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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: Lorenza Errighi
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: If 2020 was the year of “mask diplomacy”, as countries raced to tackle the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and acquire the necessary protective gear and equipment, 2021 is likely to be remembered as the year of “vaccine diplomacy”. Growing competition between states to secure the necessary quantities of vaccines to inoculate their population has already become an established feature of the post-COVID international system and such trends are only likely to increase in the near future. It normally takes up to a decade to transition from the development and testing of a vaccine in a laboratory to its large-scale global distribution. Despite current challenges, the speed of COVID-19 vaccination campaigns is unprecedented. To put an end to the current pandemic – which in one year has led to the loss of 2.6 million lives and triggered the worst economic recession since the Second World War – the goal is to ensure the widest immunisation of the world population in a timeframe of 12 to 18 months. In this context, COVID vaccines emerge as instruments of soft power, as they symbolise, on the one hand, scientific and technological supremacy and, on the other, means to support existing and emerging foreign policy partnerships and alliances with relevant geopolitical implications. From their experimentation in laboratories, to their purchase and distribution, the vaccine has emerged as a significant tool for competition between powers, often associated with the promotion of competing developmental and governance models across third countries.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Health, Vaccine, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • 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: Nathalie Tocci, Riccardo Alcaro, Francesca Caruso, Silvia Colombo, Dario Cristiani, Andrea Dessì, Flavio Fusco, Daniela Huber
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Winds of change are blowing in North Africa and the Middle East. They originate from Washington, where the new Biden administration is expected to abandon its predecessor’s zerosum, erratic approach and take steps towards supporting regional balances and cooperation. Effects are visible especially in the Gulf, with the US pondering its options to re-activate nuclear diplomacy with Iran and Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates grudgingly agreeing to put their feud with Qatar on ice. One way or another, these winds of change are working their way through the Levant, the Eastern Mediterranean and Libya. Admittedly, they are still feeble and can easily fade out like a morning breeze. Were that to happen, Europeans would be amongst the most affected – aside, of course, from regional populations themselves. It is now high time for the EU and its member states to leave the backseat they have (un)comfortably been sitting in for years, seize the opportunity of a cooperative US administration and work to play a more proactive role in North Africa and the Middle East commensurate with their considerable financial, diplomatic and military resources.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Military Affairs, Finance
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, North Africa, United States of America
  • 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: Nicola Bilotta
  • Publication Date: 12-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The last decade has witnessed a progressive change in what had long been considered global priorities for achieving growth. The global financial crisis of 2007–2008 and the following European sovereign debt crises of 2011–2012 have brought to light important pitfalls in the functioning of globalized financial markets. Trade and financial liberalization policies have at times caused severe strains in some communities, raising concerns over the effects of rapid increases in international integration. Environmental and social risks have come to the forefront of the policy debate. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought enormous challenges to what was the normal way of living. All these events have had far-reaching consequences on the global economy. Currently, the world is facing at least three major shocks that are affecting health (COVID-19), prosperity (the recession) and the planet (climate change). These have been chosen as the three keywords for Italy’s G20 Presidency. These shocks are different in nature and have very diverse effects across countries, regions and municipalities. This calls for differentiated and targeted responses that take into account the specific needs of individual communities.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Infrastructure, G20, Economic Growth, Investment, Integration, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Europe, India, Vietnam, Philippines, United States of America, Congo
  • Author: Simona Autolitano, Agnieszka Pawlowska
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: There is currently much discussion about “digital sovereignty” in Europe. While the term encompasses very diverse connotations, it refers to a broad concept involving data, technological, regulatory and political elements. Cloud computing represents one example of the concrete materialisation of the European Union’s quest for “digital sovereignty” – especially through the development of its GAIA-X project. It is too early to assess whether or not GAIA-X will definitively help the Union to achieve this much-desired goal; however, some challenges have already emerged along the way. Looking to the future, if the EU wants to achieve “digital sovereignty”, a different strategy to the one currently under discussion will be needed.
  • Topic: Politics, Science and Technology, Sovereignty, European Union, Digital Policy
  • Political Geography: Europe, France, Germany
  • Author: Valeria Branca
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The second Infrastructure Working Group workshop under the Italian G20 PPresidency, titled “Financing infrastructure investments for local communities”, was hosted on 4 February 2021 by the Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI). As the world gradually recovers from the pandemic crisis, most governments are designing strategies to revive long-term growth. A key factor in their success will be the capacity to restart and reorient infrastructure investments. In this context, investments in local infrastructures are particularly important because social needs, work habits and production patterns have been greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, whose impact has been most severe on urban areas, the informal sector and marginalised groups – especially in developing countries. Investments in local infrastructures will therefore be crucial in addressing the need to sustain recovery while tackling long-standing problems posed by climate change and social exclusion.
  • Topic: Infrastructure, Sustainable Development Goals, Investment, Coronavirus, Sustainability, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Alessandro Marrone, Karolina Muti
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Europe’s missile defence is structurally linked to NATO deterrence and defence architecture, and it has to face both a worsened international security environment and an accelerating, worldwide technological innovation. Russia and China are heavily investing in new hypersonic systems which dramatically decrease the time needed to reach the target by flying mostly within the atmosphere. The US remains a global leader in the development and deployment of missile defence capabilities, including the Aegis systems which represent the cornerstone of NATO integrate air and missile defence covering the Old Continent. European countries are increasingly collaborating within the EU framework on the related capability development, primarily via the TWISTER project under the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PeSCo). Being exposed to missile threats from Middle East and North Africa and participating to allied nuclear sharing, Italy has a primary interest in upgrading its military capabilities through PeSCo, maintaining them fully integrated within NATO, and involving the national defence industry in cutting-edge procurement programmes.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, NATO, Science and Technology, European Union
  • Political Geography: United Kingdom, Europe, Turkey, France, Poland, Germany, Italy, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Francesca Ghiretti
  • Publication Date: 09-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The debate on technological development and the unfolding fourth technological revolution tends to neglect the role of the EU, relegating it to follower status. The leadership positions are occupied by the US and China, who compete with one another for technological supremacy. Yet, despite lagging behind in some areas, the EU is better placed than is often assumed and still stands a chance of guaranteeing the delivery of a technological revolution that is not only environmentally but also socially sustainable. This is critical in proposing a model of technological development alternative to that of China, in particular, and especially in such sectors as artificial intelligence, supercomputing and digital skills.
  • Topic: Development, Science and Technology, European Union
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Europe