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  • Author: Flavio Fusco
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Located at the heart of the Middle East, connecting the Levant to the Persian Gulf, Iraq has always been at the centre of regional dynamics. Yet, the country is today reduced to a quasi-failed state fundamentally damaged in its political, social and economic fabric, with long-term consequences that trace a fil rouge from the 2003 US-led invasion to the emergence of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) and the country’s current structural fragility.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, European Union
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Europe, Middle East, United States of America
  • Author: Vedran Džihić, Paul Schmidt
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: In societies devastated by the pandemic, the EU needs to leave its conventional tool-box behind and urgently speed up the Europeanisation of its neighbours in Southeast Europe. The coronavirus pandemic has deepened the vulnerabilities affecting Western Balkan countries and exposed the weakness of their state institutions, especially in the health sector and social protection. At the same time, related to the limited effectiveness of the EU enlargement process over the past years, the progress of reforms has stagnated and some countries have even experienced concerning regressions in the rule of law. The outbreak of the coronavirus crisis has meanwhile increased the presence of other geopolitical players in the region, mainly in the context of competition over vaccinations, not only of China but also of Russia and the United Arab Emirates. Awareness is growing that the EU and the West is not the only available partner. As other powers not known for their democratic practices use or misuse the Western Balkans to promote their interests, the vision of a free, democratic and truly European Balkans is no longer self-evident.
  • Topic: European Union, Institutions, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Europe, Eastern Europe, Balkans
  • Author: Nicoletta Pirozzi
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The European Union is struggling to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has swept through European societies and economies, causing more than 500,000 deaths (and counting) and a GDP downturn of –6.4 per cent in 2020. This is the third big crisis – and possibly the most dramatic – to impact the EU over the last 12 years, following the economic and financial crisis in 2008– 2010 and the extraordinary influx of migrants arriving on European shores in 2015–2016. All these crises produced asymmetrical consequences on the member countries and citizens. The already marked differences among member states have been exacerbated, making a unified response by EU institutions difficult in the process and suboptimal in the outcome. Indeed, especially during the first wave of the pandemic in Europe, the actions and statements of national leaders revealed a deep rift within the EU and the Eurozone, leading to nationalistic moves in border control and the export of medical supplies. Citizens were therefore exposed to the negative consequences of a Union with limited powers in sectors such as health and crisis management. Meanwhile, important decisions such as the approval of the Next Generation EU package and the new budget for 2021– 2027 risked ending in failure due to the opposition of some member states.
  • Topic: Regional Integration, Crisis Management, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Makysm Bielawski
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Razumkov Centre
  • Abstract: Maksym Bielawsky, the leading expert of energy programs at the Razumkov Center, provided answers to the TOP-12 questions about current model of Ukraine’s natural gas market.
  • Topic: Markets, Gas, Tariffs
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Oleksiy Melnyk
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Razumkov Centre
  • Abstract: The current reaction of the West to provocative threats by Russia is both prompt and concrete, but for political statements to reach the desired effect, they must be supplemented by substantial practical steps.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Deterrence
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Ukraine, Eastern Europe
  • Author: Erekle Iantbelidze
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Georgian Foundation for Strategic International Studies -GFSIS
  • Abstract: The transfer of the international political reality to a new multi-polar prism makes geopolitics, as one of the directions of interdisciplinary education, more important in the current situation. The development of digital and scientific technologies has moved the phenomenon of the balance of power to a new stage and for a number of states and intergovernmental organizations, the term geopolitics has become the flagship of security strategy, cultural domination and democratic processes. In terms of the new “geopolitical commission,” the action plan of Ursula von der Leyen rests on two main principles – Europe’s climate and digital transition (European Parliament, 2020). Therefore, in the conditions of a war of values, geopolitics and digitalization, technological development has become a super-important component that the European Union is attempting to bring to the forefront as it wrestles with the world’s foremost states (China, India, Russia, Turkey). As the EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, stated, Europe must not become a playground for other great powers and it must take the role of a geopolitical leader in the world (Barigazzi, 2019). It must also be pointed out that the geopolitical nature of Europe also envisages the development and gradual expansion of its neighborhood policy. That said, the associated partners within the Eastern Partnership (EaP) format (Moldova, Georgia, Ukraine) have bigger ambitions and goals than the development of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) and the full implementation of the Association Agreement (AA) (European Commission, 2019).
  • Topic: Science and Technology, European Union, Geopolitics, Free Trade
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Megi Benia
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Georgian Foundation for Strategic International Studies -GFSIS
  • Abstract: NATO is a major military organization responsible for security in the Euro-Atlantic space. Consequently, the current security environment in the world and, especially, in Europe stimulates debates about NATO’s readiness to resist an armed attack. However, these debates are normally held around the Alliance’s Article 5 as a key component of collective defense and in this process, the principles of Article 3 are ignored, something which is a wrong approach. NATO’s Article 3 states that: “In order to more effectively achieve the objectives of this Treaty, the parties, separately and jointly, by means of continuous and effective self-help and mutual aid, will maintain and develop their individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack” (NATO, Resilience and Article 3 2020). Therefore, fulfilling obligations under Article 3 is a crucial part of the organization’s main idea of collective defense as it enables NATO to fulfil the obligations of Article 5. However, one must remember that in today’s unpredictable security situation, “capacity to resist armed attack” (NATO, Resilience and Article 3 2020) means not only military readiness. To be able to deploy rapidly during operations or a potential armed attack, military forces need the support of transport systems, satellite communications and power supplies, etc. However, it is a well-known fact that these systems are highly vulnerable during an attack in both peace and war.
  • Topic: Security, NATO, Infrastructure, Resilience
  • Political Geography: Europe, United States of America
  • Author: Tyson Barker
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP)
  • Abstract: The EU and the United States are expected to launch a Trade and Technology Council (TTC) on the sidelines of the US-EU Summit in mid-June, which could present a rare opportunity to jumpstart the EU-US technology relationship. Against the backdrop of rapid technological change, a transatlantic digital technology community could be a 21st-century answer to the Coal and Steal Community – a big democratic project that reaches across borders, knits like-minded communities together in a manner that reinforces shared values, and codifies standards of market access, increased interdependence, and intensified political dialogue.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Governance, European Union, Democracy, Transatlantic Relations
  • Political Geography: Europe, United States of America
  • Author: Shahin Vallée, Daniela Gabor
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP)
  • Abstract: The ECB has been forced – in part by the COVID-19 crisis – to review its bilateral arrangements with foreign central banks. But the recent changes made by the ECB fall short of the European Commission’s ambitions to boost the international role of the euro. We suggest the ECB should put in place an alternative three-pillar framework to improve the international role of the ECB and cement its pivotal role in the international financial system.
  • Topic: European Union, Banks, International System, European Commission
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Anna-Lena Kirch
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP)
  • Abstract: Overall, as the COVID-19 crisis unfolded, the EU proved capable to act. Crisis management addressing the pandemic benefited from the fact that Germany held the presidency of the EU Council in the second half of 2020 and could build upon its traditional approach: developing European capabilities, including all governments, and being prepared for the unexpected. Now, going forward, Germany needs to use its experience with complexity and uncertainty to help form a strategic doctrine for the EU.
  • Topic: European Union, Crisis Management, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Europe, Germany
  • Author: Miriam Heß
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP)
  • Abstract: The European Union should actively address the problematic use of counterterrorism by non-European states – especially Russia – and make it a permanent aspect in developing counterterrorism strategies and agendas. Failing to address the misuse of counterterrorism sends the wrong signal not only to those with reason to fear geopolitical interference by their countries of origin, but also to states that pursue “anti-terrorist-operations” in the form of abductions and executions abroad.
  • Topic: European Union, Counter-terrorism, Geopolitics, Risk
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe
  • Author: Markus Jaeger
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP)
  • Abstract: The Biden administration has just issued its Interim National Security Strategic Guidance. The guidance document states the need to “build back better at home” and acknowledges that “international economic policies must serve all Americans” – a theme often referred to as “foreign policy for the middle class”. While the interim guidance does not preclude cooperation with China in selected policy areas, it is unambiguous in considering China a strategic competitor. The prospect of intensifying China-US geopolitical and (geo)economic competition is bad news for Germany, which has high value trading and investment relationships with both countries.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Economics, National Security, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Asia, Germany, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Milan Nič, Julian Rappold
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP)
  • Abstract: The next months will show whether Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán can retain his influence in Europe even outside its largest political family. Having left the center-right European People’s Party before his party was finally pushed out, Orbán is now trying to regroup and unite the populist and Euroskeptic forces in European Parliament. What looks like a defeat could still be turned to his advantage if it leads to a lasting reshuffle of political alliances and strengthens illiberal voices.
  • Topic: Politics, European Union, Populism, European Parliament
  • Political Geography: Europe, Hungary
  • Author: Klaus-Jurgen Gern
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW)
  • Abstract: This EUROFRAME Report presents an assess- ment of the economic outlook for 2021 focuses on the euro area based on a synopsis of the fore- casts of EUROFRAME institutes. Perspectives for UK and CEEs countries are described in Boxes A and B, respectively. In the Focus section, we discuss a special topic, based on work done in the EUROFRAME insti- tutes. This time, we discuss the impact that the COVID-19 crisis had on labour markets in Eu- rope and policy responses to this challenge, based on the experience in the countries hosting EUROFRAME institutes.
  • Topic: Economics, Regional Cooperation, European Union, Regionalism, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW)
  • Abstract: The German economy is picking up speed again. After the resurgence of the Covid-19 pandemic had interrupted the economic recovery in the winter half-year, GDP will expand at a fast pace in the further course of the year and exceed its pre-crisis level again. With the removal of the pandemic-related restrictions, activity will rebound, especially in those areas that were previously particularly burdened. Retail trade and contact-intensive services in particular are likely to benefit from the rebound in private household consumption. For the time being, however, the recovery will be delayed in the manufacturing industry. The strong global recovery has brought with it multi-layered supply bottlenecks that are noticeably hampering production in many firms. Despite the very good order situation, production in the manufacturing industry will therefore probably only gradually return to its recovery path in the second half of the year, provided that the supply bottlenecks then gradually ease. With the supply bottlenecks, price pressures have also increased, especially as economic momentum is high worldwide. Thus, prices for raw materials, intermediate goods and transport services have recently been on a broad upward trend. All in all, GDP is expected to grow by 3.9 percent this year and by 4.8 percent in 2022. Consumer prices will rise at a much faster rate of probably 2.6 percent this year and by around 2 percent in 2022.
  • Topic: Economics, GDP, Economic Growth, Pandemic, Industry, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Europe, Germany
  • Author: Jon Greenwald
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Council on International Policy (CIP)
  • Abstract: When the Wall fell in 1989, I was the U.S. Embassy political counselor in East Berlin. We immediately realized something new would replace the Cold War, but one of my few certainties was that if Moscow released its grip on the Warsaw Pact, Hungary – Eastern Europe’s freest and most economically diverse society — would be quickest to integrate smoothly into Western Europe. President George H.W. Bush’s goal of a “Europe whole and free” has come closer, but we are not there yet, and Hungary, where I held a similar position earlier, has lagged. Respected observers Freedom House and Transparency International chart a course that puts it dangerously close to, even within, the autocratic zone. Worse, it champions a nationalist populism and “illiberal democracy” directly challenging key principles to which the European Union (EU) of which it is a member and the U.S., its ally in NATO, subscribe. What should be done?
  • Topic: International Cooperation, Nationalism, Bilateral Relations, Populism
  • Political Geography: Europe, Hungary, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Kjell Engelbrekt
  • Publication Date: 07-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Council on International Policy (CIP)
  • Abstract: In the opinion surveys leading up to the elections, the same three biggest parties as in April enjoy support somewhere between 16 and 23 percent each, with another three-four trailing far behind and one hovering just at the 4 percent threshold. Few observers believe that the outcome will differ much from that produced on April 4th, which distributed 240 parliamentary seats among six parties. Ostensibly, the main problem in current Bulgarian politics arises from the unnecessarily sharp disagreements and mutual recriminations among the leaderships of the three main parties competing for power, aggravated during electoral campaigns. When the results were in, each of the three parties decided to reject cooperation with the other two and thereby precluded the establishment of a government tolerated by the parliamentary majority. The two top contenders are Boyko Borisov’s center-right GERB party, which has ruled the country almost uninterruptedly since it garnered 40 per cent of the popular vote in mid-2009, and There Is Such a People (Ima takav narod or ITN), run by TV personality Slavi Trifonov. The electoral campaigns ahead of either poll have largely revolved around Trifonov’s sweeping accusations of corruption directed at Borisov and his party, with the ongoing pandemic and the country’s weak economic performance featuring as issues more in the periphery. The corruption charges were also directed at the third frontrunner, the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) with roots in the old communist elite. After Trifonov’s ITN party had reiterated that it would under no circumstances work with the BSP, two of the smaller parties with anti-corruption platforms similarly refused even initial consultations. From that point on the BSP was out of options as well. At a deeper level Bulgaria’s troubles stem from being a relatively small country with the lowest GDP per capita in the European Union (EU), frequently exposed to cross-pressures from Brussels, Moscow, Ankara, Washington DC and Berlin. This especially applies to the energy sector, where the country’s geographic location in the corner of southeastern Europe makes it a significant player. While the EU and NATO have repeatedly urged Sofia to align with collective approaches designed to reduce the continent’s reliance on individual providers, Russian energy corporations have skillfully utilized regional relationships and ties to Bulgaria’s political class to assertively negotiate terms that above all are favorable to Moscow. Germany, a sponsor of the Nord Stream I-II pipelines, has not been in a position to object.
  • Topic: Corruption, Elections, Leadership, Disinformation, Rivalry
  • Political Geography: Europe, Bulgaria
  • Author: Jussi Lassila
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Among the most signifcant events in Russia in 2020 were the Covid-19 pandemic, reactions to the protests in Belarus, and the poisoning of top opposition politician Aleksey Navalny. Te frst two were clearly events of international signifcance, but so was the medical treatment given to Navalny, frst in Omsk and then in Berlin, after he suffered from symptoms of poisoning dur- ing a flight from Tomsk in Siberia to Moscow in August. In December, a joint study by the investigative journalist groups Bellingcat and The Insider, along with CNN, Der Spiegel and Naval- ny’s FBK Foundation, showed that it was difficult to find more con- clusive evidence of the Kremlin’s involvement in the assassination attempt by a chemical weapons- related poisoning group under the FSB that had been following Na- valny for years. This kind of op- eration would hardly have been possible without the blessing of high-level intelligence. Te ques- tion of whether the FSB leader- ship was proactive in resolving the “Navalny problem” or whether the order came from the Kremlin is irrelevant. Te revealed pattern confrms the long-standing trend of the strengthened role of the se- curity services, especially the FSB, in Russian politics. It is consistent with Putin’s approach to political processes being increasingly seen as issues of national security. Navalny’s self-confidence and style in the revelation videos related to the investigation, receiving ap- proximately 45 million views in less than a month, underscore the extent to which the FSB failed. The target did not die or become paralyzed, but recovered relatively quickly and bounced back, playing for higher and more radical stakes than before. Navalny’s role and reputation as the Kremlin’s most prominent critic has been based on the political pressure on the Kremlin generated by expos- ing elite corruption. While the will- ingness of citizens to see Navalny as an alternative to Putin varies consid- erably – with the majority indifer- ent to politics as a whole – Navalny’s numerous revelations have created an alternative to Russia’s ofcial re- ality, the political potential of which the regime obviously fears.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Conflict, Regionalism, Domestic Policy
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe
  • Author: Saila Turtiainen
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The ratification process for the EU’s new investment agreement with China is expected to be very difficult. Although the aim is to improve EU-China relations, the process of getting the agreement approved in the EU will end up causing further tensions with China as the EU tries to strike a balance between promoting its values and economic interests.
  • Topic: International Cooperation, International Trade and Finance, European Union, Conflict, Economic Cooperation
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Asia
  • Author: Matti Pesu, Henri Vanhanen
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: In his recent op-ed, President Sauli Niinistö reintroduced the idea of an Arctic summit. The timing of the meeting could be favourable. As the 50th anniversary of the 1975 Helsinki Final Act is approaching, Niinistö also hoped for a revitalization of the “Spirit of Helsinki”. The aim is hampered by global tensions, however.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, International Cooperation
  • Political Geography: Europe, Finland, Arctic
  • Author: Okko-Pekka Salmimies, Saila Turtiainen
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The EU’s new trade strategy instrumentalizes trade policy more forcefully in order to promote EU values such as democracy and human rights. A value-based and more defensive trade policy can lead to conflicts spirals, especially with China. The EU also needs to be prepared for potential setbacks in developing the transatlantic relations.
  • Topic: International Trade and Finance, Regional Cooperation, European Union, Regionalism, Strategic Competition
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Arkady Moshes, Ryhor Nizhnikau
  • Publication Date: 08-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The Belarusian Revolution challenged the Lukashenka regime but did not bring it down. It is, however, clear that the structural factors behind the revolution have been sustained. The West should increase efforts to achieve political and economic transformation in the country.
  • Topic: Development, International Cooperation, Authoritarianism, Democracy, Revolution, State Building
  • Political Geography: Europe, Belarus
  • Author: Jussi Lassila
  • Publication Date: 09-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Maintaining the ruling party’s overwhelming majority was an obsession for the Kremlin, regardless of the growing dissatisfaction. The election result, achieved through blatant fraud, further undermines the Kremlin’s connection with citizens.
  • Topic: Corruption, Governance, Authoritarianism, Elections, Democracy, Leadership
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe
  • Author: Katja Creutz
  • Publication Date: 10-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Finland will be a member of the UN Human Rights Council, whose task is to promote and protect human rights. The outlook seems gloomy for the upcoming three-year period, with human rights coming under increasing pressure. Finland needs to be active, and to consider taking the lead on the situations in different countries.
  • Topic: Human Rights, International Cooperation, United Nations, Leadership, UN Human Rights Council (HRC)
  • Political Geography: Europe, Finland
  • Author: Tyyne Karjalainen
  • Publication Date: 10-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Finnish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Crisis management forms an integral part of the expanding toolbox with which the European Union (EU) reacts to external crises. This FIIA analysis aims at understanding the strategic approach of the EU to crisis management as it develops from the interplay between growing institutional infrastructure and member states’ reactions to crises and conflicts in their neighbourhood. In particular, this analysis investigates the creation of objectives for Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) interventions. Drawing on a series of expert interviews, the article challenges a tradition in European studies of analysing EU strategy based on strategic documents alone. Instead, it explores the strategic approach as it has been developed, practised and interpreted by practitioners working in the CSDP framework. The research argues that the development of the EU’s approach is characterized by experimentalism and emergence, which are enabled by repetitive processes of intergovernmentalism and institutional learning in the framework. At the same time, discrepancies in the Integrated Approach and decision- making are found to limit the capabilities of the EU as a strategic actor. Finally, three trends are argued to curtail the EU approach to crisis management at present: a decreasing level of ambition, squeezing between other instruments for foreign and security policy, and a rhetorical shift from external to internal security.
  • Topic: Security, Regional Cooperation, Military Strategy, European Union, Strategic Interests
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Katarína Svitková
  • Publication Date: 07-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Europeum Institute for European Policy
  • Abstract: Associate Research Fellow Katarína Svitková writes about challenges facing cities today, tracing the concept of urban resilience throughout the last decade, explored in her recently published book (Resilience and Urban Governance).
  • Topic: Governance, Urban, Cities, Resilience
  • Political Geography: Europe, Czech Republic
  • Author: Luka Steric
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Belgrade Centre for Security Policy
  • Abstract: Foreign direct investments are the cornerstone of the current government’s economic policy. In their statements, the officials call them drivers of development, saying that they have enabled the revival of the economy and turned Serbia into the “economic tiger of Southeast Europe.”1 The fact that the value of the investments Serbia has managed to attract is greater “than what was achieved by all the countries of the Western Balkans put together” 2 is often mentioned as the key measure of success. However, the story of brilliant success quickly loses its lustre when one considers the long-term effects and all-encompassing consequences of this policy. Due to the way they are contracted and implemented, foreign direct investments represent one of the key mechanisms for capturing the state. Hiding behind the stories of a better future and new jobs, the government is breaking down the system of legal regulations and statutory procedures, promoting private interest to the detriment of the public one, and using foreign investments as propaganda ammunition to legitimise unlimited power. The results of such policy are a number of negative consequences for the state and the citizens, such as the increase of public debt, dramatic violation of workers’ rights and alarming problems with environmental pollution. In order to mask the negative consequences and legitimise the policy of attracting foreign investors based on the above described pattern, a complex narrative has been developed presenting foreign investments as a successful, and the only possible, model for state development. This meta-narrative about progress, which media are building up every day, is based on four basic component narratives: on the economic revival, on the efficiency of personal rule, on transparent contracts and on the opponents of Serbia’s development who ‘unfoundedly’ criticise the government’s economic success. In the analysis of the narrative we will focus on the statements of officials made since 2012, which is when the regime led by the Serbian Progressive Party came to power. Many of the described mechanisms, such as non-transparent, harmful contracts and unjustifiably high subsidies, also existed during the previous government.3 However, the capture of the state, carried out - among other things - with the help of foreign direct investments, has reached completely new dimensions under the current regime, while the narratives that accompany it have been significantly ‘improved’.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Foreign Direct Investment, Drugs
  • Political Geography: Europe, Serbia
  • Author: Marija Pavlovic, Bojan Elek, Milos Jovanovic
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Belgrade Centre for Security Policy
  • Abstract: How the narrative of the fight against organised crime is used to capture the state? Find out in the latest BCSP analysis. The objective of this report is to analyze the narrative of the fight against organised crime, i.e., the story the authorities are offering the public concerning this topic, for the purpose of establishing how it is used to capture the state. More precisely, the analysis attempts to explain how the polygraph was abused during the declared war on mafia to suspend judicial institutions, ‘cleanse’ some in the eyes of the public or criminalise others outside the statutory criminal procedure, and to identify the consequences of this approach to fighting organised crime. The so-called war on mafia officially began on 19 October 2020, when the President of Serbia used his Instagram profile to announce the final showdown between the state and organised crime. Set forth after a series of unsolved murders that had taken place on the streets of Serbian cities – characterised by experts mostly as mafia-style terminations – it initially looked like a marketing move that preceded the constitution of a new Government. Such understanding was supported by the fact that this was not the first time that government officials declared war on organised criminal groups. Former Minister of the Interior [MoI] declared a similar war almost four years earlier, under similar circumstances. One hero particularly stood out in this war. It was the lie detector, the omnipotent polygraph, used extensively in the previous months as the supreme arbiter of truth. Instead of lengthy court proceedings, complex investigations and obtaining evidence acceptable to the court, the polygraph was used by the highest state officials as a simple tool to directly prove to the citizens whether someone was telling the truth or lying, and to unmistakably determine guilt or innocence. Trials were replaced by media performances involving debates on who passed the lie detector test and who refused to take it, while politicians kept offering to be subjected to it or calling each other out for not doing the same thing, all in the name of the alleged fight against organised crime.
  • Topic: Media, Rule of Law, Police, Judiciary, Organized Crime
  • Political Geography: Europe, Serbia
  • Author: Vuk Vuksanovic
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Belgrade Centre for Security Policy
  • Abstract: What challenges the new American administration will face in the Balkans, and how should it approach them? Read in the latest analysis of BCSP researcher Vuk Vuksanović. When Joseph Biden defeated Donald Trump in the 2020 US presidential elections, the Balkan countries were not neutral on that race. Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić made a failed bet on Trump, hoping that under Trump, he will get a less painful settlement of the Kosovo dispute and an opportunity to finally make Belgrade a partner of Washington, after several decades. Vučić still congratulated Biden for his win alongside several other Balkan leaders who were probably happier about Biden’s win than him. US foreign policy towards the Balkans under Trump has been marked by transactional logic and disdain towards the European Union, best symbolised in the economic normalisation agreement between Belgrade and Priština brokered in September 2020 by Trump. Many policy hands, including Nicholas Burns, former US diplomat and one of Biden’s advisors, now expect that Biden will display US leadership in the region while cooperating closely with the European Union. The US foreign policy will have to deal with three sets of challenges: the unresolved Kosovo dispute, democratic backsliding in the region, and the presence of non-Western powers like Russia and China. While US power is a necessary element in resolving these challenges, the Biden administration will not be able to offer quick fixes.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, International Cooperation, Governance, Elections, Leadership
  • Political Geography: Europe, Serbia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Marija Ignjatijevic
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Belgrade Centre for Security Policy
  • Abstract: Military cooperation between Serbia and the United States is the topic of the latest analysis by BCBP researcher Maria Ignjatijevic. Serbia and the United States have had intensive cooperation in the field of security and defense for years, members of the armed forces have participated in over 70 military exercises in the last ten years, and the United States is one of the largest donors to the Serbian defense system. However, if we follow only media reports in Serbia, the intensity of this cooperation will not be so obvious. Defense cooperation with Russia gets far more space in the media than activities with the US and NATO members. Thus, for example, the military exercise “Slavic Shield” completely occupied the public’s attention before and after its organisation in October 2019. Although undeniably a significant activity between the two armed forces, to which Russia brought its S-400 and Pantsir systems, it gained a disproportionately large space in the media compared to other exercises that took place that year with other partner countries. Apart from the image being sent to the public through media and various foreign policy moves, a very dynamic and practical defense cooperation with all partners takes place behind the scenes. The United States is one of Serbia’s important partners in the field of defense, and cooperation with the US Department of Defense has been achieved in various fields. Every year, Serbia and the US conduct about 100 different bilateral activities. In the eyes of the Serbian public, perception of relations with the United States, and especially perception of military cooperation, is burdened by the NATO intervention in 1999. In order to avoid losing political points at home and endangering relations with Russia, the political elite in Serbia avoids talking about cooperation with the United States and other NATO members, and the pro-regime media report accordingly. Regardless of the fact that military cooperation is often used as a foreign or domestic policy tool, it is important to discuss the practical aspects of this cooperation, benefits for Serbia and the US, their defense systems, but also the citizens. At the online discussion “Serbia and the USA: Together we are safer”, specific examples of military cooperation between Serbia and the US and practical benefits for our defense system and its members from this cooperation were discussed. Defense cooperation between Serbia and the United States takes place on several levels, through joint exercises, cooperation with the Ohio National Guard, a student exchange program, as well as donations.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, International Cooperation, Military Strategy, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: Europe, Serbia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Maja Bjelos, Bojan Elek
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Belgrade Centre for Security Policy
  • Abstract: Based on an analysis of top officials’ speeches, this text will show how officially promoted narratives about Kosovo serve to capture the state. This analysis has shown the mechanism by which the Serbian authorities, by controlling and strategically using narratives on resolving the Kosovo dispute, manage to increase their own discretionary powers while simultaneously abolishing control mechanisms. In other words, under the pretext of resolving the Kosovo issue, the separation of powers and democratic decision-making are being abolished, leading to an even greater level of state capture. The analysis is divided into five thematic units. The first chapter shows how the executive power instrumentalises Kosovo and, using the media, creates a false impression in the public that, when it comes to Serbia’s membership in the European Union, Kosovo is more important than the rule of law, thus putting a false premise before the citizens: that their choices are either Kosovo or a future governed by the rule of law. The second part of the analysis shows how the government in Belgrade traded stability for democracy and ensured the tacit consent of the West in preserving political stability in Serbia for the purpose of reaching a final agreement with Pristina. The third and fourth parts point to the absence of real social dialogue on Kosovo, and reveal how the President of Serbia and a narrow circle of his associates strive to increase their discretionary power to decide on Kosovo beyond the Constitution and democratic institutions, all under the pretext of protecting national interests. Finally, in the last part, the authors will provide additional evidence for understanding why citizens of Serbia cannot come to terms with the loss of state control over Kosovo, that is, why the opinion of the majority of Serbian citizens – that Kosovo should not be recognised – is still relevant.
  • Topic: Security, Media, Leadership, State Building, State Capture
  • Political Geography: Europe, Serbia
  • Author: Bojan Elek, Giorgio Fruscione
  • Publication Date: 10-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Belgrade Centre for Security Policy
  • Abstract: We are presenting you the Dossier on organized crime in the Balkans, produced in cooperation between the Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI) and Belgrade Centre for Security Policy. In some of the countries of the Western Balkans, criminal groups and political elites have grown increasingly interdependent. In particular, Serbia’s and Montenegro’s societies have suffered the most from these links. The two countries have long been considered frontrunners in the EU integration process, whose final completion, however, is difficult to foresee. Similarly, Albania’s EU negotiating process has also been delayed for years, in part because of the country’s role in global drug trafficking schemes. The crime-politics nexus is contributing to the erosion of the rule of law in several Balkan countries, where the risk – or reality – of state capture is increasingly worrisome. In light of recent events, Serbia appears to be the most concerning case as its authoritarian drift currently seems hard to reverse. Which consequences does the situation in Serbia have on other Balkan countries? What impact does state capture have on regional stability? And what is changing for the region’s integration prospects with the EU?
  • Topic: Security, Crime, Rule of Law, Organized Crime, State Capture
  • Political Geography: Europe, Serbia
  • Author: Luka Steric, Maja Bjelos
  • Publication Date: 12-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Belgrade Centre for Security Policy
  • Abstract: BCSP researchers Maja Bjeloš and Luka Šterić analyzed how media in Serbia reported about Chinese, Russian and EU help during the pandemics. Because the pandemic was used as a framework for an excessive pro-Chinese campaign, the research examines how pro-Chinese narratives in mainstream media during the pandemic were used to position China, displacing Russia as Serbia’s main non-Western partner, while simultaneously propelling the anti-EU narrative of incompetence and hypocrisy. The analysis was carried out for the period between 1 March 2020 and 31 March 2021 and focused on two key events – media coverage of the first shipments of medical supplies to Serbia and media reporting of the supply of vaccines. Media monitoring included data collection using social listening software from the online portals of most-watched televisions (TV Happy, TV Prva), the most visited news portals (Blic, Kurir, Politika, B92 and Nova.rs), and the most circulated online portals of tabloids (Informer and Alo). Chinese medical aid to Serbia during the COVID-19 pandemic attracted unprecedented foreign media attention and much speculation about a shift in Serbia’s foreign policy. Many foreign and domestic policy experts have interpreted the enthusiastic acceptance of Chinese aid by Serbian politicians as a departure from Serbia’s proclaimed accession to the European Union. Since Serbia did not greet Russian assistance with the same enthusiasm, this sparked speculation that Serbia is replacing Russia with China as its preferred eastern partner. In Serbian media, the narrative of a ‘brotherhood’ has long been reserved for describing relations between Serbia and Russia. Serbia’s ruling political elite voluntarily promoted President Putin and Russia in the mainstream media to increase political support among pro-Russian votes and at the same time exaggerating Russia’s influence in Serbia as a bargaining chip with the West over its political goals. Due to the silent crisis of relations with Moscow, Belgrade officials saw the partnership with China as a stronger card to play ahead of the 2020 elections to convince voters that the government was capable of dealing with the COVID-19 crisis, as well as acquiring a new ally in the East to leverage in the West. Consequently, China emerged as a ‘savior of Serbs in trouble’ during the pandemic overshadowing roles of both Russia and the EU.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, International Cooperation, European Union, Media, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Europe, Asia, Serbia
  • Author: Bijana Karovska Andonovska
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance (DCAF)
  • Abstract: The analysis reflects the current state from the viewpoint of legal solutions, but also from the viewpoint of real problems seen in practice, which come in part as the result of inconsistent and insufficiently precise legal provisions. Thus, a special emphasis was put on the provisions that do not fully serve the reform priorities and the segments that do not correspond to international documents and the practice of European courts. The analysis offers alternative solutions and concrete recommendations to overcome the evident weaknesses in some of the existing legal provisions. This is especially true for several segments underlined in the text (provisions on interception of communications without the mediation of OTA; provisions on metadata; certain aspect in the interception of communications in the interest of security and defense; security of data; as well as the provisions on oversight and control over the interception of communications). The structure of the document is comprised of an introduction, approach to the reforms, analysis of the legal framework, opportunities and challenges, and conclusions.
  • Topic: Security, Science and Technology, Communications, Law, Reform
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Luca Franza
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Dolphins are being spotted in harbours, canals in Venice have never looked so clean and the temporary ban of corridas has spared the lives of a hundred Spanish bulls. Looking at the bright side of things is an admirable quality, but we should not get too carried away with the idea that COVID-19 is good for the planet. Besides the anecdotal phenomena quoted above, the collapse of mobility and economic activity induced by COVID-19 are generating meaningful short-term consequences for the environment. These include a sharp reduction in Hubei’s and Northern Italy’s air pollution levels and a likely reduction in global CO2 emissions in 2020. Rejoicing over such news rests on a short-sighted view. The interlinkages between COVID-19, energy and climate issues are so complex that we are actually looking at a mixed bag of consequences.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Environment, Pollution, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Global Focus
  • Author: Francesca Ghiretti
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The bilateral relationship between Italy and China is back in the spotlight one year after the signature of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on China’s Belt and Road Initiative. To date, Italy is the second hardest hit country by COVID-19 pandemic after China. Despite strict measures in place to limit the crisis, numbers keep rising, placing the national health care system under severe strain.
  • Topic: Health, Bilateral Relations, Foreign Aid, Propaganda
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Asia, Italy, European Union
  • Author: Alessandro Marrone
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The Italian armed forces need to adjust to a changing operational environment, whereby threat levels are on the rise and the United States is more reluctant to lead military operations than in the past.
  • Topic: International Relations, NATO, Armed Forces, Military Affairs
  • Political Geography: Europe, Italy, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Elisa Murgese
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: China’s 2018 import ban on mixed “recyclable” plastic waste revealed deep-rooted problems in the global recycling system and uncovered the wasteful and harmful nature of the recycling trade. Repercussions have been global. In April 2019, Greenpeace East Asia took a closer look at the top plastic waste importers and exporters globally. This data details the 21 top exporters and 21 top importers of plastic waste from January 2016 to November 2018, measuring the breadth of the plastics crisis and the global industry’s response to import bans. Two core trends emerged from China’s ban and the Greenpeace analysis.
  • Topic: Crime, Environment, Trafficking , Waste
  • Political Geography: Europe, Malaysia, Asia, Italy
  • Author: Nicola Bilotta, Alissa Siara
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: One of the key priorities of the new European Commission is to enhance the EU’s geopolitical credentials and “learn to use the language of power”, as stated by the incoming EU High Representative Josep Borrell. The EU’s ambition is two-fold: to increase the Union’s ability to project power and influence at the global level, including through increased integration and coordination among member states, and secondly to enhance the EU’s strategic autonomy from the US in the political, military and economic domains. Both objectives, ambitious in the best of circumstances, are today under severe strain by the COVID-19 crisis. Implications will be long-lasting and multidimensional, and for Europe, its impact will have a direct bearing on its ambition for strategic autonomy, touching each of the three pillars outlined above.
  • Topic: Regional Cooperation, Geopolitics, Economy, Autonomy, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: Europe, European Union
  • Author: Alessandro Marrone
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic will negatively affect the defence field from a budgetary, industrial and politicostrategic point of view, particularly in Europe. Depending on the pandemic’s duration, its economic consequences and national and EU responses, effects may range from contained damages to a much wider European security crisis.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, Crisis Management, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: Europe, European Union
  • Author: Daniele Fattibene
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development stands at a crossroads. While Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have progressively entered the political discourse and agendas of numerous states, without long-term financial investments, building a more just and sustainable future will remain little more than a rhetorical embellishment.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Development, United Nations, Sustainable Development Goals
  • Political Geography: Europe, European Union
  • Author: Elena A. Korosteleva, Irina Petrova
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Resilience has recently emerged as a possible solution to address the increasing dysfunctionality of national and global governance, strengthening its ability to deal with the frequenting crises and the adversity of VUCA – the more vulnerable, uncertain, complex and ambiguous – world around us.
  • Topic: Politics, International Relations Theory, Institutions, Coronavirus, Resilience
  • Political Geography: Europe, European Union
  • Author: Tommaso Emiliani
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The killing of top Iranian General Qasem Soleimani by a US drone strike on 3 January 2020, followed by the Iranian retaliation on US military bases in Iraq, left many Europeans wondering how – if at all – the European Union can foster de-escalation in the Middle East. The EU is presently stuck between a deepening strategic rift with its US ally and its inability to advance its independent interests and policies vis-à-vis Iran. It is now clear that Europe cannot protect its relations with Washington while also salvaging the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or Iranian nuclear deal. Borrowing from an old Persian proverb, Europe cannot have both God and the sugar dates.
  • Topic: Sanctions, Military Affairs, Trade, Transatlantic Relations, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: Europe, Iran, Middle East, United States of America, European Union, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Luca Barana
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The European Commission’s Joint-Communication “Towards a Comprehensive Strategy with Africa”, published on 9 March 2020, envisioned the beginnings of a new and more equal partnership with the African Union (AU).[1] Meanwhile, COVID-19 has had an unprecedented disruptor effect on the world scene. Its impact dramatic and long-lasting, the crisis may also be an opportunity to move beyond policy principles and actually consolidate the EU–AU relationship. The Commission aspires to structure this new course of EU–AU relations around five thematic partnerships and ten actions so as to concretely step up cooperation. A common thread emerging from the Communication is the need to strengthen multilateralism and the rules-based international system.
  • Topic: Migration, United Nations, Multilateralism, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: Africa, Europe, European Union, African Union
  • Author: Nona Mikhelidze
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: On 25 March, one month after Russia registered its first confirmed case of Coronavirus, President Vladimir Putin announced a week of paid national holiday and invited Russians to stay home in a televised address to the nation. Further measures were subsequently introduced to limit the spread of the virus, while authorities prepared emergency plans to safeguard socio-economic conditions in the country. Initiatives included providing a new support package to businesses hit by the pandemic, a monthly bonus to medical personnel and the construction of new hospitals, following the Chinese model. Meanwhile, the constitutional referendum meant to extend Putin’s term limit as president was postponed. Originally scheduled for 22 April, this delay is due to Putin’s concern for public health and the multidimensional impact of the pandemic, a perfect storm involving quarantine measures, declining living standards, inflation and a weakened exchange rate, rising prices and increased job insecurity. Taken together, these challenges could jeopardise the outcome of the referendum. A recent poll conducted by the Levada Center in March highlighted a very slim majority (45 per cent) in favour of Putin’s constitutional amendments.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Health, Soft Power, Coronavirus, Vladimir Putin
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Italy
  • Author: Nicoletta Pirozzi
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Every era has its symbols. In 1984, Mitterrand and Kohl held hands on the battlefield in Verdun, coming to symbolise the importance of peace in the pursuit of European integration. Today, in times of COVID-19, the so-called “Coronabonds” could have emerged as the symbol of a new Europe, one that is ready and able to do what it takes to collectively overcome the present crisis. Yet, what some member states consider an indispensable emblem of European solidarity, namely debt mutualisation to face an unprecedented symmetric crisis brought about by COVID-19, is regarded by others as an ultimate excuse for moral hazard. As a result, Europe could end up with a politically more digestible European Fund, as proposed by Commissioners Paolo Gentiloni and Thierry Breton, designed to issue long-term bonds.[1] Or, as outlined by the Eurogroup, a Recovery Fund that is “temporary, targeted and commensurate” to the extraordinary costs of the current crisis, helping to spread them across time.
  • Topic: Financial Crisis, Governance, Finance, Economy, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: Europe, European Union
  • Author: Manfred Gerstenfeld
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: An important tool in understanding the dynamics of antisemitism is the identification of moments when its boundaries shift. This occurred with the Trump Peace Plan, the antisemitism crisis in the British Labour party, the UN’s first World Conference against Racism, the huge outburst of antisemitism in France in 2000, and the German welcome policy for refugees and asylum seekers.
  • Topic: Politics, Ideology, Peace, Anti-Semitism, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, Israel, Palestine, United States of America
  • Author: James M Dorsey
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: As tens of thousands more refugees are shunted by Turkey toward Europe and a new phase of the brutal Syrian war unfolds, Russia, Turkey, the EU, and the international community are being handed the bill for a flawed short-term approach to the nine-year conflict that lacked empathy for the millions of victims and was likely to magnify rather than resolve problems.
  • Topic: War, Refugees, Syrian War, International Community
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Turkey, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Anne Herzberg
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: UN treaty bodies are increasingly violating their mandates as part of discriminatory anti-Israel campaigns. In March 2020, the UN Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) embraced this disturbing trend by adopting a BDS agenda after being convinced to do so by the NGO Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA).
  • Topic: Human Rights, Politics, United Nations, BDS, NGOs
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, Israel, Norway, Palestine
  • Author: Emil Avdaliani
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: Though analysts tend to portray Russia’s foreign policy as truly global (that is, independent of Europe, the US, and China), the country is plainly tilting toward Asia. The Russian political elite does its best to hide this development, but the country is accumulating more interests and freedom to act in Asia than in Europe or anywhere else.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Geopolitics, Global Security
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Eurasia, Asia