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What Europe Can Do for the Western Balkans

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This article was originally published by European Council on Foreign Relations on 13 October 2017.

It is high time for the EU to move beyond ‘stabilocracy’ and stand up to ethnic nationalist kleptocrat political leaders.

The Balkans are not as exciting as they once were. The large-scale violence that made the region a central concern of European policy in the 1990s is no longer a feature of Balkan politics.

That’s progress, of course. But the absence of violence does not mean an absence of problems. Persistent economic weakness, growing public frustration with leaders, and renewed ethnic tensions have created a volatile mix beneath the surface calm. As Europe’s attention to these issues wavered, outside actors – most notably Russia, but also Turkey and China, began to assert themselves. If the European Union wants to maintain stability and influence in its own troubled backyard, it will need to re-engage with the Balkans.

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Challenges in Libya Complicate EU Measures to Stem Migration

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This article was originally published by the IPI Global Observatory on 20 October 2017.

In recent weeks, allegations have surfaced that Italy has been paying armed groups in Libya to cease smuggling migrants into the country. Some estimate that the number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean into Italy has reduced by half compared to the same time period last year. At the heart of the issue is a governance vacuum that allows armed groups to control the flow of migrants in and out of Libya, presenting a unique challenge for governments in North and West Africa and EU policymakers.

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Russia and the West: Handling the Clash of Worldviews

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This article was originally published by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) on 4 October 2017.

While defending the EU’s interests and values, we should continue to retain bridges with the Russian people.

I arrived in Moscow as the EU’s Ambassador to the Russian Federation exactly four years ago. At the time, relations with Russia were strained but still functioning. Our efforts to engage Moscow had not yielded much but still allowed open channels of communication. But only a few months later, our relations with Russia plunged to their lowest point since the Cold War because of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its military intervention in eastern Ukraine. » More

Macron’s European Defense Doctrine

Image courtesy of Thierry Ehrmann/Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

This article was originally published by Carnegie Europe on 28 September 2017.

“A sovereign, united, democratic Europe.” This is the vision French President Emmanuel Macron outlined in a landmark speech on September 26, at the Sorbonne in Paris. Calling for a more united and democratic EU is not new. However, for a leader from a major country to passionately assert that European integration reinforces national sovereignty, rather than diminish it, is refreshing.

The last decade has been difficult for the EU, considering the combination of economic and security crises, alongside the 2016 UK decision to leave the Union and the rise of Euroskepticism across Europe. Even so, “We forgot that we are Brussels . . . Only Europe can give us some capacity for action in today’s world,” Macron declared. He bolstered his bold vision with a breathless list of policy proposals, including on European defense.

Macron’s defense vision seems to draw less on traditional French strategic ideology, or a teleological idea of European integration, and more on the urgent strategic necessity for Europeans to work together infused with a strong sense of political opportunity.

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France, Italy and the Reawakening of Historical Rivalries

Image courtesy of M Woods.

This article was originally published by the Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI) on 28 August 2017.

The leaders of France, Italy, Spain and Germany met in Paris on 28 August for a summit hosted by President Emmanuel Macron in the latest indication of France’s efforts to assume a key leadership role in the post-Brexit EU. Yet, the event is also an occasion for the French president to smooth ruffled feathers among EU partners, particularly in Rome, after a series of diplomatic spats led to a plummeting of relations and the resurrection of old grievances between the two countries. A second, and arguably more important bilateral summit between France and Italy is also scheduled for 27 September in Lyon, another indication of the need to patch up relations and promote an outward image of cooperation between the two EU neighbours.

Tensions between France and Italy soared in July following the French government’s decision to nationalise shipbuilder Stx/Chantier de l’Atlantique rather than give Italy’s Fincantieri a majority stake, thus reneging on an agreement between Italy and France’s previous government. Diplomatic relations had already been tested earlier that week when President Macron organised a peace conference on Libya without inviting the Italian government that considers itself a key player on the Libyan dossier. The two events, which are unrelated, created a perfect storm among Italians, resulting in some public spats and a queue of French ministers flying to Rome to patch up relations. Joint declarations and photo ops have not healed the wound, however, and tensions persist.

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