[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] T [/yt_dropcap]he relationship between the United States and the European Union is inevitable and vital, regardless of what both partners think of each other. For Donald Trump, who is much less naive or inexperienced than he is portrayed, the European Union is a political landscape in which the main players are distracted by domestic and current issues, such as the elections in France, Germany, and possibly in Italy.
Not to mention elections in Hungary (before or after the spring of 2018), Albania (on June 18, 2017), Bulgaria (on March 27, 2017), as well as the French presidential elections scheduled for April 23 next.
It is also worth recalling that very important elections will be held in Germany on September 24, 2017, as well as in the Netherlands on March 15 next, in Norway on September 11 and in Portugal at the end of September. Presidential elections will be held in Serbia on April 30, 2017 and in Slovenia in December 2017. Furthermore local, but very important elections are scheduled for May 4, 2017 in Great Britain.
Not to mention the elections to be held in smaller, but often equally important countries: in Northern Ireland (on March 2, 2017), in Armenia on April 2 next – a possible thorn in the flesh for Russia – and in the Czech Republic – a fundamental asset in the new risiko between NATO, the United States and Russia – on a date to be decided yet in 2018.
In a EU geopolitical neighbourhood perspective, we must also mention the Iranian presidential election on May 19 next, or the Lebanese one which is likely to be held this year although the date has not been set yet.
Hence none of the global players are observing the EU as it currently is – with its Don Quixote-style fanciful approach – but all are awaiting – and endeavouring, where possible – to monitor elections and possibly make their favourite candidates win them.
Everybody has always done so and there is no point in being squeamish.
Who do you think funded Mussolini and his interventionist “Italian People’s Party”? The French intelligence services. Not to mention the October Revolution, set ablaze by Lenin who, in Spiegelgasse 14, Zurich – just a few meters to the famous “Cabaret Voltaire”, the birthplace of the Dadaist movement, of which the Russian revolutionary was never aware – was taken by the German Reich intelligence services and brought from the Zurich-Altstetten Station to the Finland Station in St. Petersburg, as told in the marvellous book by Edmund Wilson, “To the Finland Station, a Study on the Acting and Writing of History”.
Not to mention the Dreyfus affair, a late operation of the French intelligence services which exposed the pro-German network in their own apparata – a network which, on the contrary, worked perfectly in France’s penetration from the North. Finally, we can also mention the extraordinary operation of the Italian Fascist intelligence services in Switzerland that succeeded in fooling the British SOE established in the Canton of Ticino with phantasmagorical and yet credible operations in Genoa.
The “influence operations”, the most refined, sophisticated and significant for each intelligence service, are hard to manage but are often very effective. Everybody carry them out without admitting so.
They are the operations which count in the immaterial accounting of intelligence services.
Therefore there are many open political situations and many actions on the field, on both sides.
The poor wretched EU is currently no longer even able to handle a reasonable action in Libya (and I am referring to Italy, in particular) or a rational management of operations in the Gambia, where the Senegalese armed forces intervened – at the end of last January – to support the new Gambian President, Adama Barrow, against the old leader, Yahya Jammeh, who left with a planeload of luxury cars and money.
The Senegalese intervention in the Gambia was supported by ECOWAS, the Economic Community of the 15 West African States, which has no official relations with any Western country, except for its own representative to the United Nations (namely Mr. Tanouu Koné Leon, with residence in New Rochelle) and its liaison officer to the African Union Commission (namely Ms. Rahemat Momodu, in Addis Ababa) and, finally, its representative to the European Union (namely Mr. Jonas Hemou).
The operation was also military supported by Nigeria and Barrow was ousted directly from Botswana, which stated it no longer recognized him as the Head of the Ghanaian State, but once again we fear that the people of Ghana do not really like the change.
And what about the West? No news received.
An African region always guarded and controlled by the French intelligence services is evaporating in a querelle in which the essential aspect is lost: Ghana is the point from which Kenya can be controlled.
No problem for the Europeans: they think that the “sword jihad” can be stopped by shouting in the streets “Charlie c’est moi”.
And, indeed, this will tragically happen sooner or later.
Hence if currently we do not think of Europe within a larger region and perspective, we will lose the sense and the meaning of what is happening and of what will inevitably happen in the future.
Strategic encirclement, internal destabilization, chronic inability to cope with external influence operations, from whatever side they come.
In President Trump’ strategic thinking, however, the EU is “nothing covered with nothing” – just to paraphrase an old saying by Churchill on Soviet Russia.
In previous years, Barack Obama had noted with some surprise the European policy line during the Ukrainian crisis, with the annexation of Crimea in 2014, which the United States still consider illegal.
In 2015 there was the crisis of migration which, however, has shown an absolute lack of leadership on the part of the European Union.
Not to mention Brexit, a EU real act of strategic and military closure, if strategy and geopolitics ever played a role in Brussels or Strasbourg corridors and meeting rooms.
Just a European economics-oriented half-baked knowledge and beginner’s work, similar to what Marx himself called “trivial Marxism” and that the former USSR dissident, Vladimir Bukovsky – a biophysicist released in 1976 after 12 years spent in Soviet prisons – believed to be increasingly similar to what he experienced in the “wooden language” of the Soviet apparata.
By the way, Bukovsky, who collected the most beautiful and extensive archives of the old Soviet intelligence, was accused of having “searched for” paedophile sites on the Internet. Who knows why…
Indecisiveness and lack of determination, however, are always the major original sin in foreign policy and, from this viewpoint, Europe has committed this sin repeatedly.
Reverting to our considerations on the “agents of influence”, thank goodness in 1984 NATO, and later Helmut Schmidt himself, were alerted by a Milanese executive of the Italian Communist Party (PCI) – who shall remain nameless – that a senior KGB officer had certified the absolutely offensive use of the Soviet SS-20 missiles which, at the time, had 441 launch bases and were much better than the Pershing II missiles, which were later deployed by the Atlantic Alliance with great political difficulties, as well as demonstrations and riots in the streets. However, as President Trump clearly stated in his interview to the newspaper Bild of January 15 last, in his opinion NATO is “obsolete” and the EU is a “vehicle for Germany” – not to mention the fact that President Trump expects to see another European country soon leaving the European Union.
Although the Atlantic Alliance is obsolete – and in many respects it is really so – the 2017 budget still amounts to 1.29 billion euro, while the civilian budget is worth 234.4 million euro.
The criteria for defining contributions are carefully defined on the basis of tables drafted jointly by all the Member States of the Alliance.
Saying that the United States “pay too much” only means that they are not satisfied with the cost-benefit ratio within NATO, and not that the EU members of the Alliance should pay more for operations which ultimately serve only the US geopolitical interests.
Therefore the problem lies not so much in the financial and accounting cost of the Atlantic Alliance, but in the relationship between this cost and the value of the strategic result we plan to achieve by mutual agreement, which is the NATO geopolitical least common denominator.
EUCOM, namely the US-NATO European Command, covers 51 countries and has two traditional geopolitical goals: the actual separation between the Western Eurasian peninsula, namely Europe, and the Eurasian Heartland and control over the largest economic market of the world, namely Europe’s.
As Brzezinski used to say, the US strategic aim in this context is to break the continuity between the Eurasian central mass and the Asian Sino-Slavic centre.
Currently the Atlantic Resolve operation, based in Wroclaw, Poland and in Bulgaria, with 2,800 German tanks and artillery units and some US brigades, shows pressures from the United States – and in different degrees from Germany – on the Russian Federation, in clear correlation with the Russian actions in Crimea and Ukraine.
Furthermore, a few days ago Putin started to facilitate the granting of Russian documents to the citizens of the Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk.
This means that Russia has already lost its patience with Trump and is prepared to raise the level of confrontation – a level that has a visible profile and an invisible profile.
Pressures from Poland and Bulgaria which relate to the US and NATO operations in the Baltic countries, with 4,000 US soldiers and a group of CIA operatives to reassure the new independent countries of the region and close Russia northwards.
Is it a rational strategy? Yes and no. The Russian Federation should know that the expansion of its “influence” is not accepted in the EU, but that Europe intends to negotiate a new multipolar balance with Russia.
And here the issue does not lie in “trivial Marxism”, in trade ties disrupted or in export blocks.
If NATO remains the Cold War ghost, we are no longer interested in it.
Conversely if it is turned into a means of military pressure and threat, and even of influence, for dangerous areas (the Greater Middle East, Central and Southern Asia, Northern and Central Africa), it will still be the extraordinary instrument we knew until 1989.
Balkans splitting EU apart
The European Union is going through a serious internal crisis over the prospects of its further expansion, with the main line of confrontation running between Paris and Berlin. On October 15, France, backed by Denmark and the Netherlands, blocked the EU’s decision to start negotiations concerning the admission of Albania and Northern Macedonia. Germany and other EU members opposed the move as unfounded, citing previous decisions by the European Commission. This split at the very top of the 28-member bloc could seriously undermine its status in the eyes of the Balkan states, and force them to shift their foreign policy priorities and possibly turn towards Russia and its integration mechanisms.
The news of the decision by France, the Netherlands and Denmark to block the previous EU decision to start admission talks with the two Balkan states, citing the slow pace of their reforms followed the EU foreign ministers’ meeting in Luxembourg. The three countries opposed the start of negotiations with Albania, and France’s position concerning similar talks with Northern Macedonia was equally negative. Paris also insisted on a fundamental reform of the EU’s accession process. Germany and other EU members disagreed, arguing that in late May, the European Commission had found Albania and Northern Macedonia fully in line with EU conditions and ready to engage in EU accession talks with Brussels. Moreover, Brussel’s promise to start such negotiations is clearly mentioned in the list of official decisions made by the European Union.
At the same time, Brussels uses a differentiated approach to Balkan countries’ applications for membership, with the EU Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement, Johannes Hahn, speaking against inviting Serbia and Montenegro to start negotiations, arguing that they should make “more efforts to protect the rule of law.”
Naturally enough, the Balkan counties were disappointed by this decision. Just a few days before the Luxembourg meeting, the leaders of Albania, Northern Macedonia and Serbia gathered in the Serbian city of Novi Pazar, accusing Brussels of ignoring their interests.
Briefing reporters after the meeting, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama called on his colleagues from Northern Macedonia and Albania to work out a foreign policy agenda without waiting for tips from Brussels.
“There has been no change in the agenda of our international partners, but the format of relations that we are building has changed, as we are not waiting for the EU to find time to pay attention. Let’s be honest, we are not a priority for the EU, because they prioritize their own reforms. We cannot expect to become a priority for the EU, but we are still able to promote more active and organized cooperation,” Edi Rama said.
Northern Macedonia’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic see the creation of a visa-free zone in the Balkans – “a small Schengen” – as one example of such cooperation. This is sending a clear message to Brussels to consider a situation where even such EU members as Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia, still remain outside the pan-European visa-free space.
Poland, which is the Balkan candidate states’ most active ally in the EU, has fairly tense relations with the big shots in Brussels. During a recent meeting of the leaders of the Vicegrad Group (Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic) held in the Czech city of Lany, attended also by the Slovenian and Serbian leaders, the Polish President Andrzej Duda described the start of EU accession talks with Northern Macedonia and Albania as “a litmus test that will show how open the EU really is.” He said that both these Baltic nations had already met all the necessary criteria for admission to the European Union and emphasized that Warsaw, for its part, favored Europe with “open doors,” which is the only way to ensure the EU’s peaceful and peaceful development.
This position is fully shared by Germany, with Michael Roth, Minister of State for Europe at the Federal Foreign Office, telling the newspaper Die Welt that “Albania and Northern Macedonia have done their homework. In recent years, they have been outstandingly successful all across the board fulfilling all the prerequisites for starting negotiations. They need to be rewarded for this, and this is exactly what the Bundestag did in an unambiguous vote. I am sure that the terms proposed by the Bundestag will convince others in the EU to greenlight the start of the EU accession talks,” Roth emphasized. He added that “the EU’s decision is being watched very closely not only by those in Albania and Northern Macedonia, but in the whole region as well. The EU must show that reform efforts are encouraged. Any further postponement would seriously undermine confidence in the EU with negative consequences for peace and stability in the region.” He also voiced fears that a political vacuum would result in Russia, China, Turkey, the countries of the Near and Middle East coming to the region.
All this is seriously undermining the European Union’s role in the Balkans and is strengthening the position of the other key players, above all of Russia, China and the United States. Therefore, Moscow needs to develop a more clear-cut concept of its own interests and goals in the region and ways of its implementation, always mindful of the local geopolitical situation and the time-tested traditions of Russian-Balkan cooperation.
From our partner International Affairs
The return of a “political wunderkind”: Results of parliamentary elections in Austria
At the end of September, the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP), led by the former Chancellor – the 33-year-old “political prodigy” Sebastian Kurz – once again came out on top in snap parliamentary elections. According to a preliminary count, to be finalized on October 16, the ÖVP secured 37.5 percent of the vote, and will take 71 of the 183 seats in the National Council (lower house of parliament).
Political commentators still predict serious problems Sebastian Kurz may face in putting together his new Cabinet. What consequences will the outcome of the September 29 vote have for Austria and for Europe as a whole?
The snap general election in Austria followed the publication of secret recordings in May, which led to the collapse of the ruling coalition of the conservative, center-right Austrian People’s Party and the “far right” “nationalist” Freedom Party (FPÖ). In the July 2017 video, published by the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, the leaders of the Freedom Party are heard promising government contracts and commercial preferences to a woman, posing as the niece of a Russian oligarch on Ibiza, Spain. As transpired later, the hidden camera recording had been arranged by journalists dissatisfied with political gains, made by the FPÖ.
The results of the September 29 vote showed that while the “Ibiza scandal” had seriously undermined the Austrian voters’ support for the “ultra-right,” it simultaneously bolstered the positions of the ÖVP, which won nine more parliamentary seats than it did in the 2017 election. The center-left Social Democrats (SPÖ), who have dominated much of the country’s postwar politics, fell to their worst ever result with 40 seats – 12 short of their 2017 result. The Freedom Party suffered massive losses ending up in third place, losing 10 percent of the vote and winning just 31 parliamentary seats – 20 less than in 2017. The Greens (Die Grüne Alternative), previously not represented on the National Council, won 26 seats, and the liberal NEOS/New Austria party won 15 mandates, thus adding five seats to their previous number.
The People’s Party thus confirms its status as the country’s leading political force, winning a second back-to-back election for the first time since the 1960s. Most observers believe that the conservatives owe much of their electoral success to Sebastian Kurz, a young politician who, already as a former foreign minister, led the ÖVP in the spring of 2017, amid the growing popular discontent with the “triumph of political centrism.”
According to Fyodor Lukyanov, the chairman of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, just as the traditional parties kept promising their supporters “even more stability and predictability of the whole system,” the people were getting increasingly worried about the watering down of “the very essence of politics as a clash of views and mindsets.” Meanwhile, Europe has been grappling with crises, ranging “from debt to migration.” Voters were losing faith in the ability by the traditional parties, with their predilection for reaching consensus even at the cost of emasculating the proposed solutions, to find adequate answers to the new domestic and external challenges facing the EU. This is what the People’s Party, one of Austria’s two “systemic” parties, looked like when Sebastian Kurz took over as its chairman, as it tried to move even further away from ideological certainty and advocate “all things good against everything that is bad.” As a result, it was only losing the confidence of its onetime supporters.
According to the London-based weekly magazine The Economist, two factors were critical in Sebastian Kurz’s rapid political ascent. First, Kurz filled an empty “niche” among the center-right supporters of tough refugee policies. In 2015-2016, Austria found itself at the heart of the European migration crisis – in per capita terms, the small Alpine republic had taken in more migrants than any other EU country, except Sweden. Kurz, then foreign minister, gave up his previous, quite liberal view of migration issues, embracing a hard line that envisaged closing borders and limiting asylum opportunities. Together with the governments of a several Balkan countries, Kurz has done a lot to cut off routes of illegal migration.
Secondly, many Austrians now saw Sebastian Kurz as the answer to their request for “fresh blood” and new ideas in politics. Before very long, the young leader managed to reshuffle the party leadership, including on the ground, and implement new approaches and methods of working with voters. His arrival breathed new vigor in the conservative party which, although respectable, had lost political initiative and the ability to generate fresh ideas. To the frustrated electorate, he projected an image of an energetic politician with a fresh look on the problems of Austria and Europe. During his first term as chancellor, Sebastian Kurz managed to convince a large segment of the Austrian population in his ability to successfully combine in the government the bureaucratic skills of the establishment with the ambitious and uncompromising, at times even exceedingly so, agenda of the “populists.” Kurz himself lists moves to reduce taxes and public debt among the achievements of his first government.
The outcome of the September 29 vote underscored the support the People’s Party enjoys among all sectors of the Austrian society, save, of course, for the Vienna liberals. The young politician, “who was widely viewed as a defender of the interests of the wealthy elite, can now be considered the choice of the entire people.” His electoral base continues to swell – Kurz remains the country’s most popular party leader. For his supporters, he epitomizes the political will for change, which they believe the majority of former ÖVP functionaries and the Social Democrats have lost a long time ago. And still, the traditional Austrian and European political establishment remains wary of Kurz, primarily because of his desire to team up with the ultra-right when forming his first government in late 2017. The collapse of the ruling coalition last May in the wake of the “Ibizagate” scandal with the SPÖ leaders seemed to have only confirmed these fears. However, many experts state that as Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz has proved himself as an able administrator who has “effectively deprived” the “right-wingers” of their ability to make many key policy decisions, including in the field of foreign policy.
Voters now expect him to respond to “changing expectations,” which many observers describe as historical and geopolitical pessimism. Many in Europe are worried by the weakening of the EU’s positions against the backdrop of an ongoing competition between the global powerhouses. Meanwhile, most observers believe that putting together a new Cabinet won’t be easy as there are three options for forming a majority (at least 92 mandates): a grand coalition, a renewed coalition with the FPÖ, and the so-called “dirndl government” (“turquoise-green-pink” – the colors of traditional Alpine clothing) with “greens” and liberals from NEOS. The first option could dishearten Kurz’s backers, who supported him precisely because they were fed up with a decades-long succession of governments made up of either one of the two leading parties, or both. Moreover, Kurz has “fundamental differences” with the Social Democrats on many social and economic issues. As for the new attempt to rejoin forces with the FPÖ, it is fraught with scandal that could undermine Kurz’s reputation in Europe. Finally, an alliance with the Greens and Liberals will most certainly lead to serious differences on migration, environmental and social policy.
There is an intense debate currently going on in Europe about the institutional arrangements the EU needs to resolve internal contradictions and meet external challenges. The participants in this fundamental dispute are pulling no blows, and the “Ibizagate” scandal that resulted in the collapse of Kurz’s previous government is a graphic example of that. Meanwhile, the young and ambitious politician wants to secure a bigger role for his country in European affairs. Throughout his term as chancellor, he demonstrated a strong commitment to the political values of the “European mainstream.” He watched very closely the political processes going on in Europe, and provided maximum support for the reforms being put forward by French President Emmanuel Macron, even though he didn’t share many of Macron’s proposals for Eurozone reform, leaning more toward Germany’s more cautious stance. During his first term as Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz convinced his FPÖ coalition partners to reject the idea of Austria’s withdrawal from the EU. Now that “populists” have been on the retreat in a number of European countries – in Italy, perhaps Hungary, as well as France, where the “Yellow Jackets” movement is on the wane, few expect Kurz to brand himself as a “populist in a centrist’s skin.” The young Austrian, who has reached political heights thanks largely to his clear and unwavering stance on migration could inspire new hope in Europeans, reeling from half-hearted decisions so characteristic of the Brussels bureaucracy.
One should also keep in mind the fact that Kurz owes the notable increase in popular support to those who used to vote for the Freedom Party. And, according to the more realistically-minded people, the two political organizations still have much more in common than Kurz is willing to admit in public. Well, Kurz may have managed to solve the problem of opposing the “populists” by embracing, albeit in a softer form, some of the ideas espoused by Eurosceptics and “sovereignists.” The result, however, has been a Conservative shift “to the right.” And no matter how much Kurz and his associates insist on their firm commitment to “centrism,” it is a very different “center” – that is, a dangerous trend of the entire political spectrum of Austria and Europe gravitating “to the right.”
“Populists” may have “retreated” somewhere in the European Union. However, the third place won by the Freedom party in parliament, which still gives it an “arithmetic” chance of participating in the government, is a clear sign of the party’s potential for political survival.
The Austrian elections seem to confirm the trend that made itself so clear during the May elections to the European Parliament: fortune usually favors the political forces that do not quibble – firm supporters of “strengthening sovereignty.”
Future will show whether Sebastian Kurz’s return to power leads the way to the renaissance of “new-look” European centrists amid the gradual retreat of “nationalists” and “populists.” And also if it is a sign of the gradual adaptation of the European political establishment to the voters’ request for a more balanced course, combining protection of the sovereign rights and national interests of EU member states and the EU’s objective need for greater federalization and centralization of common political institutions.
From our partner International Affairs
EU to mount decisive summit on Kosovo
The European Union is planning to hold an important summit on Kosovo in October this year with a view to get Belgrade and Pristina to normalize bilateral relations. French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will pose as guarantors of the deal. Reports say a senior US official may take part in the Paris summit as well. The participation of the American side was strongly advocated by the authorities in Kosovo, headed by President Hashim Thachi.
If this scenario goes ahead, Serbia may face pressure from both the USA and the EU. The West plans to require Belgrade to not only de facto recognize Kosovo but to confirm the course for European integration – which, according to Brussels, means departure from a comprehensive partnership with Russia and from the signing of a free trade agreement with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) scheduled for the end of October.
Given the situation, Serbian leaders are set on consolidating Belgrade’s position in the forthcoming talks by reducing international support for Pristina. To this end, Belgrade is trying to persuade countries that previously recognized Kosovo’s self-proclaimed independence to reconsider their positions and withdraw their statements. Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic has already announced in wake of consultations on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly that the number of countries that recognize Kosovo’s independence will dwindle by the end of this year. According to Dacic, such countries will make up less than half of the world community.
According to the Serbian Foreign Minister, the Serbian delegation led by President Aleksandar Vucic succeeded in holding talks in New York with representatives of about a hundred states on withdrawing recognition of Kosovo’s independence. “The President spoke with representatives of some states about strategic issues, about a dialogue with Pristina, but there were also many meetings dedicated specifically to the status of Kosovo and Metohija. As the president announced, our citizens can be sure that in the near future the number of countries that will withdraw or “freeze” their recognition of Kosovo will increase,”- Ivica Dacic said.
In recent years, the number of countries that recognize Kosovo’s independence has decreased, though so far mainly due to small American and African states. Among them are the Comoros, Dominica, Suriname, Liberia, Sao Tome and Principe, Guinea-Bissau, Burundi, Papua New Guinea, Lesotho, Grenada.
The persistency with which the US and the EU is trying to “press” for the normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina and force Serbia to cut down on its active cooperation with Russia has yet again pushed the Serbs into streamlining their national foreign policy priorities. According to available data, Brussels is ready to slap more conditions on Belgrade, including the most painful of the Balkan issues, not only on Kosovo, but also on Bosnia and Herzegovina. For one, as Serbian Minister of Technological Development and Innovation Nenad Popovic said, one of the conditions for Serbia becoming a member of the EU could be recognition of the “genocide” in Srebrenica.
This is confirmed by Zoran Milosevic, an expert at the Institute for Political Studies in Belgrade, who sees the new condition as nothing unexpected, since some EU member states, and also Switzerland, have passed a law that envisages criminal liability for the denial of the so-called “genocide in Srebrenica.” Some European countries are already following suit having drafted the relevant bills to be submitted to parliament. “Something of this kind was proposed by the High Representative of the international community in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Valentin Inzko. What is the point of adopting laws in defense of this counterfeit on the genocide in Srebrenica if they do not make a condition for Serbia’s membership in the EU?” – Zoran Milosevic points out. The mere word “condition”, he says, signifies that Serbia “is treated as a minor who needs to grow to perfection and fight tooth and claw to enter the EU”. Serbia “accepted this burden of its own free will” the day its parliament passed a resolution according to which the country’s strategic goal is European integration, ” – said the Serbian expert.
He also made it clear that it was by no means accidental that Brussels never announced the full list of conditions for Serbia’s membership in the European Union: “If they did, it would tie the hands of pro-Western Serbian politicians. So they release more and more conditions gradually, one after another. First, it was about recognizing Kosovo – whether this is a condition for EU membership or not. It turned out that it is. Now it is about the recognition of “genocide” in Srebrenica. It is said that Serbia’s entry into NATO will also be a condition for joining the European Union. And, as in the previous cases, we are wondering if such a condition exists or not. As a result, it will turn out that there is. ”
Where Brussels’ pressure on Belgrade is particularly noticeable at present is Serbia’s intention to sign a free trade agreement with the EAEU at the end of October. According to the Minister of Trade of Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC) Veronika Nikishina, negotiations between the EAEU and Serbia on the creation of a free trade zone are over with the parties involved preparing to sign the agreement on October 25. Nikishina says the document will be signed in Moscow by the prime ministers of the five member states of the EAEU, the Prime Minister of Serbia Ana Brnabic and the Chairman of the EEC Board Tigran Sargsyan. Even though Serbia has agreements on a free trade zone with three of the five EAEU members – Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, the transition to a common free trade regime has several advantages, emphasizes Veronika Nikishina: “Three bilateral deals that were signed earlier and were not fully identical are being harmonized, giving Armenia and Kyrgyzstan the opportunity of preferences in preferential trade. ”
Also, a trade agreement provides access of the EAEU members to the Serbian market: “For example, it concerns certain kinds of cheeses, some strong alcoholic drinks, and cigarettes from Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, which could not enter the Serbian market under the free trade regime. And it also spreads on various types of engineering products that have also been removed from bilateral agreements.” “In other words, we give a fully-fledged free trade status to Kyrgyzstan and Armenia and improve the existing bilateral free trade arrangements for Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia,” – the Minister for Trade of the EEC emphasizes.
According to Serbian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications Rasim Lyayic, an agreement with the EAEU may allow the country to increase its export volumes by nearly 1.5 times. According to the minister, in 2018 Serbia’s trade turnover with the EAEU countries amounted to about 3.4 billion dollars, of which 1.1 billion accounted for exports, mainly to Russia. Exports into the EAEU will increase to $ 1.5 billion within a few years after the agreement comes into force, the Serbian Deputy Prime Minister predicts.
According to the Bruegel International Analytical Center, in 2016, 62% of all Serbian imports came from EU countries, 8.3% from China, 7.9% from Russia. 64% of the republic’s exports go to the EU, 17.8% to other Balkan countries, 5.3% to Russia.
Naturally, the EU is more than concerned about Serbia’s trade and economic policy following a different direction. Brussels has already warned the Serbian government that a free trade agreement with the EAEU could harm integration with the EU. “You can’t follow several directions at once,” – said Slovakian Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak, thereby warning Belgrade and expressing the position of his counterparts in the European Union: “If you are serious about Europe, you must make decisions that bring you closer to it, but this move is totally out of line. ”
Meanwhile, Serbia maintains composure and has no intention of giving up on the plans. Explaining his country’s decision to conclude an agreement with the EAEU, Rasim Lyayic said that it follows economic agenda alone: “It is not about politics, but about trade.”
According to the minister, a refusal to sign an agreement with the EAEU would call into question a free trade agreement with Russia.
The EAEU is calm about warnings addressed to Serbia, – Veronika Nikishina says: “Until Serbia becomes a full-fledged member of the European Union, it has full autonomy in its trade policy. “In our agreement there are no obligations on the formation of a trade regime between Serbia and the European Union, which is absolutely impossible to imagine.” Nikishina made it clear that until Serbia joins the EU, “we are trading with it in a regime we consider appropriate, and we will upgrade this regime.” As for Serbia entering the EU (which is a matter of remote future), in this case “all agreements of this kind, including our agreement, naturally, will have to be terminated,” – Veronika Nikishina says.
Nevertheless, there is no doubt that pressure on Belgrade, both in terms of recognizing Kosovo and in connection with relations with Russia and the EAEU, will boost considerably in the coming weeks. In these conditions, the Serbian authorities will obviously have to assume a more determined position with regard to the country’s list of national priorities.
From our partner International Affairs
J.P. Morgan to Support New World Bank Fund for Skills Development of India’s Workforce
J.P. Morgan today announced an up to $10 million commitment to a new World Bank Multi Donor Trust Fund focused...
Balochistan `insurgency ‘and its impact on CPEC
A dispute arose between Baloch leader Akber Bugti and then government led by Parvez Musharraf. Bugti was killed. How he...
An Open Letter to Duke and Duchess of Cambridge
Dear Uncle and Aunty, Greetings, This letter comes to you from your Pakistani nephew whom you do not know. I...
The CIIE: A gorgeous chorus of integrated world economy
The 2nd China International Import Expo (CIIE) will be held in Shanghai, China from November 5th to 10th. Iran will...
Balkans splitting EU apart
The European Union is going through a serious internal crisis over the prospects of its further expansion, with the main...
Five Reasons Why Countries in the Arabian Gulf are Turning to Renewables
As global leaders look to renewables as a way address the growing and multi-dimensional threat of climate change, traditional energy...
Libya: €2 million in humanitarian assistance to cover basic needs
As many continue to suffer from the ongoing conflict in Libya, the European Commission has announced today €2 million in...
Economy3 days ago
Modi’s India a flawed partner for post-Brexit Britain
Terrorism2 days ago
Indian Mujahideen, IS and Hizbul Tahrir: Breeding ground for terrorism in South Asia
Americas3 days ago
AMLO’s Failed State
Environment3 days ago
African financial centres step up efforts on green and sustainable finance
South Asia2 days ago
Will CPEC be a Factual Game Changer?
Southeast Asia2 days ago
Indonesia’s new electric car may disrupt its relations with Japan
Newsdesk3 days ago
New Target: Cut “Learning Poverty” by At Least Half by 2030
Africa1 day ago
The Sochi Summit and the Pride of Africa