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Albanian Federation versus New Yugoslavia

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[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:

  1. Elimination of customs, the creation of a common Albanian market;
  2. Full integration of education and health policies;
  3. Begin the use of Albanian currency (Lek), as a second currency in Kosovo;
  4. 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

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Who are the ‘Willing’ in Central Europe – Axis of the 1930s coming back ?

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The idea of an “axis of the willing against illegal migration” between Italy, Germany and Austria has been proposed by Sebastian Kurz, Austria’s right populist leader. He spoke about it with German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, a Bavarian conservative who shares the Austrian chancellor’s views on tighter border control. Kurz said fighting illegal immigration will be a top priority for Vienna’s EU presidency from July 2018. Kurz and Seehofer met on the same day as Merkel’s “integration summit,” leading to media reports about serious political clashes between Germany’s coalition parties.

“We shouldn’t wait until we have a catastrophe, like in 2015,” Kurz said, referring to the refugee crisis when German Chancellor Angela Merkel opened her country’s borders to hundreds of thousands of migrants. “Instead it is important to act on time.”

Kurz’s meeting with Seehofer means the German minister was unable to attend Merkel’s “integration summit” happening the same day in Berlin. Referring to media reports that this was meant as a snub to the German leader, Seehofer said his reason for not attending was the presence of a journalist, Ferda Ataman, who opposed German deep state and has compared his policies on migration to the Nazis.

“I cannot be part of an integration summit where there is one participant who in an article compared my strategy on homeland to the homeland understanding of the Nazis,” Seehofer told reporters.

Seehofer takes a much harder line than Merkel on immigration and was expected to present a “migration master plan” this week. That has been postponed, but Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and Seehofer’s Christian Social Union (CSU) hope to find a compromise on the plan this week, Seehofer said.

“From my point of view, it would be ideal to secure the external borders of the European Union,” Seehofer said after the meeting with Kurz. Dismissing voices about the brewing putch within the German ruling coalition, he continued: “I promised Chancellor Kurz that on the question of strengthening the external borders he has my full support as interior minister.”

Seehofer, after talks with yet another government that of Italy, notably with a populist Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, said the new government in Rome is also keen to build a partnership with Vienna and Berlin on security, counterterrorism and migration. Seehofer and Salvini are in ‘full agreement’ on how to secure the EU’s external borders, the German minister said.

Concluding, youngish and hawkish chancellor Kurz said: “In our opinion we need an axis of the willing in the fight against illegal migration.”

This choice of words raised a few eyebrows, as a previous “Axis” between those three countries carries much darker historical undertones, as does former US President George W. Bush’s “coalition of the willing” in Iraq. But the Austrian chancellor didn’t seem to care.

Home troubles

An “axis of the willing” would inevitably be seen as an anti-Merkel alliance. Even further, “perhaps the end of the grand rapprochement between the Atlantic and Central Europe” – says prof. Anis H. Bajrektarevic whose long standing claim is that one EU turns into five Europes in times of crisis and externally induced stress.

Mr. Salvini, who heads the far-right League, attacked Ms. Merkel during Italy’s recent election campaign and demonstrated his harsh stance on immigration by refusing to let a rescue boat with more than 600 migrants dock in the country. He stands for pretty much everything Ms. Merkel opposes: unilateral national action and a merciless approach to asylum-seekers. “The good life is over for the illegals, they’re going to have to pack their bags,” he said recently.

And on top of a new cross-border alliance against her, Ms. Merkel is facing enough domestic troubles as defiant conservatives are pressuring her into toughening her immigration policy by means fair and foul.

Mr. Seehofer, whose right-wing Christian Social Union is trying to woo sympathizers of the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) ahead of a regional election in the CSU’s home state of Bavaria in October, has drafted a package of measures to curb the number of asylum-seekers coming to Germany.

They include turning away refugees at the border if they have already registered in another EU country — a step that Ms. Merkel rejected on Monday because it would amount to a reversal of her open-border policy and undermine her efforts to find a pan-European agreement on how to deal with refugees. The chancellor’s veto was the spark that reignited the simmering asylum dispute with her Bavarian ally.

Über-muttisummoned

The two held late-night crisis talks on Wednesday with Markus Söder, Mr. Seehofer’s successor as Bavarian premier, and with Hesse state premier Volker Bouffier, a senior figure of Ms. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union who is running for re-election in the fall.

However, the two-and-a-half-hour talks failed to deliver a breakthrough. Ms. Merkel did compromise with the CSU’s plan to turn away asylum seekers at the border, but she also proposed this to be first agreed bilaterally with other European countries during the upcoming EU summit later this month, in order to avoid unilateral decisions from Berlin that could further jeopardize the EU’s shaken unity. “It makes sense to wait two more weeks until the summit to find solutions jointly with partner countries,” she said.

For the Bavarians, however, that offer wasn’t enough. Mr. Söder said on Thursday that hoping to reach bilateral deals so soon was unrealistic. “We don’t believe that in two weeks it will be possible to achieve something that has been impossible for three years,” he said. The hawkish Bavarian leader added that instead, creating a fait accompli as soon as possible might force the rest of the EU to adopt a common solution at last.

Rescue plan

An unbending CSU is instead looking into ways to strong-arm Ms. Merkel’s CDU into adopting its proposed immigration plan in the days ahead. The Bavarians are mulling submitting it to a vote within the CDU/CSU parliamentary group in the Bundestag on Friday, as they believe a majority of Ms. Merkel’s CDU lawmakers would side with them. They were probably looking at a survey tabloid Bild published on Thursday. The country’s most-read daily asked all 246 conservative lawmakers in the Bundestag whether they sided with Ms. Merkel or with the Bavarians. Of the 70 who answered, just three backed the chancellor. But that was before she made her compromise on Wednesday night.

On Thursday, CDU lawmakers abruptly interrupted a parliamentary session to hold a group meeting on Ms. Merkel’s latest offer. It turns out that, after Bundestag President Schäuble, who long served as Ms. Merkel’s finance minister, gave a “moving” speech on the future of Europe, the Christian Democrats overwhelmingly endorsed their leader’s proposal after all.

The Bavarians are still digging in their heels, though. The CSU announced that it will make its next move known after an internal summit scheduled for Monday. Some are saying that Mr. Seehofer could disobey the chancellor, his boss, and enforce his plan. The Bavarian party could also break with its sister party, the CDU, as a last resort — but this highly unusual move in Germany’s post-war history could topple the chancellor and plunge the country into a political crisis.

Or Mr. Seehofer still has his axis with Mr. Kurz and Mr. Salvini to fall back on. In the long run, the trio may indeed find a way to defeat a weakened Ms. Merkel and march the EU into unknown.

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The Aegean Dilemma: Turkish-Greek Complexity Challenging European Solidarity

Alexandros-Ioannis Papamatthaiou

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

Turkey’s control of refugee flows has EU hands tied

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

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

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

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

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

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

How are Turkish domestic politics exacerbating the conflict?

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

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

What are the objectives of Turkey?

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

Why should the EU care? What can be done?

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

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

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

 

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

Bahauddin Foizee

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

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

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

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

State Structures

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

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

Chaos

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

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

Debt, currency, exodus of businesses

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

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

Access to EU market

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

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

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

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