We live in a post-genocidal society, divided into ethnic-religious ghetto by means of war. In such broken society are continually inserted seductive and controversial concepts that serve the goals that are not realized by means of war.
The terms such as federalism, unitarism and separatism come mainly as political games of political life actors in our country, but regarding the separatism of the entities RS, the Greater Serbian policy is absolutely focused on this goal. The shaping of political reality and the main ideas in it is a work of the ideology – par excellence, which then means that these terms are mostly ideologically determined and conceived in the minds of their constructors.
We should remember that M. Kasapović (Zagreb) in 2005 imposed and installed the term of consociation as territorial separation of the people in Bosnia and as the only possible model for the organization of the political system in Bosnia, followed by an orchestrated story of federalization and electoral units. The vague concept about the “impossible state” by N. Kecmanović (Banjaluka) is added to this in 2007 and till today, these two, assembled Serbian-Croatian projects of the dissolution of Bosnia stifled us and taken to a blind track of history. Kasapović has already come to Cyprisation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. These two names, Kasapović and Kecmanović, are witnesses to the great moral problem that has dampened our present social reality! We did not forget that on the ground of Bosnia, “pure ethnic territories” were created. On the objection that separatism must be halted, separatist forces respond that separatism is a reaction to unitarism and the non-recognition of entity “RS” or the necessity of federalization because of the vulnerability of Croats by Bosniaks.
Thus, the syntagm of “unitarist politics” is a good excuse to continue the policy of division, ghettoization, hatred, great Serbian policy and similar enterprises. The Dayton political system with imposed Constitution in Anex IV has brought peace to Bosnia, but, it should be emphasized, left the hope of anti-Bosnian forces to continue what they did not end in the war. This was immediately understood by the Greater Serbian policy and the entity RS was called the “Serbian state”, “war booty” or “the rest of the remnants of the Serbian ethnic territory” west of the Drina River. The name of the entity itself allows this in perspective!
Many people are already “trained” to speak “Serbian entity” regardless of the fact that it was made by genocide against Bosniaks. Unitarianism is falsely identified with majorization in the explanations of separatist policies that, in fact, do not want the state of Bosnia or want only the formally present state institutions that are subordinate to the entity. The unitary system of government means that there is a state power that is accomplished throughout the territory of the state. Relating to this idea, Bosnia is a highly decentralized state divided into entities and cantons, which considerably slows down its functioning. The key matter is that separatism and federalism as parts of the political ideology of anti-Bosnianism do not want strong state of Bosnia. In such divided state, there we cannot talk about unitarism. The expansionist nationalism of Serbs and Croats sees its goal in the assimilation of the Bosnian territory, then the “territorial authority” of ethnics means suppressing everything different from our “territory” and disregarding that in “our territory “state power or some national (state) institution has any influence. From here to dissolution, it is just a step. This is the way that tribal games go to the extreme. Serbian and Croatian national projects are seeking a “Bosniak policy” that would agree to implementation of Bosnian state’s dissolution in this way and end with its political and historical existence. A brave Bosnian policy should offer the concept of regionalization of the state area and constantly insist on it regardless of all Serbian-Croatian agreements against Bosnia. Bosnia has five historical regions that derive their meaningful existence from medieval times and that should not be ridden of the mind. In addition, the Bosnian ethatist political philosophy must be reaffirmed, therefore, a new development of awareness of the importance of the state. By this, it should be ended the Bosniak jeremiad in the last twenty years and defeated the anti-politics.
The ideologized vocabulary of anti-Bosnian politics
We must not agree to accept the ideologized vocabulary of anti-Bosnian politics at all. Unfortunately, we still do not have a sufficiently strong Bosnian policy that could deal with numerous subversives, simulacrums, deceptions and abuses of the system institutions, and we are all troubled by the failure of the rule of law. Parts of the law apply only to powerless or politically unbounded. It seems that the system of law in this country is the main source of corruption and manipulation of citizens, such a monstrous system that we have not even imagined. Organized groups have appropriated “right” of rights institutions and it appears as “party” and “ethnic” property, plus family clans, and the state is catastrophically damaged and turned into a “super-market” for robbery. The law system is subordinate to political groups that implement their constructions of social life. Weak state institutions open the space to all degenerative phenomena that undermine political stability. The state is vulnerable, institutionally deprived and does not breathe full of lungs. It would be good if the unitary system of government worked and organized the political life in the state through the devolution. It would be much more order, responsibility and better life. There would be no anarchy, hunting in the fog, ethnophulism in the education system, anachronistic ideologies, mythical consciousness, Chetniks and Ustasha, denying of genocide, denying the right to Bosnian language for children in schools … In post genocidal society, a strong and responsible state is needed in order to overcome war trauma and reached legal satisfaction. What we have now is a knock-together form of war achievements and fulfilled wishes of the Milosević’s regime.
The bureaucrats from the so-called International community
We should not be naive and believe to bureaucrats from the so-called International community, to people like for example, B. B. Ghali, J. Akashi, J. Mayor, M. Lajčak or C. Bildt and many others, known and unknown. They consider Bosnia as a regular working task and they did not carry out anything to improve life in Bosnia. Let remember José Cutilliero, Lord Carrington, David Owen, Philippe Morillon and dozens of others who have done everything to carry out an anti-Bosnian idea in Bosnia and led us to the madness of the division of the country towards the ethnic-religious lines of war conquest. They were “just mediators” – that sounds innocently. They came here as maharaja with their colonial narrations. Today’s generations must not forget these people and must save a real memory about them. It is important, for example, to leave a recorded memory of F. Mitterrand and similar figures of modern cynicism that convinced us that we could walk across the city under the siege of Serbian howitzers and snipers beside the burnt City Hall or Markale. They turned our disaster into a “humanitarian issue” and shamefully closed their eyes against the genocide against Bosniaks all over the Bosnia. In addition, Bosnia is settled at the heart of the former South Slavic area and it is “ideal” as a focal point in which Western, European, Anglo-Saxon, Germanic, civilized mediators “experts” can be involved for the division of territories leaving the peoples in conflicts. When “bureaucrats” stop working this in the Balkans, it is absolutely certain that peace will be here – to avoid saying eternal peace, because we have never started wars. Let’s look back to the 20th century – everything was transparent. Egoistic bureaucrats do not need civil Bosnia or peace among South Slavic “tribes”, because what would they do then and how they deal with their problems. European bureaucrats have been watching aggression on Bosnia for four years and wrote letters to Milošević. They did not provide protection and defence of an independent state with the UN forces. In today’s constellation, they worry about the Bosnian and South Slavic “primitives” who do not know what “civil society” is and play the role of a civilizing factor.
The political matrix of ethnic-religious representation of people
It would be worth to express a sceptical attitude towards the “civil political option” syntagm, because it does not have clear semantic structure, as well as a “nationalist policy”. Until we begin to name precisely the phenomena around us, we will not know what is happening to us! Since the 1990s in Bosnia the political matrix of ethnic-religious representation of people has been imposed, so that they have not appeared as individuals, citizens, free citizens, but only and exclusively as members of the team/collective, Serbs, Croats, Bosniaks and Others. In that wretched matrix, people of Bosnia are not autonomous and free individuals. They have to think as the “team/collective says” or the priest on behalf of the team/collective (tribe, people, nation, religion) and in such way their individuality is reduced of them, and then they are only “cannon flesh” of some great “Načertanija” (1844) and pathological conditions of hegemonic politics. Such a collectivist spirit is controlled by religious institutions and ruling political oligarchs. Here, the religion is the basis of the nation – and it tells us where we are!
It is an illusion to present the policy throughout the conceptual pair of “nationalist” and “civil” politics when we know that this is only the seductive surface of the project of tribal division of the people of the South Slavic area and the imposition of a matrix to Bosnia that opposes against its historical political philosophy. Our heroic peoples, who have neglected their production of knowledge and general culture, managed by people with suspicious projects, they will be slaves and serfs in the upcoming establishment of the world order as a system of hegemony of several powers. The pair of terms “civil” and “nationalist” does not correspond to the essential meaning of the historical process in which we are overtaken by a sub-national political culture, a feudalized landscape in which neither citizens nor nationalists “can” appear. We have not yet learned to participate freely in a democratic culture as citizens with their opinions and interests. We still need tribal chiefs and priests who do not know anything about the Bosnian political future! We need to ask questions that help us to focus primarily. For example, first of all – how did it happen that we are the only ones in today’s Europe who has a “tribal political system” or a “state of tribes”, such a constitutional arrangement imposed by Annex IV? Who set us this up as the Constitution of the State? Why all European diplomats are silent on this issue and say that we should “agree” when they, as the International Community, have fulfilled the wishes of the aggressors and nationalist forces in the Balkans and against Bosnia?
This cynical European bureaucracy, above all, regardless of European ideals, is a self-sufficient, static and enlarging political group that accumulates great power in its hands. It pretends as awkward in front of the Balkan fascists, the Nazis, the fundamentalists, because such characters serve it as an example of the “primitive Balkans” and “wild Slavic tribes” who are slaughtered each other without mercy. This colonial background and the orientalistic image about us disable a realistic approach to solving problems in this area. There are also quite low and hypocritical moves of Croatian “European” policy that plays its petty-bourgeois super-ordination to this area and shows itself to others as an “heir of European values” while supporting the Hague convicts with Tompson’s songs and ideology. This Croatian unilateralism has led to the incomparable exodus of Bosnian Croats from their homeland – Bosnia and has torn them away from their Bosnian state. The second guidance that helps us to orient ourselves is focused on understanding the distinction between national and ethnic, civil and ethnicity.
First of all, it should be reminded that in the area of South East Europe, where the South Slavic nations were located, the state structure of these nations failed because they were mostly obsessed with their own mythical, religious and ethnic constructions or fabrications that served them to represent themselves as a nation superior to others. In Bosnia, this has been happening during the whole 20th century in big noises of the Serbian and Croatian national determinations. Thus, the national question was shaped at a very primitive level as a question of creating an ethnic-religious state from which all who are not “ours” by religion and nationality will be excluded. This incompetence for the difference led the national question under the control of religious institutions of Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks. In one-track politics, the nuances of the fascist-shape relation to the different are noticed, as R. Konstantinović wrote about it, so knowledgeable and anticipatory, as well as Miodrag Popović. So, it could be said that the South Slavic peoples, as well as the peoples of Bosnia, have not yet developed and tested a political culture that surpasses the “tribal image of the world” and prefers free man as the greatest value of the social life of people.
We need to teach people that nationally are not a tribal, ethnic, folk, regional or ethnic-religious definition of a person, but it is meant that a free citizen belongs to a state-nation that assures him all human rights as to its citizen. Nationality is thus a civil definition, a legal-political concept of people’s life who does not exclude their cultural perceptions of themselves. So, it is time to learn to distinguish the political-legal level of human life in the community from the cultural-historical dimension through which a certain national identity is recognized as specific among others. The Bosnian Serbs were captured in the mythologist of the 19th century about the “great Serbian state” in which all Serbs will live and – only Serbs. In front of them there is a great historical task to overcome their own misconceptions, self-denial and historical blind alley.
A similar process of liberation from the “Ottoman image of the world” has already begun by the Bosniaks and they are carrying it out. In the end, it should be emphasized that in our country the civil has not yet matured in citizenship awareness, but it entails historicist narratives of Tito-statehood, fraternity and unity, communism and a one-party world, the monolithic Left, existence without identity, misunderstanding of anti-Fascism, bipolar diversity of the world, unable to anticipate the new Bosnian idea of life, and so on. In fact, the civil has never come to life in this region as a political culture of respecting a man, an individual, a free citizen of the Bosnian nation. We still do not know what it means to be a citizen, free and conscious again in our own Bosnianhood? We have not considered this in the past thirty years under the siege of collective metaphysics of ethnic-religious groups. In today’s monstrous political systems, this seems to be utopian, unreal and unachievable before the dictatorship of party oligarchies, leaders and their assistants. In that danger is growing the rescue-thing – Heidegger would remind to Hoelderlin.
The 17+1 Framework between China and Europe
In March 2019, Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang made a long trip to Eastern Europe.
The reference for that trip, full of bilateral meetings, was the one found in the Joint Declaration of the EU-China Summit of April 9, 2019.
A document in which, as usual, some key points are stated: firstly, the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, which reaffirms global strategic multilateralism, as well as “sustainable development” – whatever we may mean with this term – but in which, however, the EU reaffirms its One-China policy.
It also reaffirms support to the EU-China Cyber Task Force; the strengthening of the Addis Ababa Action Force; the funding to the joint migration agency; the will to achieve a global and inclusive economy; support to the Joint WTO Reform Group and further support to the G20; the joint action for the “Global Forum on Excess Steel Excess capacity”, as well as the reform of the international financial system and the review for the new IMF quotas; the “Paris Climate Agreement” and its Montreal Protocol; the Blue Partnership for the Oceans.
With regard to foreign policy – as if everything else were not- reference is explicitly made to the support of both players, namely EU and China, for the 2015 nuclear JCPOA with Iran. Also the peace process in Afghanistan is mentioned, as well as Venezuela.
In this list of bilateral issues there is also the request for a peaceful and democratic solution for Kabul.
Not to mention – of course – the Law of the Sea and finally the situation in Myanmar.
An encyclopedia of very important international topics, which are only proclaimed and mentioned as headings. But, as far as I know, not even in confidential talks they have gone beyond the good intentions with which, as we all know, the road to hell is paved.
In that Summit, tension could be easily perceived.
China wanted to have the EU on its side, at a time of maximum trade tension with the United States, while the EU had increasing doubts about the extension – the so-called 17+1 Framework – of the Belt and Road Initiative to the Balkans and former Yugoslavia.
It should be recalled that Italy, Hungary, Greece and Portugal broke EU unity towards China at that time.
Was it just a signal to the EU? Or a well-considered choice based on the fact that the EU was a technocrat structure operating side by side with Member States – as Germany said – but did not replace them? We do not know yet.
What is certain, however, is that the Chinese seduction towards the Mediterranean and Eastern EU is based on two facts: the U.S. slow disengagement from the NATO EU pillar, regardless of its future president, and China’s awareness that it has to deal with an EU which is now a “paper tiger”.
Nevertheless, China carried out an even more practical operation, at least following the Confucian logic: the support for a Belt and Road network, namely the “16+1 Framework of cooperation with countries in Central and Eastern Europe” -which is celebrating its eight anniversary -to which Greece joined.
The meeting about which we are talking took place in Dubrovnik in April 2019.
The logic of the Chinese Framework is to be closely related with the “Three Seas Initiative” of 2016, an EU initiative in which China simply participated.
As stated above, at the time Greece joined the group.
The Framework, however, had been created in Budapest in 2012 to foster cooperation between the (then) 16 European countries plus China, based on the new Chinese Silk Road and investment in infrastructure, with a view to creating the China-Europe land and sea express line.
Besides Greece, the European countries participating in the Framework are the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Lithuania, Romania, Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Slovakia and Slovenia.
Among the current participants, 16 are EU Member States, five are members of the Euro area, four are candidates for participating in the single currency and one is even a potential EU Member State.
From the geopolitical viewpoint, China has built an ad hoc format basically within the EU, a mechanism that minimizes the risks of crisis in the Eurozone, creates an autonomous area of interest for China and can even create a Chinese mainmise within the EU, which could also undermine its future development – if any.
The Chinese consortium managing the operation is the China-Road and Bridge Corporation, a subsidiary of the China Communication Construction Company– a company included in the Fortune 500 list.
The Eastern European countries’ underlying idea was to use Chinese support to stimulate their development but, in a document of the Czech government, it is pointed out that the bilateral commitments are now scarcely honoured.
This is due to the coronavirus and the ongoing financial crisis in European countries, as well as to an often high debt burden on the Chinese side.
The EU, however, has changed its political and economic approach towards China – rather quickly considering its normal standards.
In January 2019, in fact, a paper was published by the Federation of German Industries (BDI), which defined China as a “systemic investor” and asked the EU to make its rules and regulations stricter in view of competing with China and protect its companies.
This was followed in March 2019 by a document from the European External Action Service, the Brussels-based structure that believes it is a secret service – often with comical results.
The document told us it was necessary a) to strengthen relations with China, albeit carefully, in view of promoting common interests at global level; b) to control Chinese investment in the EU, on an equal footing (fat chance) and c) to push China towards a “sustainable” economy.
A psycholinguist should still help us to investigate into the effects of the word “global” in the minds of current political leaders.
The document also informed us that the EU should seek a more robust and, above all, mutual relationship at economic level.
Finally, it was maintained- coincidentally – that the countries of the 17+1 Framework should operate in a homogeneous relationship with EU laws. We can rest assured they will do so.
Then there was the same old story about “human rights” and the obvious “sustainable” development, not to mention climate change, China’s claims on the South China Sea which, we imagined, would be pursued with or without the EU “fine souls”, as well as the request for a connection between China and the EU in Eastern Europe – apart from the 17+1 Framework – which would be anyway pursued until China saw its interest, and finally the substantial repetition of the above stated China-EU agreement of 2019.
Just to avoid remaining in an imaginary world, we should recall here a very useful Machiavellian concept: “There is no avoiding war, it can only be postponed to the advantage of others”.
Not to mention that “States are not ruled and maintained with words”.
What is the solution to the dilemma? In all likelihood, the EU has had a very strong warning from the United States, and is trying to bridle, slow down and restrict its relations with China.
With reference to the 5G, a key issue for the United States, the European Commission has signalled a series of “necessary measures”.
The EU document tells us that the 5G network is very important – just what we needed – and that the Union also supports competition and the global market. It then lists the European agencies that deal with it.
Finally, the solution for the EU is to foster cybersecurity “through the diversity of suppliers when building the network”.
It should be recalled that Japan signed an agreement with the EU on the same issues in September 2019.
Everything will be known, however, once the EU’s foreign investment screening mechanism has provided its results, considering that it was launched on April 10, 2019 and will be implemented by October 11, 2020.
It is connected to the Commission’s Communication “A New Industrial Strategy for Europe” which maintains that “we need a new way of doing business in Europe” and that this must “reflect our values and social market traditions”.
It also states that “our industrial strategy is entrepreneurial in spirit and action” but also that “scalability is fundamental in the digitalised economy” – and this is another key point for us.
An essential topic, but left on the sidelines.
Let us leave aside the other banalities and trivialities typical of the 1968 protesters newly converted to the market economy.
Obviously the new Agency will have the following aims: to create a “cooperation mechanism between the European Commission and the Member States to exchange information” – as if it were not already in place – to enable the Commission to make an evaluation (obviously a non-mandatory one) to stop the operations concerning any foreign investment- albeit is not clear whether for SMEs or otherwise – to be authorized by the Member States to “comment” on foreign investment in the EU; to list a sequence – albeit not exhaustive – of foreign investment sectors that could trigger an analysis by this very powerful organization: critical infrastructure and technology, critical inputs, access to personal data and finally guarantee of media pluralism – that has little to do with it, but “anything goes” and every little bit helps.
That is all, so far.
In December 2015, China set up the People’s Liberation Army Strategic Support Force(PLASSF), the structure of the Chinese Armed Forces dealing with cyberwarfare, space warfare and electronic operations. Has the EU something similar?
Obviously not. Furthermore, NATO has a cyber-defence policy, defined at the Wales Summit of September 2014 and at the Warsaw Summit of 2016. But it has no joint agency for cyber policy, which is not only defence, but also attack.
Gas Without a Fight: Is Turkey Ready to Go to War for Resources in the Mediterranean?
Active exploration of gas deposits in the Eastern Mediterranean has boosted the region’s importance for the local powers. Most European states depend on imports of energy resources, which means that taking hold of new gas sources is an important element for strengthening their energy security and diversifying their sources of hydrocarbon supplies.
Currently, Greece, Cyprus, France, and Italy are among the main players that have divided up the known and future gas deposits in the Mediterranean among themselves. All these states are EU members. We should add that other EU states also indirectly benefit from new resources, even if they do not have immediate access to gas deposits. They will, however, gain an opportunity to diversify their gas imports and distribute their hydrocarbon dependency among a greater number of suppliers.
The discovery of a new treasure trove of hydrocarbons often produces not only profits, but also additional problems since natural resources frequently turn into a source of conflict. The case of the Eastern Mediterranean is no exception, as another power has staked its claim to a share of the region’s resources, a power that had officially received no piece of the gas “pie” that the European states had divided up among themselves. This power is Turkey, which has decided to actively explore the gas deposits in the Eastern Mediterranean and has also visibly increased its military presence in the region. Over the last few months, Turkish and Greek warships have been involved in several dangerous incidents, with both parties declaring their readiness to open fire at a pinch. Ankara has also warned that it would “not back down” in a potential confrontation. Like Greece, Turkey has already held military manoeuvres in the region.
Why does Turkey need the gas deposits of the Mediterranean? Today, Ankara is forced to import most of the gas it needs. According to 2016 data, imported gas accounts for 99 per cent of Turkey’s total gas consumption. Most of this gas (over 50 per cent) is purchased from Russia, with Iran, Azerbaijan, Algeria, and Nigeria being among Turkey’s other important suppliers. Multibillion natural resource purchases are a heavy burden on Turkey’s struggling economy. Its GDP has been stagnating since 2017, with a growth of just 0.877 per cent in 2019, compared to over 7 per cent two years ago . These negative trends have been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. It has been a particularly painful time for Turkey, as the country has had to deal with the consequences of the lockdown, the partial suspension of economic activities and a sharp drop in tourist flows, which have always been an important source of revenues for Ankara. The timing of the shortened 2020 holiday season could not have been worse for Turkey. According to official data from the Turkish government, by June 2020, Turkey’s GDP had dropped by 9.9 per cent compared with the previous quarter.
It is extremely important under such circumstances that Turkey finds new energy sources: the gas deposits in the Mediterranean will lift the overwhelming burden on the country’s budget and give its weakened economy room to breathe. In such a situation, decreasing dependence on gas imports could be posited as the short-term goal. In the long term, Turkey intends to become a net gas exporter, which will require huge gas deposits, including those outside the Mediterranean.
Fighting for resources fits well into Recep Erdogan’s “neo-Ottoman” foreign policy concept that envisions a Turkey that is more willing to engage in confrontation with Western powers. Additionally, the “neo-Ottoman doctrine” entails bolstering Turkey’s regional influence—and gaining new resources in the Mediterranean fits well within this task.
International Legal Conflicts within the Dispute
Ankara’s problem is that the formal provisions of the law of the sea do not allow Turkey to explore and develop potential and known gas deposits in the Eastern Mediterranean. The situation, however, is complicated by the fact that the law of the sea, like any other international legal norms, has understandable problems in terms of compliance. Additionally, the provisions of the law of the sea are very complex, and different states frequently interpret them differently, which is true for both Turkey and Greece. For instance, Turkey is actively exploring gas deposits in the Aegean Sea, although legally it does not have the right to do this: under the law of the sea, virtually all of the Aegean Sea belongs to Greece’s exclusive economic zone due to a chain of Greek islands that are closer to Turkey’s coasts than to continental Greece itself. Ankara, however, insists that the islands should not be taken into account when determining exclusive economic zones, which has created the first international legal conflict in the dispute.
The second conflict pertains to another stretch of the Mediterranean between Italy and Libya. Turkey has staked its claim to this stretch, citing its agreement with Libya’s Government of National Accord. The problem is that the GNA does not control all of Libya’s territory, which could put a question mark over the government’s legitimacy. On the other hand, the GNA enjoys international recognition, a fact that Turkey repeatedly stresses.
Another case is connected with gas deposits closer to the coasts of Cyprus. Turkey does not recognize Cyprus; it only recognizes the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (it is the only country to do so). Consequently, Ankara views exploring and developing gas deposits in the Exclusive Economic Zone of Cyprus as a violation of Turkey’s rights. In the meantime, the colossal Calypso gas deposit that was discovered off the coast of Cyprus in 2018 is one of the main bones of contention in the present energy dispute.
The Role of the European Union and Individual European Stakeholders
From the very outset, Brussels supported Greece and condemned Ankara’s aggressive actions. However, the European Union is not entirely homogeneous in its attitude to the dispute. Firstly, some of its members are locked in a confrontation with Turkey, such as Greece and Cyprus, and their stance in unequivocal. There are stakeholder states, such as France and Italy, two European Mediterranean powers that also have an interest in the region’s gas deposits. Their oil and gas companies, France’s Total, and Italy’s Eni, have already bought shares in the discovered Mediterranean gas reserves and made relevant arrangements with Athens and Nicosia. In the standoff between Greece and Turkey, Paris and Rome are solidly behind Greece. Moreover, France has not limited itself to rhetoric, and has sent warships to the Eastern Mediterranean, thus demonstrating its willingness to support the Hellenic Navy in a critical situation. This is a particularly important step, since it entails a radical shift in the military balance of power within the dispute.
Out of all the EU member states, particular mention should be made of Germany, which has a special connection with Turkey and currently holds the presidency of the Council of the European Union. Tellingly, Berlin also sided with Greece, although, unlike France, it has been far more restrained in its conduct. Germany did not send its Navy to the region. Berlin’s principal message is the need for dialogue between the opposing parties and a détente in the conflict. This is Germany’s typical foreign policy stance since it prefers to avoid exerting pressure by force. Additionally, Germany has no additional incentives within the dispute since it stakes no claim to the resources of the Mediterranean.
As for the European Union in general, the overall support for Greece is easy to explain. Brussels proceeds from the official provisions of the law of the sea and, unlike Turkey, it recognizes Cyprus and, consequently, the right of Athens and Nicosia to the gas deposits. In the long term, this new source of gas could help stabilize the European Union and serve as a safety net in the event of a crisis. It was not that long ago that the global financial crisis and the subsequent Eurozone troubles, which hit Greece especially hard, almost resulted in Athens defaulting and withdrawing from the European Union—a fact that could have set a very dangerous precedent and entailed a chain reaction in other Eurozone states with major financial woes (such as Italy). With this is mind, European politicians may very well count on the fact that the revenues from developing the gas fields will help keep the Greek economy on an even keel and insure both Athens and Brussels against possible new economic shocks. We should keep in mind here that the European Union had to establish a financial aid programme and spend significant funds to save Greece from bankruptcy.
Additionally, as we have already mentioned, the new source of gas will allow many EU countries to diversify their energy suppliers and thus to boost their energy security.
How Likely is the Dispute to Turn into a “Hot” Conflict?
Despite several critical incidents, an open conflict over the gas deposits in the Eastern Mediterranean is not particularly likely, mostly due to the forces being unequal. Turkey has found itself almost completely isolated, and the only agreement Ankara can rely on has been achieved with Libya’s unstable Government of National Accord. On the other side, there is an entire coalition of states, with Greece and France having already held joint military exercises.
France’s military intervention radically changes the balance of power. Turkey’s Navy is larger and stronger than Greece’s (149 warships vs. 116, according to the Global Firepower Index), but significantly smaller than that of France (180 warships). However, it is not only a matter of how many warships each side has. What is important here is their quality: for instance, France has four aircraft carriers, while Turkey has none.
The European Union’s general support for Greece is also important. The idea of imposing sanctions against Turkey was evoked at the most recent EU Foreign Ministers Meeting. Financial penalties could have a major effect on Turkey, given that the European Union is Ankara’s principal trade partner, accounting for 42.4 per cent of its exports and 32.3 per cent of its imports. In such a situation, trade sanctions may prove very painful for Turkey, especially given its stagnating economy and the significant losses it has suffered as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Additionally, the scope of the European Union’s non-military leverage against Turkey is not confined to economic sanctions. In the event of an open conflict between Athens and Ankara, Brussels can strip Turkey of its current benefits in trading with European states. In particular, the question of excluding Turkey from the EU Customs Union may appear on Brussels’ agenda. Additionally, the European Union could take Turkey’s potential EU membership off the table forever and strike Ankara from the list of candidates.
Still, we should not discount the serious obstacles in the way of Brussels imposing sanctions against Turkey and using other measures to apply pressure on Ankara. One such obstacle is Ankara’s geopolitical significance for Washington. Despite all the recent complications in their relations, Turkey remains one of the key U.S. allies in the region and a NATO stronghold in the Middle East.
As for Turkey itself, a “hot” conflict could prove detrimental to the country in several ways at once. First, given the unequal military power, it is extremely unlikely that Turkey would emerge victorious from such a conflict. Second, a war will undermine Turkey’s global standing and its membership in international organizations. Third, Turkey cannot afford in its current economic state to either actively build up its military power (even though its authorities claim the opposite and have announced significant increases in the naval budget, with the construction on aircraft carriers being top of the spending list) or bear the burden of possible sanctions which, given the country’s many connections with the European Union, could prove very painful.
The rhetoric of the Turkish leadership is highly belligerent rhetoric, yet Ankara is very well aware of the real consequences of breaking up with Europe and starting an open conflict with a country that is a member of both the European Union and NATO. It is possible that, instead of instigating a “hot” conflict, Turkey could attempt to use its own instruments of applying non-military pressure, such as the huge number of refugees present on Turkish territory. Since 2016, Brussels and Ankara have had a refugee agreement in place. However, Recep Erdogan has already demonstrated in the past that he is capable of suspending this agreement and “cracking open” the door to Europe for migrants, which would set new crises in motion at the borders to the European Union.
Does the Gas Dispute in the Mediterranean Affect Russia?
Special attention should be paid here to the possible prospects for Russia in the ongoing dispute. Naturally, Russia has a very tangential relation to the confrontation in the Mediterranean, although the outcome of this confrontation may be important for Moscow.
On the one hand, Russia can hardly profit from Turkey gaining its own major sources of gas. Currently, Moscow is the main supplier of gas to the Turkish market. Undoubtedly, Russia is interested in preserving this status quo. The recent launch of the Turkish Stream confirms that Moscow intends to maintain its dominant standing in the Turkish energy resources market.
On the other hand, a new source of gas for European countries could shake Russia’s position in the even more important European market. It is no secret that the EU countries are attempting to diversify their resource suppliers for greater energy security. However, abandoning Russian gas is very difficult since a gas pipeline infrastructure has already been created in Europe, making Russian gas relatively inexpensive. Much will depend on whether Greece, Cyprus, and Israel will succeed in jointly building the EastMed gas pipeline meant to deliver gas from the Eastern Mediterranean to Greece. Theoretically, EastMed could be extended to other European states. It currently has a design capacity of 10 billion cubic metres, which may be increased by tapping the currently unexplored resources of the Eastern Mediterranean. This is a very ambitious and expensive project, but if it does materialize, it could change the situation in the European gas market, since pricewise, it could compete with cheap Russian gas. If there is no pipeline running from the Mediterranean, Mediterranean gas will have a hard time pushing Russia aside in the European market: without the gas pipeline, gas will be shipped as liquefied natural gas (LNG), which will significantly increase its price and make it far less attractive to European countries.
From our partner RIAC
Political will is needed to foster multilateralism in Europe
On July 1st 2020, a large number of international affairs specialists gathered in Vienna, Austria, for the conference “From Victory Day to Corona Disarray: 75 Years of Europe’s Collective Security and Human Rights System”. The conference, jointly organized by four different entities (the International Institute for Middle East and Balkan Studies IFIMES, Media Platform Modern Diplomacy, Scientific Journal European Perspectives, and Action Platform Culture for Peace) with the support of the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna, was aimed at discussing the future of Europe in the wake of its old and new challenges.
The conference gathered over twenty high ranking speakers from Canada to Australia, and audience physically in the venue while many others attended online – from Chile to Far East. The day was filled by three panels focusing on the legacy of WWII, Nuremberg Trials, the European Human Rights Charter and their relevance in the 21st century; on the importance of culture for peace and culture of peace – culture, science, arts, sports – as a way to reinforce a collective identity in Europe; on the importance of accelerating on universalism and pan-European Multilateralism while integrating further the Euro-MED within Europe, or as the Romano Prodi’s EU Commission coined it back in 2000s – “from Morocco to Russia – everything but the institutions”.
The event itself was probably the largest physical gathering past the early spring lock down to this very day in this part of Europe. No wonder that it marked a launch of the political rethink and recalibration named – Vienna Process.
Among the speakers for the conference’s third panel – which focused on universal and pan-European multilateralism – there was Dr. Franz Fischler, a well-known figure due to his previous postings as Austria’s Federal Minister for Agriculture and Forestry (1989-1994) and as European Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries (1995-2004), besides being currently President of the famous European ForumAlpbach.
Dr. Fischler started his keynote speech by highlighting how the COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to fundamentally change Europe – and even the whole world. In doing so, he referred to the paradoxes outlined by Bulgarian intellectual Ivan Krastev in the wake of the pandemic. Contrasting pushes towards re-nationalization and globalization, the partial interruption of democracy but the decreasing appetite for authoritarian government, the mixed response of the European Union to the crisis – in short, a series of conflicting trends are making the future of Europe, as well as that of the whole world, very much uncertain.
It was against this backdrop that Dr. Fischler addressed the central question of the panel: What is fundamentally going to happen in Europe in the times ahead? The former EU Commissioner clarified from the very beginning that those who wish a further deepening of the current multilateral system should not be blinded by excessive optimism. An alternative to the current system does exist – clearly symbolized by the combination of nationalism and populism that we can see in many countries, but also by the problems faced by multilateralism in many fields, most notably trade.
This trend is evident in the case of the European Union too – Dr. Fischler warned. He highlighted that policy tools aimed at stimulating convergence across European countries, such as for instance the EU’s cohesion policies, are becoming increasingly weak, and inequality within the EU is currently on the rise. As a result, traditional goals such as the “ever closer Europe” and the “United States of Europe” do not even seem to be on the agenda anymore.
What can then be done to deepen the EU’s integration process and strengthen Europe’s multilateral system? Towards the end of his speech, Dr. Fischler outlined a few entry points for reform and further cooperation. His suggestions revolved around increasing cooperation on a number of specific issues, ranging from high-tech research to the development of a common European passport. He also proposed that European countries should strengthen their common diplomatic initiatives, including by speaking with a single voice in international institutions, as well as increasing the EU’s soft power. On top of that, deeper institutional and political modifications might be needed for the EU, Dr. Fischler hinted – citing as examples the relaxation of the unanimity voting procedure on some foreign policy issues, as well as an intensification of the EU’s enlargement process.
Closing his highly absorbing speech, Dr. Fischler – champion of multilateralism, and guru of the current EU CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) made clear which ingredient is, in his opinion, the cornerstone for reviving multilateralism in Europe: “All I would like to say is that there are possibilities out there. The question is, as always in these times: is there enough political will?”
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