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Cooperation in the Mediterranean region

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Some directions should be identified with a view to defining cooperation in the Mediterranean region. There is the Italian one that reaches Libya, but implies stable relations also with Tunisia and Egypt, as well as the Russian one, based on a geopolitical connection between Crimea and Syria, so as to make the East safe while operating in the East-Mediterranean region.

There is also the French one, stretching from its Southern coasts to the Maghreb line and then reaching Africa’s Western coasts and crossing them.

Obviously Spain puts together its old African presence, between Ceuta and Melilla and the Spanish Sahara, and its current interests: the preferential relationship with Morocco and the Mediterranean stability towards the Atlantic and the horizontal area towards Greece.

What about Italy? As far as I know there is no idea in this regard, except for some foreign policy vis-à-vis Libya, which is not what the Italian politicians think it to be, despite the excellent work carried out there by the Italian intelligence services.

There is nothing else in the Italian strategy in the Mediterranean region. Italy helps its other competitors for free and then believes they appreciate it and will be grateful.

Just think of the gift made years ago, when the Italian government of the time assigned that part of the sea above Sanremo and towards Sardinia without anything in exchange.

We are good, excessively good, with “democratic” countries, but then we suffer the consequences of all the disasters made by the others. The attack on Libya is a case in point.

In Italy there is no foreign policy because we are not linked to the Machiavellian “actual reality”, but to the so-called analyses of the most widespread newspapers.

This is the Italian politicians’ background culture on foreign policy, which is all based on the current and obvious issues.

The geostrategic Mediterranean region, however, is changing its traditional points of reference, while other significant actors have entered the scene. Just think about China and the aforementioned Russia, but also Israel, with its geopolitics always on the sea, while the country was built -manumilitary – on the land.

We are experiencing a phase in which countries such as Great Britain and the United States always have a strong and new presence in the Mediterranean – hence the old “Euromed” format does not hold any longer, while the Sahel-Saharan region will enable the Arab League, the EU and the African Union to cooperate.

Southern Africa will be the hegemonic region of ​​the South African Federation.

And here the Russian and Israeli interests come. Above all, the Israeli ones, because Israel wants to make all its regional sea and the new oil and gas fields safe, as well as to secure a maritime line between its coast and Southern Europe.

Russia intends to be present in the South-Mediterranean region, as an extension of its relations with Iran and Syria, which will be reconstructed by China, and to penetrate the European Great North, especially Greenland, which is very rich in oil and minerals.

Hence how does Italy want to secure its vital trade routes? Does it want to rely only on the good heart of friendly countries or allies? This is the geopolitics of Good Will, which falls within the theological sphere.

Russia is allying with Turkey, with a view to defending the Dardanelles and projecting itself onto the East-Mediterranean region, but it basically aims at regional hegemony.

China wants to reach the same goal. In the future, they will agree on the spoils of the faint-hearted Mediterranean region that Europe has handed over to them.

We are used to thinking about the Mediterranean of the old powers, namely France, Italy, Spain and Egypt, but currently we must consider also Israel, since “the Mediterranean must be seen as a whole”, as Shimon Peres used to say.

Hence we must rethink all our maritime geopolitical parameters.

Here we need to think again about Sicily. The organizers have been right to choose Palermo as the venue of this Conference.

A town epitomizing all Mediterranean stratifications, where the Tomb of Frederick II of Swabia, in the Cathedral, is built like a Shiite shrine and there are stones with Koranic inscriptions on the side.

Palermo and Sicily are not just a strategic base, as dreamt by an old rigid geopolitics full of myths, but the point where all the Mediterranean forces that dialogue with one another must be present.

But not as happened in the recent “Conference on Libya” organized in Palermo by the current government, which looked like a nineteenth-century vaudeville, with all those closed-door meetings to betray a spouse or an ally.

Anyway no result was reached. Obviously because that was the logic of losers, not of winners. Taking al-Sarraj’s Libyan organization as a “national State” seriously, is tantamount to considering valid the State that was founded by an engineer in the 1960s on an oil rig off the coast of Romagna.

No one there is a nation-State, but rather a spectre raised by someone else. Possibly by the Muslim Brotherhood, which has excellent relations with the United States, at least since the times of the first and fatal “Arab Springs”.

In Sicily, and especially on its Western coast, the US soldiers arrived to advance up to reaching Northern Italy.

Was it a “useless war”, as British agent Eric Morris defined it in his book Circles Of Hell: The War in Italy 1943-1945, while the true defeat of the Axis Powers came from the North, from Operation Overlord on Normandy’s beaches? Certainly not, because it is not possible to conquer Europe without conquering the Mediterranean.

Like Venus Anadyomene, the European civilization was born in the Mediterranean and hence there is no Europe without the Mediterranean.

Sicily, however, is really a central area and not only from the merely geographical viewpoint.

Point of arrival of the United States at the end of the Second World War, precisely for its social characteristics it was the best starting point for advancing up to the North of Italy.

As Goethe wrote in his “Italian Journey”, you need to see Sicily -which is the paradigm of the rest of the country – to understand Italy.

Its Mediterranean position, however, is such as to make Sicily the centre of our Mediterranean policies, if any.

Hence Sicily as a point of connection between the United States, which is always and in any case necessary for peace in the Mediterranean, Israel, which is right on the other side of the sea, and China that wants to expand its trade and can rebalance the powers already present.

A Mediterranean of equilibrium, not of old hegemonies, which cost more than they pay back.

Hence a Mediterranean that, in the coming years, will be one of the great development areas -and this explains the internal fights, the jihad on the coasts and the failed operations of regional hegemony.

A new equilibrium and redistribution of regional power will be needed.

Where the coastal jihad disappears, it shall be replaced with the countries that contained it, but certainly protected by someone.

The struggle for hegemony in the Mediterranean is open and, in any case, the European Union – lost in its talk about the notion of politically correct and the female issue only – no longer exists in the Mediterranean.

It no longer exists also in other regions of the world, but here we are focusing on the Mediterranean.

Hence the inevitable presence of the Russian Federation, starting from its ports on the Syrian coast, which are essential in Russia’s geopolitics.

Israel will not fail to protect its shores and its trade routes in the Mediterranean, but certainly in connection with a Power.

The United States shall change their type of Mediterranean hegemony, considering that we are no longer in the Cold War phase, when there was no significant Soviet fleet, but there were anyway Eastern friendly countries on the Mediterranean coasts.

China will be the “race” fleet of the Mediterranean. It will have or create points of reference on the coasts.

Obviously Europe will not see or, even less, understand what really happens.

Israel may collaborate with China, considering the excellent relations between the two countries.

Also the US contribution will be needed. The United States could help Israel not to get entangled in burdensome and costly alliances, which sooner or later may require a price to be paid. Possibly for an unfair and high-handed agreement with the Palestinians.

Italy, more powerless than usual, will be constrained into a new network of alliances and strengths.

If there is no new policy line- as is currently the case -Italy will be everyone’s enemy just to be everyone’s friend.

This does not apply to Sicily, which can play some of its cards. The relations with the Arab world, especially when the jihadist “Thirty Years’ War” is over.

As well as the possible new multinational protection of the Maghreb coasts from Sicily itself.

With specific reference to the Balkans, which are our natural sphere of influence, Italy could create a new “Venice-style” zone of influence on the Croatian coasts, thus cleansing them from the jihadist presence.

Furthermore, this Conference should be seen as the first opportunity – and I hope there will be many more in the future – for a new Geopolitics Centre which, thanks to its specific position, could come up with projects for a new reorganisation of the Mediterranean region.

Who will pay heed to it? Certainly those who work seriously in the Mediterranean region.

Forget about Italy, restricted and slowed down by mediocre and ignorant politicians.

The same applies even more to Europe, which only pays lip service to great principles.

Would it be possible from Sicily to imagine a “Pentagonal Initiative” like the one launched by Gianni De Michelis, the last true Italian Foreign Minister, when the Soviet empire was collapsing even in its peripheral areas which, in the Balkans, also concerned us?

The idea worked well, probably too well not to lead to jealousies and misunderstandings.

Later his successors quashed it. It was the only credible project to secure and expand Italy’s influence in the Northern Balkans.

What about launching a Pentagonal Initiative for the Mediterranean?

With Italy, of course, but also with Algeria, Morocco, Egypt and Israel.

It would be a basis for developing realistic projects but, above all, a “Court” in which the Mediterranean commercial or geopolitical disputes could be resolved.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr. Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “International World Group”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France. “

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EU playing a zero-sum game in Kosovo

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When it comes to Kosovo settlement, the European Union is clearly trying to regain the initiative. It was with poorly concealed jealousy and irritation that Brussels watched the delegations of Belgrade and Pristina sign an agreement to normalize their bilateral trade and economic relations in early September in Washington, and with the current change of guard in the US, is now trying to get back its levers of influence. Therefore, Brussels wants to organize a new high-level meeting between Serbia and Kosovo.

Miroslav Lajcak, the European Union’s Special Representative (EUSR) for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue, made this intention clear on December 2, when speaking at the European Parliament event marking the 25th anniversary of the Dayton Peace Agreement on Bosnia and Herzegovina. According to him, preparations are now underway for a new high-level meeting to be held as part of the dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade.

Tellingly, according to a report by the Albanian news agency Telegrafi, citing sources in Brussels, the upcoming talks are expected to focus on resolving property rights in Kosovo. This means that Brussels is looking for an agenda that the sides can agree on and one that would differ from what they discussed in Washington. This is all the more important now that the negotiating process has virtually ground to a halt since September. According to Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, Belgrade will not agree to have a new summit unless the Kosovar authorities are prepared to create an Association of Serbian Municipalities on the territory of their province (primarily in the north). This provision is part of the accords signed by Belgrade and Pristina in Brussels under the auspices of the EU, but since then the Kosovo authorities have actually blocked its implementation. However, because the European Union hasn’t got any really ambitious initiatives to come up with, the planned parley (if it takes place any time soon) looks bound to be less effective than the September talks in Washington. This, in turn, will deal a new blow to Brussels’ ambitions in the Balkans.

Realizing this, the EU leadership has been ramping up its criticism of the United States, essentially accusing Washington of trying to phase Brussels out of the Kosovo negotiation process. Josep Borrell, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, recently said it loud and clear that the solution of problems in the Western Balkans is entirely the EU’s patch, and that the bloc’s global role depends on the success of its policy in this region.

“If we are unable to solve the problems in the Balkans, then we can’t be a significant global player,” Borrell said.

Russia insists that the problems of Kosovo and other Balkan disputes can only be solved on the basis of international law through talks to achieve mutually-acceptable compromises. During a December 14 visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reiterated that there is no alternative to ensuring peace and stability through political dialogue and respect for national interests, based on international law and pertinent UN Security Council resolutions.

“It is principally important to help the countries of this region settle their problems via national dialogue and avoid attempts to drag any of these countries into serving somebody else’s unilateral geopolitical interests,” Lavrov emphasized.

Interaction between Russia and Serbia is all the more important amid the ongoing negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina, as it serves as a political and diplomatic counterbalance to the Pristina- Brussels-Washington “axis.” Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic confirmed the invariable nature and timeliness of such interaction during a December 14 joint news conference in Belgrade with Russia’s visiting Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Vucic also underscored his country’s desire to expand friendly and partnership relations with Russia.

When speaking about the possible outcome of the negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina, one should also keep in mind Turkey’s growing interest in this issue. Ankara is trying to play an increasingly active role in the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean region. As the Serbian daily newspaper Informer rightly noted, “One thing the Turkish president can’t be denied is the consistency and frankness with which he is implementing a strategy to bring back a big and mighty Turkey on the territories once occupied by the Ottoman Empire.”

In this situation, it is in Russia’s best interests to expand its partnership with Serbia, while simultaneously working with other key international players to ensure stability and security in the Balkans and counter the nationalist and destructive forces that can still be found in the Balkan capitals.

From our partner International Affairs

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Talking Turkey With Greece: Turkey and Israel’s Marriage of Convenience

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On January 25, Graeco-Turkish talks begin, at which Turkish claims to Greek island territories will be high on the agenda. Before we briefly consider the Israeli position, herewith a spot of recent history.

Scorned countries sometimes seek out other scorned countries, for reasons of self-interest. Thus Germany, humiliated after the First World War, co-operated with the Soviet Union, first with secret military agreements, and then more openly after the Treaty of Rapallo in 1922; both countries also had problems with the same country, Poland. Both were considered international pariahs at the time, whether rightly or wrongly.

Israel co-operated closely with South Africa when the latter, under its apartheid regime, was internationally blackballed, with most of the balls being black. The co-operation was largely military, overt and covert. Links between the countries’ external security services, Boss and Mossad, were close. Both countries ignored numerous UN resolutions.

The most recent example of the scorned seeking the scorned is, or course, that of Israel and Turkey, who revived a military co-operation agreement in 1996, that goes back to the late Fifties. Again, both states are hardly a paragon of international virtue, supported only consistently by the USA and its strategic acolyte, Britain, but also by Germany, for atavistic business reasons in the case of Turkey, and a contrived feeling of guilt in the case of Israel.

Both Israel and Turkey ignore numerous UN resolutions; both fear Russia; their respective security services exchange information on Syria; and both have a common enemy, also Syria. Both countries occupy parts of other countries, illegally, Cyprus and Palestine, and Syria’s Golan Heights. An interesting quirk is that Syria has territorial claims on its former coloniser, Turkey: with the connivance of France, Hatay (Alexandretta) was stealthily ‘acquired’ by Turkey in 1939, despite the fact that Syrians were in a majority.

The question is whether this is just another ephemeral unholy alliance, an alliance of pure self-interest, that works in spite of deep-seated historico-cultural differences, or something more significant. The evidence suggests that it is more than a simple marriage of convenience. Anyone who knows about the plethora of secret meetings between the two states, that has gone on for years, of the deep-seated mutual disdain between much of the Arab world and its former coloniser, Turkey, will realise that the military co-operation agreement is but the tip of an iceberg, an iceberg being pushed by hoards of American frogmen, with the avowed objective of achieving firm control over the Middle East and eastern Mediterranean. In this way, Russian influence in the Mediterranean and the Middle East can be contained, á la Kennan, and Israel can be subtly inserted into the de facto NATO fold, with Jordan perhaps being brought into the equation for good measure, while the Turkish mercenaries continue to kill Kurds and Israel conveniently buries the Oslo accords, continuing its ethnic cleansing and illegal settlements.

The U.S. Embassy in Athens has justified Israeli-Turkish co-operation with the following words: ‘US military co-operation with Turkey and Israel is a matter of long-standing policy and practice. As a NATO ally and friend with Turkey and as a special ally with Israel, both democracies and key regional players, the United States shares core values and mutual security and political objectives in the Eastern Mediterranean. Israel and Turkey have likewise found that they share common objectives, in part from confronting the same set of neighbours which have pursued weapons of mass destruction programmes, have been sponsors and supporters of terrorism, and which have been inimical to democracy, the rule of law and regional stability.’

These neighbours are not actually named, but are obviously Iran and Syria, not to mention some others. There is no mention of Israeli terrorism at home and abroad (vis. Vanunu) or of the treatment of innocent and unarmed Kurdish villagers, no mention of Israel’s nuclear arsenal and chemical and biological weapons programmes, nor of its disregard for international law. Above all, the core values and common objectives shared by the USA, Turkey and Israel are difficult to locate, unless it is to help the U.S. contain Russia.

A few years ago the essentially pro-American Economist wrote that Syria’s concerns about Turkish-Israeli military co-operation were ‘fairly well grounded.’ The article undoubtedly embarrassed the Pentagon and angered the Turkish and Israeli governments. It represented one of those very occasional but authoritative Economist warnings that things had gone too far. The last time the Economist had said anything so risqué was just after the abortive American attempt to rescue the American hostages at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, by printing a front-page cartoon of President Carter dressed as a cowboy, with his six-guns at the ready. Cruel stuff, and exaggerated criticism, maybe unjustified, even, yet nevertheless telling.

Turkey has in the past threatened to attack Syria. Today it occupies part of it, claiming that Syria supports the Kurds in Turkey. Israel also bombs Syria periodically. In 2008, published Israeli-Turkish military co-operation involved a 1998 $ 700 million contract for Israel to upgrade 54 Turkish F4’s, a $70 million one to upgrade 48 F5’s, and joint manufacture of 1000 tanks and ‘some helicopters.’ Israel also hoped to sell Turkey an early warning system, and also used Turkish territory for low-flying exercises.

Then came a sudden deterioration in Turkey-Israel relations, with Israeli commandos killing of nine Turks on a vessel trying to break the Gaza blockade. Military co-operation between Israel and Turkey was suspended. Backstage American pressure on its two key allies, however, along with an American sponsored joint military love-in between Greece and Israel is leading to new Turkish diplomatic pirouetting: relations between Israel and Turkey could be improving. Bilateral talks are in the offing, and full diplomatic relations could be restored by March, meaning re-activating Turkish-Israeli diplomatic and military relations.

For Greece, the unholy alliance could become more than an irritant, because of Cyprus. However far-fetched it may sound, Turkey could easily encourage the Israeli air force and navy to train in occupied Cyprus, with the Pentagon publicly tut-tutting, but privately sniggering. It could even offer a home in northern Cyprus to would-be Jewish immigrants, as it did in the sixteenth century. There is even a small minority of extreme Zionists in Israel that claims Cypriot territory as part of the Jewish heritage. Thus, an already overcrowded Israel could find more Lebensraum. When one looks at the extremist elements in Turkey and Israel, such plans are not beyond the bounds of possibility.

Greece is now part and parcel of the “new” Cold War, co-operating with Israel and the U.S. militarily more than ever before, in the naïve hope that Turkey will drop its claims on Greek territory. But despite irritation with recent Turkish behaviour, the U.S. and Israel are unlikely to be of much help when it comes down to diplomatic detail: in 2003, the U.S. Embassy wrote the following to me: ‘We recognize Greece’s border with Turkey, but not all the territorial waters implications which Greece asserts. We have not taken a position on sovereignty over Imia/Kardak, in part because of the lack of an agreed maritime boundary.’

When I asked about Greece’s twelve mile nautical and ten-mile airspace limits, the reply was: ‘We recognize the six [!]-mile territorial sea claim and a claim to the superjacent air space. We do not recognize Greece’s claim to territorial air space seaward of the outer limit of its territorial sea.’ I doubt that their position has changed. Similarly, the Israel Embassy refused to answer my question about Greece’s air and sea limits.

Clever Turkish diplomacy currently involves balancing itself between the U.S. and Russia, in the knowledge that neither the U.S. nor Israel will do more than protest diplomatically – á la Cyprus invasion – if Turkey snatches a small Greek island. The U.S.’s main aim is to keep Greece in the anti-Russian camp by not agreeing with Greece’s position on its Aegean borders. For if the U.S. – and Israel – came out in support of Greece’s position, this would push Ankara more towards Moscow.

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Has The European Integration Process Reached A Dead End?

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As part of the Geneva Lecture Series concepted and conducted by prof. Anis H. Bajrektarevic, President of the Republic of Austria Dr. Heinz Ficher (2004-16) and current Co-chair of the Vienna-based Ban Kimoon Centre for Global Citizens centered his two-hour long mesmerizing talk on Europe and its future prospects. University scholars and diplomats based in Geneva and beyond enjoyed the first hand insights in the very history of Europe and ist integrations since the end of the WWII.

Excellency Fischer elaborated on the important historic moments that forged today’s relations between member states of the EU and pointed out the weaknesses and challenges that the European continent will have to face in order to not reach a dead end in terms of the so-valued integration process.

Dr. Fischer introduced the topic by asking whether we have learned from our previous mistakes. According to him, we did learn from history. However, he believes that “after one or two generations, lessons of history start to fade away and get lost again [and that] we must keep that in mind to avoid dead end”.

Going back to World War II (WW2), the well-known European diplomat reminded us how Germany’s defeat changed the global balance of power, especially with the US and the USSR emerging as the two superpowers. The year 1945 has also been a crucial in the history of Austria, which reborn and reconstructed as an independent state in April 1945.

The end of WW2 left Europe with many questions; how to restore Germany? How to rebuild Europe? How to establish and protect peace and avoid mistakes that have been done after WW1? After the traumatizing events that happened during the war, peace “had a very high value and was a great priority almost worldwide”. Heinz Fischer remarks that “economic and politic cooperation between France, Germany, Italy and other European countries was the best way to retain and reduce nationalistic egoism and link the economist in a way that war cannot be an option to solve problems anymore as it happened so many times before”. However, we should not forget that, at the same time, the tension between Stalin and the western world on the other side was growing.

The Ban Ki-moon Center Co-chair continued by talking about the Cold War and describing the first steps towards the European Union that we know today.

“The US officials urged (western) Germany to take full responsibility for the development in their country and for good cooperation with other democracies. The next importation step was the announcement of the so-called Marshall plan for Europe. [It] was originally designed for the whole Europe but got rejected by countries under soviet dominance. Austria government was in a difficult situation because the eastern part of the country was, in that time, in the soviet occupation zone and, nevertheless, Austria joined the Marshall plan under heavy critics from its Communist party and Soviet officials.

[The] first peak of Cold War was the blockade of Berlin in 1948 and the foundation of NATO in 1949, which consequently made European integration faster and stronger.”

Nonetheless, Europe was still divided between the East and the West. It was only when Stalin died in 1953, that the beginning of a new era with a more collective leadership started. Fischer believes that his death was an important element for successful negotiations about the Austrian state treaty in April because the new leaders in Moscow wanted to demonstrate that they were ready for substantial negotiations and for compromises.

Adding to that, two years later, the Treaty of Rome was signed in March 1957, creating the European Economic Community (EEC) between Western Germany, Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. This accelerated further political integration.

By early 1960s, about 30% of the Old continent was gathered in the EEC – like-minded democracies, neighboring states of a growing politico-economic influence with good preconditions to strengthen and deepen such cooperation. The EEC was successful and attractive. Naturally, the decision-making of the Six was far easier than in today’s Union.

The step from the EEC to the EU was the basis for a better coordinated foreign policy, a precondition for the introduction of the euro currency and it strengthened the role of the European parliament. It was very attractive to join the EU as the union formulated strict conditions and admissions procedures for membership in the club.

In 1989, after the fall of the Berlin wall, Austria, Finland, Sweden and Norway, four democratic countries with good economic performance, applied for the EU. On January 1995, all of them, excepted Norway, became member of the EU. Then, in 2004, the number of member states jumped from 15 to 25 and soon after 27, etc. These years were the best moments in the European integration process but it was also a turning point, the number of diverging interests was enlarging and it was growing parallel to the number of members. As EU became more and more the voice of Europe, it also brought more and more difficulties in terms of decision making.

Eastern countries were united in their anti-Communist and anti-Russian feelings however in other fields of politics they were more and more not united with each other and the rest of Europe. But the question remained: what was the reason for that development?

Dr. Fischer observed that the national identity of new democracies from the 90s, those that were under soviet dominance, had been brutally suppressed during soviet supremacy and their so-called internationalism was not a genuine development, it had been enforced and, soon after the collapse of European communism and the dissolution of Russia pact, these countries showed that they were fed up with internationalism even European internationalism and nationalism saw a powerful renaissance. With this background, populistic nationalism in some countries, but not all the eastern European countries, became step by step stronger than European thinking and European solidarity.

While growing nationalism is one big obstacle, for the European cooperation and integration, the necessity of consensus in the constitution of the European union in many fields of European policy is another big problem. Consensus is, indeed, recommendable and necessary for very far-reaching decisions with long time consequences. However, too many necessities for consensus are poison for a coherent European policy, the more consensus is necessary, the bigger is the role of national interests and the bigger the role of national interests is the more we have a union with injured wings and the more it is difficult to compete with the other big powers in the world.

Since decades we can observe new developments dimensions and challenges of ecological environmental policy, the figures of climate change and global warming speak a very clear language on global level but also in Europe we have a lot to do in these fields. The Paris climate agreement set the goal of keeping global warming below 2 degrees but the question remains whether we will reach this goal and whether this will be enough to prevent further catastrophes such as biodiversity losses, glacier melting, intensified western conditions, etc. The EU is more and more trying to promote climate-friendly policies. It is indeed trying to reach progress and to mobilize the member countries on this field, they know that this must be a priority. Former President Fischer added that, in the last couple of years, China took more and more the lead in green and renewable energy whereas Trump administration withdraw from Paris agreement. However, the fact that Biden promised to re-enter Paris accord and put effort into fighting climate changes leads to careful optimism.

On the other hand, Excellency Fischer pointed out that the issue of forced migrations should not be forgotten. He added that this represent a huge global problem which the EU cannot solve alone and, even though nobody is expecting them to, they should be ready to contribute to a solution and to do their part. The number of refugees at the border of Europe between 2014 and 2015 increased rapidly to 1,3 million asylum seekers and this caused a lot of problems, troubles, hostilities and a wave of population and nationalism.

Observing the policies in some European countries and Austria is not an exception, the problem is not so much, some governments can solve the issue but the problem is whether they want to solve it.

In the meantime, the second wave has counted higher numbers than ever, we had time to place some coordination at EU level to fight jointly the virus. The Commission has made useful proposals in some areas such as cross-border commuting transport of goods, external borders purchase and distribution of vaccines. Also it tackled the international cooperation of comparable statistics and the strategic introduction of the next generation of EU recovery instrument amounting to 750 million euros which is linked to the next financial framework and the EU budget for the years 2021-2027. All being promising signs of a rapid reaction capacitation.

“The EU is facing challenging times. Cross-European cooperation has no alternative – it is today as fundamental as ever” – was the closing point of Heinz Fischer’s farsighted and comprehensive Geneva talk.

*President Hein Fischer answered the call of the Swiss UMEF University in Geneva on December 10th 2020, and gave this lecture under the auspices of so-called Geneva Lecture Series – Contemporary World of Geo-economics. Lecture series so far hosted former Secretary-General of the Paris-based OECD,current Rector of the Tokyo-based UN University, notable intellectuals such as prof. Ioannis Varoufakis and Nobel prize laureates. Some of the following guests are presidents and prime ministers of western countries, distingushed scholars as well as the chief executives of the important intergovernmental organisations.

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