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After four years of board The upcoming elections open up the possibility of a return to a legitimacy too interrupted by coups d'état

Thailand has seen several coups d'état and attempts to return to democracy in its most recent history. The board The military that seized power in 2014 has called elections for March 24. The unsuccessful desire of the king's sister Maha Vajiralongkorn to run for prime minister has drawn global attention to a political system that fails to meet the political aspirations of Thais. 

Bangkok Street Scene [Pixabay]

▲ Bangkok Street Scene [Pixabay]

article / María Martín Andrade

Thailand is one of the fastest developing ASEAN countries in economic terms. However, these advances come up against a difficult obstacle: the political instability that the country has been dragging since the beginning of the 20th century and that opens a new chapter now, in 2019, with the elections that will take place on March 24. These elections mark a turning point in recent Thai politics, after General Prayut Chan-Ocha staged a coup d'état in 2014 and became Prime Minister of Thailand at the head of the NCPO (committee National Institute for Peace and Order), the board of government formed to run the country.

However, there are many who are sceptical about this new development. entrance of democracy. To begin with, the elections were initially set for 24 February, but shortly afterwards the government announced a change of date and called them for a month later. Some have expressed suspicions about a strategy to prevent the elections from taking place, since, according to the law, they cannot be held once one hundred and fifty days have elapsed since the publication of the last ten organic laws. Others fear that the NCPO has given itself more time to buy votes, while also raising concerns that the Electoral Commission, which is an independent administration, could be manipulated into a success that would in turn be a success. board It's going to be hard for you to insure.

Focusing this analysis on what the future holds for Thai politics, it is necessary to go back to its trajectory in the last century to realize that it follows a circular path.

Coups d'état are not new in the country (1). There have been twelve since the first constitution was signed in 1932. It all responds to an endless struggle between the "military wing", which sees constitutionalism as a Western import that does not quite fit in with the Structures Thai (it also defends nationalism and venerates the image of the king as a symbol of the nation, Buddhist religion and ceremonial life), and the "leftist orbit", originally composed of Chinese and Vietnamese emigrants, which perceives the country's institutionality as similar to that of "pre-revolutionary China" and which throughout the twentieth century expressed itself through guerrillas. To this last ideology must be added the student movement, which since the early 1960s has criticized "Americanization," poverty, the traditional order of society, and the military regime.

With the urban boom that began in the 1970s, the gross domestic product increased fivefold and the industrial sector became the fastest growing, thanks to the production of technological goods and the investments that Japanese companies began to make in the country. During this period, there were coups d'état, such as the one in 1976, and numerous student demonstrations and guerrilla actions. After the 1991 coup and new elections, a new discussion on how to create an efficient political system and a society adapted to globalization.

These efforts were cut short when the economic crisis of 1997 hit, which generated divisions and aroused rejection of globalization, considering it the evil force that had led the country to misery. It is at this point that someone who has since been core topic in Thai politics and who will undoubtedly mark the March elections: Thaksin Shinawatra.

Shinawatra, a prominent businessman, created the Thai Rak Thai (Thai loves Thai) party as a nationalist reaction to the crisis. In 2001 he won the elections and bet on economic growth and the creation of large companies, but at the same time he exercised intense control over the media, attacking those who dared to criticize him and allowing only the publication of positive news. In 2006, there was a coup d'état to overthrow Shinawatra, who was accused of serious corruption offences. However, Shinawatra won the election again in 2007, this time with the People Power Party.

In 2008 there was a new uprising, but the Shinawatra brand, represented by the sister of the former prime minister, won the elections in 2011, this time with the Pheu Thai party. Yingluck Shinawatra thus became the first woman to head the Government of Thailand. In 2014, another coup pushed her aside and set up a board who has ruled until now, with a speech based on the fight against corruption, the protection of the monarchy, and the rejection of electoral politics, considered as the national epidemic.

In this context, all the efforts of the board, running in March under the party name Palang Pracharat, has focused on weakening Pheu Thai and thus wiping out any remaining trace of Shinawatra from the map. To achieve this, the board it has proceeded to reform the electoral system (in 2016 a new constitution replaced the 1997 one), so that the Senate is no longer elected by the citizens.

Despite all the efforts made in vote-buying, the possible manipulation of the Electoral Commission and the reform of the electoral system, it is intuited that Thai society can make its voice heard in the weariness of the military government, which is also losing support in Bangkok and in the south. Added to this is the collective conviction that, rather than pursuing economic growth, the board has focused on achieving stability by doing the more unequal the Economics of Thailand, according to data of Credit Suisse. For this reason, the rest of the parties running in these elections, Prachorath, Pheu Thai, and Bhumjaithai, agree that Thailand has to rejoin the skill and that the capitalist market has to grow.

At the beginning of February, the context became even more complicated, when Princess Ulboratana, the sister of the current king, Maha Vajiralongkorn, announced the presentation of his candidacy in the elections as a representative of the Thai Raksa Chart party, an ally of Thaksin Shinawatra. This news was a great anomaly, not only because a member of the monarchy showed his intention to participate actively in politics, something that had not happened since the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932, but also because all the coups d'état that have taken place in the country have had the support of the royal family. The last one, in 2014, had the blessing of the then King Bhumibol. Likewise The Royal Family has always had the support of the board military.

In order to avoid a confrontation that would damage the monarchy, the king reacted quickly and publicly showed his rejection of his sister's candidacy; finally, the Electoral Commission decided to withdraw it from the election process.

Poor governance

Over the last few years, the board military has been manager poor governance, the country's weak institutions, and a Economics threatened by international sanctions that seek to punish the lack of internal democracy.

To begin with, following the article 44 of the Constitution proclaimed in 2016, the NCPO has the legitimacy to intervene in the legislative, judicial and executive branches under the pretext of protecting Thailand from threats to public order, the monarchy or the judiciary. Economics. Not only does this preclude any possibility of interaction and effective conflict resolution with other actors, but it is an unmistakable feature of an authoritarian system.

It has been precisely its characteristics as an authoritarian regime, which is how its governmental system can be described, that have made the international community react since the 2014 coup, imposing various sanctions that may seriously affect Thailand. The U.S. suspended $4.7 million from attendance while Europe has objected to the negotiation of a agreement as Pirkka Tappiola, the EU's representative to Thailand, has pointed out, it will only be possible to establish a agreement of that subject with a democratically elected government. In addition, Japan, the main investor in the country, has begun to look for alternative routes, setting up factories in other parts of the region such as Myanmar or Laos.

Faced with the questioning of his managementthe board It reacted by devoting $2.7 billion to programs aimed at the poorest sections of the population, especially peasants, and investing nearly $30 billion in building infrastructure in unexploited areas.

Given that Thailand's exports account for 70 per cent of its GDP, the Government cannot afford to have the international community at loggerheads. That explains why the board create a committee to deal with human rights problems that have been reported from abroad, although the goal of the initiative seems to have been rather public.

In the face of a new democratic stage, the board He has a strategy. Having put most of its efforts into the creation of new infrastructure, it hopes to open an economic corridor, the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), with which to convert the three main coastal provinces (Chonburi, Rayong, and Chachoengsao) into special economic zones where industries such as automobiles or aviation are enhanced, and which will be attractive to foreign investment once democratic legitimacy is cleared.

It is difficult to predict what will happen in Thailand in the March 24 elections. Although almost everything speaks of a new return to democracy, it remains to be seen what will happen. result of the party created by the military (Pralang Pracharat) and its steadfastness in its commitment to a really honest institutional game. If Thailand wants to continue to grow economically and attract foreign investors again, the military should soon give way to a completely civilian process. Possibly it will not be a smooth road, since democracy is a dress that until now has been somewhat tight for the country.

 

(1) Baker, C., Phongpaichit, P. (2005). A History of Thailand. Cambridge, Univeristy Press, New York.

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

Protest in London in October 2018 after the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi

▲ Protest in London in October 2018 after the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi [John Lubbock, Wikimedia Commons]

ANALYSIS / Naomi Moreno Cosgrove

October 2nd last year was the last time Jamal Khashoggi—a well-known journalist and critic of the Saudi government—was seen alive. The Saudi writer, United States resident and Washington Post columnist, had entered the Saudi consulate in the Turkish city of Istanbul with the aim of obtaining documentation that would certify he had divorced his previous wife, so he could remarry; but never left.

After weeks of divulging bits of information, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, laid out his first detailed account of the killing of the dissident journalist inside the Saudi Consulate. Eighteen days after Khashoggi disappeared, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) acknowledged that the 59-year-old writer had died after his disappearance, revealing in their investigation findings that Jamal Khashoggi died after an apparent "fist-fight" inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul; but findings were not reliable. Resultantly, the acknowledgement by the KSA of the killing in its own consulate seemed to pose more questions than answers.

Eventually, after weeks of repeated denials that it had anything to do with his disappearance, the contradictory scenes, which were the latest twists in the "fast-moving saga", forced the kingdom to eventually acknowledge that indeed it was Saudi officials who were behind the gruesome murder thus damaging the image of the kingdom and its 33-year-old crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS). What had happened was that the culmination of these events, including more than a dozen Saudi officials who reportedly flew into Istanbul and entered the consulate just before Khashoggi was there, left many sceptics wondering how it was possible for MBS to not know. Hence, the world now casts doubt on the KSA's explanation over Khashoggi's death, especially when it comes to the shifting explanations and MBS' role in the conspiracy.

As follows, the aim of this study is to examine the backlash Saudi Arabia's alleged guilt has caused, in particular, regarding European state-of-affairs towards the Middle East country. To that end, I will analyse various actions taken by European countries which have engaged in the matter and the different modus operandi these have carried out in order to reject a bloodshed in which arms selling to the kingdom has become the key issue.

Since Khashoggi went missing and while Turkey promised it would expose the " naked truth" about what happened in the Saudi consulate, Western countries had been putting pressure on the KSA for it to provide facts about its ambiguous account on the journalist's death. In a joint statement released on Sunday 21st October 2018, the United Kingdom, France and Germany said: "There remains an urgent need for clarification of exactly what happened on 2nd October – beyond the hypotheses that have been raised so far in the Saudi investigation, which need to be backed by facts to be considered credible." What happened after the kingdom eventually revealed the truth behind the murder, was a rather different backlash. In fact, regarding post-truth reactions amongst European countries, rather divergent responses have occurred.

Terminating arms selling exports to the KSA had already been carried out by a number of countries since the kingdom launched airstrikes on Yemen in 2015; a conflict that has driven much of Yemen's population to be victims of an atrocious famine. The truth is that arms acquisition is crucial for the KSA, one of the world's biggest weapons importers which is heading a military coalition in order to fight a proxy war in which tens of thousands of people have died, causing a major humanitarian catastrophe. In this context, calls for more constraints have been growing particularly in Europe since the killing of the dissident journalist. These countries, which now demand transparent clarifications in contrast to the opacity in the kingdom's already-given explanations, are threatening the KSA with suspending military supply to the kingdom.

COUNTRIES THAT HAVE CEASED ARMS SELLING

Germany

Probably one of the best examples with regards to the ceasing of arms selling—after not been pleased with Saudi state of affairs—is Germany. Following the acknowledgement of what happened to Khashoggi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared in a statement that she condemned his death with total sharpness, thus calling for transparency in the context of the situation, and stating that her government halted previously approved arms exports thus leaving open what would happen with those already authorised contracts, and that it wouldn't approve any new weapons exports to the KSA: "I agree with all those who say that the, albeit already limited, arms export can't take place in the current circumstances," she said at a news conference.

So far this year, the KSA was the second largest customer in the German defence industry just after Algeria, as until September last year, the German federal government allocated export licenses of arms exports to the kingdom worth 416.4 million euros. Respectively, according to German Foreign Affair Minister, Heiko Maas, Germany was the fourth largest exporter of weapons to the KSA.

This is not the first time the German government has made such a vow. A clause exists in the coalition agreement signed by Germany's governing parties earlier in 2018, which stated that no weapons exports may be approved to any country "directly" involved in the Yemeni conflict in response to the kingdom's countless airstrikes carried out against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in the area for several years. Yet, what is clear is that after Khashoggi's murder, the coalition's agreement has been exacerbated. Adding to this military sanction Germany went even further and proposed explicit sanctions to the Saudi authorities who were directly linked to the killing. As follows, by stating that "there are more questions unanswered than answered," Maas declared that Germany has issued the ban for entering Europe's border-free Schengen zone—in close coordination with France and Britain—against the 18 Saudi nationals who are "allegedly connected to this crime."

Following the decision, Germany has thus become the first major US ally to challenge future arms sales in the light of Khashoggi's case and there is thus a high likelihood that this deal suspension puts pressure on other exporters to carry out the same approach in the light of Germany's Economy Minister, Peter Altmaier's, call on other European Union members to take similar action, arguing that "Germany acting alone would limit the message to Riyadh."

Norway

Following the line of the latter claim, on November 9th last year, Norway became the first country to back Germany's decision when it announced it would freeze new licenses for arms exports to the KSA. Resultantly, in her statement, Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ine Eriksen Søreide, declared that the government had decided that in the present situation they will not give new licenses for the export of defence material or multipurpose good for military use to Saudi Arabia. According to the Søreide, this decision was taken after "a broad assessment of recent developments in Saudi Arabia and the unclear situation in Yemen." Although Norwegian ministry spokesman declined to say whether the decision was partly motivated by the murder of the Saudi journalist, not surprisingly, Norway's announcement came a week after its foreign minister called the Saudi ambassador to Oslo with the aim of condemning Khashoggi's assassination.  As a result, the latter seems to imply Norway's motivations were a mix of both; the Yemeni conflict and Khashoggi's death.

Denmark and Finland

By following a similar decision made by neighbouring Germany and Norway—despite the fact that US President Trump backed MBS, although the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had assessed that the crown prince was responsible for the order of the killing—Denmark and Finland both announced that they would also stop exporting arms to the KSA.

Emphasising on the fact that they were "now in a new situation"—after the continued deterioration of the already terrible situation in Yemen and the killing of the Saudi journalist—Danish Foreign Minister, Anders Samuelsen, stated that Denmark would proceed to cease military exports to the KSA remarking that Denmark already had very restrictive practices in this area and hoped that this decision would be able to create a "further momentum and get more European Union (EU) countries involved in the conquest to support tight implementation of the Union's regulatory framework in this area."

Although this ban is still less expansive compared to German measures—which include the cancellation of deals that had already been approved—Denmark's cease of goods' exports will likely crumble the kingdom's strategy, especially when it comes to technology. Danish exports to the KSA, which were mainly used for both military and civilian purposes, are chiefly from BAE Systems Applied Intelligence, a subsidiary of the United Kingdom's BAE Systems, which sold technology that allowed Intellectual Property surveillance and data analysis for use in national security and investigation of serious crimes. The suspension thus includes some dual-use technologies, a reference to materials that were purposely thought to have military applications in favour of the KSA.

On the same day Denmark carried out its decision, Finland announced they were also determined to halt arms export to Saudi Arabia. Yet, in contrast to Norway's approach, Finnish Prime Minister, Juha Sipilä, held that, of course, the situation in Yemen lead to the decision, but that Khashoggi's killing was "entirely behind the overall rationale".

Finnish arms exports to the KSA accounted for 5.3 million euros in 2017. Nevertheless, by describing the situation in Yemen as "catastrophic", Sipilä declared that any existing licenses (in the region) are old, and in these circumstances, Finland would refuse to be able to grant updated ones. Although, unlike Germany, Helsinki's decision does not revoke existing arms licenses to the kingdom, the Nordic country has emphasized the fact that it aims to comply with the EU's arms export criteria, which takes particular account of human rights and the protection of regional peace, security and stability, thus casting doubt on the other European neighbours which, through a sense of incoherence, have not attained to these values.

European Parliament

Speaking in supranational terms, the European Parliament agreed with the latter countries and summoned EU members to freeze arms sales to the kingdom in the conquest of putting pressure on member states to emulate the Germany's decision.      

By claiming that arms exports to Saudi Arabia were breaching international humanitarian law in Yemen, the European Parliament called for sanctions on those countries that refuse to respect EU rules on weapons sales. In fact, the latest attempt in a string of actions compelling EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini to dictate an embargo against the KSA, including a letter signed by MEPs from several parties.

Rapporteur for a European Parliament report on EU arms exports, Bodil Valero said: "European weapons are contributing to human rights abuses and forced migration, which are completely at odds with the EU's common values." As a matter of fact, two successful European Parliament resolutions have hitherto been admitted, but its advocates predicted that some member states, especially those who share close trading ties with the kingdom are deep-seated, may be less likely to cooperate. Fact that has eventually occurred.

COUNTRIES THAT HAVE NOT CEASED ARMS SELLING

France

In contrast to the previously mentioned countries, other European states such as France, UK and Spain, have approached the issue differently and have signalled that they will continue "business as usual".

Both France and the KSA have been sharing close diplomatic and commercial relations ranging from finance to weapons. Up to now, France relished the KSA, which is a bastion against Iranian significance in the Middle East region. Nevertheless, regarding the recent circumstances, Paris now faces a daunting challenge.

Just like other countries, France Foreign Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, announced France condemned the killing "in the strongest terms" and demanded an exhaustive investigation. "The confirmation of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi's death is a first step toward the establishment of the truth. However, many questions remain unanswered," he added. Following this line, France backed Germany when sanctioning the 18 Saudi citizens thus mulling a joint ban from the wider visa-free Schengen zone. Nevertheless, while German minister Altmeier summoned other European countries to stop selling arms to Riyadh—until the Saudi authorities gave the true explanation on Khashoggi's death—, France refused to report whether it would suspend arms exports to the KSA. "We want Saudi Arabia to reveal all the truth with full clarity and then we will see what we can do," he told in a news conference.           

In this context, Amnesty International France has become one of Paris' biggest burdens. The organization has been putting pressure on the French government for it to freeze arms sales to the realm. Hence, by acknowledging France is one of the five biggest arms exporters to Riyadh—similar to the Unites States and Britain—Amnesty International France is becoming aware France's withdrawal from the arms sales deals is crucial in order to look at the Yemeni conflict in the lens of human rights rather than from a non-humanitarian-geopolitical perspective. Meanwhile, France tries to justify its inaction. When ministry deputy spokesman Oliver Gauvin was asked whether Paris would mirror Berlin's actions, he emphasized the fact that France's arms sales control policy was meticulous and based on case-by-case analysis by an inter-ministerial committee. According to French Defence Minister Florence Parly, France exported 11 billion euros worth of arms to the kingdom from 2008 to 2017, fact that boosted French jobs. In 2017 alone, licenses conceivably worth 14.7 billion euros were authorized. Moreover, she went on stating that those arms exports take into consideration numerous criteria among which is the nature of exported materials, the respect of human rights, and the preservation of peace and regional security. "More and more, our industrial and defence sectors need these arms exports. And so, we cannot ignore the impact that all of this has on our defence industry and our jobs," she added. As a result, despite President Emmanuel Macron has publicly sought to devalue the significance relations with the KSA have, minister Parly, seemed to suggest the complete opposite.

Anonymously, a government minister held it was central that MBS retained his position. "The challenge is not to lose MBS, even if he is not a choir boy. A loss of influence in the region would cost us much more than the lack of arms sales". Notwithstanding France's ambiguity, Paris' inconclusive attitude is indicating France's clout in the region is facing a vulnerable phase. As president Macron told MBS at a side-line G20 summit conversation in December last year, he is worried. Although the context of this chat remains unclear, many believe Macron's intentions were to persuade MBS to be more transparent as a means to not worsen the kingdom's reputation and thus to, potentially, dismantle France's bad image.

United Kingdom

As it was previously mentioned, the United Kingdom took part in the joint statement carried out also by France and Germany through its foreign ministers which claimed there was a need for further explanations regarding Khashoggi's killing. Yet, although Britain's Foreign Office said it was considering its "next steps" following the KSA's admission over Khashoggi's killing, UK seems to be taking a rather similar approach to France—but not Germany—regarding the situation.

In 2017, the UK was the sixth-biggest arms dealer in the world, and the second-largest exporter of arms to the KSA, behind the US. This is held to be a reflection of a large spear in sales last year. After the KSA intervened in the civil war in Yemen in early 2015, the UK approved more than 3.5billion euros in military sales to the kingdom between April 2015 and September 2016.

As a result, Theresa May has been under pressure for years to interrupt arms sales to the KSA especially after human rights advocates claimed the UK was contributing to alleged violations of international humanitarian law by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. Adding to this, in 2016, a leaked parliamentary committee report suggested that it was likely that British weapons had been used by the Saudi-led coalition to violate international law, and that manufactured aircraft by BAE Systems, have been used in combat missions in Yemen.

Lately, in the context of Khashoggi's death things have aggravated and the UK is now facing a great amount of pressure, mainly embodied by UK's main opposition Labour party which calls for a complete cease in its arms exports to the KSA.  In addition, in terms of a more international strain, the European Union has also got to have a say in the matter. Philippe Lamberts, the Belgian leader of the Green grouping of parties, said that Brexit should not be an excuse for the UK to abdicate on its moral responsibilities and that Theresa May had to prove that she was keen on standing up to the kind of atrocious behaviour shown by the killing of Khashoggi and hence freeze arms sales to Saudi Arabia immediately.

Nonetheless, in response and laying emphasis on the importance the upholding relation with UK's key ally in the Middle East has, London has often been declining calls to end arms exports to the KSA. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt defended there will be "consequences to the relationship with Saudi Arabia" after the killing of Khashoggi, but he has also pointed out that the UK has an important strategic relationship with Riyadh which needs to be preserved. As a matter of fact, according to some experts, UK's impending exit from the EU has played a key role. The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) claims Theresa May's pursuit for post-Brexit trade deals has seen an unwelcome focus on selling arms to some of the world's most repressive regimes. Nevertheless, by thus tackling the situation in a similar way to France, the UK justifies its actions by saying that it has one of the most meticulous permitting procedures in the world by remarking that its deals comprehend safeguards that counter improper uses.

Spain

After Saudi Arabia's gave its version for Khashoggi's killing, the Spanish government said it was "dismayed" and echoed Antonio Guterres' call for a thorough and transparent investigation to bring justice to all of those responsible for the killing. Yet, despite the clamour that arose after the murder of the columnist, just like France and the UK, Spain's Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, defended arms exporting to the KSA by claiming it was in Spain's interest to keep selling military tools to Riyadh. Sanchez held he stood in favour of Spain's interests, namely jobs in strategic sectors that have been badly affected by "the drama that is unemployment". Thusly, proclaiming Spain's unwillingness to freeze arms exports to the kingdom. In addition, even before Khashoggi's killing, Sanchez's government was subject to many critics after having decided to proceed with the exporting of 400 laser-guided bombs to Saudi Arabia, despite worries that they could harm civilians in Yemen. Notwithstanding this, Sánchez justified Spain's decision in that good ties with the Gulf state, a key commercial partner for Spain, needed to be kept.

As a matter of fact, Spain's state-owned shipbuilder Navantia, in which 5,500 employees work, signed a deal in July last year which accounted for 1.8 billion euros that supplied the Gulf country with five navy ships.  This shipbuilder is situated in the southern region of Andalusia, a socialist bulwark which accounts for Spain's highest unemployment estimates and which has recently held regional elections. Hence, it was of the socialist president's interest to keep these constituencies pleased and the means to this was, of course, not interrupting arms deals with the KSA.

As a consequence, Spain has recently been ignoring the pressures that have arose from MEP's and from Sanchez's minorities in government—Catalan separatist parties and far-left party Podemos— which demand a cease in arms exporting. For the time being, Spain will continue business with the KSA as usual.

CONCLUSION

All things considered, while Saudi Arabia insists that MBS was not aware of the gruesome murder and is distracting the international attention towards more positive headlines—such as the appointment of the first female ambassador to the US—in order to clear the KSA's image in the context of Khashoggi's murder, several European countries have taken actions against the kingdom's interests. Yet, the way each country has approached the matter has led to the rise of two separate blocks which are at discordance within Europe itself. Whereas some European leaders have shown a united front in casting blame on the Saudi government, others seem to express geopolitical interests are more important.

During the time Germany, Norway, Denmark and Finland are being celebrated by human rights advocates for following through on their threat to halt sales to the kingdom, bigger arms exporters—like those that have been analysed—have pointed out that the latter nations have far less to lose than they do. Nonetheless, inevitably, the ceasing carried out by the northern European countries which are rather small arms exporters in comparison to bigger players such as the UK and France, is likely to have exacerbated concerns within the European arms industry of a growing anti-Saudi consensus in the European Union or even beyond.

What is clear is that due to the impact Saudi Arabia's state of affairs have caused, governments and even companies worldwide are coming under pressure to abandon their ties to the oil-rich, but at the same time, human-rights-violating Saudi Arabian leadership. Resultantly, in Europe, countries are taking part in two divergent blocks that are namely led by two of the EU's most compelling members: France and Germany. These two sides are of rather distant opinions regarding the matter, fact that does not seem to be contributing in terms of the so-much-needed European Union integration.

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

ESSAY / Marina Díaz Escudero

Since 2015, Europe has been dealing with an unprecedented scale of migration from different parts of the world, mainly from MENA (Middle East and North Africa). People flee their countries due to war, bad living conditions or a lack of opportunities for wellbeing.

Although Europe characterises itself for its solidarity, liberty, values and respect for other countries and cultures, such a large flow of immigration seriously tests the European project. For instance, the Schengen system of passport-free travel could collapse as fearful countries enhance their border controls, to the disadvantage of European citizens. "The Schengen system is being more and more questioned and most opinion polls highlight the correlation between the fear of immigration and the distrust of the citizens of the member states towards European institutions. "1 The migration crisis is also considered a "threat for the European project's constitutional stability and for its fundamental values" (Spijkerboer, 2016). 1  

Divisions between northern and southern EU countries, and between them and the Visegrad countries have clearly intensified due to this problem, especially after the approval, in 2015, of some quotas of relocation of refugees that were critisised and voted against by Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Due to this lack of consensus but also due to the delay of other EU countries in complying with the quotas, a treaty was signed between the EU and Turkey in March 2016 so that most refugees arriving to Europe through Greece would be immediately returned to Turkey2

Understandably, EU countries are mostly concerned with the prevention of illegal immigration and with border-control policies, as well as with the need of reaching an agreement for an egalitarian distribution of arriving migrants, most of them being asylum seekers and refugees. Nevertheless, this will probably not be enough to satisfy both the European citizens and the migrants: root causes of migration may need to be solved as soon as possible to prevent people from fleeing their homes. This gives the EU food for thought: addressing the migration problem without focusing on the prevention of migration in the countries of origin may not be a lasting, long-term solution. "The instability, insecurity, terrorism, poverty, famine and climate change besetting large parts of Africa and the Middle East are the root causes of migration, but the European Union (EU) governments have come around to this too late, engaging essentially in damage-limitation exercises at our borders. "3  

According to World Bank data, in 2017 over 8 million migrants came from "the Arab world" and from these, 6 million fleed the Syrian Arab Republic4. The war in Syria, originally between Bashar al Assad's regime and the rebel opposition, and currently a proxy war involving various international actors, turns the country into one of the greatest sources of migrants. The fact that over a million of them live in Lebanon (currently accounting for a 30% of the population) , a country who didn't sign the 1951 Refugee Convention and who has been trying to deport the migrants for years now, is worrying. Due to the "fuelling tensions between Lebanese host communities and the Syrian refugees" the Lebanese government has taken some more restrictive measures towards migrants, such as the banning of the construction of formal refugee camps. This for sure puts additional pressure on the EU5.

In order to comprehend the European Union's vision and strategy on Syria, and whether the institution and its members are willing to fight the root causes of its situation, one must consider the words of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, in her speech at the Conference of Brussels in April 2018:

"[In this conference] we had representatives of over 85 countries and international organizations, international and Syrian civil society. [...] We identified common ground on at least 2 or 3 issues: one is that there is no military solution to the war in Syria and that there is a need that everyone recognizes to relaunch the political process. The second element on which I have not found any divergent view is the key role of the United Nations in leading this political process. This is extremely important for us, the European Union, because we have always consistently identified in the UN and in Staffa de Mistura the only legitimate leadership to ensure that the political process represents all Syrians in intra-Syrian talks and happens along the lines of the United Nations Security Council resolutions already adopted. The third element is the need to support Syrians inside Syria and in the neighbouring countries, with humanitarian aid, financial support but also to support hosting communities, in particular neighbouring countries".6

The Vice-President of the European Commission basically makes three clear statements: the European institution will by no means intervene militarily in Syria, neither will it take the initiative to start a political process or peaceful negotiation in the country (it will only support the UN-led process), but it will clearly invest economically both in the country and in its citizens to improve their conditions.

Defence of the UN-led political process

Once a solely-European military intervention has been discarded (due to a lack of consensus among countries on a common defense policy and to the already effective existence of NATO in this regard), the EU considers its role in a political solution to the Syrian conflict, which would clearly reduce migration numbers.

According to the European Council in its conclusions on Syria of April 2018, "the momentum of the current situation should be used to reinvigorate the process to find a political resolution of the Syrian conflict [...] A lasting peace in Syria is the ultimate objective of the EU".7 The Council makes clear that it will not create a new EU-led political process but that it will support the UN's: "...any sustainable solution to the conflict requires a genuine political transition in line with UNSCR 2254 and the 2012 Geneva Communique negotiated by the Syrian parties within the UN-led Geneva process."

The UN currently takes part in two parallel processes: inter-Syrian conversations in Geneva and the Conversations in Astana. The first looks for a dialogue solution to the conflict and participants are the Syrian government, a delegation from the opposition and the UN Special Envoy for Syria. Until now, 9 rounds of talks have taken place, the last focused on the elaboration of a new constitution for the country. The second process is promoted by Russia, Iran and Turkey, guarantors of the peace process in Syria. Conversations started in 2017 with the aim of consolidating the cease-fire and preparing the way for a political solution to the war. The last round of talks took place in Sochi this past July8.

But things aren't as easy as they seem.

UN special envoy for Syria will soon be replaced by the Norwegian Geir Pedersen making future lines of action unpredictable for us. We know, however, what the starting point will be. In the ordinary UN session held on the past 20th December, de Mistura stated that they had "almost completed the job of starting a constitutional commitee to write a constitutional reform, as a contribution to the political process, but still have to go one more mile. "9

Such a commiteee would be composed of 150 persons, a third of which should be appointed by the Syrian regime, another third by the opposition and the last one by UN designated persons. This last point has been repeatedly opposed by Syria. The biggest problem at the moment is that the UN is not fully comfortable with the 50-name list proposed by Iran, Russia and Turkey9.

On the other hand, the strategy of the US, a very relevant actor in this process due to its position in the UN as a permanent member of the Security Council (with veto power on resolutions), has been unclear for a long time. US Special Envoy to Syria Joel Rayburn stated in November that the objectives of the US in Syria were three: the defeat of the Islamic State, the withdrawal of all Iranian-commanded forces and "a political settlement under the auspices of the UNSC Resolution 2254 and the political process supported by the UN in Geneva. "10   

In other words, it seemed that unless the first two objectives were covered the US wouldn't wholeheartedly compromise for a definitive political settlement in Syria and given US relevance, the UN would have it very difficult to advance the political process anytime soon. Most recently however, there was a turn of events: in December the US declared its intention of gradually withdrawing its troops from Syria. "We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump presidency. "11

Does this mean that the US is finally willing to head its efforts towards the third objective? US diplomat Rodney Hunter said: "the US is ready to impulse the political process, to isolate more the regime diplomatic and economically, we are willing to do it". 9

Although a positive answer would facilitate discussions for peace and thus, EU involvement, a reduction of violence in the region (and therefore a reduction of migration to Europe) is not assured for two reasons: the US now leaves Turks with free hands to attack Kurdish militants and, although ISIS has lost 95% of its territory, "2,500 Isis fighters remain [...] The group retains the capacity to do even more damage, especially if let off the hook now." 11

Soft power: humanitarian aid and investment

Given the fact that the EU can not really influence the military and political/diplomatic decisions regarding the Syrian conflict, it has been focusing, since the beginning of the war in 2011, on delivering humanitarian aid and development support to the country and its nationals. The next phrase from the European External Action Service summarises very well the EU's aims on this respect: "Our objective is to bring an end to the conflict and enable the Syrian people to live in peace in their own country. "12

Although bilateral, regional and technical assistance cooperation between the EU and the Syrian government came to an end due to the violent situation that was emerging in the country, the international organization directly supports the Syrian population and its neighbours13.

Through the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), the EU worked hand in hand with its neighbours to the East and South (including Syria) with the aim of fostering stabilization, security and prosperity and achieving cooperation in key areas like the "promotion of democracy, rule of law, respect for human rights and social cohesion. "14 After the cease of cooperation between the EU and the regime, support to the ENP countries is given through the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI), with a predicted budget of 15 billion dollars (2014-2020)15.

Under the financing og the ENI, the Commission approved in November a special measure "to help the Syrian population to cope with the effects of the crisis and prepare the grounds for a sustainable peace. "16 The main action has been entitled as "Preserving the prospects for peace and stability in Syria through an inclusive transition" and counts with a maximum contribution of EUR 31 million. According to the European Commission, if the Syrian situation turns into a "post-crisis state-building and reconstruction scenario," special measures will be revised in order to suit the new needs of the population14.

The ENP is part of the EUGS or European Union Global Strategy (for the European Union's Foreign and Security Policy) presented by Federica Mogherini to the EU Council in 2016, and whose main aim is to achieve an integrated approach and a "coherent perspective for EU's external action. "15 As part of this broader strategy, the EU wishes to prevent fragile contexts from becoming serious humanitarian crises17

Within this, another particular strategy for Syria was developed in 2015, the EU Strategy for Syria. Some of its most important objectives are "saving lives by addressing the humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable Syrians across the country," "promoting democracy, human rights and freedom of speech by strengthening Syrian civil society organisations" and "supporting the resilience of the Syrian population and Syrian society. "18 The European Council, in its Conclusions on Syria of 2018, agreed that the objectives of the "European Union Strategy on Syria" remain valid.

Although all these initiatives are well-intentioned and show that the EU is not only concerned about the end of the war but also with how it will be done and its aftermath, history has proved that Western political intervention in the Middle East is far from optimum for the region. In the 1916 the Sykes-Picot agreement between France and the UK drew an artificial political line on the territory that would later trigger the Arab-Israeli conflict and promote present ISIS action. Later on, the US-leaded intervention in Iraq in 2003 (one of its objectives being the "liberation" of the Iraqi people) has caused an increase of Sunni-Shiite tension, the rise of Al-Qaeda and the strenghtening of Iran in the region.

The point here is that the EU might be interested in helping Syria and its citizens in ways that improve living conditions and welfare opportunities without messing up with the country's cultural, social and political system. Imposing the notion of democracy in these states, knowing that they have a completely different historical and cultural background, might not be a feasible solution.

Thus, other types of EU initiatives like the New Partnership Framework (NPF, June 2016), focused on the role of economic development in fighting the root causes of migration, might be more effective in the long-term. "It will address all aspects of this migration crisis, from its root causes to the daily tragedies that occur in the Mediterranean. These ambitions [...] illustrate EU's willingness to address specific migratory challenges, but also the long-term drivers of migration. "19

Through the NPF, the EU explains how private investment can be a very useful tool for promoting the economic growth and development of Syria, which would in turn improve the living conditions of its citizens making it less necessary to flee their homes in search of a better place to be. "Instead of letting irregular migrants risk their lives trying to reach European labour markets, European private and public resources should be mobilised for investment in third countries of origin. If deployed intelligently, leveraged use of the limited budget resources available will generate growth and employment opportunities in source as well as transit countries and regions [...] This should address the root causes of migration directly, given the high impact of those investments in terms of employment and inequality reduction". This is what the EU calls innovative financing mechanisms.

This project is called the External Investment Plan and is being organized in three steps. First, the mobilization of scarce public resources in an attractive way to attract private investment. Then, helping local authorities and private companies to be known in the international investor community. Finally, the EU would try to improve the general business government by putting a solution to some corruption issues as well as some market distortions. "The EU, Member States, third countries, International Financial Institutions, European bilateral development institutions, as well as the private sector, should all contribute." The EU hopes to collect, through this External Investment Fund, a total of 62 billion euros.

Long story short, European countries believe in the expansion of this type of innovative financing "in those fragile and post-conflict countries which are often important for migration flows but where the potential for direct private or public investment is currently limited."

An interesting factor to take into account in this matter is who will be the most involved international actor in the project. Will it be the US, allowing us to compare the current situation with the 20th century Marshall Plan? (where investments in infrastructure and the spread of domestic management techniques was also a key element). Or could it be Russia? As the President of the Russian Chamber of Commerce stated in March 2018, "$200 billion to $500 billion will be needed for the reconstruction of the Syrian economy, and the first priority will, as President Bashar al-Assad has said, be given to Russian businesses. "20 What is clear is that investing in Syria will clearly give the investor country some important influence on the newly-recovered state.

Conclusions and forecast for the future

Since the beginning of the crisis in 2011, Syria has been one of the major sources of migration towards Europe. Although EU members currently need to discuss the prevention of illegal immigration and the distribution of legally coming asylum seekers, some attention must also be given to the elimination of factors that activate migration in the country of origin.

While it is true that a definitive end to the war between the regime and the opposition would be the best and most immediate solution for disproportionate fleeing from Syria, the EU doesn't seem to be able to intervene more than it already does.

Not having an army of itself (and not seeming to want it in the near future) and being the "assistant" of the UN in the political and diplomatic resolution of the conflict, it can only apply its soft power tools and instruments to help to the country and its citizens.

Although humanitarian aid is essential and the EU is sparing no expense on it, the institution has come to realise that the real key to improving Syria's situation and the wellbeing of its citizens may be investment and development. This investment could be "short-term", in the sense that foreign countries directly invest in Syria and decide what the money will be used for (i.e reconstruction of buildings, construction of new infrastructure...) or "long-term", in the sense that the main role of the EU is improving the country's business governance to facilitate the attraction of private investors in the long-term.  

Regarding the last option it is very important that "the recipient countries establish transparent policies, broad and effective that propitiate an appropiate atmosphere for investment, with the consequent formation of human resources and the establishment of an appropiate institutional climate. "21 Taking this into account, Syria will be a difficult challenge for the EU, as in order to achieve an appropiate institutional climate, a diplomatic solution to the conflict and a peaceful political transition will be required, as well as the collaboration of the future government in promoting political transparency.

All in all, the EU is clearly aware of the root causes of migration and is developing feasible strategies to counter them. The rate of progress is still slow and it may be due to the fact that, in order to effectively apply many of these soft power strategies (except for the humanitarian aid), the recipient country must be stable and ready to collaborate. In other words, EU investment and development plans will most probably bear fruit when the war is over, a peaceful political transition is on the move and the general atmosphere is favorable for economic growth and innovation.

Political stability in Syria could be achieved through two scenarios: the success of the UN-led process and the drafting of new constitution for the country; or the victory of one of the sides (most probably the Syrian regime) and its establishment in power. Meanwhile, the EU and its members will have three challenges: developing the forementioned long-term investment strategies in the view of a future peace (while maintaining already-functioning soft power initiatives), dealing with the refugee crisis at the European borders, and preserving the European project and unity by avoiding major disagreements on migration policy and an exacerbated fear of immigration.

Moreover, one of the key issues that will need to be followed closely in the following months is the effect that the, maybe early, withdrawal of US troops can have on the region and on the power dynamic between the actors, together with the potential changes in US strategy with regards to the UN-led process.

References

  1. CIDOB - "Immigration and asylum: at the center of the political arena". yearbook CIDOB on Immigration 2018. (2018). Retrieved from 

  2. López, E. (2018). Refugee crisis: The divergence between the European Union and the Visegrad Group/ GLOBAL AFFAIRS, UNAV. Retrieved from

  3. Tajani, A. (2018). The migration crisis threatens to destroy the EU. We must not let it | Antonio Tajani. Retrieved from

  4. Refugee population by country or territory of origin | Data. (2017). Retrieved from

  5. Lebanon - European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations - European Commission (2019). Retrieved from

  6. Photos and videos of the conference - Consilium (2018). Retrieved from

  7. Battu, V. (2018). Syria: Council adopts conclusions - Consilium. Retrieved from.

  8. Syria. Retrieved from

  9. UN still stuck for a solution in Syria as US announces withdrawal (2018). Retrieved from

  10. Elgeneidy, S. (2018). INTERVIEW: 'We need a political settlement of the conflict', US Special Envoy to Syria says - Region - World - Ahram Online. Retrieved from.

  11. Chulov, M. (2018). Has Isis been defeated in Syria, as Trump claims?. Retrieved from.

  12. Syria and the EU - EEAS - European External Action Service - European Commission (2016). Retrieved from

  13. Syria - European Neighbourhood Policy And Enlargement Negotiations - European Commission (2018). Retrieved from

  14. European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) - Commission européenne (2016). Retrieved from

  15. European Neighbourhood Policy - European Neighbourhood Policy And Enlargement Negotiations - European Commission.(2018). Retrieved from

  16. Commission implementing decision on the special measure in favour of the Syrian population for 2018. (2018). Retrieved from

  17. EUGS at 1 - EU Global Strategy - European Commission (2019). Retrieved from

  18. Battu, V. (2017). Council adopts EU strategy on Syria - Consilium. Retrieved from

  19. Communication on establishing a new Partnership Framework with third countries under the European diary on Migration. (2016). Retrieved from

  20. "Russian business first in line for spoils of Syrian war/Subscribe to read | Financial Times. Retrieved from

  21. Foreign Direct Investment for Development: Maximising Benefits, Minimising Costs (2002). Retrieved from

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

[Bruno Maçães, The Dawn of Eurasia. On the Trail of the New World Order. Allen Lane. Milton Keynes, 2018. 281 pp]

review / Emili J. Blasco

The Dawn of Eurasia. On the Trail of the New World Order

The discussion on the emergence of Eurasia as an increasingly compact reality, no longer as a mere geographical description that was conceptually a chimera, owes much to the contribution of Bruno Maçães; particularly to his book The Dawn of Eurasia, but also to his continuous proselytizing to different audiences. This Portuguese diplomat with research activity in Europe notes the consolidation of the Eurasian mass as a single continent (or supercontinent) to all intents and purposes.

"One of the reasons we have to start thinking about Eurasia is because this is how China is increasingly looking at the world (...) China is already living a Eurasian age," says Maçães. What is new about it, he says, "is not that there are such connections between continents, but that, for the first time, they work both ways. Only when the influence flows in both directions can we speak of an integrated space." The Silk Belt and Road Initiative, especially its overland route, sample that China is no longer looking only to the Pacific, but is also contemplating new routes to Europe.

Maçães urges Europe to adopt a Eurasian perspective, for three reasons: because Russia and China have one; because most of the big foreign policy issues of our time have to do with how Europe and Asia are connected (Ukraine, refugee crisis, energy and trade); and because all the security threats of the coming decades will play out in a Eurasian context. Maçães adds a final reason why Europe should become more actively involved in the Eurasian integration project : it is the way to combat the forces of disintegration that exist within Europe itself.

From the various considerations included in the book, some suggestive ideas could be highlighted. One is that Russia's historic problems of identity, straddling Europe and Asia - seeing itself as different from the Europeans and at the same time being attracted by the modernity of the West - are now being replicated in the East, where China is on its way to creating a second pole of economic growth and integration in the supercontinent. If Europe is one of the poles and Asia (China and the other successful countries of the Far East) the other, then what is Russia, if it does not fully respond to the European and Asian identities?

The Silk Belt and Road Initiative gives geopolitical importance to Central Asia, as Maçães reviews. Thus, China needs a clear dominance of Xinjiang, its westernmost province and the gateway to the Central Asian republics. The land route to Europe cannot exist without the Xinjinag segment, but at the same time the exhibition of this Uyghur-majority territory to trade and modernization could accentuate its separatist aspirations. Just northwest of Xinjiang is the ex-Soviet republic of Kazakhstan, a vast country of great agricultural value, where Chinese attempts to buy land are being viewed with high suspicion from its capital, Astana. Maçães estimates that if Russia were to try to reintegrate Kazakhstan into its sphere of influence, as vehemently as it has done with Ukraine, "China would not stand aside."

Not only are the East Coast (European peninsula) and the West Coast (Pacific coast) moving closer together, but the connections between the two also improve logistical conditions in the interior of the supercontinent. This is precisely one of the objectives of the Silk Belt and Road Initiative: as Chinese companies have moved away from coastal business hubs to lower labor costs, they are moving farther away from ports and therefore need better land connections, thus contributing to the shrinking of Eurasia.

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

U.S.-Mexico border at Anapra, just outside Ciudad Juárez

▲ U.S.-Mexico border at Anapra, outside Ciudad Juárez [Dicklyon].

ANALYSIS / Túlio Dias de Assis and Elena López-Doriga

With a vote of 152 countries in favor, five against and twelve abstentions (1), the United Nations General Assembly approved last December 19 the project resolution ratifying the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, agreement signed a few days earlier in the Moroccan city of Marrakech. This is the first international pact, under the auspices of the UN, aimed at addressing migration at the global level. While it is not a binding agreement , it is intended to reiterate important principles on the protection of the human rights of migrants in a universal and unified manner, as it is implemented by the UN General Assembly.

Despite the positive aspect of reaching a broad consensus, many countries abstained from voting or positioned themselves directly against the pact, generating uncertainty as to its effectiveness. Although the long-awaited signature was eventually carried out in Marrakech, in the end there were far fewer signatories than expected during the negotiations. Why this rejection by some countries? And the neutrality or indifference of others? Why the multiple debates that have taken place in various parliamentary chambers around the world in relation to the pact? These are some of the questions that will be addressed in this analysis.

Before addressing the covenant itself, it is important to differentiate between the concepts of "migrant" and "refugee". A migrant is defined as a person who arrives in a country or region other than his or her place of origin to settle there temporarily or permanently, often for economic reasons and generally with the goal aim of improving his or her standard of living. While the concept of refugee makes reference letter to people fleeing armed conflict, violence or persecution and are therefore forced to leave their home country to ensure their own safety. The reasons for persecution can be of many different types: ethnic, religious, gender, sexual orientation, among others. In all of them, these causes have given rise to well-founded fears for their lives, which, after due process, make them "refugees" in the eyes of the international community.

It should be noted that this covenant deals only with the rights of migrants, since for refugees there is already the binding historical reference of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 amendmentprotocol , both signed and ratified by a large majority of UN member states. In addition, it should be mentioned that, simultaneously with the elaboration of the migration pact, a similar non-binding pact on refugee issues was also drawn up. This pact was supported by a large majority of States, with only two votes against (USA and Hungary) and three abstentions (Dominican Republic, Libya and Eritrea). Therefore, it could be concluded that at least in subject of refugees most countries do not seem to have any problem; as far as migrants are concerned, the opinion seems to change quite a lot.

The origins of the text date back to the 2016 New York Declaration on the Rights of Migrants and Refugees, which proposed the elaboration of both covenants - on the one hand the one concerning refugees, and on the other hand, the one on migration - as a further initiative of the implementation of the diary 2030. Since then, both documents were gradually elaborated until the text of the one that concerns us was finalized in July 2018.

The document, of a non-binding nature, consists of several parts. The first, commonly referred to as the "Chapeau", is simply a statement of shared values that all States in the international community are supposed to possess. It is followed by a list of 23 objectives, mainly at subject of international cooperation, largely through the International Organization for Migration (IOM), a subsidiary body of the United Nations. Finally, the text explains how the periodic review of the progress of the signatory States with regard to the 23 objectives is to be carried out.

The most controversial part throughout and after the negotiations is the Chapeau, especially for equating the rights of migrants and refugees. The document as a whole is also criticized for not clearly distinguishing the rights of regular migrants from those of irregular migrants. Finally, another highly controversial measure was the call for signatory countries to facilitate a greater issue of visas.

Other important points of the text attracted substantial support agreement, although they were not spared the criticism of the more conservative governments: among them the guarantee of good conditions and care for migrants in cases of deportation, the principle of non-refoulement applied to migrant deportations (the non-refoulement of migrants to conflict zones), the granting of social rights to migrants in the countries where they are, the creation of a better network of international cooperation in subject of migrants under the administration of the IOM, as well as the creation of measures to combat discrimination against migrants.

 

DIFFERENT POSITIONS

In America

During the negotiations only two countries explicitly showed an aversion to treaty-making. Sharing the position of Orbán's Hungary was Trump's USA, which did not even bother to participate in the negotiations. The then US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, took a strong stand against the agreement. "The U.S. prides itself on its migratory origins, but it will be the Americans themselves who will decide how to control their borders and who can enter," Haley declared, emphasizing the U.S. interest in making its national sovereignty prevail. The US ended up not signing the document.

In addition to the reasons provided by the Trump Administration, the loss of IOM leadership by the US to Portugal's António Vitorino candidate - and thus the loss of control over the implementation of the pact - may also have played a role. Perhaps not so much in the primary decision not to participate in the negotiations of the pact, as in the final attitude of not signing it. Likewise, it is striking that several countries that at first seemed to support the pact ended up withdrawing, as in the case of Brazil after Jair Bolsonaro's inauguration, or not signing, such as Chile or the Dominican Republic, which had not initially opposed the proposal. This lack of adhesion would be justified, according to some of the negotiators, by the persuasion attempts of US diplomats, although this US effort does not seem to have been limited to the Latin American sphere. Similarly, it is worth mentioning that the decision of the Dominican delegation was also largely influenced by internal pressures from some groups in the legislature.

In Europe

"Hungary could never accept such a partisan, biased and pro-migration document. Migration is a dangerous phenomenon". So began the speech of Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjaártó during the celebration of the end of the pact negotiations on July 13. Hungary, together with the USA, was one of the few countries that opposed the proposal from the beginning, but the Magyar representation, in contrast to the US, did take part in the negotiations. The fact that the Magyar representation took such a different position from the outset compared to the other EU member states meant that the seat assigned to the European diplomatic corps was empty during the entire negotiations.

However, Hungary was not the only European country to take such a radical position on agreement. It is worth noting that, once the negotiations were over, along with Hungary there were four other countries in the General Assembly opposed to the pact: Poland, the USA, the Czech Republic and Israel. In addition, twelve more abstained, including several EU members, such as Austria, Bulgaria, Italy, Latvia and Romania, while Slovakia absented itself from the vote.

In several of these countries there was a bitter parliamentary discussion . In Belgium, which eventually accepted the text, Prime Minister Charles Michel lost his coalition government for having signed the pact, as the New Flemish Alliance, his main ally in the Executive, refused to ratify the document. In the Bundestag there was also some controversy caused by Alternative für Deutschland and some CDU members, although the adoption was finally approved after a vote in which a majority of 372 in favor, against 153 votes against and 141 abstentions, ended up approving the measure. In Latvia, the Riga parliament clearly rejected the agreement, as did the governments of Bulgaria, Austria, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Italy and Switzerland did not accept the pact at first, but the Executives of both states have referred the decision to their respective parliaments for final say. In the rest of Europe, the pact was accepted without major problems, despite the fact that in almost all national parliaments, far-right or right-wing conservative parliamentary groups raised objections.

China, Russia and others

The positions of other countries should also be highlighted. Australia was the first to withdraw its support for the pact after the negotiations; it justified its exit by stating that its current system of border protection is totally incompatible with some parts of the pact, a security invocation also used by Israel. China and Russia ended up signing the pact, but reiterated their refusal to comply with several of the objectives. Finally, practically all the countries of Africa and the Middle East supported the initiative, without raising any particular resistance, probably due to the fact that these are regions where the most significant migratory flows originate.

 

BAD FOR THE EU AND FOR THE UN

At final, the difficulty of a global migration pact lies in the concern with which many migrant-receiving countries view these movements of people. The reluctance of European countries is largely due to the migratory crisis in the Mediterranean, caused by the various conflicts in the Maghreb and the Middle East; in the case of the United States, it would be motivated by the migratory flows to its border with Mexico from Central and South America. In general, all the countries that resisted the adoption of agreement have in recent years been destination points for massive immigration, against which they have established strict border controls; in these societies the civil service examination to such an open-minded proposal as the one promoted by the United Nations, despite not being binding, has been seen as normal.

On the European scene, the different positions taken by the EU member states could be a bad sign for European integration, as once again the European External Action Service seems to have failed to create a common position for the EU. The fact that European representation was not present from the outset, due to Hungary's initial unwillingness to change its position, calls into question the common diplomatic service. Moreover, the initial common position that the other 27 EU states seemed to have, apart from the Magyar position, completely vanished at the end of the process, as several of them ended up dissociating themselves from agreement. This marked a clear division within the EU on migration, an issue on which there are already quite a few open debates in the European institutions.

In general, despite the large issue of signatory countries, taking into account all the civil service examination created and the political crises that occurred in some countries, the initiative on migration could be classified as of doubtful effectiveness, and in some aspects even as a failure on the part of the UN. It is evident that the United Nations seems to have lost some of its ability to promote its global diary , as it used to do until a decade ago. Probably ten years ago, the West would have unanimously accepted the migration proposals of University Secretary; today, however, there is a greater division among Western countries, as well as within their own societies, among which there is skepticism towards the organization itself.

After all, it is clear that among the countries that have opposed a global migration pact, a certain alignment against the idealistic approach is beginning to be noticed at International Office, while at the same time we see an enhancement of the attitude known as realist: just look at Trump's USA, Salvini's Italy, Orbán's Hungary, Bolsonaro's Brazil and Netanyahu's Israel, to cite the most emblematic cases.

In the future, the UN will probably have to adapt its projects to the new international political reality if it hopes to maintain its influence among its member states. Will the UN be able to adapt to this new wave of realist conservatism? Undoubtedly, interesting times await us for the next decade on the international scene...

 

(1) Against: Czech Republic, Hungary, Israel, Poland, Poland, United States. Abstaining: Algeria, Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Chile, Chile, Italy, Latvia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Romania, Singapore and Switzerland.

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

Buddhist sculpture 'Hands from Hell', from the Watrongkhun White Temple in Thailand

▲ Buddhist sculpture 'Hands from Hell', from the Watrongkhun White Temple in Thailand [Pixabay]

COMMENTARY / María Martín Andrade

Human trafficking is a global phenomenon that affects the entire planet. However, with 11.7 million victims, Asia-Pacific is currently the main hub of operations for organized crime groups that trade in people. Thanks to favourable conditions – frequent natural disasters and migrant and refugee crises, which have as their result A great issue of displacement across the geography of South Asia, criminal groups are at their best status to operate.

Despite ASEAN's efforts to foster international cooperation among its member countries for effective fighting, regional differences and corruption often prevail over other factors. On other occasions, it is the governments themselves that benefit from migratory flows, leading to situations of forced labour, thus contributing to the fact that Southeast Asia continues to have the highest numbers of victims of sexual and labour exploitation. Most migration in ASEAN countries is intra-regional, with Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand being the main destinations for immigrants.

Spotlight on Thailand

In Thailand, 72% of immigration was illegal in 2010, and today it is estimated to exceed one million people, most of them from Myanmar and other neighbouring countries such as Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. The explanation for why Thailand has become the main destination for migrants, and thus an important playing table for human trafficking organizations, lies in the combination of slow population growth, compared to other countries in the region, and a high level of population growth. development This began to be experienced in the 1990s. According to the ASEAN Post, Thailand has one of the fastest-growing markets among ASEAN members, prompting the government to continue working on the development of its infrastructure, for which immigration is fundamental.

At the beginning of the boom, Thailand was recruiting immigrants without having legislation to deal with the phenomenon, which resulted in its promoters taking advantage of the status to exploit those who arrived without knowledge of the language and Thai laws. It was not until the arrival of the government of businessman Thaksin Shinowatra that a registration system granting temporary permits was introduced. However, once their validity expired, many of these permits were not renewed, thus exposing thousands of workers to illegality and, thus, to sexual and other exploitation class forced labour in sectors such as agriculture, fisheries, domestic services or industry.

On the other hand, the lack of legal regulation of recruitment agencies, to which the Thai Government has not paid particular attention, has allowed these agencies to dispose of migrants as they please without suffering any reprisals for doing so. Weak legislation, coupled with minimum safety conditions for victims, with only extreme physical abuse being criminally punished, constitutes a status of almost total helplessness for the exploited, who also feel unable to go to the authorities for fear of being deported.

Human Trafficking: Challenges and International Cooperation

Organized crime in South-East Asia could not be tackled without first confronting corruption in the countries themselves, as many officials benefited from facilitating the crossing of their borders by such organizations and illegal immigrants. In addition, the lack of information and intelligence analysis by the security forces themselves, together with the difficulties offered by a complicated orography with large wooded and jungle areas that are very difficult to control, hinder investigations and cause the authorities to operate blindly.

With the intention of establishing a common legal basis, several countries in the region have signed the United Nations International Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, with the aim of goal to eliminate legislative differences and provide means to combat organized crime. However, while Thailand has signed it, along with Singapore and Brunei, it has not yet ratified it. Other solutions have also been proposed by ASEAN, with the creation of Heads of Specialist Strategic Units, whose intention is to promote the partnership and cooperation of countries, exchanging information. In addition, the Regional Support Office has been set up to establish guidelines for the prevention, detention and protection of victims.

Despite the apparent interest of the international sphere, the countries of the Asia-Pacific preferred to be governed by bilateral relations that allowed them to be selective with the rules that were appropriate for them, and cooperation was not possible if the interests of each State came first. These States will continue to be willing to sign agreements as long as they are not strictly binding because, as in the case of Thailand, the concern from the outside is greater than that perceived at the domestic level.

The fight against human trafficking in Asia-Pacific has a long way to go. The measures adopted cannot be effective if there is no firm intention on the part of the countries involved to put an end to this problem. Human trafficking is the profitability of a harm, a business from which certain dominant sectors benefit, so in order to achieve fruitful international cooperation, South Asian States would have to perceive it as the scourge that it is for their society.

 

REFERENCES

Kranrattanasuit, N. (2014). ASEAN and Human Trafficking: Case Studies of Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam. International Studies in Human Rights, Volume:109, 4-104.

Henry, N. (2018). Asylum, Work, and Precarity: Bordering the Asia-Pacific. University of Warwick.

Sansó-Rubert, D. (2011). Transnational Organized Crime in Asia-Pacific: Implications for Regional and International Security. University of Santiago de Compostela-CESEDEN, 159-189.

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

Disputed ethnicity, British colonial-era grievances and fear of a 'fifth columnist' minority

The humanitarian crisis suffered in Myanmar by the Muslim minority Rohingyas also raises strategic issues. With the country surrounded by Islamic populations, certain ruling groups, especially Buddhist elements, fear that the Rohingyas, who are declared foreigners despite having been on their territory for generations, will act as fifth columnists. Fear of jihadist contamination is also invoked by a government that has not respected the human rights of this minority.

Rohingya refugees

▲ Rohingya refugees [Tasnim News Agency/CC].

article / Alexia Cosmello Guisande

In August 2017, what was known as "the great exodus of the Rohingyas" took place in Myanmar; a year later, in 2018, the humanitarian catastrophe taking place in that country reappeared on the front pages of international newspapers. The international community, automatically, came out in favor of the Rohingya minority group . The media talked about the problem, and continue to do so, using populist language, trying to seek the emotion of the public.

The Rohingya story is little known to the public, who are generally unaware of the origin of the conflict and the Burmese government's motives. Currently, the Rohingyas are considered by the UN as "one of the most persecuted minorities in the world". In order to understand the core of the current problem, it is of great importance to make a brief analysis of the history of Myanmar, of the Rohingyas and of the relations between this minority and the country that hosts them.

History

The current state of Myanmar is a real mosaic of ethnicities, languages, religions and insurgent movements. There are 135 different ethnic groups recognized, but approximately 90% of the population is of Buddhist religion, so that the remaining denominations are considered as minorities in the country [1]. Specifically, the Rohingyas are of Muslim religion and more than half of the community is concentrated in the Rakhine or Arakan region, one of the poorest in the country. Here the population is roughly divided between: 59.7% Buddhists, 35.6% Muslims and the remaining 4.7% other religions.

The Muslims of Rakhine are divided into two groups, on the one hand, the Kaman, who despite being of another confession, share customs with the Buddhist population and are recognized and guaranteed citizenship in Myanmar by the Government. On the other hand, the Rohingyas, who are a mixture of different ethnic groups such as Arabs, Mughals and Bengalis. This second group, group , has no recognized nationality or citizenship in the State, since, despite the fact that its members have been in the country for generations, they are still considered illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

It was between 1974, when the Emergency Immigration Law was issued, and 1982, when the Citizenship Law was passed during the dictatorial period of General Ne Win, that the Rohingyas were declared by law illegal immigrants without the right to citizenship in Myanmar. This law, together with the Government's refusal to separate them into identities, is one of the reasons why the conflict between the authorities and the Rohingyas began. To the conflict must be added the involvement of the military, which tends to instigate confrontation in the region between different ethnic groups.

Because they are stateless, which is in itself a violation of human rights, they lack recognition of other basic rights such as access to work, Education or health care, as well as freedom of movement within their own country. The conflict with this minority community goes beyond religion, as it also affects the political-economic aspects of group. They are being culturally discriminated against, economically exploited and politically marginalized.

Arguments

Rakhine region on the coast of Myanmar, adjacent to Bangladesh.

Rakhine region on the coast of Myanmar, adjacent to Bangladesh.

To understand the Myanmar government's arguments for denying them citizenship, one must understand the history of the community. In itself, their origin is unclear, which makes their status more complex and controversial. They themselves claim to be indigenous people originally from the region they now inhabit, Rakhine. History does not contradict this, but neither does it confirm it; there is historical evidence that they have been living there for generations. On the one hand, a version of their origin, collected by historian Jasmine Chia, dates the first Muslim settlements in Arakan (former name of Rakhine) during the seventh century; these settlers continued to live in the region until the ninth century, but it was not until the fifteenth century when they settled definitively and formed a community. Versions of local historians contradict the previous version and date the first Rohingya settlements in the nineteenth century when the place was under the colonization of the British Empire, along with India and Bangladesh, so they argue that they were actually settled in Chittagong and with the transit of people and internal exodus migrated to Rakhine. Finally, French historian Jacques P. Leider states that the first time the term "Rohingya" was used was by a British doctor in the 18th century, so even though they were not yet settled in the area at that time, the ethnic group already existed.

The Second World War is considered to be the origin of the current problem. Japan wanted to invade Burma, so the British Empire decided to arm the Rohingyas to fight against the Japanese. But the group used the weapons given by the authorities, as well as the techniques learned, to defend the country against them. They burned lands and temples of other ethnic groups, mainly Buddhists. In 1944 they pushed the Japanese back, for which the British, who were still in control of the area, praised them [2].

In 1948 Burma gained independence from the British Empire, which gave several minorities representing 40% of today's Myanmar the opportunity to arm themselves and rebel against the new political system. Even today parts of the country are still controlled by these groups. Prior to independence, the country's Muslims formed the Muslim Liberation Organization (MLO), which after 1948 was renamed the Mujahid Party. This group is on the Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium (TRAC) list of terrorist groups. The Government allowed the removal from the country's terrorist list of those groups that had signed a ceasefire with the State. This implies that the Government allows their free development and investment in these areas in need after years of isolation. In other words, these groups can now move freely around the country and participate in politics. This is not the case of the Rohingyas, who are still considered a group of foreigners and a vehicle for the expansion of jihad, from agreement with the point of view of the Myanmar Government and the Buddhists. In the recent period, the Islamic State has been expanding the Islamic religion narrative internationally, for this reason Buddhist monks (Ashin Wirathu) have called Islam a religion that directly threatens the Myanmar state and warn that it is through the Muslim minority that such violent ideas can more easily permeate the country due to the contact of elements of that minority with international terrorist groups.

The Burmese government justifies its actions against the Rohingyas on the grounds that the conflict between the two religions since the period of British colonization may lead to further conflicts. On the other hand, there is fear on the part of the Government, Buddhists and other minorities towards the Rohingyas because of their organizations such as the Arakan Rohingha National Organization or the Rohingya Solidarity Organization, which have an almost direct connection with leaders and/or members of terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda or the Taliban.

Buddhists view with concern the rapid population growth of Muslims, which will possibly lead in the not too distant future to Muslims being in a position to outnumber the Buddhist community at issue , thus ceasing to be a minority. Linked to this fear is the fact that the country is surrounded by nations of Muslim religion, and according to Buddhists, if there were an unexpected invasion of Myanmar by some of these countries, the Rohingyas would fight in favor of the invaders, as they do not feel part of the country [3].

Resentment

While this fear on the part of Buddhists and the government itself is understandable, the human rights violations, some of which have led to real humanitarian crises, are not justifiable. In fact, behind the anti-Rohingya attitude, beyond the arguments officially invoked before the international community, there seems to be a historical resentment towards this minority for the burning of temples and land during the colonial era and a fear of open confrontation.

Clearly, a country's history marks its present and its future, and those events of decades ago explain part of what is happening in Myanmar today. While past grievances cannot be forgotten, dragging the desire for revenge from generation to generation is the best recipe for failure as a society or even tragedy. The abused Rohingya children are growing up hating the country in which they reside, which is counterproductive to the government's objectives and feeds back into the fear of one to the reaction of the other.

 

[1] FARZANA, Kazi Fahmida. Memories of Burmese Rohingya Refugees: Contested Identity and Belonging. "Introduction" (p. 1-40).

[2] ROGERS, Benedict. Burma: A Nation at the Crossroads. Rider Books, 2015

[3] FARZANA, K. F. op. cit. "The Refugee Problem from an Official Account" (p. 59-86).

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

ANALYSIS / Nerea Álvarez

Relations between Japan and Korea are not easy. The Japanese annexation of the peninsula in 1910 is still very much present in the report Korean. For its part, Japan has a distorted sense of history, the result of having assumed its guilt in the war in a forced way, forced by the punishment suffered in World War II and the U.S. occupation, and not as a consequence of its own process of voluntary assumption of responsibility. All this has led Japan to resist revising its history, especially that of its imperialist era.

One Element core topic What hinders a sincere reconciliation between Japan and the neighboring countries that were invaded by the Japanese in the first half of the 20th century are the comfort women. This group The increase in the number of women from China, the Philippines, Myanmar, Taiwan, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and South Korea (about 80% of whom came from the latter country) is a consequence of Japan's expansion that began in 1910. During this period, approximately 70,000 to 200,000 women were taken to comfort stations by Japanese soldiers where they were sexually abused. These stations continued to operate in Japan until the late 1940s. According to the testimonies of the surviving women, Japanese soldiers took them away in a variety of ways: kidnapping, deception and extortion are just a few examples.

According to the testimony of Kim Bok-Dong, one of the surviving women, the Japanese soldiers claimed that they had to take her to work in a uniform factory because they did not have enough staff. She was 14 years old at the time. The soldiers promised her mother to return her once she was old enough to marry, and threatened the whole family with exile if her parents did not allow her to leave. She was transported by ferry from Busan to Shimonoseki (Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan), along with thirty other women. They then took another ship that transported them to Taiwan and then to Guangdong province. There they were greeted by officers, who escorted them to the interior of a building where doctors were waiting for them. They examined their bodies and escorted them to their rooms. The women were repeatedly assaulted and raped. After several weeks, many were thinking about suicide: "We were much better off dead" (Kim Bok-Dong, 2018). Many died due to the conditions to which they were subjected, from disease, killed by Japanese soldiers in the last years of the war or, if they had the opportunity, by suicide. It is estimated that about a quarter to a third of the women survived.

Long process

After the war, and despite the fact that the facts were known, that dramatic past was relegated to history, without the necessary attention being paid to it. South Korea was not prepared to help these women (and North Korea had gone into absolute isolation). During the 1960s, relations between the Republic of Korea and Japan worsened due to the anti-Japanese policies of South Korean political leaders. In 1965, Tokyo and Seoul signed the Standardization Treaty, but it proved that economic issues were the priority. Bridges of cooperation were built between the two countries, but the emotional conflict prevented and continues to prevent greater relations in fields far from the economic. Japan continues to argue that the Standardization Treaty contains the arguments to rule out that these women have the right to stand before international courts, even though they are not mentioned in the text.

Things began to change in the 1970s, when the association Asian Women's Society, which began to shed light on this aspect of recent history. At first, even the Korean government ignored the problem. The main reason was the lack of evidence that the events had occurred, since the Government of Japan had ordered the destruction of the compromising documents in 1945. In addition, Japan prevented the South Korean government from claiming additional reparations for damages incurred during the colonial period on the basis of the 1965 treaty.

The culture of Southeast Asia played an important role in the concealment of the events that took place. The value of keeping up appearances in Eastern culture took precedence over denouncing situations such as those experienced by these women, who had to remain silent for decades so as not to be repudiated by their families.

When the Republic of Korea democratized in 1987, the South Korean Government began to attach importance to this issue. In 1990, President Roh Tae Woo asked the Japanese government for a list of women's names, but the response from Tokyo was that such information did not exist because the documents had been destroyed. Socialist leader Motooka Shoji, a member of the Upper House of the per diem expenses The Japanese Parliament called for an investigation, but the parliament argued that the problem had already been resolved by the 1965 Standardization Treaty. In 1991, Kim Hak-Sun, one of the women who survived sexual exploitation, filed the first lawsuit, becoming the first victim to speak out about her experience. This was the Starting the fight of a group of more than fifty Korean women who were calling for acknowledgment of the facts and an official apology from the Japanese government. Beginning on January 8, 1992, "every Wednesday at 12 noon, the victims, together with members of the committee Koreans and other social groups march in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul. The march consists of holding up signs demanding justice and forgiveness and expressing their demands in public."

The Tokyo government denied any involvement in the establishment, recruitment and structuring of the comfort women's system from the outset. However, since the administrative office In 1992, the Cabinet issued an apology, albeit vague and too generic, to all women for acts committed during the war. It was not until that year that the Japanese government acknowledged its involvement in the management and supervision of these stations. The UNHRC then determined that the Japanese government's actions amounted to a crime against humanity that violated the human rights of Asian women.

In 1993, Japan admitted to conscripting Korean women under duress. Coercion was the word core topic to refute previous statements, which indicated that these women engaged in prostitution voluntarily. Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono stated that "the Japanese military was, directly or indirectly, involved in the establishment and management of the comfort stations, and in the transfer of comfort women... who, in many cases, were recruited against their own will." The Government of Japan offered its apologies, regretting what had happened, but there was no compensation to the victims. In 1994, the International Commission of Jurists recommended that Japan pay $40,000 to each survivor. The government wanted to structure a plan to pay women with non-governmental funds, but the committee The Korean Institution for Women Abducted by Japan as Sex Slaves, founded in 1990 and made up of 37 institutions, did not allow them to do so.

In 1995, Prime Minister Murayama Tomiichi laid the first steps for the instructions of the Asian Women's Fund, which would serve to protect women's rights in Japan and around the world.  In international eyes, this organization was seen as an excuse to escape the required legal responsibilities, as public money was collected, making the government's involvement almost imperceptible. In addition, a growing minority opinion of citizens sympathetic to the Japanese right began to make themselves heard, who described comfort women as 'prostitutes', who did not need to be compensated in any way.

However, monetary compensation is one of the issues that has mattered least to this country group of women. Their priority first and foremost is to restore their dignity. The fact that the Japanese government has not been directly involved and does not silence opinions such as those of the right-wing minority is probably what affects them the most. Above all, these women are fighting for Tokyo to publicly acknowledge the facts and offer an official apology for what happened.

The UN has continued to take on the role of mediator over the years. We find in several documents belonging to the UNHRC statements urging Japan to solve the problem. In a document reviewing the organization's first demand (February 2, 1996) in the committee Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto responded: "The issue of reparations was resolved through peace treaties and the government will never pay compensation to the victims."

In the document in question, comfort stations are classified as military slavery. Japan responded by denying any subject of legal responsibility, given the inability to apply retroactively the international law of the time, the imprecision of the definition of comfort stations, the non-enforcement of anti-slavery laws during World War II, and the non-prohibition in international law of committing violations in situations of international conflict. In addition, he argued that the laws existing during the war could only be applied to conduct committed by the Japanese military against citizens of a belligerent State, but not against the citizens of Korea, since Korea was annexed and was part of Japanese territory.

In 1998, U.S. lawyer Gay J. McDougall filed a paper with the UNHRC concluding that the actions taken by the Japanese Armed Forces were crimes against humanity. Later that year, the U.N. adopted the text and changed the previous definition to rape stations.

 

Bronze statue of a "comfort woman" in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul [Wikipedia]

 

Understanding That Doesn't Come

Over the years, the problem has only grown, and Japanese policy has moved away from a possible path of improving diplomatic relations with its neighbors. This problem of revising history is the basis of the political movements we have observed in Japan since 1945. Reforms imposed by the U.S. occupation and the Tokyo courts played a major role, as did the Treaty of San Francisco, signed in 1948. All of this has established in the Japanese population a passive acceptance of past history and its responsibilities.

Having been tried in the courts of 1948, the responsibility and guilt of the Japanese was believed to have been absolved. On the other hand, the U.S. occupation of the archipelago, taking military control, affected the pride of the citizens. The transformation of the Economics, politics, defence and, above all, the Education It also had its repercussions. Since Japan's democratic beginnings, politics has focused on passive defense, a Education and foreign relations aligned with the interests of the North American power.

However, following the election of Shinzo Abe, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), as prime minister in 2012, numerous changes have been made to the country's foreign and domestic policy, with reforms ranging from the Economics up to Education and defense. Regarding the latter, Abe has focused mostly on reintroducing military force in Japan through an amendment to the article 9 of the 1945 Constitution. This shift is due to the party's own ideology, which wants to give Japan greater weight in international politics. One of the points core topic in his government is precisely the position in the face of the controversial topic of the comfort women.

In 2015, Shinzo Abe and the President of the Republic of Korea, Park Geun-hye, signed a treaty that set out three objectives to be met: an official apology from Japan, the donation of one billion yen to a South Korean foundation for the benefit of these women, and the removal of the statue in memory of comfort women erected in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul. This treaty was the greatest achievement in the long process of the conflict, and was received as the solution to so many years of dispute. The first two objectives were met, but the controversial statue was not removed from its location. The arrival of President Moon Jae-in in 2017 complicated the full implementation of the agreement. That year, Moon openly criticized the treaty, saying it sidelines the victims and the Korean people in general. His presidency has varied certain strategic approaches to South Korea and it is unknown exactly what he wants to achieve with Japan.

agreement earring

What can be concluded is that delaying the solution is not in the interests of either party. Leaving the issue open is frustrating all the countries involved, especially Japan. An example of this is the recent breakdown of the brotherhood between the cities of San Francisco and Osaka in 2018 due to a statue in the American population depicting the victims of this conflict. In it are three girls, a Chinese girl, a Korean girl and a Filipino girl, holding hands. Osaka Mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura and his predecessor, Toru Hashimoto, had written letters to their sister city since the resolution to build the memorial was drafted. Likewise, within the LDP itself, Yoshitaka Sakurada, described this as 'prostitutes' group women in 2016; shortly after the 2015 treaty on this topic. That has provoked a negative response to the treaty, as it is believed that Japan is not really seeking reconciliation, but rather forgetting the topic without accepting the responsibility that comes with it. 

The problem lies in how these countries deal with controversy. The Republic of Korea, under President Moon, seeks to heal past wounds with new agreements, but Japan only aspires to close the matter as soon as possible. Renegotiating a treaty is not the best option for Japan: even if it sought the best solution for both sides, it would lose out. Should President Moon succeed in reaching a new agreement with Prime Minister Abe to solve the problems of the previous treaty, it would show that previous negotiations and the measures taken by Japan in 2015 have failed.

No matter how many apologies the Government of Japan has issued over the years, it has never accepted legal responsibility for actions in relation to comfort women. As long as this does not happen, future scenarios where the discussion is resolved cannot be projected. President Moon will renegotiate the treaty with Japan, but the chances of it succeeding are slim. All indications are that Japan has no intention of renegotiating the treaty or making it happen. position legally. If they do not reach a solution, relations between the two countries may deteriorate due to the emotional toll of the problem.

The root of the tensions lies in the historical past and its acceptance. Both Moon Jae-in and Shinzo Abe must reevaluate the status with a critical eye in relation to their own countries. Japan must begin to commit to past actions and the Republic of Korea must maintain a steady position and decide what its priorities are with regard to comfort women. Only this can allow them to move forward in the search for the best deal for both.

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

[Josep Piqué. The world that is coming to us. Challenges, Challenges and Expectations of the 21st Century: A Post-Western World with Western Values? Deusto. Barcelona, 2018. 254 pp.]

review / Ignacio Yárnoz

The world that is coming to us. Challenges, Challenges and Expectations of the 21st Century: A Post-Western World with Western Values?

Europe may lose relative economic weight or, worse, demographic weight and competitiveness, putting the sustainability of its welfare state at risk. It may become less and less relevant on the global geopolitical stage and move away from the planet's new center of gravity. However, it remains an indisputable pole of attraction for the rest of humanity due to its peace, democracy, freedom, gender equality and opportunities, tolerance and respect. This is what the author Josep Piqué wants to convey to us in The World That Comes to Us. We are talking about an economist, businessman and political leader – head of several ministries, including Foreign Affairs, during the government of José María Aznar – who has experienced first-hand the transition from a Eurocentric world to one that looks more to a thriving Asia.

The work turns out to be a good geopolitical analysis of the world, in which a fragmented European Union, a very thriving China, a Russia nostalgic for its imperial past, a Middle East divided in wars between irreconcilable factions and an Anglo-Saxon world withdrawn into itself stand out. I divide it into different chapters depending on the area geographically, the book takes an in-depth look at each and every topic.

First of all, the author emphasizes the status that the Anglo-Saxon world is experiencing, especially the United States and the United Kingdom, countries that have renounced their world hegemony for the sake of a retreat into themselves. In the case of the United Kingdom, we talk about the divorce from the European Union, and in the case of the United States, we talk about President Donald Trump's policies, such as the withdrawal of the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) with Japan, Chile, Canada, Australia, Brunei, New Zealand, Mexico, Peru, Malaysia, Vietnam and Singapore. Paradoxically, in the face of the attitude of these two actors, there is the rise as a power of a China that no longer dissembles in its actions, that no longer wants to be that silent power that Deng Xiaoping formulated.

Russia and its actions abroad are also subject to analysis from different perspectives, but mainly in light of Russia's obsession with its security. As the author argues, it is a state that is very sensitive to its borders and tries to keep the enemy poles as far apart as possible, which implies a policy of influence in the states bordering its border. This explains their reactions to the change of sides of the Eastern European countries and their gradual incorporation into the European Union or NATO. Nor can we forget the topic of gas, the implications of the melting of the Arctic, the oil deposits in the Caspian Sea or other issues that the author reviews.

If we look at the picture in the Middle East, the status It does not seem to be reaching a lasting peace. Neither in the panorama of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, nor in the different proxy wars between Iran and Saudi Arabia, not to mention the failure of the different Arab Springs. This status It leads the author to analyze in historical perspective how all this has happened. On the other hand, it analyzes the complexity of the different intersecting interests between Turkey, Syria, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Iran that complete the chessboard represented by the Middle East.

Finally, we must not forget the chapter that Josep Piqué reservation for your thesis at the beginning of this article. article: the future of the European Union. As he himself points out, Europe represents the neo-Western synthesis in a post-Western world. However, you need to realize this potential and benefit from it. As Piqué argues, the attractiveness of the European Union as much as project inclusive as well as the liberal and democratic values it represents must be a card that the EU must play more in its favour. However, it also faces challenges such as the rise of nationalism and anti-Europeanism, Russian interference in internal affairs and the lack of credibility of the European institutions. All of this in the framework of the severe economic recession of 2007, which the author also analyzes as a good economist of degree program. Finally, we must not forget some final notes dedicated to the implications of new technologies, Latin America and the opportunities that Spain has.

All of this together represents a complete journey through the world of geostrategy – in the review of the regions of the planet, only one is missing. accredited specialization to Africa – which details all the keys that a person with an interest in international relations should take into account when analysing current affairs.

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

skill of the two powers to have instructions in the Indian Ocean and to be active in strategic neighboring countries.

Rumors of possible future Chinese military use of area in Gwadar (Pakistan), where Beijing already operates a port, have added a great deal of attention in the last year to the rivalry between China and India to secure access to points in the region that will allow them to control the Indian Ocean. India regards this ocean as its own, while for China it is vital to ensure the security of its energy supplies from the Middle East.

Chinese work to transform Subi Reef in the Spratly Islands into an island in 2015.

▲ China's work to transform Subi Reef in the Spratly Islands into an island in 2015 [US Navy].

article / Jimena Puga

The two major Asia-Pacific powers, China and India, are vying for regional supremacy in the Indian Ocean by establishing military instructions and economic agreements with bordering countries such as Pakistan. The Indian Ocean, which borders Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Australia, is home to one of the most crucial and strategic points for international trade. Nearly 40% of the oil extracted from the sea is produced in the Indian Ocean, which also has rich mineral and fishing deposits.

Five years ago China began its major territorial reclamation in the South China Sea, and the country has established a territorial status quo in its favor without receiving any international impediments, in order to counter the US military presence in the region, established during the Cold War, and which controls the South China Sea and all goods coming from Africa, the Middle East and the Strait of Malacca. This territorial expansion of the Middle Empire began in December 2013; since then China has built more than average dozen more artificial islands, located in a strategic location through which a third of global maritime trade passes, and has deployed military assets on them.

However, the creation of these islands has caused great damage to the region's marine ecosystem. The coral reefs that China has destroyed in order to use them as a base for the establishment of its islands provided food and shelter for numerous marine species, as well as supplies for Asia's most important fishing companies. However, thanks to this territorial expansion China is in a better position not only for maritime and air control of the area but also to continue to advance its strategy of power projection in the Indian Ocean and part of the Pacific to satisfy its plans for power and supremacy in the region.

Neocolonization

In early 2018, some reports suggested that China plans to set up a naval base next to the port it is developing in Gwadar, in Pakistan, although Pakistani authorities deny that Beijing has requested that the facilities be put to that use. In any case, the docking of military vessels at area in Gwadar would connect that point with the country's recent military and naval base built in Djibouti - the first China has abroad - as part of a growing network own of instructions air and naval along the Indian Ocean.

India, the greatest power among regional countries, is responding to Chinese expansion with unexpected strength. Delhi aspires to control the most strategic maritime trade points in the Indian Ocean including the Straits of Malacca and Hormuz and the Mozambique Channel. In addition, India is gaining access to the instructions of its foreign allies in the region. In 2017 it signed a logisticsagreement with the US that would mean free access to US military installations across the region (agreement which perhaps has something to do with the US desire to create an alternative to the Silk Belt and Road Initiative and curb the rapid growth of the Asian superpower).

In January 2018, India also announced the agreement logistical exchange with France involving free access to French military facilities in Djibouti, namely in the Red Sea and on the island of meeting, south of the Indian Ocean (perhaps to counter Sino-European agreements). Finally, India is also building strategic relations and infrastructure near the Persian Gulf. And after years of negotiations, Delhi has managed to formalize a agreement with Iran to modernize and expand the port of Chabahar, near the Strait of Hormuz. While it is true that the vast majority of agreements are commercial in nature, they have enough potential to increase India's access and influence in Central Asia.

In response to Beijing's military base in Djibouti, New Delhi has begun seeking access to new facilities in Seychelles, Oman and Singapore. From Tanzania to Sri Lanka the two Asian powers are attempting to increase their military and economic presence in countries along the Indian Ocean in their mission statement for regional supremacy. Finally, it is possible that India's 2017 request for drones from the US was aimed at goal monitoring Chinese activity in the ocean.

"My Chinese colleagues have explicitly told me that if the U.S. continues to fly over and navigate in what they self-described as 'their waters,' China will shoot down the corresponding intruder," said Matthew Kroenig, a CIA and Pentagon analyst. "Maybe it's just a bluff, but if China were to shoot down an American plane, it would be the perfect scenario for a U.S. military buildup. It's hard to see President Trump or any other American leader turn his back on this issue."

 

PEARL NECKLACE OF CHINA. 1-Hong Kong; 2-Hainan; 3-Paracel Islands (disputed); 4-Spratly Islands (disputed), 5- Sihanoukville and Raum (Cambodia), ports; 6-Itsmo de Kra (Thailand), infrastructure; 7-Cocos Islands (Myanmar), antennas; 8-Sittwe (Myanmar), port; 9-Chittagong (Bangladesh), port; 10-Hambantota (Sri Lanka), port; 11-Marao (Maldives), offshore exploration; 12-Gwadar (Pakistan), port; 13-Port Sudan; 14-Al Ahdab (Iraq), oil exploitation; 15-Lamu (Kenya), port. Chart from 2012; missing to note China's first overseas military base, in Djibouti, inaugurated in 2017 [Edgar Fabiano].

 

Globalization

The moves by both powers stem from the fear that the other countries will join in coalition with their opponent in the future, but they also do not want to completely abandon the expansion of economic relations with each other by altering the regional order too drastically.

This power of the weak has limitations, but it has so far worked to the benefit of both India and China. Due to globalization, particularly in the economic sphere, weaker states have adopted asymmetric strategies to extract resources from their neighboring superpowers that aspire to be leaders on the international stage. Often, these border countries had to choose a superpower to obtain resources, as was the case during the Cold War. The difference in this era of globalization is that these states can extract concessions and resources from both Beijing and Delhi without formally aligning themselves with one of them, as is the case, for example, with Vietnam. The absence of a bloc rivalry, as was the case during the Cold War, and the high levels of economic interdependence between India and China make it easier for many of the smaller states to avoid signing an alliance with one of these leaders.

India's subtle strategy involves developing entente with Japan and the member countries of the association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), as well as with the United States. Specifically, the quadrilateral negotiations initiated between India, Japan, the US and Australia are another stabilizing mechanism vis-à-vis China.

However, the strategies of the smaller states in South Asia have limitations. Although China is offering greater economic attendance , these countries, except Pakistan, are unlikely to form military alliances with China because if they do, it would provoke a negative response from India, the dominant power in the region, and the United States, the international superpower that still has a strong naval presence in the Indian Ocean. We are witnessing a new dynamic of diplomatic relations in the Asia-Pacific region.

This new trend of rapprochement with smaller countries translates into an inclination to use economic appeal to persuade neighbors rather than military coercion. How long this trend will continue remains to be seen. India's new strategies with other international powers may be the key to complicating the freedom of action and decision that China is having in the military realm, especially in this time of peace. What is clear is that China's aspiration for supremacy is visible by all countries that are part of the Asia-Pacific region and will not be as easy to establish as the Empire at the Center thought.

Categories Global Affairs: Asia Security & Defence World Order, Diplomacy & Governance Articles