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  • Author: Eleonora Tafuro Ambrosetti, Kateryna Zarembo
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: The 31 March presidential elections in Ukraine matter to Ukraine, its region and the EU. While the majority of experts deem it impossible to have a winner in the first round and, thus, expect a second one in April[1], the March contest will be a first important step in the crucial process of determining the direction the country will take. Thus, while we should not hold our breath on election day, we should definitely keep a close eye on the contest and its outcome.[2] First of all, these mark the first elections in Ukraine’s history when a “pro-Russia” foreign policy card cannot be played by the political candidates. If in 2013 the Association Agreement with the European Union and the Customs Union with Russia were two rival projects for Ukrainians[3], in 2019 support for the EU is prevailing among the population – 50% of Ukrainians support the country’s integration into the EU, while only 9% are in favour of the Customs Union[4]. Ukraine’s European and Euro-Atlantic course has also been recently voted in to become a part of Ukraine’s constitution. And yet Ukraine’s pro-Western integration course is far from being undisputed. First, support for the EU is very unevenly spread across the country, ranging from over 80% in the western oblasts to some 30% in the Donetsk, Luhansk and Odesa oblasts.[5]Second, while none of the three candidates currently leading the polls – the incumbent president, Petro Poroshenko, the former prime minister and ex-energy tycoon Yulia Tymoshenko, and the comedian and political newcomer Volodymyr Zelensky – questions EU integration on paper, some candidates’ electoral programmes or actions look at odds with this goal. On paper, Tymoshenko supports good relations with Brussels – and, eventually, a possible EU membership – but she criticizes the reforms promoted by the EU and IMF and advocates economic isolationism. Zelensky’s fussy approach is also critical of the IMF while giving lukewarm support to EU integration[6]. As of March 2018, it is Zelenskyi who is leading the race, with some 25% of support[7], while Poroshenko and Tymoshenko keep shifting in and out of second place in various polls. Importantly, some 26% - in fact, the “golden share” of these elections – of those who are going to vote, are still undecided about their choice, which may bring some surprises on the day of the poll. Finally, these elections will likely feature an unusually high turnout in Ukrainian terms – as of March 2019, 83% of Ukrainians declared that they are going to participate in the elections (in the 2014 presidential elections turnout reached 60%).[8] This is likely a sign of increased civic mobilization and the perception of civic responsibility among Ukraine’s citizens, which grew more acute after the Euromaidan and the start of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, International Affairs, European Union, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Ukraine, Italy
  • Author: Jakub Pieńkowski, Tomasz Żornaczuk
  • Publication Date: 06-2018
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Polish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Initiated at the end of 2017, the Varna Quadrilateral is a forum for cooperation between Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia and Romania. It is intended to improve coordination of cross-border infrastructure and energy investments between the largest countries in southeastern Europe. Meetings to date also show that collaboration can have clear political elements. However, a half year after the inauguration of the new initiative, its future is in doubt due to the great differences between its members.
  • Topic: International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Anna-Lena Kirch, Daniel Braun
  • Publication Date: 09-2018
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP)
  • Abstract: Germany considers itself a leading European power that utilizes its influence to promote EU cohesion in the face of Brexit and numerous other crises. However, a different picture emerges in European health policy, an area that is not only being discussed as an essential part of the EU’s social dimension but also in the context of its security and development positioning: Far from shaping the discussion, Germany is at times even perceived as the brakeman to an effective European health policy.
  • Topic: Health, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Luis Simón, Vivien Pertusot
  • Publication Date: 01-2017
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Elcano Royal Institute
  • Abstract: Europe’s southern neighbourhood is a diverse but interlinked geopolitical ensemble, whose specificities need to be carefully assessed before Europeans devise dedicated security strategies, divide responsibilities and make policy decisions. This exercise in geopolitical scoping seeks to make sense of the main security challenges present in Europe’s broader European neighbourhood, a space encompassing areas as diverse as the Gulf of Guinea, the Sahel, North Africa, the Levant and the Persian Gulf. It identifies (some of) the main sub-regions that make up the ‘South’, offers an overview of the threat environment in each of them and identifies relevant differences as well as common themes. In doing so we aim to provide a conceptual referent for further policy research on the security of Europe’s ‘South’, and to help inform future strategic and policy discussions within the EU, NATO and their Member States.
  • Topic: International Security, International Affairs, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: Europe, Global Focus
  • Author: Gonzalo Escribano
  • Publication Date: 09-2017
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Elcano Royal Institute
  • Abstract: This analysis addresses changes in the Euro-Mediterranean strategic context and the erosion of the economic incentives built into Euro-Mediterranean policy to deal with such transformation. It also puts the case for a reformulation of Euro-Mediterranean policies, but argues that, rather than pursuing an incremental continuity, the EU should engineer a more radical overhaul of its mechanisms of governance, its instruments and its discourse.
  • Topic: International Political Economy, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Europe