The Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies and the Office for a Democratic Belarus had recently organized a conference on the subject of Belarus’ internal politics and its international position. “Why Belarus is different”, a “Food for Thought” event, took place in Brussels, on June 23rd. The importance of the topic for the EU states derives from the geographic proximity of the country to the communitarian borders and from the increasing instability in the Eastern European region, which could potentially expand its turmoil beyond the Ukrainian borders. » More
During his trip to South Korea at the end of April, American President Barack Obama announced a “pause” in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, nine months into Secretary of State John Kerry’s flailing initiative. As the plan’s April 29, 2014 deadline approached, progress towards a first framework-agreement remained slow, if not inexistent. Washington hedged its bets on an exchange to prevent the process from complete derailment: the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) acceptance to postpone the deadline for talks, in return for a package making such extension acceptable, including most notably a partial settlement freeze in the West Bank and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s follow up on his July 2013 promise to release a number of Palestinian prisoners. » More
New horizons, new sensitivities
The European Union’s leap from 15 to 25 members (and later to 28) was supposed to have consigned the Cold War legacy of separate and hostile camps in Eastern and Western Europe to the shelves of history. The fault lines that opened up across Europe in 2003 over the war in Iraq were therefore ominous signs for the development of a cohesive EU foreign policy after the fifth enlargement of the Union envisaged for 2004. All Central and Eastern European candidate countries signed letters supporting the US policy to ‘disarm’ Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. The position of the majority of Western European states, Germany and France in particular, was one of emphatically rejecting the impending war. Divisions were deepened by French President Jacques Chirac, who noted that the countries of Central and Eastern Europe had “lost a good opportunity to keep quiet”, calling their support for the US “infantile” and “reckless”. There was even an implicit threat that they might have their EU accession blocked by a French referendum. » More
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
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.