Speeding up Association after Ukraine
If just a year ago Moldova’s reputation as a front runner in the Eastern Partnership (EaP) was endangered by a months-long domestic political crisis, the new Pro-European Coalition (PEC), in place since 30 May 2013, has so far demonstrated relative stability and an ability to withstand Russian pressure. Yet such political determination would not have been sufficient had it not been for the developments in Ukraine—first the EuroMaidan protests and then the crisis in Crimea—which made the EU understand the threats to the association process if prolonged further. As such, an Association Agreement (AA) with Moldova was initialled at the Vilnius Summit in November 2013 and is planned to be signed as soon as in June. Visa liberalisation was also accelerated and finalised: in mid-November the European Commission announced completion of the implementation of the visa liberalisation action plan, and visa requirements will be abolished for Moldovans (holding a biometric passport) from 28th April. The technical progress of association is also accompanied by more financial support and a visible intensification of political backing from the West, translated into frequent high-level visits to Chisinau. » More
Speeding up Association after Ukraine
The promise of new shipping routes and access to natural resources continues to attract external players to the Arctic. While states such as Singapore have successfully acquired permanent observer status in the Arctic Council (AC), the European Union (EU) has historically been far less successful in contributing to or securing a voice in Arctic governance. This problem is eroding away, however. All Brussels has to do is play to its strengths and continue focusing on ‘small target’ goals that can be achieved through existing political structures.
PARIS – While Europe’s citizens largely support the establishment of a common security and defense policy, most European leaders have demonstrated a clear lack of interest in creating one – including at last month’s European Council meeting. What accounts for this paradox?
One possible explanation is that financially strained European governments lack the means to fulfill their citizens’ expectations. But that is unconvincing, given that the issue was framed in almost identical terms three decades ago, when budgetary constraints were not a problem. In fact, it could be argued that such constraints should spur, not impede, the creation of a European defense structure. After all, member countries would then be able to pool their resources, harmonize programs, and rationalize costs, thereby reducing individual governments’ financial burden.
Another, far more credible explanation is that Europeans’ interpretations of “a more active and stronger security policy” differ widely. Indeed, current discussions in Europe concerning the use of force are dominated by three main perspectives, championed by France, the United Kingdom, and Germany. » More
The local elections that took place in Kosovo towards the end of 2013 were celebrated by the international community as a historic event and a turning point in the conflict over the status of the former Yugoslav province. They were also hailed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as a milestone for the normalization of relations between Serbia and Kosovo and a clear sign that the Serb-dominated north of the disputed territory was finally prepared to become part of the Kosovar political system. Alongside the encouragement of ethnic Serbs to participate in the elections, Belgrade also committed to abolish its parallel political institutions. In return, Serb majority municipalities were granted the right to create a community with autonomy in areas such as economic development, health, education, urban and rural planning. Such initiatives helped to allay fears that the Serb minority would be dominated by an overwhelming Albanian majority.
Less than perfect conditions
However, the elections were far from being smooth, especially in the northern part of Kosovo. Voter turnout in Serb dominated municipalities was low and hovered between 15% and 20% of the electorate. The first round of elections had to be repeated in three polling stations after they were stormed by masked men. In the second round, ballots were transported to Kosovo Polje for no obvious reason instead of being counted at the polling station. In all rounds, employees of Serbian state-run enterprises were practically “ordered” to the polls. Whereas these circumstances would have warranted a critical assessment elsewhere, there seemed to be no appetite to engage in a prolonged discussion about the legitimacy of the elections – as long as they produced a result that everybody could live with. » More
By 2015, three billionpeople will be living in urban slums according to UN Habitat. As the number of vulnerable people living in urban slums rises, aid agencies are struggling to identify the tipping point at which chronic urban vulnerability turns into a humanitarian crisis. IRIN spoke to aid staff to find out what they are doing about it.
Accurately tracking vulnerability is more complex in densely populated towns and cities, particularly in informal neighbourhoods such as slums, than it is in rural areas. Aid agencies and donors have therefore been slow to take on the challenge, inadvertently creating a rural-urban divide. » More