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The Macedonian Crisis – A failure of EU Conflict Management?

Courtesy of Birmingham East Mediterranean Archive/Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

This article was originally published by the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) on 5 May 2017.

In the Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy, there is a chapter devoted to “An Integrated Approach to Conflicts and Crises”. It sets out a ‘multi-dimensional’ approach through the use of all available policies and instruments aimed at ‘conflict prevention, management and resolution’. The difficulty of transforming such lofty aspirations into reality couldn’t be more evident than in the ongoing and deepening crisis in Macedonia – an EU candidate country in the heart of the Western Balkans.

The eruption of violence on April 27th was a tragedy waiting to happen. The Parliament building was stormed by an angry mob, which proceeded to viciously attack several MPs from the main opposition Social Democratic Union for Integration (SDSM) party, injuring many, including the party’s leader Zoran Zaev. The attack was preceded by weeks of deep tensions following the early elections that took place in December. It was also the latest in a series of crises and violent incidents that have marked the past years of the government led by the ruling Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE) party under its leader and former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, in power since 2006. Under his leadership the government has pursued an ethno-nationalist and populist agenda resulting in one of the worst reform records in the Western Balkan region.
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Finis Europae? Historical Cycles and the Rise of Right Wing Populism

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This article was originally published by openDemocracy on 26 April 2017.

Why has Europe failed to inspire its citizens in a similar way to other ideas such as the nation, socialism or human rights? Here are some answers and some solutions.

In 2002, Jurgen Habermas and Ulrich Beck celebrated the great successes of the European Union: the re-unification of Germany, the expansion to the East, the successful introduction of the Euro. Old enmities had been left behind and former enemies collaborated in peaceful competition creating the most successful economic region in the world. Europe was becoming the model for the future of humanity.

The reality is different today. Europe is a dysfunctional entity that has betrayed its foundational values. Politicians, commentators and mainstream academics were aghast at the victories of Brexit and Trump. ‘Politics has gone mad’ said many. ‘The world is crumbling before our eyes’ intoned the French Ambassador to America.

Yet the rise of right wing populism and euroscepticism was not unpredictable. The economic, political and cultural trends leading to Brexit, Trump and the rise of the xenophobic and nationalist right-wing are similar and well-known. They did not seem to worry the European elites until recently.

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Libya: The Strategy that Wasn’t

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This article was originally published by the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) on 6 April 2017.

As a failed state in the European Union’s immediate neighbourhood that serves as a base camp for terrorists and a conduit for irregular migration to Europe, Libya is precisely the kind of place for which the EU’s foreign policy instruments were designed, or so one might think. Since the NATO intervention that helped oust Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, the EU has deployed most of its crisis response approaches and instruments in the country, including new procedures set out in the 2013 review of the European External Action Service (EEAS), most notably a Political Framework for a Crisis Approach (PFCA).

Yet, almost nothing in Libya has followed the liberal peacebuilding playbook, which assumes an improving security situation followed by reconstruction and sustained democratic political transformation. Instead, the EU has struggled to make any impact while the ongoing chaos in the country has deepened divisions among member states, with migration control emerging as the lowest common denominator for EU action.

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European Defence 2016

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This article was originally published by the European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS) on 1 March 2017.

The first EUISS Security Monthly Stats (SMS) brings together defence data from the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) from 2016. Aggregating figures from the 28 EU member states, the graphics answer a series of questions about defence spending levels and arms exports.

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Scenarios for Europe: Deciphering Juncker’s White Paper

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This article was originally published by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) on 3 March 2017.

What future for Europe does Jean Claude Juncker want?

On 1 March 2017, President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker delivered a White Paper on the future of Europe, which is meant to be discussed by governments and to encourage reflection on the role of the European Union. Later this month the Treaty of Rome will turn 60, but timing and context already indicate that the Commission does not believe any decisions on next steps will be taken until that anniversary is long past. More likely, they will wait for the dust to settle after national elections in the Netherlands, France, and Germany, and discuss the proposals towards the end of 2017.

The paper reads like a run-of-the-mill think-tank report from ten years ago, featuring a hefty dose of disillusionment with EU reform and failed referendums. In fact, the White Paper falls short of laying out any specific plan or recommendations for what to do next. Instead, it provides scenarios that seem to scare the reader about what could happen to the EU over the coming years, while failing to state what might actually trigger the alternative futures it sketches.

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