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The Fall of the Social State and Rise of Neo-liberalism

Sabina Jahanli

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European integration has been transformed into neo-liberal project when the economic crisis and global competition were strengthened starting from 1970s. There were other important occurrences which caused a shift in economic model, like 1973 oil price hike, 1975 U.S. defeat in Vietnam, halt in Bretton Woods System in 1971. After Keynesianism, rising social responsibilities of states and caring the class which consumes without producing also accelerated unavoidable economic shift.

Particularly, after economic crisis in 1973, it was identified that traditional approaches to economy is insufficient. Structural weakness of the economy was also revealed in the comparison with the U.S. and Japan’s economic development. In this situation, three main debates appeared over restructuring socio-economic order of Europe. The fundamental axis of ideological struggles within the European capitalist class in the beginning of 1980s constituted the contrast between neo-mercantilism and neo-liberalism. Neo-mercantilists had the view of “Europeanism”. They were the main industries which were producing for only Europe. Therefore, they wanted to create a strong European market which is resilient to outside competition. Thus, how and to what extent the European capitalist class has shaped the transformation of the European order largely depended on the outcome of the struggle between Europeanists and globalists.

The third adversary capitalist model – social democratic model appeared in the second half of 1980s. The main concern of this model was that social dimension should be added to the completion of internal market. Social democracy model was suggested by Jacques Delors in 1985 (president of European Commission) with promising high level of social protection against the possible disruptive forces of neoliberalism and globalization.Thus, European Social Model appeared in Delors’ vision that European capitalism should combine both the needs for welfare and sustainable growth, social solidarity and competitive market. To reach these goals, it was aimed to create strong European institutions and support state-building programs together with market-building. To make European market stronger against the global competition converged social model defenders to neo-mercantilists.

Indeed, all three models supported the accomplishment of internal market. However, the significant friction occurred on the question how the single market should be completed. The answer of neoliberalism was that trade liberalization should be increased and large external openness should be added there. On the other hand, social model supported regulation of market by a single supra-national power, namely Commission.The third project – neo-mercantilism supported interventionist industrial policy by increasing external tariffs in order to protect the internal market form outside competition.

The debate on the completion of market was resulted with the victory of neo-liberalist model of capitalism. The steady support and lobbying of corporate sector, while the weakness of labor unions were the main reasons for the victory of neo-liberalism. In Europethe shift towards state ownership or privatization, labor markets’ flexibilisation and pressure on wage demands started to be strengthened form 1980s which significantly decreased the power of labor unions. While support for further liberalization has been increased with the 200 TNCs and 500 corporate lobby groups based in Brussels, it wasn’t thought that the ignorance of labors’ social demands will cause resurgence of social model. Neo-Gramscian theorist van Apeldoorn particularly mentions the promotion activities of European Round Table Industrialists for global liberalism.

The turn of neo-liberalism has certainly been started in European integration after the creation of Single Market in 1987. Neo-liberalist approach was promoted with the claim of treating the deficiencies of the social welfare state, like increase in welfare, formation of rational and responsible individuality and productivity. In the beginning, it was accepted to provide a middle path (social democratic) and state intervention along with the free market. However, the further development of the approach was far from meeting the expectations of social policy and social welfare. In particular, the increasing welfare gap among social classes, income inequalities, increase in poverty and interest rates, erosion of job security and rise in the levels of unregistered employment increased the discontent substantially in the social sectors.

After completion of Single Market, further steps in integration, like European Monetary Union, Lisbon Strategy have been totally based on economic liberalization and preference for competition. Considering anti-globalization movements, EU became active in social policy improvement, whereas these movements were constrained by the claims for competitiveness, economic efficiency and stabilization. For example, Phipip Whyman, Mark Baimbridge and Andrew Mullen exemplify 1989 Social Charter and 1999 Luxembourg and Cologne process for the creation of European Employment Pact. They argue that the former process aimed to respect for national differences in social systems and the latter planned to deliver job-creating growth and decrease the burden on workers by reforming taxation and social security systems. However, the authors criticize that Employment policy guidelines have been left for the decision and control of member states. According to Cologne process, member states had to develop and implement their national action plans for employment improvement on their own and then they could publish the consequences in the joint employment report after Commission’s approval. They further claim that in this situation, there can’t be formed a unified EU level welfare state.

Social Policy Agenda (2000) under Lisbon strategy aimed to modernize social protection and to create more and better jobs. However, there was a critic about EU’s social initiatives that all social policies were limited to voluntary coordination and social dialogue which shows the absence of willing for formulating a common and regulated mechanism.

Starting from 1990s, there appeared important deficiencies in neoliberalism which gave a way for resurgence of ESM discourse. One of the main flaws was related to the rising power of Trans National Corporations. Corporations’ unwillingness for organized labor market, stabilizing welfare benefits by ensuring work pays and increase in payment for social expenditure resulted with rise in poverty and social inequalities. They have played a crucial role in transforming of World Order by penetrating not only to economy, but also to policy-making process through lobbying endeavors and media by using propaganda. Phipip Whyman, Mark Baimbridge and Andrew Mullen argue in their book that TNCs started to govern the economics and became more wealthy and powerful after neo-liberal revolution and spreading the dominance of globalization. For example, worldwide sales of TNCs were smaller than world exports in 1960, however they got 247 per cent of world exports in 2000. Following this, Chomsky also declared neo-liberal world order as “new imperial age” by claiming that World Bank, GATT, IMF were programmed to serve the interests of TNCs and investment firms.

Global trade in services and goods started to be dependent on TNCs and this process of corporate concentration has been speed up by trade deals, like Single Market (in 1987) or NAFTA (in 1994). Moreover, as the two-third of TNCs were based in North (Japan, Europe, North America), FDIs in the form of acquisitions and cross-border mergers were substantially centered in core countries. This concentration of FDIs deepen core-periphery divergence and make periphery stay outside by increasing interpenetration of core countries.

Neo-liberal policies and its social consequences

Source:Peters, John. «Labour market deregulation and the decline of labour power in North America and Western Europe.» Policy and Society, 2008: 83-98.

Neoliberalism has been unsuccessful to reach its aims in terms of social well-being and economic efficiency. If we compare the period 1980-2000 with the previous twenty years (1960-1980), then we can easily identify that the latter period has been more successful in terms of well-being indicators and quality of life, than the former. Furthermore, annual rate of economic growth per capita has been lower in the EU when neo-liberalism peaked in 2000. The author also elaborates that class inequalities have increased substantially in Europe’s capitalist countries. To prove the hypothesis of increasing income inequality, Branco Milanovic came a conclusion that world population’s top 1 per cent obtained 57 per cent of the world income between 1995 and 2000.

Income and other social inequalities have appeared due to the class-determined policies. In other words, as neo-Gramscian theorists argue, hegemon classes in the form of lobby groups (European Round Table of Industrialists, World Economic Forum, Trilateral Commission and so on) directly influence to the decisions of governments. These decision and policies constitute the core of neo-liberalism which undermined the implementation of social policies.

One of the main public policy in neoliberalism was the deregulation of labor markets. John Peters argues in his article that the most significant consequence of labor markets’ deregulation was the decline in salaries and job security, while rise in temporary employment. This policy also eliminated the power of trade unions to change the nature of jobs through collective negotiations. The initiative of deregulation and allowing businesses to define wages have been started by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher with claim of supporting businesses. Table 1 shows the percentage of trade union membership in the EU after the launch of neoliberalism until its peak – 2003. Between this period of time we can observe a slight decline in the membership for Trade Unions in developed countries.

Table 1: Trade Union density

Then deregulation of financial markets and commerce in goods and services were followed. Deregulation for consumers was beneficial in terms of having more choices and superior customer service, however it was more detrimental for consumers who have worse socio-economic conditions. These types of customers can’t pay more for products and have been left for the mercy of businesses who mainly care their profits than social responsibility.

Another crucial neo-liberal policy was the reduction of social public expenditures which was harmful for working class. Government spending on social programmes has been cut through austerity measures which aimed to reduce budget deficits. Member countries started to reduce public debts and budget deficits within austerity measures after Maastricht Convergence Criteria which sharpened the already high unemployment rates. The trouble due to rising unemployment rates persuaded European Council to formulate European Stability Pact in 1997 which has played a crucial role in the process of cutting social expenditures. The main objective of Stability and Growth Pact was to ensure the commitment of member states to the Maastricht Convergence Criteria. However, the commitment about keeping deficit below 3 per cent of GNP has been strengthened which resulted with large reductions of social public expenditures.

The situation deteriorated for working class who use public services, with the next policy of privatization of services. U.K.’s large privatization experience has been a model for other countries, in particular after Maastricht Convergence Criteria. Privatization aimed to reduce public debt level and budget deficit. Privatization of assets and public sector services was continued after euro crisis in 2008 under Troika.

From the beginnings of 1990s the discourse of promotion of ant-interventionism has been reinforced under neo-liberal model. Despite the acceptance of state interventionism in neo-liberalism, the new discourse of ant-interventionism appeared to support the interests of TNCs and dominant classes.

Matthew Eagleton-Pierce explains the promotion of individualism and consumerism in neo-liberalism and relates the term of individualism with the term of choice. He further claims that the relationship between neo-liberalism and consumer choice is in contrast with the culture of collectivism. Starting from the 1970s, collective forms of socio-economic organization has been challenged by business lobbies and conservative governments. To show the correlation, he exemplifies that the decline in trade union participation in Western Europe started to weaken socialist-inspired goals and to erode bargaining positions.

Sabina Jahanli is PhD student at Corvinus University of Budapest in the department of Political Science. She is a graduate from Central European University and Budapest Business School’s International Relations MA Program. She has participated in Student Scientific Conference which is a national research competition in Hungary and was awarded with the first place twice in 2016 -17. She has also been a visiting student to Centre for EU- Russia Studies at University of Tartu in 2019.

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The return of a “political wunderkind”: Results of parliamentary elections in Austria

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At the end of September, the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP), led by the former Chancellor – the 33-year-old “political prodigy” Sebastian Kurz – once again came out on top in snap parliamentary elections. According to a preliminary count, to be finalized on October 16, the ÖVP secured 37.5 percent of the vote, and will take 71 of the 183 seats in the National Council (lower house of parliament).

Political commentators still predict serious problems Sebastian Kurz may face in putting together his new Cabinet. What consequences will the outcome of the September 29 vote have for Austria and for Europe as a whole?

The snap general election in Austria followed the publication of secret recordings in May, which led to the collapse of the ruling coalition of the conservative, center-right Austrian People’s Party and the “far right” “nationalist” Freedom Party (FPÖ). In the July 2017 video, published by the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, the leaders of the Freedom Party are heard promising government contracts and commercial preferences to a woman, posing as the niece of a Russian oligarch on Ibiza, Spain. As transpired later, the hidden camera recording had been arranged by journalists dissatisfied with political gains, made by the FPÖ.

The results of the September 29 vote showed that while the “Ibiza scandal” had seriously undermined the Austrian voters’ support for the “ultra-right,” it simultaneously bolstered the positions of the ÖVP, which won nine more parliamentary seats than it did in the 2017 election. The center-left Social Democrats (SPÖ), who have dominated much of the country’s postwar politics, fell to their worst ever result with 40 seats – 12 short of their 2017 result. The Freedom Party suffered massive losses ending up in third place, losing 10 percent of the vote and winning just 31 parliamentary seats – 20 less than in 2017. The Greens (Die Grüne Alternative), previously not represented on the National Council, won 26 seats, and the liberal NEOS/New Austria party won 15 mandates, thus adding five seats to their previous number.

The People’s Party thus confirms its status as the country’s leading political force, winning a second back-to-back election for the first time since the 1960s. Most observers believe that the conservatives owe much of their electoral success to Sebastian Kurz, a young politician who, already as a former foreign minister, led the ÖVP in the spring of 2017, amid the growing popular discontent with the “triumph of political centrism.”

According to Fyodor Lukyanov, the chairman of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, just as the traditional parties kept promising their supporters “even more stability and predictability of the whole system,” the people were getting increasingly worried about the watering down of “the very essence of politics as a clash of views and mindsets.” Meanwhile, Europe has been grappling with crises, ranging “from debt to migration.” Voters were losing faith in the ability by the traditional parties, with their predilection for reaching consensus even at the cost of emasculating the proposed solutions, to find adequate answers to the new domestic and external challenges facing the EU. This is what the People’s Party, one of Austria’s two “systemic” parties, looked like when Sebastian Kurz took over as its chairman, as it tried to move even further away from ideological certainty and advocate “all things good against everything that is bad.” As a result, it was only losing the confidence of its onetime supporters.

According to the London-based weekly magazine The Economist, two factors were critical in Sebastian Kurz’s rapid political ascent. First, Kurz filled an empty “niche” among the center-right supporters of tough refugee policies. In 2015-2016, Austria found itself at the heart of the European migration crisis – in per capita terms, the small Alpine republic had taken in more migrants than any other EU country, except Sweden. Kurz, then foreign minister, gave up his previous, quite liberal view of migration issues, embracing a hard line that envisaged closing borders and limiting asylum opportunities. Together with the governments of a several Balkan countries, Kurz has done a lot to cut off routes of illegal migration.

Secondly, many Austrians now saw Sebastian Kurz as the answer to their request for “fresh blood” and new ideas in politics. Before very long, the young leader managed to reshuffle the party leadership, including on the ground, and implement new approaches and methods of working with voters. His arrival breathed new vigor in the conservative party which, although respectable, had lost political initiative and the ability to generate fresh ideas. To the frustrated electorate, he projected an image of an energetic politician with a fresh look on the problems of Austria and Europe. During his first term as chancellor, Sebastian Kurz managed to convince a large segment of the Austrian population in his ability to successfully combine in the government the bureaucratic skills of the establishment with the ambitious and uncompromising, at times even exceedingly so, agenda of the “populists.” Kurz himself lists moves to reduce taxes and public debt among the achievements of his first government.

The outcome of the September 29 vote underscored the support the People’s Party enjoys among all sectors of the Austrian society, save, of course, for the Vienna liberals. The young politician, “who was widely viewed as a defender of the interests of the wealthy elite, can now be considered the choice of the entire people.” His electoral base continues to swell – Kurz remains the country’s most popular party leader. For his supporters, he epitomizes the political will for change, which they believe the majority of former ÖVP functionaries and the Social Democrats have lost a long time ago. And still, the traditional Austrian and European political establishment remains wary of Kurz, primarily because of his desire to team up with the ultra-right when forming his first government in late 2017. The collapse of the ruling coalition last May in the wake of the “Ibizagate” scandal with the SPÖ leaders seemed to have only confirmed these fears. However, many experts state that as Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz has proved himself as an able administrator who has “effectively deprived” the “right-wingers” of their ability to make many key policy decisions, including in the field of foreign policy.

Voters now expect him to respond to “changing expectations,” which many observers describe as historical and geopolitical pessimism. Many in Europe are worried by the weakening of the EU’s positions against the backdrop of an ongoing competition between the global powerhouses. Meanwhile, most observers believe that putting together a new Cabinet won’t be easy as there are three options for forming a majority (at least 92 mandates): a grand coalition, a renewed coalition with the FPÖ, and the so-called “dirndl government” (“turquoise-green-pink” – the colors of traditional Alpine clothing) with “greens” and liberals from NEOS. The first option could dishearten Kurz’s backers, who supported him precisely because they were fed up with a decades-long succession of governments made up of either one of the two leading parties, or both. Moreover, Kurz has “fundamental differences” with the Social Democrats on many social and economic issues. As for the new attempt to rejoin forces with the FPÖ, it is fraught with scandal that could undermine Kurz’s reputation in Europe. Finally, an alliance with the Greens and Liberals will most certainly lead to serious differences on migration, environmental and social policy.

There is an intense debate currently going on in Europe about the institutional arrangements the EU needs to resolve internal contradictions and meet external challenges. The participants in this fundamental dispute are pulling no blows, and the “Ibizagate” scandal that resulted in the collapse of Kurz’s previous government is a graphic example of that.  Meanwhile, the young and ambitious politician wants to secure a bigger role for his country in European affairs. Throughout his term as chancellor, he demonstrated a strong commitment to the political values of the “European mainstream.” He watched very closely the political processes going on in Europe, and provided maximum support for the reforms being put forward by French President Emmanuel Macron, even though he didn’t share many of Macron’s proposals for Eurozone reform, leaning more toward Germany’s more cautious stance. During his first term as Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz convinced his FPÖ coalition partners to reject the idea of Austria’s withdrawal from the EU. Now that “populists” have been on the retreat in a number of European countries – in Italy, perhaps Hungary, as well as France, where the “Yellow Jackets” movement is on the wane, few expect Kurz to brand himself as a “populist in a centrist’s skin.” The young Austrian, who has reached political heights thanks largely to his clear and unwavering stance on migration could inspire new hope in Europeans, reeling from half-hearted decisions so characteristic of the Brussels bureaucracy.

One should also keep in mind the fact that Kurz owes the notable increase in popular support to those who used to vote for the Freedom Party. And, according to the more realistically-minded people, the two political organizations still have much more in common than Kurz is willing to admit in public. Well, Kurz may have managed to solve the problem of opposing the “populists” by embracing, albeit in a softer form, some of the ideas espoused by Eurosceptics and “sovereignists.” The result, however, has been a Conservative shift “to the right.” And no matter how much Kurz and his associates insist on their firm commitment to “centrism,” it is a very different “center” – that is, a dangerous trend of the entire political spectrum of Austria and Europe gravitating “to the right.”

“Populists” may have “retreated” somewhere in the European Union. However, the third place won by the Freedom party in parliament, which still gives it an “arithmetic” chance of participating in the government, is a clear sign of the party’s potential for political survival.

The Austrian elections seem to confirm the trend that made itself so clear during the May elections to the European Parliament: fortune usually favors the political forces that do not quibble – firm supporters of “strengthening sovereignty.”

Future will show whether Sebastian Kurz’s return to power leads the way to the renaissance of “new-look” European centrists amid the gradual retreat of “nationalists” and “populists.” And also if it is a sign of the gradual adaptation of the European political establishment to the voters’ request for  a more balanced course, combining protection of the sovereign rights and national interests of EU member states and the EU’s objective need for greater federalization and centralization of common political institutions.

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EU to mount decisive summit on Kosovo

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The European Union is planning to hold an important summit on Kosovo in October this year with a view to get Belgrade and Pristina to normalize bilateral relations. French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will pose as guarantors of the deal. Reports say a senior US official may take part in the Paris summit as well. The participation of the American side was strongly advocated by the authorities in Kosovo, headed by President Hashim Thachi.

If this scenario goes ahead, Serbia may face pressure from both the USA and the EU. The West plans to require Belgrade to not only de facto recognize Kosovo but to confirm the course for European integration – which, according to Brussels, means departure from a comprehensive partnership with Russia and from the signing of a free trade agreement with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) scheduled for the end of October.

Given the situation, Serbian leaders are set on consolidating Belgrade’s position in the forthcoming talks by reducing international support for Pristina. To this end, Belgrade is trying to persuade countries that previously recognized Kosovo’s self-proclaimed independence to reconsider their positions and withdraw their statements. Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic has already announced in wake of consultations on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly that the number of countries that recognize Kosovo’s independence will dwindle by the end of this year. According to Dacic, such countries will make up less than half of the world community.

According to the Serbian Foreign Minister, the Serbian delegation led by President Aleksandar Vucic succeeded in holding talks in New York with representatives of about a hundred states on withdrawing recognition of Kosovo’s independence. “The President spoke with representatives of some states about strategic issues, about a dialogue with Pristina, but there were also many meetings dedicated specifically to the status of Kosovo and Metohija. As the president announced, our citizens can be sure that in the near future the number of countries that will withdraw or “freeze” their recognition of Kosovo will increase,”- Ivica Dacic said.

In recent years, the number of countries that recognize Kosovo’s independence has decreased, though so far mainly due to small American and African states. Among them are the Comoros, Dominica, Suriname, Liberia, Sao Tome and Principe, Guinea-Bissau, Burundi, Papua New Guinea, Lesotho, Grenada.

The persistency with which the US and the EU is trying to “press” for the normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina and force Serbia to cut down on its active cooperation with Russia has yet again pushed the Serbs into streamlining their national foreign policy priorities. According to available data, Brussels is ready to slap more conditions on Belgrade, including the most painful of the Balkan issues, not only on Kosovo, but also on Bosnia and Herzegovina. For one, as Serbian Minister of Technological Development and Innovation Nenad Popovic said,  one of the conditions for Serbia becoming a member of the EU could be recognition of the “genocide” in Srebrenica.

This is confirmed by Zoran Milosevic, an expert at the Institute for Political Studies in Belgrade, who sees the new condition as nothing unexpected, since some EU member states, and also Switzerland, have passed a law that envisages criminal liability for the denial of the so-called “genocide in Srebrenica.” Some  European countries are already following suit having drafted the relevant bills to be submitted to parliament. “Something of this kind was proposed by the High Representative of the international community in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Valentin Inzko. What is the point of adopting laws in defense of this counterfeit on the genocide in Srebrenica if they do not make a condition for Serbia’s membership in the EU?” – Zoran Milosevic points out. The mere word “condition”, he says, signifies that Serbia “is treated as a minor who needs to grow to perfection and fight tooth and claw to enter the EU”. Serbia “accepted this burden of its own free will” the day its parliament passed a resolution according to which the country’s strategic goal is European integration, ” – said the Serbian expert.

He also made it clear that it was by no means accidental that Brussels never announced the full list of conditions for Serbia’s membership in the European Union: “If they did, it would tie the hands of pro-Western Serbian politicians. So they release more and more conditions gradually, one after another. First, it was about recognizing Kosovo – whether this is a condition for EU membership or not. It turned out that it is. Now it is about the recognition of “genocide” in Srebrenica. It is said that Serbia’s entry into NATO will also be a condition for joining the European Union. And, as in the previous cases, we are wondering if such a condition exists or not. As a result, it will turn out that there is. ”

Where Brussels’ pressure on Belgrade is particularly noticeable at present is Serbia’s intention to sign a free trade agreement with the EAEU at the end of October. According to the Minister of Trade of Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC) Veronika Nikishina, negotiations between the EAEU and Serbia on the creation of a free trade zone are over with the parties involved preparing to sign the agreement on October 25. Nikishina says the document will be signed in Moscow by the prime ministers of the five member states of the EAEU, the Prime Minister of Serbia Ana Brnabic and the Chairman of the EEC Board Tigran Sargsyan. Even though Serbia has agreements on a free trade zone with three of the five EAEU members – Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, the transition to a common free trade regime has several advantages, emphasizes Veronika Nikishina: “Three bilateral deals that were signed earlier and were not fully identical are being harmonized, giving Armenia and Kyrgyzstan the opportunity of preferences in preferential trade. ”

Also, a trade agreement provides access of the EAEU members to the Serbian market: “For example, it concerns certain kinds of cheeses, some strong alcoholic drinks, and cigarettes from Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, which could not enter the Serbian market under the free trade regime. And it also spreads on various types of engineering products that have also been removed from bilateral agreements.” “In other words, we give a fully-fledged free trade status to Kyrgyzstan and Armenia and improve the existing bilateral free trade arrangements for Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia,”  – the Minister for Trade of the EEC emphasizes.

According to Serbian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications Rasim Lyayic, an agreement with the EAEU may allow the country to increase its export volumes by nearly 1.5 times. According to the minister, in 2018 Serbia’s trade turnover with the EAEU countries amounted to about 3.4 billion dollars, of which 1.1 billion accounted for exports, mainly to Russia. Exports into the EAEU will increase to $ 1.5 billion within a few years after the agreement comes into force, the Serbian Deputy Prime Minister predicts.

According to the Bruegel International Analytical Center, in 2016, 62% of all Serbian imports came from EU countries, 8.3% from China, 7.9% from Russia. 64% of the republic’s exports go to the EU, 17.8% to other Balkan countries, 5.3% to Russia.

Naturally, the EU is more than concerned about Serbia’s trade and economic policy following a different direction. Brussels has already warned the Serbian government that a free trade agreement with the EAEU could harm integration with the EU. “You can’t follow several directions at once,” – said Slovakian Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak, thereby warning Belgrade and expressing the position of his counterparts in the European Union: “If you are serious about Europe, you must make decisions that bring you closer to it, but this move is totally out of line. ”  

Meanwhile, Serbia maintains composure and has no intention of giving up on the plans. Explaining his country’s decision to conclude an agreement with the EAEU, Rasim Lyayic said that it follows economic agenda alone: “It is not about politics, but about trade.”

According to the minister, a refusal to sign an agreement with the EAEU would call into question a free trade agreement with Russia.

The EAEU is calm about warnings addressed to Serbia, – Veronika Nikishina says: “Until Serbia becomes a full-fledged member of the European Union, it has full autonomy in its trade policy. “In our agreement there are no obligations on the formation of a trade regime between Serbia and the European Union, which is absolutely impossible to imagine.” Nikishina made it clear that until Serbia joins the EU, “we are trading with it in a regime we consider appropriate, and we will upgrade this regime.” As for Serbia entering the EU (which is a matter of remote future), in this case “all agreements of this kind, including our agreement, naturally, will have to be terminated,” – Veronika Nikishina says.

Nevertheless, there is no doubt that pressure on Belgrade, both in terms of recognizing Kosovo and in connection with relations with Russia and the EAEU, will boost considerably in the coming weeks. In these conditions, the Serbian authorities will obviously have to assume a more determined position with regard to the country’s list of national priorities. 

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EU politicians turn to “ball of snakes” to make own careers

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Some of EU politicians are very successful in making their careers using the weak points of the European Union member states.

Current tensions between Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and NATO (including EU countries) lead to the development of many expensive programs and projects that European taxpayers have to pay for.

Current security situation provides a huge space for ambitious politicians. Those, in turn, involve the population of European countries in an arms race, trying to achieve personal goals at the expense of frightened citizens.

Thus, such statements as: “we’re at war”, “Russia and China threaten Europe and the Word”, “we need to increase defence spending” are populist in nature and distract attention of people from more pressing social issues. The more so, loud statements let such experts be in the centre of attention in European politics.

Thus, new European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has flagged her ambition for political weight to take more responsibility for defence programs and projects.

“That’s likely to trigger turf wars with EU national governments, NATO and the United States over who should be in charge of European military cooperation and the West’s lucrative defence industry,” writes Paul Taylor, a contributing editor at POLITICO and a senior fellow at the think-tank Friends of Europe.

Franco-German efforts to press EU countries to buy European military equipment rather than U.S. vehicles and weapons have not been successful yet. But taking into account the pertinacity of French and German politicians in the EU governing bodies it could become a reality. Though the Baltic countries, the Netherlands, and Poland, are suspicious of such plans.

“They simply want the best value for money and quality for their limited defence budgets. The Poles and Balts believe they get an unspoken extra level of bilateral defence insurance if they buy U.S. equipment beyond NATO’s mutual defence clause.” explains Paul Taylor.

This is one of the few cases when small Baltic States oppose European influencers – France and Germany. On October, 2 in his interview to Europäische Sicherheit & Technik, Raimundas Karoblis, the Minister of Defence of the Republic of Lithuania said that he hates even the subject of European military autonomy. He totally relies on NATO.

So, in this fight for decision making in the European Union only one side will loose – people of the countries who will pay for NATO or European defence projects.

People are only the tools of satisfaction of political ambitions. In case of peace in Europe they will pay for excessive amount of military equipment and foreign personnel deployment. In case of war they will be the targets of missiles.

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