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Conference Geopolitics and History

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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Geopolitics is a strange science or, more precisely, a specific “thinking style”. While History reconstructs facts and interpret them ex post, according to the classic and still valid Cicero’s line of “Historia magistra vitae”, in geopolitics the basic rationale is future-oriented and not past-oriented: what shall I do, in History, to reach certain results?

Which are the initial conditions, the limits and the opportunities among those which occur once, as the Machiavellian Fortune, or those regarding the constant material features of a country?

As Giovanni Sartori always said, certainly all social sciences are series of data in which we can see similarities or not. However which data is needed to make a good geopolitical project?

I will try to answer this question: applying history to geopolitics enables those who have the character and the talent to do so to significantly improve the fortunes of their own country or even to change them.

Sometimes even to overturn them. As Italy, after World War II, and Japan, another defeated country, which were both the winners of the post-war period.

In fact, in his address at the 1947 Paris Conference, De Gasperi was right in saying he knew that “only the winners’ personal courtesy” was on his side.

Italy, however, had its Protectorate in Somalia, which ended in 1960.

Was it a serious geopolitical choice?

Certainly so because everyone knew that the colonial phase was almost over and that the geographic and business cycle of the time could do without the colonial system.

It was the geopolitics of trade between industrial countries while, when possible, the Third World played the card of unearned income and rents on raw materials or, in the Pro-Soviet socialist countries, it created “import substitution industries” to reduce our exports and slow down our development.

Later the great Italian development of the 1960s focused on large state-owned enterprises.

Private companies, however, woke up to reality and developed through exports and a fast-growing domestic market

Another lesson that current governments should learn is that there are not fully export-oriented economies, which kill their domestic markets to better compete on the “great international market”. It is nonsense and a crazy idea.

Both markets must develop harmoniously.

I remember it well – I had a first-hand experience in this regard. What was the geostrategic relevance? It was very simple.

The issue lay in competing with our allies without being noticed, by possibly invoking the right reasons of our opening to the Third World, where the “imperialists” that had won the Second World War were not very well-liked.

Without raw materials, but with plenty of labour force available and a perfect Mediterranean positioning, our fate was decided and settled.

The State managed raw materials at affordable prices for companies and the latter triggered internal development off.

At the time, increasing public spending was funded by growth itself.

The risk was well-run because, as great professionals, we tried to avoid the inflationary effects of export-driven growth with different currencies, often deliberately manipulated to create us problems – and I well remember Guido Carli leading, at first, our Exchange Office and later the Bank of Italy.

That ruling class had the highest degree of Italy’s geopolitical perception.

Compared to current times, the clashes between Colombo and Giolitti were a great piece of work between professionals, while today we seem to be in a nursery school.

They knew and we knew that our development mechanism was the one outlined by the State-Market mix, but without cherishing too many illusions about our private enterprises’ level of awareness.

State socialism?

Sometimes so, but it was the only way to grow fast and without too much inflation or too many asymmetric shocks.

If you want speed, you need to have a highly planned economy while, if you are interested in the ability to adapt to markets, you can be carried away by the slowness of the many free random transactions.

We had quietly inherited the public enterprises’ model built by Fascism, including IRI, IFI and the other public companies for restructuring and upgrading enterprises, but we had adapted it to the theory of social personalism – halfway between Emmanuel Mounier, the intellectual of reference for Pope Paul VI and the extraordinary legacy of the “Code of Camaldoli,” the document with which the Catholics were leading the new Republican Italy.

Once again there was a maximum level of geopolitical consistency.

We social Catholics were the only political force massively present in Italy. We represented the true Italy and we had a very good relationship with the United States.

Defending Tradition and our People after a defeat and, in the meantime, preparing economic revenge.

We also turned temporary aid, namely the Marshall Plan – officially known as the European Recovery Program (ERP) – from post-war economic and humanitarian aid, much less relevant than we currently believe, into the first step for reconstructing our whole economy, including the one which bothered our winners.

The perception level of Italy’s place in the world, ranging from Pasquale Saraceno to Ezio Vanoni and, immodestly, myself, was almost at the maximum level.

Hence we had to thank our Anglo-Saxon friends, but we had not to be relegated to be the fifth wheel of their business cycle.

Italy was and had to be master of the Mediterranean and open itself to Eastern European markets, even to the Soviet Union’s, having the largest Communist Party in the world in electoral terms.

It was our idea and we played that card with the image of a young, energetic, free and democratic Italy.

We said to our Allies we could follow them in the “Cold War” – and, indeed, what we did in that field will never be fully told by history – but they had not to annoy us when it came to opening markets to our manufactured products.

And there was that perception even when, with Enrico Mattei, Francesco Cossiga and Bettino Craxi, we upset some plans of our British and American friends.

Politicians devised the great economic and social strategies and even the way to make them be swallowed up and digested by the most recalcitrant among our Western friends.

That was the free geopolitical competition between nations; we were taking our history back after decades of protectionist freezing.

However we protected ourselves very well, even better than our Japanese competitors.

You may say we produced Motta-Alemagna “State panettoni” – and, indeed, we were criticized for that “entrepreneurial State” which was expanding also to less strategic economic sectors. However, if the well-known family brands were lost in comforts, pleasures and debt, what was the fault of the State which recovered factories, equipment and workers and kept on producing excellent cakes?

Nevertheless everything was over with the end of fixed exchange rates in 1971.

Oil became the primary market of the US dollar and, more strictly, of the US economy cycle, while Kissinger made a deal with the Saudis to “manage” the petrodollars coming from the oil price increases following the “Yom Kippur War”.

So America funded the Vietnam War and its failed project of “New Society” – a pocket-size Welfare State in the land of Protestant private enterprise extremism.

We were so accurate in our geopolitical perceptions that while we were close friends of the Arabs in the Middle East, we were also a stable and reliable point of reference for our Israeli friends.

It was not duplicity or double-dealing, but full geopolitical awareness of our limits and our potential.

More importantly, we had to protect our development rate.

The Moro affair, however, marked the end of the First Republic, the era in which Italy – with Andreotti, Craxi, Cossiga, Moro, Ugo La Malfa and the many friends trivially called “secular politicians” – had rebuilt the country precisely on the basis of a perfect geopolitical and strategic knowledge of our new role in the world.

Moro was assassinated and this destabilized our global military and economic security network, inductively leaked from the Red Brigades to our economic and non-economic competitors and enemies.

Hence it was the end of our “secret geopolitics”, as a result of Moro’s death, that stifled and blocked economic growth and our winning production formula.

And what about today?

If there is a ruling class not even understanding the geopolitics basics, this is exactly the current Italian ruling class.

We have sold everything just to make money and go back again into the eternal limbo of secular stagnation, which is a negative Kondratiev cycle for everyone, but especially for those who suffer it due to their competitors.

The entry into the Euro area, which had not to be taken for granted, was carried out by calculating the last six months of the Lira-German Mark ratio, a particularly good time for Italy.

As if, being sixty, we had to jump as in our prime.

No one said anything at the time.

It suited to Germany which, meanwhile, had become Italy’s global competitor. We could complain about it, but we did not.

Thatcher, Mitterrand and Kohl – constantly in touch with Cossiga – in fact accepted the German reunification just because they could take the German Mark hostage – as they had done with aspirin – and called it euro.

The statesmen of that Europe knew it perfectly, whereas our petty politicians take everything for granted. They are selected only for their appearing on TV and are now a prey to the lobbies’ money.

In fact, approximately 40 lobbies operate out in the open in Italy’s Parliament.

Obviously the First Republic’s ruling classes dealt with lobbies but, except for some rare cases, they were not influenced by them.

Too strong was the Party’s control for the worst to happen.

Now, after the ill-conceived privatizations – and that was the real reason for the shift from the First to the Second Republic – the State does no longer organize economic life and the results are before us to be seen.

Private individuals can never be farsighted and organize large companies for many years.

There is no capital, the business owner family is divided and the heirs are not up to expectations.

Pure liberalism and laissez-faire are good for small companies, while for the large and very large ones the State is needed, with its regulatory power, its wealth of capital and its professional managers.

Just as war is too serious a matter to be left to the military, the economy is too important a matter to be left only to capitalists.

Currently it is as if the memory of the First Republic’s geopolitics in a different context had remained, thus producing sometimes grotesque results.

A persisting “American myth”, while today the United States look well beyond Europe they now consider to be ruined, and thus a possible prey.

A sort of tender and comic loyalty to those who use the economic and strategic levers to eliminate us, such as the easy purchases of our companies and the failed economic expansion which, in fact, makes us others’ prey.

We have not even seized the Brexit opportunity.

We have not even our banks any longer. In the period of “Quantitative Easing” started by Mario Draghi, the Bank of Italy’s liabilities in the Euro system slumped: in September they fell to -354 billion euro.

We have no longer our banks – hence the transactions of the European monetary area penalize us, while capital is fleeing our country.

And when the European Quantitative Easing ends – much to Germans’ delight – what will happen to our funds and debt securities, which few actually want under the current conditions?

There is not even a sign that our ruling class has developed a few working assumptions, or at least leading us to think they know what is going on.

The underlying idea seems to be that everything is inevitable and dark, hence we might as well devote ourselves to Twitter, to the media, to appearances on some talk shows – in short, to the “image”, which seems to be particularly important for politicians’ popularity in today’s communication society.

Obviously we record booming foreign investment in small and medium-sized Italian companies – mostly minority shareholdings – but where are the profits going?

In the fashion world, the “Made in Italy” absolute model, the Arabs bought almost everything: Corneliani, Dainese, Tiffany and Gucci by Bahrain, while “Valentino” by Qatar. There are 15,800 French companies operating in Italy, not to mention banks: BNL-Paribas, Crédit Agricole, etc. In the energy sector EDF purchased Edison, but French companies also operate in the public transport sector in some Northern cities and in Tuscany.

Nothing wrong, in principle, but how do we respond to these attacks?

Are we doing at least the same? Not at all.

Currently the Italian penetration into the EU and US production systems is quite good, but not enough yet.

The level of our purchases “outside the area” is certainly not such as to equate what is lost.

According to my calculations, 24% of the total foreign acquisitions in Italy is operated by us externally.

Unicredit has a 9.7% Islamic shareholding, including the Emirates’ Abaar fund and LIA, the old Gaddafi’s bank, now disputed and contended by the two major factions.

The same holds true for BPM, with different percentages and with the agreement between Sanpaolo and Qatar’s National Bank.

Do you believe that all these large and politically significant bargains and business are governed by the relevant Italian authorities?

Not at all, there is only the naive myth of the self-regulating market.

I fear that this applies also to military security and intelligence – everyone can buy anything without the secret services being in a position to say “no”!

We all know that the Italian Stock Exchange is owned by the London Stock Exchange.

The corporate structure of the Italian Stock Exchange, however, also includes a bank from Dubai and another sovereign investment fund from Qatar.

Once again, power flows which operate without control, discernment and often even without most of the ruling class knowing about them.

Will this power structure have some impact on our policies in the Middle East? Will these capital dislocations influence our decisions?

Certainly so, but the flows must be controlled, otherwise they will govern and rule us.

The market is free, but the government has to manage and regulate it anyway.

Nations have not disappeared in the liquid world described by the all-too-famous sociologist Bauman. They have only been relocated. They do so every day, in a context in which there is a non-declared ongoing and creeping war.

It is the clash and confrontation between regions of the world, which occur in many concrete and abstract places.

In fact Europe is bound to lose and be broken up into areas – governments like it or not.

Hence the winner is whoever remains nation.The loser is broken up and becomes “liquid”.

The other pole is the United States, which will become increasingly autonomous and independent from the losing European Union.

In South America and Africa “bubbles” will materialize with homogeneous characteristics by production type, but they will change very quickly. The same will happen to Central and Southern Italy, which will be “attached” to North Africa up to becoming an economically and strategically homogeneous region.

Also Northern Italy, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia will tend to build a united bloc. Central Germany and France will still play the scene of Kerneuropa’s unity, while Scandinavia, the post-Soviet republics of the old Hanseatic League and the Netherlands will be integrated northwards.

Italy has lost – hence it will be divided, irrespective of laws or Regions.

With a view to further highlighting Italy’s crisis – the crisis of those who have definitely lost the globalization fight – we need to mention the young people leaving the country after graduating, or anyway “trying their luck” and looking for a land of opportunity elsewhere, now that Italy is at the core of all misfortunes.

A dead country cannot give hope to life, namely to young people.

Why should one stay in Italy without any prospects?

Nevertheless the State and families pay generously for youth education and the fruit of their children’s skills are used by other countries, which invested not even a euro in their education and training.

In 2015 the Italians who left the country to live abroad permanently were 107,529. Not all of them are enrolled in the Register of Italians Abroad (AIRE) – hence we may also assume they are twice that number.

36.7% of these 107,529 Italians are young people aged between 18 and 35, who moved to Germany as many of their grandparents had done several years ago, before our great post-war reform.

There is no German motorway or Alpine Swiss flyover not built with the hard work, tears and blood of our children from the South of Italy.

However, 69.2% of those who moved abroad, did so to Europe.

Hence it did not take much to keep them home – the homologies with our EU colleagues are still many.

On average, the college and university years cost 3,000 euro for those who remain at home and over 8,000-9,000 euro for the young people who move to other cities.

The calculation is easily made, considering that in 2014-2015 – the latest years for which data is available – the total number of registered university students is 270,145.

A huge mass of young people and investment that are destroyed in a closed circuit characterized by the death of any hope, slammed doors, underpaid jobs for which there was certainly no need to study, as well as a biological, affective and professional life – if any – which is fulfilled when it is too late.

It is not a problem of money, but rather the knell of any hope in Italy, that you can see in the eyes of the many young people who have excellent diplomas and degrees, which cannot be used to make the country grow and change. Young people who are trapped in a repetitive circle of life with only one thousand euro a month – if any – to survive.

Not to mention how this situation affects pension schemes, which now provide only pocket money for these young people.

A death spiral: young people cannot settle down and give birth to children – hence the State’s fiscal crisis worsens thus leading to ridiculous pensions.

How can a country survive in this way? How long can we still keep an advanced production system in place, when university students have decreased by 20% over the last decade and academics and experts – “les savants”, as Saint Simon called them – leave the country?

Darkness at noon for Italy, as when Jesus Christ died.

How many factories and companies have gone bankrupt, often as a result of oppressive taxation and baroque bureaucracy. How many entrepreneurs have killed themselves to avoid the stigma of bankruptcy – the same stigma of failure looming large over the many young people who cannot find a job?

How many chances of surviving has a country based on this equation: fewer companies, fewer workers, less-skilled jobs and much less generational turnover?

We recorded over 700 suicides for economic reasons.

44% of them were committed by entrepreneurs; 40% by unemployed people and 10.3% by employees.

In the first half of this year they are already 81 (+28%).

Currently Campania has replaced Veneto as the region most affected by this sad record – and we can easily imagine the many issues related to economic lawfulness.

However, the fact that businessmen sometimes attempt suicide or work on the verge of viability – by possibly paying workers and not taxes, otherwise they could not even survive – means only one thing.

It means that social processes are not governed and that they are not managed by efficient authorities. They are allowed to go away as productive “bubbles”, while they should be included in a program – also a public one – to regulate them.

We should never leave the development of the small companies in my beloved Veneto region at the mercy of the German or Austrian cycle fluctuations and, when the former Yugoslav republics are available, we should compete, organize new markets and improve technologies.

We should not let technology and crafts go to Northern Europe, where our models are copied and sold at a lower price.

Work must be protected – certainly in a new way compared to the old tariff barriers – but we can hardly believe that such a sensitive mechanism can be left in the hands of small business owners or their tiny banks.

It was said that the First Republic was suffering from “production gigantism”, but the incompetent Second Republic is floundering in a phase of obsessive dwarfism and, sometimes, narrow-mindedness.

Our large companies – the few ones which have survived – are those who were born as small ones during the First Republic and that – sensitive to international laws and above all to the national interest – we have protected, nurtured, sometimes rescued and often funded.

There is no economy without national planning, especially now that all productive systems compete at the same time in the world.

In fact, when I look to the industrial policy of the latest Italian governments, I just become speechless.

The crisis always kills the smallest companies and Italy is a country that structurally does not protect its SMEs.

Renzi’s government has not even rescued one single small company and it has not implemented any policy to create others.

Scarce tax relief and no bureaucratic streamlining and simplification for the 5,332 new small technology companies set up between 2013 and 2015 while, over the same period, 1,127,167 traditional companies were registered as “new”, of which only 51% are real enterprises, but a mere 4% was created to develop an innovative idea.

Hence this is Italy’s new disastrous geopolitical equation: a few firms, that are still decreasing in number, of which very few ones develop innovation; falling domestic demand and total workforce, while Italy’s economic and social fabric is deteriorating.

A hetero-directed country, without its own memory or culture, forced as any South American banana republic to follow the fads and diktats of those who are winning the ongoing daily war, which is the third world war.

A ridiculous ruling class that presents world leaders with football players’ jerseys and purrs and applauds those who mocks it. A country which pretends to be what it no longer is, namely a great industrial country, our old First World Manufacture.

A non-existent political culture – whereas it is precisely politics which is culture at its finest – while schools become indoctrination centres for the most foolish fads and myths.

A country which does not know that the old alliances are dead, and that it must look for new ones, eastwards, in China, in the new string of pearls of Xi Jinping’s “maritime Silk Road”, or in the new technology society, as done by Israel.

As Leo Longanesi brilliantly said, “the modern grows old and the old comes back into fashion”.

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. “

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An occasion for the EU to reaffirm its standing on Security policies and Human Rights

Nora Wolf

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The EU Commission Vice-PresidentMargaritis Shinas addressing the conference

Vice-President of the EU Commission Margaritis Shinas was a keynote speaker at this summer’s Diplomatic Conference in Vienna organised by the International Institute IFIMES, Media Platform Modern Diplomacy and their partners. High dignitary of the Commission seized the occasion to express the EU’s take on the 75th anniversary of victory over fascism, unfolding health crisis and to it related pressure on human and labour rights, as well as on the Union’s continued efforts towards remaining a ‘rock’ amid the volatile climate.

It is known by now – and acknowledged by the EU Commission VP – that the COVID-19 crisis has had some severe implications for Human Rights and, to a lesser extent, for cooperation outlooks. In the face of the first wave, countries in Europe and elsewhere have adopted different courses of actions in order to manage the health crisis and attempt at containing its threats. Placed in an unprecedented situation, governments have undoubtedly each reacted in ways they deemed most appropriate at the time.

However, the pandemic itself topped with the varied policies have caused notable restrictions on Human Rights. Most notoriously, the right to life and that to health have been challenged in extreme circumstances where, at the peak of the crisis, health institutions were so overflowed that the provision of maximal care to every single individual was compromised. The effective and equal access to healthcare has therefore quickly become a central preoccupation of many governments, drawing on some dramatic first-hand experiences.

On that, I will say that if the global health crisis has been a synonym for many negative impacts, it has also been a precious opportunity to rethink carefully the existing narrative of programmatic and progressive rights – such as the right to health – needing no immediate attention, nor realisation. This narrative held predominantly by some Western democracies ever since the adoption of the UN International Covenants, has been unduly weakening the universal and indivisible stance of Human Rights. Needless to say, in adhering to that dangerous narrative, planning for and prioritizing health access, resources and system capabilities is undermined. This, in turn, contributes to the difficult and insufficient responses of some governments that have been witnessed. May the victims of inadequate infrastructures due to an obsolete distinction between rights serve as a poignant reminder: social, cultural and economic rights need be readily available to all.

Equally interesting is the toll taken on a whole other range of Human Rights – an international system built up in last 75 years on the legacy of victory of antifascist forces in Europe and elsewhere. Numerous individual freedoms have also suffered limitations, often as a direct result of actions taken to promote and ensure the right to life and the right to health for the most vulnerable. Indeed, people’s freedom of movement, that of religion (external dimension), that of assembly and association, as well as their procedural rights – only to name a few – have all been greatly affected during the crisis.

Of course voices have raised their discontent at those restrictions put in place to mitigate the crisis, considered by many to be too incisive and too manifold when cumulated. But despite an apparent clash between two groups of interests protected by different rights, the resolution which has emerged from the approaches followed by most countries is very telling. In fact, a balancing exercise revealed that protecting the right to health and to life of the minority of people ought simply to be considered predominant in comparison to the other individual freedoms and rights of the majority. This reasoning, grounded in solidarity and the protection of minorities and vulnerable persons, is in fact very encouraging in an era of growing individualism combined with overwhelming challenges which will certainly require peoples to unite against them.

Nevertheless, this does not take away from the fact that the full and optimal enjoyment of Human Rights has generally been seriously affected as many interests have been caught in the crossfire of the fight against Coronavirus’ harmful effects. Moreover, the crisis has also created some divides amongst European countries. This is because the sanitary emergency has caused for precarious contexts of resources shortages and sometimes unfruitful cooperation, even shift in alliances.

This has naturally brought about separate criticisms and questioning of the EU cooperation strategy and security arrangements. In that sense, growing expectations are felt for the EU to uphold and promote its fundamental values including the rule of law, solidarity, non-discrimination and antifascist line.

Vice-PresidentSchinas is well aware of that reality and reiterates the EU’s unalterable commitment to peaceful cooperation, human dignity, liberty, equality and solidarity in these troubled times. He further ensures that the most recent security strategies led by the Union do not – and never will – eat away at the protection of fundamental rights. What is more, whilst the EU’s arrangements can be seen as slightly ‘under attack’ currently, the VP feels that rather than seeing this period as a high-stakes test on EU democracies it should be seen as an opportunity to take a bigger stand than ever for the European common values and call for strengthened multilateralism. This necessities constructive reciprocal and respectful active engagement with the EU Mediterranean and eastern European neighbourhood.

All that is because it is not too difficult to imagine that the aftermath of the C-19 crisis can open several paths of new dynamics in international relations. Yet, as it cannot be stressed enough, an upcoming change in the conception of relations between nations could be decisive for numerous other contemporary challenges – namely: migration crisis, armed conflicts, climate change. While one of the paths could consist in an increase in protectionism and nationalist attitudes, another one would involve, on the contrary, a shift towards reinforced cooperation and enhanced solidarity. The latter outward approach, advocated by the EU Vice-President and believed to be the best hope for the future, is one deeply enshrined in the antifascist legacy and the very raison d’être of the Union.

Above all, at the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the Victory Day, Excellency Schinas reminds us with much humbleness that the journey for safeguarding Human Rights is one that is perpetually underway.

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Metternich: The visionary reconstructor of Europe and champion of conservatism

Nikita Triandafillidis

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Klemens Von Metternich early life and orthodox ideas

Klemens Von Metternich was born on May 15, 1773, into the House of Metternich, a German noble family that originates from Rhineland. He was the son of a diplomat that had served at the Imperial court of Treves.

At the age of 15, he started studying law at the University of Strasbourg while getting more familiar with the concept of conservatism. In 1792 he was attending the University of Mainz, again at the faculty of law where his conservative ideas flourished, promoting traditional imperial institutions emphasizing the necessity of prosperity and stability in Europe.

Klemens Von Metternich is considered to be a controversial figure in international affairs due to his ideas of obstructionism, while some critics of him go as far as call him an enemy of freedom. He was a harsh critic of the French Revolution and its consequences and he dreaded the ideas of liberalism and nationalism that emerged after it.

On the other hand, he is praised for his vision of peace in Europe by holding on to the traditional monarchical systems that were the only way to establish peace and prosperity in his view. Thanks to Metternich, Europe established itself as a dominant economic and military power of the 19th century while reviving again the European values of stability and development for its European citizens.

The French Revolution

In 1789, amidst the French Revolution, Klemens Von Metternich expressed his dissatisfaction with the situation in France, calling the revolution a “hateful time” for Europe. His statements came when most of the French nobility was executed in France and there was a huge concern growing among the European powers that the situation would spread to the whole of Europe.

Soon enough, Metternich’s concerns turned out to be true, as France sunk into a period of political turmoil. In 1794, the king of France Louis the XVI was executed spreading chaos among the country. The so-called “Reign of Terror” was established where thousands of French citizens were executed.

The French Revolution brought out views and ideas of liberalism and nationalism that contradicted the traditional systems that ruled Europe. Metternich resented these ideas. He was more focused on the idea of the European Enlightenment. He understood clearly that to provide tranquility and stability in Europe, certain fundamental laws needed to be established for Europe to function properly.

He pointed out that aspects of religion and morality should be the primary necessities to co-govern with natural laws. His ideal system for Europe was a monarchical system that would co-share power with other classes of European society. Metternich’s goal was to prevent any further revolutions and uprisings in Europe, however, his plan was briefly jeopardized by the man that threatened to destroy everything he believed in.

Napoleon Bonaparte: Metternich’s political nemesis

Napoleon Bonaparte, France’s most prestigious general at that time, re-emerged as France’s savior promising to save the French revolution and ending France’s political turmoil. In 1804, Napoleon became the emperor of France. However, he was never recognized by any monarch in Europe.

The Great Powers of Europe, fearing that the effects of the French Revolution will backfire to them, decided to invade France and restore the reign of King Louis XVI. However, this act gave justification to Napoleon to declare war on the European powers by proclaiming that this was just a defensive measure to preserve the French Revolution.

At first, Metternich viewed Napoleon with great interest, mentioning that he was the only one capable of providing discipline to a troubled France. An extraordinary man with practical knowledge about the common life of the citizens. However, his praise came with some precautions about Napoleon. He thought that he was a very practical and strong man but only if he was born in a different age. He did not find his abilities suitable for the age they were in.

Metternich was appointed as the Austrian Ambassador in France in 1806. By that time Napoleon had managed to defeat Spain, Prussia, and Austria making his advances to the Russian Empire. It was at that point that Metternich decided to use his diplomatic skills to keep Austria “breathing” long enough until Napoleon would be dethroned. His plans accelerated when he became Austria’s Foreign Minister in 1809.

At the same year he became a Foreign Minister, Metternich decided to show his diplomatic skills by arranging the marriage of Napoleon with Marie Louise the daughter of the Austrian Emperor, Francis I. With this maneuver, he managed to convince Napoleon that Austria would be a close ally of him, while in reality, he was just buying time for Austria and the remaining great powers to come up with a plan to dethrone Napoleon. He didn’t have to wait long.

In 1812, Napoleon marched towards Russia. Certain for his victory, a naive Napoleon did not see how big of an obstacle Russia would be. While advancing to Moscow he captured an empty city that was set on fire, while the Russians retreated to the east. With his lines of supply being cut off and a devastating Russian winter approaching them, Napoleon decided to retreat, looking for gold at the surrender of Russia but receiving only copper.

In the meantime, Metternich put his plan on the motion. With Napoleon’s army retreating and being chased by the Russians, he convinced the remaining Great Powers to give a devastating blow to Napoleon. In 1813, Napoleon was defeated in Leipzig by the armies of Russia, England, Prussia, and Austria. Napoleon was imprisoned at the island of Elbe in the Mediterranean Sea. However, he managed to escape and rallied up soldiers that were loyal to him but again he was defeated for a second time in 1815, in the famous battle of Waterloo in Belgium. Metternich was crowded as a hereditary Prince of the Austrian Empire. The only man that stood against his ideal formation of Europe was defeated.

The Vienna Congress

The year 1815, saw Metternich at the peak of his power. He had become a key figure in the plan to dethrone Napoleon, with his excellent diplomatic skills and his determination to steer Europe into the path of stability where Kings governed and people were governed. At the Congress, he made his points very clear for the beginning. He believed that the only way to ensure peace in the continent was to bring the Great powers together so that they could prevent any large European War to escalate again.

Metternich’s policies were based on two principles. One being the protection of historical traditional institutes such as the Church, the dynastic monarchies, and the essence of aristocratic privilege and the second was the establishment of a new vision of international balance in the continent of Europe. Instead of punishing France for the Napoleonic wars, he suggested including them in the table. With that move Metternich showed his true European face, putting the future of his continent above any nationalist notions.

The success of the Congress was inevitable. While including France at the Council of the Great Powers, Europe started to become more stable. The Council that included England, Russia, France, Austria, and Prussia agreed to prevent any further revolutions and political uprising in Europe. All the disputes between the powers were resolved with diplomacy which gave them all leverage to re-organize Central Europe in a more simple way to avoid any internal intense rivalries.

Contributions to Europe and modern diplomacy

Klemens Von Metternich was viewed by many people as a great man and a true European citizen who managed to sustain a united European front for almost 100 years. Despite some minor uprising after the Vienna Congress, Metternich was a solid diplomat whose vision about Europe became a reality.

However, he is also viewed as an oppressor of freedom. His despise for liberal and nationalist movements made him an “enemy” of the common people. What Metternich was more afraid of about these movements was the potential disruption inside the Austrian Empire that was made up by a multinational coalition of 11 nations. He did not want to see the Empire being torn apart. He went as far as suppressing any suspicious uprisings in Germany where there was a lot of revolutionary activity, by censoring books and newspapers and installing secret police spies that would infiltrate universities to arrest any suspected revolutionaries.

On one hand, he has been a symbol of oppression but that is not a judgment that represents him. He was a great man and a man with a vision for Europe. Numerous times he mentioned that he felt more European than Austrian, putting the needs of Europe above the nation. In his memoirs, he wrote about the unfair judgment that he received but also mentioned how wrong those people were. “Old Europe is at the beginning of the end and new Europe has not yet begun its existence, and between the end and the beginning, there will be chaos. In a hundred years, historians will judge me quite differently than do all those who pass judgment on me today.”

Indeed, 100 years later historians acknowledged the wisdom and the vision of Klemens Von Metternich. After the devastating consequences of WWI and WWII, his diplomatic ideas that kept Europe at peace were missed and Europe realized that the failed liberal system will open the door to a nationalist and fascist system that will doom the whole continent.

History tends to repeat itself and while our world is more connected now and more liberal the shadows of nationalist far-right movements lure Europe. This aspect, combined with failed liberal policies result in dissatisfaction of the masses and without order, chaos would erupt as it did hundreds of years ago. Metternich’s contributions to modern diplomacy and the history of Europe are remarkable. His ideas flourished after WWII with the creation of the European Union, a system that might not share the same conservative ideas as he did, but surely contributed to the prosperity of the continent.

His ideas of European stability and control of power are more relevant now with the new crisis that the EU is facingand soon enough the European Union will have to rethink Metternich’s ideas for the neo-liberal system to survive, otherwise, there will be only room for nationalistic far-right movements that threaten the dream of the EU by returning to failed protectionism measures and policies.

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Europe

Democratic Backsliding in the Visegrad Four: Examining the Illiberal Turn

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The initial years of the post-communist era reflected a promising beginning of the consolidation of democracy in the Visegrad Four countries. Slovakia, the only exception to this regional trend of democratic consolidation under Mečiarism, also showed signs of successful transition with the revival of democracy after the 1998 elections. However, in the last few years, with the rise of eurosceptics, ultra-nationalists and populists, the democratic model has been facing grave challenges in these countries. Besides attacking the opposition, students’ organisations and NGOs,  the conservative leadership in these countries, have also passed regressive reforms in media, constitution, as well as the judiciary. These attacks and reforms are aimed at strengthening the power of eurosceptic populist leaders, and thereby reducing any chances of Eurocentric opposition in the future. But why, despite initial years of promising success, democratic consolidation failed in the V4 countries? This essay argues that the challenges to the democratic consolidation in these post-communist countries have been a result of myriad local, national and international factors at economic, political and social levels.

Primarily, the membership in the EU, which was a major foreign policy objective of the new political elite post-1989, had raised numerous expectations among the citizens in these countries. But after the EU membership in May 2004, when those expectations still seemed a distant dream for the citizens in these countries, the disappointment with the EU membership’s promises rose throughout the region. This disappointment soon became a fertile ground on which the conservative section of the political elite mobilised their support, which became evident with the victory of nationalistic and eurosceptic parties throughout the region.

This discontentment with the Western European model was made further worse by the economic crises of 2008-9 and the subsequent Euro debt crisis of 2011. Contrary to expectations that the EU membership will be a guarantor of economic prosperity and improved standards of living, the V4 countries had to suffer immensely as a result of these crises which primarily resulted because of the loopholes in other countries. Furthermore, the subsequent burden of reforms with adoption of EU’s austerity policies aimed at stabilising the European économies post-crises, also proved costly for these countries, and hence furthered their apathy towards the integrationist model of Brussels.

Post 2015, the Refugee Crisis, resulting due to the massive influx of illegal migrants into Europe from politically unstable areas of the Middle East, North Africa and Asia, further fuelled the simmering anti-EU attitudes among the V4 countries. Though only Hungary was directly affected by the wave of these migrants, all V4 countries reflected a response which was reminiscent of classical xenophobia and exclusive nationalism. Despite these countries officially voting against Brussels’ proposal of obligatory refugee quotas, and opposing the financial aid given to Turkey following EU-Turkey deal to stop refugees from entering the EU, the conservative media and politicians in these countries left no stone unturned to show a face of refugees that immediately mobilised the people to vote populist demagogues to power at the cost of ruling out the Eurocentric federalists.

Finally, another important, and often overlooked reason for the failed democratic consolidation in the V4 countries has been their lack of historical experience with democracy. As a result of this lacked democratic experience, people in these countries failed to develop a democratic culture in a few decades post-1989, and instead found it easy to turn back to their familiar models.

However, despite all the gloomy prospects of democratic consolidation in the V4 countries, the region is not the only aberration. The rise of Euroscepticism, nationalism, and populism has been on the rise throughout the continent, which became evident with Brexit and the rise of conservative parties, like National Front and Alternative for Germany, among others. Therefore, it is imperative for the EU that these occasional setbacks in few countries must not hinder its vision of greater European integration. Because, any void created by declining role of Brussels in the Visegrad region will immediately be filled by Russia, which is craving to regain its influence in its ‘near-abroad.’

Moreover, the recent experiences from Afghanistan, Libya, Algeria and elsewhere, also made it clear that the quick imposition of the democratic model is not the universal solution for discrete problems across the world. The fact that the evolution of democracy took centuries of deliberate transformations, and occasional violent conflicts, in England, France, USA and elsewhere, must be kept in mind while assessing the democratic consolidation in any part of the world. Expecting successful transition and consolidation of democracy in the V4 countries, without keeping in mind that it has been only a few decades since these countries embarked on this painful transition, is in itself problematic.

Nonetheless, the post-1989 transition has also successfully contributed to transforming a considerable section of the population in these countries, who now show major disliking towards any non-democratic model. Therefore, even if the current situation of the V4is not a pleasant one, the big picture coming post-1989 is a reflection of a successful break with the ‘Other’ past.

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