Connect with us

Europe

Where to go, Global Britain?

Avatar photo

Published

on

Image source: ndtv.com

After month-long debates, bargains and secret deals among the ruling elite of the United Kingdom, Conservative Party members have chosen foreign secretary Liz Truss to be the next leader of the Party. It was announced by Graham Brady who acts the chair of the 1922 Committee since this body is charged with overseeing the election of new leaders of the Party. He confirms that Truss had won more votes than former finance minister Rishi Sunak as the poll shows Truss defeated Sunak by 81,326 votes to 60,399, a closer result than many pundits expected, winning 57 percent of votes cast compared to Sunak’s 43 percent. The lowest margin of victory of any Conservative leader.

                 There is no question that no matter whether you like this result or not, this is the domestic politics of Britain though not by its people or for its people. Like she did in her victory speech, Truss pledged action to deal with the cost-of-living crisis aiming to deliver a great victory for the Conservative Party in 2024. This piece also wishes UK all the best along the way to deal with the energy crisis and economic slow-down as Global Britain of the 21st century rather than to dream the legacy of the British Empire of the old days.

                 Historically speaking, there have been only two global powers in the real sense as what Europeans still sometimes refer to as “Anglo-American” powers: United Kingdom and the United States. Walter Mead put it that “The British Empire was, and the United States is, concerned not just with the balance of power in one particular corner of the world but also the evolution of what we today call “world order”. A worldwide system of trade and finance have made both Britain and America rich, those riches are what gave them the capabilities to project the military force based on the latest technology globally to ensure the stability of their-dominated international systems.” Now acting as the Anglo-American axis in anti-Russian coalition, it is necessary to dissect new British Prime Minister Liz Truss in terms of foreign policy and international order.

                 As an Oxford graduate and a political admirer of the famed Margaret Thatcher, Liz Truss has demonstrated obvious aspiration and steady pursuit of the UK’s 56th prime minister although she has been described by quite a few media comments as a Chameleon political hack. Truss has risen rapidly through the ranks within one decade only: being elected as an MP in 2010, joining the government in 2012, the cabinet in 2014 and named foreign secretary in 2021. However, this piece tries to keep distances from any discussions on personality or nationality but exclusively focuses on her statecrafts and wisdom as she belongs to British political hierarchy. It is true that some specialists have argued that Liz Truss doesn’t have the intellectual heft required to serve her country and the world peace. Domestically, she shows social courtesy to her campaign competitor Rishi Sunak as she praised him in her acceptance speech saying, “since it’s been a hard-fought campaign, I think we both have shown the depth and breadth of talent in our Conservative party.” However, she equally said her first correspondence would be with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. This leads to a prospect that her foreign policy will be based on ideology or pragmatism in dealing with the conventional and non-conventional security issue in the world. A question asked repeatedly during her successful campaign to become leader of the Conservative Party was “who is the real Liz Truss.”

                 Internationally, Truss has not convinced the world that she is capable and wise in dealing with all major issues although she has served the UK’s Foreign Secretary. For example, she already has a testy relationship with the EU as a result of her hardline approach to the Northern Ireland protocol and there are few signs of deviation. She is strong backer of Ukraine, a vociferous critic of Russia and has taken a hard rhetorical line on China. Given this, it is likely that she acts as the new prime minister but inherits formidable challenges, constraints that will test her ideology and walking a political tightrope. Particularly for those who seek a better China-UK relationship, the road ahead under Truss could be bumpier than before, e.g., under her tenure as the UK’s Foreign Secretary, Truss has already given us a taste of what her style could be like. She has been a fierce anti-China hawk within the government and on the international stage. According to a report by POLITICO, Truss made the decision to cut funding for the Great Britain China Centre, an agency of the Foreign Office aimed at promoting “mutual trust and understanding between UK and China.” She had suggested that the UK should arm China’s Taiwan region so that “it has the ability to defend itself” against the Chinese mainland. She has been in lockstep with the U.S.’ Indo-Pacific strategy, joining it and Australia in forming AUKUS, and declared the need for building a “network of liberty” – an overused rhetoric in recent years that has become synonymous with attacking China. Echoing the U.S. strategy in Indo-Pacific, Truss has called for a “global NATO” while calling on the UK’s relationship with Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia to be “turbo-charged.” She has also been developing greater depth of cooperation between the UK and ASEAN. There has been a widely circulated report by media outlets like The Times and Daily Mail saying that Truss is expected to make an unprecedented move by classifying China as a “threat” to the UK’s national security once she becomes the prime minister. However, former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating put it earlier this year when he said that Truss had made “demented” comments about Chinese military aggression in the Pacific, saying that “Britain suffers delusions of grandeur and relevance deprivation”.

                 Can the world trust Liz Truss since she is not trustable and more lacks intellect and any moral compass in politics except imperial arrogance and cultural ignorance to the world beyond Britain. There seems to be universal inquiry into if she shares several traits with a former US president who claimed to be a stable genius but who sealed all his academic records. Even domestically, Truss is well on the way to enabling and encouraging the break-up of the “‘United’ Kingdom”. She seems to be, like Trump, a bull in a China shop. And in a poll conducted last week, based on 1,500 voters and carried out by Redfield & Wilton Strategies found that Labor’s Starmer was four points ahead of Truss, with 39 per cent backing him against 35 per cents supporting her. That means, has Truss finally reached her level of incompetence, by becoming PM? She may well see herself as Elizabeth I and/or Margaret Thatcher all rolled into one. She will need a quick victory in a little war to compel popular support, but the UK’s political and economic decline is unlikely to be reversed. Due to this scenario, we can say only in a frank way: “Good luck to Great Britain under your new PM”.

Wang Li is Professor of International Relations and Diplomacy at the School of International and Public Affairs, Jilin University China.

Continue Reading
Comments

Europe

Smile Diplomacy: From Putin to Macron

Avatar photo

Published

on

Photo:kremlin.ru

In the world of politics, what should be done when things don’t go according to plan? The answer of Talleyrand, the French politician of the 18th and 19th centuries, was simple: organize a conference!

Perhaps it is due to this lesson from the French politician and diplomat that Vladimir Putin held his conference under the title of “Economic Boom of the East” in the port of Vladivostok, and French President Emmanuel Macron is going to start his conference under the title of “Political Council”, Europe” next month in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic.

Let’s talk about Putin first. No matter how we look at it, the course of things is not as intended. The war in Ukraine is practically frozen in a north-south line. The pitched battles, the use of heavy artillery, the high casualties, and the ever-increasing logistical problems are more reminiscent of the First World War, or even the Crimean War than modern 21st-century war.

Last week, the first sign of Putin’s desperation to fully win this war appeared. In a short televised address, the Russian president claimed that his goal was to preserve the “Russians” of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. In other words, it has moved away from its initial portent of removing Ukraine from the map as an independent country. Is he now calling for a limited deal that would put parts of eastern Ukraine under Russian control forever, if ever? No one knows the answer to this question, except maybe Putin himself. But, surprisingly, neither Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, nor his American and European supporters have shown any attention to this possible retreat of Putin.

Failure in the war is not Putin’s only concern. Contrary to his claim that Western sanctions have not affected the Russian economy, it can be seen that things are not going as planned on that front either. Of course, Russia has been able to find new customers for its oil—customers like India, China, and Turkey, which have reduced their purchases from Iran and Iraq by receiving significant discounts to take advantage of the Russian auction.

However, double-digit inflation, the closure of hundreds of factories, widespread shortages of many goods, a 25 percent drop in viewership of Putin’s state television, and the flight of tens of thousands of middle-class citizens show that the sanctions are having little effect.

The Vladivostok conference was formed with the slogan “The future is from Asia”. Putin’s message was: “Asia builds the future, while the West falls.”

Of course, we heard this slogan in the 1950s, during the last years of Stalin’s rule over the Soviet Union. Stalin spoke of “Young Asia and the West of Fertut”. Today, Putin plays the same music with notes from the Tsarist Imperial Symphony added.

According to Khmiakov, the Pan-Slavist guru, Russia is a “two-headed eagle”: one head looks to the East and the other to the West.

In the beginning, the double-headed eagle was the symbol of the kings of Hayatele in Asia Minor; But after a few centuries, the Byzantine emperors usurped it. In 1471, Ivan III, Tsar of Russia, married Princess Sophia, the daughter of the Byzantine Emperor, and the symbol of the double-headed eagle was assigned to Russia. Today, Putin is bringing this symbol, which was abandoned during the Soviet Union, back to the scene.

However, an eagle facing east is nearsighted. Out of 49 Asian countries, only 17 countries appeared seriously in this game. None of the heads of Asian countries were present at Putin’s show. The highest-ranking foreign personalities were the Prime Ministers of Armenia and Mongolia. General Ming Aung Heliang, the leader of the Myanmar (Burma) coup plotters, was also present. But China was represented by Li Zhangsu, the third leader of the Communist Party. Even the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un, did not accept the suffering of a trip to Vladivostok. Major Asian economic powers such as Japan and South Korea, or even Taiwan, were not present.

Putin’s hope is to develop the “Eurasian” bloc, which was formed years ago to compete with the European Union, but it never got anywhere. However, even if the participants in the Vladivostok conference were to join the bloc, they would collectively account for nearly 20 percent of global GDP. Currently, almost all of them are closer to the European Union and the United States than to Russia in terms of foreign trade. Russia’s own share of trade with bloc countries does not exceed 12%.

From any angle, the Vladivostok gathering is one of those shows that are referred to as “posturing” in the diplomatic dictionary. In this show, the host appears as the leader of a large group, but in reality, there is no group. The choice of Vladivostok, which means “ruler or emir of the east”, maybe a coincidental sign of Putin’s illusions to lead Asia.

It is interesting that in Vladivostok there was no mention of the war in Ukraine. None of Putin’s entourage was wearing a T-shirt with the letter Z, and his bulletproof car did not have a Z mark.

The participants of this show undoubtedly know that Moscow is closer to Berlin than Vladivostok and whatever the underbelly of history, Russia’s national and cultural orientation is to the West, not to the East. Alexander Herzen, a 19th-century Russian writer, wrote: “Russia looks to the East to remember what dangers threaten its existence, and looks to the West to find out how to neutralize those dangers.”

Currently, Putin is not the only leader who is trying to polish his political image by playing the conference game. French President Emmanuel Macron is also busy organizing Smile Diplomacy. The Prague conference for the formation of the “Political Council of Europe” is a platform for introducing Macron as a strong European leader. With Britain mired in crisis, Germany governed by a floundering coalition government, and Italy on the brink of an election with uncertain results, Macron hopes to present France as the anchor of Europe’s stormy ship.

Macron’s failure to win an overwhelming majority in the parliamentary elections has limited his possibilities to exert power in the domestic political scene. Therefore, like many politicians in a similar situation, he turns to show his power in the foreign policy scene.

But Macron’s show, many analysts believe, will not have a better result than what Putin achieved in Vladivostok. In a sense, Macron’s show may even be harmful. Trying to prevent Turkey’s participation, under the pretext that a large part of Turkey is located in Asia, can deepen the gap between Western powers and Turkey.

Turkey’s exclusion from the Prague show could help re-elect Recep Tayyip Erdogan as president. Using an anti-Western discourse and being closer to Russia along with claiming to be the leader of the Islamic world, Erdogan is trying to distract Turkey’s public opinion from its failure in economic and social fields. In the last two decades, this is the first time that Erdogan is on the verge of an electoral defeat. Macron’s anti-Turkish stance could be a bitter irony that guarantees Erdogan’s victory.

Macron’s proposal has other disadvantages as well. First, one should ask what is the need for another “conference” in Europe. Aren’t the “European Security and Cooperation Organization” and “Council of Europe” which include all countries of the continent enough? After all, didn’t Britain leave the European Union under the pretext that it does not want Europe to participate in the regulation of London’s policies? Is the “Brexit” government willing to participate in a new grouping, with unknown goals and criteria, after leaving an established union with clear goals?

Currently, a growing trend across Europe, from Poland to France, is to move away from continental groupings. Even the European Union has lost some of its legitimacy and popularity at this time. The growing trend in most European countries is towards limited nationalism within the borders of each country, emphasis on national sovereignty, and striving for self-sufficiency. In other words, the globalism of the past two or three decades is receding and bilateral relations are becoming more acceptable.

You might say that Smile Diplomacy in Vladivostok or Prague wouldn’t hurt anyway. Unfortunately, this assessment of yours is not correct. Smile Diplomacy masks the fact that Russia and Western Europe do not currently have the ability or will to emerge from the crisis caused by war, economic stagnation, inflation, and environmental threats. Smile Diplomacy offers sideshows instead of serious policies.

Dramatic games allow Putin to mask his failure on the battlefield. On the other hand, Macron and other European leaders hide their inability to stop the war in Ukraine with the Prague show. Both sides are still dreaming of “victory”. Unaware that war never has a winner, because in every war both the victor and the vanquished will be losers in the end. Zelensky seems to think that defeat is better than surrender because it at least offers the badge of hero and martyr. On the other hand, Liz Truss, the new British Prime Minister, speaks of “victory”. The demonstrations in Vladivostok and Prague prevent these irresponsible positions from being seriously discussed.

Continue Reading

Europe

In a Crisis-Laden World, Serbia Should Think Green

Published

on

Countries around the globe are facing persistent economic headwinds. Trade and supply chain disruptions resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine and extreme weather, have led to surging food and energy prices. Inflation is increasing at an alarming rate in many countries and economic growth is slowing. Policy makers around the world face difficult challenges and complex trade-offs. They need to maintain fiscal sustainability and rebuild economic buffers depleted during the pandemic; but also cater for the needs of the most vulnerable, who feel the impact of higher food and energy prices. As winter is approaching, countries in Europe are scrambling to secure sufficient energy supplies to keep homes warm and factories running. In this challenging context, the urgency of actively expanding renewable sources of energy, pursuing greater resource efficiency, and transitioning away from energy and emission-intensive industries is greater than ever.

Growth outlook

The World Bank expects global economic growth to slow in 2022 to 2.9 percent, from 5.7 percent in 2021. A small and open economy like Serbia will feel the impact of the global slowdown. For Serbia, in 2022, we project an economic growth rate of 3.2 percent, following a 7.4 percent expansion in 2021. Serbia is equally feeling the impact of rising inflation: the NBS expects an inflation of nearly 14 percent in the third quarter of this year.

Higher energy prices have put pressure on current account balances for energy importers around the world. Serbia has also been affected. Its utilities have incurred exceptionally high costs of importing electricity and natural gas on the wholesale markets. While the government has financially supported these companies, it has so far only partially passed these additional costs on to consumers.

Mitigating the impacts of the energy crisis remains the biggest challenge for the new government. Serbia entered the current crisis in a strong macro-fiscal position, but fiscal space is limited. Short-term measures to support households and small and medium enterprises will need to be targeted, time-bound, fully budgeted, and transparent.

Despite the pressures, it is essential that policymakers do not lose sight of structural reforms that would boost Serbia’s potential rate of economic growth over the medium-term, including steps to increase market competition, reform state owned enterprises, raise human capital and productivity, and improve the efficiency of public spending.

Green Serbia

Sustaining long-term growth and resilience also requires putting the ‘green agenda’ at the center of policymaking. The country can do more to increase energy efficiency and lessen the impact of pollution on the health of people and the environment. Staying ‘brown’ runs the risk of slowing down Serbia’s accession to the EU, compromising access to finance, creating trade barriers, limiting the take up of modern technology, and failing to boost productivity. Going ‘green’ would be beneficial on all these fronts. It would also facilitate the structural transformation of the economy through the adoption of new technologies and knowledge. All this will require measures to facilitate a ‘just transition’ for workers and communities who depend on polluting industries for their livelihoods.

Serbia is a signatory to the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, aiming for a climate neutral world by mid-century. The Government recently published its updated Nationally Determined Contribution under the Paris Agreement, pledging to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 by 33.3 percent compared to 1990.  Accompanying plans and strategies are under preparation, but the direction of travel is clear: Serbia urgently needs to boost domestic renewable energy production, increase energy efficiency, and gradually lower dependency on fossil fuels, especially coal and oil, for power generation, heating, and transport.

The World Bank is supporting Serbia’s progress on all these fronts both through financial and technical assistance.

Op-ed originally published in Kurir daily via World Bank

Continue Reading

Europe

Media-saturation challenges trust in European democracy

Avatar photo

Published

on

BY KEVIN CASEY

Media is this layer that exists everywhere in our lives’, said Dr Tanya Lokot as she explained the term ‘mediatized’ to Horizon Magazine. It gives her the title of the seven-country research project she leads from the School of Communications, Dublin City University (DCU).

‘It’s not just something we do for an hour or two.’ We are drenched in media. In our personal, work, social and family lives, media has a meaningful role to play.

MEDIATIZED EU is examining the role of media in society and how it influences people’s perceptions of the EU and the European project. It does so by analysing media discourses in the EU Member States of Ireland, Belgium, Portugal, Estonia, Hungary, Spain, and non-member Georgia.

The researchers are monitoring and assessing the media coverage and conversations which mention European democracy and the European Union in the target countries of the study. ‘We wanted to investigate how people think and form beliefs about the EU. How do people become Europeanised? What does it mean to be more European or less European?’ said Dr Lokot.

‘Putting all of these countries together and looking at how different but also how similar the concerns are among policymakers, among media professionals, among the public has been really enlightening for us,’ she said.

Public conversation

When 90% of the EU’s population have access to the internet, media is ubiquitous. TV provides 75% of Europeans with their news. Altogether, taken collectively, all the media devices in the world create something intangible, a public conversation, which enables opinions to be formed and exchanged.

‘In a way, media are co-creating the space where people come to interpret what it’s like to be living in Europe, what it means to be European, to share European values and to be part of the European Union,’ said Dr Lokot.

The first step in learning to live with our media-saturated environment is to ‘acknowledge that media, not just social media but any kind of media, play an extremely important role in societies,’ said Dr Lokot.

From the research so far, the sense is that the idea of Europe is “a constant work in progress”, and perceptions of Europeanisation are shaped by media, as well as by political elites and public opinion, Lokot revealed. There is also widespread concern about the spread of disinformation. Alongside constructive discourse, the media has plenty of room for promoting extremism and polarising views.

People in every EU country have sophisticated concerns about the risks of media manipulation. ‘They understand the connection between disinformation that is being spread by malicious actors in the media and the threat to democracy,’ said Dr Lokot.

Spiral of cynicism

Populism and media manipulation can lead to a ‘spiral of cynicism’ in any media debate. As a result, even in countries with high levels of trust in media such as Ireland, Spain and Portugal, people often don’t know where to place their trust.

‘It’s because the way disinformation works has also changed,’ said Lokot. The new type of information warfare doesn’t try to persuade or convince people, but sets out to destroy public trust. It works to convince you that ‘there is nobody here who will tell you the truth,’ according to Dr Lokot.

Generating mistrust originates with outside actors but also from within the EU at times. In this climate, people ‘stop believing that a ‘European idea’ that unites people exists, and then they become lost,’ said Dr Lokot.

‘Once you stop believing in some sort of shared values, you don’t really know what else you have in common with these people who are living on the same continent with you.’

While each country has specific topics of concern, one major new trend unites them all. ‘Until Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Georgia and Estonia were much more concerned with Russian disinformation than the other countries in our project,’ said Dr Lokot.

‘Since February, concern has gone through the roof everywhere.’

The disinformation campaigns targeting Estonians and Georgians, along with their Ukrainian neighbours, insinuate that they were better off under the Soviet regime, that the EU is weak, they belong to Russia’s sphere of influence and not the European community. The conclusion of that thought process is stark.

‘Now we get to the point where not only is Ukraine, for instance, being told, you’re not a European country, they’re being told you’re not a real country at all,’ she said. ‘You’re actually part of Russia and nobody cares about you if you stop existing,’ said Dr Lokot.

‘We’re seeing such escalation of disinformation narratives across the region.’

Doomscrolling

But should people exercise personal responsibility for their media activity? Consuming the news of terrible events over endless hours of ‘doomscrolling’ has been identified as unhealthy behaviour.

The constant barrage of news and disinformation hits home for Dr Lokot who is a Ukrainian native working in DCU in Ireland for the past seven years. ‘I’m Ukrainian and I’m living in the EU. So, you know, I’ve been doing nothing but doomscrolling not just since February, but actually since 2014 because my country has actually been at war much longer than just for the past six months,’ said Dr Lokot.

A constant stream of bad news is exhausting ‘and so it’s also about how we structure media diets,’ said Dr Lokot.

Might there be a need for social media companies to make their algorithms more transparent?

Businesses like Meta who own Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp need to create a space where people can access information and exchange opinions in a healthy, constructive way, argues Dr Lokot. ‘They need to realise the impact that the media ecosystem has on people and on people’s lives,’ she said.

Online citizens

Good online citizenship where you verify sources and reserve some amount of scepticism over content is important in a democratic environment. Regulation also has a role to play with, for example, laws about transparency in political advertising.

It’s not about control or unrestricted access either. ‘We want people to understand that as citizens, they have rights, they have responsibilities, but they also have agency,’ she says.

The next step is to conduct in-depth research into the other elements of the triangle MEDIATIZED EU has identified as composed of a relationship between citizens, media, and the elites. Speaking to media editors and policy makers, as well as conducting public opinion surveys, the researchers will seek to understand the media’s role in shaping perceptions and opinions of the EU from their points of view and how everything is connected.

The research could help to inform policy makers at every level. Thinking ahead, the imaginary ideally informed EU citizen of 2035 could be living in a media environment with a more democratic flow of information – one which leaves little fertile ground for disinformation. Hopefully, ‘we will also be living in a Europe that is much less polarized than it is today,’ Dr Lokot concludes.

This article was originally published in Horizon, the EU Research and Innovation Magazine. 

Continue Reading

Publications

Latest

Eastern Europe45 mins ago

Ukraine war-induced crisis affecting women and girls disproportionately

A new UN report reveals how the Ukraine war and its global impacts on food, energy, and finance are affecting...

World News5 hours ago

Ireland: Rights experts call for redress for 50 years of systemic racism in childcare institutions

UN-appointed independent human rights experts on Friday called on Irish authorities to provide adequate redress for victims of racial discrimination and...

World News7 hours ago

UN experts strongly condemn death of Mahsa Amini

UN independent human rights experts on Thursday strongly condemned the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died in police custody...

Terrorism9 hours ago

A Virus Yet to Be Eradicated

Much as everything in this world, human memory knows its limits. Increasingly receding into a background of the past, episodes...

Eastern Europe12 hours ago

Untying the Ukrainian Knot: The Continental Union Project

As the fighting in Ukraine rages on, people continue to die, and infrastructure is being destroyed. This means that the...

Middle East14 hours ago

Middle Eastern Geopolitics in The Midst of The Russo-Ukrainian War

Russia’s national interests have been harmed by the West’s efforts to obstruct Eurasia’s integration and provoke conflict. Support from the...

Russia16 hours ago

The Alliance of Downtrodden Empires

There are many commonalities and differences, to the point of contradiction, in the Russian, Iranian, and Turkish political and economic...

Trending