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To be veiled or not to be veiled?

Georgia N. Gleoudi

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2016 was one of the bloodiest years in the recent history of Europe. European states increased their security measures in order to prevent and protect their peoples from Islamic terrorists and Islamic extremism. Europe and West found a new phenomenon without precedent and now they are called to battle with it.

However, the real nightmare is not the constant fear of terrorists but the rising fear of our Muslim neighbor. How many times have you suspiciously watched a Muslim imam during the boarding time of your flight? How many times have you felt in sorrow or in anxiety about a Muslim woman wearing a niqab? How many times have you found yourself thinking that all women in Muslim countries get married before their teens or that all men beat their wives? Religion has started to set boundaries, bridge walls and bring hostile feelings into the surface: hostile feelings against our religious and cultural “unknown”.

Living permanently in Greece, I came face to face with the refugee crisis. Greece had to deal with thousands of Syrians coming from a different cultural, political and religious background. This was the breaking point where we understood the impact and the power of the Greek Orthodox Church in the Greek political and social life. First of all, in order to understand all these facts, I should mention the privileged position of the Church in the Greek Constitution. According to the Article 3, which governs the relations between the State and the Greek Orthodox Church, of the Greek Constitution (1986), the Greek Orthodoxy is the prevailing religion and the Greek Orthodox Church has the full autonomy to run all the operations related to the religious affairs. The Greek Orthodox dealt with the refugee and migrant crisis in really bad terms. Many bishops referred to them as a miasma for the Greek society and a crusade against them has to be started in order not to let them convert Christians into Islam. In September 2016, when the first refugee children would go the Greek primary schools, some Church’s representatives condemned this action and put the blame on the State that these children should not sit next to the Greek young generation. The ex-Minister of Education, Mr. Nikos Filis made an effort to change thecourse of religion in High Schools and introduce the course of World religions. The reaction of the Church led to replacement from another Minister who would follow the instructions of religious leaders and would maintain the course in the form of indoctrination as it is since the late ’50s. The specific form of the course puts in the margin, students from different religions, humanists or atheists and does not provide an inclusive school community.

Moreover, Greece is one of the countries that have not yet built a mosque for the Muslim communities. Muslim communities gather and pray in their own apartments or basements which serve religious purposes. The building of a mosque is one of the most problematic debates in Greece, especially after the pressure by the Turkish government in order to reopen the Theological School of Halki (closed since 1971).

As I already mentioned, both secular and less secular states of Europe such as Greece, are called to deal with problems and difficulties arising from religions and their embodiment in the field of politics and of human rights. This paper is going to discuss some of the most alarming issues in the current public debate related to religious expression. A special emphasis will be put on the relations between Islam and Christianity.

This article is divided in the following parts: The first part is going to examine the secular character of Europe and its challenges and consequences in a multireligious society. The second part is going to examine the issue of Muslim women veil and its ban from National Laws as well as women rights in both Muslim and Christian communities. Both primary sources and secondary sources have been selected in order to investigate the issues from various perspectives. A special attention has been paid on the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights on cases related to freedom of religion and freedom of expression.

A Secular Europe

According to the study of Pew Research Center which was conducted in 2010, Europe counted 550, 2 millions of Christians, 139,9million Non-religious and 43,3million Muslims. The prevailing religion in every single country in Europe was Christianity except for Estonia and Czech Republic where the majority of population was non-religious (59.6 % and 76.4 % respectively). Only in Albania, Islam is the prevailing religion counting 80.3% of the population. Following this study, in 2015, European Commission conducted a research related to values and European spirit. For Europeans, the most important things are the human rights, peace, life respect, individual rights and religion. Instead, they believe that the followings things represent most European Union and are less important for them: respect for other cultures, Law of the State (l’ état de droit) and democracy.

What is secularism and secular identity?

According to Casanova, secularization of Europe is an undeniable social fact. Religion does not play a key role in the fate of people and a new social model emerged in the recent decades of European history. According to Ferrari, secularization is the process where decisions affecting politics, law and economics must be based on reason, not on the faith of one or other citizen. The private and the public life are completely separated. In the era of secularization, religion belongs to the sphere of private life and public life has no room for religious affairs. Taking into account the flux of foreign minorities in Europe which carried with them new cultures and religions, secularism was the ideal solution to create inclusive societies without discrimination on the grounds of those cultural elements. To prevent the danger of a clash and to ensure the equal treatment of all religions, it is essential to ground the public sphere on a principle that is universal and neutral and therefore capable of being accepted by all people regardless of their religion: this principle is human reason. Consequently, Church and State are two different entities with different goals and different means which sometimes may cooperate for the social and common good.

Secularization has been a new and universal concept which according to Weber is a unique feature of European thought. But how has secularization emerged and prevailed in European societies? According to Linda Woodhead, there have been numerous social and political changes which favored the emergence of secularism after the 1970’s. First of all, individual rights gained ground and people determined their lives as they wished without letting anyone get involved in their decisions. Other changes such as late capitalism and consumer capitalism, tertiary knowledge open to large part of people, urbanization, globalization of economy in the post-colonial era, welleducated and skillful young people from all the social classes, women rights and women emancipation, sexual revolution and feminist movements, political emancipation constituted the fertile ground where secularism built its own building. Linda Woodhead offers two definitions for secularization. The first one is the social secularization which is the process whereby religion loses its power and influence over and within society while personal secularization has to do with the decline of individual allegiance and commitment to religion. State marginalized Church in Western states but still lays on its support in cases of emergency. Church still has impact on many people lives and its messages are strong enough even if many people decide not to follow strictly these guidelines and instructions.

A secular Christian identity

Someone would wonder how European and enlightened, secular societies are compatible with the rates of the study by Pew Research center where the majority identify themselves as Christian. As Casanova mentions, large numbers of Europeans even in the most secular countries still identify themselves as “Christian”, pointing to an implicit, diffused and submerged Christian cultural identity. According to Casanova, “secular” and “Christian” identities are intertwined in complex and rarely verbalized modes among most Europeans. However, scholars coming from different backgrounds, support the view that European secularism is selectively secular and is more friendly towards Christianity and less tolerant towards other religions and especially Islam. According to them, European secularism is a result of Christian cultural identity which still applies its standards and ignores other cultures and religions. Ferrari mentions related to that view that this secularism is double-standard secularism where the conditions of access to the secular public sphere, apparently the same for all religions, are actually more demanding for non-Christians religions whose doctrinal and organizational characteristics are less compatible with the secular profile that distinguishes the public sphere. The secular character of the current European societies has a lot been under doubt by the leaders of the Church and of various religions. The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in his message towards the “Le Parti Populaire Européen” for its 21st Congress writes “ The history of Europe which contains some common features has been abandoned by modernity. We have to take into consideration the religious dimension if we want cohesion…and this is why our Church and PPE have started a fertile dialogue since 1995”.

Le Foulard Islamique and Women rights in Christianity & Islam

During summer 2016, mainstream and social media were full of images from arrests of Muslim women wearing burkini in French beaches. Burkini is officially banned by French Law and these arrests generated a wave of protests by human rights activists and Muslims all over the world. These protests had to do with the freedom of expression of Muslim women and Muslims in general and if finally the French secular state treats equally everybody without discrimination. On the other side, secularists talked about respect to the secular state of France and its laws of forbidding ostentious religious symbols.

France is the first European secular state where the State and Religion were separated and where the neutrality (Laïcité) of the State towards religion was applied. The Government passed the Law of 9 December 1905, installing in France a regime of Separation of Church and State which remains the current regime. The State must provide to everyone the possibility of attending at the ceremonies of his Church and of being instructed in the beliefs proper to his chosen religion. Equality between the various religions implies that there is no state religion, no “official” or dominant religion, no recognized Churches..No religion has a particular public status. Toleration must be extended to all religions, and even to unbelief. What is more, the church must be subject to political control.

These values have been reflected also on the European Convention of Human Rights and especially on the Article 9, paragraph 1 which protects the freedom of religion. The second paragraph sets the limits between the public and the private sphere where religion belongs Article 9 (2) allows governments to limit “manifestations” of religion or belief, albeit “only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or the protection of the rights and freedom of others” The wearing of veil brought initially in France a clash of cultures and traditions. As Ferrari writes, “On the one hand, immigration have brought into Europe an increasing number of people who follow religions that are not traditional in the Old continent (in particular, Islam): on the other hand an increasing number of citizens claim the right to follow publicly the tenets of their religion in matter of dress codes, gender relations, family law and so forth, and this is outside the private domain to which religion had been confined.

The veil of Muslim women reflected a symbol of oppression in European secular societies and lack of human rights. In 2004, the French National Assembly passed a legislation which makes it illegal for Muslim women to wear headscarves within French public schools. To be precise the legislation refers to the banning of ostentatious religious symbols within the secular domain of the public school system. The Jewish kippa (yarmulke) as well as “oversize” crosses are prohibited with the Muslim headscarf.The ultimate objective was the complete assimilation of these religious groups to the French values and principles and the creation of a more cohesive and inclusive society. The scarf only gradually became a charged political symbol of the presence of Islam in France. The beginning was made in 1989 where a principal in secondary school in Creil (a suburb in Paris) expelled three girls because they wore the headscarf. After this, a series of social battles in favor of the scarf or against the scarf was followed for many years. Cultural differences were brought into the surface. Muslim women who wear a hijab often being represented as agents of “fundamentalism” or “terrorism” and as indicators of the inassimilable nature of Muslims in Europe. On the one hand, people defended the cultural and religious traditions and the freedom of religious expression and on the other hand, people defended the secular values, the place of religion in the private sphere, the freedom of Muslim women from oppression, violence and patriarchal structures. Each side accused the other of ignorance or xenophobia but both sides defended human rights from a different perspective.

But what Muslim women say about this? Islam as every religion is internally diverse and has many branches with different views, more or less strict, towards human rights and women rights. In the study of Sara Silvestri, 132 Muslim women living in European countries took part in order to reach some conclusions regarding how they embody their Islamic tradition in their daily lives. Young generations are eager to access Islamic knowledge, to intellectually, spiritually and critically “own” their religion. Many women seek personal empowerment through close and conscious adherence to religious performance, by studying the Quran and Arabic independently, by attending lectures, by becoming able to challenge tradition and to dispute male leadership from within. Also, many women reject the male dominant and traditional forms of Islam and stop belonging to institutions and conservative communities. Consequently, they live their own spirituality in their own unique way even when they do not follow religious practices (non organized Islam). In the study of Nadia Jeldtoft, where she interviews people who do not belong to organized Islam, she states “ The practices have been adapted to fit into everyday life. They are spiritual because they provide interviewees with a space of their own to practice Islam on their own terms.” As Jeldtoft mentions, the nature of this form of religion is private and internalized with an individual approach. Many Muslim women believe that headscarf is a symbol of universal values and modesty and they feel better wearing it and not oppressed.

It is of crucial importance to make a short comparison with the liberty that women enjoy in Christianity. Europe has its roots in Catholicism and later some countries were led by Lutheranism and Protestantism. After the Early Christianity, the position of women got deteriorated and they became objects under the ownership of their family male members or second class citizens. Lutheranism place the male in the position of everybody’s master (paterfamilias) and women were confined in the domestic sphere with no public speech or influence. A new model of civic order where women were excluded, was promoted by Lutheran theology. Apart from their marginal role as care takers of their family, women also were depicted as devils who try to bring troubles (witch hunting).

After many centuries, women started playing a more crucial role in the Church and its operations. In a money based economy, men were absolutely interested in the profit making and women took care of charity affairs. In the last decades, modernity paved the way for Christianity. Its traditional and conservative methods were not tolerant by young people and radical measures should be taken in order to find an effective balance. Female autonomy led to the first steps for the change in the traditional typology of gender models in Christianity. In November 2016, Pope Francis extended power to priests to forgive abortion. This is the next big step of Roman Catholicism to the female reproductive autonomy which was unconceivable some years ago. Female reproductive autonomy was established as a human right in international law by the Convention of the Elimination all Forms of Discrimination against women, in force since 1981 ratified by 168 states. The Holy See, along with eight Muslim States has not signed this Convention, nor the 1952 Convention on the Political Rights of Women.

Georgia Gleoudi is a graduate of "MA in Religious Roots in Europe: in Lund University and has a BA in International Relations and European Studies from Panteion University, Athens. She is interested in Religion and State relations, faith - based diplomacy and intercultural relations

Europe

The Rabidly Hypocritical EU

Eric Zuesse

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Unlike America under Donald Trump, who is proudly psychopathic and went so far as to blurt out that his followers would accept his leadership even if he were to shoot someone on Fifth Avenue, the European Union is so rabidly hypocritical (Trump would probably call it “politically correct”) that its leaders routinely moralize about ‘human rights and democracy’ even while their governments indiscriminately rob and slaughter people in foreign lands (as will be documented here). EU leaders assist U.S.-led atrocities while using prettier language to describe their alleged motivation for these policies. Though the U.S. Government also occasionally employs such verbal sucker-punches (insincere or “politically correct” rhetoric), such moralizing is now the exception for the U.S. Government, and is no longer (as it had been under the immediately prior U.S. President, Barack Obama) the routine American practice — very much like the EU’s was, and still remains: such ‘idealistic’ hypocrisy.

But even Obama wasn’t as hypocritical as EU leaders still are. The biggest difference between the U.S. and the EU is that, whereas even under America’s Nobel-Peace-Prize-winning (and continuing to be predominantly sanctified) President Obama (the invader of Libya, Syria, Yemen, and more), America’s head-of-state repeatedly said that America is “the one indispensable nation” — meaning that all other nations are “dispensable.” By contrast, there is no EU leader, and not even any European head-of-state, who says, in the modern era, anything of the sort. Adolf Hitler infamously did it when reasserting “Deutschland über alles!” (i.e, that Germany is the one indispensable nation). But modern Europe’s leaders know better than to copy such rhetoric. (Trump’s version, of course, is “America first,” but this can mean many different things, and not only  mean that “America is the one indispensable nation.” Obama’s version was far less ambiguous than Trump’s is, because Obama’s clearly means that every other  nation is “dispensable,” and that only America is not. And, yet, still, Europe’s leaders accepted  it — they accepted  that their  nations were and are “dispensable.” After all: they are vassals.) 

America’s leaders are simply more honest about their psychopathy than modern Europe’s are. In fact, ever since at least the time of Ronald Reagan’s Presidency, “Greed is good” has been America’s unofficial, but clearly dominant, political philosophy — virtually the official American philosophy. How many European nations today publicly and proudly assert anything like that? Do any?

A recent example of the EU’s hyper-hypocrisy was headlined at the far-right UAWire Ukrainian news-site on March 31st, “EU urges Russia to stop attacks on Crimean Tatars”, which reported that, 

The EU decisively condemns the arrest of 23 Crimean Tatars in police raids by the Russian occupation authorities in Crimea on 27 and 28 March, said EU Spokesperson for EU Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Maja Kocijancic in a statement.

“A court in the Crimean peninsula, illegally annexed from Ukraine by Russia, has ruled that all 23 Crimean Tatars detained on 27 March and 28 March will be held in pre-trial detention until 15 May. They are accused of belonging to the organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir, which is banned in Russia but not in Ukraine. The European Union does not recognise the enforcement of Russian legislation in Crimea and Sevastopol and expects all illegally detained Ukrainians to be released without delay,” Kocijancic stated.

“The recent detentions, as well as the prior searches of their private property, constitute the latest targeting of Crimean Tatars, human rights defenders, and people who have spoken out peacefully against the illegal annexation by Russia of the Crimean peninsula,” the EU spokesperson stressed. …

Here is what Wikipedia says about that banned-by-Russia group:

Hizb ut-Tahrir (Arabic: حزب التحرير) (Translation: Party of Liberation) is an international, pan-Islamist political organisation, which describes its ideology as Islam, and its aim as the re-establishment of the Islamic Khilafah (Caliphate) to resume the Islamic way of life in the Muslim world. The caliphate would unite the Muslim community (Ummah)[4] upon their Islamic creed and implement the Shariah, so as to then carry the proselytising of Islam to the rest of the world.[5] …

Hizb ut-Tahrir has been banned in countries such as Germany, Russia, China, Egypt, Turkey,[14] and all Arab countries except Lebanon, Yemen, and the UAE.[15][16] In July 2017, the Indonesian government formally revoked Hizbut ut-Tahrir’s charter, citing incompatibility with government regulations on extremism and national ideology.[17] …

They declare the necessity of jihad so that Da’wah will be carried “to all mankind” and will “bring them into the Khilafah state,” and the importance of declaring “Jihad against the Kuffar without any lenience or hesitation;” (Ummah’s Charter),[97][117] as well as the need to fight unbelievers who refuse to be ruled by Islam, even if they pay tribute (The Islamic Personality).[97][118]

Do Europeans really want people such as this to be increasing in the EU? The Ukrainian regime that Obama had installed in February 2014 thinks it’s fine, but do Europeans, really? Obama had fooled Russia’s Government, at least until his 2012 re-election, to think that he wasn’t aiming like all his predecessors since at least the time of Reagan were aiming — for the U.S. Government ultimately to conquer and absorb Russia into the steadily growing U.S. empire — but after the bloody U.S. coup right on Russia’s doorstep in Ukraine in 2014, the EU has been clearly the U.S. regime’s vassal in this conquer-Russia enterprise — participating in it, though reluctantly.

The EU’s leadership has consistently been working in secret to assist jihadists — mass-murderers and terrorists — whenever jihadists are fighting in the U.S.-led international war against Russia and against any nation whose leadership (such as Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, Viktor Yanukovych, and Nicolas Maduro) are either allied with or even just friendly toward Russia. Syria, and its President, Bashar al-Assad, constitute one particular example of this EU hypocrisy. 

Here are examples of this U.S.-EU support for jihadists that are trying to overthrow a Russia-friendly government:

On 10 December 2012, AFP bannered “Jihadists seize key north Syria army base”, and reported that, “Jihadists led by the radical Al-Nusra Front seized a strategic army base in the northern Syrian province of Aleppo on Monday, in a fresh setback for President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. … On the political front, the EU gave a vital boost to the newly-formed Syrian opposition coalition, describing it as the ‘legitimate representatives’ of the Syrian people following talks in Brussels with its leader Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib.” 

On that very same day, December 10th, Britain’s Telegraph headlined and sub-headed “Syrian rebels defy US and pledge allegiance to jihadi group: Rebel groups across Syria are defying the United States by pledging their allegiance to a group that Washington will designate today a terrorist organization for its alleged links to al-Qaeda.” That report opened: “A total of 29 opposition groups, including fighting ‘brigades’ and civilian committees, have signed a petition calling for mass demonstrations in support of Jabhat al-Nusra, an Islamist group which the White House believes is an offshoot of al-Qaeda in Iraq.” So: no one could reasonably doubt that America’s alleged ‘rebels’ in Syria were, in fact, loyal to al-Nusra. Yet, the EU and U.S. continued supporting them.

Also on that same day, Bill Roggio at Long War Journal bannered, “Al Nusrah Front, foreign jihadists seize key Syrian base in Aleppo”, and he reported that, “The Syrian government has warned that rebels may also use chemical weapons after the Al Nusrah Front took control of a chlorine factory in Aleppo last week. Islamists hold sway over new rebel military command.” So: it was already clear, even then, that the ‘rebels’ were interested in perpetrating against civilians a chemical-weapons attack that their supporters in the U.S. and EU could then blame against Syria’s Government as being an alleged reason to invade Syria by their own forces in order to ‘protect the Syrian people and establish democracy and human rights there’, or similar lies.

The next day, December 11th, Roggio reported that “The Al Nusrah Front has by far taken the lead among the jihadist groups in executing suicide and other complex attacks against the Syrian military. The terror group is known to conduct joint operations with other Syrian jihadist organizations.”

And, on the very next day, December 12th, Roggio headlined “Syrian National Coalition urges US to drop Al Nusrah terrorism designation”. Anyone who, after this, didn’t know that the U.S. and EU were supporting jihadists to take control over Syria, was very deceived, because the truth was now known, and was then being subsequently hidden from the public, by almost all of the subsequent ‘news’-reporting. But there were a few exceptions:

On 26 January 2013, Roggio reported that,

The Al Nusrah Front has now claimed credit for 46 of the 55 suicide attacks that have taken place in Syria since December 2011, according to a tally of the operations by The Long War Journal (note that multiple suicide bombers deployed in a single operaton are counted as part of a single attack).

Al Nusrah spearheads military assaults

Al Nusrah has also served as the vanguard for jihadist forces in the major attacks on Syrian military bases. In concert with allied jihadist groups such as the Ahrar al Sham, the Islamic Vanguard, Mujahedeen Shura Council, the Muhajireen Group, and Chechen fighters, the terror group has overrun three large Syrian installations since last fall. 

On 20 April 2013, Reuters headlined “Rebels battle with tribesmen over oil in Syria’s east” and reported that, “The EU said this week it wants to allow Syria’s opposition to sell crude in an effort to tilt the balance of power towards the rebels.” The EU supported and backed the ‘rebels’ seizure and black-market sale of whatever oil they could steal from Syria. This was the EU’s ‘humanitarianism’.

On 22 April 2013, the AP headlined “EU lifts Syria oil embargo to bolster rebels” and opened: “The European Union on Monday lifted its oil embargo on Syria to provide more economic support to the forces fighting to oust President Bashar Assad’s regime. The decision will allow for crude exports from rebel-held territory.”

On 1 May 2013, TIME bannered “Syria’s Opposition Hopes to Win the War by Selling Oil” and reported that, “Without an embargo, European companies can now legally begin importing barrels of oil directly from rebel groups, which have seized several oil fields in recent months, mostly around the eastern area of Deir Ezzor. That would provide the opposition with its first reliable source of income since the revolt erupted in Feb. 2011, and in theory hasten the downfall of Bashar Assad’s regime.” No mention was made, in any of this reporting, that this constituted aggression by the EU against the sovereign nation of Syria under the U.N.’s Charter and was therefore an international war-crime. The Western press didn’t care about such things — but only about ‘democracy’ and ‘human rights’ and other such billionaires’ bumper-stickers for suckers.

On 22 February 2019, one of the U.N.’s top experts on international law, Alfred de Zayas, was interviewed for a half hour on the ways in which America and its allies are blatantly violating international law by attempting a coup to overthrow Venezuela’s Government, and by going even further and imposing sanctions against Venezuela’s Government because it was resisting this (in effect) economic invasion-by-means-of-sanctions. The EU is one of these invading countries, but some of its constituent states oppose the U.S.-sponsored invasion. 

On 31 March 2019, I headlined “EU Joins NATO’s War Against Russia” and reported on the EU’s knee-jerk increase of economic sanctions against Russia as being the initial phase — the sanctions phase — of the U.S. regime’s wars to overthrow the leaders of nations that are friendly toward Russia (e.g., Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, Bashar al-Assad, Viktor Yanukovych, and now Nicolas Maduro), and now (ever since the 2012 Magnitsky Act sanctions fraud against Russia) increasingly to apply Washington’s economic sanctions against Russia itself. 

In international affairs, the EU therefore is clearly a stooge of the constantly aggressive U.S. regime.

After all, the U.S. regime had initiated and led the creation of the European Union. This scheme started as soon as FDR died and Harry S. Truman became America’s President. The death of FDR was also, in a sense, the death of any real democracy in the United States. Truman was forced onto the Democratic Party’s Presidential ticket in 1944 by the Democratic Party’s centi-millionaires against the will of FDR. Truman and Churchill started the Cold War, which increasingly became mass thought-control in America (culminating with Joseph R. McCarthy) and with the CIA’s operations Gladio in Europe and Mockingbird in the U.S. itself. First, NATO, and then the EU, were born as part of that secret U.S. strategy to conquer Russia even after the end of the U.S.S.R and of its communism and of its Warsaw Pact counterbalance to America’s NATO anti-Russian military alliance. Ever since that time (1991), America’s controlling owners of international corporations (our billionaires) have also controlled — via European nations’ own super-rich — first, Europe’s national Governments, and then the EU itself. It secretly remains true even after the 1991 end of the Cold War on Russia’s side. 

Consequently: when there’s a choice to be made between supporting jihadists (or other extremists such as — in Ukrainenazis) or else to side with Russia (or any nation that’s friendly toward Russia), the American team always back the jihadists or other extremists, and they say it’s being done ‘for human rights and democracy’ and other such hypocrisies, while they perpetrate actual war-crimes, and make fools of their own publics, in order ultimately to conquer Russia. That’s doing it the “diplomatic” way, and they don’t like Trump’s doing it the “Greed is good” way. The directness of his greed makes themselves look bad. That’s why these super-hypocrites preferred Obama.

Author’s note: first posted at strategic-culture.org

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Europe

Why Italy Needs to Enhance Its Strategic Vision

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Modern Diplomacy meets the Italian Undersecretary for Defense Raffaele Volpi. Mr. Volpi, a senior official of the ruling Italian party “Lega”, is an authoritative voice inside the party and is highly respected by its Leader, Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini.

In this brief conversation, we will talk about the future challenges that the Italian Armed Forces will have to face in the near future, the political and industrial effects on defense stemming from the Franco-German Treaty of Aachen, and concluding with reasons why Italy needs a strong strategic system that supports its key defense industries.

What are the financial challenges that the Italian armed forces will have to face in order to maintain their efficiency and advanced operations?

The operational capacity of the Armed Forces must inevitably be linked to what are strategic choices. Today, no country can think of doing everything, except perhaps the three major global powers of the United States, China, and Russia. Therefore, each country must have the opportunity, together with allies, to choose what its key strategic missions are and allocate its resources accordingly.

Making this more difficult is that no mission is the same: obviously, capacity on preserving and security national territory must remain primary. So, the bigger question remains in terms of choosing what other perspectives do we need to focus on and how do we link these choices back to the main objective, which is ultimately about how to positively and productively project our power. One must know how to choose and it is not simply a financial issue.

Let me give an example: there is a huge demand from the international community for a renewed commitment from Italy in the Mediterranean. Well, looking at the Mediterranean and the northern part of the African continent means choosing how we want to be present in the area in an intelligent and strategic way. This is not a talk about war: we are talking about power projection. Therefore, resource acquisition and allocation is key. Surely, as in all countries, resources are infinite or limitless. Therefore, very careful planning must be done: we must move beyond mere posturing, as we tend to say in diplomacy, and move on to mutual respect. We must make strategic, even geo-strategic, choices that align to effective programming.

Do you look favorably upon the development of a common European defense? If so, what role will Italy have to play, taking into account the French power of nuclear deterrence and the signing of the French-German Treaty of Aachen?

A common defense is an interesting idea. It is part of amore complex idea that can be called Euro-Atlantic, which would be a capable, strong, and authoritative Europe within a greater Atlantic Alliance. Europe needs to understand what it wants to become at a strategic level, looking both historically at organizations like NATO, which looks mainly toward Russia as the primary challenge, and how NATO itself has recognized the need to look beyond Russia, towards a southern front. This is the new front of concern for the Mediterranean, both from an ISIS standpoint and other extremist groups and also in terms of problematic immigration/refugee challenges.

The idea of Europe at this time needs to definitely be rebuilt, with the treaty of Aachen revealing the possibility of introducing the nuclear element. I do not have the impression that France and Germany are becoming closer friends. Ironically, this is shown by the need to make a treaty every few years. Behind this constant treaty-making is also the conditioning to think about the US commitment in Europe, especially on the issue of a nuclear umbrella. From the Obama administration to present day, there has been the strategic retreat of the United States, at least in concept if not yet fully implemented, from many international commitments.

Personally, I have as a secondary thought that this French-German agreement in Aachen also serves to guarantee its own possible nuclear coverage. I think the United States will not leave Europe because the alliance is too strategic for it, and not just from a military point of view. There is, however, an important aspect that France and Germany, regardless of any treaty, are already doing when it comes to their philosophy about a common defense and the joint defense project that is the construction of a common military tank. If Europe wants to be authoritative, then it must make decisions that lead to a more definitive foreign policy. We must have more aligned common goals, both diplomatically and militarily.

From an industrial point of view, what effects will this Franco-German understanding have on Italy’s defense industry?

There are difficulties in other countries. For example, Germany has an internal difficulty in having strong investments in defense, especially when they are juxtaposed against the new political and social composition of the country.Thus, concerns and perceptions can never be purely or exclusively focused on industrial development. The world of defense, not only in Europe but on a global level, is a very competitive world. It is a world that cannot be read in newspapers where, for example, two companies from different countries are allied to bring a product forward in one country smoothly while in other situations these companies and countries are competitors.

Ours is a country that ranks seventh overall in size of defense industry, so we have a capacity that derives from two factors:

First, is our talented and highly-skilled defense workforce, our people, that are incomparable. Unlike technology that can be copied, knowing how to work effectively, THIS cannot be copied.

Second, is our huge technological capacity. We have national champions that are not necessarily the largest companies, but are small and medium-sized companies that develop excellent products and are in demand all over the world.

Creating a more cohesive European defense industry could enable us to be more competitive. But I believe that this is not the chief problem. Our problem is different. Italy needs a defense system that is strong and coordinated, which focuses above all on the information communication/technology part. This brings the possibility of being aggressive in some key markets, while also having the ability to continuously monitor all the actors moving within and across these markets. We still lack such a system and this must be the challenge we address over the next few years for the defense and security industries as a whole. We are capable of having great products but we must learn to run together.

I think that in life you have to be able to always learn and see how other systems work. We have very aggressive competitors. France, first of all, with its tried and tested system, that allows its defense industries to be massively supported by government, intelligence infrastructure, design development, and further incentives. However, when I say this, we are also talking about nothing extraordinary, except the commitment to offer aid that is available to the French defense industry every day, twenty-four hours a day. Our government must realize that same set of guarantees for our national security industry.

To face increasingly competitive foreign groups, how do you view the potential creation of a national champion through the alliance of Leonardo and Fincantieri?

I do not see a need for it. I think there must be moments of important confrontation between groups. It is not necessary to create a super national champion. The important thing is to work together, to have the ability to relate, thanks to a strong and cohesive Italian system with other major international players such as Boeing, Lockheed, and Airbus. The defense industry is a projection industry, as in imagining what competitive challenges will be emerging in the future. It is now wise to project thirty years forward with accuracy, so a strong systemic national security industry means it can also be an effective competitor/partner with other global companies.

There is one aspect that we must always remember: the defense industry is a sector that concerns national security and national interests, so you cannot choose wrong in terms of alliances. Those choices are best guaranteed when both the future of technology AND geopolitics are taken fully into account. It is important that political choices are made in a very serious manner, strictly linked with national interest. Our national interest comes to us from history: from my point of view, this is chiefly an Atlantic Alliance with a strong Europe at its center.

Are you in favor of the development of nuclear energy for military purposes in Italy?

I believe that Italy has a complementary opportunity compared to what the general choices of the Alliance can be. We have a strategic unique position and have a capacity for multilateral dialogue that other countries do not have. So our form of deterrence is where we are and with whom we talk. Our strength is a calm, reasoning force with respect for sensitivities that is not common even to our allies. This is because we are a country within the Mediterranean region that has a unique capability to have relationships with everyone, even in the most difficult moments. So, nuclear power exists, it will persist and remain, even though it tends to be a rather blunt instrument. We, on the other hand, must play the card of “Italianness” within the geopolitical context with the strategic deftness it deserves.

Co-author: O. Rafaggio

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Tensions in Bosnia and Herzegovina

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It has long been known that Bosnia and Herzegovina is a dysfunctional state, which survives only because it is a protectorate of the West. That is why discomfort has always been present since the end of the civil war in 1995. However, lately the tensions between the constituent nations in Bosnia and Herzegovina are getting stronger. The announcement by the Republika Srpska Police that will form a reserve police force, caused anger among the Bosniaks, who began to openly threat the Serbs.

The Party of democratic action (SDA), the strongest Bosniak party, warned the authorities of the Republika Srpska to be “aware of the consequences” of their announcement of forming a reserve force of the entity police and they called on them to suspend that process. As stated in the SDA statement, the introduction of a reserve force would violate the current balance in the number of police officers and negatively affect the overall security image in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The party stated that Serbs must be aware that, if Republika Srpska authorities insist on introducing a reserve police force, it will provoke a decisive and concrete response in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and its cantons, in the form of the introduction of reserve units and the acquisition of new police equipment.

“In doing so, they must take into account that the Federation has much higher financial and other capacities when it comes to the possible procurement of additional equipment and engagement of people for police forces. That’s why it’s best not to move into such a process at all. We urge the authorities of the Republika Srpska not to take any steps in that direction, because the incitement of any instability is not in the interest of any people and citizens in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also in the region, ” the SDA said in a statement.

However, reality in the field is different. Bosniak politicians regularly speak about the balance of forces between the Republika Srpska and the Federation of BiH, but do not speak about the number of police officers in both entities. The current data shows that Republika Srpska police has 6,700 police officers and Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina 10,400 police officers. According to the announcements of the Republika Srpska government, the reserve force of the Republika Srpska police should number about 1,000 people. Which clearly shows that even with reserve police, Republika Srpska police will have fewer police officers than Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Bosnia’s state-level government has not been formed for more than six months after the election, because the Bosniak member of the tripartite Presidency Šefik Dzaferovic from the Party for Democratic Action (SDA) said, he refuses to greenlight the proposed prime minister – in Bosnia called the Chairman of the Council of Ministers – because the candidate is opposed to the country’s path towards NATO membership. Bosnia has previously pursued NATO membership under strong pressure and threats from the West, but in recent years the Serb politicians managed to resist the pressure from the West, and the next candidate for the prime minister comes from Dodik’s party which vigorously rejects membership in the alliance.

Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik, who now chairs Bosnia`s tripartite Presidency, said on Tuesday that the main Bosniak party in the country is blocking the forming of the Bosnia’s Government after October 2018 election, to protect the illegal production of arms in factories it controls.

On Tuesday, he said the party is controlling the illegal production of weapons and that he informed Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic about it. He alleged that lists are made of all Bosniak men capable of joining the military and that those are being profiled in the sense of where they were during the war. Those who have attended military training are being taken into consideration of how they can be prepared for some eventualities, he said.

Dodik noted that arms and ammunition factories in the Federation (FBIH), the semi-autonomous entity within the country mostly shared between Bosniaks and Croats, are directly under control by SDA and that they have  increased their uncontrolled production. He recalled the statement that one year ago, when Bosniak leader and SDA head Bakir Izetbegovic attended a ceremony which marked the 26th anniversary of the establishment of the Bosnian Army.

Izetbegovic then said that Bosnia will not waste its money on buying rocket systems and fighter planes but rather rely on its own armed industry which will produce for export but also for “just in case, God forbid”.

“Now their plan can be seen clearly. They want to keep the Serbs that suit them in the Council of Ministers so that their arms factories are permitted to work and their intelligence agency can continue to follow and control officials from Republika Srpska and Serbia without interference.” Dodik said, adding that it is something that needs to be resolved quickly.

Dodik added that the international community has destroyed all arms factories in Republika Srpska and left six such factories in Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.”Now we see that there is an illegal plan to produce arms and ammunition in factories, we are receiving information about this. We are asking for that information to be checked, whether it is true or not.”

First published in our partner International Affairs

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