Without any doubt, Turkey is one of the most important neighbors for the EU, and an important partner for China, Russia (despite current hostilities) and the U.S. (as a NATO member). In addition, Turkey is a front state – neighboring to Syria, and being in violent disputes with Kurdish groups. Turkey also is a gatekeeper for the current flows of migrants to the north, especially from Saria’s civil war.
At the same time, Turkey’s ambitious president Erdogan turns out to be increasingly seduced by the prospect of accumulating power, formally and in reality. Especially for journalists, academics and people in the legal system the times are getting harder. If the current clear trend towards more authoritarianism will continue, is hard to predict.
This week’s question is: How do Turkey’s neighbors and partners address this increasing authoritarian inclination of the ruling AKP party, and how far should the EU move toward cooperation on the refugee issue without losing credibility? Is a visa-free regime with Turkey the right avenues to follow?
– Prof. Dr. Klaus Segbers
Under the radar of the big news items, fueled by the migration and Russia crises, populism and the threat of Brexit, terrorism and (once again) the Eurocrisis, another issue is emerging: trade. Now while this seems pretty boring, tens of thousand ds of people assemble on squares in Europe to protest against the TTIP, the planned trade agreement between the USA and the EU, and its sibling, the TPP, the related treaty between the U.S. and ASEAN countries, also suffers from a mixed reputation. All current U.S. presidential candidates have positioned themselves more or less against these trade agreements.
And indeed, there is data that suggests previous trade agreements have cost industrial workers in America jobs. On the other hand, David Ricardo would argue even today that nothing better may happen to a country then healthy trade relations. As well, these deals have geopolitical benefits, serving as a way of tightening links between the US and EU in the case of the TTIP, and the US and its ASEAN partners with the TPP. Nonetheless, there are two major issues turning people against these negotiations: first, that there are useful or ‘just’ standards that would have to be reduced for assuring consensus among signatories; and second, that there is an inbuilt trend away from national legislation, towards arbitration in the case of conflicts.
Now how do we, the experts, assess these two treaties? Should they be finalized soon, before there will be a new U.S. administration, or does it pay off to let the talk linger indefinitely?
– Prof. Dr. Klaus Segbers
A few days ago, about 20% of the population of the Netherlands voted against the association treaty of the EU with Ukraine. Though this small number is by itself both insignificant and irrelevant, it is enough to put the fate of this treaty in dire straits.
Let’s leave aside why governments keep putting stuff for a referendum to start with. Everyone knows that the electorate doesn’t care about the concrete issues, nor is it modestly well informed about them, but rather uses the opportunity to express anger about the respective government.
The real issue here is where the relationship and attitude towards Ukraine from the EU side is standing two years after the Euro Maidan protests. We should also remember that the failure of the then Ukrainian government to sign an association agreement was the trigger for the civil protests in Kiiv and other Ukrainian cities, and also for the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia, as well as for the emergence of rebels/ terrorists in two Eastern Ukrainian regions.
But now, things are looking different. Europe is engulfed in a row of crises (euro, migration, Russia, Brexit, terrorism, populism), and Ukraine is just one issue here, and not the most relevant one. At the same time, the current Ukrainian elites are involved in repeating their operetta from 2004 when they, for the first time, found the competition of their egos much more important than continuing to develop the first Maidan, and establish Ukraine as a European country. And now – here we go again.
What should the proper EU attitude be now, facing disarray in the political structures and economic situation of Ukraine?
– Prof. Dr. Klaus Segbers
Terrorism has arrived in Europe, not as a temporary phenomenon, but rather as a cultural phenomenon that is here to stay. It can happen any time, any place.
There are certain differences between this current wave of terror and carnage, and previous incidents, like in the 1970’s: the current actions are framed mostly in Islamist and cultural terms, rather than in a political language. The actions are not state sponsored. The perpetrators are not (only) the poorest and most marginalized. Some of this terrorism is homegrown. And there is zero space for negotiating with the jihadists.
Now the obvious question is how to react. Apparently, there are two road posts that may provide orientation, but they (at least partly) collide with each other. The first principle is to not give way to terror and blackmailing – not an inch. Liberal and pluralist societies will continue with their lifestyles, without anticipating self-censorship or unacceptable compromises. And two, the perpetrators have to be found and punished relentlessly.
Yes, there are problems here. Searching for terrorists may sometimes put some civil liberties in danger. Defending and developing open societies may also offer spaces for talking, proselytizing and committing terrorist acts.
How can our societies solve this contradiction?
The prospective of an exit of the UK from the EU has turned from a distant opportunity and a bargain chip into something quite real. It very well may happen that early this summer the EU will lose, for the first time, a member state.
For the EU, this could mark a potential watershed beyond which a much loser agglomeration of states would constitute a weaker union. Also, a less liberal one. There would be a whole range of agreements that have to be annulled, or re-negotiated. The EU also would have to secure its fabric and avoid that other member states also claim special rights for themselves.
For the UK a phase of deep uncertainties would begin. There are no bilateral trade agreements with individual member states of the EU. The future of the City of London would be even more uncertain. And Scotland may finally opt to leave the rest UK.
So would the EU become more consistent without a UK notoriously asking for a special relationship? Or would this indicate the beginning of the end?
The EU is in a difficult situation. One could also say: in a deep crisis.
There is an ongoing and unresolved Eurocrisis. There is the permanent threat of terrorist attacks. There is an ongoing wave of immigration hardly controlled by anybody, and putting in danger the Schengen rules. There is a Russian regime that keeps behaving assertively. There is a wave of populism especially in the Visegrad group in Central Europe, but not limited to it. At the same time, in the U.S. two populist candidates are gaining traction with voters, and China is escalating a crisis in the South China Sea. Germany’s chancellor, recently lauded as ‘Person of the Year’, is experiencing her most serious crisis so far.
The question is: Do you think that the dissolution, or collapse of the EU is a realistic possibility?
– Prof. Dr. Klaus Segbers
Global Matters has polled our select group of experts on what political issues they believe will be the most important in 2016. In order to do this, we provided a list of eleven major issues, and asked each expert to select 3 issues which they believed would be important in the year ahead. Of these, the most important issue was given 3 points, the runner-up 2 points, and the final issue 1 point.
The eleven issues which they selected from were as follows:
- The emergence of populist movements
- Daesh/ the Islamic State, and related terrorism
- The rise of artificial intelligence/cyborgs
- Climate change
- Unregulated migration
- The erosion of the EU
- The meltdown of China’s economy
- A collapsing Russia
- A populist republican administration in the US
- A new financial crash
- Military action in the South or East China Sea
Following our poll of 12 experts, this was the result:
As can be seen several issues dominated our experts’ concerns. Among these the threat posed by the Islamic State (also known as Daesh) was viewed as the most important and pressing issue for 2016. Following closely behind was the issue of ‘unregulated migration’ relating to the large number of refugees who have entered Europe over the last year.
Climate Change, a hot topic following the Paris Conference, also was viewed as an important issue for the year ahead, as nations begin to implement policies which will tackle this global problem. A final issue which has emerged as important was the risk of a new financial crash, perhaps triggered by a slowdown (or meltdown) of China’s economy.
Do you agree with our experts? Which issues would you score as the most important in 2016, and why? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below!
The outgoing year was not only difficult in terms of challenges and crises. It also marked a point where, maybe for the first time since the end of the East-West Conflict, liberalism came under significant pressure.
Let’s assume that liberalism rests most of all on three assumptions: One, the international system should rest on a set of rules of behavior that is guaranteed by the United Nations. Two, domestic constraints and structures matter a lot for the policies pursued by a respective government. Three, democratic peace is an assumption that has been proved right mostly. So the furthering of democracy, transparency, the division of powers and the protection of minorities’ rights are not just fancy ideas, and not only the foundational principles of the EU, but the pillars of a healthy way of interaction between actors in the global landscape in general.
Now, in 2015 there were remarkable challenges to these ideas. That Mr. Putin and Mr. Xi hold on to different ideas was no big surprise. But a number of European leaders are also thinking along similar lines – most prominently, the Hungarian Prime Minister Orban, and the Turkish President Erdogan. The new Polish government may be added to this list. And we cannot forget about radical populist movements and parties, most prominently in France and Sweden, but also in the Netherlands and Finland, as well as to some extent in Greece, Spain, and Italy. Muslim fundamentalism constitutes another, maybe even more formidable challenge to a liberalist order.
So the first question of the New Year is:
Is Fukuyama’s idea about the end of the ideational development of history finally outdated? Or is liberalism still a valid roadmap for social and political developments?
Against all odds and expectations, the Paris Conference on climate change was a partial success. For the first time almost 200 governments agreed on reduction targets for emissions, on external controls, and on an aim to limit global warming to less than 1.5 degrees.
While according to many experts these results are not good enough, they nevertheless constitute significant progress.
So, the questions are:
Why did this happen now?
And how can we navigate between the unrealistic expectation that the postindustrial countries will agree to reduce their living standards to make energy consumption more sustainable, and the equally unrealistic assumption that developing countries should agree to slow down their growth?
Here we go again, and fall, and fail again.
Last Friday, organized fighters who march in the name of the prophet produced carnage at six sites in Paris.
This follows earlier attacks in Paris in January, Copenhagen later this year, then Sharm El Sheikh, Beirut, and now Paris again. If there are still people thinking we have to talk to those ‘warriors’ it would be sad. We – the Western societies thinking of themselves as liberal ones – have to act.
Three issues are particularly relevant:
One, we should not compromise on our liberal values and behavior. Whoever wants to come to our societies has to accept our general rules of living.
Two, we have to improve massively intelligence capabilities and external border controls in the EU.
Three, we have to organize a negotiation process including, for the time being, Russia, Iran and representatives of the Assad regime. This won’t be easy, nor nice, but we have to eradicate the Daesh threat with all available means.
Do our experts think that this is achievable now?