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  • Author: Sean Roberts
  • Publication Date: 12-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Following Vladimir Putin's presidential election victory in March 2012, the Russian political system has undergone significant change. The latest changes affect the way regional elections are conducted. However, a number of puzzles remain, not least the intentions of the Putin administration. Alongside liberalising reforms, such as the return of direct elections for regional governors and the easing of party registration requirements, we see new restrictions that close the political field. Nonetheless, the events of the past 20 months do reveal a distinct change in the reform process, as the Putin administration reluctantly adjusts to unfavourable political and economic conditions. In Putin's first two presidential terms, 2000-2008, reform was 'progressive', aimed at extending the Kremlin's power and authority. The latest changes, in contrast, are 'reactive' and involve an inevitable loss of control over political processes. One immediate implication is that political processes will become less predictable, as the Kremlin tries to reorganise its system of governance. But, in the longer-term there is a danger that the use of political reform as a substitute for democratic change will undermine the legitimacy of the entire political system.
  • Topic: Corruption, Democratization, Political Economy, Governance
  • Political Geography: Russia
  • Author: Markku Lonkila
  • Publication Date: 02-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Social media played an important role in the Moscow opposition demonstrations in December 2011, functioning both as an alternative arena for public debate and as a tool for mobilising the protests. In a matter of months, the political atmosphere in the country changed and the legitimacy of the Russian power vertical was called into question. Even before the Duma elections in 2011, social media had turned into an alternative forum for political debate in Russia. These media frayed the image of United Russia and Vladimir Putin, politicised new audiences, and helped to form both a collective 'anti' identity and networks among the protesters. The reports of the falsification of the Duma elections circulated through social media channels and exploded into anger on the part of the betrayed voters. Social media were put to good effect when making the practical arrangements for the protests, such as financing the street demonstrations and recruiting participants. Albeit crucial in mobilising discontent, social media is less well-suited to building lasting political structures. In the longer run, the conflict-torn opposition has to transform the protests into offline organisations and decide, among other things, who can represent the street protesters in negotiations with the power-holders. Imposing strict internet control in Russia does not seem likely since the Russian urban middle class is accustomed to seeking information and expressing itself freely on the net. Removing this freedom would lead to an increase in anti-government sentiments and the intensification of protests in big Russian cities.
  • Topic: Democratization, Science and Technology, Social Stratification
  • Political Geography: Russia, Moscow
  • Author: Kaisa Korhonen, Juha Jokela
  • Publication Date: 05-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The Finnish parliamentary elections in spring 2011 were marked by a landslide victory for the Eurosceptic (True) Finns Party. Such an unprecedented upswing for anti-integrationist voices was expected to reshape Finland's EU policy. The Finns Party did not join the government, however, and the party has mainly influenced Finnish EU policymaking while in opposition, and indirectly through public opinion-building. While outright anti-integrationist rhetoric remains on the margins of national public debate, more critical approaches to EU politics have become increasingly pronounced. Political parties have, to varying degrees, adapted their rhetoric and policies to the changing environment. Importantly, the broad consensus on EU affairs in Finland has broken down, at least temporarily. The EU has featured high on the agendas of the recent election campaigns as well as in opposition politics. This has affected Finland's official position too. It has moved in a more cautious and self-contained direction, although the country remains a pro-integrationist member state.
  • Topic: Democratization, International Trade and Finance, Political Economy, Regional Cooperation
  • Political Geography: Europe, Finland
  • Author: Stefan Meister
  • Publication Date: 05-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The return of Vladimir Putin as Russia's president and the probable end of Dmitri Medvedev's modernization project will increase the alienation within German-Russian relations. Germany's modernization partnership with Russia has produced limited results because the two sides have different views on the cooperation. While the German side wants to develop common projects of good practice which will modernize the Russian economy and politics, the Russian side is interested in technology transfer. The interest in and knowledge of Russia among German decision-makers is decreasing. Germany lacks vision and concepts on how to influence developments in Russia. This is also due to the resistance of the current Russian elite towards implementing political reforms. As a result, Russia is losing its most important advocate in the EU (also regarding energy policy). This will have a negative impact on EU-Russia relations because the EU lacks leadership on Russia. Ongoing changes in Russian society, which challenge the Putin system, will present an opportunity to find new allies in Russia for cooperation and modernization, which may increase Germany's interest in its large neighbour. But this will call for a more balanced approach between the Russian elites and society in Germany's Russia policy.
  • Topic: Democratization, Economics, Social Stratification, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Germany
  • Author: Kristi Raik
  • Publication Date: 06-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The EU has a strategic goal to build political association and economic integration with the six countries included in its Eastern Partnership policy. To reach this goal, it has invented a new model of association agreement that includes deep and comprehensive free trade. At best, three out of six Eastern partners are likely to sign the agreements within the next couple of years.
  • Topic: Democratization, Economics, Regional Cooperation
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Anaïs Marin
  • Publication Date: 09-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: One should not expect the 23 September election to comply with democratic standards. The current legislation in Belarus does not guarantee a free and fair process. The institutional setting prevents a transparent vote count and the election of opposition candidates. Yet, in sending a full-fledged observation mission to Belarus, the OSCE again appears to be giving official Minsk the benefit of the doubt. Breaking the vicious circle of external regime legitimation would require consistency and restraint in giving this periodic electoral farce any credence whatsoever. Imitating procedural democracy brings regime consolidation for Lukashenka: enticing the opposition forces – and their Western supporters for that matter – into the electoral trap is a preemptive scheme to disqualify them. Decapitated, divided, distrusted, the opposition is incapable of carrying out regime change. The regime's repressive build-up also dissuades Belarusians from mobilising to contest the predictable fraud – for now. They are nonetheless expressing increasing demands for independent election monitoring. In view of the 2015 presidential elections, the EU should invest more in the capacity-building and training of civil society actors, notably domestic election observers. Turning voters into reliable rule of law watchdogs could raise awareness in, and demand for democracy in Belarus.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Corruption, Democratization
  • Political Geography: Europe, Belarus
  • Author: Teemu Sinkkonen
  • Publication Date: 10-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The victory of the Georgian Dream Coalition (GDC) over the United National Movement (UNM) has brought pluralism into Georgian policymaking. Until the power shifts from the President to the Prime Minister in 2013, the country will be led by an awkward dual power. New leadership offers great opportunities for Georgia. It can improve its democratic system and economic growth and establish a dialogue with Russia and the breakaway districts of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. This would alleviate the frozen conflict and tense security dilemma on the boundary lines. If the transition of power does not go well, there will be prolonged power struggles that could cripple the policymaking and cast Georgia back to pre-Saakashvili times. Saakashvili's UNM is still a very significant player in Georgian politics and it is important for the GDC and the UNM to find a way to cooperate. In order to smooth the fragile transition period, Georgia needs special support and attention.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Democratization, Development, Ethnic Conflict, Government
  • Author: Sean Roberts
  • Publication Date: 12-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: If Russia is to follow an evolutionary path to democracy, then the regime must be ready to draw the so-called 'non-systemic' opposition into political processes. This gradualist formula for democratic change is also the formula for political stability. A number of liberalising reforms conducted by the regime in response to widespread protests following the December 2011 State Duma election gave grounds for optimism that this process is now underway. However, any hopes that these events would kick-start democratic reforms were short-lived. Rather than draw in opponents, the regime has sought to isolate them, using a combination of reform, non-reform, dividing tactics and repression. But the results have not been positive. The non-systemic opposition is under increasing pressure, having seen its options all but reduced to more protesting. It is also showing signs of radicalisation. At the same time, the Kremlin's uncompromising approach is undermining regime stability. The pressure is building in the Russian political system. The combination of repression and radicalisation could easily see political stagnation degenerate into instability and the EU should take this new dynamic into account in its future policy planning.
  • Topic: Security, Corruption, Democratization, Government, Political Economy, Authoritarianism
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe
  • Author: Kristi Raik
  • Publication Date: 04-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The EU needs to place a stronger emphasis on promoting democracy in its Eastern neighbourhood. A new approach should combine limited, focused conditionality with increased openness and multi-level linkages. Conditionality is often effective in promoting faster and better reforms where the home-grown will to democratise is present (as in Moldova, for example). It is not likely to work as a transformative policy, bringing about change from authoritarianism to democracy in the neighbourhood. The goal of tying neighbours to Europe should prevail over the principle of political conditionality. Economic integration and visa freedom have to be pursued with all neighbouring countries. This makes democratisation more likely to occur in the longer term. Engagement, providing it is not limited to political leaders, can be a successful strategy to push for democratic change. Cooperation with (semi-)authoritarian governments has to be accompanied by strong support for civil society and multiple links with the populations. Ukraine is a test case of the EU's ability to use association agreements as a tool for democracy promotion. The involvement of neighbours in the negotiation process offers a possibility to shape their domestic agendas. At the same time, there must be 'red lines': the EU should emphasize that it will not sign the agreements with countries having major problems with democracy.
  • Topic: Democratization
  • Political Geography: Europe, Arabia
  • Author: Anaïs Marin
  • Publication Date: 06-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The West has come to admit that the Belarusian regime is indifferent to incentives and sanctions alike. The crackdown on the opposition that has been ongoing since Alexander Lukashenka's last fraudulent re-election shows that Belarus is drifting ever further away from democratic values and the EU's “ring of friends”. Reversing this trend requires EU member states to acknowledge that they bear part of the responsibility for the failure of the engagement policy launched in October 2008.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Democratization, Diplomacy
  • Political Geography: Europe, Brussels
  • Author: Katri Pynnöniemi
  • Publication Date: 06-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Transport is one of those few topics where the EU and Russia seem to have come to an agreement. The common understanding is that further integration of the transport systems and the removal of bottle necks serves the interests of both parties in the face of the expected increase in traffic volumes.
  • Topic: Democratization, Diplomacy, Regional Cooperation, Foreign Direct Investment
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe
  • Author: Alexander Golts
  • Publication Date: 09-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Contrary to the traditional behaviour during the election period, the Russian government is risking irritating the security ministries and agencies by conducting extremely painful reforms in the Armed Forces and the Ministry of the Interior. However, the authorities cannot avoid such reforms because of the total inefficiency of these two “power ministries”. In the aftermath of the Russian-Georgian conflict in August 2008, the Defence Ministry decided to carry out the most radical military reform undertaken in Russia over the past 100 years. However, it is still unclear whether the reformers will be able to resolve the main problem concerning the military construction – the repeal of conscription. In contrast to the Armed Forces, the reform of the Ministry of the Interior does not even touch the major deficiencies in the law enforcement agencies, namely their centralization, lack of public control, and the prevalence of repressive functions over protection of citizens. The ongoing reform is merely a great purge. The country's leadership believes that by firing corrupt police officers, it can solve the problem of corruption in general. The reform of the Security Council and the rejection of any reform of the Ministry of the Interior troops is a prescription for possible public unrest rather than an attempt to improve inter-agency coordination. The genuine reason for these reforms is the complete exhaustion of Prime Minister Putin's model of organizing the security forces. Yet, the next president will need their complete loyalty because of the real possibility of public unrest in the next few years.
  • Topic: Corruption, Democratization, Governance
  • Political Geography: Russia
  • Author: Teemu Sinkkonen
  • Publication Date: 11-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The electoral defeat suffered by the ruling Socialist Party (Partido Socialista Obrero Español, PSOE) in the municipal elections and the prolonged financial crisis has forced Prime Minister Zapatero to call an early general election on 20 November. The Conservative People's Party (Partido Popular, PP) is ahead in the polls by a clear margin and is likely to gain an absolute majority in the parliament. The economic outlook for Spain looks bleak, which means that the new government will have to create new jobs quickly and push through harsh and unpopular reforms, particularly regarding the fiscal and administrative structures. The Indignados protest movement is gaining support, and looks set to challenge the legitimacy of the system and force the future government to produce speedy results. Spain is expected to enhance its role in international politics through pragmatic bilateral relations. In particular, relations with the US seem to be warming up, while Spain can turn to the UK and Poland in the EU for companionship
  • Topic: Debt, Democratization, Economics, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States, United Kingdom, Europe, Spain
  • Author: Teija Tiilikainen
  • Publication Date: 11-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The European Parliament achieved full legislative powers when the Lisbon Treaty came into force, as most of those policy fields that had formerly been beyond the reach of the EP were duly added to these powers. In the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty, the EP's strengthened position is characterized as a vigorous promotion of arrangements favourable to its own position in the EU decision-making process. Important changes have taken place in the roles and functions of major parliamentary committees along with the extension of the EP's powers; the changes are most substantial in the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI) and in the Committee on International Trade (INTA). Concerns about the spread of undemocratic legislative practices and weaknesses in administrative capacities have been raised since the EP has been accommodated to its new powers.
  • Topic: Democratization, Regional Cooperation, Treaties and Agreements, Governance
  • Political Geography: Europe, Lisbon
  • Author: Igor Torbakov
  • Publication Date: 02-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The past five tumultuous years of the Viktor Yushchenko presidency laid bare Ukraine's gravest problem—its seeming inability to govern itself properly. Following the victory at the polls, the new Ukrainian leadership will inevitably be seeking to consolidate power, correct the country's flawed constitutional design and establish a strong government. This is a tall order indeed, given the anarchic state of Ukraine's political system and the weakness of most of its public institutions. Ukraine's dismal economic situation and the limited set of international options will severely constrain the president-elect in pursuing domestic and foreign policies. For the new leader, the job ahead will be a balancing act, at home and abroad. To see Kiev succeed in its attempts at stabilization and reform, the European Union needs to re-engage Ukraine. Disillusionment and frustration should give way to patience and perseverance. Focusing on step-by-step integration will be a good way to revitalize the troubled relationship.
  • Topic: Democratization, Politics
  • Political Geography: Europe, Ukraine
  • Author: Katri Pynnöniemi, Sinikukka Saari
  • Publication Date: 01-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The political system that Vladimir Putin established during the first decade of the 2000s is often referred to as 'the power vertical'. The term suggests a stable, streamlined and effective centre-led system. Yet, this image does not quite correspond with Russian reality. The system creates inefficiency, encourages corruption and is hostile towards bottom-up political initiative. The current leadership acknowledges that Russian stability is on shaky ground and therefore the system is in need of modernization. The economy is clearly a priority for the leadership: it believes that the political system's modernization should emerge gradually and in a highly controlled fashion from economic achievements. The current system in Russia is hostile to innovation and prone to corruption and therefore Medvedev's modernization plan is unlikely to succeed unless transparency and open competition within the system are considerably enhanced. This will be difficult to achieve because the elite benefits from the current corrupt and non-transparent system where the lines of responsibility are unclear. The West should not expect dramatic changes and radical liberal reforms in Russia. Western actors should, nevertheless, actively support and encourage economic and political reforms in the country and engage with it through international cooperation on specific issues such as anti-corruption policy. By stepping up its engagement with Russia, the West can demonstrate that a prosperous, competitive and modern Russia is also in the interests of the West.
  • Topic: Democratization, Politics, Power Politics
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Asia
  • Author: Toby Archer
  • Publication Date: 05-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The British general election of 2010 has, despite all expectations, become a genuinely exciting and possibly ground-breaking event. If, as more and more opinion polls indicate, the outcome on May 7 is a hung parliament, with no one party having an overall majority, the result will reverberate through the British political system and onwards through European politics more generally. Until very recently, Britain's European partners were, like the British punditocracy, expecting a Conservative win and a new round of British Euroscepticism as a result. Now, the sudden rise of the Liberal Democrats, by far the most pro-EU of the three big British parties, is calling all that into question. This briefing looks at why a hung parliament is now possible and after considering the manifesto policies on European and foreign affairs of the three main parties, considers what it might mean for Britain's relations with the EU and wider world.
  • Topic: Democratization, Politics
  • Political Geography: Britain, Europe
  • Author: Timo Behr
  • Publication Date: 12-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Egypt has arrived at a crossroads. After almost three decades in power, the Mubarak era is coming to an end. With President Hosni Mubarak's health reportedly deteriorating, the stage is set for an uncertain transition. Egypt's botched parliamentary elections have been the first act in this succession drama, paving the way for next year's decisive presidential elections. As the Middle East's traditional powerhouse, the outcome of this transition process is going to have important repercussions that will be felt far beyond Egypt's borders.
  • Topic: Democratization, Islam, Politics
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, North Africa, Egypt
  • Author: Tiia Lehtonen
  • Publication Date: 03-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The Czech EU Presidency has now reached its mid-term. It can be reasonably argued that the change of Presidency came at a challenging time for both the EU and the Czech Republic itself. The initial priorities of the Czech Presidency, the 'three Es', were ambitious to say the least, and the provisional results in implementing them are consequently modest at best. The internal disorder of the Czech administration has had a visible and rather negative impact on its competence to run a successful Presidency. The lack of a genuine consensus on various EU issues within the Czech political elite and the autonomy of President Klaus have resulted in problems in terms of satisfactorily driving forward the individual priorities and the Union as a whole. As calls for protectionism have increased in the light of the recession, it has become ever more difficult for the Czech Republic to take a leading position in the EU within the realm of the economic crisis and to find common grounds for all member states. The first European Council meeting under the Czech Presidency will be held on 19th and 20th March in Brussels. Another significant opportunity for the Czechs to exert an influence will be during the G20 Summit in early April.
  • Topic: Democratization, Government, Politics
  • Political Geography: Eastern Europe, Czech Republic
  • Author: Aaretti Siitonen
  • Publication Date: 05-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Finland is to elect 13 representatives to the seventh European Parliament on 7 June 2009. In the last European elections in 2004, EU-wide voter turnout remained at 46%, the figure in Finland reaching only 41.1%. This was, however, a considerable improvement on the 1999 elections, where Finnish turnout was a meagre 31.4%.
  • Topic: Democratization, Politics
  • Political Geography: Europe, Finland
  • Author: Sirke Mäkinen
  • Publication Date: 06-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Stability has not been characteristic of the Russian party system: political parties have appeared and disappeared between the federal elections, both politicians and the electorate have changed their affiliation, and legislation regarding political parties and elections has been amended. During the 2000s, the party system has also undergone significant changes. Both the changed political culture and the creation of Putin's power vertical have required – and enabled – a stronger control of the party system by the executive power. We can even argue that the most important actor in the party system is the executive power and, in particular, the presidential administration. The parliamentary tool in the hands of the executive power is the United Russia Party, which received the majority of the seats in the State Duma in the last two elections in 2003 and 2007, and thus ensured a smooth process for adopting the bills prepared by the president, the presidential administration or the government. Economic growth and the popularity of Mr Putin have secured the survival of the current party system as part of the power vertical but now, with the consequences of the economic crisis and with a president more liberal in his rhetoric than his predecessor, there are expectations, and even some signs, of the liberalization of the party system.
  • Topic: Democratization, Politics, Governance
  • Political Geography: Russia
  • Author: Timo Behr
  • Publication Date: 10-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The German elections provided a clear mandate for current Chancellor Angela Merkel to form a new coalition government between her Christian Democrats (CDU) and the Liberals (FDP), led by Guido Westerwelle. Coalition talks between the two parties have started and are likely to be concluded by early November. The big winners of the elections have been the Liberals (+4.8%), as well as Germany's two other mid-sized parties, the Greens (+2.6%) and die Linke (+3.2%). The biggest loser of the elections were the Social Democrats (SPD) (-11.2%), who return to opposition after 11 years in government. Despite Angela Merkel's popularity, the electoral standing of the CDU has also deteriorated (-1.4%).Overall, the elections represent a clear shift in the political spectrum from left to right. They also indicate a further weakening of Germany's two “catch-all” parties, CDU and SPD, and will lead to a more fluid and less predictable party system. As the clear winners the Liberals are in a strong position to shape the agenda of the new government, especially when it comes to tax cuts and structural reforms. But it would be wrong to see the elections as a vote in favour of radical change. Rather, they were a vote against the unpopular grand coalition government. As a result, some friction between FDP and CDU might be unavoidable. In the short-run the domestic agenda will also be constrained by next year's elections in North-Rhine Westphalia; important because of their impact on the government's majority in the Bundesrat, Germany's upper chamber. At home, the new government will face a difficult trade-off between the campaign promises of windfall tax cuts and the pressing need of budget consolidation. Differences also remain over health care reforms and labour market policies, while there is a consensus on extending nuclear energy and corporate tax reforms. Broad, there will be few changes as Angela Merkel will dominate her inexperienced new foreign minister on all important foreign policy issues. As before, Germany will seek close ties with the US, but will only reluctantly grow into the role of a more “normal” international actor. In the EU, the new government will seek to play a constructive role, but is unlikely to be the source of new ideas and initiatives.
  • Topic: Democratization, Politics
  • Political Geography: Europe, Germany
  • Author: Alexandru Luta
  • Publication Date: 10-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The recent elections for the lower house of Japan's Diet herald the end of the Liberal Democratic Party's (LDP) domination of Japanese politics. The winner, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), aims to thoroughly reform the way the country is governed. The strategic goals of the DPJ's reform agenda are to shift the locus of policy-drafting away from civil servants to the legislature, and to bring the latter firmly under the control of the Prime Minister's Cabinet. In order to be able to work towards its strategic goal, the DPJ needs tactical victories to maintain its popularity with the electorate. The climate negotiations' high profile makes domestic climate policy a natural area for the DPJ to differentiate its political brand from that of the LDP. Just as with governance reform, the DPJ has time and again asserted its commitment to pro-active climate goals both in pre-and post-electoral speeches, at home and abroad. Therefore it is very likely to continue pouring political capital into this policy area. The division between major ministries about how to formulate Japanese climate policy presents a willing Cabinet with structural advantages to assert its leadership successfully. The wider reforms currently being implemented further strengthen the new government's position. There are some factors that might limit the ability of Japan's new leadership to fight climate change. These include how their relationship with domestic media outlets shapes their approval ratings, how the positions of other stakeholders develop, how other electoral promises conflict with the new climate platform, and how the climate negotiations progress on the international level.
  • Topic: Democratization, Government, Politics, Governance
  • Political Geography: Japan, Israel, Asia
  • Author: Alena Vysotskaya, Guedes Vieira
  • Publication Date: 04-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: In the first months of 2008, the Belarusian leadership made some unprecedented declarations, demonstrating its willingness to cooperate with the EU. In contrast to similar declarations in the past, the current statements were supported by tangible cooperation-oriented steps on the part of the official Minsk, including the decision on the opening of the Delegation of the European Commission in the country and the release of several political prisoners. The recent attempts of the Belarusian leadership to establish its own terms for the fulfilment of EU demands on the one hand and the establishment of the Commission's Delegation in Minsk on the other, invite further consideration of EU-Belarus relations. Nevertheless, the existence of concessions as far as the official Minsk is concerned should not be mistaken for a fundamental change in the Belarusian approach towards the EU. As before, the official Minsk is not simply promoting cooperation with the EU, but cooperation of a very special type, namely one whereby it defines its own conditions, rather than adopting those defined by the EU, thus developing something of a reverse conditionality. The EU should clarify whether it can reward the Belarusian leadership for single cooperation-oriented steps, and to what extent such rewards can be granted. In other words, the EU needs an inventory of the instruments that are, or can be, employed in its policy towards Belarus. As far as the character of different instruments is concerned, the EU approach might appear contradictory, but this strategy is paradoxically the only way to move forward in its relations with Belarus. If the EU wants to promote the democratisation of Belarus, it should try to find synergies among its own measures and the policies of other actors. As the recent changes have demonstrated, only a combination of pressures from different sides will create a sufficient basis for EU leverage in Belarus.
  • Topic: Democratization, Diplomacy, International Cooperation
  • Political Geography: Europe, Eastern Europe, Belarus
  • Author: Sinikukka Saari
  • Publication Date: 12-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The Duma election and its results reinforce the prevailing undemocratic trends in Russia. The changes in electoral laws, the election campaign and its biased coverage in the Russian media, the Russian authorities' hostile attitude towards international election observation and the so-called Putin's Plan leave very little hope of democratic pluralism developing in Russia anytime soon. Russia's political system has been built gradually over the years. The system aims at controlling the competition for power and securing the political elite's interests. The system is characterised by non-transparent and manipulated political processes, misleading doublespeak on democratic norms, and the misuse of soft and hard administrative resources. Putin's overwhelming popularity does not compensate for the lack of democratic accountability. Likewise, his possible premiership would not strengthen parliamentarism in Russia because the decision is driven by instrumentalism towards political institutions. Instead, it would create a dangerous precedent for an ad hoc separation of power. Western actors should be more aware that the stability that Putin is often praised for bringing about is not build on solid ground, and they should change their policies accordingly. Promoting democracy – and thus longterm stability – in Russia is in western actors' interests.
  • Topic: International Relations, Democratization, Politics
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Asia
  • Author: Stanislav Secrieru
  • Publication Date: 03-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: In 2009, against all expectations, Moldova managed to shake off its inertia in an effort to leave behind zigzagging reforms and set itself on course for European integration. Although the European option enjoys overwhelming support in Moldova, the experiences of the eu's latest newcomers have shown that aspirations only materialize if you are prepared to do the necessary homework. Is there enough political will and ability to implement reforms in Moldova? What has the new government done so far, domestically and externally, to bring Moldova closer to the eu? What are the obstacles that could hinder reforms in Moldova? How could the eu help to bring about change, accelerating Moldova's Europeanization?
  • Topic: Democratization, Government
  • Political Geography: Europe, Moldova