The relationship between Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and French President Emmanuel Macron has never been worse in the world of international relations.
After Jair Bolsonaro’s election to Brazil’s Presidency, President Macron sent a message of congratulations that seemed a reprimand: “We cooperate with Brazil, while respecting democracy” – a clear, hypothetical hint at the neo-authoritarian “temptations” of the new Brazilian President.
The two leaders could certainly not be more different. However, part of Bolsonaro’s electorate has sympathy precisely for a Macron-style liberalism.
Then there was the issue of the Gilets Jaunes when, in December 2018, the Brazilian President’s diplomatic adviser said that “Macron should reconcile with his people, before criticizing the decisions taken by the Brazilian government”. It was exactly the moment when the Brazilian government walked out of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.
Last July, at the last moment, Bolsonaro cancelled a meeting with the French Foreign Minister, Le Drian, who was on an official visit to Brasilia.
It should also be recalled that a few days before the G7 Summit organized in Biarritz, French President Macron defined the Amazon rainforest fires as “an international crisis”. Later France explicitly accused Brazilian President Bolsonaro of lying about the Amazon issue during the G20 Summit in Osaka.
Later, after a meeting that was allegedly very controversial between France and Brazil, President Bolsonaro accepted obtorto collo the Paris Climate Agreement, which was a prerequisite for the trade agreement between the EU and Mercosur, the free trade alliance of which Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Venezuela and Uruguay are members.
There was even gossip in the controversy between the two Presidents: in August 2019, a Brazilian magazine compared the photo of Madame Macron with those of Bolsonaro’s wife, putting the following question: “Now do you understand why Macron is persecuting Bolsonaro?”
Apart from the vulgarity of the whole issue, there is the sign of personal and political tension between the two Presidents that cannot certainly be resolved with a handshake.
The Brazilian Education Minister publicly described Macron as “an idiot” and later the Brazilian government refused support to the tune of 20 million euros designed to help the countries hit by the Amazon rainforest fires (hence not only Brazil).
There is also a secret Brazilian report, recently leaked to the media, entitled Defence Scenarios 2040 -drafted with the support of 500 members of the Brazilian military elite, after 11 confidential meetings at the Defence Ministry in Brasilia – in which France is defined as “Brazil’s main enemy”.
The French Embassy to Brazil ironized on the “limitless imagination” of the authors of the report, but the Brazilian text speaks of a possible French request for military intervention, at the UN, in the territories of the Yanomani tribe, on the border with Venezuela, through a large mobilization of French forces in Guiana.
It should be recalled that the border between Amapá and French Guiana is the longest French land border, exactly 730 kilometres.
It is the last part of an “equinoctial France” born at the time of Henry IV.
In December 2018 – just to note how Brazil set great store by the Amazon – the Brazilian environmental agency Ibama refused permission to Total for activities at the mouth of the Amazon River “to defend marine biodiversity”.
Again in late 2018, France sent no remarkable political representatives for the delivery of four Brazilian submarines built in Cherbourg.
Hence we have reached the third French-Brazilian war, after the crisis of 1894-1900 for the delimitation of the border with Guiana. There was also a dispute between the two countries on the Amazon, which was believed to have gold reserves.
Later there was the lobster war in the early 1960s – precisely between 1961 and 1963 – just to delimit the lobster fishing areas.
Warships from both countries were involved before the dispute could be solved diplomatically.
On the one hand, the British and French projects on the mouth of the Amazon River, to make the area become an almost “independent” State, but above all from Brazil, which holds 60% of the entire Amazon. On the other hand, the projects of all Brazilian governments – from the 1940s to date – regardless of their political complexion, to integrate the Amazon region with a strong policy of national identity and, above all, with the construction of the Trans-Amazonian Highway – 4,000 kilometres running through the virgin forest, a Brazilian project launched in 1970.
In the case of France, the opposition of Germany (and Italy) to the stop of the Treaty between the EU and Mercosur must also be taken into account.
However, what is Jair Bolsonaro’s real foreign policy? Certainly his cultural mentor is Olavo De Carvalho, a philosopher linked to Steve Bannon and, paradoxically, to the French Nouvelle Droite, author of a text entitled O imbecil coletivo. Nevertheless, Bolsonaro’s domestic and foreign policy is anyway aimed at radically reorienting Brazil’s positioning in the world.
The paradigm of this Brazilian repositioning is President Trump’s foreign policy, which is post-globalization following the vetero-nationalism – always a bit anti-American – of all the Latin American political traditions.
According to the team of the current President, the previous Brazilian governments had privileged agreements and relations with other left-wing governments, especially in the Third World, while it would currently be necessary to resume the preferential relations with the First World countries, including the United States.
The dossiers in which Lula’s and Dilma Roussef’s governments got entangled were the relations with areas in which Brazil had no interest nor real power of influence.
Internally – but the issue is also relevant to international policy – Bolsonaro’s line concerns a “minimal” central State project – in the best tradition of the Mont Pelerin Society’s neoliberalism – with the transfer of many central competences to the federal States and municipalities, and a wave of privatizations, in addition to a significant share of deregulation. It also regards the diminished role by Petrobras, axis of the previous left-wing governments, as well as privatization of public banks, and finally the reduction or cancellation of strategic military programs, such as the one concerning the new future nuclear submarine.
In foreign policy, Brazil needs to improve relations with all South American countries, but also to create synergies with all the major global players, such as the United States and the Russian Federation, with a view to reaching the goal of a permanent seat at the UN.
Brazil led by President Bolsonaro wants to put in place a new alliance called Pro Sul, uniting all South American right-wing and liberalist governments, while the current President has anyway reduced investment in the Armed Forces’ flagship programs, i.e. on cybersecurity, nuclear power and space. It also promotes the exploitation of Brazilian uranium by foreign companies, sells EMBRAER to BOEING and participates in the final dismantling of the Centre for Defence Studies of UNASUL, the Union of South American Nations, in Quito.
Also with reference to Mercosur – by now of little relevance – Brazil led by President Bolsonaro is openly rooting for its dismantling, so as to later create a free trade zone and then reach bilateral agreements of the various countries with the United States. Brazil, however, is also scarcely interested in Argentina and now almost explicitly refuses South-South Cooperation with African countries.
President Bolsonaro has also stopped proposing his voting right to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, since the USA is opposed to these extensions of both organisations’ steering committees.
But certainly these two financial institutions are still targeted by Brazil’s current foreign policy.
However, with a view to achieving his foreign policy goals, President Bolsonaro plans to have increasingly closer relations with some countries, such as Germany, India and Japan.
The US primary foreign policy goal, however, is to avoid a country or an alliance of countries undermining both its regional and global hegemony.
Therefore, Brazil led by Bolsonaro is a State that accepts US hegemony in Latin America without problems, but tries to carve out an important role for itself in this new sub-continent set-up.
The naive Europhiles are warned.
However, let us return to the French-Brazilian issue.
There is already a bridge connecting the French and Brazilian banks of the Oyapock River, but the Brazilian population in French Guiana accounts for 10% of the total population.
There is another important historical fact to consider: when the Napoleonic troops of General Junot invaded Portugal, the Court of Lisbon took refuge -thanks to the British help – in the former capital of the Brazilian colony, Rio de Janeiro.
Later Portugal took Guiana back, again helped by a British naval squadron.
Then, again, Guyana returned to France with the Treaty of Paris in 1817, thus defining its new borders on the Oyapock River.
Hence the economic and strategic problem is only one: preferential access from Guiana to the Amazon.
But how long will this breakup between France and Brazil last? Psychologically and personally, between Macron and Bolsonaro, it will last forever.
According to the 2016 data, France ranks only sixth among foreign investors in Brazil.
The only dangerous factor for Bolsonaro is the leading role played by France in the EU.
Europe as a whole is a protagonist of trade with Brazil.
Hence if Macron convinces the other EU Member States not to favour Brazil by signing the EU-Mercosur agreement – considering that Brazil is an important exporter of raw materials to the EU – there will be trouble for Bolsonaro.
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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