Connect with us

Europe

To get a sense of what Russia wants in the Balkans look at what Russia does: Tentative dialogue with prof. Hadzidedic

Published

on

On 14 February, Modern Diplomacy published “What Russia Wants In The Balkans” by Prof. Zlatko Hadzidedic. Whilst the esteemed professor stops short of providing a definitive answer to this question, his piece seeks to surreptitiously score a few points. First, it makes a masquerade of Balkan history by describing Russia’s regional influence as entirely simulated. Secondly, it tries to associate Moscow and Ankara to then exploits the inveterate ‘fear of the Turks’ to cast this “castrated” Russia as an existential menace to the geopolitical status quo in Europe. To be fair, prof. Hadzidedic does not conclude its piece claiming to have a definitive answer to this question. Yet, his entire argumentation hints in a rather specific direction, suggestion a rather maladroit reading of the facts. The purpose of this response is to start a respectful dialogue around this issue, as the writer finds some short-comings in his argumentation that might seek to progress the debate on geo-politics and geo-economics in the Balkans.

Introduction, or what’s the fuss about?

Needless to say, “What Russia Wants In The Balkans” seems to bite off more than anyone can chew. In a sense, the text’s inconclusiveness suggests that the author himself is well aware of it. After all, no analyst – and, probably, not even policymakers themselves – can pretend to know what Russia’s endgame in the region is. To be fair, prof. Hadzidedic does not conclude its piece claiming to have a definitive answer to this question. Yet, his entire argumentation hints in a rather specific direction, suggesting a rather maladroit reading of the facts.

Figure 1 Retired Serbian army men showing their support for Russian President Vladimir Putin during his visit to Serbia in January 2019 © Radio Sarajevo

The two parts of this essay address some of the least consensual points of that column. First, §1 takes a historical look at alleged ‘Western’ attempts to throw sand in Russia’s eyes in the Balkans. The, §2 addresses the issue of Russia’s alleged “simulation of influence” over Serbia. Based on (arguably wrong) historical assumptions, the Author leads the reader to worry about the risk of Russia’s quest for real control over the region leading to a disastrous new war. Finally, §3 debunks the possibility that, with Russia’s condescendence, Turkey may destabilise the regional order and affirm itself as a major power in the Western Balkans by using Bosnia and Albania as proxies.

The century-old anti-Russian plot

Hadzidedic argues that ever since the 19th century, Russia has put vain efforts in steering Balkan politics towards a certain direction. In reality, London – with Paris’s and, later, Washington’s support – deceived Moscow by acting as the “true patron” of local elites in the pivotal moments of independence struggles and the wars of the 1990s.

Figure 3 On the eve of Tsar Nikolay I Pavlovich’s death, the Russian Empire extended over more than 20 million square kilometres. He had helped Greek independence, defeated the Ottoman Empire in a long war and conquered parts of Armenia and Azerbaijan in the Caucasus. The attention he and his successors paid to the region was not inconsequential for the Balkan Wars of the 1910s (left-hand side) and if the 1990s (right-hand side).© F. A. Telarico

Independence struggles in the 19th century

On independence movements, Hadzidedic’s stance can be summarised with a few quotations. First, Russia has never had any real influence in the region. It was the strategic interest of “West European powers” that determined the course of history.

True, France and England wanted to expand their colonial empires on Ottoman lands. But they had little reason to seek Austria-Hungary’s ruin. On the contrary, Britain had somewhat of a preference for Vienna in its confrontation with Moscow over the Balkans.

Figure 4 Map of Crimean War (in Russian) ЧерноеМоре = Black Sea, РоссийскаяИмперия = Russian Empire (green), АвстрийскаяИмперия = Austrian Empire (pink), ОсманскаяИмперия = Ottoman Empire (dark grey) Despite their desire to colonise the lands of the Ottoman Empire in the Levant and North Africa, France and England supported the sultan in its fights against the Tsar in what became known as the Crimean War.© Yuri Koryakov via Wikimedia Commons

Meanwhile, Russia was set to gain from the fall of both Istanbul’s and Vienna’s empires. The Russians fought countless small wars against the Ottomans to gaining control over the Caucasus, free access to the Mediterranean Sea as well as acquired territories on the Caspian and Black-Sea basins— which Austria also aspired to. Moreover, Moscow craved at least a harbour on the Mediterranean, a scenario London never accepted. Hence, it was pitted against Austria in the Balkans and against Britain in the Mediterranean.

Figure 5 Austrian archduke and heir to the throne, Franz Ferdinand, aspired to federalise Austria-Hungary as a way to stabilise its many nations and pave the way for further southward expansions.© DeviantArt via Pinterest

The dissolution of Yugoslavia

Hadzidedic’s bases his account of the Yugoslav Wars on this assumed lack of any reality behind Russia’s standing in the region. Consequently, his analysis of Serbia’s war crimes and their impact on regional stability are dubious at least. Assuming that France and the UK are the only key actors, the Author underlines the “continuous support” they had secretly offered Serbia. True, England and France had opposed Germany’s attempt to recognise Croatia’s independence as long as they could. Izetbegovic, Milosevic, Tudjman bear responsibility. And, so do the thousands of fighters recruited from all parties in conflicts. From the war criminals of Vukovar and Musala to the authors of massacres during OperacijaOluja, in Srebrenica and Križančevo. Yet, those “gigantic campaigns of ethnic cleansing” are blamed on no in particular, making it seem likely that external interference alone made war atrocities possible — with a surely-unintended exculpation of local political and military leaders.

Meanwhile, Hadzidedic gives a much distortive account of the “narratives” around the Yugoslav Wars in which Russia’s support for Serbia and the Islamist presence in Bosnia become focal points. Thence came the image of “clashing ‘civilizations’,” as Huntington would have put it. True, western media played a key role in consolidating these frames by characterising “all Bosnians, whatever their religion, as ‘Muslims’,” and prof. Hadzidedic is right to remind it once again. But such a practice was far from an instrument of psycho-warfare. On the contrary, accounts of chaos, disruption and confusion overwhelmed Western imaginariesfrom the White House to the suburbs of Western Europe. Most media clearly presented reports of war crimes being committed by Bosnian Serbs against Bosnian Muslims. One can argue whether this distinction casted the former apart from the rest of the Bosnian polity, thus reproducing divisions. Still, that is a different issue. If there was a ‘clash of civilisations’-sort of narrative, it was fraught with incomplete and imperfect reports. Clear-cut distinctions failed to materialise in a collective subconscious dominated by the idea of unjustifiable Rwanda-like, mass violence.

Yeltsin’s Russia

Finally, it is untrue that Yeltsin’s foreign policy generated “a public image of Russia as a promoter of pan-Orthodox ideology.” As eminent scholars have argued, Moscow’s foreign policy in this period was rather trendless. Yeltsin was trying to bring Russia back to ‘Europe’ while failing to understand that ‘its’ idea of Europe had died. Hadzidedic also supposes an “Anglo-American strategy of drawing Russia into inter-religious conflicts in Central Asia, in line with Huntington’s theory”. Yet, the facts argue against such a theory. If anything, “the refusal of the West to help Chechnya during the war” reveals the opposite intention. Some may have auspicated for Russia to remain ‘weak’ for years to come. But no one wanted the former-Soviet nuclear arsenal to fall in the hands of unknown local feudatories and extremists.

The Balkans are not a playground

In Hadzidedic’s narrative, “it is highly questionable how influential Russia really is in Serbia, despite its public support for it.”Actually, one can agree with the premise of this statement (and only partly so), but not with its corollary. True, Moscow’s backing for Belgrade’s rather adversarial stances vis-à-vis its neighbours has not bought much loyalty. Hence, acute observers agree that Russia has little actual effect on Serbia’s international policies Yet, what Hadzidedic misses on is both Balkan States’ own initiatives and China’s looming shadow. In fact, the region faces a metaphorical geostrategic crossroad summarisable in the trilemma: (1) Russia, (2) NATO and the EU or a (3) risingChina ?

Here the determining variable is perceived national interest and/or local leaderships’ self-interest. These two principles inform the oftentimes incoherent, indecisive and volatile outcomes of Western-Balkan countries’ foreign policy. In this sense, analysis striving to be up-to-date in the 2020s must acknowledge that, in the Balkans, the ‘great game’ is turning multipolar. Thus, medium-sized States in the region enjoy an in viable degree of freedom. As shown below, multipolarity makes each external actor more vulnerable to local contingencies and leaders’ changeable orientations.

Russia

Regarding Russia, one thing is clear:

The symbolic gestures and pro-Russian exhortations many Serbian politicians overindulge in mean very little when the reality is that the [Serbian government elites] have signed a number of agreements with NATO over the past few years […].

Therefore, there surely is a simulation of influence on Russia’s part. However, contrarily to what Hadzidedic argues, the hyperbolic accentuation of the Russo-Serb friendship is not a show set up to deceive the US. More than a mere Russian tactic, this narrative is a double*edged sword that regional actors can use to play all sides of the trilemma against each other.

Figure 8 People waving symbols of Russian-Serbian friendship at a rally of the ruling Serbian Radical Party in Vidovdan Square (Belgrade), on June 28, 2015.
© srpska.ru

For instance, the scarecrow of Russia’s incursions in the region exacerbates concern that the EU may be losing ground. In Montenegro and Macedonia, this mechanism has led to a flood of EU funds which local elites appreciated.

The EU and NATO

Hadzidedic downplays EU integration as a slow, but steady and inevitable mechanism working in the background. In his view, former-Yugoslav countries’ accession to the EU looks a bit like an ineluctable leap of faith “driven by national interest.” After all, in non-EU countries citizens’ welfare should benefit from joining the Union. Yet, the EU is becoming unpopular amongst large popular strata. Thus, it is not surprising at all that the enlargement process has become more unpredictable and its outcomes unreliable.

To oil the gears of the enlargement machinery, the EU resorts to ‘buy’ local consensus bestowing billions in grants. Furthermore, Brussels has also exploited the pandemic to pull non-EU States closer by granting more money and free vaccines. Thus, Sofia has promised vaccines to Skopje; Athens to Skopje and Tirana; Bucharest to Chisinau; and the Commission to Bosnia, Kosovo and even Ukraine.

China

Finally, China’s rise in the region is what Hadzidedic’s analysis completely omits. In effect, Central- and South-Eastern European countries exploited the pandemic to widen their room for manoeuvring between the poles of the trilemma. Hence, non-EU and EU member States in Eastern Europe are reaping this opportunity to enlarge the wedge between external powers. For instance, Hungary has just received 500,000 doses of Chinese Sinovac’s vaccines against the EU’s advice. It is not random that the same country recently signed a new contract with RosAtom — Russia’s State-owned nuclear-energy conglomerate.

Meanwhile, the EU has failed on multiple levels with its non-member neighbours. First, it did not manage to impose its political conditionality on Serbia in exchange for the transfer of vaccines. On the contrary, Serbia outperformed the EU in vaccination per capita “thanks to the Chinese and Russian vaccines.” Brussels’ ineptitude has led to an increase in Russia’s and China’s political and economic clout due to their ability to make good on vaccine delivery. These are the cases, besides Serbia, of Bosnia, Moldova and Montenegro. Meanwhile, Serbia more than fulfilled Bulgaria’s failed promise of delivering vaccine doses to North Macedonia. In doing so, it is shifting away from Russia’s preferred stance of principled hostility towards neighbours. At the same time, Belgrade is rowing against Brussels’ desiderata and becoming a reliable regional partner that does not bow to the EU’s normative power.

The limits of Russia-Turkey cooperation

In the last paragraph, Hadzidedic poses a question that finally reveals his preoccupation with the region’s future. Overall, the Author seems worried about the possible consequences of Russia’s imagined change of heart in the Balkans. He fears that Moscow might trick Serbia into igniting pre-extant tensions, plunging the region into another calamity.

The intervening variable that should explain the causation of these catastrophes is the alleged “tacit strategic alliance between Russia and Turkey.” Thus, it is necessary to debunk this quasi-conspiratorial theory by tackling its implicit assumptions: (i) Russo-Turkish military cooperation; (ii) peer-to-peer relations; and (iii) Turkey’s ability to pursue a proactive foreign policy.

The military history of a non-alliance

True, Moscow was not overly supportive of Armenia during the last war with Azerbaijan. Yet, in building a comparison between Nagorno-Karabakh and Kosovo, Armenia should be placed in the EU’s shoes — not Serbia’s, and by far. Moreover, searching for similarities between the two cases is a misguided quest.

In addition, a fairly strong argument could be made that Libya and Syria disprove the existence of such an “alliance.” After all, neither Russia nor Turkey have a real long-term plan to enact after the civil war subsides in these two countries.

Ankara is not as ‘great’ of a power as Moscow is

For these reasons, instances of bilateral dialogue have not “elevated Turkey to the status of a great power.” Nor could they do it, since Moscow does not boast the international stature to raise Ankara to that status. Actually, Russia is already punching above its weight on the international stage, and its dwarf economy shackles the country to the rank of co-primary actor beside the US and China, the two real superpowers.

Turkey’s looming economic crisis

Finally, standing on the verge of bankruptcy, Turkey is facing a difficult phase of its trajectory under Erdogan. It is highly unlikely that in such dire budgetary conditions Ankara would stage a large-scale subversion of the international order. Furthermore, Turkey cannot stand on the international stage with the resolve Russia can rightfully claim thanks to its nuclear arsenal.

Thus, any worry of Kosovo being absorbed into Albania with Turkey’s placet and Russia’s condescendence is vain: Pristina is not another Sevastopol.

Forecast: great-power competition in South Eastern Europe beyond former Yugoslavia

Against this background, whatever Russia does or does not do, peace in the region will not depend on it. There are many countries in the Balkans. A few of them have limited chances of pursuing a truly autonomous foreign policy, even despite international recognition. EU membership poses strong constraints on others’ ability to do so, while the dependency on EU funds fetters many. Serbia may look to be an exception since it has managed to float somewhere in the middle without fully relying on the West, Russia or China. Yet, its foreign policy cannot but adapt to its partners’ and neighbours’ policies.

Concerns for the future of the region are rarely unwarranted and it is hard to overstate them. But this is where Hadzidedic’s piece exceeds most measures of caution. First, it fails to understand the Balkans as a region that goes beyond former Yugoslavia. Then, it adopts a monolithic view of politics in which great powers play pool while everyone else is a ball. This rigid framework bulldozes nuances and details, degrades the region to a playground and revives the ghosts of a (recent) bloody past.

Many challenges lie ahead. Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece and Romania are struggling to navigate the pandemic. Bosnia and Kosovo have to deal with uncertain statehood while sharing with North Macedonia, Montenegro, Moldova and Serbia an oligarchic and backward economy. Albania and North Macedonia are waiting on the EU’s doorstep with no real assurance of effective membership. Yet, each of these risks hide a correlative opportunity. Publications like Modern diplomacy should contribute to laymen’s and investors’ knowledge of the region to emphasise those key, realistic focal points. This is the effort to which this piece wants to offer a contribution.

Acknowledgement

The Author thanks Dr. Fabio Bettanin, Professor of Contemporary Russian and Eastern-European History at the University of Naples “l’Orientale” for his valuable contributions to this article.

Fabio A. Telarico was born in Naples, Southern Italy. Since 2018 he has been publishing on websites and magazines about the culture, society and politics of South Eastern Europe and the former USSR in Italian, English, Bulgarian and French. As of 2021, he has edited two volumes and is the author of contributions in collective works. He combines his activity as author and researcher with that of regular participant to international conferences on Europe’s periphery, Russia and everything in between. For more information, visit the Author’s website (in English and Bulgarian).

Continue Reading
Comments

Europe

The French Dispatch: The Year 2022 and European Security

Published

on

2021 has been rich in negative events for European security: the world has witnessed the collapse of the Open Skies Treaty, American-French discord concerning AUKUS, the termination of the official dialogue between Russia and NATO, and the migration crisis on the Polish-Belarusian border.

Over the past year, the Western countries seem to have been searching for new strategies. Since the end of 2019, NATO has been developing a new concept, and in June 2021 at the summit in Brussels, to the displeasure of sceptics, it was possible to agree on its basis—the transatlantic agenda NATO 2030 (# NATO2030) . While the broad formulations and a direct hierarchy of threats still require clarification, new projects in the field of weapons development, combating climate change, and increasing interoperability have already been declared.

In parallel, since the end of 2020, work has continued on the EU European Parliamentary Research Service project—the Strategic Compass. The dialectic between Atlanticism and Europeanism softened after Joe Biden came to power in the United States, but the European interests and red lines retain their significance for transatlantic relations. In 2022, together with the rotating post of the President of the EU Council, the role of a potential newsmaker in this area has been transferred to Emmanuel Macron, who feels very comfortable in it.

On December 9, the provisions of the Paris programme were published under the motto “Recovery, power, belonging” France, as expected, is reiterating its call for strengthening European sovereignty. The rhetoric of the document and its author is genuine textbook-realism. But now for the entire European Union.

Objectives of the French Presidency, are not articulated directly but are quite visible—making the EU more manageable and accountable to its members, with new general rules to strengthen mobilisation potential, and improve the EU’s competitiveness and security in a world of growing challenges.

Paris proposes reforming the Schengen area and tightening immigration legislation—a painful point for the EU since 2015, which has become aggravated again in recent months. This ambitious task has become slightly more realistic since Angela Merkel’s retirement in Germany. At least a new crisis response mechanism on this issue can be successful, even if it is not fully implemented.

In addition, the Élysée Palace calls on colleagues to revise the budget deficit ceilings of the Maastricht era to overcome the consequences of the pandemic and finally introduce a carbon tax at the EU borders. The latter allows for a new source of income and provides additional accountability for the implementation of the “green” goals by member countries.

The planned acceleration of the adoption of the Digital Markets Act (DMA) and Digital Services Act (DSA), developed by the European Commission at the end of 2020, is also aimed at unifying the general legislation and consolidating the European position in the world. In other words, the French Foreign Ministry quite soberly assesses the priority areas and vulnerabilities of the European Union and focuses on them, but with one exception.

A special priority of the French presidency is to strengthen the defence capabilities of the EU. On the sidelines, the French diplomats note that the adoption of the Strategic Compass in the spring of 2022, as originally planned, is a fundamental task, since otherwise the process may be completely buried. With a high degree of probability, this is so: the first phase of the development of the Compass—the general list of threats—lasted a year, and consisted of dozens of sessions, meetings, round tables with the involvement of leading experts, but the document was never published. If Macron won’t do it, then who will?

As the main ideologist and staunchest supporter of the EU’s “strategic autonomy”, the French president has been trying for five years to mobilise others for self-sufficiency in the security sphere. With his direct participation, not only the Mechanism of Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) in the defence area was launched, where France is the leader in a number of projects, but also the so-far failed European Intervention Initiative. Even without focusing on French foreign policy traditions and ambitions, the country remains a major European arms exporter and a nuclear power, where the military-industrial complex is closely affiliated with the state.

Implementing the 2022 agenda is also a matter of immediate political gain as France enters a new electoral cycle. The EU Summit will take place on March 10-11, 2022, in Paris, a month before the elections, and in any case it will become part of the election campaign and a test for the reputation of the current leader. Macron has not yet officially announced his participation in the presidential race, but he is actively engaged in self-promotion, because right-wing politicians espousing different degrees of radicalism are ready to take advantage of his defeats to purchase extra points.

The search for allies seems to be of key importance for victory at the European level, and the French Foreign Ministry has already begun working on this matter. In 2016–2017 the launch of new initiatives was predetermined by the support of Germany and the Central and East European countries. The change of cabinet in Germany will undoubtedly have an impact on the nation’s policy. On the one hand, following the results of the first visit of the new Chancellor Olaf Scholz to Paris on December 10, the parties announced the closeness of their positions and a common desire to strengthen Europe. On the other hand, the coalition of Social Democrats (SDP) was made up with the Greens and Free Democrats (FDP) who are not at all supporters of excessive involvement in security issues. What “strategic autonomy” means for France, constitutes a more restrained “strategic sovereignty” for Germany Therefore, an intensification of dialogue with Italy and Spain, which are both respected and potentially sympathetic, is likely. The military cooperation agreement concluded in the autumn of 2021 with Greece, an active member of PESCO, can also help Paris.

Gaining support from smaller countries is more challenging. Although the European project is not an alternative to the transatlantic one, the formation of a common list of threats is a primary task and problem for NATO as well. As mentioned above, it is around it that controversy evolves, because the hierarchy determines the distribution of material resources. The countries of Eastern Europe, which assume that it is necessary to confront Russia but lack the resources to do so, will act as natural opponents of the French initiatives in the EU, while Paris, Rome and Madrid will oppose them and the United States in the transatlantic dialogue. The complexity of combining two conversations about the same thing with a slightly different composition of participants raises the bar for Emmanuel Macron. His stakes are high. The mobilisation of the Élysée Palace’s foreign policy is one of the most interesting subjects to watch in the year 2022.

From our partner RIAC

Continue Reading

Europe

Unilateral vs Bilateral Euroisation: Political, technical and practical issues in the curious case of north Cyprus

Published

on

The island of Cyprus has been split between a Greek Cypriot south and a Turkish Cypriot north since 1974. The Turkish Cypriot state declared in the north is recognised only by Turkey, while the Republic of Cyprus in the south is recognised internationally and is a European Union (EU) member since 2004. In 2004, 65 percent of Turkish Cypriots voted in favor of the United Nations’ Annan Plan for reunification only for Greek Cypriots to reject it. As a result, Cyprus joined the EU as a de facto divided island. Despite joining the EU as a divided island, the whole of Cyprus is considered an EU territory. However, the EU law is suspended in the north until reunification is achieved.

This resulted in the euro being the legal tender only in the southern part of the island. With the recent and continuous depreciation of the Turkish lira, the long-standing question of whether and how the north could switch to the euro has once again intensified. While a bilateral adoption of the euro is not on the cards until a reunification on the island, north Cyprus could technically unilaterally adopt the euro. However this could cause complications in the future as the EU is adamant that unilateral euroisation cannot be used as a mechanism by Member States to circumvent the stages foreseen by the Maastricht Treaty.

Under normal circumstances, “Member States with a derogation”, i.e. the Member States that have not yet fulfilled the necessary conditions for the adoption of the euro are first required to enter the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM II) to achieve eurozone membership. This is a “waiting room” where any country aspiring to adopt the euro is required to stay for at least for two years. It is now a well-known fact that the ECB shares the opinion of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN), i.e. the meeting of the finance ministers of EU Member States adopted in 2000, that this requirement should not be waived. Assuming the northern part of Cyprus is considered a Member State, the same principle will apply and therefore it would not be welcome to adopt the euro unilaterally, bypassing the convergence process foreseen by the Treaty for the adoption of the euro.

Currently, ERM II comprises the currencies of Bulgaria, Croatia and Denmark. Just like these countries, north Cyprus would be expected to peg its national currency to the euro and, given the consent of the European System of Central Banks, fixe a “central exchange rate” and a “deviation margin” under Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM II) for a duration of no less than two years. If successful based on its ERM II performance, a final exchange rate would be determined and the redenomination would be done over a transition period. 

In the case of north Cyprus, it is understood that the EU might have already agreed to apply a fast track approach where there would be a one-year transition period. However, this has not been confirmed officially by the EU so the EU’s stance in practice is not known. After all, even Denmark, a Member State which has negotiated an opt-out arrangement before the adoption of the Maastricht Treaty has been participating in ERM II although it chose not to adopt the euro. So the EU’s approach in the case of northern Cyprus would not expected to be too lenient. There is no way to find out unless north Cyprus continues the dialogue with the EU.

In the meantime, a more relevant question is whether a unilateral euroisation could be possible. The short answer is yes. For instance the euro was introduced in Kosovo and Montenegro that did not have a status of a sovereign state at the time. In both cases, the decision was made in 1999. Kosovo, defined the Deutsche Mark as the designated currency, which was replaced by the euro in 2002. Similarly, Montenegro introduced a parallel currency system in 1999, in which the Deutsche Mark was allowed to circulate alongside the then legal tender. In 2001, the Deutsche Mark became the only legal tender and was replaced by the euro in June 2002.

In the case of Montenegro, now an official EU candidate, the adoption of the euro without an agreement with the European Central Bank (ECB) was acknowledged by the European Commission as a measure which had to be taken due to “extraordinary circumstances” present in the country at the time. This could be precedent for north Cyprus. However, it is important to note that the ECB still supports the view that unilateral euroisation is not compatible with the Maastricht Treaty and cannot be a way to bypass the convergence process.

The implications of the Treaty framework for in the case of Montenegro currently remain unknown and are expected to be detailed “by the time of possible future negotiations for accession to the EU”. In particular it remains uncertain whether the country would be required to introduce its own currency before it can join ERM II. Should this be the case as Montenegro makes further progress towards EU membership, this would entail substantial operational and changeover costs. Authorities in north Cyprus, should therefore monitor the developments very closely.

Normally, non-euro area Member States are denied the option of unilateral euroization due the principle of equality, i.e. the EU considers bypassing the convergence process incompatible with the EU Treaty and actively discourages it.In particular, the Treaty sets out that there has to be a Community assessment of the fulfilment of these criteria and mutual agreement on the appropriate exchange rates. This means that the ECB does not welcome unilateral euroisation, as such an adoption of the euro outside the Treaty process would run counter to the underlying economic reasoning of European Monetary Union.

However, as north Cyprus is already an EU territory the adoption of the euro could be considered a “common interest of the EU” and therefore an exception could be possible. In fact, the policy of the EU with regard to the Turkish Cypriot community which was set out by the General Affairs Council in 2004 states that “the Council is determined to…facilitate the reunification of Cyprus by encouraging the economic development of the Turkish Cypriot community”. So in the case of north Cyprus, a switch to the euro could be allowed by way of exception although this would obviously imply circumventing the process of multilateral assessment by the EU Member States.

While the EU could give the green light to adoption of the euro by north Cyprus without a successful exchange-rate procedure under ERM II, it would not allow this to undermine the process of convergence prior to the adoption of the euro. In other words, the Convergence criteria outlined in the Maastricht Treaty would still remain relevant and important as the Treaty requires Member States to achieve a high degree of sustainable economic convergence before they can join the euro area.

In other words the economies of Member States with a derogation must be able to keep pace with those already using the euro. Exchange rate stability, for instance, is evaluated by assessing whether the exchange rate of the country’s currency has remained within the fluctuation bands provided for by ERM II for at least two years without devaluating against the euro.

Besides exchange rate stability, the convergence criteria also include price stability, sound public finances, and convergence in long-term interest rates. This means, for instance, that a country’s long-term interest rate, measured on the basis of long-term government bonds or comparable securities, should not exceed that of the three best-performing Member States in terms of price stability by more than 2 percentage points during the one-year observation period prior to the assessment.   

On the other hand, a country is considered to meet the price stability criterion if its average inflation rate does not exceed the inflation rate of the three best-performing EU Member States by more than 1.5 percentage points during a one-year observation period. These criteria are intended to ensure the sustainability of public finances and that the government is able to manage its debts.

Article 140 (1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) requires the European Commission (EC) and the European Central Bank (ECB) to report to the Council, at least once every two years, or at the request of a Member State with a derogation on the progress of the country in fulfilling their obligations regarding the achievement of economic and monetary union. In addition to preparing these “Convergence Reports”, both the ECB and the Commission regularly monitor progress throughout the year.

A Convergence Report is normally published at least once every two years or at the request of an EU Member State which would like to join the euro area. Both the ECB and the European Commission issue these reports describing the progress made by non-euro area Member States towards achieving the criteria necessary for a country to adopt the euro. According to the latest report, among countries legally committed to adopting the euro, Croatia and Sweden fulfil the price stability criterion, Bulgaria, Czechia, Croatia, Hungary, Poland and Sweden fulfil the criterion on public finances, Bulgaria, Czechia, Croatia, Hungary, Poland and Sweden fulfil the long-term interest rate criterion. However none of them meet all the requirements for adoption of the euro. So convergence process is very strict and challenging.

In particular, it should be noted that convergence must be sustainable, meaning that satisfying the economic convergence criteria at one point in time is not enough and they are expected to be met on a lasting basis. A Member State’s general financial position is considered sustainable based on two criteria, namely, the government’s annual fiscal deficit should not exceed 3% of gross domestic product, and overall government should not exceed 60% of gross domestic product. This is very important for northern Cyprus as it will need to ensure that its economy is resilient.

It is known that the Maastricht Treaty provides some flexibility and the final assessment depends on the ECOFIN Council. Whether and how this would apply in the case of northern Cyprus remains a mystery. While details remain unknown to the public, the one-year transition period envisaged in the case of northern Cyprus could be related this. However, it should be noted that the decision on whether north Cyprus can adopt the euro would ultimately be a political one and would lie with the Council of the European Union. This means that representatives from all EU countries would be required to take a decision based on a proposal by the EC and after consulting the European Parliament.

Given that participation in the ERM II is a precondition for as well as fulfilment of the nominal convergence criteria to join the euro, it is binding and is unlikely to be waived for any country regardless of any special circumstances. This is because ERM II provides the framework to manage the exchange rates between EU currencies, which is necessary for exchange rate stability. As such north Cyprus would be expected to participate in the mechanism without devaluing its central rate against the euro before it can qualify to adopt the euro.

While no provision of the EU Treaty states explicitly that Member States with a derogation must have their own currency, the Treaty is by and large based on this assumption. In addition, the entry into ERM II is decided by mutual agreement of all ERM II parties, which consist of the ministers of the euro area Member States, the President of the ECB and the minister and the central bank governor of Denmark, as the only non-euro area Member State currently participating in the mechanism.

So in the case of north Cyprus adoption of the euro could mean that the country should first introduce its own currency. This could be a more viable alternative and north Cyprus could then peg its currency to the euro as a preparation for an eventual switch to the euro. Indeed, some countries joined ERM II with their preexisting currency pegs. To give a recent example, the currencies of Bulgaria and Croatia were already closely tied to the euro at the time of applying to the ERM II. Bulgaria had a currency board, first with the Deutsche Mark, and subsequently with the euro after 1999. Croatia had a peg first with the Deutsche Mark, and from 1999 to the euro, with a narrow band.

During this process, legal requirements should not also been underestimated. Article 140(1) of TFEU requires the convergence reports to assess the compatibility of national legislation, including the statutes of the national central bank and the Statute of the European System of Central Banks and of the ECB. There could also be additional unprecedented requirements and countries may be required to commit to implementing specific policy measures on a variety of topics. For instance, in the case of Bulgaria and Croatia, such requirements range from the anti-money laundering framework, state-owned enterprises and the insolvency framework, to the non-banking financial sector, corruption and even organised crime. It is highly unlikely that the national legislation in north Cyprus is currently compatible with that of the EU as the latest convergence report suggests that the respective national legislations in none of the seven new EU Member States would be deemed “fully compatible” with the exception of Croatia.

In fact, the former north Cyprus President Mustafa Akıncı himself had confessed that “serious work” would needed to ensure the harmonization of the national institutions with the EU acquis. As can be seen in the case of Croatia and Bulgaria, this has now become a prerequisite not only for joining the EU but also in terms of adopting the euro as a new Member State. For instance, this was the main reason behind the delay in Bulgaria’s acceptance to ERM II. Bulgaria was able to get the green light to join ERM II two years after it formally announced its intention to join the mechanism.

The delay was due to the requirement imposed by the Eurozone governments requiring Bulgaria to join ERM II and the Banking Union simultaneously. This prerequisite is known as “the Cooperation Decision” and requires Member States which adopt the euro to also participate in the Banking Union, i.e. the Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM), the Single Resolution Mechanism (SRM) and the Single Resolution Fund (SRF). . Therefore, participating in ERM II with a view to later adopting the euro will also involve preparing for joining the Banking Union.

This requirement will now apply to all future candidates including north Cyprus. However, it should also be noted that the procedure for entering the Banking Union is separate from the assessment of the convergence criteria. Joining the Banking Union is irreversible and involves direct powers of the SSM and the SRM over its banking system. This has important implications for the banking sector as banks that will come under the direct supervision of the ECB will also be subject to the direct supervision of the Single Resolution Board (SRB).

To be more specific, this means that, the ECB will become responsible for the direct supervision of the significant credit institutions following the “significance assessment process”. This applies to banks considered to meet the “materiality criteria” as set out in the SSM Regulation (Regulation 1024/2013) and the SSM Framework Regulation (Regulation 468/2014). The criteria include “economic importance for the country” so could technically apply to banks in north Cyprus despite their insignificant sizes in comparison to the EU economy. Therefore, for new joiners like north Cyprus the accession process would involve not only the harmonization with the aquis but also the strengthening of their institutions and administrative capacity that will enable them to implement and monitor the enforcement of the harmonized legislation.

Therefore, adoption of the euro by north Cyprus, bilaterally or unilaterally, would not be as easy as it may look. More than anything else, this would require political will, courage and determination. The former President Mustafa Akıncı, a devoted supporter of a federal solution and the EU, had set an ambitious target of the euro going into circulation “from the first day” in the case of a reunification. However with the failure of the last reunification talks in 2017 in Crans Montana, Switzerland, political conditions have changed dramatically. The current President Ersin Tatar who is a very passionate proponent of the two-state solution is wholeheartedly against the EU and the euro. Therefore, the general stance towards the adoption of the euro in the northern part of the island remains fragmented. Given these circumstances, adoption of the euro in north Cyprus seems a distant prospect.

Continue Reading

Europe

How Red Are the EU’s ‘Greens’?

Published

on

Blood-red. But that’s a banned fact. (It will be documented in what follows.)

Here are the announced values (the “Guiding Principles”) of the European Green Party:

“Environmental Responsibility”

“Freedom through Self-Determination”

“Extending Justice”

“Diversity, an Indispensable Condition”

“Non-Violence”

“To sum it up, Sustainable Development”

This “Charter of the European Greens” fills-in those blanks by stringing together clichés, which 90% of the pubic will like, because they’re written so as to avoid (as much as possible) saying anything that’s broadly controversial. For example, “Our answer is sustainable development, which integrates environmental, social and economic objectives for the benefit of all.” (Oh? And how is that pap to be realized in actual policies? What are the measures, and the precise priority-rankings, when any of those values conflict with one-another, which is often?) The Green Party is simply conning liberals, but what is their reality? What are they actually doing, when in power? Inside their own country, and in the EU? Let’s take a very concrete (but broadly representative) case:

Germany, as I recently pointed out, is so corrupt that it has virtually no bans on who or what may donate to politicians. Foreign interests can donate, corporations can donate, even corporations that have government contracts (sell to the government) can donate, donations needn’t go through the banking system, donations may be accepted in any amount, anonymous donations are acceptable, etc. It’s super-libertarian. It is open-sesame to billionaires and centi-millionaires (the few people who have the most money) to control the Government by means of their ‘news’-media persuading the voters, and by means of political campaign donations to present the billionaires’ favored candidates’ viewpoints in the most favorable way — and their least-favored candidates in the least favorable way. It’s control by dollars, instead of control by voters. That’s libertarianism.

A March 2015 academic study showed that, of all 28 EU member-nations, the only five that were more corrupt than Germany were Malta, Austria, Denmark, Ireland, and Netherlands. Then, on 10 June 2015, a Pew survey in Germany, Poland, Spain, France, Italy, UK, U.S., and Canada, showed that, among those 8 countries, ONLY Germany (and by a big margin: 57% to 36%) opposed Ukraine joining NATO. However, when German and foreign billionaires s‘elected’ the new German Government that became installed on 8 December 2021, it appointed as the Germany’s new Foreign Minister the Green Party’s losing candidate for Chancellor, Annalena Baerbock, whose entire career as a candidate and as an official was the most notable for her strident advocacy for hostility toward Russia, and for Ukraine to be admitted into NATO (the anti-Russian U.S. military alliance). She thus became — though she lost her campaign for the Chancellorship — the most powerful Green Party politician in Europe or anywhere.

Immediately, she reversed Angela Merkel’s policies which had allowed the Russian-Swiss-German natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, Nord Stream 2, to be constructed to bring into the EU the least expensive of all gas to Germany, which is Russia’s pipelined gas. Gas-prices in Germany are now already soaring, and Germans will increasingly freeze, as a result of this ‘German democracy’ and its obedience to its billionaire masters in America.

However, many European billionaires are also being served by this ‘Green’ Party. Much like America’s Democratic Party (or liberal) billionaires, Europe’s liberal billionaires have been investing heavily in ‘green’ technologies, and are betting against their opposition, conservative billionaires, who are still committed to fossil fuels. So: the ‘Green’ Party represents liberal billionaires, against conservative billionaires. 

On 8 September 2021, “Capital Radar” newsletter bannered “‘Most important choice for the next 100 years’: 1.25 million euros from the Netherlands for the Greens” (“„Wichtigste Wahl der nächsten 100 Jahre”: 1,25 Millionen Euro aus den Niederlanden für die Grünen”) and reported that:

               • A Dutch tech billionaire donates 1.25 million euros to the German Greens.

               • It is the largest donation in the party’s history.

               • In an interview with RND, the major donor explains why Annalena Baerbock should steer the ship of state and why the federal election is so important.

Amsterdam. The Dutch entrepreneur and philanthropist Steven Schuurman [archive.md/ZjwWW] donated 1.25 million euros to the German Greens. It is the largest donation in the party’s history. Billionaire Schuurman, born in 1975, is co-founder and ex-head of the data search and analysis company Elastic and co-founder of Atlantis Entertainment. He has already donated millions in the Dutch election campaign.

The Greens have already received large sums of money this year: the pharmaceutical heir Antonis Schwarz [archive.md/COcng] bequeathed them 500,000 euros; the Greifswald Moritz Schmidt, who got rich through Bitcoin deals, one million euros; and Sebastian Schel’s net heir, 250,000 euros. The election program for the federal election states: “Party donations should be capped at an annual maximum amount of 100,000 euros per donor.” [But Germany has separate laws for candidates, and no limits are placed on donations to them.]

Schuurman was quoted as saying that, of the three candidates for Chancellor, only Baerbock took global warming seriously. He ignored the more pressing and sooner danger of avoiding a nuclear war, on which Baerbock’s policy-commitments are rabidly anti-Russian. No U.S.-and-allied billionaires — either liberal or conservative — are opposed to that. But those policies are blood-red, and now.

At the level of the EU itself, the most powerful person over the entire European Union has been a lifelong hater of Russia, the American billionaire George Soros, who controls the Open Society Foundation and other ’non-profits’ that have poured billions of dollars over decades (starting in 1993, just two years after his self-declared war against communism in Russia had become no longer an excuse when Russia abandoned communism in 1991) into color-revolutions targeted against Russia. On 5 November 2017, Alex Gorka at Strategic Culture, headlined “The Myth of European Democracy: A Shocking Revelation”, and opened:

It’s an open secret that the “Soros network” has an extensive sphere of influence in the European Parliament and in other European Union institutions. The list of Soros has been made public recently. The document lists 226 MEPs from all sides of political spectrum, including former President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz, former Belgian PM Guy Verhofstadt, seven vice-presidents, and a number of committee heads, coordinators, and quaestors. These people promote the ideas of Soros, such as bringing in more migrants, same-sex marriages, integration of Ukraine into the EU, and countering Russia. There are 751 members of the European Parliament. It means that the Soros friends have more than one third of seats.

George Soros, a Hungarian-American investor and the founder and owner of Open Society Foundations NGO, was able to meet with President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker with “no transparent agenda for their closed-door meeting.” 

Many but not all of his agents at the European Parliament are Greens. U.S.-and-allied billionaires donate to all politicians that are ready, willing, and able, to advance the U.S. empire to encompass the entire world, and don’t donate to just to one Party. 

Soros was a major funder of the coup-operation that started in the Obama Administration (led by Victoria Nuland under Hillary Clinton) by no later than June 2011 to overthrow Ukraine’s democratically elected President, Yanukovych, and replace him by a racist-fascist (or nazi) anti-Russian regime and to seize Russia’s largest naval base, which was and is in Crimea, to turn it into a U.S. naval base. (Putin was able to block the latter attempt.) Hillary and Obama had first met with Yanukovych in 2010 and failed to persuade him to push for Ukraine’s NATO membership in NATO, but he said no — NATO then was very unpopular among Ukrainians. During 2003-2009, only around 20% of Ukranians wanted NATO membership, while around 55% opposed it. In 2010, Gallup found that whereas 17% of Ukrainians considered NATO to mean “protection of your country,” 40% said it’s “a threat to your country.” Ukrainians predominantly saw NATO as an enemy, not a friend. But after Obama’s February 2014 Ukrainian coup, “Ukraine’s NATO membership would get 53.4% of the votes, one third of Ukrainians (33.6%) would oppose it.” Obama turned Ukraine around — from being a neutral country on Russia’s border, to being a nazi anti-Russian country. And Annalena Baerbock is a strong backer of today’s nazi Ukraine.

However, the ‘Green’ Party is green in one way: it follows the dollars, not the voters. Other than that way of being green, it’s really only blood-red. Even the ‘Green’ Party’s proposed policies against global warming are futile to prevent global burnout, and they ignore the only policy that, even conceivably, might halt global warming: to outlaw the purchase of stocks and bonds of fossil-fuel-extraction companies. So: they are total fakes. The response of billionaires is to bet either for crackpot business-ventures to halt global warming, or else for extending yet further into the future the use of mainly fossil fuels and ignore even the pretense of caring about the welfare of the generations yet to come. In other words, all billionaires, both liberal and conservative, are really only blood-red, for expanding yet further their empire, in the final analysis.

This doesn’t come from what the voters want; it reflects ONLY what the billionaires want. Here are some data showing that despite all the billionaires’ propaganda for expanding yet further the U.S.-and-allied empire, a majority in some countries — including Germanydon’t want it:

Only Germans “oppose Ukraine joining NATO”: 57% to 36%

“Ukraine Joining EU” opposed by Germans 54% to 41%, opposed by French 53% to 46%

“Oppose Supplyiing Ukraine with Arms Against Russia: Germans 77% to 19%, French 59% to 40%, Italians 65% to 22%.

In 2013, the median favorability of Russia in the EU was 37%; by the time of 2015 it had become 26% — 26/37 or 30% less than only two years earlier, which is to say prior to 

Obama’s having grabbed Ukraine in a very bloody U.S. coup. (Obama was the most successful heir to Hitler since WW II, and was especially successful in jeopardizing the national security of the Russians by grabbing Ukraine on Russia’s border and intensifying the anti-Russian military alliance, NATO, whereas Hitler’s attempt to conquer Russia had turned out to be an colossal failure.)

So, Baerbock — the most powerful ‘Green’ politician in Europe, and even anywhere, though she had failed at the ballot-box — gets here hate (against Russia), her warmongering, not from the voters, but from the sheer cravings of U.S.-and-allied billionaires, to expand their U.S.-and-allied empire, to encompass the entire world. That’s what she (and many Green Party politicians) push for the most.

The ‘Greens” are actually blood-red, for war.

Continue Reading

Publications

Latest

South Asia2 hours ago

S. Jaishankar’s ‘The India Way’, Is it a new vision of foreign policy?

S. Jaishankar has had an illustrious Foreign Service career holding some of the highest and most prestigious positions such as ambassador to...

Finance6 hours ago

PM Kishida Outlines Vision for a New Form of Capitalism

Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio called for a new form of liberal democratic capitalism, balancing economic growth and distribution, in...

Science & Technology8 hours ago

First Quantum Computing Guidelines Launched as Investment Booms

National governments have invested over $25 billion into quantum computing research and over $1 billion in venture capital deals have...

Environment10 hours ago

In Jamaica, farmers struggle to contend with a changing climate

It’s 9 am and the rural district of Mount Airy in central Jamaica is already sweltering. As cars trundle along...

Science & Technology12 hours ago

Closing the Cyber Gap: Business and Security Leaders at Crossroads as Cybercrime Spikes

The global digital economy has surged off the back of the COVID-19 pandemic, but so has cybercrime – ransomware attacks...

New Social Compact14 hours ago

The Social Innovators of the Year 2022

The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship announced today 15 awardees for social innovation in 2022. From a Brazilian entrepreneur using...

Africa Today16 hours ago

FAO launches $138 million plan to avert hunger crisis in Horn of Africa

More than $138 million is needed to assist rural communities affected by extended drought in the Horn of Africa, the...

Trending