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Poland’s current strategic doctrine

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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On May 12, 2020, the Polish government released its “National Security Strategy”, a Document that had been submitted to the Presidency of the Republic by Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.

 It makes an in-depth analysis of all Defence and Strategy areas which, in the past, were defined as comprehensive and “global”. It deals with economy, technological defence system, “hybrid” and conventional warfare, Poland’s relationship with its NATO, UN, OSCE and other allies, as well as cybersecurity and the security strategy of Poland’s financial, business and commercial networks in a world which – as the Document itself maintains -is globalised, but is showing “fault lines” and differentiations which will be increasingly relevant in the future.

Nothing to do with Italy’s Defence “White Books”, which seem to be – or probably are – drafted by a “temporary research fellow” of some minor peripheral university.

In other words, in this document Poland defines and analysesits specific and complex “national interest”, at unusual levels of depth for a European country that left the “Warsaw Pact” not so long ago.

 It is not enough to invoke the national interest, you must also know it in detail.

 The first aspect, together with the loyalty to the Visegrad Group and the “Three SeasInitiative” (also known as Trimarium, as we can Latinise it) is the close relationship with the United States.

To make it clearer, despite the simplistic name, Trimariumis the alliance of as many as twelve countries, ranging from Slovenia, Croatia, the members of the above stated enlarged Visegrad group (Poland first of all, which coincidentally was the promoter of the agreement, as well as Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Austria, Romania and Bulgaria).

Quite simply, Trimarium was created to physically and politically separate Germany from the Russian Federation.

 The idea underlying the Trimarium system, which started for the creation and development of infrastructure, is to remain – rather hypocritically, as can also be seen in the current declarations of the Czech Republic – only within the modestly infrastructural sphere, without geopolitical implications. However, who can believe the story?

Therefore, the idea underlying Trimarium replicates – in different contexts – the idea of Marshal Pilsudski in 1920, who thought that a belt of countries should be created to physically and militarily separate Russia from Germany, which is always porro unum et necessarium of any Russian strategy westwards, be it Soviet Union or a country in diguise.

 On the other hand, there is the now stable U.S. idea, dating back to Kissinger and Brzezinsky, the Secretary of State of Polish descent, who theorized the inevitable separation between the Eurasian Landmass and the European peninsula, so as to avoid triggering a Third World War. If the United States does not separate Russia from the Eurasian peninsula, there will be little room for manoeuvre in contemporary geopolitics for the United States. This holds particularly true.

In Marshal Pilsudski’s mind, Trimarium was an inevitable separation between two “quarrelsome” countries.

  Moreover, the Trimarium countries have not even particularly bothered the EU, but have only resorted to the usual “enhanced cooperation” procedures, without causing too much trouble in a system like the EU’s, which is focused only on the economy – without even being successful – and, as always happens in these cases, fails precisely where it concentrates its greatest efforts.

 Some Trimarium members have also signed bilateral and autonomous agreements with Ukraine for the defence of its territory, but this still happens above all with Poland, which trains many Ukrainian forces, supports its secret services and also directly manages Ukrainian strategic positions.

Furthermore, millions of Ukrainians immigrate to Poland. This creates special and stable political and economic relations.

With pensions, reunited families, schools attended by Ukrainian children and trade that are now such as to counterbalance the economic cycle – almost exclusively energy-based – between Russia and Ukraine.

Apart from its covert operations in Ukraine and in the rest of the world, Poland anyway wants to further pursue the policy of “open doors” for Ukraine into NATO. It supports the arrival of Ukrainian armed forces within NATO by the end of 2020 – as stated, however, but not verified yet.

 The problem is that Trimarium is a project for containing the Russian Federation, which has been expanding for centuries towards Europe and the Mediterranean “warm seas” but also, Germany and hence directly the EU, especially in terms of infrastructure.

However, after the very special relationship with the United States, which went as far as to want to name a U.S. military position in Poland Camp Trump, as requested in 2019 to the U.S. Presidential Administration.

The United States, at first, and then the EU. Poland does not compromise on this. It is not negotiable – and with good reason.

Camp Trump, however, will not materialize, but in the meantime 1,000 U.S. soldiers, rotating with Germany, will be stationed in Poland to organize the autonomous networks of drones against the post-Soviet area.

 Poland, however, has offered to the United States a future Fort Trump for 4,500 soldiers, paying alone 2 million U.S. dollars approximately.

The “Bucharest Nine” (Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia and Hungary) and other possible and future groupings ad rationem, however, partially separated from Trimarium since, according to official documents, there was no mention of security.

Trimarium, always in Polish strategic hands, is worth 105 million people and a joint GDP of 2.8 trillion euros.

 The Visegrad Four (Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia) already have a higher GDP than France.

The current Polish market, however, is larger than that of the entire Russian Federation.

 If we focus only on economic matters – as the EU is used to do –  the strategic and geoeconomic problem of Trimarium is already huge, and we must particularly thank the cunning leaders of its Member States for having avoided the noise resulting from an explicit and clearly anti-Russian or, possibly indirectly, extra- or anti-German strategic agreement.

 Obviously all this creates a strategic – or at least geopolitical – entity alien to the EU policy line.

Hence a more stable and stronger alliance than the one currently maintained by the most important European countries precisely with the United States. This is currently Poland’s “North Star”.

 The other pillar is the close cooperation between Poland and Central European countries, ranging from the above-mentioned “Bucharest Nine” to the “Weimar Triangle”, consisting of Poland, Germany and France, which was created in 1991 and is characterized by a meeting held every year between their three Heads of State.

So far the “Triangle” has been a disappointment for Poland.

  In 2003, France and Germany failed to make Poland oppose the U.S. invasion of Iraq. It was their interest, not Poland’s.

 The Triangle also failed in 2005, when the E.U. and Russia agreed to build the Nord Stream gas pipeline, which bypassed Poland. The same happened also during the 2008 war between Georgia and Russia, when the Polish and French Presidents competed to be the first to arrive in Tbilisi.

 The real and definitive break in the Triangle occurred when the then Polish President, Lech Kaczynsky, cancelled a Triangle Summit because he had been offended by a cartoon about him published in a German newspaper.

In this strategic Document – reading between the lines, but also very clearly – Poland wants to directly strengthen the sovereignty of Moldova, Georgia and obviously Ukraine, but – again between the lines-also of Nagorno-Karabakh.

As explicitly said in the Document, the Russian Federation is always the main danger for Poland, while it is also noted that Russia increases – beyond the normal level of presence and deployment – both conventional troops and above all the structures, organizations and networks operating according to the rules of hybrid warfare conceived probably by General Gerasimov, as well as by the long and wise chain of Russian experts in this particular all-pervasive modelof war – “without limits”, like the parallel Chinese systems – but, above all, “without final time”.

 For NATO, on the other hand, enemy hybrid operations can be countered only from the individual country affected – a sort of suspension of Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty – but collective reactions against hybrid threats are only within the classical projects of collective defence.

In 2018 – hence too late – the Atlantic Alliance created counter hybrid support teams providing selective support to the Allies, upon request, to “prepare” them against hybrid threats.

 For NATO, the hybrid threats are all within “psychological warfare” and propaganda. If only it were so.

 Exactly what has nothing to do with the operations envisaged by the Gerasimov Doctrine (that, in fact, started at the beginning in the mind of Yevgeny Primakov, a KGB operative like Putin but, above all, a great expert on the Middle East). In any case, the current Russian doctrine of hybrid warfare makes use of some basic principles:

a) the search for a multipolar world – also with multiple and simultaneous clash – with the “gathering”, under Russia’s umbrella, of many intermediate powers capable of stopping the U.S. unipolar temptations;

b) Russia must integrate all the post-Soviet area under its power and manage the new integration in its old Warsaw Pact area and probably even in other countries. Serbia, for example, but also Albania, Croatia, Greece, Cyprus, probably even parts of Southern Italy and obviously coastal Libya and part of Sinai. All is still in mente dei, but it is an option.

(c) Hence Russia’s fierce opposition to any attempt to expand/stabilise NATO. This is the real issue that the Polish strategists now have in mind.

According to Polish analysts and decision-makers, Russia mainly operates through the area of Kaliningrad-Koenigsberg, the old city of Immanuel Kant, and above all with the Russian Anti-Access/Denial Area systems – a defensive system developed precisely by the United States, which uses different kinds of defensive layers to protect the land, air and sea dimensions of Defence, so as to block the advance of enemy troops in any case.

As in the hybrid warfare typical of the post-Soviet tradition, this does not rule out the use of proxies, terrorists, paramilitary groups and even criminal organizations.

However, this is not written in NATO texts. Puritanism can be tricky and plays tricks.

 A strategy that the United States had built as early as 2001, with China as its main target.

 The Polish Document also speaks -at length – of the cyber threats and the now extraordinary strength of the Russian soft power throughout the Eastern system which – as seen above – Poland wants to hegemonize, alone or with marginal allies, with a renewed “Pilsudski’s doctrine”.

 This will also lead to major problems for a brainless and empty global European strategy.

 The central idea developed in the Polish Document is – or rather would be – an excellent idea also for Italy: coordination of national security with all the other already existing public or private security systems, which would in any case be a mechanism linked to the Council of Ministers and with the direct involvement of the Speakers of the Chamber of Deputies (Sejm) and the Senate.

 The Polish Document makes an excellent analysis of the general procedures of transformation between the economy and the social organisation of peace and war, with sure and, above all, quick and invisible mechanisms. This transformation, however, should be as quick and painless as possible. These are procedures we should also study in Italy.

 Excellent food for thought, but we can rest assured that nothing will be done about it in Italy.

Either we drink from the sources of River Lethe – which in Greek mythology was the river of oblivion, forgetfulness and concealment – or we believe that, in a strategic context like the present one, a “white knight” will always come to save us, perhaps without asking us anything in return. Quos Deus lose vult, dementat.

With specific reference to the Polish Armed Forces, the Document talks about soon reaching 2.25% of GDP for military spending.

Training to a “multi-domain” scenario is being prepared also for the Polish troops, unlike the Italian ones. In this scenario the denial of a use domain for the civil or military opponent has, however, ripple effects on other domains.

Just think about the possible integration – as adverse action – of e-commerce with phone systems, GPS, road navigation or commercial aviation.

 Hence the definition of future war as a whole of government approach, while the multi-domain strategy (MDO) is the series of operations triggered against a flexible opponent with many options at the same time.

The MDO actions are always synchronized between the various levels and they always create strategic dilemmas for the opponent. They operate simultaneously in different domains and are often not directly related to each other.

 We are already well beyond the old network-centric warfare and, therefore, the Document we are talking about will lead Poland to build an integrated satellite system, a network of air vehicles capable of operating within a network and with simultaneous operations, as well as an additional anti-aircraft and anti-tank missile network, especially long-range. All of them will obviously be interconnected.

 Poland will also have its own Cyber Defence Force, integrated into the above-mentioned network and into the Intelligence Services.

Which are the internal threats for Poland? As the document shows, first and foremost immigration. Poland weighs also the strategic effects of this phenomenon, not only those concerning the patronizing and charitable attitude of jet setters and socialites.

 The issue had already been highlighted, in the same terms, in the 2014 Document.

 There is also the protection of Polish identity and national heritage.

In the future Poland will benefit from as much as 63 billion euros, under the Von der Leyen Plan totalling 750 billion euros. In any case, the careful management of public budget and accounts in Poland currently makes it a safe and stable ally for the EU, in clear competition with Italy, Greece, Spain and France, in the near future.

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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Hypocrisy or something else?

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As of July the 1st, the European Union decided after long talks to open up its borders to third countries, accepting along with other travelers, tourists. A much-needed source of income especially for nations of the south that depend heavily on tourism, such as Italy, Greece, Portugal and Spain. The list of these third countries (which will be updated every two weeks) included Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, New Zealand, Rwanda, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay.In a seemingly surprising move China was included. Under one condition. China is subject to confirmation of reciprocity. Meaning that only if Beijing allows visitors from the European Union will the EU open up its borders in return. At a first glance it seems like a fair decision that allows China freedom of movement. But let us delve deeper into this.

What was the main reasoning behind Europe’s choice ofthe countries that eventually got included in the final list? As the official announcement goes it was done “…on the basis of a set of principles and objective criteria including the health situation, the ability to apply containment measures during travel, and reciprocity considerations, taking into account data from relevant sources such as ECDC and WHO…”. Looking at the health situation, always according to ECDC and WHO, China did and still is doing a far better job at containing the spread of the virus and reducing the death toll. The active Coronavirus cases are less, better tracked and treated faster and more decisively. Thus, the European Union, according to its own statement, is opening and should be opening its borders to safer countries than itself. However, in the case of China not only does it not do so but instead expects a seemingly safer country to first open up her borders. It goes as far as to require the lift of the travel ban to the entirety of the European countries, no matter how dangerous or how badly they individually treated the virus.

Moving on to the reciprocity considerations one would expect that the countries allowed to enter the European Union are alsoallowing European citizens to enter their borders. However, this measure is seemingly only required from China, as it is already clear from countries like Australia and Japan that EU citizens may not enter for non-essential reasons until further notice. It is apparent from the above that from EU’s position, in the best case, there is a double speech and a policy of not acting upon its words. In the worst case, there is a blatant hypocrisy and unfair treatment of China for unknown reasons. We could only speculate about these reasons, based on another condition set for the opening of the European borders; the transparency of the thirdcountries’ virus reporting.As some European officials already claimed, there is suspicion towards Beijing concerning its handling of the pandemic. Thus, it would be fair to assume that some of Europe’s leaders are engaged in conspiracy theories that hinder an honest interaction.

Nonetheless, as the situation stands right now, it seems almost entirely upon China to step back, open her borders to Europe and expect the same response from the opposite side. There are reasons, though, that make this action almost impossible. On one side, as already mentioned, China is in a far more precarious situation to face a new wave of Coronavirus since it would be opening her borders to a group of nations that overall have more cases, higher average and far worse tracking system. On the other side, China is still facing the danger, as it was in the beginning of the epidemic, of an uncontrolled spreading in her countryside, where the facilities are admittedly worse than in the large cities and incapable of dealing with a rapid spreading. But the great Chinese cities are also in danger. Their great population that, in certain cases, equal or surpass the population of entire European countries could render a possible spreading of the virus truly dangerous, unable to deal with, and cause a repeat of a severe lockdown just like Wuhan. The damage, economically and politically, in such a case would be tremendous.

Unless the European Union backs down from the reciprocity measure a future estimate of when the borders will open again is tough. Typically the Chinese tourists, as great spenders, were more than welcome in Europe, but in the current situation the projections for a resurgence of Chinese tourism are bleak (especially since after their trip they would have to self-quarantine for 14 days once in China; a greatly discouraging measure for potential travelers). Thus, an extra motive for a possible opening up from Europe’s side is off the table.

If Europe is playing a political game on the backs of travelers, keeping a hypocritical stance, or considering conspiracy theories, it matters not. China should give an end with a straightforward answer. By safeguarding her airports and increasing protective measures in international flights, China should take the risk, open up her borders, show she has nothing to fear and cast away the various accusations of manipulating Covid-19 numbers. At the same time China would throwthe ball back to Europe, cause greater disputes among the already divided nations, and force an answer. In response Europe would either show her true face by taking back her words or allow some kind of normality to return to international traveling.

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“Third way”: EU tries to avoid a hard choice between US and China

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According to Euronews, the EU-China online summit of June 22 “was held in a tense atmosphere.” The EU has toughened its position on trade negotiations with Beijing, but observers note that Brussels continues to stay clear of the ongoing trade war between the US and the People’s Republic. Meanwhile, just as President Trump talks about “breaking ties” with the Celestial Empire, the United States is pulling out of OECD-organized negotiations over an international tax on digital companies above a certain revenue threshold. US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is looking for legal grounds for imposing unilateral duties on the European countries willing to jack up taxes on US IT companies. The situation may well lead to a new trade war.

By the turn of this year, Europe had still been desperately trying to walk the fine line between Washington and Beijing and implement its own version of the game in a world where parties can always agree or nix almost any bilateral deal. When in Washington, the European Commission backed the US side in the conflict with China, while during a visit to Beijing its delegation showed “understanding” of China’s position in trade disputes with America. However, even then, the Old World’s stand on the intensifying tug-of-war for dominance between the world’s two leading powers looked both ambiguous and “dangerous.”

The US wants the Europeans to clearly and unambiguously honor their political and even legal obligations, threatening otherwise to completely dismantle the entire system of relations, which has for decades relieved Europeans of the need to make independent, albeit difficult and costly decisions. Trump’s unilateralism has exacerbated the crisis in transatlantic relations to a degree that the concept of “Westlessness” took center stage at this year’s security conference in Munich. It was about the erosion of Western power to an extent that “the very concept of” the West “is now devoid of any strategic content.”

Meanwhile, China’s rapid economic, technological and political growth is forcing Europeans to decide whether they want to trade and exchange technologies with a possible future leader in many important areas of scientific and technological progress. And, ultimately, if the Old World is able to maintain its status of one of the most advanced socio-economic regions of the world.

Finally, while over the past few years the United States has become increasingly self-absorbed, Europe and China have been aligning their positions on global trade, including their rejection of Washington’s growing protectionism, and on climate change. Beijing has made it clear that in the event of a weakening of transatlantic ties, it is ready to immediately move in and fill the gap.

It is against this backcloth that towards the close of last year the number of European politicians holding out for Europe’s greater strategic autonomy from the United States reached a historic maximum. Optimists see the future of the European Union as a “counterweight” to the United States, should the latter “cross the line.” The new leadership of the European Commission has proposed the creation of a full-fledged European “center of power” to interact with the rest of the world, the US included, but with an emphasis on rational political interests.

At the same time, the Europeans are wary of the increasing centralization of political power in China under Xi Jinping, the state’s growing role in the economy and Beijing’s increasingly “assertive” foreign policy. By the end of 2019, the EU had gradually tightened control over Chinese investments, especially in the high-tech sector and infrastructure, but described all this as “regrettable but necessary measures” designed to create a new political platform for the development of closer ties.

However, in a matter of just a few weeks the coronacrisis forced the EU to start reconsidering its strategic worldview. First, the pandemic called into question the efficiency of supranational institutions as such – both in terms of legitimacy and the resources they are able to use to combat the challenge of catastrophic proportions. Amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, the “failure of the US global hegemony” has become “painfully obvious.” Finally, even before the pandemic struck, Britain’s withdrawal had deprived the EU of much of its “strategic weight.”

As for relations with China, Mark Leonard, Director of the European Council on Foreign Relations, said that the EU now sees Beijing’s strong desire to use its position as a leading producer of medicines and medical equipment as a means of increasing its political leverage. “The COVID-19 crisis has triggered a new debate within Europe about the need for greater supply-chain ‘diversification,’ and thus for a managed disengagement from China.”

That being said, right now the EU’s dependence on China “in strategically important areas” has actually increased. Diversifying sources of supply will not be easy. Experts argue that it would be crazy for a business to leave China, especially when it produces goods that are extremely important for the Europeans, such as pharmaceuticals and medical equipment. They also warn that producing all this in Europe and procuring in other countries, would cost more.

On the other hand, the outbreak of the epidemic has created preconditions for a new rapprochement between the United States and Europe. Still, the outbreak of the coronavirus infection on both sides of the Atlantic has been strong enough to force nominal allies to fight each other for resources. It is “every man for himself” now. The situation with the pandemic and its socio-economic impact on the United States is so bad that it is now undermining Donald Trump’s chances for reelection in November, forcing him to look for ever new ways to appease and rally his voters, even at the cost of slapping new tariffs on America’s closest allies. Bloomberg reports that in response, “Germany is preparing to strike back against the US if President Donald Trump follows through on his threat to kill off the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline with additional sanctions.”

Strategically speaking, however, the EU and the US continue to have shared concerns in their confrontation with Beijing, including alleged theft of intellectual property, “forcing” private Western companies to transfer technology, industrial subsidies and violations of market rules by China’s state-owned firms. Speaking at a June 25 online conference, organized by the German Marshall Fund, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Washington had accepted a proposal by European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell to create a US-EU dialogue on China to discuss “the concerns we have about the threat China poses to the West and our shared democratic ideals.”

In a recent interview with Euronews, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that “… China is coming closer to us with weapons systems … the rise of China makes it even more important to maintain the bond between North America and Europe, the transatlantic bond.”

The EU remains formally committed to developing a “strategically- oriented foreign policy” that would give it “a sense of initiative and action.”

 “We grew up in the certain knowledge that the United States wanted to be a world power,” German chancellor Angela Merkel told parliament in June. “Should the US now wish to withdraw from that role of its own free will, we would have to reflect on that very deeply,” she added. French President Emmanuel Macron urges Europe to act more independently in world affairs in order to completely get rid of the need to choose between America and China. This is exactly what the EU’s top diplomat Borrell has in mind when he speaks about a “third way.”

Still, what has been discussed so far is at best preparation of documents to serve as a “strategic compass” for coordinating government measures.

Systematic inability to reach political and procedural consensus on many pressing international issues is the Achilles heel of EU foreign policy. The past few years have seen a rapid decline in the overall level of public confidence in traditional European elites, which has inevitably weakened the potential of political leadership across the EU. Besides, the growing sense of uncertainty among the leaders of individual EU countries is by no means adding to the unity of the 27-member bloc either.

On the one hand, the pandemic has “allowed Europeans to become less naive and more united in the face of Beijing, which supposedly tries to set them apart.” On the other hand, in its relations with the United States, Europe has found itself in a situation where it will have to try hard to make sure that America does not lose interest in continuing any “special” relations with Europe. Overall, the EU’s internal weakness and fragmentation, exacerbated by the current coronavirus pandemic, threatens to push the “united Europe” to the periphery of world politics.

According to most forecasts, tensions between the US and China are set to grow. Moreover, the old bloc system is actually a thing of the past now. The EU’s position will be determined by the severity of the humanitarian, financial and economic impact of the epidemic. It will also depend on whether the “soft power” of Europe is not accompanied by a “hard” one. The EU’s foreign policy has to maneuver between a mix of unenviable geopolitical roles of serving as a “buffer zone” in the new Cold War between China and the US, and of someone who has “dropped out of history” due to the loss of “identity and philosophy.” Europe will not be able to return to the “table of the great powers” unless it finds answers to these questions and avoids ending up their prey.

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Enlarge views – Europe is en/large enough

Audrey Beaulieu

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The first July day of 2020 in Vienna sow marking the anniversary of Nuremberg Trials with the conference “From the Victory Day to Corona Disarray: 75 years of Europe’s Collective Security and Human Rights System – Legacy of Antifascism for the Common Pan-European Future”. Organised by the Modern Diplomacy Media Platform, International Institute for Middle East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES), European Perspectives Scientific Journal, and Culture for Peace Action Platform, with the support of the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna that hosted the event in its prestigious historical premises, the highly anticipated and successful gathering, was probably one of the very few real events in Europe, past the lockdown.

The conference gathered over twenty high ranking speakers and audience physically in the venue while many others attended online. The day was filled by three panels focusing on the legacy of WWII, Nuremberg Trials, the European Human Rights Charter and their relevance in the 21st century; on the importance of culture for peace and culture of peace – culture, science, arts, sports – as a way to reinforce a collective identity in Europe; on the importance of accelerating on universalism and pan-European Multilateralism while integrating further the Euro-MED within Europe, or as the Romano Prodi EU Commission coined it back in 2000s – “from Morocco to Russia – everything but the institutions”.

(For the full account of speakers and side events, see: and the full conference video is available.

The event sought to leverage on the anniversary of Nuremberg to highlight that the future of Europe lies in its pan-continental union based on shared values but adapted to the context of 21st century. Indeed, if Nuremberg and the early Union were a moment to reaffirm political and human rights after the carnage of WWII, the disarray caused by C-19 is a wake-up call for a new EU to become more aware of and effective on the crisis of socio-economic rights and its closest southern and eastern neighbourhood.

At the moment the EU lacks the necessary leadership that dragged it outside of WWII almost eighty years ago and that nowadays needs to overcome the differences that prevent the continent to achieve a fully integrated, comprehensive socio-economic agenda.

On that matter, Lamberto Zannier, OSCE High Commissioner for National Minorities and, the previous OSCE Secretary-General (2011-2017), delivered highly anticipated address.

In his highly absorbing speech, the well-known European diplomat highlighted the milestones in the history of the European continent’s security system in recent decades and told how, in his opinion, the European Union, its partners and neighbours could overcome confrontation and other negative moments that have become obvious in recent years.

“In the 1980s, the NATO and the Warsaw Pact held negotiations that were considered a good form of dialog between the two enemies. But in the years that followed we have not really moved an inch. We were talking, but we were not communicating… In late 1980s, in the CSCE there was a new starting point, the Charter of Paris for a New Europe, a new vision of a new Europe for stability.

The key point in this debate is how will NATO relate to Russia in the future. In the first half of the 1990s, there were those who were thinking that we need to build a new relationship with Russia as a first step and then we can really develop relations on the basis of that. But, of course, the agendas did not really match. On the NATO side, the Americans were repositioning themselves on their global agenda as the only remaining superpower projecting stability through the promotion of democratic institutions. And they promoted a rather conservative view of what NATO should be.

On the Russian side, there was a big internal debate. Russians still saw NATO as the former enemy, and so they were saying that there was no need for NATO today. But others, especially the leadership, were willing to open a discussion, but the discussion about the future of NATO itself. They were basically saying that they would consider joining NATO, but then NATO would have to change.

It would have to turn into a collective security instrument, into something similar to what the OSCE is today. This failed because there was no way to reconcile the two sides. This failure which led to NATOs progressive expansion was seen by Russia as aggressive, as a development that was a threat to Russia. In response, Russia started to establish its own area of influence.

[…] From the late 1990s, the division between Europe and the Russian community has been expanding. The UN Security Council was divided on the Kosovo issue. We managed to pass a decision, but that took quite an effort. Then we had crisis in and around Ukraine and the Crimea. Every step seemed to increase the distance between the sides and to bring more geopolitics on the table.

[…] Today we face the situation where we have a lot of potential instability and we lost the tools that would allow us to address these problems.

By early of 2000s we started facing global challenges which kept unfolding last 20 years (terrorism, transnational organized crime, climate change, migration crisis, demographic crisis): countries react on them by closing up. We have seen on the migration crisis, EU entered the crisis itself, lack of common policy, lack of solidarity. The pandemic has also led to the real renationalization, closure of boarders, everybody is looking for itself. It’s fully understandable, but global problems need global solutions. It’s very difficult to work on global strategies and sustainable development we very need today, geopolitical divisions make it impossible. The renationalization of the policy leads to progressive disinvestment of countries on multilateral framework. In OSCE for instance we have a shrinking budget all the time, we need to cut back all the time as a result mainly of the lack of interest of countries to invest in the frameworks like this. We need to stick together, to address challenges that affect us all… “

Closing his note, High Commissioner invited all to think, reconsider and recalibrate: “What can we do? Creating coalitions, involving youth because they great interest to make things work, we must involve young people in everything we do. Secondly, we must start talking about the need to invest in the effective multilateralism.”

While the diversity of speakers and panels led to a multifaceted picture, panellists agreed, from a political viewpoint, on the need for more EU integration but also pan-European cooperation, a better balance between state and markets that could put the state again in charge of socio-economic affairs in order to compensate market failures; greater involvement of the Union for the Mediterranean in the implementation of EU policies, and the overcoming of Washington Consensus, among other things.

From a strategic perspective, two important points emerged: Firstly, a more viable EU Foreign Policy needs to resolve tensions that still create mistrust between the West and Russia, with a particular attention to frozen conflicts. Secondly, it is essential that European states reaffirm a long-term, forward-thinking policy agenda that can prepare them for future strategic challenges.

Having all that in mind, the four implementing partners along with many participants have decided to turn this event into a lasting process, tentatively named – Vienna Process: Common Future – One Europe. This initiative was largely welcomed as the right foundational step towards a longer-term projection that seeks to establish a permanent forum of periodic gatherings as a space for reflection on the common future by guarding the fundamentals of our European past and common future.

As the closing statement notes: “past the Brexit the EU Europe becomes smaller and more fragile, while the non-EU Europe grows more detached and disenfran-chised”. A clear intent of the organisers and participants is to reverse that trend.  

To this end, the partners have already announced the follow up event in Geneva for early October to honour the 75th anniversary of the San Francisco Conference. Similar call for a conference comes from Barcelona, Spain which was a birth place of the EU’s Barcelona Process on the strategic Euro-MED dialogue.

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