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Explainer: The Eastern Partnership post 2020 priorities

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Why is the EU presenting new priorities for the Eastern Partnership beyond 2020?

The Eastern Partnership aims to strengthen and deepen political and economic relations between the European Union, its Member States and the Eastern partner countries and remains a cornerstone of EU’s foreign policy.

As the ‘20 deliverables for 2020′ agenda adopted at the 2017 Summit was running its course, in June 2019 the European Council tasked the European Commission and the High Representative to present a further set of long-term policy objectives beyond 2020. 

The work on the future agenda started with a broad and inclusive consultation conducted in 2019, which concluded with the adoption of the Joint Communication: Eastern Partnership policy beyond 2020: Reinforcing Resilience – an Eastern Partnership that delivers for all  in March 2020, followed by the Council Conclusions on the Eastern Partnership policy beyond 2020 in May.

The Joint Communication identified strengthening resilience as an overarching policy framework, with five long-term policy objectives: i) together for resilient, sustainable and integrated economies; ii) together for accountable institutions, the rule of law and security; iii) together towards environmental and climate resilience; iv) together for a resilient digital transformation; and v) together for resilient, fair and inclusive societies.

At their videoconference in June 2020, the EaP Leaders stated that the proposed framework should form the basis of a new set of post 2020 priorities to be endorsed at the coming Eastern Partnership summit. The shaping of this new agenda took place in an inclusive dialogues with partner countries, Member States and other stakeholders. 

What is in the proposal? What is different/new?

Since its launch in 2009, the Eastern Partnership has delivered concrete, positive results for the partner countries and the EU. Based on these achievements and the results of the broad and extensive consultation conducted in 2019 and 2020, the future priorities for cooperation continue aiming at bringing tangible benefits for people. This will be done through increasing trade, growth and jobs, investing in connectivity, strengthening democratic institutions and the rule of law, supporting the green and digital transitions, and promoting fair, gender-equal and inclusive societies. 

A regional economic and investment plan will support post-COVID socio-economic recovery and long-term resilience, taking into account the ‘build back better’ agenda.

Why have you highlighted/selected top ten targets? Are they more important than the other priorities?  

The comprehensive agenda includes a number of priorities structured around five long-term objectives, all of them equally important to strengthen the cooperation between the EU, its Member States and the partner countries. 

In order to maximise impact and visibility on the ground, and taking into account the results of the consultation, a selection of top ten targets has been providing concrete examples of actions within the wider framework of cooperation. The targets range from additional support to SMEs, to the reduction of energy consumption, from increased access to high speed internet to the support to health workers, from additional support to civil society to better tackling hybrid and cyber threats. 

What do you mean by strengthening resilience? How does it link with recovery and reform?

Resilience is multi-dimensional and contributes towards stability, security and prosperity. The EaP policy beyond 2020 focuses on the modernisation and implementation of sustainable reforms, which are key for investing in a resilient economy, democracy, environment and climate, and society. Continued delivery on the reform agenda, alongside the respect for fundamental and shared values, are and will remain the foundations of our partnership. 

In light of the COVID 19 pandemic and its socio-economic fallout, the new agenda aims for increased investment and proposes and economic and investment plan to support a sustainable socio-economic recovery. The investment pillar is grounded in a dedicated pillar on good governance, rule of law, security, and resilient societies, leaving no one behind. These two pillars will enhance the resilience of all partners.

How will the EU help create jobs and opportunities in EaP countries?

To support the creation of job and economic opportunities in partner countries, the EU is proposing to further deepen the economic integration with and among partner countries, and to increase trade, which has nearly doubled between the EU and partners in the last decade. The EU will support the full implementation of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas (DCFTAs) with Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova, and also encourage enhanced cooperation with non- DCFTA countries, for example through sectoral trade facilitation arrangements of common interest involving all partners.  

How will the new EaP policy address issues of climate change and environmental protection?

Joint work on combating climate change, ensuring more opportunities for greening societies and economies and fostering a circular economy is an integral part of the Eastern Partnership policy framework beyond 2020. The EU will help partner countries to fulfil their nationally determined contributions to the Paris Agreement and modernise their economies, reducing their carbon footprint and moving towards climate neutrality by 2050, while acknowledging the investment challenges and leaving no one behind. This takes even more relevance in the context of the post COVID 19 recovery efforts, as recently acknowledged by EU and EaP Ministers at the 3rd EaP ministerial meeting on environment and climate change held on 22 June 2021.

How will the new EaP policy address digital transformation?

As indicated in the Strategy on Shaping Europe’s digital future, the digital transformation can enable growth and drive sustainable development for both the EU and partner countries. This is why the EU will invest in the digital transformation of the partner countries, in line with EU legislation and best practice, and aim to extend the benefits of the Digital Single market to them. This will allow for better access to digital infrastructure and services, better public services and administration for citizens, the extension of broadband infrastructures especially in regions and local areas, and a strengthened e-Governance.

How will the new EaP policy address challenges to governance, rule of law and the fight against corruption?

Good governance, democracy, the rule of law and human rights are fundamental values that lie at the heart of the EU’s relationship with partner countries and of the Eastern Partnership itself. They are also preconditions for a functioning market economy and for sustainable growth. In particular, the rule of law is a key factor in ensuring an effective business environment and an important consideration in attracting foreign direct investment.

The EU will keep working together with the governments of partner countries to strengthen the rule of law and anti-corruption mechanisms, as well as the independence, impartiality, efficiency and accountability of justice systems, and to reinforce public administration. The EU remains committed to promote and defend human rights in the region, including through its support to civil society and media. 

There needs to be a renewed commitment to the fundamentals of the partnership and better measure the impact of judicial reforms. In this context, the EU will consider progress in rule of law reforms when deciding on assistance.

How is the EU responding to requests for more security cooperation and overall a more geopolitical approach to the Eastern Partnership? 

We have reaffirmed the strategic importance of the Eastern Partnership, as a specific regional dimension of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), supporting sustainable reform processes and offering close political association as well as economic integration with the EU and tangible impact on people’s lives. The Council in its Conclusions has reaffirmed the joint commitment to building a common area of shared democracy, prosperity and stability.

As outlined in the March 2020 Joint Communication on the EaP future, strengthening resilience will be the key overriding policy framework.  It’s not hard security, which does not fall under EU competence, but strengthening joint governance, economic, environmental, energy and societal resilience, cyber security, fighting crime, reinforcing strategic communications, which all comes into the security envelope. 

We will continue working closely with our Eastern neighbours (in bilateral and regional format – e.g. we hold informal strategic security dialogues with Georgia and Azerbaijan) on tackling terrorism and preventing radicalisation, enhancing cooperation on Security Sector Reform, disrupting organised crime, enhancing cybersecurity and fighting cybercrime, Tackling Chemical, Biological radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) threats.

The proposed priorities for future cooperation include strengthening security cooperation by working jointly on issues such as hybrid and cyber threats, participation in EU missions within CSDP, and European Peace Facility assistance measures. 

What is the EU doing to counter instability and unresolved conflicts in the region? 

The Eastern Partnership is not a conflict resolution mechanism. Nevertheless, unresolved conflicts continue to hamper development in the region. Under the agreed negotiating formats and processes, the EU is committed to promote the peaceful settlement of these conflicts.  In particular, the EU will pursue efforts to support conflict prevention, confidence building and the facilitation of negotiated peaceful conflict settlements. 

What has the EU done to help EaP countries tackle the COVID 19 pandemic?

As part of the “Team Europe” approach, the EU has delivered a robust response to support partner countries’ efforts in tackling the pandemic, including €1 billion to address immediate short-term needs, boost the resilience of healthcare systems, and support the socio-economic recovery process. In addition, a macro-financial assistance package was adopted for Ukraine, Georgia and the Republic of Moldova in the form of loans on highly favourable terms to help these countries cover their immediate and urgent financing needs. The Commission has allocated substantial resources for key protective equipment and means of treatment.

Team Europe has mobilised close to €3 billion in support of the COVAX Facility, which remains the priority instrument to ensure equitable and fair access to safe and effective vaccines. All partner countries (except Belarus) participate in the Facility and have received several batches of deliveries. In addition, the Commission is facilitating, through an EU sharing mechanism, the sharing of  vaccines purchased by the Member States under the EU Advanced Purchase Agreements with third countries, directly or through COVAX.. Several Member States have announced direct sharing targeting Eastern partner countries.

To support the roll-out of vaccines, the EU, through a regional programme in cooperation with the World Health Organisation launched on 11 February 2020 and worth €40 million, is providing technical and logistical assistance to the vaccination process in the six partner countries.  The programme will also facilitate the access to vaccines.  

How will the EU help the EaP countries to respond to potential future pandemics? 

The concept of resilience is even more important against the background of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The EU’s programme on vaccine preparedness implemented by the WHO also has a longer term component to strengthen national immunisation systems and improve capacities of the health workforce in the partner countries in vaccine preventable diseases and communication. Beyond this ongoing support, the EU is ready to strengthen health resilience and systems in the partner countries by taking concerted actions to provide affordable medical care and promoting life style changes (healthy living) to reduce the incidence of non-communicable diseases.

How much money will the EU invest?

The implementation of future priorities will be supported through the various EU tools and modalities, including the new ‘Global Europe / NDICI‘ instrument and the Team Europe initiatives bringing together resources and expertise from the EU and its Member States, through the cross-border cooperation programmes and through the partners’ own investments.  Ongoing programming under the new ‘Global Europe’ instrument is in full alignment with the post 2020 EaP policy framework.

The key new element of the Joint Staff Working Document is the economic and investment plan for the Eastern Partnership. By using all available NDICI tools, including the European Fund for Sustainable Development Plus, backed by its External Action Guarantee, it will foster sustainable development and leverage public and private investment. The Economic and Investment Plan will mobilise up to €2,3 billion from the EU budget in grants, blending and guarantees, to stimulate jobs and growth, support connectivity and the green and digital transition. This is expected to leverage potential investments of up the €17 billion to support the post-pandemic recovery and to transform the economies of the Eastern Partnership to make them more sustainable, resilient and integrated. 

What is in the Economic and Investment Plan?

The economic and investment plan for the Eastern Partnership supports the investment pillar presented in the joint staff working document. Transforming the EaP economies to make them more resilient and integrated has become even more urgent in the context of the post-COVID socio-economic recovery.

Investments focus on enhanced transport connectivity; access to finance for SMEs; investments in equity to strengthen competitiveness and integration into EU value chains; support to the digital transition; investment in environment and climate resilience, including energy efficiency; health resilience and human capital development.

EU support under the economic and investment plan should facilitate and leverage public and private investments, by joining the forces of the EU, the European Investment Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, other IFIs; the EU Member States’ development finance institutions (continuing the Team Europe approach); the partner countries’ national, regional and local governments, municipalities where relevant; and private investors.

The European Fund for Sustainable Development will play a critical role in scaling up and leveraging significant volumes of investments. Synergies can also be sought with other financial tools offered by Member States, such as export credits, investment guarantees, etc. The plan will combine actions to be implemented at local, national and regional level, and will be adapted to the specific needs of each partner country (like the economic recovery plan for Moldova, which identifies priority areas for investment). To ensure sustainable impact, the plan also includes investments in innovation and human capital.

Improving the policy and regulatory environment is essential if the investment in the infrastructure is to be effective and to foster sustainable economic and social development.

Why do we have separate country specific flagships?  Which flagships are envisaged for each country

The Economic Investment Plan proposes concrete country flagship initiatives for each of the partner countries. These will contribute to maximise impact and visibility on the ground and concentrate efforts on concrete priority projects that can make a difference to people and businesses in the Eastern Partnership.

EIP: Flagship Initiatives for Armenia Flagship 1: Supporting an innovative and competitive economy: direct support to 30 000 SMEs Flagship 2: Boosting connectivity & socio-economic development: the North-South Corridor Flagship 3: Investing in digital transformation, innovation, science and technology Flagship 4: Building resilience of the Southern regions Flagship 5: Investing in a green Yerevan: energy efficiency and green buses
EIP: Flagship Initiatives for Azerbaijan Flagship 1: Green connectivity: supporting the green port of Baku Flagship 2: Digital connectivity: supporting the digital transport corridor Flagship 3: Supporting an innovative and competitive economy – direct support to 25 000 SMEs Flagship 4: Innovative Rural Development Flagship 5: Smarter and greener cities
EIP: Flagship Initiatives for democratic Belarus (Proposals are indicative and subject to a democratic transition) Flagship 1: Supporting an innovative and competitive economy – direct support to 20 000 SMEs Flagship 2: Improving transport connectivity and facilitating EU-Belarus trade Flagship 3: Boosting innovation and the digital transformation Flagship 4: Supporting a green Belarus – energy efficiency, waste management and infrastructure Flagship 5: Investing in a democratic, transparent and accountable Belarus
EIP: Flagship Initiatives for Georgia Flagship 1: Black Sea Connectivity – Deploying a submarine electricity cable and fibre optic     cable Flagship 2: Transport across the Black Sea – Improving physical connections between Georgia and the EU Flagship 3: Economic Recovery – Supporting 80,000 SMEs to reap the full benefits of the DCFTA Flagship 4: Digital Connectivity for Citizens – Developing high-speed broadband infrastructure for 1,000 rural settlements Flagship 5: Improved Air Quality – Helping over 1 million people in Tbilisi breathe cleaner air
EIP: Flagship Initiatives for the Republic of Moldova Flagship 1: Supporting an innovative and competitive economy – direct support to 50,000 Moldovan SMEs Flagship 2: Boosting EU-Moldova trade – construction of an Inland Freight Terminal in Chisinau Flagship 3: Increasing energy efficiency – expanding the refurbishment of district heating systems in residential buildings (condominiums) in Chisinau and Balti Flagship 4: Improving connectivity – anchoring Moldova in the Trans-European Network for Transport Flagship 5: Investing in Moldova’s human capital and preventing “brain drain” – modernisation of school infrastructure and implementation of the National Education Strategy
EIP: Flagship Initiatives for Ukraine Flagship 1: Supporting an innovative and competitive economy – direct support to 100 000       SMEs Flagship 2: Economic transition for rural areas – assistance to more than 10 000 small farms Flagship 3: Improving connectivity by upgrading border crossing points Flagship 4: Boosting the digital transformation – modernising public IT infrastructure Flagship 5: Increasing energy efficiency – and support for renewable hydrogen

What is in there for Belarus?  How does it link with the Plan for a democratic Belarus presented a few days ago? 

The EU regrets the decision of the Lukashenko regime to suspend its participation in the Eastern Partnership framework. The Eastern Partnership aims to deepen and strengthen relations between the European Union, its Member States and partner countries, with the overall objective of bringing concrete benefits to the citizens of our respective countries. This decision serves only to further isolate Belarus and is yet another demonstration of the regime’s disregard for the Belarusian people, who benefit from the cooperation and various programmes as part of the Eastern Partnership.

The EU remains open to continue working with Belarusian people also within the Eastern Partnership framework and will continue to support the Belarusian people and civil society, as well as their democratic aspirations.

The country flagships for Belarus included in the Economic Investment Plan are fully aligned with the €3 billion comprehensive plan for a democratic Belarus announced in May. The EU offer is conditional to a democratic transition.

How will the new EaP policy address challenges civil society faces?

The Eastern Partnership goes beyond relations with governments. Partnerships with other key stakeholders, such as civil society organisations are equally important.  Working with civil society has become an indispensable element of the Eastern Partnership and plays a vital role in promoting democracy, the rule of law and advancing key reforms.

In this regard, the EaP Civil Society Forum is a unique, multilateral platform for experience-sharing, mutual learning, support and partnership building. The EU will also further develop strategic partnerships with key civil society organisations to strengthen cooperation, build up the leadership skills of civil society activists, and engage with social partners such as trade unions and employers’ organisations. Finally, it will continue to measure CSO space by using the dedicated tool prepared for the Eastern Partnership (CSO meter) and use this as a basis for policy dialogue with the partner countries

Will the EU continue to tackle fake news and disinformation from Russia?

In the wake of growing disinformation against EU values in recent years, the EU has worked to put in place a stronger and more strategic approach to communication. We have strengthened the EU’s communication in partner countries through clear, tailor-made messaging and raising awareness of the positive impact of EU policies and actions to people across the region. Under the new Eastern Partnership framework, there will be a renewed focus on outreach to youth. Strategic communication is crucial for building resilience and is a core duty for policy-makers at the service of citizens.

The EU will also provide training opportunities and capacity building to the partner countries, including on countering hybrid and cyber threats, where appropriate.

What has the EaP delivered in the past 11 years?

Over the past 11 years, the Eastern Partnership has progressed based on common values

mutual interests and commitments, as well as on shared ownership and responsibility. This strategic partnership has matured and evolved with achievements such as Association Agreements (including Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas), a Comprehensive Enhanced Partnership Agreement, Visa Facilitation and Readmission Agreements, visa liberalisations and Partnership priorities, which are today the cornerstones of our relations and cooperation.

Trade between the EU and Eastern partner countries has nearly doubled in the last decade. The EU is the first trading partner for Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine and second biggest for Armenia and Belarus. In the period between 2016 and 2019, trade volumes between the EU and Armenia went up by 27%, by 55% with Azerbaijan, by 40% with Belarus, by 7% with Georgia, by 42% with Moldova and by 50% with Ukraine. Furthermore, over 185,000 small- and medium-sized companies in the Eastern partners have benefitted from EU funding, creating or sustaining 1.65 million jobs.

In the area of transport connectivity, a €20 million technical assistance facility to help implementation of the extension of the Trans-European Transport Network has been set up. The EU’s TENT-T extension foresees 4,800 km of new and rehabilitated roads and railways by 2030, which will open new opportunities for economic development and exchanges between the EU and Eastern partner countries and amongst themselves.

In terms of investments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the fund of the Energy Efficiency Partnership (E5P) now covers all partner countries.  It has provided over €164 million in investment grants to 40 projects benefiting 11.7 million people and leveraging a total investment of almost €1.2 billion. Investments include all six countries and range from the provision of energy efficient trolley buses in Tblisi and Batumi to municipal investments in district heating in Lviv or investments to enhance energy efficiency in public buildings in Yerevan.

The Eastern Partnership is also delivering for the youth and researchers. The EU has supported 100 projects supporting civic engagement and entrepreneurship amongst the young people and 25,000 young people in the region have benefitted from EU4Youth grants to support six large-scale projects to boost youth employment, their employability and transition to work and 1,100 researchers from the region benefit from the Marie Curie scheme. Since 2016, 43,000 students and academic staff from the Eastern partner countries have participated in academic exchanges thanks to Erasmus+ and over 54,000 young people were involved in other exchanges, including volunteering. The European School in Tbilisi is in place since September 2018 allowing students across all partner countries to graduate on European studies; a fully-fledged European School should be established by 2023.    

The structured consultation in 2019 confirmed that the Eastern Partnership is robust and delivering concrete benefits to citizens. The results-oriented approach “20 deliverables for 2020” has delivered notably on stronger economy, stronger connectivity and stronger society. However, challenges remain, particularly when it comes to judicial reform, fighting corruption and organised crime. In addition, issues relating to media independence, civil society space, gender equality and non-discrimination, continue to pose serious concerns. Equally, climate mitigation and environment need to be addressed further. The future agenda will continue to prioritise these jointly agreed key reforms. 

What will happen next? When will the implementation start? 

The proposed future agenda will be discussed with Member States, partner countries and other stakeholders in view of its endorsement at the 6th Eastern Partnership summit in December 2021. 

The preparatory work for the implementation of the future agenda has already started and it will continue in the coming months, including on securing the funds to implement the ambitious agenda.   

Why are you proposing to change the EaP multilateral architecture?

The current multilateral architecture was revised and officially adopted at the 2017 EaP Summit (along with the ‘20 deliverables for 2020′), and it has been operational since 2018.

The 2019 consultation on the future of the EaP showed a clear consensus that the current structures were functional and fit for purpose, as well as the importance of the multilateral dimension of the EaP cooperation. However, the architecture would benefit from: (i) further streamlining; (ii) better operational arrangements (e.g. as regards the preparation and follow-up of meetings); and (iii) more flexibility. Some adjustments are required to accommodate the new priorities.

The underlying principle for the proposed revision is to maintain elements that work and make suggestions to address shortcomings. It is expected that this will be further discussed with EU Member States and partner countries in view of its validation at the EaP Summit in 2021.

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Serbia must reject the ultimatum regarding Kosovo

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Photo: Presidency of Serbia / Dimitrije Goll

The President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic on January 20th  had a meeting with the Western negotiating team about the solution for Kosovo. European mediator Miroslav Lajcak, American envoy Gabriel Escobar, German and French special advisers Jens Ploetner and Emmanuel Bonne as well as Italian prime minister’s adviser Mario Talo once again discussed with the leaders of Serbia (and Kosovo) the plan(ultimatum) that should regulate relations between Belgrade and Pristina. Officially, the plan for a peaceful solution has not been presented to the public. However, Serbian media published the text of the plan and they clearly emphasize that it is an ultimatum from Quinta.  And what is even more important, no one from the Government of Serbia denied it.

Which clearly tells us that the Government of Serbia is releasing the plan(ultimatum) as a trial balloon. However, that decision turned out to be wise, because the reactions of the citizens of Serbia to the plan were more than clear on the point of view that the plan was unacceptable. Because that agreement, among other things, requires that Serbia in practice (de facto) recognize the violent secession of its own Province that is, allow Kosovo to join the United Nations.

The plan compiled by the advisers of the leaders of the two largest democracies in Europe – French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz – represents a gross violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1244, the basic principles of democratic international relations, the UN Charter, and the OSCE Final Document.

The plan(ultimatum) for Kosovo, humiliates Serbia and the Serbian people by ordering that Serbia respect equality, sovereignty, territorial integrity and the so-called state symbols of Kosovo and all other countries, except it`s own sovereignty, territorial integrity and it`s internationally recognized borders confirmed by the UN, OSCE and other international organizations. Serbia is expected to cooperate in dismantling its own integrity, its own constitutional order and international reputation, so that no one could use the “Kosovo case” as a precedent for unilateral secessions, which primarily refers to Ukraine.

The fact that currently five members of the European Union (Spain, Romania, Slovakia, Greece and Cyprus) and four members of NATO do not recognize the independence of Kosovo shows how bad the acceptance of the plan would be for Serbia. The goal is also to place all responsibility for the victims and destruction on Serbia, as a victim of the NATO aggression in 1999, and to use this act to justify the aggression against Serbia, which was carried out against the international law.

Kosovo is not a frozen conflict, as claimed in the West and repeated by official Belgrade, nor it can be resolved by an ultimatum to Serbia. The best example of this is Cyprus, which was invaded by Turkey in 1974, and despite this, neither Turkey nor Cyprus (or Greece) agree to any ultimatums, nor does anyone give them. The question must be asked here, how is it possible for Quinta to issue an ultimatum to Serbia and why are the Serbian Government and the President of Serbia allowing it?!

The Serbian Government must apply new tactics

Negotiations on Kosovo with Quinta must first be conducted on essential matters. And that means, above all, the protection of the current Serbian population in Kosovo and the return of the 250,000 expelled Serbs. Regulating the status of Serbian state property in Kosovo, which was seized by the separatist government in the province. Plus, the return of stolen property to the Serbs, who were forcibly expelled from the province.

Also, bearing in mind the aggressive policy of the Kosovo separatists, who, contrary to the agreement with NATO, are sending special units to the north of the province, while perpetrating violence against the Serbs, a new strategy is needed. And this is primarily reflected in the fact that the Government of Serbia must help establish the Republika Srpska in the north of Kosovo. This means that the local Serbs would have their own police(including a special police unit), judiciary, prosecutor’s office, education, health care and control over border crossings. In other words, parity would be established in the armed forces, bearing in mind that it is not realistic to expect that Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic will ever approve the sending of the Serbian Army to Kosovo. In this way, Serbia would strategically strengthen its positions and would wait for a change on the geopolitical scene of the world, until favorable conditions are created for the full return of the southern Serbian province of Kosovo to Serbia.

Otherwise, if Serbian Government agree to Kosovo’s entry into the United Nations, it would mean that Kosovo could unite with Albania, about which Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti also publicly spoke about. This would than open the issue of secession from Serbia of the Presevo Valley and the geographical region of Sandzak. And what is even more important, an incredibly strong pressure to abolish Republika Srpska in Bosnia and Herzegovina would begin. All of the above would have catastrophic consequences for the country of Serbia, but also for the entire Balkans.

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“The starry heavens above me…”* A plea for awareness and peace

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*Immanuel Kant: “Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the more often and steadily we reflect upon them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me.” 

In the neighborhood with Russia

Who is actually aware today where the border of the former German Empire was once located? Or how far to the northeast the village of Nimmersatt and the nearby coaching inn Immersatt actually lay?   Nimmersatt was located at the northern tip of East Prussia, surrounded by the Baltic Sea to the west and Russia to the east and north. Russia – then Russian Lithuania – was our direct neighbor until 1918. The Memel territory was traditionally Prussian borderland, 120 km long and 40 km wide, stretching north along the Memel River. In 1422, the Treaty of Melnosee established the frontier, which remained almost unchanged until 1920. After the Pyrenean border, it is the second oldest in Europe.

Source: : de-academic.com

Located on the imperial border, Nimmersatt was the former German Empire’s most northeastern spot and was last in German hands in 1945.[1] Like Nimmersatt, there are many seemingly vanished places and landscapes in historic eastern Germany. But they have for the most part disappeared. These places bear witness to the fact that many Germans, consciously or unconsciously, are still deeply rooted in these seemingly vanished landscapes.

The German soul is closely connected with the East and its territories, especially with Germany’s historical East, including East and West Prussia and the Memel territory.

According to estimates, about 14 million refugees had to leave their homes after the Second World War, losing everything, all their belongings. About 2 million died in transit, and Germany lost a quarter of its territory.

As Simone Weil (1909–1943) once put it: “Rootedness is probably the human soul’s most important and most misunderstood need.”

Crises, conflicts and silver lining

If you look at today’s world, you see crises everywhere, wars and deep divisions in our societies. Fears are being fueled and images of “the enemy” that were actually long forgotten are being revived. The war that has been raging in Ukraine since 2014 has now escalated on the European continent into a proxy war between the United States and Russia. Russia is being declared the enemy. With its arms deliveries and military support,[2] Germany has also officially entered into the war with Russia.

What immeasurable suffering wars visit on mankind – a painful truth also understood by members of Germany’s “war generation” and their descendants, especially those with roots in Germany’s historical East. Germans and Russians look back on a common and consequential past; we share one of history’s darkest and most horrible chapters, beginning with Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941 and the subsequent conquest of East Prussia by the Red Army.

Whatever happened, a shared history connects peoples, and Germans and Russians will therefore always be connected

Civilians are and always have been the ones who suffer most in war. During the Second World War, from 1939 to 1945, the Soviet Union had the most casualties: 24 million people,[3] 14.3 million of them civilians. Germany had a total of 7.7 million casualties, of which 2.2 million belonged to the civilian population.

In her old age, Mama, my mother, could still recall the terrifying whistling sound of the rocket launchers known as “Stalin organs.”[4]  During thunderstorms and when fireworks were being shot off, she would begin to shiver and sought shelter. Yet despite all the war trauma, the attachment to Germany’s historical East is part of the German soul and an integral part of the German cultural nation. Not for nothing was I christened Katja. Mama and my grandmother often affectionately called me “Katjuscha”[5] in their East Prussian dialect – a reference to the old Russian folk song.

The horrible sound of the Stalin organs was eventually forgotten. Bridges of reconciliation between Russians and Germans were built in large numbers after World War II, something that fortunately continues to happen.

Having left the Cold War behind us, which divided the world into good and evil or West and East, the world is evolving into a more complex, multipolar place – a multipolar world that could again give humanity a chance to create a new global world order of peaceful coexistence.

This might be possible were it not for the US, which seems to be resisting a multipolar world with all its might: The US wants to continue to assert its supremacy and influence worldwide. It has basically never withdrawn from Germany, and does not accept any other powers on the world stage. This US influence is expressed above all in the strategies of NATO and the EU, since they again rely on images of Russia and China as “the enemy” and on exclusion and division.

Shaktarp – when life comes to rest

The “Fifth Season” – Shaktarp in Lithuanian or, in Russian, Rasputitsa – is a special time, between the winter and spring season. It is the time of floods, of inundated meadows. This time was also called the time of “roadlessness” – the Memel territory and neighboring lowlands were neither passable, nor navigable during this period.[6] Life and people came to rest and there was thus time for reflection. Perhaps this is what our world sorely needs now.

It seems to me just the right time to pause, to rediscover and feel the magic of life. A magic that comes from looking at a piece of amber through which the sun is shining. Often found near the Baltic Sea, amber continues to fascinate people to this day. Sometimes known as the tears or gold of the gods, amber was once an important commodity, more valuable than gold, and it made its way across Europe on ancient trade routes from the Baltic Sea to Southern Europe and North Africa – one of the beginnings of globalization, or, rather, of the bonds that bring people together.

In addition to the Silk Road, the Amber Road has connected people, drawing them under the spell of this magical substance, which shines brighter than the sun.[7]

“States don’t have friends, states only have interests”

The observation made in 2013 by Egon Bahr, the German politician known for a commitment to peace and détente, remains true today: “International politics is never about democracy or human rights. It is about the interests of states. Remember that, no matter what they tell you in history class.[8] Otto von Bismarck and Charles de Gaulle, among others, have also pointed out that feelings and values have no place in politics. Only “interests and reciprocity should be used as a guideline.”[9]

Therefore, it is more important than ever to accept realities and define national interests. Values are volatile and often subject to the current zeitgeist. For example, no one called for a “feminist values-based foreign policy” until a German foreign minister from the Green Party did so. The much “cited community of values is not a form of governance, as it has not been legitimized by any democratic process.” [10]

We have been living in a multipolar world for a long time, with different forms of governments, democracies, dictators and authoritarian regimes.  But our international institutions and organizations, which were created after the Second World War, have not been updated.

According to a study by The Economist in 2021, only 45% of the world’s population lives in countries with democratic structures.[11] The ostensibly promising narrative of “change through trade” has not come to fruition. The expansion of economic relations with China that began in 1978 has been driven solely by economic gain. Even today, China offers a huge market for foreign products. The expansion of economic relations and the opening of the country in turn has helped move a significant part of the Chinese population out of poverty, and China’s technological backwardness has been quickly overcome. Both sides, the West and China, were and still are exclusively concerned with economic interests and geopolitical influence in Eurasia.

What is new, among other factors, is that the military no longer has a monopoly on wars and conflicts. We are increasingly experiencing ideologically fueled media and propaganda wars that deeply divide the population, make factual debates almost impossible, and drive humanity into division and thus into wars.

Ideology prevails over common sense and the heart

Fear and hatred are mighty propaganda tools – e.g., fear of the virus, fear of CO2 and distrust of Russia and China. The laborious and decades-long process of reconciliation between Germans and Russians, among others, has come to a standstill. Not only have economic relations been broken off, but cultural exchange has also come to a halt. Russian artists are being disinvited from performing if they have not publicly taken a clear stand against Putin. Political attitudes have become more important than art, and ideological attitudes are determining economic orientations and political decisions.

China – the surveillance state

The narrative of “change through trade” is now a thing of the past. China continues to pursue its “Grand Strategy.” What were once the dynasties of the Chinese Empire have become – since the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949 – the Communist Party, with current President Xi Jinping as its head, as emperor. In accordance with the “Chinese Dream,” the country is striving to become Number 1 in the world in all areas, including military power.

The drastic end of its zero-Covid policy shows how capable China is. The Chinese government has reacted, in a way that saves face, to the “spontaneous protests” and thus shown strategic flexibility. Thus, Xi Jinping has not only done the Chinese economy a great favor by lifting all Covid measures, he has also cemented his power and the power of the Communist Party. The transformation into a different system, propagated for so long by the West as justification for maintaining economic relations with an authoritarian regime, now seems more unlikely than ever. On the contrary, the Chinese government continues to pursue its strategy and to build a perfectly controlled, highly technological surveillance state.

China thus remains a very flexible economic partner and geopolitical player. This requires an equally flexible China strategy on the part of other countries. Supply chain disruptions must always be taken into consideration, investments in China should be thought about carefully and protected. Potential dependencies in the area of critical infrastructure and products, such as upstream inputs for pharmaceuticals, should always be avoided. Yet this also applies to economic relations with non-authoritarian regimes.

Moreover, dealings with China, economic and political, should be free of emotion, determined only by the relevant economic interests and reciprocity, for the benefit of all concerned parties. The fact is: China continues to go its own way and is a country in which the individual and individual freedoms play a very limited role.

Ideology has great importance in China – an ideology that is not only intended to hold the population together internally, but is the guiding principle externally for every political step on the world geopolitical stage. In dealing with China, one’s own national interests and reciprocity should always be the guiding principle. This applies not only to interactions with China, but especially to those with Russia as well.

We are all connected to each other.

Russia and the German soul

Let’s be realistic: Russia is a nuclear power; economic sanctions will not harm it in the long run as a country that is almost immeasurably rich in raw materials. On the contrary, sanctions allow Russia to diversify its gas market and thus no longer depend on just one customer.

A prime example:  the reactivation of the economic corridor running from China to Mongolia to Russia.[12] Further, the Russian gas pipeline to China will replace Nordstream 2.[13] In the course of securing its energy supply, China wants to keep its energy mix balanced and is thus increasing the share of natural gas. India is also a grateful purchaser of Russian gas.

Something that shows a decoupling from Russia is not so simple is the fact that from January to October 2022, Europe’s LNG imports increased by 40% over 2021. Russian LNG accounted for 16% of total European marine imports, with the main customers being France, Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands.[14] Instead of low-cost and environmentally friendly pipeline gas, the focus is now on LNG.

The resulting damage is now being felt by Germany in particular, as an industry-intensive and, compared to Russia, resource-poor country. The growing home-made energy crisis is driving deindustrialization in Germany; large companies are increasingly thinking of leaving the country; medium-sized enterprises – once the backbone of the German economy – are increasingly being destroyed; the country’s economic performance is declining; unemployment and poverty are the consequences.

And wasn’t the attack on Nordstream 2 the first terrorist attack against Germany since World War II?

The decisions and actions of the current Federal Government, with Olaf Scholz as Chancellor, are not in accordance with the oath taken “to prevent harm to the German people.”

“I swear that I will devote my strength to the welfare of the German people, increase its benefit, avert harm, uphold and defend the Basic Law and the laws of the Federation, fulfill my duties conscientiously, and ensure justice for all. (So help me God.)”

With or without God’s help, arms deliveries and military support to Ukraine, the homemade energy crisis, the intolerable excesses of gender-neutral language, so-called wokeness, cancel culture and uncontrolled immigration are also destroying not only the German soul, language and culture and putting pressure on the national budget, they are also continuing to widen already deep social divisions. None of this works to the benefit of Germany and the German people.

The power of culture, history and geography

“… the continuity of the state without which Germany would be much poorer – Germany did not come out of nowhere. Prussia was one of the most formative great powers in Europe and one of the most modern states in the world, with its effective administration, literacy down to the last street in the last village, and the rule of law at all levels.[15]

While there were serious political instabilities in the Weimar Republic, as the largest member of the German Empire, Prussia was politically very stable. Otto von Braun,[16] Prussian prime minister from 1920 to 1932 and a diehard Prussian and Social Democrat, reformed the state and school systems. Prussia was thus a “reliable pillar of the Weimar Republic.” But, following the so-called “Prussian blow,”[17] von Braun was removed from office.

The Reich’s control over Prussia, especially over the Prussian police, made it much easier for Adolf Hitler to establish a dictatorial regime in the course of the National Socialist takeover in 1933.[18]

The power of culture and shared history together with geography are enduring cornerstones that provide a strong foundation. “Between Russia and America lie oceans. Between Russia and Germany lies a great history,” wrote historian Michael Stürmer.[19] Vladimir Putin also quoted Stürmer in his speech to the German Bundestag on September 25, 2001.

Building bridges

My unshakable optimism tells me that it is not too late to return to our fundamental power, our culture and history, in order to create a new world order based on peaceful coexistence. What’s more, because of its geographic location, Germany should serve as a bridge between East and West.

Authoritarian regimes can only be changed from within, by their own people. Thus, Germany, too, can only free itself from its shackles from within, leaving behind the seemingly endless moralizing blame game and victimization loop and returning to what we Germans actually are: peace-loving, creative, innovative, technically expert and culturally sensitive.

How else should one interpret the famous “golden 20s” of the early 20th century? Here are some examples: Within a short time and despite the immense reparation claims made by the victorious powers based on the Versailles Treaty of June 28, 1919,[20] defeated Germany became the second most powerful industrial nation after the US – thanks to US credits, because banks in the US had faith in Germany’s economic power.  Further, as the treaty also prohibited motorized flight, some Germans made a virtue out of necessity, tinkered a bit and invented the glider.[21]

The economic basis for Germany’s return to its fundamental strength, to its roots, is first and foremost the need for a drastic reduction in the state administration and the number of its government employees.  The state should return to its original tasks: ensuring there is efficient infrastructure; a high-quality and affordable health-care system; high-quality, affordable and humane care for those in need; an excellent and free system of education; as well as ensuring internal and external security – in keeping with the oath taken to act for the good of the German people.

Changing our view of the world

The press, education and the health-care system, among others, must no longer be subject to competition and profit maximization, and could be transformed instead into foundations, for example.

Only a free press can ensure freedom of opinion and access to the full range of information. The monopoly of state media – such as broadcasters ARD and ZDF – and the ownership of media by billionaires – the Springer, Bertelsmann (Mohn) and Holtzbrinck families, among others – must end to create space for alternative media and sources of information. We need be well informed in order to become critical-thinking people in the sense of Immanuel Kant’s saupe aude.

The education system and especially the health-care system and pharmaceutical companies and their research must not be driven by profit maximization. Hospitals must not be run like businesses – health should be their exclusive concern. Old people’s and nursing facilities should be outfitted with the best possible equipment. The staff should be optimally paid. Profit should not play a role; all efforts should be guided by the desire to help people experience a graceful and respectful end to earthly life.

The divine within us and awareness

In his writings, Jacques Ancel, French geographer and geopolitician, proposed an identity of the heart, and a nation of the heart – the idea that people can connect and create a community based on a common history, language and culture. 

This path back to the heart reconnects us as human beings to the divine. We are all “soul people.” We are spiritual beings that come from the same source. This spiritual or divine expresses itself differently in various cultures and traditions, be it religion, Buddhism, shamanism or a closeness to nature.

We should shift back from the cold rational mind to the feelings of the heart. By doing so, we can create a new world view and a new world order. Such a reconnection to the heart and the divine in us would enable us to look at life and nature with reverence and love once again.

May we all become aware once again of our humanity and the many things that connect us.

Identity of the Heart – Back to the Roots – We Are All Love

References and further reading

Ancel, Jacques (1938):  Géographie des frontières, Gallimard.

Banik, Katja (2022): Im Rausch des Bernsteins – der historische Osten Deutschlands, www.katjabanik.com

Banik, Katja (2021): A clear view eastwards: Russia and Germany, www.katjabanik.com

Banik, Katja (2021): Without roots, no future. Decoupling ideologies, www.katjabanik.com

Bode, Sabine (2009): Kriegsenkel. Die Erben der vergessenen Generation, Klett-Cotta.

Brzezinski, Zbigniew (1998): The Grand Chess Board, Basic Books.

Die Bundesregierung (2022): Krieg in der Ukraine, www.bundesregierung.de

Deutscher Bundestag: Wortprotokoll der Rede Wladimir Putins im Deutschen Bundestag am 25.9.2001.

https://www.bundestag.de/parlament/geschichte/gastredner/putin/putin_wort-244966

Deutsch Historisches Museum (2022): Lebendiges Museum Online, Berlin.

Euractiv (2022): Russia says pipeline to China will replace Nordstream 2.

Dohnanyi, Klaus (2022): Nationale Interessen, Siedler Verlag, München.

Graichen, Hesse (2012): Die Bernsteinstraße. Verborgene Handelswege zwischen Ostsee und Nil, Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag, Hamburg.

Jähner, Harald (2022): Höhenrausch. Das kurze Leben zwischen den Kriegen. Rowohlt-Berlin.

Kossert, Andreas (2009): Kalte Heimat: Die Geschichte der deutschen Vertriebenen nach 1945, Pantheon Verlag.
Lasch, Otto (1959): So fiel Königsberg, Gräfe und Unzer Verlag.

Namzhilova, Victoria (2022): Economic Corridor China – Mongolia- Russia: Infrastructure in Focus, RIAC.

ostexperte.de, Nachrichten aus Russland und China, Berlin.

Putin, Wladimir (2021): Offen sein, trotz Vergangenheit, Gastbeitrag vom 22.6.2021 in der WochenzeitungDie Zeit.

https://www.zeit.de/politik/ausland/2021-06/ueberfall-auf-die-sowjetunion-1941-europa-russland-geschichte-wladimir-putin/komplettansicht

Pölking, Hermann (2022): Das Memelland. Wo Deutschland einst zu Ende war, bre.bra. verlag, Berlin

RedaktionsNetzwerkDeutschland (2022): www.rnd.de. Hannover.

Statista (2022): https://de.statista.com/statistik/daten/studie/1055110/umfrage/zahl-der-toten-nach-staaten-im-zweiten-weltkrieg/

Segelflugzeug.org (2022): www.segelflugzeug.org

Teltschik, Horst (2019): Russisches Roulette: Vom kalten Krieg zum kalten Frieden, C. H. Beck.

The Economist (2022): https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2022/02/09/a-new-low-for-global-democracy?fsrc=core-app-economist?utm_medium=social-

Wagener, Martin (2021): Der Kulturkampf um das deutsche Volk. Der Verfassungsschutz und die nationale Identität der Deutschen, Lau Verlag.


[1] Pölking (2022): Das Memelland. Wo Deutschland einst zu Ende war.

[2] Bundesregierung.de (2022) War in Ukraine.

[3] Statista (2022): https://de.statista.com/statistik/daten/studie/1055110/umfrage/zahl-der-toten-nach-staaten-im-zweiten-weltkrieg/

[4] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VduZuCsqL00

[5] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=acPvvv1gqGg

[6] Pölking (2022): Das Memelland. Wo Deutschland einst zu Ende war.

[7] Graichen, Hesse (2013): Die Bernsteinstraße.

[8] Bahr (2013) Conversation with students, „Willy Brandt Reading Week,” Friedrich Ebert House Heidelberg.

[9] Otto von Bismarck.

[10] Dohnanyi (2021): Nationale Interessen.

[11] The Economist (2022): https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2022/02/09/a-new-low-for-global-democracy?fsrc=core-app-economist?utm_medium=social-

[12] RIAC (2022): https://russiancouncil.ru/en/analytics-and-comments/analytics/economic-corridor-china-mongolia-russia-infrastructure-in-focus/

[13] Euractiv (2022): https://www.euractiv.com/section/energy/news/russia-says-pipeline-to-china-will-replace-nord-stream-2-2/

[14] Rnd (2022): https://www.rnd.de/wirtschaft/fluessiggas-aus-russland-europa-importiert-rekordmenge-Y4DHLEMMPFEB5A5VSWZSLTVCD4.html

[15] PAZ, No. 47, 25.11.2022.

[16] German Historical Museum (DHM), https://www.dhm.de/lemo/biografie/otto-braun

[17] DHM, https://www.dhm.de/lemo/kapitel/weimarer-republik/innenpolitik/preussenschlag

[18] DHM, https://www.dhm.de/lemo/kapitel/weimarer-republik/innenpolitik/preussenschlag

[19] ostexperte.de, https://ostexperte.de/deutschland-und-russland-teil-1/

[20] DHM, Berlin. https://www.dhm.de/lemo/kapitel/weimarer-republik/aussenpolitik/versailler-vertrag.html

[21] Glider.org, http://www.segelflugzeug.org/segelflug_geschichte.php

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Europe

The Ukrainian Crisis and its Impact on the European Security Governance and Global Legal Order

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Emergency services are working around the clock to deal with the consequences of Russia`s strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure. (file photo). Photo from the State Emergency Service of Ukraine

Authors: Abhinav Mehrotra and Amit Upadhyay*

As the attack on Ukraine continues by the Russian Military, there is a need to understand the continued impact of such attacks on global governance and legal order. The illegal annexation of Ukrainian territories has been one of the most shocking incidents affecting the world order since World War II ended. It sets a dangerous precedent for all independent nations formerly part of big empires from asserting their own identity as sovereign nations as per international and domestic norms.

Historically, the modern Ukraine crisis began with Nikita Khrushchev’s 1954 transfer of Crimea from the Russian Socialist Federal Republic to the Ukrainian Socialist Federal Republic in order to commemorate the 300th anniversary of Ukraine-Russia unification. The crisis further extenuated during the 1990s after the disintegration of the USSR, when the Western leaders understood that Russia must not be labelled as a defeated state. It was in this background that the West was to assume responsibility to develop post-Cold War structures, processes, perceptions, and activities by balancing the European nation’s interests and promoting democratic and liberal values, alongside keeping Russia within the framework.

Further adding to the complexity was the fact that NATO, under the US leadership, developed a complicated architecture where NATO’s integrated military command structure would be preserved. The aim was to develop close relationships with the European countries that later took the form of the European Union. Surprisingly, during these deliberations, the United States and other NATO nations never took into consideration the fact that it may be Russia’s will to remove the NATO like the Warsaw pact and have an equal role in developing a new institution for ensuring security.

Nonetheless, the act of a nation ie Russia exercising control over the political decision-making of another independent nation ie Ukriane  with the objective to retain in its influence using force undermines various key principles of international law. It is argued by Russia that the West including the European Union (“EU”) has failed to understand Russia’s security interests whereas the EU argues that a serious diplomatic effort is necessary to re-establish the core principles of the European political order which Russia so far have failed to do.

What needs to be understood  is that for Russia, the defiance in the post-Soviet Union era world order can be traced to the act of taking Pristina airport with paratroopers in 1999 based on a presumed occupation by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) which is similar to the ongoing Ukrainian Crisis where NATO’s eastward expansion has been cited as the reason for anticipatory self-defense

Cut to the present, the annexation of Crimea, aggression against Ukraine and the illegal annexation of Ukrainian territories by Russia have far-reaching implications for European and global security. It challenges certain basic assumptions underlying the western policy in the post-Cold War era of treating Russia more as a partner than an adversary and considering Europe essentially stable and safe from invasion. The lack of an EU strategic framework to deal with security challenges in relation to Russia. EU needs to have a more robust defence posture requiring it to revisit its defence strategies especially when the possibility of Russian aggression against other European states cannot be excluded. The Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) responsible for supporting revised security policies has been insufficient as Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence is seen as essential indicator for future European security governance. The CSDP sought autonomy from North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (“NATO”) to have Europeans provide for their own security as a strategic doctrine, but it has since generated limited autonomous military capacity.

In this context, there is need to analyse to what extent Russia’s intervention in Ukraine is based on the assertive defence of its interests in its neighbourhood inspired by a revisionist challenge to the European rules-based system of security governance and how it impacts global order. The need of the hour is to see how International Community, States and Multilateral Institutions respond to Russia’s actions to provide the balance between the requirements of European security and the resources available to support it as International law is dealing with the unique challenge posed by Russia’s defiant behaviour including the acts of claiming exclusive rights and privileges; the need to claim a higher position in the international social hierarchy due to diminished reputation and importance, relative to other nations; and a belief that all these actions are necessary for national prestige, security and wealth

Going forward, the United Nations Security Council and other multilateral institutions need to be democratized to accommodate the differing views considering contemporary geopolitical realities. The inclusive collective security institutions are the need of the hour, and they should be accountable to the international legal framework for inclusive global governance.

*Amit Upadhyay is an  Associate Professor at O.P. Jindal Global University and holds an LL.M.  in European and International Law from Freie Universität, Berlin, Germany. His research interests include Constitutional Law, Legal Theory and Human Rights.

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