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March 2020 – March 2021: Europe and Beyond

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A state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.-Definition of Health, Preamble of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Constitution, 1948

For months, many argue that our Covid (C-19) response is a planetary fiasco, whose size is yet to surface with its mounting disproportionate and enduring secondary effects, causing tremendous socio-economic, political and psychosomatic contractions and convulsions. However, worse than our response is our silence about it.

It is an established fact that the quintessence of Nazism was not Hitler and the circle of darkness around him. It was rather a commonly shared ‘banality of crime’ atmosphere: Benevolent acceptance of ordinary village people living next to Auschwitz, Mauthausen, Dachau that the nation must be ‘purified’ … The day when questioning stops and silent acceptance becomes a ‘new normal’ is a day when fascism walks in a big time. Of course, today we have a diagnosis for it: manufacturing consent through choice architecture, of a fear-imprisoned, via media infantilised (returned to the pre-Oedipal phase) psychology of the de-socialised and alienated, an atomised one.

Appinion disguised as opinion – Who is really in charge?

Did we really forget basic teaching of our history: Every time when the power was unchecked, it degenerated into the obscure brutality; ritualising its force with a stamp on or under our skin to visualise and immortalise the twilight of reason?

So, our C-19 response and its widespread synchronicity illustrates – the argument goes – nothing else but a social pathology: the non-transparent concentration of power, and our overall democracy recession – further bolstering surveillance and social control systems. All that as lasting consequences of cutbacks, environmental holocaust, privatisation (or PPP-ization) of key intergovernmental and vital national institutions, ill-aimed globalisation as well as of the fixation on overly allopathic, mandated (not a repurposed but usually novel and expensive) drugs-centred healthcare, and lack of public data commons. Public health or private wealth? Pandemic or plundermic …

Trust in and support to governmental and intergovernmental institutions is rapidly deteriorating. Ever larger number of citizens do not see the mainstream media (or pop culture celebrities) at service for the population. Dialogue and opinion is discouraged and silenced, if not, even sanctioned. Hence, the faith in western medicine is in a free fall. Compromised generational contract and thinning social consensus are challenging our fabrics like never before in recorded history. The first real stress-test since the end of the WWII, the United Nations (UN) clearly did not pass. Many feel deeply disappointed with and disfranchised by the universal organisation and its Agencies for their lasting “self-marginalisation”.[1]Is our cohesion irreversibly destroyed?

Early lockdowns, mid-March 2020, were justified by a need to flatten the curve of the ‘sudden’ virus’ (harmfulness, mortality and transmissibility) impact, since there were not enough hospital beds. In the meantime, the lockdowns were extended and widened, curves not arguably altered. Still, for the past 12 months, there is hardly any new hospital built in the EU although the non-essential medical services, at most cases,  suspended.[2]Neither there was nor is any massive investment into general health prevention. The only visible infrastructure growth is in 5/6G network expansion. 

Following a simple ratio that the one’s level of health is genetic expression of life-style choices made, it is no surprise that there are also growing speculations if the lockdown – as the most notorious expression of monofocal perspective and rejection to any scientifically contested, debate-based integrated judgment– is invasion or protection:

  • And, if is there any back-to-normal exit from the crisis, or this disaster ‘turned into planetary terror, through global coup d’état’ will be exploited to further something already pre-designed (with a fear, not as a side-effect, but rather as a tool manufactured to gain control).Simply, is all that more related to the biotronics and demographics (IoT and Internet of Bodies) – ‘epsteinisation en masse’, than to health and economics or any common social purpose?

E.g.Le Monde Diplomatique – while examining the possible merger between tech oligopoly and political monopoly – claimed from the very beginning of crisis that: “Political decisions have been central in shaping this tragedy — from the destruction of animal habitats, to the asymmetric funding of medical research, to the management of the crisis itself. They will also determine the world into which we emerge into after the worst is over.” Over the past 30 years, every critical juncture had a similar epilogue: pardon and enhancement for the capital, a burden and suppression for the labour. The C-19 is no exception to it: Ever since early lockdowns of March 2020, the capital flows unhindered while the labour, ideas and humans are under the house arrest.[3]The XXI century frontline is the right to health (incl. body integrity and informed consent),and labour, privacy and other fundamental human rights and liberties. (LMD, IV20)

Earth provides enough to satisfy everyone’s needs, but not for a single man’s greed

The rate of profit does not, like rent and wages, rise with the prosperity, and fall with the declension, of the society. On the contrary, it is naturally low in rich, and high in poor countries, and it is always highest in the countries which are going fastest to ruin.- The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith

Still to be precise, the WHO- decreed virus pandemic brought nothing truly new to the already overheated conduct of, and increasingly binarized, world affairs. It only amplified and accelerated what was present for quite some time – a rift between alienated power centres, each on its side of Pacific, and the rest. No wonder that the work on the C-19 vaccine is more an arms race than it is a collaborative humanity plan.

Would all this be – in its epilogue – about the expansion of (the 4th industrial revolution caused) techno-totalitarian model of government as an alternative to liberal democracy (from one-party democracy to one-party autocracy)? Devolutionary singularisation into techno-feudalism as the highest stage of capitalism? Is now a time to return to the nation-state, a great moment for all dictators-in-waiting to finally build a cult of personality? Hence, will our democracy be electro-magnetised and vaccinated for a greater good (or greedier ‘god’)? Is the decolonisation of global health a failed attempt? Will we (ever)be allowed to exit the year of 2020?[4]

The entire scientific community considers the attempt to mandate the experimental biological agent (while calling it the C-19 vaccine) as very troubling. Having these calls chiefly advocated and aggressively promoted by the handful of self-interest driven private companies (all accompanied with a contradictory and confusing governmental stance) is highly disturbing. No surprise that ever-larger societal segments perceive it as warfare not a welfare. The world that for over a century portrayed itself as Kantian is rapidly turning into the dark Hobbesian place. Is now anarchy just one step away?[5]

One is certain, confronting the long-term interests of stakeholders with the short-term interests of shareholders, the private sector from both sides of Atlantic exercises disproportionate power in the technological share (infrastructure and data). It also largely benefits from the massive public research funds while in return paying dismal, negotiable tax if any at all.[6]

Far too often it comes with the nondisclosure agreements, liability outsourcing/protections and other unilaterally beneficial legal instruments as well as with the close ties between the private sector, intelligence agencies and media.[7]

The same applies to a big Pharma which increasingly dictates a non-preventive, monofocal approach to medicine and research, and controls reporting about it – not always in the name of our public health.

Therefore, the above represents the largest underreported threat to our democracy and future societal conduct.

Conclusively, bioinformatics (including the synthetic biology and data-to-genes sequestration for data storage or data mining purpose) is a dual-use technology. Past its formative age (with a digital infrastructure near completion), it has today a huge weaponization potential for at home and abroad, be it for state or non-state actors. Consequently and urgently, this necessitates a comprehensive legislation which builds up on the Universal Charter of Human Rights and Nuremberg Code, and rests on its effective enforcement (with the monitoring of compliance mechanisms as set for the IAEA, OPCW, RC-BTWC and the Nagoya protocol),[8]nationally and internationality, and for all actors.

Threat of Otherness: Criminalisation of different opinion

All state authority is derived from the people (XX 2) … All Germans shall have the right to resist any person seeking to abolish this constitutional order, if no other remedy is available. (XX 4)-Civil disobedience as the Constitutional Right[9]

By many accounts, 2020 – a year of astonishing synchronicity, when distancing became social[10]– will be remembered as the worst year in living memory (since 1939). Some would say; C-19 stopped history, as it locked down our dialogues and atrophied political instincts of masses. Still, 2020 only quarantined and halted us, while in fact it accelerated history. This especially refers to the ‘Old Continent’.

People have the right to know what those in power are doing, especially in times of crisis. Therefore, Europe’s eldest and the most comprehensive multilateral mechanism – Council of Europe, promulgated Convention on Access to Official Documents more than ten years ago in Tromsø, Norway (entering in force on 01 December 2020). This Charter is the first binding international legal instrument to recognise a general right of access to official documents held by public authorities.[11]

As this author noted back in spring 2020: “It is amply clear from the C-19 event that the right to health is an issue for all. The search for a reliable cure for pandemics control is not a matter of private business, but of fundamental individual rights situated on higher levels of sociableness, as embedded in the UN and EU Charters, and being obligatory for each of the UN Specialized Agencies or EU bodies to comply with. (Not a fear-based manufactured giving-in, but the right for informed consent as an inseparable segment of the constitutionally endorsed right to health.)

Even if the vaccine becomes the agreed or preferred option, it must be made available patent-free for all, and locally manufactured. However, binarization of debate onto a pro-and-con vaccine represents a dangerous reductionism and waste of planetary energy critically needed for a holistic and novel approach. There is no silver bullet for the European problems. Consequently, there is no solution in one-directional medical research in response to any pandemic, and in a single-blended (or centrally manufactured, hastily introduced) and mandated experimental medication for all. This especially refers to the genoccine.[12](Dogma is based on a blind belief; science necessitates constant multidimensional exploration. Science, especially a medical one, holds no single or absolute truth: The closest it can get is to the least wrong answer – which must be contested constantly, literally every day.)

Proportionality of our (current and future) responses in Europe is another key issue. Hence, what presents itself as an imperative is the universal participation through intergovernmental mechanisms. That rule applies for at home and for abroad, as the Union has to comply with(and set example to) it urgently.

Growing particularisms in Brussels quarters, where (on taxpayers money and public trust)it is more and more the particular – be it individual, regional, national, lobby-groups driven – interest that prevails over the solid all-European project of our common presence purpose and future.”[13]

Past the Brexit, the Union has to be extra cautious about its chronic democracy-deficit, apparatchik alienation of Brussels, as well as the brewing concerns that the EU without UK becomes yet another greater Germany.[14]

Of Paper Tiger and its Talking Heads

The one-year score (March 2020 – March 2021) of the Union is highly disturbing:

Finally, the truth is plain to see; countries with the highly (deregulated and) privatised health sector are the C-19 worst offs (eg. USA) – as measured by the fatalities, overall socio-economic cost (incl. the long-term health prospects, or redistribution and inequalities), damage to the social consensus (safety and security), and the speed of recovery. Countries of the centralised health which resides strictly in public hands and under popular control did and are still making it far better. Those among them that keep high respect for individual rights, liberties and freedoms (eg. Sweden) are by far the best achievers.

How the issues of health will be balanced with the human rights – as these two are not excluding but complementing each other – is the fundamental issue for the future.

Additionally, how (geno and pheno) data are generated, stored and governed, and ultimately used will be the second defining issue of global public health (and planetary support to it) in the coming decades.

Beyond the disputes about possible initial intentionality, let us close this text by discussing probable epilogue:

An ever-larger number of military strategists see the C-19 event as a biological warfare. And history is powerful reminder; decisions to go to war were never based on facts but on perceptions.[15]Therefore, make no mistake; the end game to any further continuation or escalation is nuclear holocaust which none of us will escape.


[1] The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres is well aware of it: Addressing the Organisation’s General Assembly at the 75th anniversary (September 2020) he admitted: “… people continue to lose trust in political establishments. … widespread protests against inequality, discrimination, corruption and lack of opportunities all over the world – grievances that still need to be addressed, including with a renewed social contract.”

[2] In fact, in Germany and several other EU member states the number of hospital beds in the intensive care units is even reduced for up to 20% compared to its pre-C-19 capacities.

[3]In the formally neutral and peace-loving Austria – following the provisions of a strict autumn 2020 lockdown – only the basic supplies shops were opened. However, besides the grocery stores,mobile phone shops and pharmacies, it also included the guns shops, while the schools, theatres, libraries and museums remain closed.

[4]The year of 2020 recorded unprecedented planetary contractions and nearly a free-fall recession. Of course, it is misleadingly ascribed to the pandemic instead of being attributed to the C-19-related measures. Among G-7 + G-20 group of countries only China had scored growth. Cross-sectoral picture is the same – deep recession. Only the big tech and big pharma scored surpluses in 2020. (World Bank Report 2020)

[5] Talks about ‘vax-passports’ falls under the same category. Not only that it is contrary to the ruling of the Council of Europe – conditioning freedom of movement with an exposure of personal medical record is contradicting any notion of Human Rights and every of its Charters.

[6] “The pandemic has also reviled how imbalanced the relationship between the public and the private sector has become. In the US, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) invests some$40 billion a year on medical research and has been a key funder of the R&D of C-19 treatments and vaccines. But pharmaceutical companies are under no obligation to make the final product affordable to Americans, whose tax money is subsidising them in the first place. … It was a typical move for Big Pharma. … Even so, US drug prices are the highest in the world. Pharmaceutical companies also act against the public interest by abusing the patient process. … Equally bad deals have been made with Big Tech. In many ways, Silicon Valley is a product of the US government’s investments in the development of high-risk technologies. The National Science Foundation funded the research behind the search algorithm that made Google famous. The US Navy did the same for the GPS technology that Uber depends on. And the Defence Advanced Research Project Agency, part of the Pentagon, backed the development of the Internet, touchscreen technology, Siri, and every other key component in the iPhone. Taxpayers took risks when they invested in these technologies, yet most of the technology companies that have benefited failed to pay their fair share of taxes. Then they have the audacity to fight against regulations that would protect the privacy rights of the public. … the power of AI and other technologies being developed in Silicon Valley, a closer look shows that in these cases, too, it was high-risk public investment that laid the foundations” – states prof. Mazzucato(FAM 99/6/20)

[7]See, eg. the EU Pandemic Accelerator Act (April 2020) or the July 15th 2020 Suspension of the EU GMO-related legislation (the so-called EU Council adoption of the Commission’s proposal to accelerate clinical trials and the supply of medical product containing the GMOs) – all promulgated speed-track without a prior investigative scientific reports, hearings or debate. These are now submitted to the European Court of Justice for a legality and impartiality judgment. In the same fashion the recently adopted European Democracy Action Plan (EDAP) leaves many ambiguities, while also contradicting the European Convention on Human Rights.

[8] All fourbelonging to the United Nations system: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Review Conference to the Biological Weapons Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction (RC-BTWC), the Nagoya Protocol to the Biological Diversity Convention on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilisation (NP).

[9]German Constitution (Art. 20). Similar provisions are encapsulated in most of the national constitutions in Europe and beyond. It rests on a notion that the state and people are bound by the social contract within any given society, and that in case of a breach of confidence, citizenry has an inalienable natural right to disobedience.

[10]It is crucial to differentiate the physical from a social distancing. Physical one is a preventive (punitive or medical) measure while the so-called social distancing is a century-old concept of (empathy charge and) social engineering. To this end, see works of the US sociologists Park, Hall and Bogardus (scale of social distancing), and Simmel’s ‘theory of the stranger’ – Simmelian social geometry (Germany 1908).

[11]During times of crisis national security arguments are often evoked to deny information to be requested and accessed. However, it is exactly at such times that a timely and trustworthy information from official sources is most needed. Informational transparency in accordance with the principles set out in the Tromsø Convention prior to the C-19 pandemic could have helped to avoid the ‘infodemic’ and a subsequent massive public distrust.

[12]It seems as a more accurate name for the experimental (thoroughly untested), new, RNK and DNK modified, nanotechnology-based tri-injecting solution currently advocated for the C-19. Some critics even reject to call it vaccine, claiming that it is in fact a GMO implant.

[13]See: “World on Autopilot: The UNSC should urgently address C-19”, New Europe Brussels (Bajrektarevic-Agam, 10 APR 20); “Contributing to a Safer, Healthier and Prosperous World”, Diplomat Magazine Hague (Bajrektarevic-Goutali, 12 MAY 20);”Return of Global Stewardship: the UNSC should urgently address C-19– addendum” (Bajrektarevic-Agam, 25 May 20), ModernDiplomacy Athens/ Brussels; “Democracy Vaccinated, – The post-Corona epilogue of Sino-American relations”, (Bajrektarevic), L’EuropeUnie Intl. Journal, Revue d’étudeseuropéenne, Paris, France 2020 (15) 2.

[14] On December 18th 2020, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) adopted Resolution against glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that encourage modern forms of racism and xenophobia. 60 UN members co-sponsored resolution, while only 2 states casted negative vote. Rather strikingly and disturbingly, Germany refrained from voting in favour (abstained). The UN GA recommends states “to take appropriate concrete measures, including legislative and educational ones, in accordance with international human rights obligations, in order to prevent revisionism in respect of the Second World War and the denial of the crimes against humanity and war crimes committed during the WWII.”

[15]Although initially representing the asymmetric workings of the non-state actor, the so-called Sarajevo assassination of 1914 triggered the WWI – a gigantic trans-continental conflict between all major powers of that time (and a rapid demise of many in just few years’ time).This self-destruction lasted for 4 years with all unconventional means (biological and chemical) at disposal used. What has happened? The non-state actor from Bosnia assaulted the Head of State in-making of the major power (Heir to the Habsbourg Empire). Now comes the most disturbing part: Asymmetric confrontation between the state and non-state actor in one corner of Europe (southeast) triggered a direct armed conflict and the immense bloodshed – but only months later and via spill over from the other corner of Europe. Militarily, the German attack on the Belgian Ardennes (northwest of Europe) marked the beginning of the total destruction – WWI. In summer 1945, Soviets were rushing through Korean peninsula to get a stake in occupation of Japan. As a consequence, Americans repeatedly nuked that country’s inland. That much about controllability of (non-)intentionality and about mastering of the outcome. Overconfidence is another (mass) killer, just to name but few history chapters thought its chief protagonists: Darius III, Hannibal, Napoleon, Hitler. 

Modern Diplomacy Advisory Board, Chairman Geopolitics of Energy Editorial Member Professor and Chairperson for Intl. Law & Global Pol. Studies contact: anis@bajrektarevic.eu

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French Senator Allizard: Mediterranean – Theatre for future Europe

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On the historic date of March 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 titled: “Europe – Future – Neighbourhood at 75: Disruptions Recalibration Continuity”. The conference, jointly organized by the Modern Diplomacy, IFIMES and their partners, 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.[1]

Along with the two acting State Presidents, the event was endorsed by the keynote of the EU Commissioner for European Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Excellency OlivérVárhelyi. The first, of the three-panel conference, was brilliantly conducted by the OSCE Sec-General (2011-2017), current IFIMES Euro-Med Director, Amb. Lamberto Zannier. Among his speakers, the first to open the floor was French Senator Pascal Allizard, OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Vice President (and its Special rapporteur for Mediterranean issues). Discussing regional issues of the southern Europe, its relations with the black sea and with North of Africa, this is what Senator outlined in his intervention:

As 2021 is the ten-year anniversary of the Arab spring, Senator Pascal highlights that a decade later, the events of the Arab Spring are crucial to the problems of today. Europe should reevaluate the region through European lens. Excellency Alizard criticizes Europe, due to the fact that it tends to take a step back from the region of the North African affected area of the Arab Spring conflict as there is an abundance of issues which are unlikely to be solved with ease. One must still do its duties difficult or not to question the region. Turning a blind eye to the problems there is something that Senator says Europe tends to do to elevate their consciousness.

However, one must look at the problems head-on. The biggest concern is that there is an explosive growth in population, a rise in radicalism and the Black Sea is what separates that northern conflict region of Africa and the Mediterranean coast of Europe.

The Mediterranean Sea is known to be one of the most crucial routes to transport illegal cargo such as drugs, hydrocarbon and human trafficking into Europe, specifically through Spain and Italy. It’s crucial for Europe to have a discussion and plan for this region as it is a necessity to keep Europe safe. The different countries along the Mediterranean must come together to create a cohesive, inclusive yet firm diplomatic strategy to answer all the challenges. The region along the Mediterranean Sea is a strategic area for Europe as there are many ships that come from around the world into those ports.

Senator Pascal proceeded by stating that the eastern Mediterranean region escalated after the discovery of significant oil and gas reserves. It is also the ongoing war in Syria, and the destabilization of the region with yet unsettled situation in Libya (with presence of multiple external players which generate instability).

Senator reminded the conference audience that Europe must also mention the actors in the Mediterranean on the European side;

‘’The European Union is a leading player, at least for the display of its normative ambitions, also for its diplomacy of the checkbook and its discourse on human rights. However, the EU is not a power in the state and sovereign sense of the term, and it systematically curbs the sovereign aspirations of its own member states. The EU does not yet project itself sufficiently as an international actor capable of implementing a foreign policy. The EU appears, I believe, seen from the Mediterranean at most as a soft power which, in word, watches over the balance of power in the region. And the hopes placed in EU policy dedicated to the Mediterranean have been in vain, to the extent that they do not seem effective, neither economically nor politically, at least from my point of view, insufficiently. And if on the northern shore a few countries are interested in the Mediterranean area, we can see that this is not the center of European concerns and that no common vision is really emerging.’’

Unification of that region is vital, because if the Mediterranean nations do not collaborate as a union and show their strength, control of that area could fall into the hands of Turkey, Russia and China. Turkey walks bold on the so-called Exclusive Economic Zone in Euro-Med, which would – if accepted – project its power in the Mediterranean, giving it a more prominent regional political role. Russia, which is once again becoming a key player in the Middle East, in the Black Sea area, in the Mediterranean and even in Africa walks bold too. Lastly, China which mainly projects itself through its trade, investments, and its bilateral agreements is pressing on maritime space too. Lately, Chinese military navy can be also seen.

The navies of the regions are preparing for a hardening of relations at sea in a strategic area where world trade flows, but also now, for the exploration, the exploitation of hydrocarbons. This is why questions of sovereignty are once again emerging, naturally in the sense of our concerns.

Hopefully the new US administration will also pay attention to the Mediterranean Sea and not just the Indo-Pacific. 

The only way to establish more of a grip in the Mediterranean theater is cooperation. This is also the key to success for all the European nations gathered around unified code of conduct and rule of law.

Concluding, Excellency Pascal stated that the European Union must recognize realities of unresolved conflicts that are interwoven, as well as to understand the new challenges that can threaten the very fabrics of the Union: security, demography, unregulated immigration. If not equal to these challenges, the universalist European model might lose its grounds beyond point of return – warned Senator.

*the above text is based on the informal French language transcript as per conference recordings, which may have no intentionally caused minor omittances or imprecisions in the reporting.


[1]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 and Code, the European Human Rights Charter and their relevance in the 21st century.

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Vienna Process: Re-visiting and Re-thinking the Euro-MED

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On the historic date of March 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 titled: “Europe – Future – Neighbourhood at 75: Disruptions Recalibration Continuity”. The conference, jointly organized by the Modern Diplomacy, IFIMES and their partners, 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.[1]

Along with the two acting State Presidents, the event was endorsed by the keynote of the EU Commissioner for European Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Excellency OlivérVárhelyi. The first, of the three-panel conference, was brilliantly conducted by the OSCE Sec-General (2011-2017), current IFIMES Euro-Med Director, Amb. Lamberto Zannier. Among his speakers were academics, government and IGO representatives of different yet complimentary backgrounds. Following is the brief, yet not conclusive, overview of the discussed. 

Although not new, the EURO-MED cooperation matter remains a distinguished area where the field of possibilities is immense, and where progress vis-à-vis this transregional collaboration would tremendously impact all involved parties’ crisis management abilities. Thus, re-discussing EURO-MED with, if necessary, a novel overall geometry is rightfully referred to as a both compelling and heat-on point of the agenda by the conference panellists.

Admittedly, the Barcelona Process of 1995 and PEM Convention having entered into force in early 2012 were remarkable initiatives aiming notably at introducing institutional frameworks and promoting deeper economic integration based on the “rules of origin” concept. However, the initiatives did not blossom as was hoped, and this is due to several reasons that keynote speaker Monika Wohlfeld (German Chair for Peace Studies & Conflict Prevention) and Ettore Greco (Vice-President of the Institute for International Affairs) have touched upon during the 8th March international event. Given that our awareness and understanding of the lack of prosperity having surrounded those first initiatives is key to re-thinking, re-calibrating and, in turn, re-engage in an auspicious direction, this piece will be taking you back to the salient message vehicled by Wohlfeld and Greco respectively.

First, Monika Wohlfeld took the floor and opened up by acknowledging the past attempts at reaching cooperation security agreements as well as their relative deficiency up until now. Equally as important to recognize are the causes of such failings: actually, little traction was brought on following the emergence of the first initiatives due to, notably, an absence of lasting peace climate and old relational patterns within the involved regions. The context having been set, she moves onto the juicy bit: the inherent inadequacy of the multilateral approach whose prints are all over the 90s and 2000s proposals. What is more, she brings to the table a counter-approach as the path to engage in: minilateralism.

The aforesaid concept offers an alternative cooperation modus that is more selective, flexible and mostly more conscious of, and focused on, the fact (or rather the reality) that States can participate in various ad-hoc frameworks with fluctuating membership. The latter would then be assessed through case-by-case interests, shared values and pertinent capabilities. In that sense, by contrast to a multilateralist angle, a minilateralist attitude would be oriented towards the sub-regional rather than the international; would be a voluntary undertaking rather than a binding one; would concern fragmented but specialized fields of application rather than general comprehensive ones; would tend to be multi-stakeholders rather than State-centric; and would proceed from a bottom-up thinking rather than top-down. Monika’s suggested shift in approach answers an important need, backed-up by local expert voices, which is that of the serious taking into account of sub-regional diversity in the process. By doing so, the odds of reaching cooperation agreements with MED countries – and moreover the chances of those agreements panning out – would be extremely favourable.

As a matter of fact, Ettore Greco endorsed a consubstantial view in his intervention during the conference. More specifically, he believes that a looser approach based on an empowered co-ownership and greater attention to actual regional dynamics and situational constraints ought to be adopted.

Drawing on the Barcelona Process experience, which rendered apparent its shortcomings and the recent state of deadlock having affected the EURO-MED coop, Greco equally provides alternate lines of thinking. What is clear to him is that the integrationist approach and the idea according to which cooperation should equate to structural convergence makes for an unworkable avenue. Indeed, he also pointed out that one main issue encountered with regard to earlier cooperation models (whether in the Barcelona Process or even in the ERANET Project of 2013) was the transfer and, by way of symmetry, the reception of Western policies in the Middle-East and North Africa. This cannot help but to ring an old bell; that of Watson’s concept of the ‘legal transplant’ and related limits. His famous metaphor of the mountain plant being uprooted and planted back in the desert, incurring changes to the plant’s nature remains particularly striking and timely. This goes to show, or rather to remind some, that purely transplanting policies that are specific to a certain ethos without adjusting to the new local particular context can often prove inefficient.

Consequently, is it well-advised that the EU places more emphasis on, and deploys more energy towards, stability and resilience as goals set out for the cooperation in lieu of democratization along with institutional reforms. That being said, Greco concedes that in the absence of profound transformation – and hence, reforms, to some extent – stability in itself is seldom achievable.

Setting aside the MED inner conflict dynamics over which the EU has very little if no control over, new forms of partnerships should be relentlessly explored and promoted in a world where the concurring, mutually-reinforcing challenges can only be optimally addressed through wider pan-regional operative frameworks. In that spirit, Ettore Greco, as emissary for the IAI, lays out some ground requirements we need to achieve as a roadmap to making successful advances. These are:

  • The promotion of a comprehensive concept of security. That is, one more inclusive and of broader scope – and thereby more realistic.[2]
  • The creation of better synergies between the different cooperation frameworks (NATO-MED dialogue, OSCE MED partnership, Union of the MED) and clarification of each initiative’s own added-value.
  • The involvement of valuable non-EU actors such as Russia or the United States of America.

Those guidelines, whether proposed by Monika Wohlfeld or by Ettore Greco, prove that the re-thinking of the EURO-MED cooperation is a breeding ground already being cultured. Besides, this political activation or mobilization towards re-shaping a functional and tighter cooperation scheme can be observed across the board of regional and sub-regional players directly affected by the issue. But mostly, there is one common thread in the discourses of those airing opinions to lead the best way: acknowledgement of the omnipresent diversity and pluralism at play. Only by factoring in the diversity of the partners and their sub-regions can there be beneficial arrangements and progress be made. This, of course, has to be understood as a central remark directed to the European side of the table. All and any relic of hegemony need be completely done away with, so as to fully respect and integrate the diverse identities in the process. And in fact, this shouldn’t be hard to comprehend and assimilate from a EU perspective considering the various cultural bundles interacting within the EU block itself. What is more, the European Court of Human Rights is King as revering and upholding the national particularism of its Member States – it makes it a point of honour in the crushing majority of its judgements whenever harmony flirts too close with a homogeneity requirement that comes short of negating a region’s tradition.


[1]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 and Code, the European Human Rights Charter and their relevance in the 21st century.

[2] On that, see the OSCE model proposal

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U.S government’s own negative impacts in eroding human rights and media freedom in Bulgaria

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The US State Department’s annual human rights report is out and just like every March, critical voices and activists around the world rush to their own country’s section to see what’s included and what they can use openly, with the stamp of criticism by the US government.

This year, the State Department’s report on human rights violations in Bulgaria covers the usual ground and what’s publicly known. There were no surprises. The section on Bulgaria includes very prominently violence against media and journalists, and excessive use of force by law enforcement.

What the US government does not include in the Bulgaria section is the US government’s own role in the erosion of human rights and media freedom in Bulgaria through US government agencies such as the FBI, the CIA and even the US State Department. This is not something that US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, is willing to admit – at least not yet.

Ever since the US Ambassador to Bulgaria, Hero Mustafa, stepped into office back in 2019, the US Embassy in Sofia has maintained media freedom as a main theme. And what was not to like about that? Many of us over here cheered. But not so fast.

The US government construes media freedom only in the narrow sense that only speech praising the US government and going after US enemies should be free and protected. “Direct your freedom of speech against them, not us” is not freedom of speech. That’s not a rights-based approach; it’s authoritarianism. This was my first-hand experience with the US government when I was a top finalist for UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of speech in 2020. This is also my experience with the US government, as I try to spearhead the debate on the joint European position on China, and as I criticize the new US confrontational policy on China in pumping a new unnecessary Cold War with China, while expecting Europe to follow blindly. When the US is provoking China into a military and defense race at China’s own door step, while pointing to the Chinese reaction as “aggression”, hoping to draw Europe also into this, European voices have to speak up and warn about what’s coming on the horizon.

The FBI and the CIA operating under the hat of the US Embassy in Sofia make sure that independent, politically critical voices are kept under check through a variety of illegal means that the US government somehow believes it can allow itself to use on EU soil. The US State Department is happy to tag and sing along with the US intelligence agencies, here in Bulgaria. The Bulgarian authorities are also happy to help the US government in the US government’s repression against progressive, politically critical voices in Bulgaria.

The key take-away for the US government in Bulgaria has to be that the history of US human rights infringements in Europe shows that things like that only drive the transatlantic bond further away, and don’t bring it closer. This is also something that US President Joe Biden is about to learn very soon.

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