02 July 2018

Main Political and Military Developments - Week 26 / 2018

Monitorul Apărării şi Securităţii

Image source: 123rf.com

 

[ Romanian Version HERE ]

 

THE EUROPEAN UNION. A Crucial European Summit

The June 28 – 29 European Summit, advertised as ”the Summit of all Summits” reached its goal, as the final declaration includes a common statement regarding the migration issue and the solutions for its mitigation, although specific details are missing. Previously, the German chancellor Angela Merkel had warned that the fate of Europe[1] was at stake, forgetting to say, though, that her own fate was at stake, as leader of Germany. Several issues as defense, trade, and technology were discussed at the Summit, but the main topic was migration. The struggle occurred between the frontline countries and the target countries[2], on one side, and the rest of European nations, on the other hand. There was also controversy between the countries wishing no change to the asylum rules, and those which deem those rules too permissive, actually a real incentive for the migrants.

The debates were intense, but a solution was reached early morning on June 29 (at 04.40, after nine hours of negotiations!). The European nations signed a declaration containing the common decisions meant to set the first phases of the solution to the migration problem. The decisions and principle statements are to be forged into practical measures. The European commissioner Günther Öttinger underlined that “a real progress” has been made in solving the problem. Angela Merkel, now based on a stronger position as German and European leader, was less enthusiastic though, agreeing that the final declaration is positive, but pointing out that divergent positions still persist within EU. After he blocked the declaration until an acceptable solution was found, the Italian Prime-Minister Giuseppe Conte was content, and stated that “Italy is no longer alone after this European Summit”.

The EU will establish (closed) “disembarkation platforms”, where migrants rescued from the sea would be hosted, and “screening centers” to host and screen them in Northern Africa. No African nation agreed to that yet[3], but money speaks volumes, even if the European too soft policy does not. In these centers, the asylum requests will be quickly solved. The hosting centers in Europe will be built voluntarily, such decision being taken after V.Orbán has refused to accept camps of the kind in his country. France and Italy also exclude establishing hosting camps on their territory. The immigrants will be transferable to other European countries, also if accepted by those nations. Important questions are yet to be answered, like the rules of migrant distribution among the European countries, or the solution for those migrants who are refused asylum.

A wholesale agreement is still far, but the foundation has been established for a fairly common approach. The basic idea is stopping the migrants at the external borders of the EU, but this goal is probably a bridge too far. Inside the EU, Germany proposes sending the migrants back to the European countries of first admission, based on bilateral agreements. One of the nations considered for this solution is Greece[4], which already accepted. In this regard, the discussions about the Dublin Convention reform will continue, aiming at a balanced distribution of the migrants.

The Summit is certainly a success, but it is just a beginning, and is not irreversible. It is important that enough common ground has been identified to answer the question “what do we do with the immigrants?” with the answer “we accept them to the point where they have strong reasons to emigrate from their countries”. Hence the first unitary measure: to stop and select them at Europe’s gateways. The second question – “how and where do we accept them?” does not have a final answer yet. Consequently, no decision has been made regarding the asylum granting procedures or regarding the migrant distribution rules. Henceforth, the national rules take over, sometimes selfish (the economic interest), sometimes generous (heartfelt). These developments will likely lead to changes to both the Dublin Convention and Schengen Agreement.

Regarding the distribution of the refugees, there is a hidden danger that the weak European nations concede to the power of the strong countries, by opaque bilateral agreements[5].

The same as in the financial crisis, the EU got out of the woods, by adequate measures, but the problem is still there: in the Euro Zone, we do not have a unitary financial policy, the so called finance ministry being still too far. In the same way, the EU did not agree upon a unitary asylum policy, or refugee distribution rules, the way “Dublin” and “Schengen” would be modified being still under debate.

But all’s well when ends well: the risen problems make Europe come together, and the European peoples have to find a way together. This endeavor is enforced by the low priority the US President Donald Trump offers to the defense of Europe. The following meeting between him and the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, rather worries the Europeans than make them happy. And for good reason: the letters D. Trump has sent to various European leaders herald a bumpy NATO Summit. If we add the news about President Trump’s remark at G7 meeting, that “NATO is as bad as NAFTA”, there is little room left for optimism. However, the US is and will remain the responsible leader of the free world. At the meeting in Helsinki, the danger is that the ambivalent position of the American president will encourage V. Putin to continue the aggressions in Europe or elsewhere.   

HUNGARY Will Answer for Orbán Government’s Antidemocratic Drift

After the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs of the European Parliament (LIBE) voted a report recommending the official procedures (June 26th), the penalty actions against Hungary may begin (after it happened to Poland), based on Article 7 of the European Union Treaty. The Hungarian government led by Viktor Orbán is accused for actions taken against democracy, rule of law, and human rights. The report says that, in Hungary, the basics of democracy (the independence of justice, the freedom of speech, freedom of press and autonomy of the academic institutions[6]) are in danger. The Hungarian government is also accused of state level corruption and ill-treatment of immigrants.

The EU Parliament’s measure is an important step, although the procedure considered to be applied to Hungary has not been activated yet, several steps being necessary until Article 7 punishment is in force. The result of the vote was expected, as the accusations were solid. The Hungary case is probably worse than Poland’s[7], but the gradual implementation of the anti-democratic and against rule of law measures in Hungary made them pass unnoticed in due time. In addition, V. Orbán, the “wonder-child of Europe”[8] still has supporters in the Western conservative decision groups, especially in Germany. This happens, among others, because V.Orbán was right (well, certainly not all the way), when the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, was wrong to open wide the gates of Europe for immigrants. She did that for humanitarian reasons, although the crisis required political, not maternal solutions. Whence the migration issue seems to be on the right path, the Orbán régime shows its true colours – antidemocratic, nationalist and destabilizing. However, leading a nationalist right wing government, but not one made of former communists camouflaged in nationalists, Viktor Orbán has a strong argument: he weakened the civil society, but not the state or the Hungarian economy. Au contraire, the Hungarian children do not know poverty, education is in good shape, and economy attracts investors. V. Orbán’s cleptocracy thrives not by pilfering the budget, but by harvesting the fruits of a successful and prosperous middle class. On the other hand, what is the benefit of all this, if the Hungarian society is aggressed more and more by antidemocratic measures and nationalist ideology, maybe flattering, but leading to failure and isolation. For the sake of     Hungarian society’s success (beneficial for Romania too), let us hope that Viktor Orbán will withdraw a few steps, even if the signals do not show that at all. With the migration crisis behind, perhaps V. Orbán will not turn to raising regional problems, by manufacturing would-be threats against the Hungarian minorities around, and jeopardizing the regional stability in the process.

 

TURKEY. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s “Ultimate” Victory

The Turkish Islamist leader, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been reelected (June 26th) in the office of President of Turkey with 52.5% of the ballots. His party, AKP, obtained 42%, which allows it the majority in the Parliament in alliance with the far right party MHP, which got 11%. The victory was by a small margin, only 2.5% over the threshold to avoid a second round of elections, and the alliance has a majority with only 3%. Erdoğan’s runner-up, Muharrem Ince, who reached 31%, conceded defeat and called upon Erdoğan to be a president of all Turks. The opposition has a strong voice in the Parliament, considering that the Kurdish party, HDP, obtained 12%, which is over the 10% threshold to enter the Parliament. So, the Kurdish votes will not be redistributed and will not strengthen AKP. But the main opposition party is CHP (center-left, with a kemalist message) reached 23%, and the Iyi, the nationalists allied with CHP, obtained 10%.

The elections have a great significance, as the new president has increased powers, almost total power, and he get to keep the leadership of his party too. The elections have been fairly correct, but not exactly free, because both the government institutions and the media are controlled by R.T. Erdoğan. The elections revealed a divided country entering into a dictatorship, just over a half imposing dictatorship, and the other almost half being forced to accept it. The latter half includes the progressist class, urban and more productive: the cities in the West, the youth, the middle class well educated and not involved in Erdoğan’s deep state, as well as the ethnic adversaries - the Kurds, and the ideological adversaries - Fethullah Gülen’s followers (the ones not arrested yet, because 160,000 people have been arrested since the failed coup).

Practically, with a tight score, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan legitimates its personal Islamist dictatorship already preceding the elections. He systematically built his own hidden Islamist state (firstly together with Fethullah Gülen, then against him), instead of the previous nationalist military construction, following Atatürk’s vision. Erdoğan took over all state institutions[9] using as a tool his party, AKP, which hold only a fragile majority in the Parliament, and using his office as well, although having rather symbolic prerogatives initially. In the process, R.T. Erdoğan built a personal dictatorship, and added a final touch after the failed coup conducted by part of the military. Under the umbrella provided by the state of emergency, repeatedly extended and in force now, the Turkish president triggered a textbook reprisal against any individual, party, social group or ethnic minority who dared to oppose him. They were generally and conveniently labeled as “terrorists”. He also legitimated his dictatorship by imposing a referendum which resulted in the transfer of all power to the president. That referendum was won also by a small margin. However, it was the economy which almost defeated the president, and the failures in this field provide hope to his adversaries that Erdoğan can be defeated.

After a period of diplomatic slack, Erdoğan’s actions are predictable, he is doing what he has been doing so far: home, he will likely strengthen his dictatorship, and abroad will conduct aggressive actions and will cooperate with the enemies of the West. The next five years will be difficult not only for Turkey, more precisely for the democratic forces there, but also for the whole neighborhood, from Greece to Iraq.

Indeed, this week’s change in Turkey is historical: the Atatürk era is over, a ”sultan” is back. Turkey led by R.T. Erdoğan will turn its back to the West, keeping just advantageous relations in economy (investments, technology) and security (NATO). Although he will try to save his connections with the US and EU, for strategic and economic reasons, he will probably fail, and Turkey will end up isolated both by the West, and by the Sunni Arab World. Turkey’s alternative is to steer towards Russia, Iran and others of the kind. At the end of the day, the Western democracies will not invite to dinner somebody who is suspected to have transferred weapons to ISIS, supported Iran to avoid sanctions, and conducted illegal actions in Western countries.  

Irrespective how long he would speak about the Islamic identity of Turkey and about the guilt of the Westerners, only Erdoğan is responsible for the path he chose for Turkey, him and a simple majority of the voters.

 

REPUBLIC OF MOLDOVA. The Last Hopes for Democracy Are Gone

In spite of the protest demonstrations in Chişinău, the Supreme Court of Justice of Republic of Moldova upheld (June 25th) previous decisions by lower courts which voided with doubtful reason the elections which made Andrei Năstase the mayor of the country’s capital city. The Supreme Court’s ruling is final, and the office of mayor goes to the interim mayor, Silvia Radu. She is obedient to tycoon Vlad Plahotniuc, same as the Prime-Minister Pavel Filip, and any individual who has a decision-making office in R. Moldova, except Igor Dodon, who has another master.

On June 27th, Federica Mogherini and Johannes Hahn signed an EU declaration condemning the decision taken by the top justice in Moldova, and asked the authorities to respect the will of the voters. The same day, Prime-Minister Pavel Filip suggested that the court’s decision is wrong (!), but he cannot do anything, because any move he would do would be considered political interference in justice. Of course, he mentioned the separation of powers in democracy.

Vlad Plahotniuc decided he needed to control Chişinău further on, through Silvia Radu. This means that Plahotniuc actually voided any chance of the democratic opposition to have an administrative platform useful for the parliamentary elections in November. The Supreme Court’s decision shows without a doubt that justice in R.Moldova is subordinated to Vlad Plahotniuc, as all the other public institutions are, but also as the whole society and the economy (albeit state, private or foreign investors). He might have calculated that a confrontation with the EU is worthwhile, in balance with the advantages he gains by keeping control of Chişinău. A peak of cynicism, Pavel Filip’s statement is a governmental attitude meant to trick the EU into maintaining the cash flow towards Moldova. For once, at least, Pavel Filip was right, by it is a liar’s right: yes, there is separation of powers in Moldova, but the power behind is not sovereign, it does not stem from the people. It is Plahotniuc’s power, he controls through his cronies the whole Republic of Moldova. V. Plahotniuc might have calculated that, should the EU temporarily turn its back on him, he might benefit from a ”geographic” tolerance from the US.[10], but also from the ”useful idiots”. And if that scheme doesn’t work either, he will send a new message to Moscow, as he did before[11]. Maybe now he will be accepted by the Czar as the one and only master in the guberniya, and forget about rule of law, justice, human rights and other such European… “conditions”.

 



[1] Although the number of immigrants decreased to 54,000, this year, compared to 900,000 in 2015, the migration problem became crucial for Europe for two reasons: 1/ The perpetuation of this phenomenon (although slowed down, the immigration continues); 2/ The political reaction in some European countries where extremist parties are in control (either right or left): Italy and Austria, joined by Hungary and Poland, plus the radicalization of the German right wing party CSU, government partner of CDU. The good news comes both in Germany and Austria, where the right wing parties chose a realistic approach towards migration. So, they left the extreme right parties out of their main banner – the fight against immigration. Actually, this issue was used to reach power, and they do totally different things after they reach power: in Hungary, Viktor Orbán fought against migration… until he decisively crushed not only the opposition, but also the whole Hungarian civil society!

[2] First of all Italy, then Greece joining Germany (also as a response to the German financial and political support which bailed out Greece from bankruptcy). 

[3] Tunisia and Morocco already refused, but these countries have a consistent dialogue with France, respectively Italy. The gateway to Europe is Libya, where the human traffickers thrive. This is why the Europeans, headed by Italy, started closer negotiations with Libya, to solve the problem. 

[4] The Greek leaders follow Germany’s policy for more reasons: the German authorities proved to be fair (tough but fair) during the economic crisis which Greece crossed; Greece needs Germany and the agreement that Germany reached for the EU, with Turkey (Greece has difficult problems with Turkey, and Turkey left the bilateral agreement with Greece); additionally, Greece has the necessary room for refugee camps – the ”forgotten islands” in the Mediterranean. A sad question surfaces though: will Europe accept that the ”forgotten islands” be cradles of grief again, as they were during the colonel dictatorship (1967 – 1974), even if it were another kind of grief? Most likely, the majority of Greek population will oppose this scenario.  

[5] We do not speak about Hungary here. Budapest just administered a touching strong lesson these days, by its uptight attitude in the matter. We can think about Romania though, after a long streak of doubtful decisions… There is an obvious conclusion: the most dangerous transfer of sovereignty is not towards a responsible and legal Brussels, but towards nowhere, i.e. weakening the state to the point where it cannot take decisions in its own interest, even when that country wants to!

[6] Especially the university sponsored by “the public enemy number one”, billionaire George Soros.

[7] In Poland, a domestic crisis is on the rise, after the Supreme Court’s judges announced they would refuse to leave office (the day set for their withdrawal is July 3rd)

[8] Jean-Claude Juncker salutes him with a jolly, yet significant “dictator”)

[9] Government, local administration, justice, police, religious hierarchy, and, finally, the whole military.

[10] Rumors have it that even the present US ambassador to Germany made lobby for Vlad Plahotniuc.

[11] It happened through the president of a small Asian republic who, on his way from Central Asia to Moscow, stopped in… Chişinău.