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Albania and North Macedonia are forced to accept tougher negotiating rules, while Serbia and Montenegro reassess their options.

Brexit has been absorbing the EU's negotiating attention for many months and now Covid-19 has slowed down non-priority decision-making processes. In October 2019, the EU decided to cool down talks with the Western Balkans, under pressure from France and some other countries. Albania and North Macedonia, which had made the work that Brussels had requested in order to formally open negotiations, have seen the rules of the game changed just before the start of the game.

meeting of the Western Balkans with EU countries, held in London in 2018 [European Commission].

▲ meeting of the Western Balkans with EU countries, held in London in 2018 [European Commission].

article / Elena López-Doriga

Since its origins, the European Community has been evolving and expanding its competences through treaties structuring its functioning and aims. issue The membership of the organisation has also expanded considerably: it started with 6 countries (France, Belgium, the Federal Republic of Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands) and now consists of 27 (following the recent departure of the United Kingdom).

The most notable year of this enlargement was 2004, when the EU committed itself to integrating 10 new countries, which was a major milestone challenge, given that these countries were mainly from Central and Eastern Europe, coming from the "iron curtain", with less developed economies emerging from communist systems and Soviet influence.

The next enlargement round goal is the possible EU membership of the countries of the Western Balkans (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia). However, at a summit held in Brussels at the end of 2019 to open accession negotiations for new members, some EU countries were against continuing the process, so for the time being the accession of the candidate countries will have to wait. Some EU leaders have called this postponement a "historic mistake".

Enlargement towards Central and Eastern Europe

In May 1999 the EU launched the Stabilisation Process and association. The Union undertook to develop new contractual relations with Central and Eastern European countries that expressed a desire to join the Union through stabilisation agreements and association, in exchange for commitments on political, economic, trade or human rights reform. As a result, in 2004 the EU integrated the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia (the first member from the Western Balkans). In 2007 Bulgaria and Romania also joined the Union and in 2013 Croatia, the second Western Balkan country to join.

The integration of the Western Balkans

Since the end of the Yugoslav wars in late 2001, the EU has played a very prominent role in the Balkans, not only as an economic power in subject reconstruction, but also as a guarantor of stability and security in the region. The EU's goal is in part to prevent the Western Balkans from becoming a security black hole, given the rise of rising nationalism, growing tension between Moscow and Washington, which fuels tensions between ethnic groups in the region, and China's economic penetration of the area. Clearer progress towards Balkan integration was reaffirmed in the Commission's Western Balkans strategy of February 2018 and in the Sofia Declaration following the EU-Western Balkans Summit held in the Bulgarian capital on 17 May 2018. At the Summit, EU leaders reiterated their unequivocal support for the European perspective of the Western Balkans. "I see no future for the Western Balkans other than the EU. There is no alternative, there is no plan B. The Western Balkans are part of Europe and belong to our community," said the then president of the European committee , Donald Tusk.

Official candidates: Albania and Macedonia

Albania applied for EU membership on 28 April 2009. In 2012, the Commission noted significant progress and recommended that Albania be granted the status of candidate, subject to the implementation of a number of outstanding reforms. In October 2013, the Commission unequivocally recommended that Albania be granted membership status candidate . visit Angela Merkel visited Tirana on 8 July 2015 and stated that the prospect of the Balkan region's accession to the European Union (EU) was important for peace and stability. He stressed that in the case of Albania the pace of the accession process depended on the completion of reforms in the judicial system and the fight against corruption and organised crime. In view of the country's progress, the Commission recommended the opening of accession negotiations with Albania in its 2016 and 2018 reports.

On the other hand, the Republic of North Macedonia (former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) applied for EU membership in March 2004 and was granted country status candidate in December 2005. However, the country did not start accession negotiations because of the dispute with Greece over the use of the name "Macedonia". When this was successfully resolved by the agreement of Prespa under the country's new name - Northern Macedonia - the committee agreed on the possibility of opening accession negotiations with this country in June 2019, assuming the necessary conditions were met.

Potential candidates: Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo

Bosnia and Herzegovina is a potential candidate country. Although it negotiated and signed a Stabilisationagreement and association with the EU in 2008, the entrance entry into force of this agreement remained at Fail mainly due to the country's failure to implement a judgement core topic of the European Court of Human Rights. In the meantime, the Parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina has not reached a agreement concerning the rules of procedure governing its meetings with the European Parliament (twice a year), as these meetings have not been held since November 2015, and this status constitutes a breach of agreement by Bosnia and Herzegovina. 

Kosovo is a potential candidate candidate for EU membership. It declared its independence unilaterally in February 2008. All but five Member States (Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Slovakia, Spain and Cyprus) have recognised Kosovo's independence. Among the countries in the region, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina have also failed to recognise Kosovo as an independent state. In September 2018, the European Parliament went a step further and decided to open inter-institutional negotiations, which are currently underway. However, the fact that not all member states currently recognise its independence is a major stumbling block.

Negotiating accession: Montenegro and Serbia

Montenegro, one of the smallest states on the European continent, has been part of different empires and states over the past centuries, finally gaining independence peacefully in 2006. It applied to join the Union in December 2008; it was granted the status of a country candidate in December 2010, and accession negotiations started in June 2012. By the end of 2018, 32 negotiating chapters had been opened, out of a total of 35.

Serbia 's process began in December 2009 when former president Boris Tadić officially submitted application for membership and also handed over to justice war criminal Ratko Mladić, manager of the Srebrenica massacre during the Bosnian War, who was hiding on Serbian territory. However, the conflict with Kosovo is one of Serbia's main obstacles to EU accession. It was granted country status candidate in March 2012, after Belgrade and Pristina reached an agreement agreement on Kosovo's regional representation. The official opening of accession negotiations took place on 21 January 2014. In February 2018, the Commission published a new strategy for the Western Balkans stating that Serbia (as well as Montenegro) could join the EU by 2025, while acknowledging the "extremely ambitious" nature of this prospect. Serbia's future EU membership, like that of Kosovo, remains closely linked to the high-level dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo under EU auspices, which should lead to a legally binding comprehensive agreement on the normalisation of their relations.

A step back in the negotiations

In October 2019, a summit was held in Brussels, goal to structure the negotiations of the official candidates for EU membership. Both North Macedonia and Albania were convinced that a date would be set to start the long process of negotiations. However, the process reached a stalemate after seven hours of wrangling, with France rejecting both countries' entrance . France led the campaign against enlargement, but Denmark and the Netherlands also joined the veto. They argue that the EU is not ready to take on new members. "It doesn't work too well at 28, it doesn't work too well at 27, and I'm not sure it will work any better with another enlargement. So we have to be realistic. Before enlarging, we need to reform ourselves," said French President Emmanuel Macron.

The then president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, considered the suspension to be a major historic mistake and hoped that it would only be temporary. For his part, Donald Tusk said he was "ashamed" of the decision, and concluded that North Macedonia and Albania were not to blame for the status created, as the European Commission's reports were clear that both had done what was necessary to start negotiations with the EU.

In Albania, Prime Minister Edi Rama said that the lack of consensus among European leaders would not change Albania's future EU membership aspirations. He asserted that his government was determined to push ahead with the reforms initiated in the electoral, judicial and administrative spheres because it considered them necessary for the country's development , not just because Brussels demanded it.

In North Macedonia, on the other hand, the European rejection was deeply disappointing, as the country had proceeded to reform its institutions and judicial system and fight corruption; it had also changed its constitution, its name and its national identity. The rejection left the country, candidate official status for the past 14 years, in a state of great uncertainty, and Prime Minister Zoran Zaev decided to dissolve parliament and call elections for 12 April 2020 (later postponed due to the Covid-19 emergency). "We have fulfilled our obligations, but the EU has not. We are the victims of a historic mistake that has led to a huge disappointment," Zaev said.

A new, stricter process

Despite the fact that, according to the Commission, North Macedonia and Albania fulfilled the requirements criteria to become accession candidates, Macron proposed to tighten the accession process. In order to unblock status and continue with the process, which the EU claims to be a priority goal , Brussels has given in to the French president's request by establishing a new methodology for integrating new countries.

The new process envisages the possibility of reopening chapters of the negotiations that were considered closed or of fail the talks underway in one of the chapters; it even envisages paralysing the negotiations as a whole. It aims to give more weight to governments and to facilitate the suspension of pre-accession funds or the freezing of the process if candidate countries freeze or reverse committed reforms. The new method will apply to Albania and North Macedonia, whose negotiations with the EU have not yet begun, while Serbia and Montenegro will be able to choose whether to join, without having to change their established negotiating framework , according to the Commission.

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

Apart from China, Italy has received aid from Russia and Cuba, making a risky geopolitical move in the European context.

The global spreading of the virus is putting under stress the big ally of the Union, the United States, which is demonstrating its lack of an efficient social health care system. Furthermore, the initial refusal of Washington to send help to the EU was seen as an opportunity for countries like Russia, China and Cuba to send medical and technical support to those countries of the EU that are most affected by the virus. Italy has taken aid send by Beijing, Moscow and Havana, shaking the geopolitical understandings of the EU's foreign policy.

Russia's aid arrived in Italy in the middle of the pandemic crisis [Russian Defense Ministry].

▲ Russia's aid arrived in Italy in the middle of the pandemic crisis [Russian Defense Ministry].

ARTICLEMatilde Romito

The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared Corona Virus (Covid-19) a pandemic on the 11th of March, 2020. The fast widespread of the virus pushed numerous countries around the world and especially in Europe where there is the highest number of confirmed cases, to call for a lockdown. This extreme measure is not only leading the EU and the entire world towards an unprecedented economic crisis, but it is also redefining geopolitics and the system of alliances we were used to.

The pandemic. On January 30, 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the first outbreak of novel coronavirus a 'public health emergency of international concern'. In mid-February, numerous cases of corona virus began to be reported in northern Italy and in several European countries. Initially, the spread of the virus mainly hit Italy, which reported the biggest number of cases among the EU states. In March, Italy started with the implementation of social-distancing measures and the consequent lockdown of the country, followed by Spain, France and other European countries. On March 11, 2020, the WHO declared covid-19 a global pandemic. Currently, Europe is the region of the world with the highest number of confirmed cases. According to the WHO, on April 6, Europe reached 621,407 cases compared to the 352,600 cases in America and the 112,524 in Western Asia.

The global lockdown. At first, several major airlines suspended their flights from and to China, in order to avoid further contaminations. Now, the majority of flights in Europe and in other regions have been cancelled. The biggest areas of world are under lockdown and the economic consequences of this are becoming more and more evident. A forced social distancing seems to be the only way to contain the spread of the virus and the closing of national borders is currently at the center of states' policies to combat the virus. However, some European countries, such as Sweden, do not seem to agree on this.

Lack of solidarity

We are assisting to a global situation of 'everybody for oneself,' and this has become highly evident within the EU itself. Individual countries within the Union have shown high levels of egoism on different occasions. The North-South divide within the EU is clearer than ever, particularly between the Netherlands and Austria on the one side, and Italy, Spain, France and Greece on the other side. The former group of countries is asking for compromise and conditions to lend money to the most afflicted ones for countering the crisis, while the latter group is asking the EU to share the debts accumulated in order to save European economies (eurobonds).

The different spread-intensity of the virus in different European countries has shown more than once the fragility of the Union, which demonstrated to be led by the arrogance of the rich. On different occasions European leaders have shown a lack of European identity, solidarity and common vision. For instance, at the beginning of the crisis France and Germany attempted to 'cover with the European flag' medical products directed to Italy, by declaring them 'European products', trying to compensate the initial inaction of the EU. Another example, could be the seizure by the Czech Republic of 110,000 Chinese masks and thousands of breathing supports, which were destined to Italy (March the 21st). Moreover, the lack of unity also came from an unjustified action of protectionism undertaken by Poland, which closed its market to agricultural products coming from Italy on March 18, despite it was already known that the virus could not be spread through such products.

Nevertheless, there are some good and unexpected examples of solidarity. For instance, a good lesson on European solidarity came from the small state of Albania. The Albanian prime minister Edi Rama taught European leaders what it means to be part of the EU by sending a medical unit to the Italian region of Lombardy, despite the numerous difficulties Albania is facing, thus showing that the fight against the virus has no nationality and it cannot leave room for egoistic calculations. Moreover, more recently Germany has accepted to receive and take care of numerous patients coming from Italy, where the majority of health infrastructures are saturated.

Overall, little comprehension and solidarity has been shown between European member states, thus being criticised by the European Commission president, Ursula Von Der Leyen.

Geopolitical tensions

The EU is going through numerous changes in the relations between its members. The closing up of individual countries poses a big challenge to the EU itself, which is founded on freedom of movement of people and goods.

Currently, sending masks and medicines seems to have become the main means for countries to exert influence in global affairs. The global spreading of the virus is putting under stress the big ally of the Union, the United States (US), which is demonstrating its lack of an efficient social health care system. Furthermore, the initial refusal of Washington to send help to the EU was seen as an opportunity for countries like Russia, China and Cuba to send medical and technical support to those countries of the EU that are most affected by the virus, like Italy and Spain. After having seen its hegemonic position in Europe under threat, the US decided to send monetary help to some European countries, such as 100 million dollars to Italy, in order to help in countering the emergency.

At the end, the EU seems to start standing all together. But, did the European countries take action on time? Generally, countries, like human beings, are more likely to remember one bad impression better than numerous good ones. Therefore, are countries like Italy going to 'forgive' the EU and its initial inactivity? Or are they going to fall back on countries like Russia and China, which have shown their solidarity since the beginning?

Furthermore, did the EU take action because of an inherent identity and solidarity? Or was it just a counteraction to the Chinese and Russian help? It seemed that specifically Germany's mobilisation followed the exhortation of the former president of the European Central Bank (ECB), Mario Draghi. He accused Germany and other countries of taking advantage of the virus for imposing a 'conditionality' to the countries that were asking for help. Moreover, in an interview on the Financial Times he called for an exceptional investment in the economies and for a guarantee of the debts, in order to jointly face the crisis, because no country can face this unprecedented threat alone. Now, anti-virus economic action turned into a matter of urgency for Europe and the European Commission is working on a common European response to the crisis.

Future perspectives

Probably, after the end of the virus spread, the world will assist to important changes in the global dynamics of alliances. Russia and China will most likely have one or more European allies to advance their interests in the EU. On the one side, this could lead to a further weakening of the EU governance and to the re-emergence of nationalism on states' behaviour within the Union. And on the other side, it could lead to the development of further mechanisms of cooperation among the EU members, which will go beyond the eurobonds and will probably extend to the sanitary dimension.

To preserve its unity, the European political-economic-cultural area will need to be strengthened, by fighting inequalities with a new model of solidarity. Its future prosperity will most likely depend on its internal market.

Nevertheless, for now the only thing we can be sure about is that the first impression on the EU was very bad and that this situation is going to lead all of us towards an unprecedented economic crisis, which most probably will redefine the political relationships between the world's biggest regions.

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

staff UNHCR staff building a tent for Venezuelan refugees in the Colombian city of Cúcuta [UNHCR].

staff UNHCR building a tent for Venezuelan refugees in the Colombian city of Cúcuta [UNHCR].

COMMENTARY / Paula Ulibarrena

Restrictive measures imposed by states to try to contain the coronavirus epidemic mean that millions of people are no longer able to go to work or work from home. But not everyone can stop working or switch to teleworking. There are self-employed people, small businesses, neighbourhood shops, street traders or street vendors, and freelance artists who live practically from day to day. For them, and for many others who have no or reduced income, expenses will continue to mount: utility bills, rents, mortgages, school fees and, of course, food and medicine.

All these social impacts of the coronavirus crisis are already beginning to be questioned by those living in the "red zone" of the epidemic. In Italy, for example, some political groups have demanded that aid should not go to large companies, but to this group of precarious workers or needy families, and are demanding a "basic quarantine income".

Similar approaches are emerging in other parts of the world and have even led some leaders to anticipate the demands of the population. In France, Emmanuel Macron announced that the government will take over the loans, and suspended the payment of rents, taxes and electricity, gas and water bills. In the United States, Donald Trump's government announced that cheques will be sent to each family to cover the costs or risks involved in the pandemic.

In other major crises the state has come to the rescue of large companies and banks. Now there are calls for public resources to be devoted to rescuing those most in need.

In any crisis, it is the most disadvantaged who suffer the most. Today, there are more than 126 million people in the world in need of humanitarian assistance, including 70 million forcibly displaced people. attendance . Within these groups, we are beginning to see the first cases of infection (Ninive-Iraq IDP camp, Somalia, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Sudan, Venezuela report ), the cases in Burkina Faso are particularly illustrative of the challenge of responding in a context where medical care is limited. Malian refugees who were once displaced to Burkina Faso are being forced to return to Mali, and ongoing violence inhibits humanitarian and medical access to affected populations.

Many refugee camps suffer from inadequate hygiene and sanitation facilities, creating conditions conducive to the spread of disease. Official response plans in the US, South Korea, China and Europe require social distancing, which is physically impossible in many IDP camps and in the crowded urban contexts in which many forcibly displaced people live. Jan Egeland, director general of the Norwegian Refugee Agency committee , warned that COVID-19 could "decimate refugee communities". 

Jacob Kurtzer of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington warns that national policies of isolation in reaction to the spread of COVID-19 also have negative consequences for people facing humanitarian emergencies. Thus the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration have announced the end of refugee resettlement programmes, as some host governments have halted refugee entrance and imposed travel restrictions as part of their official response.

Compounding these challenges is the reality that humanitarian funding, which can barely meet global demand, may be affected as donor states feel they must focus such funds on the Covid-19 response at this time.

On the other side of the coin, the coronavirus could provide an opportunity to de-escalate some armed conflicts. For example, the EU has order ceased hostilities and stopped military transfers in Libya to allow authorities to focus on responding to the health emergency. The Islamic State has posted repeated messages on its Al-Naba information bulletin calling on fighters not to travel to Europe and to reduce attacks while concentrating on staying free of the virus. 

Kurtzer suggests that this is an opportunity to reflect on the nature of humanitarian work abroad and ensure that it is not overlooked. Interestingly, developed countries face real medical vulnerability, indeed Médecins Sans Frontières has opened facilities in four locations in Italy. Cooperating with trusted humanitarian organisations at the national level will be vital to respond to the needs of the population and at the same time develop a greater understanding of the vital work they perform in humanitarian settings abroad.

Categories Global Affairs: World order, diplomacy and governance Comments Global

UN led vs. non-UN led post-conflict government building

WORKING PAPER / María del Pilar Cazali

ABSTRACT

 

Government building in Africa has been an important issue to deal with after post- independence internal conflicts. Some African states have had the support of UN peacekeeping missions to rebuild their government, while others have built their government on their own without external help. The question this article looks to answer is what method of government building has been more effective. This is done through the analysis of four important overall government building indicators: rule of law, participation, human rights and accountability and transparency. Based on these indicators, states with non-UN indicators have had a more efficient government building especially due to the flexibility and freedom they've had to do it in comparison with states with UN intervention due to the UN's neo-liberal view and their lack of contact with locals.

 

What has been the most successful government building in Africa?Download the document [pdf. 431K]

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

The Trump Administration's Newest Migration Policies and Shifting Immigrant Demographics in the USA

New Trump administration migration policies including the "Safe Third Country" agreements signed by the USA, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras have reduced the number of migrants from the Northern Triangle countries at the southwest US border. As a consequence of this phenomenon and other factors, Mexicans have become once again the main national group of people deemed inadmissible for asylum or apprehended by the US Customs and Border Protection.

An US Border Patrol agent at the southwest US border [cbp.gov].

▲ An US Border Patrol agent at the southwest US border [cbp.gov].

ARTICLE / Alexandria Casarano Christofellis

On March 31, 2018, the Trump administration cut off aid to the Northern Triangle countries in order to coerce them into implementing new policies to curb illegal migration to the United States. El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala all rely heavily on USAid, and had received 118, 181, and 257 million USD in USAid respectively in the 2017 fiscal year.

The US resumed financial aid to the Northern Triangle countries on October 17 of 2019, in the context of the establishment of bilateral negotiations of Safe Third Country agreements with each of the countries, and the implementation of the US Supreme Court's de facto asylum ban on September 11 of 2019. The Safe Third Country agreements will allow the US to 'return' asylum seekers to the countries which they traveled through on their way to the US border (provided that the asylum seekers are not returned to their home countries). The US Supreme Court's asylum ban similarly requires refugees to apply for and be denied asylum in each of the countries which they pass through before arriving at the US border to apply for asylum. This means that Honduran and Salvadoran refugees would need to apply for and be denied asylum in both Guatemala and Mexico before applying for asylum in the US, and Guatemalan refugees would need to apply for and be denied asylum in Mexico before applying for asylum in the US. This also means that refugees fleeing one of the Northern Triangle countries can be returned to another Northern Triangle country suffering many of the same issues they were fleeing in the first place.

Combined with the Trump administration's longer-standing "metering" or "Remain in Mexico" policy (Migrant Protection Protocols/MPP), these political developments serve to effectively "push back" the US border. The "Remain in Mexico" policy requires US asylum seekers from Latin America to remain on the Mexican side of the US-Mexico border to wait their turn to be accepted into US territory. Within the past year, the US government has planted significant obstacles in the way of the path of Central American refugees to US asylum, and for better or worse has shifted the burden of the Central American refugee crisis to Mexico and the Central American countries themselves, which are ill-prepared to handle the influx, even in the light of resumed US foreign aid. The new arrangements resemble the EU's refugee deal with Turkey.

These policy changes are coupled with a shift in US immigration demographics. In August of 2019, Mexico reclaimed its position as the single largest source of unauthorised immigration to the US, having been temporarily surpassed by Guatemala and Honduras in 2018.

 

 

 

US Customs and Border Protection data indicates a net increase of 21% in the number of Unaccompanied Alien Children from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador deemed inadmissible for asylum at the Southwest US Border by the US field office between fiscal year 2019 (through February) and fiscal year 2020 (through February). All other inadmissible groups (Family Units, Single Adults, etc.) experienced a net decrease of 18-24% over the same time period. For both the entirety of fiscal year 2019 and fiscal year 2020 through February, Mexicans accounted for 69 and 61% of Unaccompanied Alien Children Inadmissible at the Southwest US border respectively, whereas previously in fiscal years 2017 and 2018 Mexicans accounted for only 21 and 26% of these same figures, respectively. The percentages of Family Unit Inadmisibles from the Northern Triangle countries have been decreasing since 2018, while the percentage of Family Unit Inadmisibles from Mexico since 2018 has been on the rise.

With asylum made far less accessible to Central Americans in the wake of the Trump administration's new migration policies, the number of Central American inadmisibles is in sharp decline. Conversely, the number of Mexican inadmisibles is on the rise, having nearly tripled over the past three years.

Chain migration factors at play in Mexico may be contributing to this demographic shift. On September 10, 2019, prominent Mexican newspaper El discussion published an article titled "Immigrants Can Avoid Deportation with these Five Documents." Additionally, The Washington Post cites the testimony of a city official from Michoacan, Mexico, claiming that a local Mexican travel company has begun running a weekly "door-to-door" service line to several US border points of entry, and that hundreds of Mexican citizens have been coming to the municipal offices daily requesting documentation to help them apply for asylum in the US. Word of mouth, press coverage like that found in El discussion, and the commercial exploitation of the Mexican migrant situation have perhaps made migration, and especially the claiming of asylum, more accessible to the Mexican population.

US Customs and Border Protection data also indicates that total apprehensions of migrants from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador attempting illegal crossings at the Southwest US border declined 44% for Unaccompanied Alien Children and 73% for Family Units between fiscal year 2019 (through February) and fiscal year 2020 (through February), while increasing for Single Adults by 4%. The same data trends show that while Mexicans have consistently accounted for the overwhelming majority of Single Adult Apprehensions since 2016, Family Unit and Unaccompanied Alien Children Apprehensions until the past year were dominated by Central Americans. However, in fiscal year 2020-February, the percentages of Central American Family Unit and Unaccompanied Alien Children Apprehensions have declined while the Mexican percentage has increased significantly. This could be attributed to the Northern Triangle countries' and especially Mexico's recent crackdown on the flow of illegal immigration within their own states in response to the same US sanctions and suspension of USAid which led to the Safe Third Country bilateral agreements with Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.

While the Trump administration's crackdown on immigration from the Northern Triangle countries has effectively worked to limit both the legal and illegal access of Central Americans to US entry, the Trump administration's crackdown on immigration from Mexico in the past few years has focused on arresting and deporting illegal Mexican immigrants already living and working within the US borders. Between 2017 and 2018, ICE increased workplace raids to arrest undocumented immigrants by over 400% according to The Independent in the UK. The trend seemed to continue into 2019. President Trump tweeted on June 17, 2019 that "Next week ICE will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States. They will be removed as fast as they come in." More deportations could be leading to more attempts at reentry, increasing Mexican migration to the US, and more Mexican Single Adult apprehensions at the Southwest border. The Washington Post alleges that the majority of the Mexican single adults apprehended at the border are previous deportees trying to reenter the country.

 

 

 

Lastly, the steadily increasing violence within the state of Mexico should not be overlooked as a cause for continued migration. Within the past year, violence between the various Mexican cartels has intensified, and murder rates have continued to rise. While the increase in violence alone is not intense enough to solely account for the spike that has recently been seen in Mexican migration to the US, internal violence nethertheless remains an important factor in the Mexican migrant situation. Similarly, widespread poverty in Mexico, recently worsened by a decline in foreign investment in the light of threatened tariffs from the USA, also plays a key role.

In conclusion, the Trump administration's new migration policies mark an intensification of long-standing nativist tendencies in the US, and pose a potential threat to the human rights of asylum seekers at the US-Mexico border. The corresponding present demographic shift back to Mexican predominance in US immigration is driven not only by the Trump administration's new migration policies, but also by many other diverse factors within both Mexico and the US, from press coverage to increased deportations to long-standing cartel violence and poverty. In the face of these recent developments, one thing remains clear: the situation south of the Rio Grande is just as complex, nuanced, and constantly evolving as is the situation to the north on Capitol Hill in the USA.

Categories Global Affairs: North America World order, diplomacy and governance Articles

A picture of Vladimir Putin on Sputnik's website

▲ A picture of Vladimir Putin on Sputnik's website

ESSAY / Pablo Arbuniés

A new form of power

Russia's growing influence in African countries and public opinion has often been overlooked by western democracies, giving the Kremlin a lot of valuable time to extend its influence on the continent.

Until very recently, western democracies have looked at influence efforts from authoritarian countries as nothing more than an exercise of soft power. Joseph S. Nye defined soft power as a nation's power of attraction, in contrast to the hard power of coercion inherent in military or economic strength (Nye 1990). However, this influence does not fit the common definition of soft power as 'winning hearts and minds'. In the last years China and Russia have developed and perfected extremely sophisticated strategies of manipulation aimed towards the civilian population of target countries, and in the case of Russia the role of Russia Today should be taken as an example.

These strategies go beyond soft power and have already proved their effectiveness. They are what the academia has recently labelled as sharp power (Walker 2019). Sharp power aims to hijack public opinion through disinformation or distraction, being an international projection of how authoritarian countries manipulate their own population (Singh 2018).

Sharp power strategies are being severely underestimated by western policy makers and advisors, who tend to focus on more classical conceptions of the exercise of power. As an example, the "Framework document" issued by the Spanish Institute for Strategic Studies on Russia-Africa relations (Mora Tebas 2019). The document completely ignores sharp power, labelling Russian interest in communication markets as no more than regular soft power without taking into consideration the disinformative and manipulative nature of these actions.

A growing interest in Africa 

Over the past 20 years, many international actors have shifted their interest towards the African continent, each in a different way.

China has made Africa a major geopolitical target in recent years, focusing on economic investments for infrastructure development. Such investments can be noticed in the Ethiopian dam projects such as the Gibe III, or in the Entebbe-Kampala Expressway in Uganda.

This could be considered as debt-trap diplomacy, as China uses infrastructure investments and development loans to gain leverage over African countries. However, there is also a key geopolitical interest, especially in those countries with access to the network Sea and the Indian Ocean, due to the One Belt One Road Initiative. This project requires a net of seaports, where Kenya, and specifically the port of Lamu, could play a key role in becoming a hub for trade in East Africa (Hurley, Morris and Portelance 2019).

Also, Chinese investments are attractive for African countries because they do not come with prerequisites of democratisation or transparent administration, unlike those from western countries.

Yet, even though both China and Russia use sharp power as part of their foreign policy strategies, China does barely use it in Africa, since its interests in the continent are more economic than political. This is based on the view that China is more keen to exploit Africa's natural resources (Mlambo, Kushamba and Simawu 2016) than anything else.

On the other hand, Russia has both economic and military interests in the region. This is exemplified by the case of Sudan, where in addition to the economic interest in natural resources, there is also a military interest in accessing the network Sea. In order to achieve these goals, the first step is to grant stability in the country, and it can be achieved through ensuring that public opinion supports the government and accepts Russian presence.

The idea of a Russian world-Russkiy spanish medical residency program-has grown under Putin and is key to understanding the country's soft and sharp power strategies. It consists on the expansion of power and culture using any means possible in order to regain the lost superpower status.

However, this approach must not be seen only as a nostalgic push to regain status, but also from a purely pragmatic point of view, since economic and practical factors have "pushed aside ideology" in the competition against the West (Warsaw Institute 2019).

The recent Russia-Africa Summit (23-24 October 2019), that took place in Sochi, Russia, proves how Russia has pivoted towards Africa in recent years, offering infrastructure, energy and other investments as well as arms deals and different advisors. The outcome of this pivoting is being quite beneficial for Moscow in strategic terms.

The Kremlin's interest in Africa was not remarkable until the post Crimea invasion. The economic sanctions imposed after the occupation of Crimea forced Russia to look further abroad for allies and business opportunities. For instance, as part of this policy there was a more robust involvement of Russia in Syria.

The Russian strategy for the African continent involves benefiting favourable politicians through political and military advisors and offering control on average influence (Warsaw Institute 2019). In exchange, Russia looks for military and energy supply contracts, mining concessions and infrastructure building deals. Moreover, on a bigger picture, Russia-as well as China-aims to reduce the influence of the US and former colonial powers France and the UK.

Leaked documents published by The Guardian (Harding and Buerke 2019), show this effort to gain influence on the continent, as well as the strategies followed and the degree of cooperation with the different powers-from governments to opposition groups or social movements.

However, the growth of Russia's influence in Africa cannot be understood without the figure of Yevgeny Prigozhin, an extremely powerful oligarch which, according to US special counsel Robert Mueller, was critical to the social average campaign for the election of Donald Trump in 2016. He is also linked to the foundation of the Wagner group, a private military contractor present among other conflicts in the Syrian war.

Prigozhin, through a network of enterprises known as 'The Company' has been for long the head of Putin's plans for the African continent, being responsible of the growing number of Russian military experts involved with different governments along the continent, and now suspected to lead the push to infiltrate in the communication markets.

Between 100 and 200 spin doctors have already been sent to the continent, reaching at least 10 different countries (Warsaw Institute 2019). Their focus is on political marketing and especially on social average, with the hope that it can be as influential as in the Arab Springs.

Main targets

Influence in the average is one of the key aspects of Russia's influence in Africa, and the main targets in this aspect are the Central African Republic, Madagascar, South Africa and Sudan. Each of these countries has a potential for Russian interests, and is targeted on different levels of cooperation, from weapons deals to spin doctors (Warsaw Institute 2019), but all of them are targets for sharp power strategies.

However, it is hard for a foreign government to directly enter the communication markets of another country without making people suspicious of its activities, and that is where The Company plays its role. Through it, pro-Russian publishing house lines are fed to the population of the target states by acquiring already existing average platforms-such as newspapers or television and radio stations-or creating new ones directly under the supervision of officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, this ensures that the dominant frames fit Russia's interests and that of its allies.

Also, the presence of Russian international average is key to its sharp power. Russia Today and Sputnik have expanded their reach by associating with local entities in Eritrea, Ivory Coast, etc. Russian radio services have been expanded to Africa as well as a key factor in both soft and sharp power.

Finally, social average are a great way of distributing disinformation, given its global reach and the insufficient amount of fact-checkers devoted to this area. There, not only Russian average can participate but also bots and individual accounts are at the service of the Kremlin's interests.

Madagascar

Although Madagascar is viewed by the Kremlin as a high cooperation partner, it doesn't seem to have much to offer in geopolitical terms other than tan mining concessions for Russian companies. Therefore, Russian presence in Madagascar was widely unexpected.

During the May 2019 election, Russia backed six different candidates, but none of them won. In the final stages of the campaign, the Kremlin changed its strategy and backed the expected and eventual winner, Andry Rajoelina (Allison 2019). This could be considered a fiasco and ignored because of the disastrous result, but there is a key aspect that shows how Russia is trying to shape public opinion across the continent.

Although political advisors and spin doctors were only one part of the plan, Russia managed to produce and distribute the biggest mass-selling newspaper along the country with more than two million copies every month (Harding and Buerke 2019). Though it did not seem to have any major impact on the short term, it could be an important asset for shaping public opinion on the long run.

Central African Republic

The Central African Republic (CAR) is of major geopolitical relevance in the whole of the African continent. Due to its location as well as its cultural and ethnic features, it is viewed by the Kremlin as the gate to the whole continent. It is the zone of transition between the Muslim north of the continent and the Christian south (Harding and Buerke 2019).

Given the complicated situation and the context of the ongoing civil war, it can be considered as an easy target for foreign powers. This is mainly due to the power structures being weakened by the war. Russia is part of the UN peacekeeping mission in the CAR, in a combination of soft and hard power. Also, a Russian training centre is operative in the country, and both Moscow and Bangui are open to the inauguration of a Russian military base.

Russia played a key role in the peace deal of February 2019, and since 2017 Valery Zakharov, a former Russian intelligence official, has been an adviser to CAR's president. All of this, if the peacekeeping operations are successful, would lead to an immense political debt in favour of the Kremlin.

The mineral richness of the CAR is another asset to consider due to the reserves of gold and high-quality diamonds. Also, there is a big business opportunity in rebuilding a broken country, and Russian oligarchs and businessmen would certainly be interested in any public contracts regarding this matter. 

In the CAR, Russia exerts sharp power not only through social average, but also through two print publications and a radio station, which still have limited influence (Harding and Buerke 2019). Through such means, Russia is consistently feeding its frames narratives to a disoriented population, which given the unstable context, would be an easy target to manipulate. Moreover, the possibility to create a favourable dominant post conflict narrative would render public opinion more likely to accept Russian presence in the future.

Sudan

Sudan is of major geostrategic importance for Russia among many other actors. For long time both countries have had economic, political and military relations, leading to Sudan being considered by the Kremlin as a level 5 co-operator, the highest possible (Harding and Buerke 2019). This relation is enforced by Sudan's constant claims of aggressive acts by the United States, for which it demands Russia's military assistance.

Also, Sudan is rich in uranium, bearing the third biggest reserves in the world. Uranium is a key raw material to build a major power nowadays, and Russia is always keen on new sources of uranium to bolster its nuclear industry.

Moreover, Sudan is key in regional and global geopolitics because it offers Russia a possibility to have a military base with access to the network Sea. Given the amount of trade routes that go through its waters, the Kremlin would be very keen to have said access. Many other powers have shown interest in this area, such as the Gulf States, or China with its base in Djibouti being operational since 2017.  

For all these reasons. Sudan is a very special element in Russia's plans, and thus its level of commitment is greater than in other countries. The election to take place on April 2020 could be considered as one of the most important challenges for democracy in the short term. Russia is closely monitoring the situation in order to draw an efficient plan of action.

Before the end of Omar al-Bashir's presidency, Russia and Sudan enjoyed good relations. Russian specialists had prepared reforms in economic and political matters in order to ensure the continuity in power of Bashir, and his fall was a blow to these plans.

However, Russia will devote many resources to amend the situation in the Sudan parliamentary and presidential election, that will take place in April 2020. In a ploy to maintain power, Al Bashir mirrored the measures employed against opposition protesters in Russia. These tactics consist of using disinformation and manipulated videos in order to portray any opposition movement as anti-Islamic, pro-Israeli or pro-LGBT. Given the fact the core of Sudan's public opinion is mostly conservative and religious, Russia's plan consists on manipulating it towards its desired candidate or candidates (Harding and Buerke 2019).

In order to ensure that the Russian framing was dominant, social average pages like Radio Africa's Facebook page or Sudan Daily were presented like news pages, while being in fact part of a Russian-backed influence network in central and northern Africa (Alba and Frenkel 2019). The information shown has been supportive of whatever government is in power, and critical of the protesters (Stanford Internet Observatory 2019), which shows that Russia's prioritary interest is a stable government and weak protesters.

Another key part of the strategy has been pressuring the government to increase the cost of newsprint to limit the possibilities of countering the disinformation distributed with the help of Russian advisors (Harding and Buerke 2019). The de-democratization of information can prove to be very effective, even more taking into account the fact that social average is not as powerful in Sudan as it is in western countries, so owning the most popular means of communication allows to create a dominant frame and impose it to the population without them even noticing.

South Africa

The economic context of South Africa, with a large economy, a rising middle class and a good market overall, is quite interesting for business and could be one of the reasons why Russia has such an interest in the country. Also, South Africa can be seen as an economic gateway to the southern part of the African continent.

South Africa is a key country for the global interest of Russia. Not only for its mineral richness and business opportunities, but mainly for its presence in BRICS. Russia attempts to use BRICS as a global counterbalance in a US dominated international landscape.

Russia is interested in selling nuclear technology to its allies, and South Africa is no exception. The presence of South Africa in BRICS is key to understand why such a deal would be so interesting for Russia. BRICS may not offer the possibility to create a perfect counter-balance for western powers, mainly due to the unsurpassable discrepancies among the involved countries, but its ability to cooperate comprehensively on limited shared projects and objectives can be of critical relevance (Salzman 2019).

The presence in the country of Afrique Panorama and AFRIC (Association for Free Research and International Cooperation), shows how Russia attempts to exert its influence. Both pages are linked to Prigozhin, but they are disguised as independent. AFRIC was involved in the elections of Zimbabwe, South Africa, Madagascar and DRC (Grossman, Bush and Diresta 2019).

In fact, if public opinion could be shaped in order to make Russia's interests like nuclear cooperation acceptable by South Africa, the main obstacle would be surpassed, and a comprehensive plan of cooperation would be in play sooner than later.

The elections of May 2019 were one of the main priorities for Russia. The election saw Cyril Ramaphosa elected, as successor of Jacob Zouma. Ramaphosa is known to have openly congratulated Nicolás Maduro for his second inauguration and holds good relations with Vietnam. This are indicators of a willingness to have good relations even with anti-western powers, which is of big interest for the Kremlin. Furthermore, he has a vast business experience, being the architect of the most powerful trade union in the country among other achievements and initiatives, which would see him open to strike deals with Russian oligarchs in the mineral or energetic fields.

All this considered, South Africa is of extreme relevance for Russia, and thus its efforts to be able to shape public opinion. This could be used to favour the implementation of nuclear facilities as well as electing favourable politicians, creating a political debt to be exploited someday. For now, any activity has been limited to tracking and getting to understand public opinion. However, the creation of new average under some form of control by the Kremlin is one of the priorities for the coming years (Harding and Buerke 2019), and could prove a very valuable asset if it's successfully achieved. Also, despite what was said in the case of Sudan, the importance of social average is not to be forgotten or underestimated, especially given the advantage of English being an official language in the country.

The bigger picture

From a more theorical point of view, that of the Flow and Contra-flow paradigm, Russia attempts to set the political diary through mass average control, as well as impose its own frames or those that benefit its allies. Also, given the proportions of the project, we could talk about an attempt to go back to the cultural imperialism doctrines, where Russia attempts to pose its narrative as a counterflow of the western narratives. This was mainly seen during the cold war, when global powers attempted to widely spread their own narratives through controlling said information flows, arguably as a form of cultural imperialism.

This can be seen as an attempt to counterbalance the power of the US and western powers by attempting to shift African countries towards non-western actors. And African countries may be interested in this idea, since being the centre of the competition could mean better deals and business opportunities or investments being offered to them.

It would be a mistake to think that Russia's sharp power in Africa is just a tool to help political allies get to power or maintain it. Beyond that, Russia monitors social conflicts and attempts to intensify them in order to destabilise target countries or external powers (Alba and Frenkel 2019). Such is the case in Comoros, where Prigozhin employees were tasked to explore the possibilities of intensifying the conflict between the local government and the French administration (Harding and Buerke 2019). Again on a broader picture of things, the attempt to develop an African self-identity through the use of sharp power looks to reduce the approval of influence of western democracies on the continent, thus creating an ideal context for bolstering dependence on the Russian administration either through supply contracts or political debt.

In conclusion, the recent growth of Russia's soft and above all sharp power in Africa could potentially be one of the political keys in the years to follow, and it is not to be overlooked by western democracies. Global average, supranational entities and public administrations should put their efforts on providing civil society with the tools to avoid falling for Russia's manipulative tactics and serve as guarantors of democracy. The most immediate focus should be on the US 2020 election, since the worst-case scenario is that the latest exercises of Russia's sharp power in Africa are a practice towards a new attempt at influencing the US presidential election in 2020.

 

REFERENCES

Alba, Davey, and Sheera Frenkel. 2019. "Russia Tests New Disinformation Tactics in Africa to Expand Influence." The New York Times, 30 October.

Allison, Simon. 2019. "Le retour contrarié de la Russie en Afrique." Courrier international, 5 August.

Ashraf, Nadia, and Jeske van Seters. 2020. "Africa and EU-Africa partnership insights: input for estonia's new africa strategy." ECDPM.

Grossman, Shelby, Daniel Bush, and Renée Diresta. 2019. "Evidence of Russia-Linked Influence Operations in Africa."

Harding, Luke, and Jason Buerke. 2019. "Leaked documents reveal Russian effort to exert influence in Africa." The Guardian, 11 June. Accessed November 25, 2019.

Hurley, John, Scott Morris, and Gailyn Portelance. 2019. "Examining the debt implications of the Belt and Road Initiative from a policy perspective." Journal of Infrastructure, Policy and Development (EnPress Publisher) 3 (1): 139.

Madowo, Larry. 2018. Should Africa be wary of chinese debt.

Mlambo, Courage, Audrey Kushamba, and More Blessing Simawu. 2016. "China-Africa Relations: What Lies Beneath?" Chinese Economy (Routledge) 49 (4): 257-276.

Mora Tebas, Juan A. 10/2019. http://www.ieee.es/. 2019. ""Rusiáfrica": Russia's return to the African "big game"." Paper. framework IEEE. Last accessed 30 Nov. 2019. http://www.ieee.es/.

Nye, Joseph. 1990. Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power. London: Basic Books.

Salzman, Rachel S. 2019. Russia, BRICS, and the disruption of global order. Georgetown University Press.

Singh, Mandip. 2018. "From Smart Power to Sharp Power: How China Promotes her National Interests ." Journal of Defence Studies.

Standish, Reid. 2019. Putin Has a Dream of Africa. Foreign Policy.

Stanford Internet Observatory. 2019. "Evidence of Russia-Linked Influence Operations in Africa."

Walker, C. and Ludwig, J. 2019. "The Meaning of Sharp Power." Foreign Affairs.

Warsaw Institute. 2019. "Russia in Africa: weapons, mercenaries, spin doctors." Strategic report, Warsaw.

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

Farewell of Espérance Nyirasafari (left) as minister of Gender and Family Promotion, in Rwanda's capital in 2018 [Rwanda's Gov.]

▲ Farewell of Espérance Nyirasafari (left) as minister of Gender and Family Promotion, in Rwanda's capital in 2018 [Rwanda's Gov.]

ESSAY / María Rodríguez Reyero

South Africa is ranked 17th in the World Economic Forum's 2020 Global Gender Gap Index[1] (a two place increase from 2019), while Rwanda is ranked 9th (a three place decline from the previous year). Interestingly, Spain is ranked 8th (a major gain of 11 places in one year). Since 2018, Spain has made a gain of 21 places, which is only rivaled by countries like Madagascar (22), Mexico and Georgia (25) and Ethiopia (35).

Regarding political participation and governance in the last decade, the number of African women in ministerial posts has tripled. African women already account for 22.5% of parliamentary seats, a similar percentage to that of Europe (23.5%) and higher than that of the US (18%). However, does the increase in female participation in high political positions lead to a real improvement in the lives of other women? Or is female participation only a façade?

This study's main aim is to explore the impact that women's participation in politics has on the circumstances of the rest of women in their countries. The study is based on secondary research and quantitative data collection and will objectively analyze the situation in Spain, Rwanda, and South Africa and draw pertinent conclusions.

Rwanda

From April to July 1994, between 800,000 and one million ethnic Tutsis were brutally killed during a 100 day killing spree perpetrated by Hutus [2]. After the genocide, Rwanda was on the edge of total collapse. Entire villages had been destroyed, and social cohesion was in tatters. Yet, this small African country has made a remarkable economic turnaround since the genocide. The country now boasts intra-regional trade and has positioned itself as an attractive destination for foreign investment, being a leading country in the African economy. Rwanda's economy appears to be thriving, with annual GDP growth averaging 7.76% between 2000 and 2019, and "growth expected to continue at a similar pace over the next few years" according to a recent study of World Finance. [3] About 70% of the survivors of the fratricidal struggle between Hutus and Tutsis are women, and thus women play a role of utmost importance in the recovery of Rwanda.[4]

The Rwandan genocide ended with the deaths of one million people and the rape of more than 200,000 women. [5] Women were the clear losers of the conflict, yet the conflict also enabled women to become the main economic, political and social engine of Rwanda during its recovery from the war. Roles traditionally assigned to men were assigned to women, which turned women into more active members of society and empowered them to fight for their rights. The main area where this shift has been felt is in politics, where gender parity reaches its highest level thanks to Rwanda's continued commitment to equal representation. This support has led the proportion of women in the Rwandan National Parliament to even exceed that of men in the lower house, which consists of 49 women out of a total of 89 representatives.[6]

The body responsible for coordinating female protection and empowerment is the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion, promoter of the National Gender Policy. The minister of Gender until 2018 was Espérance Nyirasafari. Nyirasafari was responsible for several main changes in Rwandan society including the approval of laws against gender-based violence. She now serves as one of two Vice Presidents of the senate of Rwanda.

Consequently, Rwanda illustrates African female advancement. In addition to currently being the world's leading country in female representation in Parliament, (in which women hold nearly 60% of the seats), Rwanda reached the fourth highest position in the World Economic Forum's gender gap report. The only countries that came close in this respect were Namibia and South Africa.

The political representation of women in Rwanda has led to astonishing results in other areas, notably education. Rwanda's education system is considered one of the most advanced in Africa, with free and compulsory access to primary school and the first years of high school. About 100% of Rwandan children are incorporated into primary school and 75% of young people ages 15+ are literate. However, high school attendance is significantly low, counting with just 23% of young people, of which women represent only 30%. [7] Low high school attendance is mainly due to the predominance of rural areas in the country, where education is more difficult to access, especially for women, who are frequently committed to marriage and the duties of housework and family life from a very young age. Despite the growing data and measures established, education is in reality very hard to achieve for women, who are mostly stuck at home or committed to other labor.[8]

Regarding the legislative measures put in place to achieve gender equality and better conditions and opportunities for women, Rwanda does not score high. Despite being one of the most advanced countries in gender equality, currently, no laws exist to ensure equal pay or non-discrimination in the hiring of women, according to WEF's 2019 report, even if some relevant legal measures have been effectively been put into practice since the ratification of the 2003 Constitution, which demonstrates the progress on gender equality in Rwanda.

The Constitution also argues that the principle of gender equality must prevail in politics and that the list of members of the Chamber of Deputies must be governed by this equitable principle. The law on gender violence passed in 2008 is proof of national commitment to women's rights, as it recognizes innovative protections such as the prohibition of spousal rape, three months of compulsory maternity leave (even some Western countries such as the United States lack this protection) or equal rights in inheritance process regardless of gender.[9]

Finally the labor law passed in 2009 establishes numerous protections for Rwandan women, such as receiving the same salary as their male colleagues or the total prohibition of any gesture of sexual content towards them.

Some of the most relevant progress made in Rwanda are the reduction of the percentage of women in extreme poverty from 40% in 2001 to 16.3% in 2014, and the possession of land by 26% of women personally and 54% in a shared way with their husbands. [10] Thanks to the work and commitment of female politicians, Rwandan women today enjoy inalienable rights which women in many other countries can only dream of. 11] This ongoing egalitarian work has paid off: Rwanda is as mentioned above the 9th country in the world with a smaller gender gap, only behind Iceland, Nicaragua, Finland, Sweden, and Norway. In the annual study of the World Economic Forum, only five countries (including Rwanda, the only African) have surpassed the 50% barrier in terms of reducing the gender gap in politics. Likewise, the gender parity in economic participation that Rwanda has achieved is of great relevance, which has made it the first country in the world to include women in the world of work and equal economic remuneration. Rwanda is a regional role model in terms of egalitarian legislation.[12]

South Africa

According to IMF and World Bank latest data, South Africa currently is the second most prosperous country of the whole continent, only surpassed by Nigeria. The structure of its economy is that of a developed country, with the preeminence of the services sector, and the country stands out for its extensive natural resources, thus being considered one of the largest emerging economies nowadays. South Africa also has a seat in the BRICS economy block (with Brazil, Russia, India, and China) and is a member of the G20.

Despite its economic position, the country is also home to great inequality, largely bequeathed in its history of racial segregation. According to the New York Times, the post-apartheid society had to face great challenges: it had to "re-engineer an economy dominated by mining and expand into modern pursuits like tourism and agriculture while overcoming a legacy of colonial exploitation, racial oppression, and global isolation - the results of decades of international sanctions."[13] However, what is the role of women in this deep transformation? Has their situation improved or are they the new discriminated ones?

South Africa continues to lead the way in women's political participation in the region with 46% of women in the House of Assembly and provincial legislatures and 50% of women in the cabinet after the May 2019 elections. All the speakers in the national and provincial legislatures are women. Women parliamentarians rose from 40% in 2014 to 46% in 2019.

Rwanda, Namibia and South Africa are ranked in the top 20 countries in reducing the gender gap. On the other hand, South Africa does have established legislation about equality in salaries, but not in non-discrimination in the hiring process according to the data collected by the World Economic Forum in January 2020.

South Africa is writing a new page in its history thanks to the entry of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (she was elected in 2012 president of the African Union Commission becoming the first woman to lead this organisation, and currently serves as Minister of Planning, Monitoring, and Evaluation in South Africa's Government) and other women, such as Lindiwe Nonceba Sisulu (minister of International Relations and Cooperation until 2019) into the political competition.

Subsequently, women have always been involved in political organisations, as well as in the trade union movement and other civil society organisations. Although evolving in a patriarchal straitjacket due to the social role women had assigned, they don't wait for "the authorization of men" to claim their rights. This feminine tradition of political engagement in South Africa has resulted the writing of a protective Constitution for women in a post-apartheid multiracial and supposedly non-sexist context.

However, this has not led to an effective improvement in the real situation of women in the country. According to local average data,[14] a woman dies every eight hours in South Africa because of gender violence and, according to 2016 government statistics, one in five claims to have suffered at some time in her life. Besides, in South Africa, about 40,000 rapes are reported annually, according to police data, the vast majority reported by women. These figures lead South Africa's statistics agency to estimate that 1.4 out of every thousand women have been raped, which places the country with one of the highest rates of this type in the world.[15]

Spain

After a cruel civil war, followed by 36 years of dictatorship, Spanish society was looking forward to a change, and thus the democratic transition took place, transforming an oppressed country into the Spain we nowadays know. On many occasions, history tends to forget the 27 women, deputies and senators of the 1977 democratic legislature who were architects of this political change (divorce law, legalize the sale of contraceptives, participate in the drafting of the Constitution of 1978, amongst others). These women also having an active role in politics, something unusual and risky for a woman at that time (without rights as basic as owning property or opening a bank account during the dictatorship). It is clear that women played a crucial role in the transformation of Spanish society, but has it really been effective?

Spain's new data since the establishment of a new government in January 2020 is among the top 4 European countries with the highest female proportion: behind Sweden (with 47.4%), France (47.2%) and Finland (45.8%), according to the latest data published by the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE). [16] After the last elections in November, Spain is placed in tenth place in the global ranking. Ahead, there are Rwanda (with 61.3%), Cuba (53.2%), Bolivia (53.1%), Mexico (48.2%) and others such as Grenada, Namibia, Sweden, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, according to data published by the World Bank. Of the 350 congress deputies, 196 are men and 154 are women, meaning that 56% of the members of the House of Representatives are men while 44% are women.

In Spain, also almost every child gets a primary education according to OECD but almost 35% of Spanish young people do not get a higher education. Of those who do go to university nearly 60% of all the students are women. They also get better grades and take on average less time to graduate than men but are less likely to hold a power position: according to PwC Spain last data, only a 19% of all directive positions are held by women, 11% of management advice are women and less than a 5% are women in direction or presidency of Spanish enterprises. This is since at least 2.5 million women in Spain cannot access the labor market because they have to take care of family care. Among men, the figure is reduced to 181,000. The data has been given by the International Labor Organization (ILO). The study also revealed that women in Spain perform 68% of all unpaid care work, dedicating twice as much time as men. About 25% of inactive women in Spain claim that they cannot work away from home because of their family charges. This percentage is much higher than those of other surrounding countries, such as Portugal (13%) or France (10%) and the European average. It is also much larger than that of Spanish men who do not work for the same reason (3%).

Regarding gender-based violence, even if Spain has since 2004 an existing regulation to severely punish it, in the year 2019 a total of 55 women have been killed by their partners or ex-partners, the highest death toll since 2015, with a total of 1,033 since they began to be credited in 2003, according to the balance of the Government Delegation for Gender Violence last data.

Conclusion

To sum up, even if African countries such as Rwanda and South Africa have more women representation and are doing well by-passing laws and measures, due to cultural reasons such as a more ingrained patriarchal society, community interventions, family pressure or the stigma of single mothers, gender equality is more difficult in Africa. Culture, in reality, makes it more difficult to be effective, whereas in Spain the measures implemented, even if they are apparently less numerous, are more effective when it comes to creating institutions that protect women. Women in Africa usually depend a lot on their husbands; they very often suffer in silence not to be left alone without financial support, a situation that in Spain has been tacked without problems.

It is not so much a legislative issue but a cultural one: in Spain, if a woman suffers gender violence and reports it, it is more likely that she would be offered government's help (monetary help, job opportunities...) in order to start a new life, and she most certainly will not be judged by society due to her circumstances. Whereas in South Africa for example, a UN Women rapporteur estimated that only one in nine rapes were reported to the police and that this number was even lower if the woman was raped by a partner, this mainly being due to the social stigma still present nowadays. In Rwanda, a 2011 report from the Rwandan Men's Resource Centre said 57% of women questioned had experienced violence from a partner, while 32% of women had been raped by their husbands, this crime being admitted by only 4% of men, as rape in marriage is seen as a normal situation due to cultural reasons: women still depend somehow on their husbands, and family is the center of society, so it must not be broken.

In numerous occasions, in African countries justice is taken at a different level, in order not to disturb the social and familial order; frequently, rape or gender violence is tackled amongst the parties by negotiating or by less traditional justice systems such as community systems like Gacaca court in Rwanda (a social form of justice designed to promote communal healing, massively used after Rwandan genocide),[17] something unbelievable in Spain, where according to official data from Equality Ministry, last year more than 40.000 reports for gender violence were heard by courts.[18]

In regard to inequality and according to the latest IMF studies, closing the gender gap in employment could increase the GDP of a country by 35% on average, of which between 7 and 8 percentage points correspond to increases in productivity thanks to gender diversity. Having one more woman in senior management or on the board of directors of a company raises the return on assets between 8 and 13 basis points. Consequently, we could state that, as shown by the data (not only those provided by the IMF, but the evident improvements that have taken place throughout this decade in Spain, Burundi, Rwanda, and South Africa) the presence of women both in top management positions and above all, in politics and governance does lead to a real improvement in the rights and lifestyles of the rest of the women, and a substantial improvement of the country as a whole.

However, after their arduous and tricky climb to the top, women inherit a political system which is difficult, if not almost impossible, to change in a few years. Furthermore, the question of the application of laws, when they exist, by the judicial system is a huge challenge in all states as well as making effective all the measures for the reduction of gender inequality. This supposes such a great challenge, not only for these women but also for the whole society, as having arrived where we are.

 


[1] World Economic Forum (December 2020), The Global Gender Gap Report 2020. World Economic Forum. Accessed 14/02/2020

[2] Max Roser and Mohamed Nagdy (2020),"Genocides". Published online at OurWorldInData.org. Accessed 14/02/202

[3] Natalie Keffler (2019), 'Economic growth in Rwanda has arguably come at the cost of democratic freedom', World Finance. Accessed 14/02/2020

[4] Charlotte Florance (2016), 22 Years After the Rwandan Genocide. Huffpost. Accessed 14/02/2020

[5] Violet K. Dixon (2009), A Study in Violence: Examining Rape in the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. Inquires journal. Accessed 14/02/2020

[6] Inter-parliamentary Union (2019), 'Women in national Parliaments'. IUP. Accessed 14/02/2020

[7] World Bank (2019), The World Bank in Rwanda. World Bank. Accessed 14/02/2020

[8] Natalie Keffler (2019), 'Economic growth in Rwanda has arguably come at the cost of democratic freedom', World Finance. Accessed 14/02/2020

[9] Tony Blair (2014), '20 years after the genocide, Rwanda is a beacon of hope'. The Guardian. Accessed 14/02/20

[10] Antonio Cascais (2019), 'Rwanda - real equality or gender-washing?' DW. Accessed 14/02/2020

[11] Álex Maroño (2018), 'Rwanda, a feminist utopia?' The World Order. Accessed 14/02/2020

[13] Peter S. Goodman (2017), 'End of Apartheid in South Africa? Not in Economic Terms.' The New York Times Site. Accessed 14/02/2020

[14] Gopolang Makou (2018), 'Femicide in South Africa: 3 numbers about the murdering of women investigated.' Africa Check. Accessed 14/02/2020

[15] British Broadcasting Corporation (2019), 'Sexual violence in South Africa: 'I was raped, now I fear for my daughters'. BBC News. Accessed 14/02/2020

[16] European Institute for Gender Equality (2019).Gender Equality Index. EIGE. Accessed 14/02/2020

[17] Gerd Hankel (2019), 'Gacaca Courts', Oxford Public International Law. Accessed 14/02/2020

[18] high school de la mujer (2016), 'Estadísticas violencia de género.' Spanish Ministry of Equality. Accessed 14/02/2020

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

27% of Latin America's total private wealth is held in territories that offer favourable tax treatment.

Latin America is the world region with the highest percentage of private offshore wealth. The proximity of tax havens, in various countries or island dependencies in the Caribbean, can facilitate the arrival of this capital, some of which is generated illicitly (drug trafficking, corruption) and all of which evades national tax institutions with little supervisory and coercive force. Latin America lost 335 billion dollars in taxes in 2017, which represented 6.3% of its GDP.

Caribbean beach [Pixabay].

▲ Caribbean beach [Pixabay].

article / Jokin de Carlos Sola

The natural wealth of Latin American countries contrasts with the precariousness of the economic status of a large part of their societies. Lands rich in oil, minerals and primary goods sometimes fail to feed all their citizens. One of the reasons for this deficiency is the frequency with which companies and leaders tend to evade taxes, driving capital away from their countries.

One of the reasons for the tendency to evade taxes is the large size of the Economics underground and the shortcomings of states in implementing tax systems. Another is the nearby presence of tax havens in the Caribbean, which have historically been linked to the UK. These territories with beneficial tax characteristics have attracted capital from the continent.

History

The history of tax evasion is a long one. Its relationship with Latin America and the British Caribbean archipelagos, however, has its origins in the fall of the British Empire.

From 1945 onwards, Britain gradually began to lose its colonial possessions around the world. The financial effect was clear: millions of pounds were lost or taken out of operations across the empire. To cope with this status and to be able to maintain their global financial power, the bankers in the City of London thought of creating fields of action outside the jurisdiction of the Bank of England, from where bankers from all over the world (especially Americans) could also operate in order to avoid their respective national regulations. A new opportunity then arose in the British overseas territories, some of which did not become independent, but maintained their links, albeit loose, with the United Kingdom. This was the case in the Caribbean.

In 1969 the Cayman Islands created the first banking secrecy legislation. It was the first overseas territory to become a tax haven. From offices established there, City banks built up networks of operations unregulated by the Bank of England and with little local oversight. Soon other Caribbean jurisdictions followed suit.

Tax havens

The main tax havens in the Caribbean are British Overseas Territories such as the Cayman Islands, the Virgin Islands and Montserrat, or some former British colonies that became independent, such as the Bahamas. These are islands with small populations and a small Economics . Many of the politicians and legislators in these places work for the British financial sector and ensure secrecy within their territories.

Unlike other locations that can also be considered tax havens, the British-influenced islands in the Caribbean offer a second level of secrecy in addition to the legal one: the trust. Most of those who hold assets in companies established in these territories do so through trusts. Under this system, the beneficiary holds his assets (shares, property, companies, etc.) in a trust which is administered by a trustee. These elements (trust, beneficiary, trustee, shell companies, etc.) are distributed in various Structures linked to different Caribbean jurisdictions. Thus, a trust may be established in one jurisdiction, but its beneficiaries may be in another, the trustee in a third, and the shell companies in a fourth. This is a subject of Structures that is almost impossible for governments to dismantle. This is why when overseas governments agree to share banking information, under pressure from Washington or Brussels, it is of little use because of the secrecy structure itself.

Impact in Latin America

Bank secrecy legislation emerged in Latin America with the goal aim of attracting legally obtained capital. However, during the 1970s and 1980s, this protection on data of current accounts also attracted capital obtained through illicit means, such as drug trafficking and corruption.

During those years, drug lords such as Pablo Escobar used the benefits of the Cayman Islands and other territories to hide their fortunes and properties. On the other hand, several Latin American dictatorships also used these mechanisms to hide the enrichment of their leaders through corruption or even drugs, as was the case with Panama's Manuel Noriega.

Over time, the international community has increased its pressure on tax havens. In recent years the authorities in the Cayman Islands and the Bahamas have made efforts to ensure that their secrecy Structures is not used to launder money for organised crime, but not all territories considered tax havens have done the same.

These opaque networks are used by a considerable part of Latin America's large fortunes. Twenty-seven per cent of Latin America's total private wealth is deposited in countries that offer favourable tax treatment, making it the region with the highest proportion of private capital in these places in the world, according to a 2017 study by the Boston Consulting Group ( agreement ). According to this consultancy firm, this diversion of private wealth is greater in Latin America than in the Middle East and Africa (23%), Eastern Europe (20%), Western Europe (7%), Asia-Pacific (6%) and the United States and Canada (1%). 

Tax havens are the destination of a part that is difficult to pinpoint of the total of 335 billion dollars subject to tax evasion or avoidance in the region in 2017, a figure that constituted 6.3% of Latin American GDP (4% lost in personal income tax and 2.3% in VAT), as specified in ECLAC's report Fiscal Panorama of Latin America and the Caribbean 2019. This UN economic commission for the region highlights that on average Latin American countries lose more than 50% of their income tax revenues.

 

 

The London connection

There have been various theories about the role played by London in relation to tax havens. These theories coincide in presenting a connection of interests between the opaque companies and the City of London, in a network of complicity in which even the Bank of England and the British government could have been involved.

The most important one was expressed by British author Nicholas Shaxson in the book Treasure Island. The thesis was later developed by the documentary film Spiders Web, produced by the Tax Justice Network, whose founder, John Christiansen, worked as advisor for the government of Jersey, which is a special jurisdiction.

The City of London has a separate administration, elected by the still-existing guilds, which represent the City's commercial and banking class . This allows financial operations in this area of the British capital to partially escape the control of the Bank of England and government regulations. A City that is attractive to foreign capital and prosperous is of great benefit to the UK's Economics , as its activity accounts for 2.4% of the country's GDP.

British sovereignty over the overseas territories that serve as tax havens sometimes leads to accusations that the UK is complicit with these financial networks. Downing Street responds that these are territories that operate with a great deal of autonomy, even though London sets the governor, controls foreign policy and has veto power over legislation passed in these places.

Moreover, it is true that the UK government has in the last decade supported greater international coordination to increase scrutiny of tax havens, forcing the authorities there to submit relevant tax information, although the structure of the trusts still works against transparency.

Correct the status

Latin America's problems with tax evasion may be more related to the fragility of its own tax institutions than to the presence of tax havens close to the American continent. At the same time, some tax havens have benefited from political instability and corruption in Latin America.

The effects of domestic capital flight to these places of special tax regimes are clearly negative for the countries of the region, depriving them of increased economic activity and revenue-raising possibilities, and hampering the state's ability to undertake the necessary improvement of public services.

It is therefore imperative that certain corrective policies are put in place. At the national policy level, mechanisms should be put in place to prevent tax evasion and avoidance. At the same time, at the international level, diplomatic initiatives should be shaped to put an end to the Structures of trusts. The OAS offers, in this sense, an important negotiating framework not only with certain overseas territories, but also with its own metropolises, since these, as is the case of the United Kingdom, are permanent observer members of the hemispheric organisation.

Categories Global Affairs: World order, diplomacy and governance Articles Latin America

The always difficult negotiations are made more difficult by the 75 billion euros the UK is giving up.

ANALYSIS / Pablo Gurbindo Palomo

The negotiations for the European budget for the period 2021-2027 are crucial for the future of the Union. After the failure of the extraordinary summit on 20-21 February, time is running out and the member states must put aside their differences in order to reach an agreement on agreement before 31 December 2020.

framework The negotiation of a new European Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) is always complicated and crucial, as the ambition of the Union depends on the amount of money that member states are willing to contribute. But the negotiation of this new budget line, for the period 2021-2027, has an added complication: it is the first without the United Kingdom after Brexit. This complication does not lie in the absence of the British in the negotiations (for some that is more of a relief) but in the 75 billion euros they have stopped contributing.

What is the MFP?

framework The Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF ) is the EU's long-term budgetary framework deadline and sets the limits for expense of the Union, both as a whole and in its different areas of activity, for a deadline period of no less than 5 years. In addition, the MFF includes a number of provisions and "special instruments" beyond that, so that even in unforeseen circumstances such as crises or emergencies, funds can be used to address the problem. This is why the MFF is crucial, as it sets the political priorities and objectives for the coming years.

This framework is initially proposed by the Commission and, on this basis, the committee (composed of all Member States) negotiates and has to come to a unanimous agreement . After this the proposal is sent to the European Parliament for approval.

The amount that goes to the MFF is calculated from the Gross National Income (GNI) of the Member States, i.e. the sum of the remuneration of the factors of production of all members. But customs duties, agricultural and sugar levies and other revenues such as VAT are also part of it.

Alliances for war

In the EU there are countries that are "net contributors" and others that are "net receivers". Some pay more to the Union than they receive in return, while others receive more than they contribute. This is why countries' positions are flawed when they face these negotiations: some want to pay less money and others do not want to receive less.

Like any self-respecting European war, alliances and coalitions have been formed beforehand.

The Commission 's proposal for the MFF 2021-2027 on 2 May 2018 already made many European capitals nervous. The proposal was 1.11 % of GNI (already excluding the UK). It envisaged budget increases for border control, defence, migration, internal and external security, cooperation with development and research, among other areas. On the other hand, cuts were foreseen in Cohesion Policy (aid to help the most disadvantaged regions of the Union) and the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

The Parliament submitted a report provisional on this proposal in which it called for an increase to 1.3% of GNI (corresponding to a 16.7% increase from the previous proposal ). In addition, MEPs called, among other things, for cohesion and agriculture funding to be maintained as in the previous budget framework .

On 2 February 2019 the Finnish Presidency of committee proposed a negotiation framework starting at 1.07% of GNI.

This succession of events led to the emergence of two antagonistic blocs: the frugal club and the friends of cohesion.

The frugal club consists of four northern European countries: Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and Austria. These countries are all net contributors and advocate a budget of no more than 1 % of GNI. On the other hand, they call for cuts to be made in what they consider to be "outdated" areas such as cohesion funds or the CAP, and want to increase the budget in other areas such as research and development, defence and the fight against immigration or climate change.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has already announced that he will veto on committee any proposal that exceeds 1 % of GNI.

The Friends of Cohesion comprise fifteen countries from the south and east of the Union: Spain, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. All these countries are net recipients and demand that CAP and cohesion policy funding be maintained, and that the EU's budget be based on between 1.16 and 1.3 % of GNI.

This large group met on 1 February in the Portuguese town of Beja. There they tried to show an image of unity ahead of the first days of the MFP's discussion , which would take place in Brussels on the 20th and 21st of the same month. They also announced that they would block any subject cuts.

It will be curious to see whether, as the negotiations progress, the blocs will remain strong or whether each country will pull in its own direction.

Outside of these two groups, the two big net contributors stand out, pulling the strings of what happens in the EU: Germany and France.

Germany is closer to the frugals in wanting a more austere budget and more money for more modern items such as digitalisation or the fight against climate change. But first and foremost it wants a quick agreement .

France, for its part, is closer to the friends of cohesion in wanting to maintain a strong CAP, but also wants a stronger expense in defence.

The problem of "rebates

And if all these variables were not enough, we have to add the figure of the compensatory cheques or "rebates. These are discounts to a country's contribution to budget. This figure was created in 1984 for the United Kingdom, during the presidency of the conservative Margaret Thatcher. For the "Iron Lady", the amount that her country contributed to budget was excessive, as most of the amount (70%) went to the CAP and the Cohesion Funds, from which the UK hardly benefited. It was therefore agreed that the UK would have certain discounts on its budgetary contribution on a permanent and full basis.

These compensatory cheques have since been given to other net contributor countries, but these had to be negotiated with each MFF and were partial on a specific area such as VAT or contributions. An unsuccessful attempt was already made to eliminate this in 2005.

For the frugal and Germany these cheques should be kept, on civil service examination to the friends of cohesion and especially France, who want them to disappear.

Sánchez seeks his first victory in Brussels

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez is staking much of his credibility in both Europe and Spain on these negotiations.

In Europe, for many he failed in the negotiations for the new Commission. Sánchez started from a position of strength as the leader of Europe's fourth Economics after the UK's exit. He was also the strongest member of the Socialist group parliamentary , which has been in the doldrums in recent years at the European level, but was the second strongest force in the European Parliament elections. For many, therefore, the election of the Spaniard Josep Borrell as High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, with no other socialist in key positions, was seen as a failure.

Sánchez has the opportunity in the negotiations to show himself as a strong and reliable leader so that the Franco-German axis can count on Spain to carry out the important changes that the Union has to make in the coming years.

On the other hand, in Spain, Sánchez has the countryside up in arms over the prospects of reducing the CAP. And much of his credibility is at stake after his victory in last year's elections and the training of the "progressive coalition" with the support of Podemos and the independentistas. The Spanish government has already taken a stand with farmers, and cannot afford a defeat.

Spanish farmers are highly dependent on the CAP. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food: "in 2017, a total of 775,000 recipients received 6,678 million euros through this channel. In the period 2021-2027 we are gambling more than 44,000 million euros."

There are two different types of CAP support:

  • Direct aids: some are granted per volume of production, per crop (so called "coupled"), and the others, the "decoupled" ones, are granted per hectare, not per production or yield and have been criticised by some sectors.

  • Indirect support: this does not go directly to the farmer, but is used for the development of rural areas.

The amount of aid received varies depending on the sector, but can amount to up to 30 % of a farmer's income. Without this aid, a large part of the Spanish countryside and that of other European countries cannot compete with products coming from outside the Union.

Failure of the first budget summit

On 20 and 21 February an extraordinary summit of the European committee took place in order to reach a agreement. It did not start well with the proposal of the president of the committee, Charles Michel, for a budget based on 1.074% of GNI. This proposal convinced nobody, neither the frugal as excessive, nor the friends of cohesion as insufficient.

Michel's proposal included the added complication of linking the submission of aid to compliance with the rule of law. This measure put the so-called Visegrad group (Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia) on guard, as the rule of law in some of these countries is being called into question from the west of the Union. So, another group is taking centre stage.

The Commission's technical services made several proposals to try to make everyone happy. The final one was 1.069% of GNI. Closer to 1%, and including an increase in rebates for Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Austria and Denmark, to please the frugal and attract the Germans. But also an increase in the CAP to please the friends of cohesion and France, at the cost of reducing other budget items such as funding for research, defence and foreign affairs.

But the blocs did not budge. The frugal ones remain entrenched at 1%, and the friends of cohesion in response have decided to do the same, but at the 1.3% proposed by the European Parliament (even if they know it is unrealistic).

In the absence of agreement Michel dissolved the meeting; it is expected that talks will take place in the coming weeks and another summit will be convened.

Conclusion

The EU has a problem: its ambition is not matched by the commitment of its member states. The Union needs to reinvent itself and be more ambitious, say its members, but when it comes down to it, few are truly willing to contribute and deliver what is needed.

The Von der Leyen Commission arrived with three star plans: the European Green Pact to make Europe the first carbon-neutral continent; digitalisation; and, under Josep Borrell, greater international involvement on the part of the Union. However, as soon as the budget negotiations began and it became clear that this would lead to an increase in the expense, each country pulled in its own direction, and it was these subject proposals that were the first to fall victim to cuts due to the impossibility of reaching an understanding.

A agreement has to be reached by 31 December 2020, if there is to be no money at all: neither for CAP, nor for rebates, nor even for Erasmus.

Member States need to understand that for the EU to be more ambitious they themselves need to be more ambitious and willing to be more involved, with the increase in budget that this entails.

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

[Angela Stent, Putin's World: Russia Against the West and with the Rest. Twelve. New York, 2019. 433 p.]

review / Ángel Martos

Putin's World: Russia Against the West and with the RestAngela Stent, director of Georgetown University's Center for Eurasia, Russia and Eastern Europe programs of study , presents in this book an in-depth analysis of the nature of Russia at the beginning of the 21st century. In order to understand what is happening today, we sample first look at the historical outlines that shaped the massive heartland that Russian statesmen have consolidated over time.

Russia took advantage of the global showcase of the 2018 World Cup to present a renewed image. The operation to sell Russia's national brand had some success, as reflected in surveys: many foreign (especially American) spectators who visited the country for the football tournament came away with an improved image of the Russian people, and vice versa. However, what was presented as an opening to the world has not manifested itself in the Kremlin's domestic or international policy: Putin's grip on the hybrid regime that has ruled Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union has not been loosened in the slightest.

Many experts could not predict the fate of this nation in the 1990s. After the collapse of the communist regime, many thought Russia would begin a long and painful road to democracy. The United States would maintain its unique superpower status and shape a New World Order that would embrace Russia as a minor power, equal to other European states. But these considerations did not take into account the will of the Russian people, who understood Gorbachev's and Yeltsin's management as "historical mistakes" that needed to be corrected. And this perspective can be seen in Vladimir Putin's main speeches: a nostalgic feeling for Russia's imperial past, a refusal to be part of a world ruled by the United States, and the need to bend the sovereignty of the once Soviet republics. The latter is a crucial aspect of Russia's foreign policy that, to varying degrees, it has already applied to Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia and others.

What has changed in the Russian soul since the collapse of the Soviet Union? Have relations with Europe suffered ups and downs throughout the history of the Russian Empire? What are these relations like now that Russia is no longer an empire, having lost almost all its power in a matter of years? The author takes us by the hand through these questions. The Russian Federation as we know it today has been ruled by only three autocrats: Boris Yeltsin, Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Putin, although one could argue that Medvedev does not even properly count as president, since during his tenure Putin was the intellectual leader behind every step taken in the international arena.

Russia's complicated relations with European countries are notoriously exemplified in the case of Germany, which the book compares to a roller coaster (an expression that is particularly eloquent at Spanish ). Germany is the Federation's door to Europe, a metaphorical door that, throughout contemporary history, has been ajar, wide open or closed, as it is now. After the seizure of Crimea, Merkel's Germany's relations with Moscow have been strictly limited to trade issues. It is worth highlighting the huge differences that can be found between Willy Brandty's Ostpolitik and Angela Merkel's current Frostpolitik. Although Merkel grew up in East Germany, where Putin worked as a KGB agent for five years, and the two can understand each other in both Russian and German, this biographical link has not been reflected in their political relationship.

Germany went from being Russia's biggest European ally (to the extent that Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, after leaving position, was appointed after leaving position chairman of Rosneft's management committee ), to being a threat to Russian interests. After sanctions were imposed on Russia in 2014 with the support of the German government, relations between Putin and Merkel are at their worst. However, some might argue that Germany is acting hypocritically given that it has accepted and financed the Nordstream pipeline, which heavily damages Ukraine's Economics .

Besides the EU, the other main opponent for Russian interests is NATO. At every point on the map where the Kremlin wishes to exert pressure, NATO has strengthened its presence. Under US command, the organisation follows the US strategy of trying to keep Russia at bay. And Moscow perceives NATO and the US as the biggest obstacle to regaining its sphere of influence in "near abroad" (Eastern Europe, Central Asia) and the Middle East.

Putin's fixation with the former Soviet republics has by no means faded over time. If anything, it has increased after the successful annexation of the Crimean peninsula and the civil war that flared up in the Donbass. Russia's nostalgia for what was once part of its territory is nothing more than a pretext to try to neutralise any dissident governments in the region and subjugate as much as possible the countries that make up its buffer zone, for security and financial reasons.

The Middle East also plays an important role in Russian international affairs diary . Russia's main goal is to promote stability and combat terrorist threats that may arise in places that are poorly controlled by the region's governments. Putin has been fighting Islamic terrorism since the separatist threat in Chechnya. However, his possible good intentions in the area are often misinterpreted because of his support in every possible way (including aerial bombardment) for some authoritarian regimes, such as Assad's in Syria. In this particular civil war, Russia is repeating the Cold War proxy war game against the US, which for its part has been supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Kurds. Putin's interest is to keep his ally Assad in power, along with the Islamic Republic of Iran's financial aid .

Angela Stent draws an accurate picture of Russia's recent past and its relationship with the outside world. Without being biased, she succeeds in critically summarising what anyone interested in security should bear in mind when addressing topic Russia's threats and opportunities. For, as Vladimir Putin himself declared in 2018, 'no one has succeeded in stopping Russia'. Not yet.

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