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Is China Following Russia’s Footsteps by Dealing With the EU as an Outcast?

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Russia’s relations with the European Union hit their lowest in 2014, as a direct result of the political gridlock in Ukraine. Russia’s subsequent involvement in the issue, with bold actions in Crimea and the incident with Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, led to a political outcry in the EU. The main tool applied by the EU to reprehend Russia was economic sanctions and restrictions targeted at Russian officials and individuals.

In order to overcome political stalemate, all the concerned parties initiated the Minsk negotiation process, which went through several rounds of talks in 2014-2015 and finally resulted in an agreement aimed at mitigating the conflict in Donbass. Russia was repeatedly criticized over its “failure to implement the Minsk agreement.”

The EU annually extended sanctions against Russia, with a recent update in 2019. In early 2019 Moscow also came under a new wave of EU sanctions in connection with the poisoning of S. Skripal in 2018. The EU and Russia came to odds over the Syrian issue, with the former “always bow down to Washington.” Climbing on the American foreign policy bandwagon is a commonplace practice for EU diplomacy.

Mimicking Russia-EU relations in 2014, China saw its diplomatic debacle with the EU following the introduction of the Hong Kong security law earlier this year. EU Parliament deemed it as an unprecedented legal action and called for enacting “Magnitsky-style” sanctions against officials involved. It also reprimanded the Chinese central government for blackmailing European businesses to uphold the law.

The Hong Kong case became a milestone in China-EU relations, very similar to 2014 in Russia-EU ties. Economic friction has been centered on seven-year attempts to strike an investment deal which, in the EU’s interpretation, would eradicate unfair trade practices applied by Beijing. Despite ongoing negotiations, the progress is limited by China’s unwillingness to alter the special status enjoyed by state-owned enterprises.

Although economic competition has already been in place, for the time being, the introduction of the security law, described in Brussels as an assertive and robust political move, enhances China’s portrait as a “systemic rivalry.” China-EU relations have been in free fall from March 2019, when China, for the first time, was officially labeled as “strategic rival” of the EU.

Anti-China rhetoric in the EU (and the U.S.) was recently redirected from just politics and economics to the ideological agenda. It was further amplified by Germany, which said that China, as a one-party state with an autocratic political structure, challenges Europe’s “foundation of values.”

Germany is set to orchestrate the formation of an EU united front to oppose proactive gestures recently performed by China: be it in security, technology or human rights. The latter is a long-time source of resentment among EU states vis-à-vis Chinese policy towards the Uighur minority in Xinjiang, combined with recent intensification of civil discontent in Hong Kong.

The EU dovetails American diplomatic actions. This is demonstrated by its initial shaky position on the extension of sanctions against Russia over Ukraine. In 2017 France and Germany were reluctant to pass new restrictions because they were unsure whether it may bounce back. After all, the U.S. and EU agreed on new sanctions against Russia.

A similar situation occurred around China’s tech giant Huawei, which is currently facing pushback worldwide following U.S. attempts to isolate the company. France has bowed to American pressure while Germany is still on crossroads with an absence of consensus in the country’s political elite.

However, in some cases, the EU has its own vision different from American one: the EU, Russia and China are stalwart proponents of Iran nuclear deal, which signals that there is some room for diplomatic maneuvering dealing with the EU. China has called on Germany not to yield to Washington’s pressure to choose sides.

Sometimes it proves to be effective, as it happened with the Russian Nord Stream 2 project, which survived American attacks and retained German enthusiasm while attracting anger in Washington. Time shows that, if Germany identifies its paramount interest (as it was with Nord Stream 2) in developing 5G with Chinese technology, it has enough political might to ignore American demands.

President Xi pushes a cooperative agenda with the EU, highlighting that China is a partner, not a rival. But it is a truly daunting task to articulate this message to Europe as long as they have contradicting understanding. For China, Hong Kong is an indispensable territory administrated by country’s laws, while Europe places more emphasis on the legal side of the issue, blaming China for the violation of the “one country, two systems” principle.

Russia experienced the same misunderstanding when the EU kept on regarding Russian actions in Crimea as annexation, while Russia always deemed them as reunification. Nevertheless, no compromise has been found yet.

As a sign of degrading relations, in late July, the EU passed its first-ever sanctions against Russian and Chinese individuals over accusations in cybercrimes. By alienating China and Russia as unwanted parties, the EU may find itself in the same trap the U.S. did – when the dialogue process is merely sluggish on all fronts.

No wonder that Russian media highlights this trend, stressing that the EU and U.S. are clinched between Russia and China, meaning that both countries occupy most of their policy planning. The transatlantic partnership is strong and serves as a pillar of world order aimed at curbing “China’s assertiveness,” menacing remarks recently made by EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell. He promotes dialogue with U.S. aimed at countering China, an overture which resonates with the recent proposal of M. Pompeo to set up a group of democratic countries to oppose the CPC. The opting for alliance mindset does not contribute to better relations neither with Russia nor with China, and makes any global decision-making very lingering.

In July, both countries vetoed the extension of cross-border aid in Syria as a signal of concordance of joint efforts to fend off U.S.-EU pressure. With no changes in their policy, such flare-ups of tensions will only accumulate.

From our partner RIAC

Graduate Student at MGIMO Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, Bachelor of Foreign Regional Studies (East Asia Regional Studies: Economy and Politics (China)), Institute of Business Studies, RANEPA under the President of the Russian Federation

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Europe

Europe tells Biden “no way” to Cold War with China

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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.

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Germany and its Neo-imperial quest

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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.  

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Should there be an age limit to be President?

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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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