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The relations between Brazil and France

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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.

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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Honorouble Justice Petric: Opening the Vienna Process conference on Int Women’s Day

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It is a great honour for me to have the opportunity to address you today at an International conference on behalf of the organizers – International Institute for Middle East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES), fastest developing European media platform – Modern Diplomacy and other two co-organisers, not present today. I convey to you their all-hearted greetings with the wish that the conference be fruitful and successful.

I also take this opportunity to thank Ambassador Emil Brix, Director of the Vienna School of International Studies for collaboration.

I wish wisdom and foresightedness to today’s conference entitled “Europe – Future Neighbourhood: Disruptions, Recalibration, Continuity”. The topic of today’s event – second in the newly established Vienna Process – is important, not only for Europe but for the whole world. Given that our institute has a Special consultative status with ECOSOC in the UN, and that my country is soon to take up the EU Presidency, our obligation is even greater to deal with such topics.

Excellences and friends,

Today we mark an important historic date; International Women’s Day. I am truly delighted and honoured that we have so many ladies among the moderators, panellists, partners and viewers. Our daughters, sister and mothers are not only nicer, but are the brighter half of the mankind, too. Happy and organically healthy International Women’s Day to each and everyone of you!

And now, before closing, let me express our appreciation that our four partners are again with us: Diplomatic Academy Vienna, Modern Diplomacy, Culture of Peace and European Perspectives. Among the academia, media and other associated partners from 4 continents, we are indeed honoured to partner with the important Specialised Agency of the United Nations – UNIDO, as well as with the world’s second largest multilateral system after the UN, that of the OIC on this event.

This, second consecutive, gathering of the Vienna Process in its birth place – capital of Austria, is the best basis for our next step: conferences in Geneva in May and in Barcelona in September this year.  

Special thanks to our key-notes; Commissioner Várhelyi, State Presidents Vella of Malta and Meta of Albania, as well as Excellency Zannier – our newly apointed Director for Euro-Med for chairing the important, first Panel, on cross-Med cooperation, Miss Mazlic of Al Jazeera and Ms. Harvey of Ban Ki-moon Center for charing other two highly topical panels.

Due appreciation goes to our fellows in Brussels, London, New York, Ottawa, Athens, Geneva, Paris and in Vienna for making this event and our Process possible.   

Finally, a sincere thanks to all our panellists today. There valuable exchanges will be mutually beneficial to all of us gathering today for the battement of our common future and security in Europe and beyond.

Thank you.

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New constructivism needed towards Europe’s East

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Authors: Eugene Matos de Lara and Audrey Beaulieu

On the historic date of 0March 08th – International Women’s Day, a large number of international affairs specialists gathered for the second consecutive summit in Vienna, Austria. This leg of the Vienna Process event titled: “Europe – Future – Neighbourhood at 75: Disruptions Recalibration Continuity”. The conference, jointly organized by four different entities (the International Institute for Middle East and Balkan Studies IFIMES, Media Platform Modern Diplomacy, Scientific Journal European Perspectives, and Action Platform Culture for Peace) with the support of the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna, was aimed at discussing the future of Europe and its neighbourhood in the wake of its old and new challenges.

This highly anticipated conference gathered over twenty high ranking speakers from three continents, and the viewers from Australia to Canada and from Chile to Far East. The day was filled by three panels focusing on the rethinking and revisiting Europe and its three equally important neighbourhoods: Euro-Med, Eastern and trans-Atlantic (or as the Romano Prodi’s EU Commission coined it back in 2000s – “from Morocco to Russia – everything but the institutions”); the socio-political and economic greening; as well as the legacy of WWII, Nuremberg Trials, the European Human Rights Charter and their relevance in the 21st century,

The event was probably the largest gathering since the beginning of 2021 for this part of Europe.

Along with the two acting State Presidents, the event was endorsed by the keynote of the EU Commissioner for European Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Excellency Olivér Várhelyi. The following lines are short transcript of what he has said opening the Vienna Process event:

The COVID-19 (C-19) has brought numerous challenges to the table in terms of cooperation, adaptation but, mostly, resilience. As the crisis may be considered as a breaking point by some, European Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement, Excellency Várhelyi, insisted on the opportunity emerging from it for the European Union (EU) and Eastern Europe to reinforce their collaboration to build a more stable area of “shared democracy, prosperity, stability and peace”. 

Throughout the crisis, the European Union has been a key actor for Eastern Europe and its response to the virus, providing the region efficient economic and physical support, which have allowed thousands of lives to be saved. However, despite the necessity of this help, the European Union has more significant projects and ambitions regarding its relation with Eastern Europe states. 

In 2020, the EU issued a proposal on the Eastern partnership mostly focused on resilience which unfolds in five pillars. The first pillar is addressed to the reinforcement of investments in the economy and connectivity. It, notably, aims to “further enhance support to small and medium enterprises”. These are EU’s backbone, accounting for over 90% of the business activities; the EU hosts 24 million small businesses. This economic machine together generates more than half of the EU’s GDP. The EU has great interest to keep them afloat during the C-19 crisis. 

The EU parliament in December 2020 reported on the need for the Commission to reevaluate their support to these medium and small enterprises. They need more resources to overcome bureaucratic requirements that will exponentially burden their ability to thrive during and past C-19. Small businesses are recognized as indispensable to achieve innovative and sustainable goals. An example of this are initiatives to incentivize companies to take up e-commerce, yet only 17% of the small businesses in the EU have digitized commerce.  

The second pillar is related to investments in the green transition. While Western Europe has demonstrated a positive approachregarding Paris Agreement goals, Eastern Europe seemed more reluctant. This attitude couldbeexplained by theirstaple-basedeconomy and by more significant matters on their plate, such as corruption and the reinforcement of the rule of law. Thus, the second pillar bridges with the first pillar since environmental issues should influence the investments and the development of small and medium enterprises and the development of the economic sphere. 

The third pillar is about investing in digital transformation. The digital world iscontinuallyevolving, and states need to adapt to this reality, especially considering it could be a pivotal instrument to get the economy back on track. The pandemic has been a great opportunity for countries to develop their digital sector. Enterprises have had to beingenious and proactive in adapting their activities to this new reality, which could be a game-changer for the future. Countries will have to grasp this opportunity and make the best out of it. Investing in technologies could also be profitable to other goals that have been set, such as investments that need to be done in the reinforcement of the rule of law, credible justice reforms and efficient public administration (fourth pillar). Indeed, digitization of information combined with robust cybersecurity platforms is the key to more opened and more transparent administrations. In parallel, other strategie swill need to beelaborated in order to enhance respect of the rule of law and reachdemocratic standards, in fact, a key point to the enlargement of the EU.

Finally, the fifth pillar is about investing in fair and inclusive societies. Eastern Europe countries are real mosaics in terms of ethnicities, religions and languages. Inequalities and social cleavages between these groups are still omnipresent in most Eastern Europe societies, and they need to be addressed to build a more united Europe. Several Eastern European states have elevated policiesthat bridge social ethical and cultural differences in the first place both in their national and EU integration political agenda. Indeed, bridging social gaps isa fundamental action in managing differences and for the upbringing of a healthy democracy.

The next reunion regarding the partnership will take place next fall and focus on three critical matters: recovery, resilience and reform. Although the COVID-19 crisis cannot forever guide interstates initiatives, its consequences have forced the world to adapt to several new realities. Consequently, European countries will need strong measures to recover, and those should be translated by measures addressing the creation of employment and economic growth to stay competitive in international markets. As the EU Commissioner Várhely imentioned, “socio-economic recovery is the absolute priority”, so we should also be expecting opportunities to reform social and political norms to face not only new issues but also trends that were very present in the past that are now simply accelerating.

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What to Do with Extraterritorial Sanctions? EU Responses

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One of the important decisions of the new US administration was its revision of the sanctions policy inherited from President Donald Trump. The “toxic” assets of the departed team include deterioriated relations with the European Union. The divisions between Washington and Brussels have existed since long before Trump’s arrival in the White House. The EU categorically does not accept US extraterritorial sanctions. Back in 1996, the EU Council approved the so-called “Blocking Statute”, designed to protect European businesses from restrictive US measures targeting Cuba, Iran and Libya. For a long time, Washington avoided aggravating relations with the EU, although European companies were subject to hefty fines for violating US sanctions regimes.

The situation deteriorated significantly during the Trump presidency. At least three events served as a cold shower for the EU with respect to the bloc’s relationship with the US. The first was the unilateral withdrawal of the United States from the JCPOA—the “Iranian nuclear deal”. Trump renewed American restrictions on Iran in full, and then significantly expanded them. His demarche forced dozens of large companies from the EU to leave Iran; they were threated by the American authorities with fines and other coercive measures. Brussels was powerless to convince Washington to return to the JCPOA. The EU authorities were also unable to offer their businesses guarantees of reliable protection against punitive measures being taken by the US Treasury and other departments. The second event was Washington’s powerful attack on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project. Trump has openly opposed the pipeline, although the Obama administration was also against the pipeline. Congress has passed two sanctions laws targeting Russian pipeline projects. The US Congress and the State Department directly warned European business about the threat of sanctions for participating in the project. In addition to Iran and Russia, concern in the EU was also caused by the aggravation of US-Chinese tensions. Brussels distanced itself from Trump’s cavalry attack on China. So far, US restrictions against “Chinese communist military companies”, telecoms and officials have minimally affected the EU. However, Washington aggressively pushed its allies to oust Chinese technology companies. It cannot be ruled out that in the future, US foreign policy towards China will become a problem for Brussels.

For the EU, all these events have become a reason to think about protection from extraterritorial US sanctions. The work on them was carried out by both European expert centres and the European Commission. Currently, we can talk about the formation of a number of strategic goals, the achievement of which should allow the European Union to increase its stability in relation to extraterritorial sanctions of the United States and other countries.

Such goals include the following:

Strengthening the role of the euro in international settlements. Already today, the euro ranks second after the dollar in international payments and reserves. However, unlike the United States, the EU does not use this advantage for political purposes. Many transactions between European businesses and their foreign partners are carried out in US dollars, which makes them more vulnerable to subsequent coercive measures. Calculations in euros could reduce the risk of transactions with those partners against whom the sanctions of the United States or other countries are in effect, but the sanctions of the UN Security Council or the EU itself do not apply. Here the EU authorities have laid serious groundwork and have a good chance of achieving their goal.

1.Creation of payment mechanisms, which cannot be stopped from the outside. INSTEX, a payment channel for humanitarian deals with Iran, is often cited as an example of such mechanisms. In 2020, the first transactions were made. However, success in this area raises questions. INSTEX has been widely advertised by EU politicians, but initial expectations were too high. The mechanism has not yet justified itself, even for humanitarian purposes. The Treasury Department can impose blocking sanctions against INSTEX at any time if it considers that the mechanism is being used to deliberately circumvent US restrictions against Iran. Switzerland’s SHTA mechanism, which is used for humanitarian deals with Iran, looks much better. It was created jointly with the Americans and it should not have any problems with functionality. However, regarding payment mechanisms in the EU, there are not only humanitarian transactions. There’s also the matter of plans to create secure transaction mechanisms in the trade of energy or raw materials; the question of what prospects these have for implementation remains.

2.Ensuring the possibility of unhindered settlements and access to other services for individuals and legal entities in the EU that have come under extraterritorial sanctions. In other words, we are talking about the fact that a citizen or a company from the EU, which fell, for example, under the blocking sanctions of the US Treasury, could make payments within the EU. Now European banks will simply refuse such transactions, and the courts are likely to side with them. In fact, the European Union wants to create infrastructure that has already been created, for example, in Russia. Moscow was considering the establishment of a national payment system even before the large-scale sanctions of 2014. Despite the limited weight of Russia in the global financial system, the country has its own sovereign payment system, which allows its own citizens to carry out transactions on its own territory.

3.Updating the 1996 Blocking Statute. In particular, we are talking about the development of an instrument of compensation for companies that have suffered from extraterritorial sanctions.

4.Creation of information databases in the interests of European companies under the risks of extraterritorial sanctions, as well as the provision of systematic legal assistance to companies that have come under foreign restrictions. In particular, we are talking about assisting European companies and citizens of the EU countries in defending their interests in US courts, as well as using other legal mechanisms, for example, within the WTO.

If necessary—balancing the extraterritorial measures of the United States or other countries with restrictive counter-measures.

However, the EU sanctions agenda is far from limited to the threat of extraterritorial sanctions. Ultimately, the United States is an ally and partner of the EU, which means that the opportunities for smoothing out crisis situations remain broad. Collaboration at the agency level is also highlighted as a recommendation. Moreover, after Trump’s departure, the United States may be more attentive to the concerns of the European Union.

The main priority remains the development of the EU’s own sanctions policy. Here many problems and tasks arise. The main ones include the low speed of decision-making and poor coordination in the implementation of sanctions. The centralisation of sanctions mechanisms in the hands of Brussels is becoming an important task for the European Commission.

The article is published as part of the Valdai Club’s Think Tank project, continuing the collaboration between Valdai and Observer Research Foundation (New Delhi).

From our partner RIAC

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