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Qatar's economic strengthening and expanding relations with Russia, China and Turkey have made the blockade imposed by its Gulf neighbours less effective.

It is a reality: Qatar has won its battle against the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia after more than three years of diplomatic rupture in which both countries, along with other Arab neighbours, isolated the Qatari peninsula commercially and territorially. Economic and geopolitical reasons explain why the imposed blockade has finally faded without Qatar giving in to its autonomous diplomatic line.

Qatar's Emir Tamim Al Thani at lecture Munich Security 2018 [Kuhlmann/MSC].

article / Sebastián Bruzzone

In June 2017, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Libya, Yemen and the Maldives accused the Al Thani family of supporting Islamic terrorism and the Muslim Brotherhood and initiated a total blockade on trade to and from Qatar until Doha met thirteen conditions. On 5 January 2021, however, Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman welcomed Qatar's Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani with an unexpected embrace in the Saudi city of Al-Ula, sealing the end of yet another dark chapter in the modern history of the Persian Gulf. But how many of the thirteen demands has Qatar met to reconcile with its neighbours? None.

As if nothing had happened. Tamim Al Thani arrived in Saudi Arabia to participate in the 41st Summit of the committee Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) where member states pledged to make efforts to promote solidarity, stability and multilateralism in the face of the challenges in the region, which is confronted by Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programme, as well as its plans for sabotage and destruction. In addition, the GCC as a whole welcomed the mediating role of Kuwait, then US President Donald J. Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

The Gulf Arab leaders' meeting has been a thaw in the political desert after a storm of mutual accusations and instability in what was called the "Qatar diplomatic crisis"; this rapprochement, as an immediate effect, clears the way for the normal preparation of the football World Cup scheduled to take place in Qatar next year. The return of regional and diplomatic understanding is always positive in emergency situations such as an economic crisis, a global pandemic or a common Shia enemy arming missiles on the other side of the sea. In any case, the Al Thani's Qatar may be crowned as the winner of the economic pulse against the Emirati Al Nahyan and the Saudi Al Saud unable to suffocate the tiny peninsula.

The factors

The relevant question brings us back to the initial degree scroll before these lines: how has Qatar managed to withstand the pressure without buckling at all in the face of the thirteen conditions demanded in 2017? Several factors contribute to explaining this.

First, the capital injection by the QIA (Qatar Investment Authority). At the beginning of the blockade, the banking system suffered a capital flight of more than 30 billion dollars and foreign investment fell sharply. The Qatari sovereign wealth fund responded by pumping in $38.5 billion to provide liquidity to banks and revive Economics. The sudden trade blockade by the UAE and Saudi Arabia led to a financial panic that prompted foreign investors, and even Qatari residents, to transfer their assets out of the country and liquidate their positions in fear of a market collapse.

Second, rapprochement with Turkey. In 2018, Qatar came to Turkey's rescue by pledging to invest $15 billion in Turkish assets across subject and, in 2020, to execute a currency swap agreement to raise the value of the Turkish lira. In reciprocity, Turkey increased commodity exports to Qatar by 29 per cent and increased its military presence in the Qatari peninsula against a possible invasion or attack by its neighbours, building a second Turkish military base near Doha. In addition, as an internal reinforcement measure, the Qatari government has invested more than $30 billion in military equipment, artillery, submarines and aircraft from American companies.

Third, rapprochement with Iran. Qatar shares with the Persian country the South Pars North Dome gas field, considered the largest in the world, and positioned itself as a mediator between the Trump administration and the Ayatollah government. Since 2017, Iran has supplied 100,000 tonnes of food daily to Doha in the face of a potential food crisis caused by the blockade of the only land border with Saudi Arabia through which 40 per cent of the food enters.

Fourth, rapprochement with Russia and China. The Qatari sovereign wealth fund acquired a 19% stake in Rosneft, opening the door to partnership between the Russian oil company and Qatar Petroleum and to more joint ventures between the two nations. In the same vein, Qatar Airways increased its stake in China Southern Airlines to 5%.

Fifth, its reinforcement as the world's leading exporter of LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas). It is important to know that Qatar's main economic engine is gas, not oil. That is why, in 2020, the Qatari government launched its expansion plan by approving a $50 billion investment to expand its liquefaction and LNG carrier capacity, and a $29 billion investment to build more offshore offshore platforms at North Dome. The Qatari government has forecast that its LNG production will grow by 40% by 2027, from 77 million tonnes to 110 million tonnes per year.

We should bear in mind that LNG transport is much safer, cleaner, greener and cheaper than oil transport. Moreover, Royal Dutch Shell predicted in its report "Annual LNG Outlook Report 2019" that global LNG demand would double by 2040. If this forecast is confirmed, Qatar would be on the threshold of impressive economic growth in the coming decades. It is therefore in its best interest to keep its public coffers solvent and maintain a stable political climate in the Middle East region at status . As if that were not enough, last November 2020, Tamim Al Thani announced that future state budgets will be configured on the basis of a fictitious price of $40 per barrel, a much smaller value than the WTI Oil Barrel or Brent Oil Barrel, which is around $60-70. In other words, the Qatari government will index its public expense to the volatility of hydrocarbon prices. In other words, Qatar is seeking to anticipate a possible collapse in the price of crude oil by promoting an efficient public expense policy.

And sixth, the maintenance of the Qatar Investment Authority's investment portfolio , valued at $300 billion. The assets of the Qatari sovereign wealth fund constitute a life insurance policy for the country, which can order its liquidation in situations of extreme need.

Qatar has a very important role to play in the future of the Persian Gulf. The Al Thani dynasty has demonstrated its capacity for political and economic management and, above all, its great foresight for the future vis-à-vis the other countries of the Gulf Cooperation committee . The small peninsular "pearl" has struck a blow against Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, who did not even show up in Al-Ula. This geopolitical move, plus the Biden administration's decision to maintain a hardline policy towards Iran, seems to guarantee the international isolation of the Ayatollah regime from the Persian country.

Categories Global Affairs: Middle East World order, diplomacy and governance Articles

Several countries in the Americas are celebrating in 2021 their two hundredth anniversary of a break with Spain that did not always mean independence.ca celebrate in 2021 their two centuries of a break with Spain that did not always mean independence. final

This year, several American nations are commemorating two centuries of their separation from Spain, recalling a process that took place in all the Spanish possessions in continental America within a few years of each other. In some cases, it was a process of successive independence, as was the case with Guatemala, which later belonged to the Mexican Empire and then to a Central American republic, and Panama, which was part of Colombia until the 20th century. But even later, both countries experienced direct interference by the United States, in episodes that were very decisive for the region as a whole.

Ceremony of submission of the Panama Canal to the Panamanian authorities, 31 December 1999

article / Angie Grijalva

During 2021 several American countries celebrate their independence from Spain, the largest and most festively celebrated being Mexico. In other nations, the date of 1821 is qualified by later historical developments: Panama also commemorates every year the day in 1903 when it broke with Bogotá, while in the case of Guatemala that independence did not immediately imply a republic of its own, since together with its neighbouring nations in 1822 it was nominally dependent on Mexico and between 1823 and 1839 it formed part of the United Provinces of Central America and the Federal Republic of Central America. Moreover, US regional hegemony called into question the full sovereignty of these countries in subsequent decades: Guatemala suffered the first coup d'état openly promoted by Washington in the Western Hemisphere in 1954, and Panama did not have full control over its entire territory until the Americans handed over the canal in 1999.

Panama and its canal

The project of the Panama Canal was important for the United States because it made it possible to easily link its two coasts by sea and consolidated the global rise sought by Theodore Roosevelt's presidency, guided by the maxim that only the nation that controlled both oceans would be a truly international power. Given the refusal of Colombia, to which the province of Panama then belonged, to accept the conditions set by the United States to build the canal, resuming the work on the paralysed French project , Washington was faced with two options: invade the isthmus or promote Panama's independence from Colombia[1]. The Republic of Panama declared its independence on 3 November 1903 and with it Roosevelt negotiated a very favourable agreement which gave the United States perpetual sovereignty over the canal and a wide strip of land on either side of it. Washington thus gained control of Panama and extended its regional dominance.

After a decade of difficult work and a high issue death toll among the workforce, who came from all over the Caribbean and also from Asia, not least due to dengue fever, malaria and yellow fever, in 1913 the Atlantic and Pacific oceans were finally connected and the canal was opened to ship traffic.

Over time, US sovereignty over a portion of the country and the instructions military installations there fuelled a rejection movement in Panama that became particularly virulent in the 1960s. The Carter Administration agreed to negotiate the cession of the canal in a 1977 agreement that incorporated the Panamanians into the management of inter-oceanic traffic and set the submission of all installations for 1999. When this finally happened, the country experienced the occasion as a new independence celebration, saying goodbye to US troops that only ten years earlier had been very active, invading Panama City and other areas to arrest President Manuel Noriega for drug trafficking.

Critical moment in Guatemala

The Panama Canal gave the United States an undoubted projection of power over its hemisphere. However, during the Cold War, Washington also found it necessary to use operations, in some cases direct, to overthrow governments it considered close to communism. This happened with the overthrow of Jacobo Árbenz in Guatemala in 1954.

The arrival of Árbenz to the presidency in 1951 was a threat to the United Fruit Company (UFCO) because of the agrarian reform he was promoting[2]. Although the advance of communist parties in Latin America was beginning to grow, the real threat in certain countries was the expropriation of land from US monopolies. It is estimated that by 1950, the UFCO owned at least 225,000 hectares of land in Guatemala, of which the agrarian reform was to expropriate 162,000 hectares in 1952. With political support from Washington, UFCO claimed that the compensation it was being offered did not correspond to the true value of the land and branded the Árbenz government as communist, even though this was not true.

In 1953, the newly inaugurated Eisenhower Administration established a plan to destabilise the government and stage a coup against Árbenz. On the one hand, Secretary of State John F. Dulles sought the support of the Organisation of American States, prompting condemnation of Guatemala for receiving a shipment of arms from the Soviet Union, which had been acquired because of the US refusal to sell arms to the Central American country. On the other hand, the CIA launched the mission statement PBSUCCESS to guarantee the quartermastering of a faction of the Guatemalan army ready to rebel against Árbenz. The movement was led by Colonel Castillo Armas, who was in exile in Honduras and from there launched the invasion on 18 June 1954. When the capital was bombed, the bulk of the army refused to respond, leaving Árbenz alone, who resigned within days.

Once in power, Castillo Armas returned the expropriated land to UFCO and brought new US investors into the country. Dulles called this victory "the greatest triumph against communism in the last five years". The overthrow of Árbenz was seen by the US as a model for further operations in Latin America. development The award Nobel Literature Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa has pointed out that this action against Árbenz could be seen as "the moment when Latin America was screwed", as for many it was evidence that a normal democracy was not possible, and this pushed certain sectors to defend revolution as the only way to make their societies prosper.

[1] McCullough, D. (2001). The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914. Simon & Schuster.

[2] G. Rabe, S. (2017). Intervention in Guatemala, 1953-1954. In S. G. Rabe, Eisenhower and Latin America: The Foreign Policy of Anticommunism. The University of North Carolina Press.

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

A last-minute minimum agreement avoids the chaos of a no-deal Brexit agreement, but further negotiations will have to take place over the next few years.

Fragment of Brexit mural [Pixabay].

ANALYSIS / Pablo Gurbindo

After the United Kingdom officially left the European Union on 31 January 2020 at midnight, with the agreement Withdrawal entrance in force, it seemed that the issue that has practically monopolised the discussion in Brussels in recent years had been settled. But nothing could be further from the truth. The "political Brexit" had been resolved, but the "economic Brexit" still had to be resolved.

To avoid chaos, agreement provided for a transition period of 11 months, until 31 December 2020. During this period the UK, despite being outside the EU, was to continue to be subject to European legislation and the Court of Justice of the EU as before, but without having a voice and a vote in the EU. The goal of this transition was to give both sides time to reach a agreement to define the future relationship. All parties knew that 11 months would not be enough time. Only a new trade agreement takes years to negotiate, the agreement with Canada took 7 years, for example. For this, the transition period included a possible extension before 30 June, but Johnson did not want to ask for it, and promised his citizens to have a trade agreement by 1 January 2021.

With the fear of a possible no-deal Brexit agreement, and the serious consequences it would have for the economies and citizens on both sides, agreement was finally reached on 24 December, just one week before the end of the transition period.

This agreement entered into force on 1 January 2021 provisional, as there was not enough time for it to enter into force within a week C. The question now is: what does this agreement consist of, what have been the sticking points, and what have been the first tangible consequences during these first months?

The agreement for Trade and Cooperation (TCC)

What needs to be made clear from the outset is that this is a minimum agreement . It is a hard Brexit. Brexit has been avoided without agreement which would have been catastrophic, but it is still a hard Brexit.

The PCA between the UK and the EU comprises a free trade agreement , a close association on subject on citizen security and a general framework on governance.

The most important points of agreement are the following:

Trade in goods

The PCA is very ambitious in this respect, as it establishes free trade between the two parties without any subject tariffs or quotas on any product. If there had been no agreement in this sense, their trade relationship would have been governed by World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, with their corresponding quotas and tariffs. However, there is a catch to this free trade. This absence of any subject tariff or quota is only for "British originating" products, and this is where the complexity lies.

The rules of origin are detailed in the PCA, and although as a general rule the agreement is generous in qualifying a product as "British", there are certain sectors where this certification will be more demanding. For example, for an electric vehicle produced in the UK and exported to the EU to avoid tariffs, at least 45% of its added value must be British or European and its battery must be entirely British or European. From now on, proving the origin of each shipment in certain sectors is going to become a bureaucratic hell that did not exist before 31 December. And the re-export of unprocessed foreign goods from British soil to Europe will now be subject to a double tariff: one from entrance to the UK and another from entrance to the EU.

However, even if there is no subject tariff or quota on products, the usual trade flow will not be maintained. For example, in the area of trade in agri-food products, the absence of agreement in the UK's sanitary and phytosanitary regime means that from now on, trade in these products will require sanitary certificates that were not previously required. This increase in "red tape" may have important consequences for products that are more easily substitutable, as importers of these products will prefer to avoid this extra bureaucracy by switching from British to European suppliers.

Financial services

On subject services agreement is rather poor, but the lack of agreement for financial services, a very important sector for the UK, which alone generates 21% of UK services exports, is notable.

While the UK was part of the Union, its financial institutions could operate freely throughout the EU thanks to the "financial passport", as all Member States have agreed similar market regulation and supervision rules. But this no longer applies to the UK.

The UK government unilaterally decided to maintain easy access to its markets for EU entities, but the EU has not reciprocated.

In the absence of agreements at subject financial, the European rules and regulations referring to third country entities, as a general rule, simply makes it easier for these entities to establish themselves in the Union in order to be able to operate in its markets.

One of the EU's objectives with this lack of reciprocity may have been the desire to wrest part of its capital from the City of London, Europe's leading financial place .

Citizens

Most of this section was resolved with the agreement Withdrawal, which guaranteed for life the maintenance of acquired rights (residency program, work...) for European citizens who were already on British soil, or British citizens who were on European soil.

In the PCA it has been agreed to abolish the need for apply for visa bilaterally for tourist stays not exceeding 3 months. For these cases it will now be necessary to carry a passport, a national identity card will not suffice. For longer stays, however, visas will be required from residency program or work.

As for the recognition of professional and university degrees and qualifications, despite the UK's interest in maintaining them automatically as they have been until now, the EU has not allowed this. This could mean, for example, that qualified professionals such as lawyers or nurses would find it more difficult to have their degree scroll recognised and be able to work.

data protection and security cooperation

The agreement will allow police and legal cooperation to continue, but not with the same intensity as before. The UK will no longer be part of the instructions of data on these matters. Exchanges of information will only be made at written request either by requesting information or by sending information on its own initiative.

British relations with Europol (European Police Office) or Eurojust (European Agency for Judicial Cooperation) will be maintained, but as an external partnership .

Participation in Union programmes

The UK will continue to be part of a number of Community programmes such as: Horizon, the main European scientific cooperation programme; Euratom, through a cooperationagreement external to the PCA; ITER, an international programme for the study of fusion energy; Copernicus, a programme led by the European Space Agency for the development autonomous and continuous Earth observation capability; and SST (Space Surveillance and Tracking) a European programme for tracking space objects for collision avoidance.

But on the other hand the UK will not continue in other programmes, notably the important Erasmus student exchange programme. Johnson has already announced the creation of a national student exchange programme named after the British mathematician Alan Turing, who cracked the Enigma code during World War II.

Negotiation sticking points

There have been certain points that, due to their complexity or symbolism, have been the main points of friction between the Union and the United Kingdom. They have even jeopardised the success of the negotiations. The three main sticking points for the negotiations have been: fisheries, the level-playing field and governance.

Fishing

The disproportionate importance of fisheries in the negotiations is surprising, given that it represents only 0.1% of British GDP, and is not an essential sector for the EU either. Its importance lies in its symbolic value, and the importance given to it by Brexit supporters as an example of regaining lost sovereignty. It should also be borne in mind that it is one of the points on which the UK had the upper hand in the negotiations. British waters are home to some of Europe's main fishing grounds, which have accounted for 15% of total European fishing. Of these fisheries, 57% were taken by the EU-27, with the remaining 43% taken by British fishermen. This percentage greatly infuriated the British fishing sector, which was one of the main sectors that supported Brexit.

The UK's intention was to negotiate annual access quotas to its waters, following Norway's example with the EU. But in the end a 25% cut in catches has been agreed on a progressive basis, but maintaining access to British waters. This agreement will be in force for the next five and a half years, after which new negotiations will be necessary and then on an annual basis. In return, the EU has retained the possibility of trade retaliation in the event that European fishermen are denied access to British waters.

"Level-playing field

The topic of the unfair skill was one of the issues of greatest concern in Brussels. Given that from now on the British do not have to follow European legislation, there was concern that, just a few miles from the Union, a country of the size and weight of the United Kingdom would considerably reduce its labour, environmental, tax and public aid standards. This could result in many European companies deciding to relocate to the UK because of these lower standards.

The agreement establishes a monitoring and retaliation mechanism in cases of discrepancies if one of the parties feels aggrieved. If there is a dispute, depending on the case, it will be submitted to a panel of experts, or it will be submitted to arbitration. For the EU, a system where tariff compensation would have been automatic and if not interpreted by the CJEU would have been preferable. But for the UK one of its main negotiating objectives was not to be under the jurisdiction of the CJEU in any way.

Governance

The design governance of agreement is complex. It is chaired by the committee of association Joint which will ensure that the PCA is correctly implemented and interpreted, and where all issues that may arise will be discussed. This committee will be assisted by more than thirty specialised committees and technical groups.

If a dispute arises, it will be referred to this committee of association Joint. If a solution is not reached by mutual agreement agreement , then an external arbitration will be used, the decision of which is binding. In case of non-compliance, the aggrieved party is entitled to retaliate.

This instrument allows the EU to cover its back against the risk of the UK breaching part of the agreement. This risk gained momentum during the negotiations, when Johnson presented the Internal Market Act to the UK Parliament, which aimed to prevent any internal UK customs subject . This Act would go against the "Irish safeguard" agreed by Johnson himself and the EU. This bill would go against the "Irish safeguard" agreed by Johnson himself and the EU in the agreement Withdrawal, and would go against international law as a clear contravention of the "pacta sunt servanda" principle. In the end this law was not passed, but it created great tension between the EU and the UK, in the UK's civil service examination to Johnson and even within its own ranks by calling the country's international credibility into question.

Consequences

During the first few months of the PCA's entry into force, entrance , several important consequences have already become apparent.

The UK's controversial withdrawal from the Erasmus programme has already been felt. According to UK universities, applications for programs of study from EU citizens have fallen by 40%. The pandemic has played a role in this significant reduction, but it should also be noted that fees university applications in the UK after the exit of the programme have increased by a factor of four.

In terms of financial services, the City of London has already lost degree scroll as Europe's leading financial centre to Amsterdam in the first few months of the year. Daily equity trading in Amsterdam in January amounted to 9.2 billion euros, higher than the 8.6 billion euros managed by the City. London's average last year was 17.5 billion euros, well ahead of Europe's second largest place , Frankfurt, with average of 5.9 billion euros. Last year, Amsterdam's trading figure average was €2.6 billion, making it the sixth largest European financial place . The EU's lack of reciprocity in financial services has been able to fulfil its goal for the time being.

One of the most curious anecdotes demonstrating the changes that Brexit has brought about during these first months was the viral video of Dutch customs authorities confiscating ham sandwiches from transporters arriving by ferry from the UK to the Netherlands. With the PCA in force, entrance , animal products are not allowed to be exported without the corresponding health certificates.

Despite the absence of tariffs and quotas, the increased bureaucracy was expected to affect the trade exchange and it has. According to data from the UK Road Transport association , UK exports to the EU via the ports fell by 68% in January compared to the same month last year.

It seemed that the British fishing sectors could be among the main beneficiaries of agreement, but after these first few months British fishermen are not satisfied. New bureaucratic requirements are slowing down deliveries and some fishermen are complaining that their catches are going to waste because they cannot be delivered on time to certain European markets. According to Scottish fishermen's representatives, delays due to red tape are causing the industry to lose £1 million a day. It should be borne in mind that UK fish exports to the EU accounted for 67% of the total in 2019. In response to complaints from the sector, the British government has already announced a £23 million financial aid .

Conclusion

The agreement reached is undoubtedly a better result than no agreement, but it is an incomplete agreement , and further negotiations will be necessary. The future of the PCA will depend on the change of position of the UK, which during the negotiation has prioritised regulatory autonomy and regaining its "lost sovereignty". The agreement is also fragile as it allows either side to terminate the negotiated relationship if 12 months' notice is given.

The European Union and the United Kingdom are doomed to understand each other. The EU will have to learn to live with a neighbour with a lot of power and influence, and the UK will have to learn to live in the sphere of influence of the 27.

But, when the time comes, the UK will always have the option of the article 49 of the EU Treaty, which regulates the accession of new countries to the Union.

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

The nascent English kingdom consolidated its power across the English Channel at civil service examination , giving rise to a particularism that is particularly vivid today.

With no turning back now that Brexit has been consummated, Britain is seeking to establish a new relationship with its European neighbours. Its departure has not been supported by any other country, which means that London has to come to terms with a European Union that remains a bloc. Despite the drama with which many Europeans have greeted Britain's farewell, this is yet another chapter in the complex relationship that a large island has with the continent to which it is close. Island and continent remain where geography has placed them - at a distance of particular value - and are likely to reproduce vicissitudes already seen throughout their mutual history.

Fragment of the Bayeux tapestry, illustrating the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

article / María José Beltramo

The result of the 2016 referendum on Brexit may have come as a surprise, as the abrupt manner in which the UK finally and effectively left the European Union on 31 December 2020 has undoubtedly come as a surprise. However, what we have seen is not so alien to the history of the British relationship with the rest of Europe. If we go back centuries, we can see a geopolitical patron saint that has been repeated on other occasions, and also today, without having to speak of determinism.

Although it is worth mentioning some previous moments in the relationship of insular Britain with the continent next to it, such as the period of Romanisation, the gestation of the patron saint which at the same time combines linkage and distancing, or even rejection, can perhaps be placed at the beginning of the second millennium, when the Norman invasions across the English Channel consolidated the nascent kingdom of England precisely against the power of the other side of the Channel.

England in Norman times

Normandy became a political entity in northern France when in 911, following Viking invasions, the Norman chief Rolon reached an agreement with the Frankish king, agreement , guaranteeing him the territory in exchange for its defence[1]. 1] Normandy became a duchy and gradually adopted the Frankish feudal system, facilitating the gradual integration of the two peoples. This intense relationship would eventually lead to the full incorporation of Normandy into the kingdom of France in 1204.

Before the gradual Norman dissolution, however, the Scandinavian people settled in that part of northern France carried their particular character and organisational capacity, which ensured their independence for several centuries, across the English Channel.

The Norman-English relationship began in 1066 with the Battle of Hastings, in an invasion that led to the Duke of Normandy, William the Conqueror, being crowned King of England in London. The arrival of the Normans had a number of consequences. Politically, they brought the islands into the European relations of the time and brought English feudalism into line with Norman feudalism, a mixture that would lay the foundations for future English parliamentarianism instructions . In terms of Economics, the Normans demonstrated their Scandinavian organisational skills in the reorganisation of productive activities. In their different conquests, the Normans knew how to take the best of each system and adapt it to their culture and needs, and this was the case in England, where they developed a particular idiosyncrasy.

With this takeover of contact with the continent, England began to consolidate as a monarchy, while retaining its links with the Duchy of Normandy. However, with its strengthening after the fall of the Plantagenets in France, England gained the momentum it lacked to finally become an independent kingdom, completely separate from the continent, detached from a Normandy whose lineage was weak and in a critical state. Indeed, the Kingdom of France's absorption of the Norman duchy facilitated the development and consolidation of the English monarchy as an independent and strong entity[2].

The separation from the European continent brings us back to Ortega y Gasset's analysis of European decadence and the moral crisis it is going through[3]. The continental powers, being in a status of geographical continuity, and therefore in greater contact, are more likely to spread their status among themselves and to be dominated by another major power. England, having broken the bridge of feudal ties that connected it with the rest of Europe, finds no difficulty in distancing itself when it sees fit, always in its own interests, something we see repeated several times throughout its history. This is particularly evident in the vicissitudes that punctuate the UK's relationship with the continent throughout the final decades of the second millennium.

The English status since 1945

The Second World War greatly weakened the UK, not only economically but also as an empire. In the process of decolonisation that followed, London lost possessions in Asia and Africa, and the Suez Canal conflict confirmed its decline as a major player to its successor as the world's leading power, the United States. The post-war confrontation with the Soviet Union and the US presence in Europe meant that the transatlantic relationship was no longer based on Washington's preferential link with Britain, so the role of the British also declined[4].

In 1957 France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg created the European Economic Community (EEC). The Conservative Harold MacMillan, British Prime Minister from 1957 to 1963, refused to include the United Kingdom in the initiative, but aware of the need to revitalise the British Economics and "the difficulty of maintaining a policy that was alien to European interests", he promoted the creation of the EFTA (European Free Trade Association) in 1959, together with Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Switzerland, Austria and Portugal.

The Common Market proved to be a success and in 1963 the UK considered joining, but was blocked by de Gaulle's France. In 1966 the British again submitted a proposal application, but it was again rejected by de Gaulle. The French general's conception of Europe did not include the Atlantic bloc; he still envisaged building Europe on a Franco-German axis.

The 1970s saw a directional shift in European politics. The British Conservatives won the 1970 elections and in 1973 Britain joined the EEC. The international economic crisis, which was particularly difficult in the UK, led Labour, back in power, to propose a review of the terms of membership and Premier Harold Wilson called a referendum in 1975: 17 million Britons wanted to remain (67% of voters) compared with only 8 million who called for a first Brexit.

However, when the European Monetary System (EMS) was launched in 1979 to equalise currencies and achieve "economic convergence", the UK decided not to join this voluntary agreement . Europe was experiencing a gradual economic boom, but the UK's Economics was not keeping pace, which partly led to the early elections of 1979. These were won by the Conservatives with Margaret Thatcher, who remained in Downing Street until 1990. The Thatcher revolution "marked the way out of the crisis of the 1970s". In 1984, London reduced its contribution to EU funds and Thatcher, very reluctant to accept EU budgets and other procedures that reduced national sovereignty, again called for a review of the agreements.

In 1985 the Schengen Agreements were signed (the opening of borders between certain countries creating a kind of much wider second border), which came into force ten years later. Again, the UK stayed out of it. As was also the case in relation to the euro, when the single currency came into effect in 2002, maintaining the pound sterling to this day.

Immigration from Central and Eastern European countries following the 2004 EU enlargement, accepted by Labour's Tony Blair, and the acceleration of financial harmonisation mechanisms in the wake of the 2008-2011 crisis, met with displeasure by the Conservative David Cameron, provided arguments for the anti-EU speech in the United Kingdom. This led to the rise of the anti-European UKIP and the subsequent adoption of its positions by broad Tory sectors, eventually amalgamated by the controversial personality of Boris Johnson.

In an interview with the BBC in 2016, Johnson referred to many of the arguments used in favour of Brexit, such as the UK's dialectical vision of its relationship with the continent or the fear of losing sovereignty and the dissolution of its own profile into the European magma. The premier returned to these ideas in his message to the British people as the country prepared to begin its final year in the EU. His words were in some ways an echo of a centuries-old tug-of-war.

Repeating patterns

As we have seen, England has always maintained its own rhythm. Its geographical separation from the continent - far enough away to be able to preserve a particular dynamic, but also close enough to fear a threat, which was sometimes effective - determined the distinctly insular identity of the British and their attitude towards the rest of Europe.

We are dealing with a power that throughout history has always sought to maintain its national sovereignty at all costs and whose geopolitical imperative has been to prevent the continent from being dominated by a rival great power (the perception, during the 2008 crisis management , that Germany was once again exercising a certain hegemony in Europe could have fuelled the Brexit).

Perhaps in the medieval period, we cannot link this to a thought-out political strategy, but we do see how unintentionally and circumstantially, from the outset, certain conditions are in place that favour the distancing of the island from the mainland, although without radically losing contact . In more recent history we observe this same distant attitude, this time premeditated, in pursuit of interests focused on the search for economic prosperity and the maintenance of both its global influence and its national sovereignty.

[1] Charles Haskins, The Normans in European History (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1915).

[2] Yves Lacoste, Géopolitique : La longue histoire d'aujourd'hui (Paris: Larousse, 2006).

[3] José Ortega y Gasset, La rebelión de las masas (Madrid: Alianza publishing house, 1983). 

[4] José Ramón Díez Espinosa et al., Historia del mundo actual (desde 1945 hasta nuestros días), (Valladolid: Universidad de Valladolid, 1996).

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

Attempt by both to reposition France at the geostrategic centre of Europe, with civil service examination from Germany.

Napoleon Bonaparte's nephew and the current president of the French Republic are not entirely parallel lives, but there are some suggestive similarities between the two. It is often said that French presidents revive some of the longed-for packaging of the decapitated monarchy; in Macron's case there is probably a lot of that, but also the assumption of geopolitical imperatives already evident in the Second Empire.

Napoleon III in uniform in an 1850 portrait, and Macron in his New Year's Eve 2019 televised message.

article / José Manuel Fábregas

Emmanuel Macron's decision to hold the G7 summit in the French Basque town of Biarritz in August 2019 brought about a symbolic rapprochement with the figure of Napoleon III. The emperor, and nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, transformed the former fishing village into a cosmopolitan holiday resort where European aristocrats and members of the international political elite gathered. Macron, for his part, has put Biarritz back on the stage of the world's major political discussions.

Thus two personalities come together who, with the attraction of having been the youngest heads of state in the country, share two fundamental aspects in their understanding of French politics. First, the influence that their childhood has had on both of them in developing a personalist way of understanding the head of state. And second, how both have tried to reposition France at the geostrategic centre of Europe and have been blocked by Germany. 

What is the role of the head of state?

Born fifth in the order of Napoleon I's succession, the young Louis Napoleon Bonaparte never foresaw that he would become heir to the imperial house in 1832. According to his biographer Paul Guériot, his mother, Hortense de Beauharnais, instilled in him from an early age the idea that he was destined to rebuild the now-defunct Napoleonic Empire. His mother's insistence that he had a perfect intellectual and military training transformed Louis Napoleon - who received Education from the Jacobin, and follower of Robespierre, Philippe Le Bas - into a solitary, shy and megalomaniacal person obsessed with restoring Napoleonic France[1].

The revolution of February 1848, according to Jacob Talmon, was inevitable "although it was, nevertheless, an accident"[2]. The Israeli historian explains that the uprisings in various parts of Europe were a direct reaction to the territorial reordering of the Vienna congress (1815). In this context of discontent or disillusionment with the Restoration system, the figure of Louis Napoleon Bonaparte may have benefited from the image of a romantic revolutionary assigned to him by the newspapers and opinion writings of the time. After failed coup attempts in Strasbourg (1836) and Bologna (1840), the future emperor spent a brief period in prison. This was a determining factor in the construction of the romantic hero character that aroused such admiration in a society that loved the novels of Alexandre Dumas[3]. The exploitation of this personality by means of a huge propaganda apparatus enabled him to win the elections of December 1848 by a landslide. Thus, it could also be said that the establishment of the Second Empire - ratified by a popular plebiscite in November 1852 - was the next step in his main political project : the revival of Napoleonic France.

For his part, the current president of the French Republic also experienced an overprotective childhood that forged, like the last emperor of France, a solitary personality and an individualistic way of understanding politics. Anne Fulda stresses in her biography of Emmanuel Macron that, being born a year after the death of his older sister and after a complicated birth, his birth was considered a miracle. This may have fostered, along with a competitive Education in which he excelled as a 'child prodigy', his self-conviction that he was destined to rule the country[4]. However, his election as head of state was not the fruit of a long-term strategy deadline, but rather, like Louis Napoleon's, a tactical move. Macron's image of renewal was cleverly exploited in an election in which he faced rivals with certain communicative weaknesses, such as those with a low profile like François Fillon (Republican) and Benoît Hamon (Socialist), or others with more extremist tones like Marine Le Pen (National Front) and Jean-Luc Mélenchon (Unsubmissive France).

In 2015, while still minister of Economics, Emmanuel Macron made an interesting reflection for the weekly Le 1 on the role of the president in France. He understood that French citizens felt a lack after the fall of the monarchy, which they had tried to fill by strengthening the figure of the president. This excessive weight of personalism in Macron's understanding of politics has also been demonstrated recently in the replacement of Édouard Philippe as prime minister. Because the latter's popularity had grown over the last year as he had shown himself to be more charismatic and calm in contrast to the president's overacting and abusive protagonism, Macron chose Jean Castex as his replacement, with a more technocratic profile that does not overshadow the president in the face of his re-election.

What role France should play in Europe

This firm commitment by both leaders to give greater importance and visibility to the position head of state transcends the borders of France. Napoleon III and Emmanuel Macron also share the desire to place France at the centre of the European balance.

Having won the elections with a speech against the order inherited from the congress of Vienna, Napoleon III had his own European project based on the free integration or separation of the different national identities of the old continent. A clear example of this was the Crimean War (1854-1856). Fearing that the declining Ottoman Empire would end up as a vassal of Russia, the emperor defended, together with the United Kingdom and the Kingdom of Sardinia, its independence from the Ottomans in a conflict that would temporarily separate Russia from the other Western powers[5]. 5] The Treaty of Paris (1856) would not only end the war, but also motivate Napoleon III to initiate an interventionist policy in Europe.

Napoleon III's imperial dream forced him to develop an active foreign policy focused on expanding France's borders and reordering the continent with two main values in mind: nationalism and liberalism. However, Henry Kissinger rightly remarks that his diplomatic work was so confused that "France got nothing"[6]. By supporting the unification of Italy at the cost of the Austrian Empire's loss of territory, Napoleon unwittingly favoured the creation of Germany. These events severely weakened France's geostrategic influence in the new European order to which he aspired. In contrast, it was Bismarck's clever diplomatic tactics that would really put an end to the Vienna system, hastening the fall of the Second French Empire at the Battle of Sedan (1870).

Alongside this, Emmanuel Macron is presenting himself as the saviour of the European Union in a context marked by the rise of populist and Eurosceptic movements. However, his ambitious reform projects have met with Angela Merkel's reluctance.

In a recent interview for The Economist, Emmanuel Macron said that NATO was "brain-dead" and that Europe was "on the edge of a precipice" because of its dependence on the United States and lack of independence in terms of defence. Macron opted for greater EU integration in the strategic field, going so far as to propose a single pan-European army. In response, German Chancellor Angela Merkel objec ted that Europe does not currently have the capacity to defend itself and is therefore dependent on the Atlantic Alliance. In addition, Macron has also challenged the apparent agreement among EU member states over membership and the relationship with Russia. The French president's veto of Albania and North Macedonia's possible membership, on the grounds that they did not comply with EU corruption clauses, has even been described as a 'historic mistake', leaving the future of the Balkan countries at the mercy of Russia and China. This position is not shared by Russia, with which he is willing to ease diplomatic relations and even suggests further integration of the country into Europe.

On final, Emmanuel Macron and Napoleon III share an excessively egocentric vision. The overexposure of certain personal characteristics in matters of state and the excessive claim to leadership in Europe are two aspects common to these two young leaders. While historiography has already judged the mistakes that precipitated Louis Napoleon into exile, it remains to be seen whether or not Macron is doomed to repeat the history of his predecessor.

 

[1] Guériot, P. (1944). Napoleon III. Madrid: Ediciones Técnicas.

[2] Talmón, J.L. (1960). Political messianism. La etapa romántica. Mexico City: Ed. Aguilar.

[3] Guériot, P. (1944). Napoleon III. Madrid: Ediciones Técnicas.

[4] Fulda, A. (2017). Emmanuel Macron, the president who has surprised Europe. Madrid: Ediciones Península.

[5] Milza, P. (2004). Napoleon III. Paris: Éditions Perrin.

[6] Kissinger, Henry (1994). Diplomacy (First Edition). Barcelona: Ediciones B.

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

Cartoon depicting Belgian King Leopold II (in the middle) at the Berlin Conference of 1884, by engraver F. Maréchal

COMMENTARY / Cameron Buckingham

The highwaters of the controversy about Belgium's colonial past in Africa, that dominated news at some point in 2020, have receded without Belgian grand institutions taking significant steps to redress the bad reputation. Belgian King Leopold II ordered horrible atrocities throughout the African continent but with the heaviest effect on the Democratic Republic of Congo. The genocide of over six million and slave labour of the Congolese people led by the late Belgian king resulted in immense wealth and can be directly linked to the success of Belgium in the modern-day. In the same way, it can be directly linked to the underdevelopment and continued struggle of the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

Currently, there has been an international movement to address the racial problems that plague the modern world. Regardless of the organisation or political ideology, it is imperative to acknowledge these problems which stem directly from the unjust colonization, occupation, abuse, and slave trade throughout history. By actively not making any acknowledgment towards this issue, Belgium takes an ignorant stance which not only greatly affects its relations with central African countries, but an international stage speaks to its passive stance on Racism.

In 2019, a working group of experts from the United Nations issued a statement, composed of 74 key points of improvement the country should undertake, to the average with their conclusions of the effects of the colonial past within the country. The Working Group specifically condemned the Belgian government for their lack of engagement with the African minority in their population, as well as their lack of representation in federal institutions and average. The Working Group called on Belgian to improve their education resources so that they accurately portray what truly happened in Africa during colonial and Imperial times. Most importantly they urged Belgium to work on the recognition and social invisibility of people of African Descent, to make a clear and public apology to the African States and adopt a plan of action to confront racism within their country.

Domestic decolonisation

Within the country, the biggest reforms and measures to confront racism are taking place in the capital city of Brussels. One of the biggest changes is the Royal Museum for Central Africa: the museum has taken strides to remove elements of colonialism on display. However, the overall paternalistic attitude of the museum strains the relationship between Belgium and central African countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi. In light of recent events, A statue of Leopold II has been removed by the Antwerp museum after it was set on fire by protestors. There have been many statues defaced by protestors all over Belgium, all calling for his image to be removed from public space as seen in this article Statue of Leopold II, Belgian King Who Brutalized Congo, Is Removed in Antwerp. Simultaneously the government of Brussels has also made attempts to change the names of public spaces or infrastructure that have ties to colonization Most notably seen in a road tunnel, Belgium seeks new name for road tunnel as it takes on colonial past. Brussels has also launched a project to decolonize public space within the city, this was in direct reaction to the BLM movement. This is the most significant action the Belgian state has taken in an attempt to reshape its public history. From road tunnels to parks, the city is making an effort to change. All of these are very pertinent changes as Brussels is the capital city and hopefully, the rest of the nation follows suit. It is equally important to note the work being carried out by the government institution, Inter-Federal Centre of Equal Opportunities (UNIA), which is a public institution that fights discrimination and works to promote equal opportunities for African descendants in Belgium, has acted tremendously to improve the life of African descendants in Belgium.

Despite these advancements, many flaws must be addressed. The Royal Museum of Central Africa chooses certain displays to take down but maintains that history must be preserved. The problem with this is not the artifacts themselves, rather the information and context that turns their public history into a glorification of colonialism. The same can be said for the textbooks and educational resources propagated by the state. The history told in these state resources surrounding the Congolese genocide and the colonisation of Africa do not accurately portray the events and continues a passive ignorant mindset towards this part of their history. It furthers a paternalistic take on history that paints the Belgian leaders as people who were benevolent and brought civilization; when in reality they were brutal oppressors to native populations who exploited and abused central Africa in the name of wealth. While progress is being made, it is not nearly enough considering the global progress and the scale of impact Belgium's colonisation continues to have domestically and internationally.

African reparations

Countries such as Congo and Burundi still have effects today of the violence and loss from the Congolese genocide over a century ago. Their overall underdevelopment and indicators such as HDI, CPI, and GDP can be directly linked to the causes of Belgian colonization. Burundi has asked for $43 billion in reparations, while the Belgian government has yet to offer anything. Other African countries have sought reparations but Belgium has yet to pay any. This is significant because the lack of response and acknowledgment shown by the Belgian government especially during this racially charged period in time points to a blind spot of ignorance of the state. The farthest they have gone to show any sort of repatriation is by returning the tooth of an important political figure in Congo, this information can be accessed here: Belgium to return tooth of assassinated Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba to family | DW | 10.09.2020. This is dismal because it fails to acknowledge the ongoing effects of their colonists' period which paints horribly for their public history in the diplomatic sphere. The Belgian government has an opportunity to better utilize public history for the good of their image, as well as their growth as a country and relations with others however by not taking actions they are hurting themselves. Not only have the economies of these post-colony countries not been able to fully develop, the success of the Belgium economy that is rooted in colonisation creates a twisted paradox for these countries; Their resources and suffering were exploited by an Imperial power who continues to reap the benefits while they are left impoverished and impacted. In this sense, the exploitation of central Africa by Belgium continues today.

Conclusions and recommendations.

Belgium is missing the opportunity to take advantage of such a racially charged time to condemn their past behaviour, acknowledge their impact on Africa, and offer their support to countries they devastated. Belgium should uplift itself by creating a new public history, one that condemns their past. After 11 weeks of social average observation, the Belgium Ministry of Foreign affairs has not posted any content related to racial awareness or their former African colonies. One of the greatest tools today is social average, instead of only posting the glories of their country they should bring awareness to their past, on the biggest platform possible. However, it is not enough to bring light to this issue on social average. It is important to work with other governments, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, to amend and take necessary actions. Belgium needs to consider economic treaties with central Africa that would not only benefit both countries but make reparations for the African states. The goal of Belgian actions should be not only to acknowledge their colonial past but to actively make reparations and accurately acknowledge their atrocities and the impact they have had on central Africa, as well as the impact it's had on Belgian success as a country.

While Belgium ignores their colonial past, surrounding countries such as the Netherlands condemn and continue to actively work against racial cleavages in society. France, in a similar manner, continues to denounce the actions taken by Napoleon Bonaparte and even uses their history to emphasize their strengths not only in times of racial equality but also during coronavirus. With this in mind, it is time for Belgium to step up and meet or exceed the awareness of their neighbours and take actions to address their history and use it as a tool to improve.

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


 

ESSAY / Pablo Arbuniés

Introduction

In 1994 both South Africa and Rwanda embarked on a journey of political change that to this day seems unfinished. The first saw the end of apartheid and the beginning of a transition to non-racial democracy, while the latter saw the end of a civil conflict that sparked a genocide.

Both countries faced fundamental changes of a political and social nature at the same time in two very different ways. South Africa faced such change from the perspective of democracy, while Rwanda saw the collapse of a radical ethnic regime under Habyalimana after the civil war in 1994.

Understanding that countries move in a wide spectrum between democracy and non-democracy, that is, that they often are in a liminal political status, is the very basis to study these processes. Comparing these countries that experienced monumental political change at the same time can be useful to understand how societies can be rebuilt after a dark period. Depending on how the transition started, either through force as is the case in Rwanda or via political consensus or constitutional change as in South Africa, the path that the country will follow can vary greatly. It is also worth exploring how a post-conflict consensus can be the basis of a renewed system. Of key interest is how long such dispensation go uncontested and how stable it can sustain the project.  

The case of South Africa and Rwanda

South Africa is classified by some as a Flawed Democracy[1], meaning that there are free and fair elections but there are factors that prevent it from arriving at a full democratic rule. In 1990, the government re-established multi-party politics. Then, the 1992 referendum approved universal suffrage, including black people in the democratic process, and the 1994 general elections were the first democratic and universal vote in the history of the country. The African National Congress (ANC) came to power and has won all the following elections.

The ANC-and similarly, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF)-has a sense of exceptionalism, a belief that it has an extraordinary mandate to finish the revolution that only it can fulfil[2]. However, recent elections have shown a decrease in popular support for the ANC. Yet the fact that, over time, the ruling party during a transition process eventually loses free elections is a sign of a consolidated democracy[3].

Rwanda on the other hand is deemed an authoritarian regime by the EIU[4]. In the aftermath of the civil war and the genocide, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) positioned itself as a guarantor of security, consolidating control over all sectors of society. This provision of security and stability in the wake of a conflict, accompanied by an authoritarian use of power, can be referred to as the authoritarian social contract, prioritising security over democracy and fundamental rights, but with a sufficiently transparent and accountable government.

This article will proceed to explore a few indicators like transitional justice, legal framework and institutions, separation of power and rule of law, transparency and accountability plus civil society to test whether South Africa and Rwanda have attained democratic transition through building sustainable political institutions.

Transitional justice

The South African Constitution highlights the importance of healing the consequences of apartheid and establishing a society based on human rights, democracy and social justice. Thus, in 1995 the Government established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), tasked with uncovering past injustices and establishing the truth about the apartheid.

The TRC was composed of three committees: Human rights violations, Reparation and Rehabilitation and Amnesty. Their ultimate goal was to restore the dignity and encourage the spirit of forgiveness between the victims and the perpetrators.

However, in terms of accountability, the TRC has fallen short. The offer of "amnesty for the truth" as well as the de facto back door amnesty provided by the National Prosecuting Authority's Prosecution Policy have meant effective immunity for apartheid-era perpetrators even if they did not apply for amnesty nor helped the TRC. Even after the "back door" was declared unconstitutional in 2008, none of the cases affected has returned to the courts.[5]

In Rwanda, the priority after the civil war and genocide was also rebuilding social peace. Civil war crimes and genocide were treated differently from each other in transitional justice, partly due to the reluctance of the RPF to judge its crimes as a belligerent actor in the civil war, and also because of the prioritising of genocide prosecution.[6]

Rwanda's main challenge for transitional justice was the vast number of people that took part in the genocide. Despite other countries facing similar problems and opting for amnesties or selective prosecution, Rwanda chose the way of accountability through criminal trials. To achieve this, the government had to create community courts (Gacaca) to make accountability possible for low-level genocide suspects.

This choice of criminal prosecution was defended by the RPF as a measure to end impunity culture that led to the genocide. However, the massive prosecutions have ended up overwhelming the system and hindering the rule of law.

Legal framework and institutions

Constitution

In its transition to democracy, South Africa chose to completely re-write its constitution. The 1996 Constitution was promulgated by Nelson Mandela and entered into force in 1997, in place of the 1993 interim constitution. The interim constitution set the instructions for the final one, including universal adult suffrage, the prohibition of discrimination, multi-party democracy, separation of powers, etc.

However, the biggest achievement of the South African transition is how the institutions in charge of the elections have been built on consensus and with the guarantee of non-interference by the ruling party, making the Electoral Commission a body publicly perceived to be neutral and impartial.[7]

Rwanda held a referendum in 2003 to approve a new constitution, after a deep public consultation process. A new constitution was approved, prohibiting ethnic politics along with other forms of discrimination. This clause has been widely used by the government to maintain a one-party system by illegalising opposition parties and attacking any form of political dissent under the façade of preventing another genocide[8]. In 2015 term limits were abolished by referendum, allowing president Kagame to run for a third 7-year term.

Separation of powers and rule of law

In terms of separation of powers and checks and balances, South Africa ranks above the average of its region according to the world justice and rule of law index. Its overall score in the Rule of Law Index is of 0.59, making it the 45th country out of 128. The lowest rated indicators for the country are absence of corruption at 0.48 and criminal justice at 0.53. In terms of fundamental rights, all indicators are above average and above the upper-middle threshold except for no discrimination, valued at 0.54.

Constraints on government powers are measured at 0.63, and all indicators are above average and above the "upper-middle" threshold. Legislative and judiciary checks and balances are valued at 0.58 and 0.67 respectively, meaning that there is an effective separation of powers. However, and despite the absence of corruption ranking above average, in the legislative power is below the upper-middle threshold and valued at a worrying 0.23, and in the executive branch it is also below said threshold at 0.4. Corruption in the executive and the legislative powers can be explained as a consequence of the political dominance of the ANC and its firm grab onto power, and it should eventually fade away when a new party reaches power.

On the other hand, Rwanda is a fascinating case, since it presents a very low score on the democratic index[9] but an overall decent rule of law index. [10] In other words, Rwanda's government might not be democratic, but it does play by the rules, hence reinforcing the idea of an authoritarian social contract that is indeed being fulfilled by the government. In fact, despite being an authoritarian country, Rwanda's rule of law index is higher than South Africa's, and the second highest in Sub-Saharan Africa, only bettered by Namibia (one of the best-ranked democracies in the region).

To further prove the point of the authoritarian social contract, looking at the different indicators of the Rule of Law Index, one can notice that its lowest-rated indicators are the fundamental rights ones (0.51, ranking 81st in the world) and it's best indicator is order and security (0.84, ranking 22nd in the world) with a perfect score in absence of civil conflict (1.00).

Limits to governmental power by the legislative and judiciary powers are worth mentioning too. In the case of legislative checks and balances, the country ranks below the Sub-Saharan average, partly due to the predominance of RPF parliamentarians dominating the legislature. Hence they provide little checks on the executive. On the other hand, Judiciary checks and sanctions for official misconduct are above the Sub-Saharan average, showing a surprising level of judiciary independence for a country deemed as authoritarian.

Transparency and accountability

Transparency indicators show South Africa leading the regional chart, well above the Sub-Saharan average and also above the upper-middle threshold, which means that the government can be considered transparent enough. In the other hand, persistent levels of corruption in the executive and legislative power, as well as in the police and military (ranked above regional average but below the upper-middle threshold) show worrying signs that could obstruct the accountability of those holding power. Indeed, sanctions for official misconduct are the weaker link in constraints on government power, showing a limited action taken against corruption, but still ranking above the Sub-Saharan average.

In Rwanda, judiciary independence and sanctions for official misconduct are also above average for the region, showing an acceptable degree of accountability in the exercise of power that yet again can be surprising in an authoritarian country.

In terms of transparency, Rwanda ranks above the Sub-Saharan average in all indicators: publicized laws and government data (0.60), right to information (0.61), civic participation (0.53) and complaint mechanisms (0.60). Corruption indicators are above regional average as well with corruption in the legislative power being the worst of the lot despite still being better than that of its neighbouring counterparts.

 

Civil society

The ANC has, in a similar fashion to the RPF, tried to become a gatekeeping power, attempting to draw the limits of what is acceptable opposition or an acceptable discourse. This allows the parties to monopolize the social cohesion discourse by presenting themselves as the only legitimate actor to tackle the issue.

In South Africa, the ANC accuses the opposition parties of trying to bring back apartheid; for instance, it claims that the Democratic Alliance aims to return to a minority rule system. Thus, the party presents itself as the only one that can prevent the Boers from returning to power. A state of constant alert is promoted by the ANC, not only within national politics and against civil society actors, but also claiming that foreign agendas are seeking a regime change in the country and trying to turn the people against their leaders.[11]

In Rwanda, the government took advantage of the post-conflict situation to limit public participation in the political sphere. Those opposed to the government are marginalised and their discourse is rejected as genocide-promoting or supportive of ethnical divisions. This is key for the government to retain popular support, as any dissenting voice will be delegitimized and presented as a call to go back to the worst moments of Rwanda's history, and thus publicly rejected. As for dealing with foreign civil society actors, Kagame tends to delegitimize them by associating any dissenting foreign opinion with colonialism. [12] This overall helps the RPF sustain their rhetoric of the Rwandicity of the people as the only way of keeping social peace and cohesion.

This discourse that attempts to create national unity as well as within the parties, has a constant "rally around the flag" effect, silencing dissenting opinions and deterring potential civil society actors, in fear of being singled out as apartheid or genocide promoters. This results in a weakened civil society often deterred from criticising the government in fear of being marginalised and portrayed as either a colonialist or a promoter of ethnic division and genocide. Dissenting voices are turned into enemies of the nation and used for an "us versus them" political discourse.

Despite this, non-governmental checks on the exercise of power in South Africa are valued at 0.71, well above the Sub-Saharan average as well as the upper-middle threshold. Freedom of expression has the same score and again and both above the regional average and nearly reaching the higher threshold.

Overall, South Africa has a robust civil society that plays a key role in creating and sustaining political culture, tackling the gaps between national and local politics, as well as holding public officials accountable and checking their use of power. This can be seen in the outing of former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma through consistent mobilisations and lawsuits.[13]

For Rwanda, as expected in an authoritarian country, civil society is not a key actor. Non-governmental checks to the use of power are low (0.45), and likely limited by an also low freedom of expression indicator (0.45).

Conclusions

Treating democracy and non-democracy as a dichotomy instead of the two sides of a wide spectrum would not allow us to look at how different variables are key to understanding national politics. Instead, it is crucial to understand that many countries occupy a liminal space between democracy and non-democracy without necessarily moving towards either. Therefore, it is in that space that they should be analysed in order to be fully understood. That being said, South Africa and Rwanda both occupy very different liminal spaces, with the first being much closer to full democracy than the former.

The civil society indicators, as well as the role of transitional justice, show a very clear difference between South Africa and Rwanda, which is rooted in the legitimation of the power of the ruling party, as well as in the background of their political changes. The RPF came to power by winning the civil war and used transitional justice to whitewash its image as no RPF member has been investigated for alleged war crimes[14]. Thus, the lack of accountability and the militaristic nature of the transition can be seen as factors that discourage citizen participation in politics. On the other hand, South Africa had an easier task with transitional justice, but the result cannot be considered perfect or ideal, and many criticise the South African model of transitional justice for being too superficial and symbolic and not providing the needed social healing. Also, South Africa's transition is built on political consensus instead of the outcome of a civil war, and that spirit of consensus can be seen in the much bigger role of civil society nowadays. The ability of civil society actors to hold political ones to a high enough standard is key in rebuilding a country.

The transparency indicators show that both countries have open and transparent governments, with Rwanda scoring better than South Africa in the publicized laws & government data as well as the right to information indicators, which can be surprising due to the authoritarian nature of the Rwandan government.

Although both countries seem to be in very different positions, they share a political discourse based on party exceptionalism and rejection of dissenting voices as encouragers of genocide or apartheid. The fear of ethnic conflict is the very basis of the traces of an authoritarian social contract that still prevails in the South African and Rwandan politics.

In terms of institutional transformation, South Africa shows how important it is to build trustworthy institutions, with the best example being the Electoral Commission. Also, political trust in pacific transitions of power after an election is a sign of a consolidated democracy and shows the success of South Africa.

The level of transparency of the Rwandan government, added to its success in the accountability and security aspects and the high civil and criminal justice indicators (all above regional average) show how an authoritarian country can effectively deal with a post-conflict situation without abandoning its non-democratic model. Rwanda is a fascinating example of a successfully fulfilled authoritarian social contract in which civil liberties are given up in exchange for a peaceful and stable environment in which the country can heal economically as the quite positive GDP per capita projections show.[15]

[1] The Economist Intelligence Unit; Democracy Index (2019) https://www.eiu.com/topic/democracy-index?&zid=democracyindex2019&utm_source=blog&utm_medium=blog&utm_name=democracyindex2019&utm_term=democracyindex2019&utm_content=top_link

[2] Beresford, A. Liberation movements and stalled democratic transitions: reproducing power in Rwanda and South Africa through productive liminality. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13510347.2018.1461209 

[3] Huntington, S. P. (1991). The third wave: Democratization in the late 20th century.

[4] The Economist Intelligence Unit; Democracy Index (2019) https://www.eiu.com/topic/democracy-index?&zid=democracyindex2019&utm_source=blog&utm_medium=blog&utm_name=democracyindex2019&utm_term=democracyindex2019&utm_content=top_link

[5] International Center for Transitional Justice, South Africa https://www.ictj.org/our-work/regions-and-countries/south-africa

[6] Waldorf, L, Transitional Justice and DDR: The Case of Rwanda, International Center for Transitional Justice https://www.ictj.org/sites/default/files/ICTJ-DDR-Rwanda-CaseStudy-2009-English.pdf

[7] Ahere, J. R. (2020). Africa's dalliance with democracy, but whose democracy? In N. Sempijja, & K. Molope, Africa rising? Navigating the nexus between rhetoric and emerging reality (pp. 37-54). Pamplona: Eunsa.

[8] Roth, K. The power of horror in Rwanda, https://www.hrw.org/news/2009/04/11/power-horror-rwanda

[9] The Economist Intelligence Unit; Democracy Index (2019) https://www.eiu.com/topic/democracy-index?&zid=democracyindex2019&utm_source=blog&utm_medium=blog&utm_name=democracyindex2019&utm_term=democracyindex2019&utm_content=top_link

[10] World Justice Project, Rule of Law Index 2020 https://worldjusticeproject.org/our-work/research-and-data/wjp-rule-law-index-2020

[11] Beresford, A. Liberation movements and stalled democratic transitions: reproducing power in Rwanda and South Africa through productive liminality https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13510347.2018.1461209

[12] Beresford, A. Liberation movements and stalled democratic transitions: reproducing power in Rwanda and South Africa through productive liminality. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13510347.2018.1461209 

[13] Gumede, W. How civil society has strengthened South Africa' s democracy https://www.corruptionwatch.org.za/civil-society-strengthened-democracy-south-africa/#toggle-id-1

[14] Waldorf, L, Transitional Justice and DDR: The Case of Rwanda, International Center for Transitional Justice https://www.ictj.org/sites/default/files/ICTJ-DDR-Rwanda-CaseStudy-2009-English.pdf

[15] IMF. "Rwanda: Gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in current prices from 1985 to 2025 (in U.S. dollars)." Chart. October 12, 2020. Statista. Accessed January 25, 2021. https://www.statista.com/statistics/452130/gross-domestic-product-gdp-per-capita-in-rwanda/

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

The low voter turnout did not lead to questioning the re-election of Rebelo de Sousa, but it helped the far-right candidate to get a distant third place.

President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa during a statement to the nation, in January 2021 [Portuguese Presidency].

ANALYSIS / Elena López-Dóriga

Last Sunday 24th of January of 2021 Portugal held presidential elections despite of the country being in lockdown due to the advance of the Covid-19 pandemic. The President of the Republic Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa was re-elected, winning another five-year term after a campaign fought amid one of the world's worst outbreaks of coronavirus. The re-elected president won with a majority of 60.7% of the votes, therefore, with no need to go for a second round. It was already certain that he was going to win this election as he was already known as the favorite candidate in the polls. Nevertheless, the triggering questions for this election relied in how much the turnout could be affected due to the critical situation of coronavirus that Portugal was facing in the middle of a lockdown, and how much relevance was the new far-right wing party Chega was going to achieve, as it had been attaining a lot of popularity since its creation in the last April 2019. The elections were marked indeed by the historic absence of almost 61% (the electoral turnout was 39.24% of the registered voters), and the third position in the ranking of André Ventura, the leader of Chega.

Historical background of the political system

Portugal had the longest lasting authoritarian regime in Western Europe in the 20th century, between 1926 until 1974; it was led by Antonio de Oliveira Salazar in a historical period known as "Estado Novo". Autarchy and tradition had limits, as Portugal managed to join the NATO in 1949 and the EFTA in 1960, allowing economic growth for the country and the development of social policies that benefited the citizens. However, after the nearly fifty years of authoritarian rule and compared to other European countries, Portugal was still much more rural and its population much more likely to be illiterate or to have only a few years of schooling. After the Revolution of April 25th also known as the "Carnation Revolution", which overthrew the regime leded by Salazar's successor Marcelo Caetano, there was a transition towards a parliamentary democracy based on a new constitution.

The political and economic instability in the first years following the revolution was high since the democratic transition was done through a revolutionary rupture made led by the Movement of the Armed Forces (MFA). However, the MFA kept the promise to leave the government after one year, and the first Constituent Assembly elections were held on 25 of April of 1975, exactly one year after the Revolution. The Portuguese semi-presidential regime was defined as a system of government in which the president of the Republic, appointed by means of direct popular vote in a competitive election. The impacted choice of electoral system was the proportional representation system, which aimed to reflect the full distribution of voter's preferences as closely as possible. Voters were grouped in "districts" and the number of votes is fairly proportional to the population in each district. The National Assembly was composed by 250 members initially, but it was reduced to 230 seats in 1989.

An economic background

In 1960 Portugal joined the EFTA as a liberal state with a social model, and finally entered the European Union in the year 1986 as well as Spain. It thought that the Economic and Monetary Union would ensure peace among the Europeans, acceleration of the economic development and improve the levels of social justice. Portugal's policy makers eagerly endorsed the European integration process, and it became an economic policy priority to be in the group of early euro adopters.

While Portugal experienced rapid economic growth in the years that preceded the launch of the euro (between 1995 and 2000), the country's macroeconomic performance since the introduction of the euro was not as high as expected. Nonetheless, the country registered strong progress in a number of social-economic indicators. Between 2009 and 2016 Portugal experienced a severe economic crisis characterized by falling GDP, high unemployment, rising government debt and high bond yields. This was caused by a combination of the global recession, lack of competitiveness and limitations of being in the Euro. In May 2011, due to increasingly untenable interest rates on its bonds, Portugal necessitated a bailout, and accepted a package of 78 billion euros from the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, known colloquially as the Troika, in return of addressing its financial unsustainability. Between 2010 and 2020 Portugal experienced a boom in tourism that made the industry one of the biggest contributors to the national economy and the largest employer, with almost 1 million direct and indirect jobs according to the World Travel & Tourism Council.

The result of the elections

In order to understand the Portuguese political scene, we need to make a distinction between the right-wing parties and the left-wing parties. On the one hand, there are the right-wing parties Chega and CDS-PP (People's Party), in the center-right there is the Social Democratic Party (PPD/PSD), in the center-left the Socialist Party (PS), and the Left Bloc (BE) and the PCP (Portuguese Communist Party) on the left.

The 2021 presidential elections were won by Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, former leader of the Social Democratic Party (PPD/PSD), with a majority of 60.7% of the votes. The PSD was founded on the year 1974 and has remained one of the main political parties of the country, either staying in government or in the opposition. Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa joined the party the same year of its creation and became a member of the National Assembly. In 2016 he won the presidential elections in the first round with 52% of the votes, succeeding Anival Cavaco Silva, member of the Social Democratic Party as well. This time, in his victory speech, the president renewed his commitment to the Portuguese, saying he was going to be a president that "respects pluralism and difference, a President who never gives up on social justice". Nevertheless, the question for these elections was not who was going to be in first place, as the polls were already announcing that Marcelo would be re-elected by majority according to CESOP (Centro de Estudos e Sondagens da Universidade Católica Portuguesa), the question was actually who was going to win the second and the third position, the Socialist Party or the new far right-wing party of Chega.

The second position was finally won by Ana Gomes from the Socialist Party (PS), with 12,97% of the votes. The main difference between PSD and PS lies in the fact that PSD seeks to preserve costumes and liberalize the economy, whereas the PS would like to liberalize the costumes and be more conservative with the economy. The PS was created in 1973 and managed to take two of its leaders to the country's presidency, between 1986 until 2006. The Socialist Party started to make a difference when they chose to act on topics classified as "fracturing" such as de facto unions, abortion, same-sex marriage (which was approved in the year 2009), gender quota systems and euthanasia.

When it comes to how the healthcare system should be managed, the PSD explains in its program that it defends a health sector with more private initiative, referring to this model as a "freedom of choice" one. The PS, instead, defends that it is essential to focus on the centrality of the National Healthcare Services to "look at the careers of health professionals, so they don't continue to be pushed to the private sector or to emigration".

The pandemic of the coronavirus has been an important issue discussed during the campaign. Even though in the United States postal voting gained a relevant dimension this year because of the pandemic, in Portugal none of this was possible, because according to paragraph 3, article 121 of the Constitution of the Republic, in the election for the president of the Republic the right to vote must be exercised in person in the national territory. Ana Gomes criticized the impossibility of postal voting for many Portuguese emigrants: "It is unworthy that our emigrants, most of them, could not vote because postal voting or electronic voting had not been regulated. This is an indignity, and the responsibility rests with President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa", she said. She also claimed that it was a mistake for the elections to be scheduled so late taking into account the advance of the pandemic and not allowing all the measures to be ensured in order to guarantee an opportunity for all people to vote and avoid a high abstention: in fact, these elections were the ones with the highest abstention in Portugal's history, with almost 61%.

The rise of the far right-wing party Chega 

Many European countries have witnessed the rise of extreme right-wing parties over the last few years, which have gained significant votes and sometimes threatened the position of traditional parties. In Portugal, however, far right-wing parties had failed to gain electoral support until recently, when the political party of Chega was created in 2009. Chega literally means in Portuguese "Enough!" and the leader running the party is André Ventura, an ex-TV commentator on football and true crime legal shows. Polls were certain about the fact that he was going to be in close competition for second place in the election, and indeed he was very close as he attained 11.9% of the votes.

Ventura took advantage of the intense torrent of average attention surrounding him and his party which helped the party grow exponentially in popularity. Ventura's tactics and topics of interest were prototypical right-wing; they have even been considered populist by many because of the charismatic leader giving empowered speeches about the Portuguese identity referring to his party as "the voice of the people" and confronting this group against "the system". Among his most controversial claims during the campaign was his repeated quote "I will not be the president of all Portuguese", but only of the good or decent Portuguese ("Portugueseses de bem"). Amid those he excludes from that definition are, most preeminently, criminals and people who live on state subsidies. He claimed that there are two groups of people in Portugal, the ones that work and the ones that barely work but live at the expense of those that do work and pay taxes. That is why he referred to himself as "a president without fear of the system" that aims to change radically. His diary was heavily focused on criminality (and support to the police) and the alleged misuse of public money and corruption.

Like Donald Trump in the US or the political party Vox in Spain, the Chega leader has used the social network of Twitter to explain or reinforce some of his most controversial political positions. As a characteristic of many extreme right-wing parties, Chega is anti-immigration and often explicitly targets the 'gypsies', known in Portugal as 'ciganos', as an ethnic minority that lives at the expense of the state subsidies. In the speech André Ventura gave just when the results of the elections were known, he admitted that the objective of reaching the second position was not achieved but he said that it was a historic night in which a party declared anti-system broke with the spectrum of the traditional right with around half a million votes; he warned the winner party of PSD that Chega was going to be a "fundamental part" of the Portuguese politics.

Elections in the worst moment of the pandemic

In the week before the election, Portugal reported the highest daily averages in the world for new coronavirus cases and deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, according to data collected by the John Hopkins University. Despite of the country being in lockdown due to the high incidence of Covid-19 and the critical situation of the hospitals, in the last week, the country registered more than 80,000 new cases of coronavirus, which turned Portugal into the country with more cases at an international level (10,3 million people). This numbers were very striking for Portugal, as this third wave of coronavirus was hitting harder than the first one in March 2020, where the country managed to control the pandemic and never witnessed the collapse of hospitals that happened in Spain or Italy. In his victory speech, the re-elected president vowed to make the fight against Covid-19 his top priority. The situation got so critical to the point that Germany's military agreed to send medical staff and equipment to Portugal, where space in hospital intensive care units was running out after the surge in coronavirus infections.

Coronavirus marked this 2021 presidential elections and the pandemic was probably the reason why Portugal had the lowest level of electoral turnout ever, as people from risk groups did not want to risk leaving home and others were required to stay at home in quarantine. Other reasons for the 60.76% abstention was a possible lack of interest in politics and a lower voting by the Portuguese living abroad.

The presidency of Portugal in the Council of the EU

The Council of the European Union is the institution that represents the governments of the EU; its presidency rotates among the EU member states every six months. This year, from January to June, it is Portugal national government's turn to preside the Council, succeeding Germany and preceding Slovenia. Therefore, Portugal's current prime minister and head of government Antonio Costa took over the baton, the symbol of the EU Council Presidency. He belongs to the Socialist Party, but the recent re-election of the Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa as a head of state will not affect the main priorities for the Portuguese presidency: the economic and social recovery based on the engines of the climate and digital transitions, drivers for growth and more and better jobs, the development of the European Union Social Pillar and the reinforcement of the strategic autonomy. Besides, Antonio Costa was elected in the year 2015 and has already been working with Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa as a president since its first election in 2016. Costa congratulated him on the victory "with the best wishes for the continuity of the presidential term... in fruitful institutional cooperation".

In the previous six months of German Presidency, the Covid-19 pandemic was the central challenge, and Angela Merkel concluded in her final speech that Europe was committed to the fight against the virus by promoting, procuring and distributing vaccines. She gave the word to Antonio Costa, who remarked what will be the motto of the Portuguese presidency: "Time to deliver: a fair, green and digital recovery".

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

[Michael J. Seth, A Concise History of Modern Korea. From the Late Nineteenth Century to the Present (Plymouth, UK: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019), Volume 2, 356 pages]

REVIEW / Jimena Villacorta

Normally, when thinking about the Korean Peninsula, we emphasize on the divided region it is now, and how the Korean War (1950-1053) had a great impact on the two independent territories we have today, North and South Korea. We forget that it once was a culturally and ethnically homogenous nation, that because of its law, couldn't even trade with outsiders until the Treaty of Kanghwa in 1876 which marked a turning point in Korean history as it ended isolation and allowed the Japanese insertion in the territory which had great effects on its economic and political order.

Michael J. Seth narrates the fascinating history of Korea from the end of the 19th century to the present. In this edition he updates his previous work, originally published ten years before, and he presents it as a "volume 2", because his latest years of research have produced a "volume 1", entitled A Concise History of Premodern Korea, which follows Korea's history from Antiquity through the nineteenth century.

From falling under Japanese imperialism and expansionism to its division after the Second World War, this book explores the economic, political and social issues that modern Korea has faced in the last decades. The author provides its readers a great resource for those seeking a general, yet detailed, history of this currently divided nation in eight chapters. The first two chapters focus on what happened before the Korean War and on how neighbors and other actors. Russia had great influence in the region until its defeat in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905). Consequently, Korea became a colony of Japan until the Allied Forces victory during the Second World War. Japanese rule is described as harsh and detrimental for Koreans as they intended to force their own culture and system in the territory. Although, in despite of its aggressiveness, the Japanese contributed to Korea's industrialization. Countries like China and the United States were also major players. From 1885 to 1894, China had a strong presence in the peninsula as the Chinese didn't want other powers to take over the territory.

The rest of the book emphasizes on the war and the consequences it had, tracing the different course both countries took becoming contrasting societies with different political and economic systems. The reason for the great differences between the two Koreas is the difference in governments and influences they had after the war, a war that stopped because of a ceasefire, as to date they haven't signed a peace treaty. Even if South Korea was under Syngman Rhee's authoritarian and corrupt regime tight after the Korean War, it soon became democratized and the country began to quickly advance in matter of technology and human development leaving North Korea out in the open under a totalitarian dictatorship lead by Kim Jong-un. However, after the separation of the two zones, Kim II-sung was the founder of the North in 1948 and his family dynasty has ruled the country since then. During this period, South Korea has had six republics, one revolution, two coups d'état, the transition to democratic elections and nineteen presidencies. In terms of economics, they went from having a very similar GDP at the beginning of the 1970s to very different outcomes. While South Korea has progressed rapidly, becoming one of the world's leading industrial producers, North Korea became stagnant due to its rigid state system. South Korea also has a high level of technological infrastructure. Moreover, North Korea became a nuclear power, which has been in its diary since the division. But as he explores the technical differences of both states, the author fails to elaborate in historical debates and controversies regarding both regions, but he emphasizes on the fact that after sixty years of division, there are still no signs or reunification. 

Without a doubt, it is interesting to learn about Korea's past colonial occupation and its division, but what I believe is the most captivating is to understand how North Korea and South Korea have evolved as two independent very different states because of the uniqueness and complexity of its history, while still sharing a strong sense of nationalism. As the author says, "No modern nation ever developed a more isolated and totalitarian society than North Korea, nor such an all-embracing family cult. No society moved more swiftly from extreme poverty to prosperity and from authoritarianism to democracy than South Korea".

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

Narratives from the Kremlin, the Duma and nationalist average embellish Russia's history in an open culture warfare against the West.

Russian average and politicians, influenced by a nationalist ideology, often use Russian history, particularly from the Soviet time, to create a national consciousness and praise themselves for their contributions to world affairs. This often results in manipulation and in a rising hostility between Russia and other countries, especially in Eastern Europe.

A colored version of the picture taken in Berlin by the network Army photographer Yevgueni Khaldei days before the Nazi's capitulation

ARTICLE / José Javier Ramírez

average bias. Russia is in theory a democracy, with the current president Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin having been elected through several general elections. His government, nonetheless, has been accused of restricting freedom of opinion. Russia is ranked 149 out of 179 countriesin the Press Freedom Index, so it is no surprise that main Russian average (Pravda, RT, Sputnik News, ITAR-TASS, ...) are strong supporters of the government's version of history. They have been emphasizing on Russia's glorious military history, notoriously since 2015 when they tried to counter international rejection of the Russian invasion of Crimea appealing to the spirit of the 70th World War II anniversary. On the other side, social networks are not often used: Putin lacks a Twitter account, and the Kremlin accounts' posts are not especially significant nor controversial.

Putin's ideology, often called Putinism, involves a domination of the public sphere by former security and military staff, which has led to almost all average pursuing to justify all Russian external aggressions, and presenting Western countries, traditionally opposed to these policies, as hypocritical and Russophobic. Out of the remarkable exceptions to these pro-government public sphere, we might mention Moscow Today newspaper (whose ideology is rather independent, in no way an actual opposition), and the leader of the Communist faction, Gennady Andreyevich Zyuganov, who was labelled Putin several times as a dictator, without too much success among the electorate.

Early period. Russian average take pride in having an enormously long history, to the extent of having claimed that one of its cities, Derbent, played a key role in several civilizations for two thousand years. However, the first millennium of such a long history often goes unmentioned, due to the lack of sources, and even when the role of the Mongolian Golden Horde is often called into question, perhaps in order to avoid recognizing that there was a time where Russians were subjected to foreign domination. In fact, Yuri Petrov, director of RAS Russian History Institute, has refused to accept that the Mongolian conquest was a colonization, arguing that it was a process of mixing with the Slavic and Mongolian elites.

Such arguments do not prevent TASS, Russian state's official average, from having recognized the battle of Kulikovo (1380) as the beginning of Russian state history, since this was the time where all Russian states came together to gain independence. Similarly, Communist leader Zyuganov stated that Russia is to be thanked for having protected Europe from the Golden Horde's invasion. In other words, Russian average have a contradictory position about the nation's beginning: on one hand, they deny having been conquered by the Mongolian, or prefer not to mention such a topic; on the other, they widely celebrate the defeat of the Golden Horde as a symbol of their freedom and power. Similar contradictions are quite common in such an official history, dominated by nationalist bias.

Czarism. Unlike what might be thought, Russian Czars are held in relative high esteem. Orthodox Church has canonized Nicolas II as a martyr for the "patience and resignation" with which he accepted his execution, while public polls carried by TASS argued that most Russians perceive his execution as barbaric and unnecessary. Pravda has even argued that there has been a manipulation of the last Czar's story both by Communists and the West (mutual accusations of manipulation between Russian and Western average are quite common): according to Pyotr Multatuli, a historian interviewed by Pravda, the last Czar was someone with fatherly love towards its citizens, and he just happened to be betrayed by conspirators, who killed him to justify their legitimacy.

But this nostalgic remembrance is not exclusive solely to the last Czar, there are actually multiple complimentary references to several monarchs: Peter the Great was credited by Putin for introducing honesty and justice as the state agencies principles; Catherine the Great for being a pioneer in experimentation with vaccines, and she was even the first monarch to have been vaccinated; Alexander III created a peaceful and strong Russia... Pravda, one of the most pro-monarchy newspapers, has even argued that Czars were actually more responsible and answerable to society than the USA politicians, or that Napoleon's invasion was not actually defeated by General Winter, but by Alexander I's strategy. The appreciation for the former monarchy might be due to the disappointment with the Soviet era, or in some way promoted by Putin, who since the Crimean crisis inaugurated several statues to honour Princes and Czars, without recognizing their tyranny. This can be understood as a way of presenting himself as a national hero, whose decisions must be obeyed even if they are undemocratic.

USSR. The Soviet Union is the most quoted period in the Russian average, both due to their proximity, and because it is often compared to today's government. Perceptions about this period are quite different and to some extent contradictory. Zyuganov, the Communist leader, praises the Soviet government, considering it even more democratic that Putin's government, and has advocated for a re-Stalinisation of Russia. Nonetheless, that is not the vision shared neither by Putin nor by most average.

Generally speaking, Russian average do not support Communist national policy (President Putin himself once took it as "inappropriate" being called neo-Stalinist). There is a recognition of Soviet crimes while, at the same time, they are accepted as something that simply happened, and to what not too much attention should be drawn. Stalin particularly is the most controversial character and a case of "doublethink": President Putin has attended some events to honour Stalin's victims, while at the same time sponsored textbooks that label him as an effective leader. The result, shown in several polls, is that there is a growing indifference towards Stalin's legacy.

However, the approach is quite different when we talk about the USSR foreign policy, which is considered completely positive. The average praise the Russian bravery in defeating Nazi Germany, and doing it almost alone, and for liberating Eastern Europe. This praise has even been shown in the present: Russian anti-Covid vaccine has been given the name of "Sputnik V", subtly linking Soviet former military technology and advancement to the saving of today's world (the name of the first artificial satellite was already used for the news website and broadcaster Sputnik News). Moreover, Putin himself wrote an essay on the World War II where he argued that all European countries had their piece of fault (even Poland, whose occupation he justifies as politically compulsory) and that criticism of Russia's attitude is just a strategy of Western propaganda to avoid accepting its own responsibilities for the war.

This last point is particularly important in Russian average, who constantly criticize Western for portraying Russia and the Soviet Union as villains. According to RT, for instance, Norway should be much more thankful to Russia for its help, or Germany for Russia's promotion of its unification. The reason for this ingratitude is often pointed to the United States and its imperialism, because it has always feared Russia's strength and independence, according to Sputnik, and has tried to destroy it by all means. The accusations to the US vary among the Russian average, from Pravda's accusation of the 1917 Revolution having been sponsored by Wall Street to destabilize Russia, to RT's complaint that the US took advantage of Boris Yeltsin's pro-Western policies to impose severe economic measures that ruined Russian economy and the citizens' well-being (Pravda is particularly virulent towards the West).

What the European neighbours think. As in most countries, politicians in Russia use their national history mostly to magnify the reputation of the nation among the domestic public opinion and among international audiences, frequently emphasizing more the positive aspects than the negative ones. What distinguishes Russian average is the influence the Government has on them, which results in a remarkable history manipulation. Such manipulation has arrived to create some sort of doublethink: some events that glorify Russia (Czars' achievements, Communist military success, etc.) are frequently quoted and mentioned while, at the same time, the dark side of these same events (Czars' tyranny, Stalin's repression, etc.) is ignored or rejected.

Manipulated Russian history is often incompatible with (manipulated or not) Western history, which has led to mutual accusations of hypocrisy and fake news that have severely undermined the relations between Russia and its Western neighbours (particularly Poland, whom Russia insists to blame to some extent for the World War II and to demand gratitude for the liberation provided by Russia). If Russia wants to strengthen its relationships, it must stop idealizing its national history and try to compare it with the Western version, particularly in topics referring to Communism and the 20th century. Only this way might tensions be eased, and there will be a possibility of fostering cooperation.

A separate chapter on this historical reconciliation should be worked with Russia's neighbours in Eastern Europe. Most of them shifted from Nazi occupation to Communist states, and now they are still consolidating its democracies. Eastern Europe societies have mixed feelings of love and rejection towards Russia, what they don't buy any more is the story of the network Army as a force of liberation.

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