On the sidelines of recent NATO summit, the leader of Armenian “Velvet revolution”, current Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan had separate talks with the European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and the president of the European Council Donald Tusk during which the leaders exchanged views on different issues over the further deepening of the Armenia-EU ties. The EU top officials affirmed their commitment to support Armenia’s comprehensive reform agenda. EC president Donald Tusk reaffirmed the EU’s willingness to assist in the future reforms in Armenia, promising a continued support to democracy-building efforts in the country.
“What happened in Armenia was extraordinary and, I must say,very European.The example you set was very promising, and you can expect the European Union’s support in the process of implementing reforms,” Tusk said.
Apparently, branding the “Velvet revolution” in Armenia as European-style movement wasn’t an empty statement rather than a gentle hint about the contribution that EU had in civil society development in Armenia and the investment in the youth through mobility projects in the field of education and training to encourage democratic engagement and civic participation. Undeniably, youth activists and civil society were at the core of the recent revolutionary struggle in Armenia. In this regard, the “Velvet revolution”in Armenia was unique and historic as it involved mainly youth, including schoolchildren and students, who moved to streets to challenge adult society.
After holding the talks with EU leaders, Armenian PM Nikol Pahinyan in his turn voiced sharp criticism of EU for not increasing its financial assistance to Armenia following mass protests that led to change in government which is now committed to zero tolerance approach towards corruption.
“I am surprised that certain officials in the EU haven’t noticed the ongoing changes in Armenia,” he stressed at news conference.
The EU most probably incurred Pashinyan’s reproach for providing financial aid to previous leadership, which haven’t made much progress towards democracy and economic growth, and which often vowed zero tolerance for corruption, but its anti-corruption rhetoric was more likely an aspiration for the future rather than a practical political agenda.
Indeed, it would be unwise to dispute the veracity of the statements expressed by the EU leaders and Armenian PM, given the EU’s profound impact on Armenia’s democratization, rule of law and good governance, and Armenia’s need to diversify its foreign policy having channels open with the West,and the need for financial support to modernize itself.
To deepen understanding of the vital role EU plays in the transformation of Armenian society, we should delve into the EU’s financial support schemes Armenia benefits from.
Article 8 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) states that ‘‘the Union shall develop a special relationship with neighbouring countries, aiming to establish an area of prosperity and good neighbourliness, founded on the values of the Union and characterised by close and peaceful relations based on cooperation’’. The EU distributes its development assistance through its external financing instruments.These are the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (ISP), European Instrument for Democracy & Human Rights (EIDHR), the Partnership Instrument (PI) and the three relevant geographic instruments-the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance II (IPA), the European Neighborhood Instrument (ENI) and the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI).
As known, EU cooperates with Armenia in the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy and its eastern regional dimension, the Eastern Partnership. The European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI) is the key financial instrument established in 2014 to fund the European Neighborhood Policy for the period 2014-2020. It replaces the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI) of 2007-2013. The ENI is designed to promote integration by partner countries into the EU market; economic development; good relations and bilateral and multilateral collaboration; institution and capacity building; democracy, the rule of law and human rights; and orderly and legal movement of people across the EU’s external borders.
Support through the ENI is programmed and given in three different ways:
- Bilateral programmes covering Union support to one partner country;
- Multi-country programmes which address challenges common to all or a number of partner countries, and regional and sub-regional cooperation between two or more partner countries;
- Cross-Border Cooperation programmes between Member States and partner countries taking place along their shared part of the external border of the EU (including Russia).
Armenia participates also in regional programmes funded under the ENI (mainly in environment, energy, transport, culture and youth), in the Eastern Partnership Flagship Initiatives, and in initiatives open to all Neighbour countries: Erasmus+, TAIEX, SIGMA, and the Neighbourhood Investment Facility (NIF). The NIF in Armenia targets primarily investment projects in energy and transport infrastructure projects. It does so by pooling EU and Member State funds to leverage loans from European financial institutions and contributors in the ENP partner countries.
In addition to the ENI, Armenia is eligible for financial support under the EU thematic programmes: the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace, Civil Society Organisations and Local Authorities, Human Development and Migration & Asylum.
The priorities and indicative allocations for financial assistance to Armenia are set out in the Single Support Framework (SSF). For the programming period 2017-2020 the indicative allocation is EUR 144,000,000 to EUR 176,000,000.
Under the Support Framework the priority sectors selected for support are:
- Economic development and market opportunities (indicatively 35% of total budget);
- Strengthening institutions and good governance (indicatively 15% of total budget);
- Connectivity, energy efficiency, environment and climate change (indicatively 15% of total budget);
- Mobility and people-to-people contacts (indicatively 15% of total budget);
A key complementary support also will be provided through regional and multi-country programmes for
- capacity development/institution building and strategic communication
- ( indicatively 15% of total budget)
- civil society development (indicatively 5% of total budget).
While analyzing the Programming of the European Neighbourhood Instrument’s Single Support Framework for EU support to Armenia-2017-2020, we see that the main risks to achieving progress vis-à-vis the above-mentioned priority sector objectives are mainly the lack of the promotion and coordination of the relevant policy measures, especially concerning business environment and fair play; government commitment to the reforms in public administration, but especially in the judicial sector, fighting corruption and promoting human rights; governance, in particular the strategy and prioritization of investments; and political will.
The latter is believed to be sine qua non of any successful anti-corruption policy. Apparently, the new Armenian government has taken a route of intense fight against corruption by making a number of scandalous disclosures, involving high-ranking officials. Other above-mentioned risks can be mitigated through investor-friendly and development-oriented policies to be carried out by the new government. Hence, the future progress towards reform objectives will justify more EU support and investments. New agreement with Armenia, known as the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) initiated by previous authorities, which promises financial assistance and trade opportunities, can become an impetus for further domestic reforms.
So, the new Armenian government should seize the momentum to strengthen the relations with EU to support the democratic aspirations of the Armenians. The EU, in its turn, should make correct use of conditionality and align its approach with Armenia’s strategic objectives.
Europe tells Biden “no way” to Cold War with China
Amidst the first big transatlantic tensions for the Biden Administration, a new poll shows that the majority of Europeans see a new Cold War happening between the United States and China, but they don’t see themselves as a part of it.
Overwhelmingly, 62% of Europeans believe that the US is engaged in a new Cold War against China, a new poll just released by the European Council on Foreign Relations found. Just yesterday US President Joe Biden claimed before the UN General Assembly that there is no such thing and the US is not engaging in a new Cold War. So, Europeans see Biden’s bluff and call him on it.
The study was released on Wednesday by Mark Leonard and Ivan Krastev at the European Council on Foreign Relations and found that Europeans don’t see themselves as direct participants in the US-China Cold War. This viewpoint is most pronounced in Bulgaria, Hungary, Austria, Portugal and Italy, according to the study. The prevailing view, in each of the 12 surveyed EU member states, is one of irrelevance – with respondents in Hungary (91%), Bulgaria (80%), Portugal (79%), and Austria (78%) saying that their country is not in a conflict with Beijing.
Only 15% of Europeans believe that the EU is engaged in a Cold War against China. The percentage is so low that one wonders if there should even be such a question. It is not only not a priority, it is not even a question on the agenda for Europeans. Even at the highest point of EU “hawkishness”, only 33% of Swedes hold the view that their country is currently in a Cold War with China. Leonard and Krastev warn that if Washington and Brussels are preparing for an all-in generational struggle against China, this runs against the grain of opinion in Europe, and leaders in Washington and Brussels will quickly discover that they “do not have a societal consensus behind them”.
“The European public thinks there is a new cold war – but they don’t want to have anything to do with it. Our polling reveals that a “cold war” framing risks alienating European voters”, Mark Leonard said.
The EU doesn’t have the backing of its citizens to follow the US in its new Cold War pursuit. But unlike the views of the authors of the study, my view is that this is not a transatlantic rift that we actually have to be trying to fix. Biden’s China policy won’t be Europe’s China policy, and that’s that, despite US efforts to persuade Europe to follow, as I’ve argued months ago for the Brussels Report and in Modern Diplomacy.
In March this year, Gallup released a poll that showed that 45% of Americans see China as the greatest US enemy. The poll did not frame the question as Cold War but it can be argued that Joe Biden has some mandate derived from the opinion of American people. That is not the case for Europe at all, to the extent that most of us don’t see “China as an enemy” even as a relevant question.
The US’s China pursuit is already giving horrible for the US results in Europe, as French President Macron withdrew the French Ambassador to the US. The US made a deal already in June, as a part of the trilateral partnership with the UK and Australia, and stabbed France in the back months ago to Macron’s last-minute surprise last week. Max Boot at the Council on Foreign Relations argues that it is Macron that is actually arrogant to expect that commitments and deals should mean something: “Back in February, Macron rejected the idea of a U.S.-E.U. common front against China. Now he complains when America pursues its own strategy against China. What’s French for chutzpah?” What Boot does get right is that indeed, there won’t be a joint US-EU front on China, and European citizens also don’t want this, as the recent poll has made clear.
The US saying Europe should follow the US into a Cold War with China over human rights is the same thing as China saying that Europe should start a Cold War with the US over the bad US human rights record. It’s not going to happen. You have to understand that this is how ridiculous the proposition sounds to us, Europeans. Leonard and Krastev urge the EU leadership to “make the case for more assertive policies” towards China around European and national interests rather than a Cold War logic, so that they can sell a strong, united, and compelling case for the future of the Atlantic alliance to European citizens.
I am not sure that I agree, as “more assertive policies” and “cold war” is probably the same thing in the mind of most Europeans and I don’t think that the nuance helps here or matters at all. Leaders like Biden argue anyway that the US is not really pursuing a Cold War. The authors caution EU leaders against adopting a “cold war” framing. You say “framing”, I say “spin”. Should we be in engaging in spins at all to sell unnecessary conflict to EU citizens only to please the US?
“Unlike during the first cold war, [Europeans] do not see an immediate, existential threat”, Leonard clarified. European politicians can no longer rely on tensions with China to convince the electorate of the value of transatlantic relations. “Instead, they need to make the case from European interests, showing how a rebalanced alliance can empower and restore sovereignty to European citizens in a dangerous world”, Mark Leonard added. The study shows that there is a growing “disconnect” between the policy ambitions of those in Brussels and how Europeans think. EU citizens should stick to their sentiments and not be convinced to look for conflict where it doesn’t exist, or change what they see and hear with their own eyes and ears in favor of elusive things like the transatlantic partnership, which the US itself doesn’t believe in anyways. And the last thing that should be done is to scare Europeans by convincing them they live in a “dangerous world” and China is the biggest threat or concern.
What the study makes clear is that a Cold War framing against China is likely to repel more EU voters than it attracts, and if there is one thing that politicians know it is that you have to listen to the polls in what your people are telling you instead of engaging in spins. Those that don’t listen in advance get the signs eventually. At the end of the day it’s not important what Biden wants.
Germany and its Neo-imperial quest
In January 2021, eight months ago, when rumours about the possibility of appointment of Christian Schmidt as the High Representative in Bosnia occurred for the first time, I published the text under the title ‘Has Germany Lost Its NATO Compass?’. In this text I announced that Schmidt was appointed to help Dragan Čović, the leader of the Croatian HDZ party, to disrupt the constitutional structure of Bosnia-Herzegovina and create precoditions for secession of the Serb- and Croatian-held territories in Bosnia and the country’s final dissolution. I can hardly add anything new to it, except for the fact that Schmidt’s recent statements at the conference of Deutsche Atlantische Gesellschaft have fully confirmed my claims that his role in Bosnia is to act as Čović’s ally in the latter’s attempts to carve up the Bosnian Constitution.
Schmidt is a person with a heavy burden, the burden of a man who has continuously been promoting Croatian interests, for which the Croatian state decorated him with the medal of “Ante Starčević”, which, in his own words, he “proudly wears” and shares with several Croatian convicted war criminals who participated in the 1992-1995 aggression on Bosnia, whom Schmidt obviously perceives as his ideological brethren. The question is, then, why Germany appointed him as the High Representative in Bosnia?
Germany’s policy towards Bosnia, exercised mostly through the institutions of the European Union, has continuously been based on the concept of Bosnia’s ethnic partition. The phrases that we can occassionaly hear from the EU, on inviolability of state boundaries in the Balkans, is just a rhetoric adapted to the demands by the United States to keep these boundaries intact. So far, these boundaries have remained intact mainly due to the US efforts to preserve them. However, from the notorious Lisbon Conference in February 1992 to the present day, the European Union has always officially stood behind the idea that Bosnia-Herzegovina should be partitioned along ethnic lines. At the Lisbon Conference, Lord Carrington and Jose Cutileiro, the official representatives of the then European Community, which has in the meantime been rebranded as the European Union, drew the maps with lines of ethnic partition of Bosnia-Herzegovina, along which the ethnic cleansing was committed, with 100.000 killed and 1,000.000 expelled, so as to make its territory compatible with their maps. Neither Germany nor the European Union have ever distanced themselves from the idea they promoted and imposed at the Lisbon Conference as ‘the only possible solution’ for Bosnia, despite the grave consequences that followed. Nor has this idea ever stopped being a must within their foreign policy circles, as it has recently been demonstrated by the so-called Janša Non-Paper, launched a couple of months ago, which also advocates the final partition and dissolution of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Such a plan is probably a product of the powerful right-wing circles in the European institutions, such as Schmidt’s CSU, rather than a homework of Janez Janša, the current Prime Minister of Slovenia, whose party is a part of these circles, albeit a minor one. To be sure, Germany is not the original author of the idea of Bosnia’s partition, this author is Great Britain, which launched it directly through Lord Carrington at the Lisbon Conference. Yet, Germany has never shown a will to distance itself from this idea, nor has it done the European Union. Moreover, the appointment of Schmidt, as a member of those political circles which promote ethnic partition as the only solution for multiethnic countries, testifies to the fact that Germany has decided to fully apply this idea and act as its chief promoter.
In this process, the neighbouring countries, Serbia and Croatia, with their extreme nationalist policies, can only act as the EU’s proxies, in charge for the physical implemenation of Bosnia’s pre-meditated disappearance. All the crimes that Serbia and Croatia committed on the Bosnian soil – from the military aggression, over war crimes, ethnic cleansing and genocide, up to the 30 year-long efforts to undermine Bosnia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity – have always had a direct approval and absolute support of the leading EU countries. During the war and in its aftermath, Great Britain and France were the leaders of the initiatives to impose ethnic partition on the citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and now Germany has taken up their role. In such a context, the increasing aggressiveness of Serbia and Croatia can only be interpreted as a consequence of the EU’s intention to finish with Bosnia for good, and Schmidt has arrived to Bosnia to facilitate that process. Therefore, it is high time for the citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina to abandon any ilussions about the true intentions of the European Union and reject its Trojan Horse in the form of the current High Representative.
Should there be an age limit to be President?
The presidential elections in Bulgaria are nearing in November 2021 and I would like to run for President of Bulgaria, but the issue is the age limit.
To run for President in Bulgaria a candidate needs to be at least 40 years old and I am 37. I am not the first to raise the question: should there be an age limit to run for President, and generally for office, and isn’t an age limit actually age discrimination?
Under the international human rights law standard, putting an age limit is allowed in the context of political participation under the right to vote and the right to run to be elected. Human Rights Committee General Comment No.25 interpreting the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that an age limit has to be based on objective and reasonable criteria, adding that it is reasonable to have a higher age requirement for certain offices. As it stands, the law says that having an age limit for president is not age discrimination, but is 40 actually a reasonable cut-off? National legislations can change. We need to lower the age limit and rethink what’s a reasonable age for President, and not do away with all age limits.
We have seen strong leaders emerge as heads of state and government who are below 40 years of age. Sanna Marin, Prime Minister of Finland, became Prime Minister at 34. Sebastrian Kurz, the Prime Minister of Austria, was elected at 31. Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, assumed her position at 37. So perhaps it is time to rethink age limits for the highest offices.
The US has plenty of examples where elected Senators and Congressmen actually beat the age limit and made it despite the convention. The age limit for Senator in the US is 30 years old. Rush Holt was elected to the US Senate at 29. In South Carolina, two State Senators were elected at 24 years old and they were seated anyways. The age limit for US president is 35 years old.
In Argentina, the age cut-off is 30. In India, it is 35. In Pakistan, it is 45 years old. In Turkey, it is 40 years old. Iceland says 35 years old. In France, it is 18.
Generally, democracies set lower age limits. More conservative countries set the age limit higher in line with stereotypes rather than any real world evidence that a 45 year-old or 55 year-old person would be more effective and better suited to the job. Liberal countries tend to set lower age limits.
40 years old to be a President of Bulgaria seems to be an arbitrary line drawn. And while it is legal to have some age limits, 40 years old seems to be last century. Changing the age limit for president of Bulgaria could be a task for the next Bulgarian Parliament for which Bulgarians will also vote on the same date as they vote for President.
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