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The Truth and Reconciliation struggle on the Balkans

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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.

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NATO’s Cypriot Trick

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UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

When the Soviet Union collapsed and the Warsaw Pact died, there was much speculation that NATO would consider itself redundant and either disappear or at least transmogrify into a less aggressive body.

Failing that, Moscow at least felt assured that NATO would not include Germany, let alone expand eastwards. Even the NATO Review, NATO’s PR organ, wrote self-apologetically twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin wall: “Thus, the debate about the enlargement of NATO evolved solely in the context of German reunification. In these negotiations Bonn and Washington managed to allay Soviet reservations about a reunited Germany remaining in NATO. This was achieved by generous financial aid, and by the ‘2+4 Treaty’ ruling out the stationing of foreign NATO forces on the territory of the former East Germany. However, it was also achieved through countless personal conversations in which Gorbachev and other Soviet leaders were assured that the West would not take advantage of the Soviet Union’s weakness and willingness to withdraw militarily from Central and Eastern Europe.”

Whatever the polemics about Russia’s claim that NATO broke its promises, the facts of what happened following the fall of the Berlin wall and the negotiations about German re-unification strongly demonstrate that Moscow felt cheated and that the NATO business and military machine, driven by a jingoistic Cold War Britain, a selfish U.S. military-industrial-congressional complex and an atavistic Russia-hating Poland, saw an opportunity to become a world policeman.

This helps to explain why, in contrast to Berlin, NATO decided to keep Nicosia as the world’s last divided city. For Cyprus is in fact NATO’s southernmost point, de facto. And to have resolved Cyprus’ problem by heeding UN resolutions and getting rid of all foreign forces and re-unifying the country would have meant that NATO would have ‘lost’ Cyprus: hardly helpful to the idea of making NATO the world policeman. Let us look a little more closely at the history behind this.

Following the Suez debacle in 1956, Britain had already moved its Middle East Headquarters from Aden to Cyprus, while the U.S. was taking over from the UK and France in the Middle East. Although, to some extent under U.S. pressure, Britain was forced to bring Makarios out of exile and begin negotiating with Greece and Turkey to give up its colony, the U.S. opted for a NATO solution. It would not do to have a truly sovereign Cyprus, but only one which accepted the existence of the Sovereign Base Areas (SBAs) as part and parcel of any settlement; and so it has remained, whatever the sophistic semantics about a bizonal settlement and a double-headed government. The set of twisted and oft-contradictory treaties that have bedevilled the island since 1960 are still afflicting the part-occupied island which has been a de facto NATO base since 1949. Let us look at some more history.

When Cyprus obtained its qualified independence in 1960, Greece and Turkey had already signed, on 11 February 1959, a so called ‘Gentlemen’s Agreement’, agreeing that they would support Cyprus’ entry into NATO.1 This was, however, mere posture diplomacy, since Britain—and the U.S. for that matter—did not trust Cyprus, given the strength of the Progressive Party of Working People (AKEL) and the latter’s links to Moscow. The Ministry of Defence (MOD) wrote: ‘Membership of NATO might make it easier for the Republic of Cyprus and possibly for the Greeks and Turks to cause political embarrassment should the United Kingdom wish to use the bases […] for national ends outside Cyprus […] The access of the Cypriot Government to NATO plans and documents would present a serious security risk, particularly in view of the strength of the Cypriot Communist Party. […] The Chiefs of Staff, therefore, feel most strongly that, from the military point of view, it would be a grave disadvantage to admit Cyprus to NATO.’2 In short, Cyprus was considered unreliable.

As is well known, the unworkable constitution (described as such by the Foreign Office and even by David Hannay, the Annan reunification plan’s PR man), resulted in chaos and civil strife: in January 1964, during the chaos caused by the Foreign Office’s help and encouragement to President Makarios to introduce a ‘thirteen point plan’ to solve Cyprus’ problems, British Prime Minister Douglas-Home told the Cabinet: ‘If the Turks invade or if we are seriously prevented from fulfilling our political role, we have made it quite clear that we will retire into base.’3 Put more simply, Britain had never had any intention of upholding the Treaty of Guarantee.

In July of the same year, the Foreign Office wrote: ‘The Americans have made it quite clear that there would be no question of using the 6th Fleet to prevent any possible Turkish invasion […] We have all along made it clear to the United Nations that we could not agree to UNFICYP’s being used for the purpose of repelling external intervention, and the standing orders to our troops outside UNFYCYP are to withdraw to the sovereign base areas immediately any such intervention takes place.’4

It was mainly thanks to Moscow and President Makarios that in 1964 a Turkish invasion and/or the island being divided between Greece and Turkey was prevented. Such a solution would have strengthened NATO, since Cyprus would no longer exist other than as a part of NATO members Greece and Turkey. Moscow had issued the following statement: ‘The Soviet Government hereby states that if there is an armed foreign invasion of Cypriot territory, the Soviet Union will help the Republic of Cyprus to defend its freedom and independence against foreign intervention.’5

Privately, Britain, realising the unworkability of the 1960 treaties, was embarrassed, and wished to relieve itself of the whole problem. The following gives us the backstage truth: ‘The bases and retained sites, and their usefulness to us, depend in large measure on Greek Cypriot co-operation and at least acquiescence. A ‘Guantanamo’6 position is out of the question. Their future therefore must depend on the extent to which we can retain Greek and/or Cypriot goodwill and counter USSR and UAR pressures. There seems little doubt, however, that in the long term, our sovereign rights in the SBA’s will be considered increasingly irksome by the Greek Cypriots and will be regarded as increasingly anachronistic by world public opinion.7

Following the Turkish invasion ten years later, Britain tried to give up its bases: ‘British strategic interests in Cyprus are now minimal. Cyprus has never figured in NATO strategy and our bases there have no direct NATO role. The strategic value of Cyprus to us has declined sharply since our virtual withdrawal from east of Suez. This will remain the case when the Suez Canal has reopened.8

A Cabinet paper concluded: ‘Our policy should continue to be one of complete withdrawal of our military presence on Cyprus as soon as feasible. […] In the circumstances I think that we should make the Americans aware of our growing difficulty in continuing to provide a military presence in Cyprus while sustaining our main contribution to NATO. […]9

Britain kept trying to give up the bases, but the enabler of the Turkish invasion, Henry Kissinger, did not allow Britain to give up its bases and listening posts, since that would have weakened NATO, and since Kissinger needed the bases because of the Arab-Israel dispute.10

Thus, by the end of 1980, in a private about-turn, Britain had completely succumbed to American pressure: ‘The benefits which we derive from the SBAs are of major significance and virtually irreplaceable. They are an essential contribution to the Anglo-American relationship. The Department have regularly considered with those concerned which circumstances in Cyprus are most conducive to our retaining unfettered use of our SBA facilities. On balance, the conclusion is that an early ‘solution’ might not help (since pressures against the SBAs might then build up), just as breakdown and return to strife would not, and that our interests are best served by continuing movement towards a solution – without the early prospect of arrival [author’s italics]11.

And so it is today: Cyprus is a de facto NATO territory. A truly independent, sovereign and united Cyprus is an anathema to the U.S. and Britain, since such a scenario would afford Russia the hypothetical opportunity to increase its influence in the Eastern Mediterranean.

From our partner RIAC

[1] Ministry of Defence paper JP (59) 163, I January 1960, BNA DEFE 13/99/MO/5/1/5, in Mallinson, William, Cyprus, a Modern History, I.B. Tauris (now Bloomsbury), London and New York, 2005, 2009, 2012, p.49.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Memorandum by Prime Minister, 2 January 1964, BNA CAB/129/116, in ibid, Mallinson, William, p.37.

[4] British Embassy, Washington, to Foreign Office, 7 July 1964, telegram 8541, BNA FO 371/174766, file C1205/2/G, in ibid.’, Mallinson, William, p. 37.

[5] Joseph, Joseph S., Cyprus, Ethnic Conflict and International Politics, St Martin’s Press, London and New York, 1997, p. 66.

[6] In 1964, Cuba cut off supplies to the American base at Guantanamo Bay, since the US refused to return it to Cuba, as a result of which the US took measures to make it self-sufficient.

[7] Briefing paper, 18 June 1964, BNA-DO/220/170, file MED 193/105/2, part A. Mallinson,William, Kissinger and the Invasion of Cyprus, p. 127.

[8] ‘British Interests in the Eastern Mediterranean’, draft paper, 11 April 1975, BNA-FCO 46/1248, file DPI/515/1.

[9] Cabinet paper, 29 September 1976, in op. cit. Mallinson, William, Kissinger and the Invasion of Cyprus, p.134.

[10] Mallinson, William, Britain and Cyprus: Key Themes and Documents, I.B. Tauris, London and New York, 2011, and Bloomsbury, London and New York, 2020, pp. 87-121.

[11] Fergusson to Foreign Minister’s Private Secretary, minute, 8 December 1980, BNA-FCO 9/2949, file WSC/023/1, part C.

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Belarus divorces from the Eastern Partnership: A new challenge for the EU Neighborhood Policy

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The Eastern Partnership (EaP) is the Eastern dimension of the EU Neighborhood Policy adopted back in 2009 aimed at deepening relations between Brussels and six Eastern European partners – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The EaP has been regarded as a strategic initiative based on mutual interests and common values with a goal of strengthening political and economic relations with those countries, helping them enhance their institutional capacity through sustainable reforms. While increasing stability and paving the way for the sustainable development of those societies, the EU’s overall goal has been to secure its Eastern borders.

Since the very beginning the EaP has been suspiciously viewed by Russia as an attempt of expansion of the sphere of influence and as a first step of EU membership of these countries. Russians point to the EU and NATO ambitious expansion eastward as the main reason for complicated relations and in this context the EaP has been regarded with traditional fears and paranoic perceptions. The Russian hard power approach causes serious problems for the EaP which fails to mitigate security concerns of partner countries and to come up with serious initiatives for conflict settlement. Being a laggard in terms of soft power, the Russian ruling elite has continuously used all hard power foreign policy instruments at its disposal trying to undermine the coherence of the initiative. And the very recent démarche of Belarus to withdraw from the EaP should be seen in this context of confrontation.

On 28th of June, the ministry of foreign affairs of Belarus announced a decision to halt its membership in the EaP as a response to the EU sanctions imposed on Minsk accompanied by the recalling ambassadors from both sides. Actually, this isn’t the first case of the EaP walkout blackmailed by Lukashenko. The first escape was attempted in September-October 2011, but the difficulties were soon resolved and Lukashenko revised his decision. This time situation seems very complicated and these far-reaching tensions may have tough consequences for Lukashenko’s regime. This new group of sectoral sanctions which target banking, oil, telecommunication spheres and also ban the export of potash, is a harsh response from the EU against Lukashneko’s scandalous hijacking activity in May to detain a Belarusian opposition journalist and blogger Roman Protasevich.

Lukashenko’s administration not only challenges the EU Neighborhood Policy and shows no retreat, but also goes forward escalating the situation. Minsk takes high risks freezing the Readmission Agreement signed by the EU. This document is a legal basis for bilateral cooperation aimed at struggling against irregular migration flows. It’s not a secret that the territory of Belarus has been used for illegal migration for the groups from the Middle East to penetrate into neighboring EU member states such as Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. Moreover, Belarus territory has served as a transit route for smuggling circles going from East to West and vice versa.  And now closing eyes on all these channels, Minsk hopes to increase the bargaining power vis-à-vis Brussels. However, given the Western reactions, it seems that this time the EU is resolute.

Despite the fact that Charles Michel, the President of the EU Council, described this withdrawal as “another step backwards” and even threatened that “this will escalate tensions having clear negative impacts”, the EU wants to continue working with the Belarusian society  as Josep Borrel stated. The EU’s determination to keep the bridges alive with the Belarusian people, in spite of Lukashneko’s radical stance, is aimed at preventing further isolationism of Minsk which would benefit only Russia.

In contrast to the increasing level of tensions with the EU, the Russian authorities continue to support Lukasheno’s administration, thus trying to deepen the gap and to bring Belarus under their total influence. Russia uses Belarus in its chessboard with the EU and the USA in Eastern Europe. Last year’s fraud elections and brutal crackdown by Lukashenko left him alone with the only source of power stemming from the Kremlin. Thus the withdrawal from the EaP should be understood not only as a convulsion of the Belarusian authorities in response to the sanctions, but also Russia’s employment of the Belarus card to respond to the recent joint statement of the EU-US summit in Brussels, when both parties declared their intention to stand with the people of Belarus, supporting their demands for human rights and democracy simultaneously criticising Lukashenko’s regime and his reckless political behavior and also criticising Russian’s unacceptable behavior.

So, Lukashenko’s step to quit the EaP can be seen as a well-calculated adulatory sign towards Moscow sacrificing the last remnants of sovereignty in order to receive financial and political lifebuoy amid the increasing crisis in the result of sanctions.  And the recent visit of N. Patrushev, the Secretary of the Security Council of Russia, to Minsk right after the withdrawal decision shows Russian inclination to strike while the iron is hot and to abuse the vulnerable situation of Belarus. Patrushev stated that the ultimate goal of foreign powers is to change the power in Belarus and he suggested instead of focusing on internal issues, to bring their forces together against external threats as their influence affects internal developments. For this reason, deeper integration of security and military services of both countries are on the table.

The reaction of opposition leader S. Tikhanovskaya was very rough, stating that this suspension will cut the opportunities of ordinary citizens who benefit from the political and economic outcomes of the EaP. Moreover, she claims that Lukashenko doesn’t have a right to represent Belarus since August 2020 and his decisions don’t have legal consequences for Belarus. This kind of approach is shared by the leadership of Lithuania too, whose president and minister of foreign affairs not only refuse to recognize Lukashenko as a legitimate president, but also highlight the role of the Kremlin in supporting the dictatorial power of Lukashenko in exchange for decreasing sovereignty.

The blackmail of Lukashenko to challenge the EU Eastern Neighborhood Policy  in order to have the sanctions lifted may bring about such kind of precedents with other partnering countries as well. First of all, this concerns Azerbaijan which continues to face serious problems related with human rights, freedom of expression, the problem of Prisoners of War and other traits of authoritarian power. It’s well-known that  human rights issues have been the underwater stones in the EU and Azerbaijan relations and they continue to pose new challenges for Aliyev’s non-democratice regime. Another weak ring of the EaP chain is Armenia. Even though reelected N. Pashinyan is eager to pursue a balanced foreign policy, post-war Armenia still faces serious limitations given its vulnerable dependence on Russia. Besides, Pashinyan’s main rival and the former President R. Kocharyan, whose alliance will be the second largest faction in the newly elected Parliament has recently stated that this new parliament can last up to one and half years and nobody can exclude the possibility of new snap elections. His pro-Russian attitude and anti-Western stance are well-known and in case he becomes a prime-minister, there is no guarantee that he will follow the path of Lukashenko. 

Therefore  the statement of the Austrian MFA, that ”we cannot leave South Caucasus to others” during the  recent official visit of the Austrian, Romanian and Latvian MFA under the mandate of the EU High Representative to the South Caucasus, reminds  about the EU presence in the region and also the fact that the ‘normative power’ can be a source of balance and a status quo changer.

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Anti-Macron protests underline classism, as corona protesters and gilets jaune join forces

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photo: Alaattin Doğru - Anadolu Agency

I get it. People in France are fed up with the Covid lockdowns and that’s why they are protesting against the new tightening of the Covid rules. But there is much more to the story.

The new anti-Covid rules by French President Macron came in the middle of the Cannes Film Festival where the rich and famous come out to play for 10 days at the French Reviera. I was there, too, in fact when the new set of rules angered so many ordinary French people. But guess what — the rules didn’t apply to us, those gathered for the Cannes red carpets and parties. Celebrities did not have to wear masks on the red carpet. I did not have to put on a mask at the red carpets. I was not checked even once on the mandatory Covid tests which we took every 2 days anyways. No one at the Cannes red carpets, parties or fashion shows was looking at Covid tests at the entrance, and I attended not one or two things. That’s at the time when the rest of France was boiling. Yes, we were treated differently as the Cannes crowd. That was obvious.

Don’t get me wrong — spending tens of thousands of euros to drink champaigne, walk red carpets and hang out with actors, models, designers and influencers is great. But I couldn’t help but notice that the Cannes elite was being held to a very different standard in comparisson to the ordinary French public. Macron exempted the Cannes crowd from the new rules and that smells of classism and elitism. I can see why the gillets gaune, which I wrote about in my book Trump, European security and Turkey (2020), are angry and want to resume their protests which were put an end to with the Covid lockdowns.

In fact, as soon as you move one or two streets away from the craze and snobbery of the Cannes Festival, you see a very different French picture. Actually, the most pleasant conversations I had in Cannes were with the guy that made my pizza at 2am, a couple of gillets jaune on the street, and the taxi driver who lives in Cannes. These were the pleasant, hard-working French people that represent France so much better than the snotty Cannes Film Festival organizers, the French police or the so-overrated snobbery at the Chopard events. 

From the pizza guy in Mozarella Street I learned that he works two jobs and sleeps 3 hours per night. That’s the reality for many normal French people. Yet, he was the nicest and coolest person I met in Cannes. Somehow I wished that he could trade places with some of the rest I met in Cannes who probably don’t deserve to have an easy life and should be taught a lesson. So I get it. I get the struggle of the gillets gaune and all those that are opposed to Macron’s policies. He is increasingly playing with the far right and that might as well mean that he is looking at his sunset. 

I also get the classism that persists in French society — it’s important to be aware of it even if you’re on the receiving end of a lot of glamor, bemefits and good things. All I can tell you is that next time I am in France, I am joining the gillet jaune protests. Now I really get it. 

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