[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] T [/yt_dropcap]he Serbian Project for a New Yugoslavia, and Albania, must receive the response of Albanian political doctrine that should be understood as a defensive trench towards defending national interests.
On every network of crises in the European Continent and beyond, Southern Slavs, especially the Serbs, although they may have partially carried the blame of starting a war (as it was the case in World War I or in the recent conflicts that turned Yugoslavia into a closed chapter of the World’s history), they have proved to be among the main beneficiaries of these bloody conflicts.
Slovenia and Croatia have currently emerged as the most beneficiaries from the Former Yugoslav republics, during the disintegration process of Yugoslavia. Under the Yugoslav Federation, these two recently independent coutries have played a key role during the Cold War, however with the idea for a New Yugoslavia, including the Albanian question, Belgrade aspires to secure its lion’s share.
Ideas for a Balkanic Federation have appeared together with communism in the previous century “that originated from the Cold Weather” (Jean Paul Sartre), more specifically with Leninism in the beginning of the XX century. Meanwhile the idea for a Balkanic Federation appeared time after time under the denomination of a Greater Bulgaria or a Greater Serbia and always without including Albanians!?
However, the current initiative led by Johannes Hahn, European Commissioner in charge of Neighbourhood Policy & Enlargement Negotiations, with the aim of creating a common Balcanic market, based on the EU example, had its inception in the Paris Initiative. Parties through this agenda expressed their willingness to cooperate closely, without ignoring the creation of a new federation or a Balkanic confederation named as New Yugoslavia, which embodies pure geopolitical ambitions. Such an aspiration is dangerous, bizarre, and in its core, is an idea that has failed throughout history, as a result it seems to be a New Yugoslavia, without Slovenia and Croatia, a creation that was an offensive led by Serbian Fascism…
In one of my papers published two years ago (February 2015) I made a reference to the weight of geopolitical changes and their consequences to South East Europe. In this era of constant significant changes, I stated then, especially now when East and South East Europe are the ground of clashes between western concepts on modern statecraft and those of eastern governance that consists on a limited sovereignty (the theory of Brezhniev embraced today by President Vladimir Putin). As a result, the theory over a nation-state appears again in the platform as a structure that guarantees pertinent relations between the state and its citizens, as a result it affects freedom, peace and security.
There are many reasons, as a result such an observation that only in a nation state democracy is able to flourish in its ample meaning, it finds a breeding ground for its own genuine strengthening, at a present time when political mafia and criminal gangs have suffocated and engulfed the government of Kosovo at its worst conditions, after a biblical migration of its citizens, an act that nullifies the legitimacy of Prishtina’s current government, it even takes a greater and a more specific weight. In this current context, we may conclude that two long years are lost.
The Return of Geopolitics and Reconfigurations Inspired by Hegemony
The new wave of demonstrations that have surged from disappointed citizens, are returning in the region. In this thunderstorm created by a return of original geopolitics, open tendencies on the reconfiguration of Serbia as a hegemonic force in the region, were reflected within the failed coup that took place during the recent elections process in Montenegro.
The reaches of these tentacles are clearly seen in Macedonia and in Republika Srpska (Bosnia and Herzegovina), in the case of the latter, such aspirations are even more visible.
What was happening at the brink of elections’ date in Serbia, gave you the impression of the Yalta conference results, that revived our memories of modern South Eastern European history, with the blessing of a few political centers with a special influence in the EU!
The meetings of Vučić in Berlin and Moscow, and his special gratitude addressed to President Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, only a day after the elections’ results, as if he knew the outcome of these elections, is another testimony of his close association with the two European Giants.
On March 27th, the Prime Minister of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, a presidential candidate in the recent elections, had visited Moscow and conducted a long meeting with President Putin. On April 2nd, he was elected as Serbia’s new President. On April 6th, he shared with the public his project for a New Yugoslavia, including Albanian territories.
It is sufficient to study such a political agenda of Vučić, to reach clear conclusions on the direction that is taken by regional geopolitics. Agreements for the Balkans and Serbia’s role in the new Geopolitics, is already an open secret, they are implemented with the consent of “the big brother.”
The opening of the Balkan’s gates towards Russia, and the agreement among several decision-making centers in Europe, connected with fierce reactions towards the creation of Kosovo’s Army, a shift from the Security Force of Kosovo, ought to be looked upon these secret agreements. Moreover, the recent actions of President Hashim Thaçi are a Déjà-vu of its own style.
Europe’s bet and Sen. John McCain III visit to the region
According to former Albanian Ambassador Shaban Murati, “under the unmotivated will of Serbia going towards the European Union and not towards Russia, some government leaders from EU member countries have placed their bet on President Vučić and they estimate that under his leadership Serbia must have a leadership role or play a key role in Western Balkans.”
In such a turmoil of polital events, on April 10th, John McCcain, one of the most influential US Senators arrived in Belgrade, meanwhile on April 13th he held a speech in the National Assembly of Kosovo and had a series of meetings with the leadership of Prishtina. Serbian main stream media made it clear that the main topics of discussions between Sen. McCain and Mr. Vučić, and their source of disagreement, was the foreign policy orientation of Serbia and its posture towards Kosovo.
It appears that the European bet on the US Senator was not as trustworthy as expected. Such a visit took place at a time when protests against Belgrade’s dictatorship, promoted by President-elect Vučić and his reactionary allies, were going on for weeks. The symptoms of a political awakening, respectively the events of a Velvet Revolution, almost similar to Ukraine, are venerated.
More specifically to avoid the attention of western diplomacy from these inner sub layers, the ideological apprentice of Slobodan Milošević, the one who is behaving as a J. B. Tito junior, is aiming to reestablish the old Yugoslavia, while this time including Albania, with aims to even surpass Tito’s model.
Such an attempt was made public on April 6th, in his first interview given to Politico, as Serbia’s President Elect. While at first site, it appears that it is nothing new, since similar ideas have been articulated on this part of the continent since the beginning of XX century, initially with progressive premises of national and social equality, and later they were always tailored to serve the Serbian hegemonic aspirations.
The idea of a Balkan Federation came all together with a slavic communism that “emerged from the Cold Weather” (Jean Paul Sartre). After the Second World War reappeared again as a greater Bulgaria and at times as a greater Serbia. At other times, it emerged as an idea that would include in it all orthodox communities of the Balkans in the concept of greater Bulgaria or greater Serbia. At a time when Bulgaria was ruled by Georgi Dimitrov, a communist leader, who included also Albanian issue on his plans.
Such an idea was avoided only with the break up of Yugoslavia from Stalin’s circle of influence and its descent towards western influences. But, the current initiative supported publicly by the EU commissioner Johannes Hahn and other EU leaders under a total secrecy, with the idea that the region must evolve into a common Balkanic market, to sort of imitate the EU example, regardless of the fact that the Balkan integration idea is fully based on the communist concepts for a Balkan Federation that had three options.
1.Greater Yugoslavia, the former Yugoslavia Republics respectively plus Albania; 2. Balkan Federation – Greater Yugoslavia with Bulgaria; 3. Expanded Balkan Federation – a Federation with Romania and Greece, and even a few versions of it that include Turkey, is acquiring support all the way to Brussels! Such circumstances are making it even more dangerous, not to say that they are shaped by a Byzantine mindset.
While being very naive and politically irrational, Serbian Prime Minister expressed these ideas in the US Newspaper (Politico), with exact terms as it really is, a New Yugoslavia, a restructured concept, without Slovenia and Croatia, but with the two Albanian Independent Republics, Albania and Kosovo that will replace the two Yugoslav original republics (Slovenia and Croatia), while making the two Albanian countries become vassals within a Serbian Hegemony.
From the Strategy of Brussels towards Albania, and especially after the War of Kosovo Liberation Army to secure the territorial liberation and independence of Kosovo, there can be identified two venues of European political action, that are erupting as a result of a domestic crisis within EU Institutions and from a clear absence of a political perspective within Brussels and European Commission: the first line is a project that would move with two speeds, while creating the European Core (Germany, France), that would be highly rigid, and would aim to consider its periphery as an addendum or a security belt and; the Second Europe, as an upcoming Federation of equal nations regardless of their population number, a product that derives from a liberal concept and a breath of liberal democracy that has proved to be very positive and been cultivated by Modern Europe.
The first scenario of Europe has a need for real alibis that would archive ongoing membership aspirations of South East European Nations into the books of ancient history. An example of this attitude is the atypical attitude of Brussels placed against the EU visa liberalization process of Kosovo that depends and consists in the solution of border demarcation line between Montenegro and Kosovo, and the latter continue to be held hostage as a result of these policies; indeed there is no other explanation.
There are voices articulating that this kind of Europe is tied with the boundaries that separate civilizations (according to the theory of Samuel P. Huntington on the Clash of Civilizations) East – West. Eurocentrists, as supporters of the first version of Europe, are consequently receiving a growing support from powerful waves of popularity, but also from Russian Federation that is significantly different from the XX Century, but doesn’t hide its aspirations to be installed in the Balkans through its injected influence in Macedonia and Serbia.
About this issue, we ought to review the project of New Yugoslavia plus Albania, it is an awakening of unique associations, considered as such especially among those who are experts of the political history of South East Europe.
Such a project would seriously ruin the Balkans and especially the future of Albanian nation, as it will aim to establish unnatural alliances, connected to Turkey and directed towards Asia! While situated under the pressures of such a crystal clear aim, a new geopolitical realignment, Albanians on both nations, known to be leaning towards the West, will never give up from their centuries old westward leaning civilization aspirations, they will not give up only because of the Eurocentrists’ typical frustration, wrapped by racism, that are viewing South East Europe from several vilified angles as being part of the ancient Ottoman Empire.
On the contrary, these two nations, Albanians, will continue to insist to be part of a political project focused on Eurointegration – EU – and naturally become a member of Euroatlantic Family. Moreover, if the project of New Yugoslavia is successful, Albanian nation will be stuck at the cross roads of this nature, a scenario that would make them similar to the Jewish model in the Middle East, making the two Albanian countries as the equivalent of Israel in South East Europe.
New Yugoslavia – a miniature empire of Tito
At the end of World War II Yugoslavia was serving for Tito as the core of a union between Trieste, Istria, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania and Greece. This was the reason why Tito was supporting the Greek Partisans in its Civil War. For as long as Stalin was satisfied with the fact that his influence was stretched throughout South East Europe. J. B. Tito was not satisfied with this accomplishment. He was laying the grounds of a Balkanic Federation, that would be as big as Great Britain and France altogether.
But this Project would experience its first cracks from the place where it was even less expected. Specifically, from Moscow after the approval of the Resolution of Inform Bureau, in 1948, when Tito was expelled from the rest of Eastern Block.
Joseph Stalin had its legitimate doubts on Tito, while establishing the political seat of Balkanic Federation in Belgrade, Tito would impose a full hegemony to the other half of the Balkans. Stalin was afraid that Tito would exert his complete influence not only in Albania and Greece but also in Bulgaria, while creating this way a powerful communist block in South East Europe, away from Moscow’s close control.
The dreams of slavic nationalists for an all slavic union “from Trieste to Varna” was appearing to be fading away from its implementation. However, Stalin was aspiring to have only Satellite States in Eastern Europe, and not a second communist center in Europe, as it begun to take shape under the guidance of Tito and Dimitrov. The greatest schism within the Communist World was taking shape. Yugoslavia was gradually leaving the Soviet sphere of influence. At that time, it was unclear on what were the motives of such a schism that was taking place. Rumors had it that there was a clash between the “Great Russian Imperialism” and the “Yugoslav nationalism.” It appears that among these two concepts that are shaped by modern geopolitics, Brussels has chosen a concept that keeps Russia away from the Balkans, even by paying the price of promoting Serbian Hegemony in such a New Yugoslavia!
It appears that some European officials that are supporting this project, have learned little from the political history of Europe. How integration and disintegration has worked within Slavic nations of South East Europe during the XIX and XX Centuries; it is simply a matter that is directly connected to the lack of tolerance. The dissolution process of Tito’s Yugoslavia and the Serbian Genocides in Bosnia (1991-1995) and in Kosovo (1995-1999) are a perfect testimony of such a brutal attitude.
Albanian political doctrine as a defense shield
Tirana and Prishtina, should respond, in a coordinated fashion and unequivocally to the geostrategic regional projects of Belgrade that are sponsored by Russia and even France; where the terminology of Western Balkans took its inception in 2000. Tirana and Prishtina must embrace proactive actions to swiftly shape reforms that benefit both independent countries that are fully inhabited by ethnic Albanians.
Some of the steps that must be taken right away are the following:
- Elimination of customs, the creation of a common Albanian market;
- Full integration of education and health policies;
- Begin the use of Albanian currency (Lek), as a second currency in Kosovo;
- Draft a common and mutual defense strategy.
However, while containing new measures, and in full coordination among Tirana and Prishtina, the Albanian Political Parties in Macedonia must also get appropriately involved.
These are some of the urgent steps, that would naturally shape the Albanian Federation. For those familiar with Albanian Political environment, demands of this nature appear to be simply a futuristic political move, overall idealistic. Obviously for a reason, especially knowing the quality of a political network that is dominating Albania’s and Kosovo’s governing landscape. Nonetheless, the positive pressure of intellectual opinion and a stimulus coming from healthy political factors, would generate a series of proactive energies for this aspiration to be on the launching pad.
For as long as in Northern Albania (the territory above Drini River) the Secret Services of Serbia and Russia, while coordinated with their regional traditional allies, were successful to install their trusted puppets at the helm of Kosovo’s Government, meanwhile they were somewhat successful to hold hostage General Ramush Haradinaj in France, and also continue to orchestrate all sorts of disinformation campaigns against the Self Movement Party (Levizja VeteVendosja), a political force that is rightfully viewed as the sole hope in Prishtina, without leaving aside the subversive and the anti-constitutional actions against the sovereignty of Kosovo, in other parts of Albania, there are plans to organize a Coup Detat or return back to the dark days of 1997!
The ties of foreign secret service agencies, through a resistance of corrupt politicians and with the support of regional mafia, are fighting to hinder from implementation a strategic project destined to strengthen the rule of law and the state of law, that would go through the Rubicon of the so-called Vetting, and as a result Albania would have a true governing set of institutions. If there is a crowd of people gathered on any of Tirana’s blocks, at a tent or outside of a tent, it is gathering without principles, however, it is a legitimate right and moral obligation towards the fatherland, to mobilize even the so called idealists wherever they are.
Idealists that continue to be worried in their own right, are convinced that Albanian political environment needs the development of a new way of thinking, respectively for a political doctrine as a source of defensive and containment shield, to enable the knowledge of global political tendencies, while retaining these tactics to the benefit of national interest.
If Anglo-Saxons after WWII were focused to shape such a method of political thinking, while taking into consideration aspects and geostrategic interests, meanwhile the French aside from their focus towards ascertaining their space of influence, have cultivated, through social and political sciences, philosophical and ideological components, Albanians in order to shape up their Albanian Federation project and expand their influence in the region, need an approach that combines the two ways of thought mentioned above, while adding to this the military concept of reasoning. Such a concept of Albanian Federation would bring more weight and raise its leverage as presented in the eyes of Albania’s geostrategic allies, especially the United States.
In this case, instead of sending refugees and citizens who migrate for economic reasons to Albania’s geopolitical alliance (NATO) and Western European nations, because the current Government of Tirana has failed to bring a sustainable growth of its micro-economic levels, we would be giving them well equipped soldiers and generals.
At the present, Albanian Federation must be viewed, after the publication of the project of President Elect Aleksandar Vučić, as an urgent measure and as a viable option versus New Yugoslavia. Albanian Federation will and should be implemented by Albanians, united together with idealists, these are the final words of our founding fathers and the desire of those who will cherish Albanian lands in the upcoming centuries.
Translated from Albanian language: Peter M. Tase
Iceland’s Historic(al) Elections
The morning of September, 26 was a good one for Lenya Run Karim of the Pirate Party. Once the preliminary results were announced, things were clear: the 21-year-old law student of the University of Iceland, originating from a Kurdish immigrant family, had become the youngest MP in the country’s history.
In historical significance, however, this event was second to another. Iceland, the world champion in terms of gender equality, became the first country in Europe to have more women MPs than men, 33 versus 30. The news immediately made world headlines: only five countries in the world have achieved such impressive results. Remarkably, all are non-European: Rwanda, Nicaragua and Cuba have a majority of women in parliament, while Mexico and the UAE have an equal number of male and female MPs.
Nine hours later, news agencies around the world had to edit their headlines. The recount in the Northwest constituency affected the outcome across the country to delay the ‘triumph for women’ for another four years.
Small numbers, big changes
The Icelandic electoral system is designed so that 54 out of the 63 seats in the Althingi, the national parliament, are primary or constituency seats, while another nine are equalization seats. Only parties passing the 5 per cent threshold are allowed to distribute equalisation seats that go to the candidates who failed to win constituency mandates and received the most votes in their constituency. However, the number of equalisation mandates in each of the 6 constituencies is legislated. In theory, this could lead to a situation in which the leading party candidate in one constituency may simply lack an equalisation mandate, so the leading candidate of the same party—but in another constituency—receives it.
This is what happened this year. Because of a difference of only ten votes between the Reform Party and the Pirate Party, both vying for the only equalisation mandate in the Northwest, the constituency’s electoral commission announced a recount on its own initiative. There were also questions concerning the counting procedure as such: the ballots were not sealed but simply locked in a Borgarnes hotel room. The updated results hardly affected the distribution of seats between the parties, bringing in five new MPs, none of whom were women, with the 21-year-old Lenya Run Karim replaced by her 52-year-old party colleague.
In the afternoon of September, 27, at the request of the Left-Green Movement, supported by the Independence Party, the Pirates and the Reform Party, the commission in the South announced a recount of their own—the difference between the Left-Greens and the Centrists was only seven votes. There was no ‘domino effect’, as in the case of the Northwest, as the five-hour recount showed the same result. Recounts in other districts are unlikely, nor is it likely that Althingi—vested with the power to declare the elections valid—would invalidate the results in the Northwest. Nevertheless, the ‘replaced’ candidates have already announced their intention to appeal against the results, citing violations of ballot storage procedures. Under the Icelandic law, this is quite enough to invalidate the results and call a re-election in the Northwest, as the Supreme Court of Iceland invalidated the Constitutional Council elections due to a breach of procedure 10 years ago. Be that as it may, the current score remains 33:30, in favor of men.
Progressives’ progress and threshold for socialists
On the whole, there were no surprises: the provisional allocation of mandates resembles, if with minor changes, the opinion polls on the eve of the election.
The ruling three-party coalition has rejuvenated its position, winning 37 out of the 63 Althingi seats. The centrist Progressive Party saw a real electoral triumph, improving its 2017 result by five seats. Prime-minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir’s Left-Green Movement, albeit with a slight loss, won eight seats, surpassing all pre-election expectations. Although the centre-right Independence Party outperformed everyone again to win almost a quarter of all votes, 16 seats are one of the worst results of the Icelandic ‘Grand Old Party’ ever.
The results of the Social-Democrats, almost 10% versus 12.1% in 2017, and of the Pirates, 8.6% versus 9.2%, have deteriorated. Support for the Centre Party of Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson, former prime-minister and victim of the Panama Papers, has halved from 10.9% to 5.4%. The centrists have seen a steady decline in recent years, largely due to a sexist scandal involving party MPs. The populist People’s Party and the pro-European Reform Party have seen gains of 8.8% and 8.3%, as compared to 6.9% and 6.7% in the previous elections.
Of the leading Icelandic parties, only the Socialist Party failed to pass the 5 per cent threshold: despite a rating above 7% in August, the Socialists received only 4.1% of the vote.
Coronavirus, climate & economy
Healthcare and the fight against COVID-19 was, expectedly, on top of the agenda of the elections: 72% of voters ranked it as the defining issue, according to a Fréttablaðið poll. Thanks to swift and stringent measures, the Icelandic government brought the coronavirus under control from day one, and the country has enjoyed one of the lowest infection rates in the world for most of the time. At the same time, the pandemic exposed a number of problems in the national healthcare system: staff shortages, low salaries and long waiting lists for emergency surgery.
Climate change, which Icelanders are already experiencing, was an equally important topic. This summer, the temperature has not dropped below 20°C for 59 days, an anomaly for a North-Atlantic island. However, Icelanders’ concerns never converted into increased support for the four left-leaning parties advocating greater reductions in CO2 emission than the country has committed to under the Paris Agreement: their combined result fell by 0.5%.
The economy and employment were also among the main issues in this election. The pandemic has severely damaged the island nation’s economy, which is heavily tourism-reliant—perhaps, unsurprisingly, many Icelanders are in favor of reviving the tourism sector as well as diversifying the economy further.
The EU membership, by far a ‘traditional’ issue in Icelandic politics, is unlikely to be featured on the agenda of the newly-elected parliament as the combined result of the Eurosceptics, despite a loss of 4%, still exceeds half of the overall votes. The new Althingi will probably face the issue of constitutional reform once again, which is only becoming more topical in the light of the pandemic and the equalization mandates story.
New (old) government?
The parties are to negotiate coalition formation. The most likely scenario now is that the ruling coalition of the Independence Party, the Left-Greens and the Progressives continues. It has been the most ideologically diverse and the first three-party coalition in Iceland’s history to last a full term. A successful fight against the pandemic has only strengthened its positions and helped it secure additional votes. Independence Party leader and finance minister Bjarni Benediktsson has earlier said he would be prepared to keep the ruling coalition if it holds the majority. President Guðni Jóhannesson announced immediately after the elections that he would confirm the mandate of the ruling coalition to form a new government if the three parties could strike a deal.
Other developments are possible but unlikely. Should the Left-Greens decide to leave the coalition, they could be replaced by the Reform Party or the People’s Party, while any coalition without the Independence Party can only be a four-party or larger coalition.
Who will become the new prime-minister still remains to be seen—but if the ruling coalition remains in place, the current prime-minister and leader of the Left-Greens, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, stands a good chance of keeping her post: she is still the most popular politician in Iceland with a 40 per cent approval rate.
The 2021 Althingi election, with one of the lowest turnouts in history at 80.1%, has not produced a clear winner. The election results reflect a Europe-wide trend in which traditional “major” parties are losing support. The electorate is fragmenting and their votes are pulled by smaller new parties. The coronavirus pandemic has only reinforced this trend.
The 2021 campaign did not foreshadow a sensation. Although Iceland has not become the first European country with a women’s majority in parliament, these elections will certainly go down in history as a test of Icelanders’ trust to their own democracy.
From our partner RIAC
EU-Balkan Summit: No Set Timeframe for Western Balkans Accession
On October 6, Slovenia hosted a summit between the EU and the Western Balkans states. The EU-27 met with their counterparts (Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Kosovo) in the sumptuous Renaissance setting of Brdo Castle, 30 kilometers north of the capital, Ljubljana. Despite calls from a minority of heads of state and government, there were no sign of a breakthrough on the sensitive issue of enlargement. The accession of these countries to the European Union is still not unanimous among the 27 EU member states.
During her final tour of the Balkans three weeks ago, German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated that the peninsula’s integration was of “geostrategic” importance. On the eve of the summit, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz backed Slovenia’s goal of integrating this zone’s countries into the EU by 2030.
However, the unanimity required to begin the hard negotiations is still a long way off, even for the most advanced countries in the accession process, Albania and North Macedonia. Bulgaria, which is already a member of the EU, is opposing North Macedonia’s admission due to linguistic and cultural differences. Since Yugoslavia’s demise, Sofia has rejected the concept of Macedonian language, insisting that it is a Bulgarian dialect, and has condemned the artificial construction of a distinct national identity.
Other countries’ reluctance to join quickly is of a different nature. France and the Netherlands believe that previous enlargements (Bulgaria and Romania in 2007) have resulted in changes that must first be digested before the next round of enlargement. The EU-27 also demand that all necessary prior guarantees be provided regarding the independence of the judiciary and the fight against corruption in these countries. Despite the fact that press freedom is a requirement for membership, the NGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urged the EU to make “support for investigative and professional journalism” a key issue at the summit.”
While the EU-27 have not met since June, the topic of Western Balkans integration is competing with other top priorities in the run-up to France’s presidency of the EU in the first half of 2022. On the eve of the summit, a working dinner will be held, the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, called for “a strategic discussion on the role of the Union on the international scene” in his letter of invitation to the EU-Balkans Summit, citing “recent developments in Afghanistan,” the announcement of the AUKUS pact between the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom, which has enraged Paris.
The Western Balkans remain the focal point of an international game of influence in which the Europeans seek to maintain their dominance. As a result, the importance of reaffirming a “European perspective” at the summit was not an overstatement. Faced with the more frequent incursion of China, Russia, and Turkey in that European region, the EU has pledged a 30 billion euro Economic and Investment Plan for 2021-2027, as well as increased cooperation, particularly to deal with the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Opening the borders, however, is out of the question. In the absence of progress on this issue, Albania, North Macedonia, and Serbia have decided to establish their own zone of free movement (The Balkans are Open”) beginning January 1, 2023. “We are starting today to do in the region what we will do tomorrow in the EU,” said Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama when the agreement was signed last July.
This initiative, launched in 2019 under the name “Mini-Schengen” and based on a 1990s idea, does not have the support of the entire peninsular region, which remains deeply divided over this project. While Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro are not refusing to be a part of it and are open to discussions, the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti, who took office in 2020, for his part accuses Serbia of relying on this project to recreate “a fourth Yugoslavia”
Tensions between Balkan countries continue to be an impediment to European integration. The issue of movement between Kosovo and Serbia has been a source of concern since the end of September. Two weeks of escalation followed Kosovo’s decision to prohibit cars with Serbian license plates from entering its territory, in response to Serbia’s long-standing prohibition on allowing vehicles to pass in the opposite direction.
In response to the mobilization of Kosovar police to block the road, Serbs in Kosovo blocked roads to their towns and villages, and Serbia deployed tanks and the air force near the border. On Sunday, October 3, the conflict seemed to be over, and the roads were reopened. However, the tone had been set three days before the EU-Balkans summit.
German Election: Ramifications for the US Foreign Policy
In the recent German election, foreign policy was scarcely an issue. But Germany is an important element in the US foreign policy. There is a number of cases where Germany and the US can cooperate, but all of these dynamics are going to change very soon.
The Germans’ strategic culture makes it hard to be aligned perfectly with the US and disagreements can easily damage the relations. After the tension between the two countries over the Iraq war, in 2003, Henry Kissinger said that he could not imagine the relations between Germany and the US could be aggravated so quickly, so easily, which might end up being the “permanent temptation of German politics”. For a long time, the US used to provide security for Germany during the Cold War and beyond, so, several generations are used to take peace for granted. But recently, there is a growing demand on them to carry more burden, not just for their own security, but for international peace and stability. This demand was not well-received in Berlin.
Then, the environment around Germany changed and new threats loomed up in front of them. The great powers’ competition became the main theme in international relations. Still, Germany was not and is not ready for shouldering more responsibility. Politicians know this very well. Ursula von der Leyen, who was German defense minister, asked terms like “nuclear weapons” and “deterrence” be removed from her speeches.
Although on paper, all major parties appreciate the importance of Germany’s relations with the US, the Greens and SPD ask for a reset in the relations. The Greens insist on the European way in transatlantic relations and SPD seeks more multilateralism. Therefore, alignment may be harder to maintain in the future. However, If the tensions between the US and China heat up to melting degrees, then external pressure can overrule the internal pressure and Germany may accede to its transatlantic partners, just like when Helmut Schmid let NATO install medium-range nuclear missiles in Europe after the Soviet Union attacked Afghanistan and the Cold War heated up.
According to the election results, now three coalitions are possible: grand coalition with CDU/CSU and SPD, traffic lights coalition with SPD, FDP, and Greens, Jamaica coalition with CDU/CSU, FDP, and Greens. Jamaica coalition will more likely form the most favorable government for the US because it has both CDU and FDP, and traffic lights will be the least favorite as it has SPD. The grand coalition can maintain the status quo at best, because contrary to the current government, SPD will dominate CDU.
To understand nuances, we need to go over security issues to see how these coalitions will react to them. As far as Russia is concerned, none of them will recognize the annexation of Crimea and they all support related sanctions. However, if tensions heat up, any coalition government with SPD will be less likely assertive. On the other hand, as the Greens stress the importance of European values like democracy and human rights, they tend to be more assertive if the US formulates its foreign policy by these common values and describe US-China rivalry as a clash between democracy and authoritarianism. Moreover, the Greens disapprove of the Nordstream project, of course not for its geopolitics. FDP has also sided against it for a different reason. So, the US must follow closely the negotiations which have already started between anti-Russian smaller parties versus major parties.
For relations with China, pro-business FDP is less assertive. They are seeking for developing EU-China relations and deepening economic ties and civil society relations. While CDU/CSU and Greens see China as a competitor, partner, and systemic rival, SPD and FDP have still hopes that they can bring change through the exchange. Thus, the US might have bigger problems with the traffic lights coalition than the Jamaica coalition in this regard.
As for NATO and its 2 percent of GDP, the division is wider. CDU/CSU and FDP are the only parties who support it. So, in the next government, it might be harder to persuade them to pay more. Finally, for nuclear participation, the situation is the same. CDU/CSU is the only party that argues for it. This makes it an alarming situation because the next government has to decide on replacing Germany’s tornados until 2024, otherwise Germany will drop out of the NATO nuclear participation.
The below table gives a brief review of these three coalitions. 1 indicates the lowest level of favoritism and 3 indicates the highest level of favoritism. As it shows, the most anti-Russia coalition is Jamaica, while the most anti-China coalition is Trafic light. Meanwhile, Grand Coalition is the most pro-NATO coalition. If the US adopts a more normative foreign policy against China and Russia, then the Greens and FDP will be more assertive in their anti-Russian and anti-Chinese policies and Germany will align more firmly with the US if traffic light or Jamaica coalition rise to power.
|Issues Coalitions||Trafic Light||Grand Coalition||Jamaica|
1 indicates the lowest level of favoritism. 3 indicates the highest level of favoritism.
In conclusion, this election should not make Americans any happier. The US has already been frustrated with the current government led by Angela Merkel who gave Germany’s trade with China the first priority, and now that the left-wing will have more say in any imaginable coalition in the future, the Americans should become less pleased. But, still, there are hopes that Germany can be a partner for the US in great power competition if the US could articulate its foreign policy with common values, like democracy and human rights. More normative foreign policy can make a reliable partner out of Germany. Foreign policy rarely became a topic in this election, but observers should expect many ramifications for it.
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