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area of the Indo-Pacific and adjacent territories

▲area Indo-Pacific and adjacent territories [Wikimedia-Commons]

ANALYSIS / Emili J. Blasco

We are witnessing the effective birth of Eurasia. If that word arose as an artifice, to bring together two adjacent, unrelated geographies, today Eurasia is emerging as a reality, in a single geography. The catalyst has been above all China's westward opening: as China has begun to take care of its rear end – Central Asia – and has drawn new land routes to Europe, the distances between the margins of Eurasia have also been narrowing. The maps of the Belt and Road Initiative have the effect of first presenting a single continent, from Shanghai to Paris or Madrid. The trade war between Beijing and Washington and the European helplessness of the former American umbrella contribute to China and Europe seeking each other.

A consequence of the gaze crossed from the two extremes of the supercontinent, whose meeting It builds this new mental map of continuous territory, is that the world axis moves to the Indian Ocean. It is no longer in the Atlantic, as when the United States took up the banner of the West from Europe, nor in the Pacific, where it had moved with the emerging phenomenon of East Asia. What seemed to be the location of the future, the Asia-Pacific, is giving way to the Indo-Pacific, where China certainly does not lose prominence, but remains more subject to the Eurasian balance of power. The irony for China is that in order to regain its former position as the Middle Kingdom, its expansive plans will end up giving centrality to India, its veiled nemesis.

Eurasia shrinks

The idea of a shrinking of Eurasia, which reduces its vast geography to the size of our visual field, gaining in its own entity, was expressed two years ago by Robert Kaplan in a essay which he then collected in his book The Return of framework Polo's World (2018)[1]. It is precisely the revival of the Silk Road, with its historical reminiscences, that has ended up putting Europe and the East on the same plane in our minds, as in a few centuries in which, unknown America, there was nothing beyond the surrounding oceans. "As Europe disappears," Kaplan says in reference letter to Europe's increasingly vaporous borders, "Eurasia is cohesive." "The supercontinent is becoming a fluid, global unit of trade and conflict," he says.

For Bruno Maçães, author of The Down of Eurasia (2018)[2], we have entered a Eurasian era. Despite what might have been predicted just a couple of decades ago, "this century will not be Asian," says Maçães. Nor will it be European or American, but we are as we were at that time, at the end of the First World War, when we went from talking about Europe to talking about the West. Now Europe, detached from the United States, as this Portuguese author argues, is also being integrated into something bigger: Eurasia.

Given this movement, both Kaplan and Maçães predict a dissolution of the West. The American emphasises Europe's shortcomings: "Europe, at least as we have known it, has begun to disappear. And with it the West itself"; while the European rather points out the disinterest of the United States: "One gets the sense that the American universalist vocation is not to guarantee the global pre-eminence of Western civilization, but to remain the sole global superpower."

Change the axis of the world

In the wake of the finding The sixteenth century saw the culmination of a gradual transfer of hegemony and civilization in the world to the West. "The empires of the Persians and the Chaldeans had been replaced by those of Egypt, Greece, Italy, and France, and now by that of Spain. Here would remain the center of the world," writes John Elliott, quoting a writing of the time, by the humanist Pérez de Oliva[3]. The idea of an end station was also had when the specific weight of the world was placed in the Atlantic, and then in the Pacific. Today we continue again this turn to the west, to the Indian Ocean, perhaps without much desire to consider it definitive, even if the return of the beginnings theorized by the Renaissance is completed.

After all, there have also been shifts of the centre of gravity in the opposite direction, if we look at other parameters. In the decades after 1945, the average of economic activity between different geographies was located in the center of the Atlantic. At the turn of the century, however, the centre of gravity of economic transactions has been located east of the borders of the European Union, according to Maçães, who predicts that in ten years the midpoint will be on the border between Europe and Asia, and in the middle of the 21st century between India and China. countries that are "committed to developing the largest trade relationship in the world". With this, India "can become the central knot between the extremes of the new supercontinent." Moving to one side of the planet we have reached the same point – the Indian Ocean – as on the journey in the opposite direction.

The island world

Unlike the Atlantic and the Pacific, oceans that extend vertically from pole to pole, the Indian Ocean unfolds horizontally and instead of meeting two shores, it has three. This means that Africa, at least its eastern area, is also part of this new centrality: if the speed of navigation brought about by the monsoons has historically facilitated a narrow strait of life. contact From the Indian subcontinent to the east coast of Africa, new maritime silk roads can further increase trade. This, and the growing arrival of sub-Saharan migrants in Europe, reflects a centripetal phenomenon that even gives rise to talk of Afro-Eurasia. So, as Kaplan points out, referring to the island world as Halford Mackinder once did "is no longer premature." Maçães recalls that Mackinder saw the fact that it was not possible to circumnavigate it completely as a difficulty in perceiving the reality of this island world . Today that perception should be easier, when the Arctic route is being opened.

In the framework From Halford Mackinder's and Nicholas Spykman's complementary theories of the Heartland and the Rimland, respectively, any centrality of India has to be reflected in maritime power. With its access to the interior of Asia closed by the Himalayas and by an antagonistic Pakistan (it has the only and complex passage of Kashmir left), it is in the sea that India can project its influence. Like India, China and Europe are also in the Eurasian Rimland , from where all these powers will dispute the balance of power among themselves and also with the Heartland, which basically occupies Russia, although not exclusively: in the Heartland there are also the Central Asian republics, which take on a special value in the Eurasian region. skill for the space and resources of a shrunken supercontinent.

Pivot to Eurasia

In this region of the Indo-Pacific, or the Greater Indian Ocean, which stretches from the Persian Gulf and the coasts of East Africa to the second island chain of Asia-Pacific, the United States has an external role. To the extent that the island world becomes more cohesive, the American satellite character is more emphasized. The grand strategy of the United States then becomes what has been the traditional imperative of the United Kingdom with respect to Europe: to prevent one power from dominating the continent, something that is more easily achieved by supporting one or another continental power in order to weaken the one that is stronger at any given time (France or Germany, Germany, France according to the historical period; today Russia or China). Already in the Cold War, the United States strove to prevent the USSR from becoming a hegemon by also controlling Western Europe. Eurasia enters a presumably intense balance of power game, as was the European scenario between the 19th and 20th centuries.

That's why Kaplan says Russia can be contained much more by China than by the United States, just as Washington should take advantage of Russia to limit China's power, at Henry Kissinger's suggestion. To this end, the Pentagon should expand its strategic presence in the Western Pacific to the west: if as an external and maritime power it cannot access the continental center of Eurasia, it can take a position in the very bowels of that great region, which is the Indian Ocean itself.

"If Obama pivoted to Asia, then Trump has pivoted to Eurasia. Decision-makers in the United States seem increasingly aware that the new center of gravity in world politics is not the Pacific or the Atlantic, but the Old World between the two," Maçães wrote in a blog post. essay after his book[4].

 

Image of the presentation of Japan's Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy

Image of the presentation Official of the Japanese Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy [Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan]

 

Partnerships with India

The U.S. shift in focus from Asia-Pacific to the Indo-Pacific was formally expressed in the National Security Strategy published in December 2017, the first of its kind. subject of documents prepared by the Trump Administration. Consequently, the United States has renamed its Pacific Command Indo-Pacific Command.

Washington's strategy, like that of other leading Western countries in the region, especially Japan and Australia, involves a coalition of some subject with India, because of the centrality of this country and as the best way to contain China and Russia.

The desirability of a stronger relationship with New Delhi was already outlined by Trump during the visit Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Washington in June 2017, and then by then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in October 2017. His successor, Mike Pompeo, addressed a framework It was more defined in July 2018, when it announced $113 million in grants for projects aimed at achieving greater connectivity in the region, from digital technologies to infrastructure. The advertisement it was understood as the U.S. desire to confront the Belt and Road Initiative launched by China.

The U.S. Indo-Pacific Strategy is sometimes presented in conjunction with the Strategy for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP), which is the name given by Japan for its own cooperation initiative for the region, already laid out ten years ago by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Both coincide in having India, Japan, Australia and the United States as the main guarantors of regional security, but they have two main divergences. One is that for Washington the Indo-Pacific goes from the eastern seaboard of India to the west coast of the United States, while in the Japanese initiative the map goes from the Persian Gulf and the African coast to the Philippines and New Zealand. The other has to do with the way China is perceived: proposal seeks Chinese cooperation, at least at the declarative level, while the purpose The U.S. government is to address the "risks of Chinese dominance," as stated in the National Security Strategy.

India has also developed an initiative of its own, introduced in 2014 as the Act East Policy (AEP), to enhance cooperation between India and Asia-Pacific countries, especially ASEAN. For its part, Australia presented its Policy Roadmap for the region in 2017, which builds on the security already provided by the United States and advocates continued understanding with the "Indo-Pacific democracies" (Japan, South Korea, India and Indonesia).

Other consequences

Some other consequences of the birth of Eurasia, of different order and importance, are:

–The European Union is not only ceasing to be attractive as a project Not only does the reality of Eurasia reduce it to being a peninsula on the margins of the supercontinent. For example, the old question of whether or not Turkey is part of Europe loses any interest: Turkey is going to have a better position on the chessboard.

–The corridors that China wants to open to the Indian Ocean (Myanmar and, above all, Pakistan) are becoming very important. Without being able to regain the thousand-year-old status of Middle Kingdom, China will value even more having the province of Xinjiang as a way to be less tilted on one side of the supercontinent and as a platform for a greater projection into the interior of it.

The U.S. pivot to Eurasia will force Washington to distribute its forces over a larger expanse of sea and its shores, with the risk of losing deterrent or intervention power in certain places. Taking care of the Indian Ocean can unintentionally lead you to neglect the South China Sea. One way to gain influence in the Indian Ocean without much effort could be to move the headquarters of the Fifth Fleet from Bahrain to Oman, also a stone's throw from the Strait of Hormuz, but outside the Persian Gulf.

Russia has traditionally been seen as a bridge between Europe and Asia, and has had some currents advocating a Eurasianism that presented Eurasia as a third continent (Russia), with Europe and Asia on either side, and that reserved the name of Greater Eurasia for the supercontinent. To the extent that this shrinks, Russia will benefit from the greater connectivity between one end and the other and will be more on top of its former Central Asian republics, although they will have to be more connected to the other. contact with a higher issue of neighbors.

 

(1) Kaplan, R. (2018) The Return fo framework Polo's World. War, Strategy, and American Interests in the Twenty-First Century. New York: Random House

(2) Maçães, B. (2018) The Dawn of Eurasia. On the Trail of the New World Order. Milton Keynes: Allen Lane

(3) Elliott, J. (2015) The Old World and the New (1492-165). Madrid: Alianza publishing house

(4) Maçães, B. (2018). Trump's Pivot to Eurasia. The American Interest. August 21, 2018

Categories Global Affairs: Asia World order, diplomacy and governance Analysis

[Bruce Riedel, Kings and Presidents. Saudi Arabia and the United States since FDR. Brookings Institution Press. Washington, 2018. 251 p.]

 

review / Emili J. Blasco

Oil in exchange for protection is the pact sealed in early 1945 between Franklin D. Roosevelt and King Abdulaziz bin Saud on board the USS Quincy, in the waters off Cairo, when the American president was returning from the Yalta lecture . Since then, the special relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia has been one of the key elements of international politics. Today, fracking makes Arabian oil less necessary for Washington, but cultivating Saudi friendship continues to be of interest to the White House, even in an unorthodox presidency in diplomatic matters: the first country that Donald Trump visited as president was precisely Saudi Arabia.

The ups and downs in this relationship, due to the vicissitudes of the world, especially in the Middle East, have marked the tenor of the contacts between the various presidents of the United States and the corresponding monarchs of the House of Saud. This book by Bruce Riedel, a former CIA analyst and member of the U.S. National Security committee as a specialist on the region, now directs project Intelligence at the Brookings Institution think tank, is dedicated to analyzing the content of these relations, following the successive pairs of interlocutors between Washington and Riyadh.

In this relationship, the central position occupied by the Palestinian question is surprising. One might sometimes think that many Arab countries' invocation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is rhetorical, but Riedel notes that in the case of Saudi Arabia the issue is fundamental. It was part of the initial pact between Roosevelt and Abdulaziz bin Saud (the U.S. president pledged not to support the partition of Palestine to create the State of Israel without Arab consent, something that Truman did not respect, aware that Riyadh could not break with Washington because it needed U.S. oil companies) and since then it has appeared on every occasion.

Kings and Presidents. Saudi Arabia and the United States since FDR

Progress or stalemates in the Arab-Israeli peace process, and the differing passion of Saudi kings on this issue, have directly shaped the relationship between U.S. administrations and the Saudi Monarchy. For example, Washington's support for Israel in the 1967 war resulted in the 1973 oil embargo; George Bush senior and Bill Clinton's efforts for a peace agreement helped a close relationship with King Fahd and Crown Prince Abdullah; the latter, on the other hand, led to a cooling off in the face of the disinterest shown by George Bush junior. "A vibrant and effective peace process will help cement a strong relationship between king and president; a stalled and exhausted process will damage their connection."

Will this issue continue to be a defining one for the new generations of Saudi princes? "The Palestinian cause is deeply popular in Saudi society, especially in the clerical establishment. The House of Saud has made the creation of a Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as its capital, emblematic of its policy since the 1960s. A generational change is unlikely to alter that fundamental stance."

In addition to this, there are two other aspects that have proven to be disruptive in the Washington-Riyadh entente: Wahhabism promoted by Saudi Arabia and the US demand for political reforms in the Arab world. Riedel asserts that, given the foundational alliance between the House of Saud and this strict Sunni variant of Islam, which Riyadh has promoted in the world to ingratiate itself with its clerics, as compensation each time it has had to bow to the demands of the impious United States, there is no room for a rupture between the two bodies. "Saudi Arabia cannot abandon Wahhabism and survive in its present form," he warns.

Thus, the book ends with a rather pessimistic outlook on the change -democratization, respect for human rights- that Saudi Arabia is facing from the international community (certainly without much insistence, in the case of the United States). Not only was Riyadh the "major player" in the counter-revolution at the time of the Arab Spring, but it may be a factor going against a positive evolution of the Middle East. "Superficially it appears that Saudi Arabia is a force for order in the region, someone who is trying to prevent chaos and disorder. But in the long run deadline, by trying to maintain an unsustainable order, forcibly enforced by a police state, the kingdom could, in fact, be a force for chaos."

Riedel has personally dealt with prominent members of the Saudi royal family. Despite a close relationship with some of them, especially Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who served as ambassador to the United States for more than twenty years, the book does not patronize Saudi Arabia in the disputes between Washington and Riyadh. More critical of George W. Bush than of Barack Obama, Riedel also points out the latter's inconsistencies in his Middle East policies.

Categories Global Affairs: North America Middle East World order, diplomacy and governance Book reviews Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf

essay / Alejandro Palacios

The Republic of Mauritius, an island state of 1.2 million inhabitants in the southwest Indian Ocean, 900 kilometers off the coast of Madagascar, can be seen as a good example of the progress that various African governments are making on subject in the area of human rights. This is not to say that this archipelago is an exemplary country in the application of human rights, as it certainly still has a long way to go in their correct application. But its case is interesting as a country that, despite still being on the way to development, has been able to build a legal system in which respect for fundamental rights plays an essential role.

In this document, accredited specialization will be made on the state of Human Rights in some of the most important areas of political and social life in Mauritius, such as the democratic internship , labor activity or access to drinking water, among others. At the same time, an attempt will be made to answer the question of whether or not the Mauritian legal system is adequate to deal with the fight against abuses and violations of such rights and, above all, whether the Government, in view of the resources available, is capable of doing so. In other words, it will be assessed whether the legal will corresponds to a real will to attack injustices related to fundamental rights.

framework legal

Despite the adoption of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights in 1981 and the creation of the African Commission on Human Rights in 1986, respect for this value system remains the exception in the life of many countries on the African continent. This is due not to an absence of recognition of these rights in the respective national constitutions, but to the lack of both legal mechanisms and political will to effectively implement the law.

Mauritius does not escape this reality. Recently, the Human Rights committee of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) presented the fifth periodic report of Mauritius on the implementation of the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). In its report, the committee highlighted the Mauritian government's lack of political will to develop the principles of democracy, rule of law, human and political rights and individual freedoms.

However, committee noted progress since its previous report, such as the creation of a Human Rights division within the Mauritian government structure and the adoption of theEqual Opportunities Act. Other measures taken forward in Mauritius include certain amendments made to the Civil Code and the adoption of both theCriminal Appeal Act and thePolice Complaints Act. These actions are intended to achieve in the long term deadline a development consistent with respect for human rights and individual freedoms in order to conform to quality of life standards based on dignity, social justice, economic empowerment and equality attention. According to the Government, this will help create a cohesive and tolerant community based on a set of shared values such as respect, unity, inclusion and solidarity.

In addition, Mauritius claims to have implemented in its laws many of the instruments agreed upon at the international level with a view to guaranteeing human rights. Among other actions, the Government highlights the reclamation of the Chagos Archipelago from the United Kingdom. In the opinion of the Mauritian Government, the archipelago was forcibly evicted by the United Kingdom, showing a "clear indifference" towards the rights of the islanders. Since then, the Republic has maintained an unalterable attitude in favor of the decolonization process. The international support that Mauritius has received has already been reflected in the adoption of resolution 71/292 of the United Nations General Assembly on the request to the International Court of Justice for an advisory opinion on the legal consequences of the separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius in 1965.

Social and political life

Both the Mauritian Constitution of 1968 and the legislation adopted subsequently incorporate formulations of respect for human rights. However, as in many other countries, the institutional system lacks the tools and the will to effectively enforce punishments for human rights violations or negligence. In addition, there is a lack of an adequate system of protection for victims of various crimes, such as sexual offenses or discrimination against homosexuals.

It should be emphasized that not all areas are governed by patron saint . There are other areas in which legislation protects and respects fundamental rights. Therefore, it is convenient to analyze the cases individually rather than to provide a general evaluation of the state of Human Rights immediately.

We will start by making accredited specialization to the state of democracy in the island country. According to the 2017 Democracy Index, Mauritius is within what is considered a "full democracy", with scores higher than Spain, the United States or France, among others[1]. This ranking means that in Mauritius: 1) truly free and fair elections are held; 2) voters are guaranteed security staff ; 3) there is little influence by foreign powers on the government; and 4) civil servants are capable of implementing policies. All this at Degree higher than the 178 countries below Mauritius.

However, there are some internal criticisms of the country's democratic functioning. Although the 2014 elections were characterized by international observers as fair and free, some voices have criticized the system of representation, citing the modification of certain electoral constituencies in order to benefit certain social groups, a technique known in political science as gerrymandering. Other complaints have referred to the low issue of women candidates, the lack of transparency in the counting of votes due to the fact that this process takes longer than it should and the lack of equity in the access to the media to promote the electoral campaigns by the civil service examination. In this sense, the civil service examination alleges that the public television MBC TV favors the ruling party.

Finally, thanks to a 2012 resolution by the United Nations Human Rights committee , the Mauritian government amended the Constitution in 2014 to prevent voters from having to identify their ethnicity when voting. This behavior was reported by the committee as a clear violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Despite these criticisms, it is relevant to highlight the fact that Mauritius ranks 54th out of the 176 countries analyzed in terms of the Corruption Perceptions Index. Indeed, Mauritius is the African country with the lowest reported levels of corruption, surpassed only by Namibia, Rwanda and Botswana[2]. However, the existing levels of corruption have not come without consequences. In 2015 the President of Mauritius, Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, the only female president in Africa at the time, was forced to resign after being embroiled in a political scandal also involving the NGO Planet Earth Institute[3].

The death penalty was officially abolished in 1995, the last execution having taken place in 1987[4]. Despite being a relatively recent date, Mauritius is one of the few countries in sub-Saharan Africa to have abolished it. Botswana, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Zambia, Lesotho and Swaziland are some of the neighboring countries that still apply the death penalty in one way or another[5].

partnerMauritius prohibits abortion except in case of serious risk to the mother's life, and therefore abortion is not allowed in case of fetal defects, non-serious risk to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman, economic factors, or in case of rape[6].

Although there are situations of human rights abuses, the government's attitude is to accept mechanisms to monitor its work, some of them external. Mauritius has an ombudsman or ombudsman elected by the country's president, whose job is to investigate complaints against public servants, such as police and prison officials. The 2017 report on Human Rights in Mauritius considers the ombudsman to be independent, effective, and adequately resourced to carry out his or her work.

In addition, the Government has the Equal Opportunities Commission, which is tasked with investigating allegations of discrimination and promote equal opportunities in the public and private sector. According to the 2017 report , the Commission proves to be effective, independent and adequately resourced to carry out its duties.

All these controls, however, do not prevent discrimination among Mauritian citizens on the basis, among others, of gender and belonging to a specific community. This is the scenario in which the Creoles, i.e. Mauritians of Mauritian origin of African descent, find themselves. In this regard, the newspaper L'Express recently announced that it was in possession of a recording in which the former Vice-President and Minister of Housing and Land could be heard saying that, within the new urban planning project that the Government was going to develop, 90% of the housing would go to Hindus and 10% to Muslims. Consequently, the Creoles would not receive "any housing" in order to prevent "prostitution from spreading in the neighborhood". It should be noted that the Hindu ethnic group constitutes 48% of the Mauritian population and has been politically dominant since the country's independence.

In addition, women and children continue to be the groups most affected by discrimination. There are laws that prohibit and criminalize both rape and domestic violence, but neither the police nor the judicial system provide adequate coverage for these cases. The same is true for cases of sexual harassment. Cases of sex trafficking of minors have been reported (the minimum age for consensual sex is 16 years old).

People with disabilities also suffer from a certain Degree of discrimination. Despite the fact that Mauritian law requires that people with disabilities constitute a specific percentage of the workforce of work within a business, the authorities ignore this requirement. However, the Executive is responsible for financing programs for these people at financial aid , in order to facilitate their access to information and communication. For example, by adding subtitles to television programs or by creating a news program adapted to their communication difficulties. Finally, despite equal rights in terms of political participation, there are practical problems related to transportation and access to polling stations.

Likewise, the LGTBI collective suffers a high level of discrimination attention . For example, in practical terms, those who have had sex with other people of the same sex are prevented from donating blood, even though the law allows it. In addition, in 2015 there was a reported arbitrary arrest of a man for being transgender and externalizing it by wearing women's clothing. He was released without charge after being slapped, terrorized and forced to undress. One of the latest reported incidents was stone throwing during the annual LGTBI march. Despite these cases, the law does not criminalize same-sex sexual activity, but sodomy between people of the same and different sexes.

All these types of discrimination also carry over into the workplace where, despite being prohibited by law, discrimination on the basis of sex, race, HIV and disability exists. For example, Creoles and Muslims have difficult access to work positions in the public sector. In addition, women are paid less than men for a similar work and it is uncommon for them to occupy high positions. On the contrary, they tend to occupy positions where lesser training is required. The high Degree unemployment rate among the disabled is due to the lack of physically accessible work positions. Finally, minors are prohibited by law from working until the age of 16, and until the age of 18 in jobs classified as dangerous and with poor sanitary conditions. Nevertheless, there are cases of minors working on the streets, in small businesses and restaurants, as well as in the agricultural sector.

The minimum wage, which tends to rise in relation to the inflation rate, varies according to the sector. For example, for a domestic worker the minimum wage is 607 rupees (€15) per week, while for a factory worker it is 794 rupees (€20). The working week is stipulated at 45 hours. Despite these regulations, cases have been reported in which cleaning workers were not always paid the minimum wage for the entire conference work , as they only received 1,500 rupees (38 €) per month, which is equivalent to 375 rupees (9 €) per week.

On the other hand, the law recognizes the right to strike, although it is necessary to follow a mandatory process considered by the conveners of the strike as "long, complex and excessively long" in order to declare it. Even if the workers have complied with this process, the Executive reservation has the right to prohibit the strike and transfer the dispute to arbitration if it considers that the strike may seriously affect a specific sector or service. In addition, it is necessary that workers comply with a minimum of their services during the strike days. Strikes at the national level, referring to "general economic policy issues" and/or during sessions of the General Assembly, are prohibited. Labor is one of the few areas where the Government enforces the law more effectively. However, delays in procedures and appeals have been reported.

In relation to access to drinking water, no major problems have been reported. Although it is always advisable, not only in Mauritius, but also in Africa in general, to use bottled water for human consumption. In this regard, only in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique and Papua New Guinea have serious problems with drinking water supply been observed. However, there is concern about the contamination of the aquifer in northern Mauritius, which is one of the five major groundwater reserves and provides 50-60% of the water needed for domestic purposes.

Good prospects

In conclusion, the efforts that the island government is making to put an end to situations that run counter to respect for fundamental rights should be emphasized. There is no doubt that, despite these efforts, Mauritius still faces many challenges. Many of them are caused by the lack of rigor in the application of Mauritian laws, which are, as noted above, exemplary in the respect and promotion of these rights.

In fact, Mauritius has legislation that, as we have seen, closely resembles that of developed Western countries at subject of respect for individual fundamental rights. One of the most serious problems facing the country in this regard is the lack of political will to implement the precepts of the law.

Despite the shortcomings pointed out by the above-mentioned reports, they also highlight the structural reform carried out and the assertive attitude of the Mauritian government in favor of the implementation of policies that are more respectful of fundamental rights. This is clearly seen in the honesty with which the Government allows third party institutions to exercise some monitoring activity.

development We are also talking about the fact that Mauritius is the African country with the highest Human Development Index (HDI), 0.781, classified as "high"[8]. This status places it as the issue 68th country in the world, above countries such as Ecuador, China or Turkey. Therefore, we can consider that Mauritius meets more than acceptable standards in subject of Education, health, life expectancy or GDP per capita.[9].

On the other hand, this island state is one of the few to provide teaching up to university level, free school transport and free health care. In addition, 87% of its inhabitants own their own homes, without having experienced a real estate bubble like the one that hit Western countries more than 10 years ago, the consequences of which are still being felt. Mauritius has achieved all this without being among the richest countries in the world (129th out of 189 analyzed by nominal GDP)[10]. This has been achieved through a diversification of its Economics, large cuts in defense and a very well structured social security system.[11] The Mauritius government has also been able to achieve this through the diversification of its social security system.

This leads to the conclusion that, despite the efforts that remain to be made at subject to promote and respect human rights, Mauritius is today one of the most economically prosperous African countries and therefore the most likely to see the early institutionalization and entrenchment of fundamental rights and freedoms. Indeed, Mauritius currently enjoys an annual growth rate of close to 4% and one of the highest GDP per Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) indices on the African continent, second only to the Seychelles[12]. This is significant, as one of the most important steps towards the respect of fundamental rights and freedoms is the economic empowerment of the population in order to put an end to cases of servitude and dependency, which undoubtedly encourage cases of abuses and violations of these rights.

 


[1] In this regard, see

[4] For more information, see

[5] It is fair to mention that Zambia and Tanzania are currently in the process of abolishing the death penalty.

[7] In this regard, see

development [9] The Human Development Index (HDI) is an indicator developed annually by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) development and is one of the most important in assessing whether government wealth has translated into higher living standards for its inhabitants.

Categories Global Affairs: Africa World order, diplomacy and governance Essays

essay / Lucía Serrano Royo

Currently, some 60 million people are forcibly displaced in the world (Arenas-Hidalgo, 2017). [1] The figures become more significant if it is observed that more than 80% of migratory flows are directed to developing countries development, while only 20% have as goal developed countries, which in turn have more means and wealth, and would be more suitable to receive these migratory flows.

In 2015, Europe welcomed 1.2 million people, which was an unprecedented magnitude since the Second World War. This status has led to an intense discussion on solidarity and responsibility among Member States.

The way in which this subject has been legislated in the European Union has given rise to irregularities in its application among the different States. This subject within the European Union system is a shared skill of the area of freedom, security and justice. The Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) in its article 2.2 and 3 establishes that in these competences, it is the States that must legislate insofar as the Union does not exercise its skill. This has given rise to a partial development and inequalities.

development legislative

The figure of refugees is reflected for the first time in an international document in the Geneva Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (1951) and its 1967 protocol . (UNHCR: The UN Refugee Agency, 2017)[2]. Despite this breakthrough, the treatment of refugees was different in each Member State, as their national policy was dealt with. Therefore, in an attempt to harmonize national policies, the Dublin agreement was signed in 1990. However, it was not until the Treaty of Amsterdam in May 1999, when it was established as goal to create an area of freedom, security and justice, treating the subject immigration and asylum as a shared skill . Already in October 1999, the European committee held a special session for the creation of an area of freedom, security and justice in the European Union, concluding with the need to create a Common European Asylum System (CEAS) (CIDOB, 2017)[3]. Finally, these policies in subject of asylum become subject common with the Lisbon Treaty and its development in the TFEU.

Currently, its raison d'être is set out in Article 67 et seq. of the TFEU, which states that the Union shall constitute an area of freedom, security and justice with respect for fundamental rights and the different legal systems and traditions of the Member States. This area shall also guarantee the absence of controls on persons at internal borders. Furthermore, it is established that the EU will develop a common policy on asylum, immigration and external border control (art 67.2 TFEU) based on solidarity between Member States, which is fair towards third-country nationals. But the area of freedom, security and justice is not a watertight compartment in the treaties, but has to be interpreted in the light of other sections.

This skill should be analyzed, on the one hand, under the framework of free movement of persons within the European Union, and on the other hand, taking into account the financial field. As regards the free movement of persons, article 77 TFEU must be applied, which calls on the Union to develop a policy ensuring the total absence of checks on persons at internal borders, while guaranteeing checks at external borders. To this end, the European Parliament and the committee, in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure , must establish a common policy on visas and other short-stay permits residency program , controls and conditions under which third-country nationals may move freely within the Union. As regards the financial sphere, account must be taken of article 80 TFEU, which establishes the principle of solidarity in asylum, immigration and control policies, taking into account the fair sharing of responsibility among Member States.

Furthermore, a fundamental aspect for the development of this subject has been the harmonization of the term refugee by the Union, defining it as third-country nationals or stateless persons who are outside their home country and are unwilling or unable to return to it due to a well-founded fear of being persecuted on account of their race, religion, nationality or opinion (Eur-ex.europa.eu, 2017)[4]. This is of particular importance because these are the characteristics necessary to acquire refugee status, which in turn is necessary to obtain asylum in the European Union.

status in Europe

Despite the legislative development , the response in Europe to the humanitarian crisis following the outbreak of the Syrian conflict, together with the upsurge of conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Eritrea or Somalia, has been very ineffective, which has shaken the system.

The decision to grant or withdraw refugee status belongs to each State's internal authorities and may therefore differ from one State to another. What the European Union does is to guarantee common protection and ensure that asylum seekers have access to fair and efficient asylum procedures. This is why the EU is trying to establish a coherent system for decision making in this regard by the Member States, developing rules on the whole process of application asylum. In addition, in the event that the person does not meet the requirements criteria for refugee status, but is in a status sensitive situation due to risk of serious harm in case of return to his or her country, he or she is entitled to subsidiary protection. The principle of non-refoulement applies to these persons, i.e. they have the right first and foremost not to be taken to a country where there is a risk to their lives.

The problem with this system is that Turkey and Lebanon alone host 10 times more refugees than the whole of Europe, which up to 2016 only processed 813,599 asylum applications. Specifically, Spain granted protection to 6,855 applicants, of which 6,215 were Syrians[5]; despite the increase compared to previous years, the figures were still the lowest in the European environment.

Many of the people who disembark in Greece or Italy, set off again towards the Balkans through Yugoslavia and Serbia to Hungary, in view of the deficiencies of management and the precarious conditions they found in these host countries.

In an attempt to implement the principle of solidarity and cooperation, a series of quotas were established in 2015 to alleviate the humanitarian crisis and the pressure established in Greece and Italy. Member states were to share 120,000 asylum seekers, and all countries were to abide by it. The main stakeholder was Germany. Another mechanism that was set up was a fund with position to the Refugee Mechanism in Turkey, to meet the needs of refugees hosted in that country. The Commission allocated a total amount of €2.2 billion, and budgeted €3 billion in 2016-2017[6].

Faced with this status countries have reacted differently within the Union. In contrast to countries such as Germany, which is looking for a way to combat aging and population reduction in its state through the entrance of refugees, other Member States are reluctant to implement the policies. Even in some EU countries, nationalist parties are gaining strength and support: in the Netherlands, Geert Wilders (Freedom Party); in France, Marine Le Pen (National Front); and in Germany, Frauke Petry (Alternative for Germany party). Although these parties are not the main political force in these countries, this reflects the dissatisfaction of part of the population with the entrance of refugees in the States. The case of the United Kingdom is also noteworthy, since one of the causes of Brexit was the desire to regain control over the entrance of immigrants in the country. In addition, the United Kingdom initially opted out of the quota system applied in the other Member States. As confirmed in her negotiations, Prime Minister Theresa May prioritizes the rejection of immigration over free trade in the EU.

Specific mechanisms for development of the ESLJ

The borders between the different countries of the Union have become blurred. With the Schengen border code and the Community code on visas, borders have been opened and integrated, thus allowing the free movement of people. The operation of these systems has required the establishment of common rules on the entrance of persons and the control of visas, since once the external border of the EU has been crossed, controls are minimal. Therefore, documentation checks vary depending on the places of origin of the recipients, with a more detailed control for non-EU citizens. Only exceptionally is there provision for the reintroduction of internal border controls (for a maximum period of thirty days), in the event of a serious threat to public order and internal security.

Since the control of external borders depends on the States where they are located, systems such as Frontex 2004 have been created, from the ad hoc Border Control Centers established in 1999, which provides financial aid to the States in the control of the external borders of the EU, mainly to those countries that suffer great migratory pressures (Frontex.europa.eu, 2017) [7]. The Internal Security Fund, a financial support system emerged in 2014 and aimed at strengthening external borders and visas, has also been created.

Another active mechanism is the Common European Asylum System (CEAS), to strengthen the cooperation of EU countries, where theoretically Member States should allocate 20% of the available resources[8]. For its implementation, the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) (2014-2020) was established necessary for promote the effectiveness of the management of migration flows. In addition, an asylum policy for the European Union has been established in the CEAS, which includes a directive on asylum procedures and a directive on reception conditions. The Dublin Regulation, from agreement with the Geneva Convention, is integrated into this system. It is a fundamental mechanism and although this system has been simplified, unified and clarified, it has caused more controversy at subject of refugees. It was established to streamline asylum application processes in the 32 countries that apply the Regulation. Under this law, only one country is manager of the examination of its application: the country that takes the refugee's fingerprints, i.e., the first one he or she arrived in and applied for international protection. This works regardless of whether the person travels to or seeks asylum in another country; the competent country is the one in which the refugee was first fingerprinted. This system relies on EURODAC, as it is a central system that financial aid EU Member States to determine the country manager to examine an asylum application by comparing fingerprints.

The committee European Refugees and Exiles has highlighted the two main problems of this system: on the one hand, it leads refugees to travel clandestinely and dangerously until they reach their destination country, in order to avoid being fingerprinted by a country other than the one in which they want to settle. On the other hand, Greece and Italy, which are the main destinations of migrant flows, cannot cope with the burden this system imposes on them to process the masses of people arriving on their territory in search of protection.

Cases before the EU Court of Justice

The Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled on various aspects relating to immigration and the treatment of refugees by the Member States. On some occasions the Court has remained steadfast in the application of the homogeneous rules and regulations of the Union, while in other cases the Court has left the matter to the discretion of the different Member States. 

The court ruled in favor of a joint action in the case of a third country national (Mr. El Dridi) who illegally entered Italy without permission from residency program. On May 8, 2004 the Prefect of Turin issued against him a decree of expulsion. The CJEU (CJEU, 28 April 2011)[9] ruled that despite the fact that an immigrant is in status illegally and remains in the territory of the referred Member State without just cause, even with the concurrence of an infringement of an order to leave the said territory in a given deadline , the State cannot impose a prison sentence, since following Directive 2008/115, they exclude the criminal skill of the Member States in the field of illegal immigration and irregular status . Thus, the States must adjust their legislation to ensure compliance with EU law.

On the other hand, the court leaves it up to the States to decide to send back to a third country an immigrant who has applied for international protection on its territory, if it considers that this country meets the criteria of a "safe third country". Even the court ruled (CJEU, December 10, 2013) [10]that, in order to streamline the processing of asylum applications and to avoid obstruction of the system, the Member State retains its prerogative in exercising the right to grant asylum regardless of which Member State manager of the examination of a application. This School leaves a large margin of appreciation to the States. Homogeneity in this case can only be seen in the case of systematic shortcomings of the asylum procedure and of the conditions of reception of asylum seekers in that State, or degrading treatment.

For a more active attitude

The European Union has established a multitude of mechanisms, and has skill to set them in motion, but its passivity and the reluctant attitude of the Member States in welcoming refugees call into question the unity of the European Union system and the freedom of movement that characterizes the EU itself. The status it faces is complex, as there is a humanitarian crisis arising from the flow of migrants in need of financial aid at its borders. Meanwhile, States are passive and even against improving the system, to the point that some States have proposed the restoration of internal border controls (El Español, 2017).[11] This status has been caused mainly by a lack of effective control over their borders within the Union, and on the other hand by a society that sample wary of open borders because of insecurity.

The refugee crisis is a real problem and closing the borders will not make the problem go away. This is why European countries should adopt a common and active perspective. The earmarking of funds serves as financial aid in this humanitarian crisis, but it is not the only solution. One of the main unresolved problems is the status of people in refugee camps, who are in precarious conditions and should be received in a dignified manner. The Union should react more actively to these situations, making use of its skill in subject of asylum and immigration arrivals with massive influx, as stated in art 78 TFEU c).

This status remains one of the main objectives for the diary of the European Union since the White Paper establishes the reinforcement of the diary Migration, actions on the refugee crisis and aspects on the population crisis in Europe. It advocates for an increase in immigration policies and protection of legal immigration, while combating illegal immigration, helping both immigrants and the European population (European Commission, 2014) [12]. Despite these positive plans and perspectives, it is necessary to take into account the delicate status that the EU is facing internally, with cases such as the withdrawal of a State with power within the Union (the Brexit), which could lead to a diversion in the efforts of community policies, leaving aside crucial issues, such as the status of refugees.

 


[1] Arenas-Hidalgo, N. (2017). Massive population flows and security. The refugee crisis in the Mediterranean. [online] Redalyc.org [Accessed 9 Jul. 2017].

[2] UNHCR: The UN Refugee Agency (2017) Who is a Refugee? [online] [Accessed 10 Jul. 2017]

[3] CIDOB. (2017). CIDOB - Refugee policy in the European Union. [online] [Accessed 10 Jul. 2017].

[4] Eur-lex.europa.eu. (2017). EUR-Lex - l33176 - EN - EUR-Lex. [online] Available [Accessed 10 Jul. 2017].

[6] Anon, (2017). [online] [Accessed 11 Jul. 2017].

[7] Frontex.europa.eu (2017). Frontex | Origin. [online] [Accessed 12 Jul. 2017].

[8] https://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/sites/homeaffairs/files/e-library/docs/ceas-fact-sheets/ceas_factsheet_es.pdf [Accessed 12 Jul. 2017].

[9] Court of Justice of the European Union [online]. ECLI:EU:C:2011:268, dated 28 April 2011 [accessed 10 June 2017].

[10] Court of Justice of the European Union [online].ECLI:EU:C:2013:813, of10 December 2013 [accessed 10 June 2017].

[11] El Español (2017). European border controls may squander a third of growth. [online] [Accessed 11 Jul. 2017].

[12] European Commission (2014). Migration and asylum.

Categories Global Affairs: European Union World order, diplomacy and governance Essays

Warsaw downtown towers [Pixabay].

▲ Warsaw downtown towers [Pixabay].

COMMENT / Anna K. Dulska

Often when we think of Central Europe the country that comes to mind is Germany. This association seems to be a very distant echo of the nineteenth-century term Mitteleuropa (literally " Middle Europe") that encompassed the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Second German Reich and was turned into an expansionist geopolitical conception by Germany during World War I. However, subsequent peace treaties reflected in the new political map a formal recognition of the great diversity that already existed in Central Europe. However, the subsequent peace treaties reflected in the new political map a formal recognition of the great diversity that had existed in the region since ancient times. The subjection of newly created or recreated states such as Poland, Hungary or Czechoslovakia to Soviet domination under the Yalta and Potsdam agreements did not put an end to this diversity and since the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989 these countries have been searching for their place in today's world and Europe.

There is no clear definition of what Central Europe is today and to understand it in a simpler and more intuitive way, it could be said that for geopolitical, historical and cultural reasons it is neither strictly Western Europe nor Eastern Europe, but an intermediate area that for centuries has acted as a bridge between the two (one of those bridges that during the ups and downs of history sometimes get burned). Nor is there a consensus on the countries that make it up. According to the narrower definition, they are Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, while according to the broader definition, in addition to these four, they are Austria, southeastern Germany, the Baltic countries (Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia), Slovenia, western Ukraine and northern Italy. Some also add Switzerland, Liechtenstein and the rest of Germany, but thus their delimitation seems to be too diluted and confused.

The current history of the region tips the balance in favor of the narrow view. The trajectories of Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary since 1945, on the one hand, and their transitions to democracy after 1989, on the other, mean that within the geographic region and despite some considerable differences among them, these four countries constitute a distinct political, socioeconomic and cultural bloc. In the early 1990s this sort of imagined community was transformed into an intergovernmental organization known as the Visegrad group (the name of a Hungarian castle where in the 14th century the kings of Poland, Hungary and Bohemia had met and where in 1991 the founding agreement was signed), sometimes abbreviated to V4. Among its objectives were close economic cooperation (agreement Central European Free Trade Agreement, CEFTA), integration with the European Union (completed in 2004, after which all four left CEFTA) and integration with NATO (formalized in 1999; in 2004 in the case of Slovakia). Once these goals were achieved, the initiative lost momentum and seemed to become obsolete.

However, over the past three years, a shift in this aspect can be observed due to the phenomena that are challenging the European Union from outside and from within: migration from the Middle East, growing international tensions and terrorism. It is undeniable that all three are to a greater or lesser extent interrelated and for Europeans, whether Western, Central or Eastern, have a common denominator: security. While the lack of a deliberate and consensual strategy at the level of the European institutions to deal with this issue was evident until very recently challenge, the Central European states, especially Poland and Hungary, want to or have been forced to take matters, at least those that directly affect them, into their own hands. During the course of recent history their neighbors and partners did not have many occasions to hear them speak with their own voice and now it seems to be causing them some consternation.

A good example of this is the concern raised in Brussels and Berlin by the policies carried out by the Polish Government, both in relation to the domestic and international status . Paradoxically, these policies seem to be proving beneficial both for the State and for its society (which, after the halfway point of the term of office, still mostly supports the Government). However, the measures being taken to curb Warsaw's "authoritarian drift", as some media are describing it, especially the interference of EU high officials in the country's internal legislation, over which they have no competence, hinder the dialogue between the Polish Government and the Union's institutions. The threat of activating article 7 of the Treaty on European Union on the suspension of voting rights in the case of non-compliance with the demands of Brussels makes it impossible to rule out that such tensions could provoke other (after Brexit) irreparable fractures within the EU.

In the current geopolitical status , the voices about the need for a profound discussion on the future of the European Union are getting louder and louder, and Central Europe may once again have to play the role of a bridge. For the time being, as far as migration policy is concerned, it seems that the EU has proved V4 right. With the river in turmoil, the question arises as to whether the EU can afford an unnecessary and damaging internal weakening at a time when it needs unity the most.

Categories Global Affairs: Central Europe and Russia World Order, Diplomacy and Governance Comments

Miloš Zeman and Andrej Babiš share the limelight in a political system not designed for two personalities

The Czech Republic has a president (Miloš Zeman), reelected in January for a second term, whose party has no presence in Parliament, and a prime minister (Andrej Babiš) who was out of position between January and May due to lack of sufficient support among legislators. Zeman and Babiš have backed each other and share criticisms of Brussels - for example, they reject the European Union's refugee quotas - but their strong personalism and fickle positions are causing friction.

Andrej Babiš (left) and Miloš Zeman (right) during the inauguration of the former as prime minister, January 2018 [Czech Gov.]

▲ Andrej Babiš (left) and Miloš Zeman (right) during the inauguration of the former as prime minister, January 2018 [Czech Gov.]

article / Jokin de Carlos Sola

The political climate in the Czech Republic has not sedimented after the last electoral cycle. The legislative elections of October 20 and 21, 2017, called after a government crisis, saw a breakdown of the traditional parties and the arrival of many new faces in Parliament, giving rise to a political fractioning that has taken its toll.

Amid a hung Parliament, Andrej Babiš, leader of the best-performing party, ANO 2011, moved in December to form a minority Executive, becoming the first head of government in the history of the Czech Republic to come from neither the Civic Democrats nor the Social Democrats. In January, however, Babiš had to resign after losing a question of confidence; in May he succeeded in forming a new government, this time in coalition with the Social Democrats and, for the first time since the fall of the Iron Curtain, with the support of the Communists.

Against this backdrop of political disputes, presidential elections took place on January 12 and 13, 2018. The second round was contested by outgoing President Miloš Zeman, who was reelected, and Jirí Drahoš, in a contest that polarized the electorate between traditional economic protectionism and a critical stance towards the European Union (Zeman) and more open positions towards NATO and the EU (Drahoš).

In the end, Babiš and Zeman - former participants in the Velvet Revolution that put an end to the communist regime, after which both have had several ideological ups and downs, becoming controversial figures - have to share an institutional and political protagonism that is certainly complex. The Czech Republic has a parliamentary system, in which the president of the country is directly elected by the citizens and has the power to appoint and dismiss the prime minister, as well as to dissolve the bicameral parliament.

Legislative elections

In the 2017 Czech parliamentary elections, the ANO 2011 party won, whose name includes the year it was created and the acronym for Action of Dissatisfied Citizens, which together give rise in Czech to the word Yes. The election marked a parliamentary collapse of many of the old parties, including the Social Democrats of the ČSSD (from being the ruling party it dropped to sixth place), the Communists of the KSČM (they came in fifth place), the Christian Democrats of the KDU-ČSL (they were seventh) and the Liberals of TOP 09 (they finished eighth). The only old party to survive with relative strength were the conservatives of Civic Democracy (ODS), who finished second. Several new parties, on the other hand, gained relevance: this was the case, in addition to ANO itself, of the Pirate Party and the conservative and strongly nationalist Liberty and Direct Democracy (SPD), led by Tomio Okamura.

Andrej Babiš is called the Czech Donald Trump, not so much because of his ideology, but because of his flamboyant personality and his great fortune (he is the second richest man in the country). His statement of core values has been very fickle. Of communist origin, he founded his own political party in 2011, which he christened ANO 2011. It is a party with generally centrist views and a certain syncretism. It is also described as "populist" for its changes of speech, especially in relation to the European Union: before the general elections the party held Eurosceptic positions, to then develop a rather pro-EU policy from the Government.

Babiš was deputy prime minister and finance minister in the previous government led by Buhoslav Sobotka's Social Democrats. He is the owner of group media MFRA, which publishes two of the country's leading newspapers, Lidové noviny and Mladá fronta DNES, and operates the Óčko television company.

He is a controversial figure, not only because of some of his political stances, such as the rejection of the immigrant quotas established by the EU, but also because of several past scandals. He was accused of having collaborated with the secret police of the communist regime, of having fraudulently used EU subsidies and of participating in bribes for the sale of the state company Unipetrol, whose privatization was managed by Miloš Zeman, someone close to Babiš himself, when he was prime minister.

 

Apportionment of seats in the Chamber leave of the Czech Parliament [Wilkipedia].

Apportionment of seats in the Chamber leave of the Czech Parliament [Wilkipedia].

 

Presidential elections

The presidential election was held in January 2018. It was the second time that the president was elected by direct universal suffrage. Miloš Zeman, who was seeking reelection, and Jiri Drahoš, president of the Academy of Sciences, went to the second round. There were those who compared this electoral battle with the one between Macron and Le Pen in France, but the ideological comparison is not complete. Drahoš described himself as pro-European and pro-NATO, and advocated that the Czech Republic should assume a greater role in the European Union, but he was critical of the EU's policy of welcoming immigrants, both Muslim and African, and rejected refugee quotas.

In the end, Zeman won with 52% support, while Drahoš got 48%, a somewhat tighter result than in the previous presidential election. ANO 2011's support in the runoff was decisive for Zeman's victory. The districts of Prague, Brno and other liberal areas with larger urban populations voted for Drahoš, while the countryside and border areas voted for Zeman.

Miloš Zeman was a member of the Communist Party until 1970 and switched to the Social Democratic Party in 1992, whose leadership he held between 1993 and 2001, years in which he served as Czech prime minister. He left that party in 2007 and two years later created his own, baptized as the Civil Rights Party: an electoral platform for his presidential candidacies, which does not have deputies or senators. In this personalist training , traditional right-wing and left-wing positions are mixed. On the one hand, the party believes in a mixed Economics , with a preference for public services and a high state expense , in a protectionist conception of the Economics. On the other hand, it promotes a cultural conservatism that avoids multiculturalism and the arrival of immigrants. This has made the party very popular in rural areas close to the borders.

Zeman became president of the Czech Republic in 2013. Zeman's first presidential term was highly controversial inside and outside the country. With him in Prague Castle came the entrance in the European Union, but he has subsequently been one of the main opponents of EU quotas for immigrants and has supported both Poland and Russia in their disputes with the authorities in Brussels. Zeman's closeness to Putin sets him apart from most leaders of the Visegrad countries, who take an anti-Russian stance.

Two leaderships

From the presidency, Miloš Zeman has maintained the lines already marked in his first term. If in European affairs his rejection of refugee quotas has put him at odds with the EU leadership, his closeness to Israel, Russia and China in international politics has also result annoyed Brussels.

Zeman was the only European leader to support Trump when he decided to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, recognizing the latter city as the capital of Israel. This was not a surprise, as Zeman has always shown his support for the Jewish state: on April 25 he celebrated Israel's Independence Day at his residency program . However, the Czech Republic has not moved its embassy to Jerusalem since the decision must be made by the government, and the government has not agreed to do so. On other Middle East issues, Zeman has given support to Russia, condemning the actions of the United States and its allies in Syria.

Zeman has also aligned himself with Beijing, opening the country to important Chinese investments, such as that of the energy company CEFC, whose headquarters in Shanghai were visited in March by several of his advisors. The opening to foreign investment has caused some concern in Brussels about the lack of control mechanisms to monitor the takeover of strategic sectors. In the framework of his promised "economic diplomacy" Zeman has defended China's project New Silk Road.

If Zeman and Babiš started from good relations, the last few months have led to several frictions. In the last weeks of his first term, Zeman put Babiš in charge of forming a government after his party became the most voted party in a very divided Parliament. Having just assumed the position as prime minister, Babiš offered Zeman the support of his ANO 2011 in the second round of the presidential election. Zeman has then made efforts to consolidate Babiš' position in Parliament. However, the latter's difficulties in having a stable majority have led to disagreements between the president and the prime minister over which parties should build the government majority. The open anti-Europeanism or anti-NATO stance of some of the potential partners made it difficult for Babiš, who in May formed the government again after having had to resign in January for lack of parliamentary support.

Events have shown that both Zeman and Babiš have strong personalities and that both seem determined to assert their political position, which may generate tension in the Czech Republic's institutional development . At the same time, both have shown an ease in changing speech according to what they think is the majority sentiment of Czechs, which has contributed to giving them a populist profile .

The days of the Velvet Revolution, when Zeman and Babiš shared a foxhole, are too far away, but it is worth remembering the words of Vaclav Havel, the main leader of that revolt and later president of the country: "Ideology is a deceptive way of relating to the world. It offers human beings the illusion of identity, dignity and morality, while at the same time making it easier for them to detach themselves from these principles".

Categories Global Affairs: Central Europe and Russia World order, diplomacy and governance Articles

Kim Jung-un and Moon Jae-in met for the first time in April, 2018 [South Korea Gov.]

▲Kim Jung-un and Moon Jae-in met for the first time in April, 2018 [South Korea Gov.]

ANALYSIS / Kanghun Ji

North Korea has always utilized its nuclear power as a leverage for negotiation in world politics. Nuclear weapons, asymmetric power, are the last measure for North Korea which lacks absolute military and economic power. Although North Korea lags behind the United States and South Korea in military/economic power, its possession of nuclear weapons renders it a significant threat to other countries. Recently, however, they have continued to develop their nuclear power in disregard of international regulations. In other words, they have not used nuclear issue as a leverage for negotiation to induce economic support. They have rather concentrated on completing nuclear development, not considering persuasion from peripheral countries. This attitude can be attributed to the fact that the development of their nuclear power is almost complete. Many experts say that North Korea judges the recognition of their nation with nuclear power to be a more powerful negotiation tool (Korea times, 2016).

In this situation, South Korea has been trying many different kinds of strategies to resolve the nuclear crisis because security is their main goal: United States-South Korea joint military exercises and United Nations sanctions against North Korea are some of those strategies. Despite these oppressive methods using hard power, North Korea has refused to participate in negotiations.

Most recently, however, North Korea has discarded its previous stance for a more peaceful and amicable position following the PyeongChang Olympics. Discussions about nuclear power are proceeding and the nation has even declared that they will stop developing nuclear power.

Diverse causes such as international relations or economic needs influence their transition. This essay would argue that the soft power strategies of South Korea are substantially influencing North Korea. Therefore, an analysis of South Korea's soft power strategies is necessary in order to figure out the successful way to resolve the nuclear crisis.

Importance of soft-power strategies in policies against North Korea

North Korea has justified its dictatorship through the development of its 'Juche' ideology which is very unique. This ideology is established on the theory of 'rule by class' which stems from Marxism-Leninism. In addition, the regime has combined it with Confucianism that portrays a dictator as a father of family (Jung Seong Jang, 1999). Through this justification, a dictator is located at the top of class, which would complete the communist ideal. People are taught this ideology thoroughly and anyone who violates the ideology is punished. To open up this society which has formerly been ideologically closed, their ideology should be undermined by other attractive ideology, culture, and symbol.

However, North Korea has effectively blocked it. For example, recently, many people in North Korea have covertly shared TV shows and music from South Korea. People who are caught enjoying this culture are severely punished by the government. In these types of societies, oppression through hard power strategies doesn't affect making any kind of change in internal society. It rather could be used to enhance internal solidarity because the potential offenders such as United States or South Korea are postulated as certain enemies to North Korea, which requires internal solidarity to people. North Korea has actually depicted capitalism, United States and South Korea as the main enemies in average. It intends to induce loyalty from people.

As a result, the regime have developed nuclear weapons successfully under strong censorship. Nuclear power is the main key to maintain the dictatorship. The declaration of 'Nuclear-Economy parallel development' from the start of Kim Jung-Eun's government implies that the regime would ensure nuclear weapon as a measure to maintain its system. In this situation, sending the message that its system can coordinately survive alongside South Korea in world politics is important. Not only oppressive strategies but also appropriate strategies which attract North Korea to negotiate are needed.

Analysis of South Korea Soft Power Strategies

In this analysis, I will employ a different concept of soft power compared from the one given by Joseph Nye. Nye's original concept of soft power focuses on types of behaviour. In terms of his concept, co-optive power such as attraction and persuasion also constitutes soft power regardless of the type of resource (Joseph Nye, 2013). However, the concept of soft power I will use focuses on what types of resources users use regardless of the type of behaviors. Therefore, any kinds of power exerted by only soft resources such as images, diplomacy, diary-setting and so on could be soft power. It is a resource-based concept compared to Nye's concept which is behavior based (Geun Lee, 2011).

I use this concept because using hard resources such as military power and economic regulation to resolve the nuclear problem in North Korea has been ineffective so far. Therefore, using the concept of soft power which is based on soft resources makes it possible to analyze different kinds of soft power and find ways to improve it.

According to the thesis by Geun Lee (2011: p.9) who used the concept I mentioned above, there are 4 categories of Soft Power. I will use these categories to analyze the soft power strategies of South Korea.

1. Application of soft resources - Fear - Coercive power (or resistance)

2. Application of soft resources - Attractiveness, Safety, Comfort, Respect - Co-optive power

3. Application of soft resources (theories, interpretative frameworks) - New ways of thinking and calculating - Co-optive power

4. Socialization of the co-optive power in the recipients - Long term soft power in the form of "social habit".

 

1. Oppression through diplomacy: Two-track diplomacy

South Korea takes advantage of soft power strategies that request a global mutual-assistance system in order to oppress North Korea. Based on diplomatic capabilities, South Korea has tried to make it clear that all countries in world politics are demanding a solution to the North Korean nuclear crisis. Through these strategies, it wants to provoke fear in North Korea that it would be impossible to restore its relationship with the world. These strategies have been influential because they are harmonized with United Nations' Security Council resolutions. Especially, the two-track diplomacy conducted by the president Moon-jae-in in the United Nations general assembly in 2017 is evaluated to be successful. He gave North Korea two options in order to attract them to negotiate (The fact, 2017). The president Moon-jae-in stressed the importance of cooperation about nuclear crisis among countries in his address to the general assembly. Moreover, he discussed the issue with the presidents of United States and Japan and pushed for a firm stance against the North Korea nuclear problem. However, at the same time, he declared that South Korea is ready for peaceful negotiation and discussion if North Korea wish to negotiate and stop developing its nuclear power. By offering two options, South Korea not only aimed to incite fear in North Korea but also left room for North Korea to appear at the negotiation tables.

Strategies using diplomatic capabilities are valuable because they can induce coercive power through soft resources. However, it would be difficult to judge the effectiveness if North Korea didn't show any reaction to these strategies. Moreover, the cooperation with Russia and China is very important to persuade North Korea because they are maintaining amicable relationships with North Korea against United States and Japan. In the situation that North Korea has aimed to complete development of nuclear weapons for negotiation, diplomatic oppression is not effective itself for making change.

 

Joint statement by the leaders of North and South Korea, in April 2018 [South Korea Gov.]

Joint statement by the leaders of North and South Korea, in April 2018 [South Korea Gov.]

 

2. Sports and culture: Peaceful gesture

The attempt to converse through sports and culture is one of the soft power strategies used by South Korea in order to solve the nuclear crisis. This strategy intends to obtain North Korea's cooperation in non-political areas which could then spread to political negotiations. As a result of this strategy, South Korea and North Korea formed a unified team during the last Olympics and Asian games (Yonhapnews, 2018). However, for it to be a success, their cooperation should not be limited to the non-political area, but instead should lead to a constructive conversation in politics. In these terms, South Korea's peaceful gesture in the PyeongChang winter Olympic is seen to have brought about positive change. Before the Olympics, many politicians and experts were skeptical to the gesture because North Korea conducted the 6th nuclear test in 2017, ignoring South Korea's message (Korea times, 2018). In extension of the two-track diplomacy strategy, nevertheless, the South Korea government has continually shown a desire to cooperate with North Korea. These strategies focus on cooperation only in soft power domains such as sports, culture, and music rather than domains that expose serious political intent.

In the United Nations general assembly which adopted a truce for the PyeongChang Olympics, gold medalist Kim-yun-a required North Korea to participate in Olympics on her address (Chungang, 2017). Moreover, in the event for praying successful Olympics, the president Moon-jae-in sent another peaceful gesture mentioning that South Korea would wait for the participation of North Korea until the beginning of Olympics (Voakorea, 2017). This strategy ended up having successfully attracted North Korea. As a result, they composed a unified ice hockey team and diplomats were dispatched from North Korea during the Olympics to watch the game with South Korean government officials. And then, they exchanged cultural performances in PyeongChang and Pyeong-yang. Finally, the efforts led to the summit meeting between South-North Korea, and North Korea even declared that it would stop developing nuclear power and establish cooperation with South Korea.

It is too early to judge whether North Korea will stop developing their nuclear influence. However, it is a success in the sense that South Korea has attracted North Korea into conversations. Especially, South Korea has effectively taken advantage of the situation that all countries in international relations pay attention to the nuclear crisis of North Korea. They continuously pull North Korea into the center of world politics and leave North Korea without alternative option. Continuous diary-setting and issue making has finally attracted North Korea.

3. diary-setting and framing

It is important to continuously set agendas about issues which are related to North Korea's violations concerning the nuclear crisis and human rights. Although North Korea is isolated from world politics, it can't operate its system if it refuses to cooperate or trade with other countries. As a result, it do not want to be in constant conflict with world politics. Therefore, the focal point of diary-setting South Korea should impress is the negative effects of nuclear policies and dictatorship of North Korea. Moreover, South Korea should recognize that the goal of developing nuclear influence of North Korea is not to declare war but to ensure protection for their political system. South Korea needs to continuously stress that political system of North Korea would be insured after nuclear dismantlement. These strategies change thoughts of North Korea and induce it to participate in negotiations.

However, South Korea has not been effectively employing this strategy. diary-setting which might arouse direct conflict with North Korea could aggravate their relationship. This explains its unwillingness to resort to this strategy. On the other hand, the United States show effective diary-setting which relates to the nuclear crisis mentioning Iran as a positive example of a successful negotiation.

South Korea needs to set and frame the diary about similar issues closely related to North Korea. For example, the rebellion against the dictatorship in Syria and the resulting death of the dictator in Yemen which stem from tyrannical politics could be a negative precedent. Also, the agreement with Iran that acquired economic support by abandoning nuclear development could be a positive precedent. Through this diary setting, South Korea should change the thought of North Korea about their nuclear policies. If this strategy succeeds, North Korea will obtain a new interpretative framework, which could lead them to negotiate.

4. Competition of system: North Korea defector and Korean wave

The last type of soft power strategy is a fundamental solution to provoke change. While the strategies I mentioned above directly targets the North Korea government, this strategy mainly targets the people and the society of North Korea. Promoting economic, cultural superiority could influence the North Korean people and then it could lead to movements which would require a transition from the current society. There are many different kinds of way to conduct this strategy and it is abstract in that we can't measure how much it could influence society. However, it could also be a strategy which North Korea fears the most in the sense that it could provoke change from the bottom of the society. In addition to this, it could arouse fundamental doubt about the 'Juche' ideology or nuclear development which is maintained by an exploitative system.

One of these strategies is the policy concerning defectors. South Korea has been implementing policies which accept defectors and help them adjust to the South Korea society. These defectors get a chance to be independent through re-socialization. And then, some of them carry out activities which denounce the horrible reality of the internal society of North Korea. If their voice became influential in world politics, it could become a greater threat to the North Korea system. In 2012, some defectors testified against the internal violation of human rights in UNCHR to gain attention from the world (Newsis, 2016).

In addition, recently, Korean dramas and music are covertly shared within the North Korea society (Daily NK, 2018). It could also provoke a social movement to call for change. Because the contents reflect a much higher standard of living, it triggers curiosity and admiration from North Korean people. These strategies lead society of North Korea to socialize with the co-optive power in the recipients. Ultimately, long term soft power could threaten North Korea itself.

Limits and conclusion

This essay has analysed the strategies South Korea has used in order to resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis. South Korea threatens North Korea utilizing consensus among countries. Strategies its government has shown such as the speech of the president Moon-jae-in in the United Nations general assembly, the winter Olympics which reflected a desire for peace and the two-track diplomacy are totally different from the consistently conservative policies that the previous governments showed during the last ten years. In addition, the declaration of the Trump's administration that they would continuously pressure North Korea about nuclear issues offered the opportunity to react to North Korea's nuclear policies. In this process, active joint response among South Korea, United States and Japan is also necessary.

However, it is true that there are some drawbacks. In order for North Korea to eventually accept nuclear disarmament, South Korea absolutely needs to cooperate with Russia and China which are not only in a good relationship with North Korea but also in a comparatively competitive relationship with the United States and Japan. If South Korea will succeed in gaining their support, the process of reaching an agreement concerning nuclear issues would be much easier.

Eventually, in contrast with the hard power strategies with hard resources, soft power strategies with soft resources can only be effective when South Korea offers the second attractive option. The options are diverse. The main point is that North Korea should recognize the positive effects of abandoning nuclear.

Also, South Korea should recognize that the effect of soft power strategies is maximized when it coexists with economic / military oppression through hard power. In other words, South Korea must take into account Joseph Nye's smart power to solve the nuclear crisis.

In this process, the most important thing is to persuade North Korea by offering an attractive choice. The reason why North Korea desires to have a summit meeting with South Korea and the United States is because they judge that the choice would be more profitable. Therefore, the South Korean government needs to reflect upon what objectives North Korea has when they accept to negotiate. For example, China's economic opening is an example of a good precedent that North Korea could follow. South Korea needs to give North Korea a blue print such as the example of China and lead the agreement about the nuclear problem.

Lastly, it is difficult to apprehend the effectiveness of soft power strategies with soft resources, mentioned by Geun Lee, in the sense that the data and the figures about this strategy are not easy to measure in contrast with hard power strategies. Also, many causes exist concerning change of North Korea. Therefore, further research needs to establish a system to get concrete and scientific data in order to apprehend the complex causes and effects of this strategy such as that stem from smart power strategies.

 

References

Geun Lee (2009) A theory of soft power and Korea's soft power strategy, Korean Journal of Defense Analysis, 21:2, 205-218, DOI: 10.1080/10163270902913962

Joseph S. Nye. JR. (2013) HARD, SOFT, AND SMART POWER. In: Andrew F. Cooper, Jorge Heine, and Ramesh Thakur(eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Modern Diplomacy, pp.559-574.

Jung Seong Jang (1999) Theoretical Structure and Characteristics of the Juche Ideology. 북한연구학회보, 3:2, 251-273

Chungang ilbo, (2017) 김연아, 평화올림픽 위해 UN에서 4분 영어연설 [Online] Available.

DAILY NK. (2018) 어쩔 수 없이 인도영화를 처벌강화에 南드라마 시청 주춤 [Online] Available.

Korea Times. (2018) 북한, 평창올림픽 참가 놓고 정치권 장외설전 가열 [Online] Available.

Korean Times. (2016) 왜 북한은 핵개발을 멈추지 않는가? [Online] Available.

Newsis. (2016) 탈북자들, 유엔 인권위에서 강제낙태와 고문 등 증언 [Online] Available.

The Fact. (2017) 文대통령'데뷔전' UN본부 입성... '북핵 파문' NYPD '긴장' [Online] Available.

Voakorea. (2017) 문재인 한국 대통령 "북한 평창올림픽 참가 끝까지 기다릴 것" [Online] Available.

Yonhapnews. (2018) 27년 만에 '남북 단일팀' 출범 임박... 올림픽은 사상 최초 [Online] Available.

Categories Global Affairs: Asia World order, diplomacy and governance Analysis

WORKING PAPER / N. Moreno, A. Puigrefagut, I. Yárnoz

ABSTRACT

The fundamental characteristic of the external action of the European Union (EU) in recent years has been the use of the so-called soft power. This soft power has made the Union a key actor for the development of a large part of the world's regions. The last decades the EU has participated in a considerable amount of projects in the economic, cultural and political fields in order to fulfil the article 2 of its founding Treaty and thus promote their values and interests and contribute to peace, security and sustainable development of the globe through solidarity and respect for all peoples. Nevertheless, EU's interventions in different regions of the world have not been free of objections that have placed in the spotlight a possible direct attack by the Union to the external States' national sovereignties, thus creating a principle of neo-colonialism by the EU.

 

The European Union's soft power: Image branding or neo-colonialism Download the document [pdf. 548K]

Categories Global Affairs: European Union World order, diplomacy and governance Documents of work

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and President Donald Trump during a meeting in Washington in 2017 [White House]

▲Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and President Donald Trump during a meeting in Washington in 2017 [White House]

ANALYSIS / Naomi Moreno

Saudi Arabia used to be the only country in the world that banned women from driving. This ban was one of the things that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) was best known for to outsiders not otherwise familiar with the country's domestic politics, and has thus been a casus belli for activists demanding reforms in the kingdom. Last month, Saudi Arabia started issuing the first driver's licenses to women, putting into effect some of the changes promised by the infamous Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) in his bid to modernize Saudi Arabian politics. The end of the ban further signals the beginning of a move to expand the rights of women in KSA, and builds on piecemeal developments that took place in the realm of women's rights in the kingdom prior to MBS' entrance to the political scene.

Thus, since 2012, Saudi Arabian women have been able to do sports as well as participate in the Olympic Games; in the 2016 Olympics, four Saudi women were allowed to travel to Rio de Janeiro to compete. Moreover, within the political realm, King Abdullah swore in the first 30 women to the shura council − Saudi Arabia's consultative council − in February 2013, and in the kingdom's 2015 municipal elections, women were able to vote and run for office for the first time. Finally, and highlighting the fact that economic dynamics have similarly played a role in driving progression in the kingdom, the Saudi stock exchange named the first female chairperson in its history − a 39-year-old Saudi woman named Sarah Al Suhaimi − last February.

Further, although KSA may be known to be one of the "worst countries to be a woman", the country has experienced a B breakthrough in the last 5 years and the abovementioned advances in women's rights, to name some, constitute a positive development. However, the most visible reforms have arguably been the work of MBS. The somewhat rash and unprecedented decision to end the ban on driving coincided with MBS' crackdown on ultra-conservative, Wahhabi clerics and the placing of several of the kingdom's richest and most influential men under house arrest, under the pretext of challenging corruption. In addition, under his leadership, the oil-rich kingdom is undergoing economic reforms to reduce the country's dependency on oil, in a bid to modernize the country's economy. 

Nonetheless, despite the above mentioned reforms being classified by some as unprecedented, progressive leaps that are putting an end to oppression through challenging underlying ultra-conservatism traditions (as well as those that espouse them), a measure of distrust has arisen among Saudis and outsiders with regards the motivations underlying the as-of-yet seemingly limited reforms that have been introduced. While some perceive the crown prince's actions to be a genuine move towards reforming Saudi society, several indicators point to the possibility that MBS might have more practical reasons that are only tangentially related to progression for progression's sake. As the thinking goes, such decrees may have less to do with genuine reform, and more to do with improving an international image to deflect from some of the kingdom's more controversial practices, both at home and abroad. A number of factors drive this public scepticism.

Reasons for scepticism

The first relates to the fact that KSA is a country where an ultraconservative form of shari'a or Islamic law continues to constitute the primary legal framework. This legal framework is based on the Qur'an and Hadith, within which the public and many private aspects of everyday life are regulated. Unlike in other Muslim majority countries, where only selective elements of the shari'a are adopted, Wahhabism – which is identified by the Court of Strasbourg as a main source of terrorism − has necessitated the strict adherence to a fundamentalist interpretation of shari'a, one that draws from the stricter and more literal Hanbali school of jurisprudence. As such, music and the arts have been strictly controlled and censored. In addition, although the religious police (more commonly known as the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice) have had their authority curbed to a certain degree, they are still given the authority to enforce Islamic norms of conduct in public by observing suspects and forwarding their findings to the police.

In the past few years, the KSA has been pushing for a more national Wahhabism, one that is more modern in its outlook and suitable for the kingdom's image. Nevertheless, the Wahhabi clergy has been close to the Al Saud dynasty since the mid-18th century, offering it Islamic legitimacy in return for control over parts of the state, and a lavish religious infrastructure of mosques and universities. Therefore, Saudi clerics are pushing back significantly against democratization efforts. As a result, the continuing prevalence of a shari'a system of law raises questions about the ability of the kingdom to seriously democratise and reform to become moderate.

Secondly, and from a domestic point of view, Saudi Arabia is experiencing disharmony. Saudi citizens are not willing to live in a country where any political opposition is quelled by force, and punishments for crimes such as blasphemy, sorcery, and apostasy are gruesome and carried out publicly. This internal issue has thus embodied an identity crisis provoked mainly by the 2003 Iraq war, and reinforced by the events of the Arab Spring. Disillusionment, unemployment, religious and tribal splits, as well as human rights abuses and corruption among an ageing leadership have been among the main grievances of the Saudi people who are no longer as tolerant of oppression.

In an attempt to prevent the spill over of the Arab Spring fervor into the Kingdom, the government spent $130 billion in an attempt to offset domestic unrest. Nonetheless, these grants failed to satisfy the nearly 60 percent of the population under the age of twenty-one, which refused to settle. In fact, in 2016 protests broke out in Qatif, a city in Saudi Arabia's oil-rich, eastern provinces, which prompted Saudis to deploy additional security units to the region. In addition, in September of last year, Saudi authorities, arguing a battle against corruption and a crack down on extremism, arrested dozens of people, including prominent clerics. According to a veteran Saudi journalist, this was an absurd action as "there was nothing that called for such arrests". He argued that several among those arrested were not members of any political organization, but rather individuals with dissenting viewpoints to those held by the ruling family.

Among those arrested was Sheikh Salman al-Awdah, an influential cleric known for agitating for political change and for being a pro-shari'a activist. Awdah's arrest, while potentially disguised as part of the kingdom's attempts to curb the influence of religious hardliners, is perhaps better understood in the context of the Qatar crisis. Thus, when KSA, with the support of a handful of other countries in the region, initiated a blockade of the small Gulf peninsula in June of last year, Awdah welcomed a report on his Twitter account suggesting that the then three-month-old row between Qatar and four Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia may be resolved. The ensuing arrest of the Sheikh seems to confirm a suspicion that it was potentially related to his favouring the renormalization of relations with Qatar, as opposed to it being related to MBS' campaign to moderate Islam in the kingdom.

A third factor that calls into question the sincerity of the modernization campaign is economic. Although Saudi Arabia became a very wealthy country following the discovery of oil in the region, massive inequality between the various classes has grown since, as these resources remain to be controlled by a select few. As a result, nearly one fifth of the population continues to live in poverty, especially in the predominantly Shi'a South where, ironically, much of the oil reservoirs are located. In these areas, sewage runs in the streets, and only crumbs are spent to alleviate the plight of the poor. Further, youth opportunities in Saudi Arabia are few, which leaves much to be desire, and translates into occasional unrest. Thus, the lack of possibilities has led many young men to join various terrorist organizations in search of a new life.

 

Statement by MBS in a conference organized in Riyadh in October 2017 [KSA]

Statement by MBS in a conference organized in Riyadh in October 2017 [KSA]

 

Vision 2030 and international image

In the context of the Saudi Vision 2030 , the oil rich country is aiming to wean itself of its dependence on the natural resource which, despite its wealth generation capacity, has also been one of the main causes of the country's economic problems. KSA is facing an existential crisis that has led to a re-think of its long-standing practice of selling oil via fixed contracts. This is why Vision 2030 is so important. Seeking to regain better control over its economic and financial destiny, the kingdom has designed an ambitious economic restructuring plan, spearheaded by MBS. Vision 2030 constitutes a reform programme that aims to upgrade the country's financial status by diversifying its economy in a world of low oil prices. Saudi Arabia thus needs overseas firms' investments, most notably in non-oil sectors, in order to develop this state-of-the-art approach. This being said, Vision 2030 inevitably implies reforms on simultaneous fronts that go beyond economic affairs. The action plan has come in at a time when the kingdom is not only dealing with oil earnings and lowering its reserves, but also expanding its regional role. As a result, becoming a more democratic country could attract foreign wealth to a country that has traditionally been viewed in a negative light due to its repressive human rights record.  

This being said, Saudi Arabia also has a lot to do regarding its foreign policy in order to improve its international image. Despite this, the Saudi petition to push the US into a war with Iran has not ceased during recent years. Religious confrontation between the Sunni Saudi autocracy and Iran's Shi'a theocracy has characterized the geopolitical tensions that have existed in the region for decades. Riyadh has tried to circumvent criticism of its military intervention in the Yemen through capitalizing on the Trump administration's hostility towards Iran, and involving the US in its campaign; thus granting it a degree of legitimacy as an international alliance against the Houthis. Recently, MBS stated that Trump was the " best person at the right time" to confront Iran. Conveniently enough, Trump and the Republicans are now in charge of US' foreign affairs. Whereas the Obama administration, in its final months, suspended the sale of precision-guided missiles to Saudi Arabia, the Trump administration has moved to reverse this in the context of the Yemeni conflict. In addition, in May of this year, just a month after MBS visited Washington in a meeting which included discussions regarding the Iran accords, the kingdom has heaped praise on president Trump following his decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.

All things considered, 2018 may go down in history as the irreversible end of the absolute archaic Saudi monarchy. This implosion was necessitated by events, such as those previously mentioned, that Saudi rulers could no longer control or avoid. Hitherto, MBS seems to be fulfilling his father's wishes. He has hand-picked dutiful and like-minded princes and appointed them to powerful positions. As a result, MBS' actions suggest that the kingdom is turning over a new page in which a new generation of princes and technocrats will lead the breakthrough to a more moderate and democratic Saudi Arabia.

New awareness

However, although MBS has declared that the KSA is moving towards changing existing guardianship laws, due to cultural differences among Saudi families, to date, women still need power of attorney from a male relative to acquire a car, and risk imprisonment should they disobey male guardians. In addition, this past month, at least 12 prominent women's rights activists who campaigned for women's driving rights just before the country lifted the ban were arrested. Although the lifting of the ban is now effective, 9 of these activists remain behind bars and are facing serious charges and long jail sentences. As such, women continue to face significant challenges in realizing basic rights, despite the positive average endorsement that MBS' lifting of the driving ban has received.

Although Saudi Arabia is making an effort in order to satisfy the public eye, it is with some degree of scepticism that one should approach the country's motivations. Taking into account Saudi Arabia's current state of affairs, these events suggest that the women's driving decree was an effort in order to improve the country's external image as well as an effort to deflect attention from a host of problematic internal and external affairs, such as the proxy warfare in the region, the arrest of dissidents and clerics this past September, and the Qatari diplomatic crisis, which recently "celebrated" its first anniversary. Allowing women to drive is a relatively trivial sacrifice for the kingdom to make and has triggered sufficient positive reverberations globally. Such baby steps are positive, and should be encouraged, yet overlook the fact that they only represent the tip of the iceberg.

As it stands, the lifting of the driving ban does not translate into a concrete shift in the prevailing legal and cultural mindsets that initially opposed it. Rather, it is an indirect approach to strengthen Saudi's power in economic and political terms. Yet, although women in Saudi Arabia may feel doubtful about the government's intentions, time remains to be their best ally. After decades of an ultraconservative approach to handling their rights, the country has reached awareness that it can no longer sustain its continued oppression of women; and this for economic reasons, but also as a result of global pressures that affect the success of the country's foreign policies which, by extension, also negatively impact on its interests.

The silver lining for Saudi woman is that, even if the issue of women's rights is being leveraged to secure the larger interests of the kingdom, it continues to represent a slow and steady progression to a future in which women may be granted more freedoms. The downside is that, so long as these rights are not grafted into a broader legal framework that secures them beyond the rule of a single individual − like MBS − women's rights (and human rights in general) will continue to be the temporary product of individual whim. Without an overhaul of the shari'a system that perpetuates regressive attitudes towards women, the best that can be hoped for is the continuation of internal and external pressures that coerce the Saudi leadership into exacting further reforms in the meantime. As with all things, time will tell.

Categories Global Affairs: Middle East World Order, Diplomacy and Governance Analysis Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf

DOC. DE work / A. Palacios, M. Lamela, M. Biera[English version].

SUMMARY

The European Union (EU) has been particularly damaged internally by disinformation campaigns that have challenged its legislation and its very values. The various disinformation operations and the EU institutions' inability to communicate have generated a sense of alarm in Brussels. Barely a year before the European Parliament elections, Europe has concentrated much of its efforts on tackling the disinformation challenge, generating new strategies and work groups such as the Stratcom Task Force or the European Commission's group of experts.

 

Disinformation wars: Russian campaigns and the Western reactiondownload the complete document [pdf. 381K]

Categories Global Affairs: European Union World order, diplomacy and governance Documents of work