbating the conflict?

Turkey’s militarism is informed by the institutional friction between Turkish politicians and the Turkish army. Since the death of Ataturk, the Turkish army has assigned itself the role of the protector of Ataturk’s ideals. Frequent army intervention in Turkish politics through coups has made politicians apprehensive of the army and ready to externalize the army’s domestic pressure into international operations. After the coup attempt of 2016, President Erdogan has become increasingly determined to preoccupy the army with military operations and maintain stability domestically, as he concentrates power through institutional change and purges political and intellectual dissidents. Turkey’s leaders have also been empowered by public support. The Turkish public has a deep historical understanding of the Turkish identity, the memory of the Greek invasion of 1919, and the unfairness of the Treaty of Lausanne. President Erdogan’s popularity after the failed coup attempt of 2016 has enabled him to empower these conservative opinions and silence opposing Euro-friendly voices in Turkey.

Greek leadership has also done its part to worsen the tensions. The Greek Minister of Defense, Panos Kammenos, leader of the nationalist minority party in Greece’s coalition government, has been vocal on Greece’s expansion of territorial waters, mainly as a feat to maintain his party’s share of the vote. Historical tensions between the two countries, as well as President Erdogan’s public and institutional empowerment and Greece’s current diplomatically inept administration have fueled Turkish nationalist sentiment against Greece, counterbalancing against public support for European integration, and emboldening Turkey’s aggressions in the Aegean.

What are the objectives of Turkey?

Turkish perceptions and expectations of European and American passivity embolden Turkey to act in calculated aggression according to its favorable estimation of the balance of power. Turkey’s primary goals are to increase its claim on maritime territory that may contain potential oil reserves in the Aegean Sea and to hinder Greek efforts to expand territorial waters according to proposed international law [1]. These objectives constitute a reversal of the Treaty of Lausanne, which gave Greece control of the entire Aegean archipelago, and essentially landlocked the Turkish western coast. In a highly complex domestic climate, if Turkish policymakers judge that tensions have risen enough to even minimally justify translation of rhetoric into action, then Turkey is likely to annex the Imia-Kardak islands in a symbolic statement of intent, or even to potentially claim control over Kastelorizo, which would extend Turkey’s continental shelf into the southeast Mediterranean Sea.

Why should the EU care? What can be done?

In an environment of European reluctance and American rejection of involvement, the clock is ticking before the Turkish administration could make bolder moves. The crucial coming election could be the catalyst in materializing Turkish threats over the annexation of disputed territory. In the ever-increasing tense domestic politics of Turkey, political rivals try to outdo each other on anti-Greek rhetoric, resulting in heightened public expectations of conflict. Under the current circumstances, if Turkey escalates the conflict, then the EU stands to lose in all possible scenarios. If the EU intervenes, then Turkey may retaliate with the release of Syrian refugees into the continent, which will increase the influence of the far-right and break the EU from within. If the EU fails to act, then trust in its institutional power will wane, discouraging potential members from joining and increasing the separatist sentiments inside member countries.

The Aegean Dispute sheds light into the most important institutional anomaly of the EU: the absence of political unification to support economic integration.The European experiment has been successful in integrating economic activity within the continent. However, it now teeters with an unstable equilibrium, between further integration and outright demise. The Aegean dispute offers both a challenge and an opportunity for Europe: EU policymakers must look into ways of integrating security strategy, through cooperation agreements, security guarantees and investment into border control, while also moving towards an integrated and centrally-organized immigration plan for Europe. Tighter border security in the Balkan Peninsula will stop Turkey’s use of refugee flows as a bargaining chip and also appease nationalist sentiment in European countries, while security agreements will halt Turkish aspirations in the Aegean Sea and improve public trust in the EU’s institutional power. If the EU wants to remain relevant far into the future across the greater European continent, then it must start behaving as boldly and strategically as Turkey has over the past several years. If it doesn’t it will simply be outmaneuvered and, potentially, replaced as a major political voice in the global community.

[1] Wolff  Heintschel von Heinegg Der Ägäis-Konflikt: Die Abgrenzung des Festlandsockels zwischen Griechenland und der Türkei und das Problem der Inseln im Seevölkerrecht. (Berlin: Duncker und Humblot, 1989)

 

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Catalonia would have been facing severe problems had it broke away from Spain

Bahauddin Foizee

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Catalan independence referendum, held in late-2017, had thrown Spain and Catalonia into severe political crisis and has created uncertainly for the foreign investors inside Catalonia.

What fate would the Catalans have embraced had Catalonia broke away from Spain after referendum?

Catalans from all walks of life would have suffered severe problems had the pro-independence camp got what they wished for in the referendum.

Here’s some food for thought for the Catalans who voted in the referendum and who didn’t, and for the ones who had been a keen spectator from Europe and elsewhere.

State Structures

Inception of an independent state requires the setting up of the essential state structures, including central bank, tax authority, judicial system, social security, a diplomatic service, a central bank and even an army.

Though most of these state structures/elements are available to Catalonia as an Spanish state/province, there are obvious concerns whether these elements are self-sufficient and mature enough to take the responsibilities of a newly born state.

Chaos

Had Catalonia become a sovereign state, a greater political uncertainty would have arose. There would be political chaos between the ones who opted for independence and the ones who didn’t.

The ones who sought to remain with Spain, or atleast didn’t actively support pro-independence campaigns, could have ended up facing rage and infuriated gestures from the opposite camp immediately after independence (had it been achieved).

Debt, currency, exodus of businesses

Moreover, Catalans would then have to assume a significant part of Spain’s debt. They would have to find a currency other than the Euro, as Spain would veto Catalan membership in the Euro Zone.

Without a confirmed currency in the market and with political uncertainty, there would have been a likely evacuation of multinational and Spanish companies from Catalonia to other parts in Spain. Already some multinational and Spanish companies either left or declared to leave Catalonia immediately after last independence referendum.

Access to EU market

If the membership to the European Union (EU) was delayed after Catalonia’s independence, Catalan products would have lost the privilege of unrestricted access to the EU market.

This newly independent state would have lost the leverages of entering into the EU member states’ markets as a free trade zone – a leverage its commercial products enjoy now as Spanish products.

Duties on Catalan goods and services would have been imposed not only by Spain, but also by other EU member states. Moreover, in times of economic disasters, Catalonia could not have called upon the help of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) and the European Central Bank (ECB).

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What Do We Need To Know About Brexit: What Is Happening Now?

Anosh Samuel

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European Union is a political and economic partnership of 28 European countries. The idea came up soon after the World War 2 that countries which trade together are less likely to get into a war with each other and consequently their economic growth is also fostered. EU has its own parliament and defined rules of the environment, consumer rights, transport, and common currency “EURO” used by 19 of the member states.

There had been no mechanism for any country to exit EU. However, article 50 of the Treaty on European Union introduced a procedure for any member state to leave or exit the EU. It was enacted by Treaty of Lisbon, which holds the signatures of all EU countries and it became a law in 2009. In this Treaty there are five short passages stating that;a) any member state can decide to leave the EU, b)the leaving country shall notify the EU of its plans and intentions, c) there are two years to reach an agreement except if member states unanimously decide to extend this period, d) the withdrawing member cannot participate in discussion of European Council, and lastly e) a request of rejoining the EU will be entertained with subject to the article 49.

Plebiscite In Uk

There have been 11 plebiscites held in the UK since 1973 and majority of them are linked to the devaluation. In 1975, first ever plebiscite was demonstrated in the United Kingdom, but that was subjected tothe continued membership of European Union. Now,a referendum took place on June 23rd, 2016 regarding the membership of UK in European Union, when UK voted to leave EU. It was named as BREXIT, but what does the term BREXIT actually mean? To answer this, it is a shorthand axiom of UK leaving the EU by merging two terms Britain and Exit. Alike, the Greek exit from the eurozone in 2012-2015 was dubbed as GREXIT. Let’s get to know the referendum breakdown across the UK: England voted to leave EU by 54pc and 46pc; Wales also voted for Brexit by 53pc in favor and 47pc against. However, in Northern Ireland 56pc of citizens backed staying in EU, the same thing happened in Scotland as turn out was 62pc.Since then, Theresa May, a former home secretary took over the prime minister office after David Cameroon resigned from the premiership.

Economy Of UK Since Brexit Vote

The senior parliamentarians and David Cameroon envisaged an immediate economic crisis if UK voted to leave EU. The value of pound slumped very next day after referendum but it regained its losses real soon. Immediate predictions of catastrophe were proven wrong as the economy of UK grew by 1.6% in 2016. It was near to Germany’s 1.9pc amongst leading G7 industrialized nations. The growth rate remained stagnant in 2017. According to Office for National Statistics figures, an increase in inflation was observed after June 2016 but it eased to stand at 2.5pc. Unemployment has fallen to nearly a forty-year low of 4.3pc.

Hard And Soft Brexit Means

The terms ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ are used during debates on account of UK exit from European Union. Generally, they give a notion of the proximity ofUK’s relations with EU post-Brexit, but there is no such definition of these terms. Soft Brexit is interpreted as acceptance of free movement of people in a single market. Whereas on contrary to this, hard Brexit contains no compromise of UK with respect to the free movement of people even if destined to leave single market. The question prompt up here is that what is Single Market?

The Single Market of European Union allows the free movement of money, services, and goods within the EU, as it is a single nation. People are allowed to land a job or set up their own business within EU zone. A common law-making is needed to certify that commodities are manufactured with same standards and enforce rules to certify a standard level. The idea of the single market was proposed to create employment opportunities, boost trade, and lower the prices. The advocates of the Single Market view it as an achievement. Great Britain already had a membership of free trade area in Europe prior to joining “common market.”Free trade area is not a single market since member states do nor amalgamate their economies but member states can trade without paying duties.

Theresa May’s Stance On Brexit

Since the referendum campaign Theresa May was against the Brexit but later she said it is what our people wish for, with her key comment “Brexit means Brexit.”A process to leave EU then triggered on March 29, 2017, while plans for Transition Period have been outlined by her after Brexit in a speech in Italy. She surprised everyone by calling an election on June 8, 2017, and opined that she wants to strengthen her hands in Brexit talks with leaders of Europe.

Transition Period

The transitional period is the time span after March 29th, 2019¬¬¬ to December 31st, 2020, to permit businesses and everything in place for the moment when new rules between EU and UK will begin after post-Brexit. The features and particulars to develop new relationship would also be hammered out.EU wants to endure the free movement during the transition period. The United Kingdom will be pulling out of its own trade deals.

Negotiations

Brexit negotiations officially have begun on June 19, 2017. The first tasks in EU summits were to get an agreement after Brexit on the rights of EU and UK expatriates. They were to decide a figure that the UK will have to pay to while leaving so-called ‘Divorce Bill.’ A breakthrough deal in Brexit talks reached on December 8 and now the UK and EU have shifted to discuss the permanent post-Brexit relationship.

What Is Happening Now And How Long It Will Take For Britain To Exit EU

Despite few political factions striving to halt the happening of Brexit. The government of the UK and main political party in opposition stood in favor of Brexit. They are centering their eyes mainly on a post-Brexit relationship with EU. The UK’s scheduled time for leaving the EU is on March 29, 2019, at 11 pm UK time. The EU and UK have conditionally consented on three issues so-called “divorce issues”, how much United Kingdom owes the EU, what happens to citizens of European Union residing in the United Kingdom and vice versa, and lastly, what happens to the border of Northern Ireland. Such discussions will lead to smoother future affairs and implementation of negotiated deals after Brexit.

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