Consider the situation that the State Duma Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation (Lower House of the Russian Parliament) has called on the Russian government to immediately allocate money to projects aimed at combating anti-Russian propaganda, Russianophobia, and false information about the Russian Federation in the European Union.
Or, it would ask the government to provide more ambitious financial assistance to the “third sector in the EU Member States”, which promotes improved relations and cooperation between the EU and Russia, promotes Christian values, traditional family and marriage of men and women, peace and inter-national cooperation. What would be the reaction? Silence, cry and a series of articles on Putin’s regime and oppressed “civilian opposition,” but who cannot even get a three per cent support in the elections? Again, new penalties?
Or imagine another situation: How would the so-called European leaders, officials in Brussels, the European Commission and the European Council respond if the Russian Parliament, the Russian President and the Russian Government consistently expressed their grave concern over the deterioration of the human and civil rights situation and the rule of law, for example, in the Baltic Member States with the discriminated Russian minority? Silence and ignorance as heretofore? And how would they react if the Russians constantly criticized and pointed out violations of human and civil rights to Christian communities, such as in France? His president, Emmanuel Macron, is more concerned about the “gay suffering” in Chechnya than the oppressing and ejection of Christian symbols in French schools, or the punishment of Christian denominations and the use of Christian symbols. This childless and value-inconsistent president, who has already begun politically and ideologically breaking the Visegrad Four (V-4) and excitement of Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico with his blushing about the “tighter EU core,” in May in Versailles, he even said to President Putin he would be alert regarding gays in Chechnya.
In other words, President Macron and his team, who had robbed Marine Le Pen’s agenda in the election campaign, are likely to be more concerned by gay people in Islamic Chechnya, which still has the largest natural increase in population among all subjects Russian Federation, such as the Russian minority in Ukraine, or peacekeeping and Minsk agreements by Ukrainian President Petr Poroshenko. Does President Macron want to be a gay spokesman in Chechnya, or wants to create a “new turmoil” among gays and Islam that does not recognize and punish homosexuality in this autonomous republic in the Caucasus? I do not want to believe that President Macron would promote sex and the sexual orientation of one group or minority in Chechnya over the human and civil rights of ethnic Russians in Ukraine. In still unfortunate Ukraine, which cannot escape from the influence of fascist and Nazi groups tolerated not only by the Poroshenko regime but also by the European Union. Its “Iron Prime Minister”, Angela Merkel, accused former President Yanukovych of refusing to sign an association agreement between Ukraine and the EU in November 2013 in Vilnius. Then, she told him she expected more from him. She was not curious about the arguments of the then Ukrainian government or the president that Ukraine would not survive its “break-away” from Russia and the CIS, and that it needed a substantial financial subsidy of almost 400 billion euros. If we realize after four years what Ukraine “sacrificed” to the altar of “the sacred EU”, what price the Ukrainians have paid for, what they have lost and gained, we must ask – didn´t the Ukrainians rightly expect from Angela Merkel more? And more than what the EU offered and guaranteed?
Now that Lithuania is proposing a New European Plan for Ukraine (the so-called Marshall Plan for Ukraine) for 2017-2020 to get at least € 5bn annually to implement “long-awaited reforms”, what does it prove? That Ukraine, after massive political and military support from the US and the EU or the staff of various international consultants and experts, is still unable to reform its values and the economy for the image of the EU? Don´t you even see this image? This plan of further aid (the exact value of the current financial assistance is still unresolved, which could be a major shock to EU citizens, as in the case of the so-called Kosovo), is to be judged by the November EU Eastern Partnership summit. And there is also another package to be discussed in Brussels in early 2018. Under the EU’s external investment plan for Ukraine, there will be talk of the possibility of earmarking and drawing on € 88bn by 2020. So, if we make a short a reflection on what President Yanukovych told the office of President Merkel in Vilnius, wasn´t he right?
It seems, however, that Mrs Merkel or the entire EU leadership was not about the truth and Ukraine, but about starting another scenario – the coup and the economic chaos in Ukraine. The result is not just a civil war in Donbass and the return of the Crimea to Russia but also the departure of more than 2.5 million Ukrainian citizens – refugees to Russia and more than a million Ukrainians for work and “European life” in Poland. The number of Ukrainians who left for work in other EU countries because they cannot live at home is still not publicly spoken. Nor about how many of them already have Romanian, Hungarian, Polish, Slovak, German or Austrian citizenship. In the case of Slovakia, just a small example – since the abolition of the visa requirement more than 200 000 Ukrainians passed over the Slovak Schengen border, of course, they went further to the West. The way in which Angela Merkel and former French President Francois Hollande supported the unconstitutional coup in Ukraine was and remained scandalously like when the “German-French integration engine” opened the EU to more than a million different migrants in 2014 and 2015, neither the Italians nor the Greeks could keep it. Mrs Angela Merkel, as well as other EU leaders, had already known that was organized by business smugglers and managed migration under the auspices and command of ‘third sector volunteers’. Instead of vigorous and decisive action (protecting borders at sea and on land), the EU, under Angela Merkel, wanted to corrupt Turkey and reimburse the costs of organized crime for a “social and racial engineer project” for the EU and build a so-called refugee Islamic camps in Turkey. Angela Merkel has allowed her to gamble with the EU and its citizens, and left the fate of the migratory crisis in the hands of Ankara.
It was the amazing value and peace policy of the EU, a great demonstration of how the EU, Angela Merkel and other leaders (including Martin Schulz) can crush and make people’s lives safer, threatening peace and security, which later confirmed new sexual and terrorist attacks in Western Europe and Scandinavia. Let’s go back to Russia for a moment. Let’s imagine another Russian reaction – predictable regarding current Russians. Russian constitutional and state organizations declare “the fight against EU propaganda, its lies, its perverse civilization, integration, anti-Christian and cultural values.” They then compile lists of politicians, activists and the media that disseminate “harmful and false EU propaganda” on the contrary to traditional Russian civilization values. Subsequently, special foundations, funds and civic associations will be set up to organize various seminars and discussions with citizens, and to inform the “embarrassed Russian democracy and the Russian society” about these dangers, the EU conspiracy portals and media against Russia and the negative impacts of their activities for the entire Russian society. Do you think Russia does not have to make such a decision? Or is it so internally strong that it does not need to protect the Russian society by such measures?
To sum up, MEPs who voted in favour of alleged Russian political and financial support for “radical and extremist parties” in the EU Member States have not yet been able to tell the public what this is about. They cannot give the public any proof of who, and as of Russia or the “Russian world”, these parties are funding the parties, what is the value of this aid. Nonetheless, the MEPs ask the European Commission to draft a draft legislation guaranteeing the transparency of the funding of political parties in EU countries by foreign entities. I personally would like to support this request, and broaden the requirement for transparency regarding the financing of the Third Sector and not only by foreign but also domestic subjects. Many so-called domestic entities were based on foreign capital. Let’s look at the result of this Members’ initiative. Maybe none. The media, ideological value struggle for the truth continues. Unfortunately, it is not only between American and Russian civilizations, but also between the so- called European (especially Anglo-Saxon) and Russian civilization. If the outcome of this struggle between the EU and Russia is a new constructive dialogue based on the truth, the recognition of errors and mistakes, the renewal of the strategic partnership between the EU and Russia, everyone will be relieved. In this case, there will be a new era of economic, cultural and social development in Europe and Russia. We all need such development.
Iceland’s Historic(al) Elections
The morning of September, 26 was a good one for Lenya Run Karim of the Pirate Party. Once the preliminary results were announced, things were clear: the 21-year-old law student of the University of Iceland, originating from a Kurdish immigrant family, had become the youngest MP in the country’s history.
In historical significance, however, this event was second to another. Iceland, the world champion in terms of gender equality, became the first country in Europe to have more women MPs than men, 33 versus 30. The news immediately made world headlines: only five countries in the world have achieved such impressive results. Remarkably, all are non-European: Rwanda, Nicaragua and Cuba have a majority of women in parliament, while Mexico and the UAE have an equal number of male and female MPs.
Nine hours later, news agencies around the world had to edit their headlines. The recount in the Northwest constituency affected the outcome across the country to delay the ‘triumph for women’ for another four years.
Small numbers, big changes
The Icelandic electoral system is designed so that 54 out of the 63 seats in the Althingi, the national parliament, are primary or constituency seats, while another nine are equalization seats. Only parties passing the 5 per cent threshold are allowed to distribute equalisation seats that go to the candidates who failed to win constituency mandates and received the most votes in their constituency. However, the number of equalisation mandates in each of the 6 constituencies is legislated. In theory, this could lead to a situation in which the leading party candidate in one constituency may simply lack an equalisation mandate, so the leading candidate of the same party—but in another constituency—receives it.
This is what happened this year. Because of a difference of only ten votes between the Reform Party and the Pirate Party, both vying for the only equalisation mandate in the Northwest, the constituency’s electoral commission announced a recount on its own initiative. There were also questions concerning the counting procedure as such: the ballots were not sealed but simply locked in a Borgarnes hotel room. The updated results hardly affected the distribution of seats between the parties, bringing in five new MPs, none of whom were women, with the 21-year-old Lenya Run Karim replaced by her 52-year-old party colleague.
In the afternoon of September, 27, at the request of the Left-Green Movement, supported by the Independence Party, the Pirates and the Reform Party, the commission in the South announced a recount of their own—the difference between the Left-Greens and the Centrists was only seven votes. There was no ‘domino effect’, as in the case of the Northwest, as the five-hour recount showed the same result. Recounts in other districts are unlikely, nor is it likely that Althingi—vested with the power to declare the elections valid—would invalidate the results in the Northwest. Nevertheless, the ‘replaced’ candidates have already announced their intention to appeal against the results, citing violations of ballot storage procedures. Under the Icelandic law, this is quite enough to invalidate the results and call a re-election in the Northwest, as the Supreme Court of Iceland invalidated the Constitutional Council elections due to a breach of procedure 10 years ago. Be that as it may, the current score remains 33:30, in favor of men.
Progressives’ progress and threshold for socialists
On the whole, there were no surprises: the provisional allocation of mandates resembles, if with minor changes, the opinion polls on the eve of the election.
The ruling three-party coalition has rejuvenated its position, winning 37 out of the 63 Althingi seats. The centrist Progressive Party saw a real electoral triumph, improving its 2017 result by five seats. Prime-minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir’s Left-Green Movement, albeit with a slight loss, won eight seats, surpassing all pre-election expectations. Although the centre-right Independence Party outperformed everyone again to win almost a quarter of all votes, 16 seats are one of the worst results of the Icelandic ‘Grand Old Party’ ever.
The results of the Social-Democrats, almost 10% versus 12.1% in 2017, and of the Pirates, 8.6% versus 9.2%, have deteriorated. Support for the Centre Party of Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson, former prime-minister and victim of the Panama Papers, has halved from 10.9% to 5.4%. The centrists have seen a steady decline in recent years, largely due to a sexist scandal involving party MPs. The populist People’s Party and the pro-European Reform Party have seen gains of 8.8% and 8.3%, as compared to 6.9% and 6.7% in the previous elections.
Of the leading Icelandic parties, only the Socialist Party failed to pass the 5 per cent threshold: despite a rating above 7% in August, the Socialists received only 4.1% of the vote.
Coronavirus, climate & economy
Healthcare and the fight against COVID-19 was, expectedly, on top of the agenda of the elections: 72% of voters ranked it as the defining issue, according to a Fréttablaðið poll. Thanks to swift and stringent measures, the Icelandic government brought the coronavirus under control from day one, and the country has enjoyed one of the lowest infection rates in the world for most of the time. At the same time, the pandemic exposed a number of problems in the national healthcare system: staff shortages, low salaries and long waiting lists for emergency surgery.
Climate change, which Icelanders are already experiencing, was an equally important topic. This summer, the temperature has not dropped below 20°C for 59 days, an anomaly for a North-Atlantic island. However, Icelanders’ concerns never converted into increased support for the four left-leaning parties advocating greater reductions in CO2 emission than the country has committed to under the Paris Agreement: their combined result fell by 0.5%.
The economy and employment were also among the main issues in this election. The pandemic has severely damaged the island nation’s economy, which is heavily tourism-reliant—perhaps, unsurprisingly, many Icelanders are in favor of reviving the tourism sector as well as diversifying the economy further.
The EU membership, by far a ‘traditional’ issue in Icelandic politics, is unlikely to be featured on the agenda of the newly-elected parliament as the combined result of the Eurosceptics, despite a loss of 4%, still exceeds half of the overall votes. The new Althingi will probably face the issue of constitutional reform once again, which is only becoming more topical in the light of the pandemic and the equalization mandates story.
New (old) government?
The parties are to negotiate coalition formation. The most likely scenario now is that the ruling coalition of the Independence Party, the Left-Greens and the Progressives continues. It has been the most ideologically diverse and the first three-party coalition in Iceland’s history to last a full term. A successful fight against the pandemic has only strengthened its positions and helped it secure additional votes. Independence Party leader and finance minister Bjarni Benediktsson has earlier said he would be prepared to keep the ruling coalition if it holds the majority. President Guðni Jóhannesson announced immediately after the elections that he would confirm the mandate of the ruling coalition to form a new government if the three parties could strike a deal.
Other developments are possible but unlikely. Should the Left-Greens decide to leave the coalition, they could be replaced by the Reform Party or the People’s Party, while any coalition without the Independence Party can only be a four-party or larger coalition.
Who will become the new prime-minister still remains to be seen—but if the ruling coalition remains in place, the current prime-minister and leader of the Left-Greens, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, stands a good chance of keeping her post: she is still the most popular politician in Iceland with a 40 per cent approval rate.
The 2021 Althingi election, with one of the lowest turnouts in history at 80.1%, has not produced a clear winner. The election results reflect a Europe-wide trend in which traditional “major” parties are losing support. The electorate is fragmenting and their votes are pulled by smaller new parties. The coronavirus pandemic has only reinforced this trend.
The 2021 campaign did not foreshadow a sensation. Although Iceland has not become the first European country with a women’s majority in parliament, these elections will certainly go down in history as a test of Icelanders’ trust to their own democracy.
From our partner RIAC
EU-Balkan Summit: No Set Timeframe for Western Balkans Accession
On October 6, Slovenia hosted a summit between the EU and the Western Balkans states. The EU-27 met with their counterparts (Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Kosovo) in the sumptuous Renaissance setting of Brdo Castle, 30 kilometers north of the capital, Ljubljana. Despite calls from a minority of heads of state and government, there were no sign of a breakthrough on the sensitive issue of enlargement. The accession of these countries to the European Union is still not unanimous among the 27 EU member states.
During her final tour of the Balkans three weeks ago, German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated that the peninsula’s integration was of “geostrategic” importance. On the eve of the summit, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz backed Slovenia’s goal of integrating this zone’s countries into the EU by 2030.
However, the unanimity required to begin the hard negotiations is still a long way off, even for the most advanced countries in the accession process, Albania and North Macedonia. Bulgaria, which is already a member of the EU, is opposing North Macedonia’s admission due to linguistic and cultural differences. Since Yugoslavia’s demise, Sofia has rejected the concept of Macedonian language, insisting that it is a Bulgarian dialect, and has condemned the artificial construction of a distinct national identity.
Other countries’ reluctance to join quickly is of a different nature. France and the Netherlands believe that previous enlargements (Bulgaria and Romania in 2007) have resulted in changes that must first be digested before the next round of enlargement. The EU-27 also demand that all necessary prior guarantees be provided regarding the independence of the judiciary and the fight against corruption in these countries. Despite the fact that press freedom is a requirement for membership, the NGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urged the EU to make “support for investigative and professional journalism” a key issue at the summit.”
While the EU-27 have not met since June, the topic of Western Balkans integration is competing with other top priorities in the run-up to France’s presidency of the EU in the first half of 2022. On the eve of the summit, a working dinner will be held, the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, called for “a strategic discussion on the role of the Union on the international scene” in his letter of invitation to the EU-Balkans Summit, citing “recent developments in Afghanistan,” the announcement of the AUKUS pact between the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom, which has enraged Paris.
The Western Balkans remain the focal point of an international game of influence in which the Europeans seek to maintain their dominance. As a result, the importance of reaffirming a “European perspective” at the summit was not an overstatement. Faced with the more frequent incursion of China, Russia, and Turkey in that European region, the EU has pledged a 30 billion euro Economic and Investment Plan for 2021-2027, as well as increased cooperation, particularly to deal with the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Opening the borders, however, is out of the question. In the absence of progress on this issue, Albania, North Macedonia, and Serbia have decided to establish their own zone of free movement (The Balkans are Open”) beginning January 1, 2023. “We are starting today to do in the region what we will do tomorrow in the EU,” said Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama when the agreement was signed last July.
This initiative, launched in 2019 under the name “Mini-Schengen” and based on a 1990s idea, does not have the support of the entire peninsular region, which remains deeply divided over this project. While Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro are not refusing to be a part of it and are open to discussions, the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti, who took office in 2020, for his part accuses Serbia of relying on this project to recreate “a fourth Yugoslavia”
Tensions between Balkan countries continue to be an impediment to European integration. The issue of movement between Kosovo and Serbia has been a source of concern since the end of September. Two weeks of escalation followed Kosovo’s decision to prohibit cars with Serbian license plates from entering its territory, in response to Serbia’s long-standing prohibition on allowing vehicles to pass in the opposite direction.
In response to the mobilization of Kosovar police to block the road, Serbs in Kosovo blocked roads to their towns and villages, and Serbia deployed tanks and the air force near the border. On Sunday, October 3, the conflict seemed to be over, and the roads were reopened. However, the tone had been set three days before the EU-Balkans summit.
German Election: Ramifications for the US Foreign Policy
In the recent German election, foreign policy was scarcely an issue. But Germany is an important element in the US foreign policy. There is a number of cases where Germany and the US can cooperate, but all of these dynamics are going to change very soon.
The Germans’ strategic culture makes it hard to be aligned perfectly with the US and disagreements can easily damage the relations. After the tension between the two countries over the Iraq war, in 2003, Henry Kissinger said that he could not imagine the relations between Germany and the US could be aggravated so quickly, so easily, which might end up being the “permanent temptation of German politics”. For a long time, the US used to provide security for Germany during the Cold War and beyond, so, several generations are used to take peace for granted. But recently, there is a growing demand on them to carry more burden, not just for their own security, but for international peace and stability. This demand was not well-received in Berlin.
Then, the environment around Germany changed and new threats loomed up in front of them. The great powers’ competition became the main theme in international relations. Still, Germany was not and is not ready for shouldering more responsibility. Politicians know this very well. Ursula von der Leyen, who was German defense minister, asked terms like “nuclear weapons” and “deterrence” be removed from her speeches.
Although on paper, all major parties appreciate the importance of Germany’s relations with the US, the Greens and SPD ask for a reset in the relations. The Greens insist on the European way in transatlantic relations and SPD seeks more multilateralism. Therefore, alignment may be harder to maintain in the future. However, If the tensions between the US and China heat up to melting degrees, then external pressure can overrule the internal pressure and Germany may accede to its transatlantic partners, just like when Helmut Schmid let NATO install medium-range nuclear missiles in Europe after the Soviet Union attacked Afghanistan and the Cold War heated up.
According to the election results, now three coalitions are possible: grand coalition with CDU/CSU and SPD, traffic lights coalition with SPD, FDP, and Greens, Jamaica coalition with CDU/CSU, FDP, and Greens. Jamaica coalition will more likely form the most favorable government for the US because it has both CDU and FDP, and traffic lights will be the least favorite as it has SPD. The grand coalition can maintain the status quo at best, because contrary to the current government, SPD will dominate CDU.
To understand nuances, we need to go over security issues to see how these coalitions will react to them. As far as Russia is concerned, none of them will recognize the annexation of Crimea and they all support related sanctions. However, if tensions heat up, any coalition government with SPD will be less likely assertive. On the other hand, as the Greens stress the importance of European values like democracy and human rights, they tend to be more assertive if the US formulates its foreign policy by these common values and describe US-China rivalry as a clash between democracy and authoritarianism. Moreover, the Greens disapprove of the Nordstream project, of course not for its geopolitics. FDP has also sided against it for a different reason. So, the US must follow closely the negotiations which have already started between anti-Russian smaller parties versus major parties.
For relations with China, pro-business FDP is less assertive. They are seeking for developing EU-China relations and deepening economic ties and civil society relations. While CDU/CSU and Greens see China as a competitor, partner, and systemic rival, SPD and FDP have still hopes that they can bring change through the exchange. Thus, the US might have bigger problems with the traffic lights coalition than the Jamaica coalition in this regard.
As for NATO and its 2 percent of GDP, the division is wider. CDU/CSU and FDP are the only parties who support it. So, in the next government, it might be harder to persuade them to pay more. Finally, for nuclear participation, the situation is the same. CDU/CSU is the only party that argues for it. This makes it an alarming situation because the next government has to decide on replacing Germany’s tornados until 2024, otherwise Germany will drop out of the NATO nuclear participation.
The below table gives a brief review of these three coalitions. 1 indicates the lowest level of favoritism and 3 indicates the highest level of favoritism. As it shows, the most anti-Russia coalition is Jamaica, while the most anti-China coalition is Trafic light. Meanwhile, Grand Coalition is the most pro-NATO coalition. If the US adopts a more normative foreign policy against China and Russia, then the Greens and FDP will be more assertive in their anti-Russian and anti-Chinese policies and Germany will align more firmly with the US if traffic light or Jamaica coalition rise to power.
|Issues Coalitions||Trafic Light||Grand Coalition||Jamaica|
1 indicates the lowest level of favoritism. 3 indicates the highest level of favoritism.
In conclusion, this election should not make Americans any happier. The US has already been frustrated with the current government led by Angela Merkel who gave Germany’s trade with China the first priority, and now that the left-wing will have more say in any imaginable coalition in the future, the Americans should become less pleased. But, still, there are hopes that Germany can be a partner for the US in great power competition if the US could articulate its foreign policy with common values, like democracy and human rights. More normative foreign policy can make a reliable partner out of Germany. Foreign policy rarely became a topic in this election, but observers should expect many ramifications for it.
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