Spain sells less defence materiel to Latin American countries than it should, given the volume of trade.
2019 saw a recovery in Spanish arms sales to Latin America, surpassing 2018 figures, which were the lowest in a long time.
In the last five years, Spain has sold 691.2 million euros worth of defence material to the region, 3.6% of its world arms exports.
Mexico (24.8%), Ecuador (22.5%), Brazil (16.1%), Peru (14.4%) and Colombia (8.6%) are the five countries that purchased the most material from Spain in the last five years.
Airbus NH90 helicopter, final assembly at Airbus Military facilities in Spain [Airbus].
report SRA 2020 / Álvaro Fernández[PDF version].
Latin American countries constitute a area of clear commercial interest for Spain. However, despite being the seventh largest arms exporter in the world and therefore particularly active in this sector, Spain sells less defence material to Latin America and the Caribbean than it would be entitled to in terms of its overall export quota to the region.
While between 2014 and 2018 Spain's overall export of products to Latin America remained between 5.3% and 6.5% of its global exports, in the case of the arms sector it was around 3.2% in 2016 and 2017 and fell to 1.06% in 2018. It is to be expected that this minimum percentage will have risen again in 2019, a year for which there is still no official data complete, but in view of those of the first semester it would seem that it will not even be close to 3%.
The explanation for this lower weight of arms exports in Spain's overall exports to Latin America can be found in two facts. One is the lower budget devoted to the purchase of this subject of material by most Latin American countries, compared to some large buyers(in 2018 Spain's first customer was Germany - in turn the fourth largest exporter in the world -, which accounted for 33% of Spanish sales). The other is that Latin American nations have other important market options: the United States, Russia and China (first, second and fifth largest arms exporters in the world; France is the third).
In 2018 there was a significant drop in Spanish defence exports to Latin America, which amounted to 38.3 million euros, well below any of the previous years. The partial data for 2019 indicates a recovery, although without reaching the figures recorded in 2015, when a peak of €239.4 million was reached, or those of the previous years of 2016 and 2017, when they were €130.7 million and €139.3 million, respectively.
The decrease in 2018 corresponds to a lower purchase list from most Latin American customers. Of the five largest customers over the past five years, Colombia was the only one to maintain a similar level of purchases, amounting to €11 million. Colombia and the next largest buyer, Mexico, were the only ones to slightly increase their imports in 2017, although they were lower than in previous years. The reduction was significant for the next two customers in 2018, Brazil and Peru. This year marked a further reduction in imports from Ecuador, which has continuously cut its order book from Spain over the last five years.
The figures considered in this article only take into account defence material, not other subject material, which the administrative office considers separately, such as riot control material, hunting and sporting weapons, as well as dual-use technology products.
General and Latin American sales
Spain has around 130 companies dedicated to the arms sector. These include Airbus Military, Navantia and Indra, which are among the world's top 100 defence and security companies. Most of the sector are private companies, although there are some unique cases of public ownership, such as Navantia, dedicated to shipbuilding, both civil and military, created in 2005 when the assets of another public company, business , group IZAR, were spun off.
According to the official data of the administrative office of State for Trade, the issue of defence material exports has been increasing notably over the last few years. More than half of Spanish arms exports during 2018 and the first semester of 2019 were destined for countries belonging to NATO or the European Union. In 2017, exports exceeded 4.3 billion euros, after several years of increases in this market. In contrast, arms worth €3,720.4 million were sold in 2018, which was 14.4% less. In the first semester of 2019, however, an improvement was recorded, reaching €2,413 million, an increase of 41.5% compared to the same period last year.
In terms of trade with Latin America, between 2014 and 2018 Spain sold €691.2 million worth of military equipment to the region, representing 3.6 per cent of Spain's total arms exports of €19,042 million.
Over the five years as a whole, the leading importer was Mexico, which with purchases worth 171.4 million euros (of which 140.9 million euros corresponded to 2015 alone), acquired a quarter (24.8 per cent) of the defence materiel sold by Spain to Latin America over the five-year period. The second most important country was Ecuador, with 155.7 million and 22.5 per cent (slightly more than half -85.9 million- were purchases made in 2014 alone). It is followed by Brazil, which made more regular purchases over this time, with 111.8 million and 16.1%); Peru, with 99.5 million and 14.4% (the largest amount -78.4 million- was executed in 2017), and Colombia, with 59.5 million and 8.6%.
Mexico has been the leading purchaser of Spanish defence material in the last five years (2014 and 2018) due to purchases made in 2015, when it acquired four transport aircraft, worth 127.2 million euros. In 2018 it only imported €10.1 million worth of parts, pieces and spare parts for Spanish-made aircraft, engine equipment for an aircraft derived from a European cooperation programme and instruments for an air surveillance system.
Brazil is one of the countries with the greatest diversity in the destination of its imports. In recent purchases, 19.7% went to private business , 74.2% to the Armed Forces and the remaining 5.9% to individuals. In 2018, it purchased 7.9 million euros worth of pistols, rifles and magazines for private individuals, as well as day sights, armoured vehicle parts, and Spanish and US-made aircraft parts for the Armed Forces.
Colombia imported in 2018 a total of 11 million euros in spare parts for the maintenance of artillery howitzers, artillery ammunition, spare parts for Spanish and US-made armoured vehicles, and parts for Spanish-made transport aircraft.
Until a few years ago, Venezuela was an important client for the Spanish arms industry. However, following the authoritarian drift taken by Nicolás Maduro's government, relations in this field have weakened. As recently as 2015, Spain sold 15.3 million euros worth of defence material to Maduro, in operations that were shrouded in controversy as some of the exported equipment could be used in the severe repression carried out against its citizens. Since then, with the increase in tensions between the Chavista regime and the United States or the European Union, a series of restrictions have been placed on the export of this subject material to Venezuela. Thus, sales went from having a value of 3.3 million euros in 2017 to just 44,000 euros in 2018, corresponding to payment for spare parts and parts for the modernisation of French-made armoured vehicles, in a transaction that was approved before the trade restrictions of this subject imposed by the EU.
The official data provided by administrative office distinguishes between authorised exports and realised exports. Authorisations do not always materialise in actual sales and sometimes these are executed in subsequent years. The difference is particularly notable in Venezuela, whose political status forced the restriction of exports to that country. In 2018, Spain suspended four licences already approved for Caracas, relating to helicopter maintenance and the provision of electro-optical supplies and systems. In addition, extensions to contracts for the modernisation of battle tanks were denied.
Bolivia and Nicaragua have stopped buying defence materiel from Spain: while between 2014 and 2018 they made no purchases, between 2007 and 2013 they imported 1.5 million and 62,000 euros, respectively.
Cuba, which had a peak in purchases in 2015 at €208,080, in 2018 spent €20,600 on pistols and pistol barrels for the police.
The bi-national Colombian-Venezuelan guerrilla character provides the Maduro regime with another shock force in the face of external military harassment or a coup.
The ELN has reached some 2,400 fighters between the two countries; its main funding now comes from illicit businesses in Venezuela, such as drugs and illegal mining.
FARC dissidents number at least 2,300; the group with the greatest projection is the one led in Venezuela by Iván Márquez, former FARC leader issue two.
Elenos' and ex-FARC cooperate operationally in certain activities promoted by the Maduro regime, but their future organic convergence is unclear.
FARC dissidents led by Iván Márquez announce their return to arms, August 2019 [video image].
report SRA 2020 / María Gabriela Farjardo[PDF version].
The consolidation of the two main Colombian guerrilla groups - the ELN and some remnants of the former FARC - as active forces also in Venezuela, thus articulating themselves as Colombian-Venezuelan groups, constitutes one of the main notes of 2019 in the field of regional security in the Americas.
Both groups are said to have around 1,700 troops in Venezuela (two thirds of them from the ELN), of which a third (570) are said to be recruited from among Venezuelans. Used by the Chavista regime for guerrilla training of its irregular forces and as a shock force in the event of external military harassment or a coup, the ELN and ex-Farc are involved in drug trafficking, smuggling and the extraction of gold and other illegal mining, both in areas close to the border with Colombia, where they have operated for many years, and in the Venezuelan interior, such as the mining-rich states of Amazonas and Bolívar.
Following the agreement peace agreement signed between the government of Juan Manuel Santos and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in November 2016, the National Liberation Army (ELN) began a process of expansion that allowed it to fill the vacuum left by the FARC in various illicit activities, although its estimated issue of 2,400 troops is a far cry from the more than 8,000 that the FARC had at the time of its demobilisation. Although it has had to compete with FARC remnants that are still active as mafia elements, the ELN has become Colombia's main guerrilla force, also focused on organised crime. The ELN's 17 January 2019 attack on the Police Cadet School in Bogotá, in which 22 people were killed, marked the end of an agonising peace dialogue with the government and a flight forward as a criminal organisation.
In the process, the ELN has also been establishing itself in Venezuela, not only in border areas and as a place of refuge and hiding place as before, but also in other parts of the neighbouring country and as an area of activity. The same has happened with the FARC dissidents led by Iván Márquez, Jesús Santrich and El Paisa, who on 29 August announced their return to arms, in a video presumably recorded in Venezuela. The interest of Nicolás Maduro's regime in having the help of such armed elements has meant that the ELN and the ex-FARC of Márquez, who was the FARC's issue 2 and its chief negotiator in the peace negotiations held in Havana, have become bi-national groups, also recruiting Venezuelans.
The growing presence of these groups in Venezuela has been reported by the Colombian authorities. The commander of the Armed Forces, General Luis Navarro, indicated in mid-year that some 1,100 ELN members (just over 40 per cent of the organisation's 2,400 fighters, although other sources consider this total figure to be leave ) were taking refuge in Venezuela, and that group had at least 320 Venezuelan citizens in its ranks.
Meanwhile, during his visit to the UN General Assembly in late September, President Iván Duque raised the ELN's presence in Venezuela to 1,400 troops. Duque indicated that there were 207 geographical points controlled by the ELN on Venezuelan soil, including several training camps and twenty airstrips for drug trafficking, as documented in a controversial dossier that was not released to the public because it contained some test erroneous photographs.
A few days earlier, Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo had told the OAS about the location of ELN fronts and FARC dissidents in Venezuela and referred to their close connections with the Chavista regime. "The links would be with members of the armed forces, the national guard, military intelligence, as well as irregular groups such as the Bolivarian Liberation Force," he said.
Other details were investigated by the Fundación Ideas para la Paz (FIP), which in its report stated that the ELN finances itself through criminal activities such as extortion and maintains control of gasoline smuggling and mining in several regions of Colombia and Venezuela. In Venezuelan territory, with a presence in at least twelve of its 24 states, it controls gold mines in Bolivar state, hundreds of kilometres from the Colombian border, and coltan mining activities in Amazonas state. According to information attributed to Colombian intelligence, these illicit activities account for 70 percent of their profits. source Thus, the ELN's base of operations in Venezuela is currently the largest source of income for the insurgent group .
As for FARC dissidents, Colombian government sources put the number of FARC dissidents at around 2,300 in mid-2019 (including non-demobilised elements, others who have returned to arms and new recruits). While this is close to the figure offered for the ELN, it should be borne in mind that FARC dissidents are atomised.
Some 600 of them are reportedly in Venezuela, including some 250 Venezuelans who have joined their ranks (almost 10 per cent of their total strength). Although these are separate groups that operate on their own, most attention has been given to the one led by Iván Márquez, due to its coordination with the Maduro regime. One episode involving this group was the alleged assassination attempt in Colombia on Rodrigo Londoño, who led the FARC as Timochenko and who has remained loyal to the peace accords. Londoño accused Márquez and El Paisa of ordering the action, foiled by Colombian security forces and unveiled in January 2020, so that other ex-guerrillas would return to arms as they ran out of leadership in civilian life.
Internal documentation of the Venezuelan secret services published by Semana reveals the close relationship between the Maduro government, the ELN and the ex-FARCpartnership . "The regime went from hiding fugitive guerrillas in the early 2000s to serving as the headquarters of operations for these groups. Not only do they prepare militarily, but they also train the militias and the so-called colectivos in guerrilla warfare tactics and strategies," the weekly said.
All this is producing an operational convergence in Venezuela between the ELN and the ex-FARC. However, status does not necessarily lead to a merger of the two groups, which in Colombia maintain their differences, further encouraged by the aspirations of the different criminal groups into which the FARC dissidents have split, and which are referred to in the plural for a reason.
signature On the other hand, the implementation of the Peace Accords was framed in 2019 in a growing climate of insecurity caused by the murder during the year of 77 former FARC guerrillas (173 since the peace agreement was signed in 2016) and 86 local social leaders, according to the report of the UN's University Secretary, António Guterres. Colombian organisations put the latter figure higher, such as the high school of programs of study for development and Peace(Indepaz), which reports 282 homicides, often linked to the attempt to replace coca with legal crops in regions where drug trafficking is active. In any case, this is a decrease compared to 2018, something that can be attributed to the fact that the new territorial distribution of armed groups has already been consolidated and they have less effective resistance.
US Southern Command highlights Iranian interest in consolidating Hezbollah's intelligence and funding networks in the region
Throughout 2019, Rosneft tightened its control over PDVSA, marketing 80% of production, but US sanctions forced it to leave the country.
The arrival of Iranian Revolutionary Guard troops comes amid a US naval and air deployment in the Caribbean, not far from Venezuelan waters.
The Iranians, once again beset by Washington's sanctions, return to the country that helped them circumvent the international siege during the era of the Chávez-Ahmadinejab alliance.
▲ Nicolás Maduro and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at a meeting in Tehran in 2015 [Hossein Zohrevand, Tasnim News Agency].
report SRA 2020 / Emili J. Blasco [PDF version].
financial aid In a short period of time, Venezuela has gone from depending on Chinese loans to relying on the Russian energy sector (as was particularly evident in 2019) and then to asking for the help of Iranian oil technicians (as was seen at the beginning of 2020). If the Chinese public loans were supposed to keep the country running, Rosneft's aid was only intended to save the national oil company, PDVSA, while the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's financial aid only aims to reactivate some refineries. Whoever assists Venezuela is getting smaller and smaller, and purpose is getting smaller and smaller.
In just ten years, China's big public banks granted 62.2 billion dollars in loans to the Venezuelan government. The last of the 17 loans came in 2016; since then Beijing has ignored the knocks Nicolás Maduro has made on its door. Although since 2006 Chavismo had also received credits from Moscow (some $17 billion for the purchase of arms from Russia itself), Maduro turned to pleading with Vladimir Putin when the Chinese financial aid ended. Unwilling to give any more credit, the Kremlin articulated another way of helping the regime while ensuring immediate benefits. Thus began Rosneft's direct involvement in various aspects of the Venezuelan oil business, beyond the specific exploitation of certain fields.
This mechanism was particularly relevant in 2019, when the progressive US sanctions on Venezuela's oil activity began to have a major effect. To circumvent the sanctions on PDVSA, Rosneft became a marketer of Venezuelan oil, controlling the marketing of most of the total production (between 60 and 80 per cent).
Washington's threat to punish Rosneft also led the company to shift its business to two subsidiaries, Rosneft Trading and TNK Trading International, which in turn left the business when the US pointed the finger at them. Although Rosneft generally serves the Kremlin's geopolitical interests, the fact that it is owned by BP or Qatari funds means that the company does not so easily risk its bottom line.
The departure of Rosneft, which also saw no economic sense in continuing its involvement in reactivating Venezuela's refineries, whose paralysis has plunged the country into a generalised lack of fuel supply to the population, left Maduro with few options. The Russians abandoned the Armuy refinery at the end of January 2020, and the following month Iranians were already trying to get it up and running again. Within weeks, Iran's new involvement in Venezuela became public: Tarek el Assami, the Chavista leader with the strongest connections to Hezbollah and the Shia world, was appointed oil minister in April, and in May five cargo ships brought fuel oil and presumably refining machinery from Iran to Venezuela.
The supply did not solve much (the gasoline was barely enough for a few weeks' consumption) and the Iranian technicians, at least some of them led by the Revolutionary Guard, were unlikely to be able to fix the refining problem. Meanwhile, Tehran was getting substantial shipments of gold in return for its services (nine tonnes, according to the Trump Administration). The Iranian airline Mahan, used by the Revolutionary Guards in their operations, was involved in the transports.
Thus, suffocated by the new outline sanctions imposed by Donald Trump, Iran returned to Venezuela in search of economic oxygen and also of political partnership vis-à-vis Washington, as when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad allied with Hugo Chávez to alleviate the restrictions of the first sanctions regime that the Islamic nation suffered.
US naval and air deployment
Iran's "interference" in the Western Hemisphere had already been mentioned, among the list of risks to regional security, in the appearance of the head of the US Southern Command, Admiral Craig Faller, on Capitol Hill in Washington (in January he went to the Senate and in March to the House of Representatives, with the same written speech ). Faller referred in particular to Iran's use of Hezbollah, whose presence on the continent has been aided by Chavismo for years. According to the admiral, this Hezbollah-linked activity 'allows Iran to gather intelligence and carry out contingency planning for possible retaliatory attacks against the United States and/or Western interests'.
However, the novelty of Faller's speech lay in two other issues. On the one hand, for the first time the head of the Southern Command placed China's risk ahead of Russia's, in a context of growing rivalry between Washington and Beijing, which is also manifested in the positioning of Chinese investments in strategic infrastructure works in the region.
On the other hand, he announced a forthcoming 'increased US military presence in the hemisphere', something that began to take place at the end of March 2020 when US ships and aircraft were deployed in the Caribbean and the Pacific to reinforce the fight against drug trafficking. In the context of its speech, this increased military activity in the region was understood as a necessary notice towards extra-hemispheric countries.
"Above all, what matters in this fight is persistent presence," he said, "we have to be present on the field to compete, and we have to compete to win. Specifically, he proposed more joint actions and exercises with other countries in the region and the "recurring rotation of small special operations forces teams, soldiers, sailors, pilots, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and staff National Guard to help us strengthen those partnerships".
But the arrival of US ships close to Venezuelan waters, just days after the announcement on 26 March from New York and Miami of the opening of a macro-court case for drug trafficking and other crimes against the main Chavista leaders, including Nicolás Maduro and Diosdado Cabello, gave this military deployment the connotation of a physical encirclement of the Chavista regime.
That deployment also gave some context to two other developments shortly thereafter, offering misleading readings: the failed Operation Gideon on 3 May by a group group of mercenaries who claimed they intended to infiltrate the country for Maduro (the increased transmission capabilities acquired by the US in the area, thanks to its manoeuvres, were not used in principle in this operation), and the arrival of the Iranian ships at the end of the month (the US deployment raised suspicions that Washington could intercept the ships' advance, which did not happen).
Beijing has announced the construction of a fifth base, matching the US base at issue .
While there is widespread international monitoring of the major powers' position-taking in the Arctic, given that global warming opens up trade routes and possibilities for resource exploitation, geopolitical movements around Antarctica go more unnoticed. With any national claims to the South Pole continent frozen by existing agreements, the steps taken by the superpowers are minor but significant. As in the Arctic, China is a new player, and is stepping up its stakes.
▲ Shared camp for research science in Antarctica [Pixabay].
article / Jesús Rizo
Antarctica is the southernmost continent and at the same time the most extreme due to its geographical and thermal conditions, which seriously limit its habitability. Human presence is almost impossible in the so-called East Antarctic, which is two thousand metres above sea level and makes up more than two thirds of the continent, making it the highest altitude continent average. Moreover, since Antarctica is not an ocean, as is the Arctic, it is not affected, except in its continental perimeter, by the increase in sea temperatures due to climate change.
To these difficulties for human presence are added the limitations imposed by international provisions, which have applied a moratorium on any claim to sovereignty or commercial exploitation, something that does not happen in the Arctic. Action in Antarctica is strongly determined by the Antarctic Treaty (Washington, 1959) which, in its articles I and IX, reservation the continent for research scientific and peaceful purposes. In addition, it prohibits nuclear explosions and the disposal of radioactive waste (article V), and any non-peaceful military action (article I).
protocol This treaty is complemented and developed by three other documents: the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR, Canberra, 1980), the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals (CCFA, London, 1988) and the Antarctic Treaty on Environmental Protection (Madrid, 1991), which prohibits "any activity related to mineral resources, except for scientific research " until 2048. At final, the so-called Antarctic Treaty System (ATS) "shields" the Antarctic region from exploitation of its resources and increased international tensions, as it also freezes territorial claims for as long as it is in force. However, this does not prevent global powers from also seeking a foothold in Antarctica.
The most recent action corresponds to the People's Republic of China, which aspires to play a major role in the area, as is the case in the Arctic. Already with four scientific instructions sites on the southern continent (the Antarctic instructions Great Wall, Zhongshan, Kunlun and Taishan, the first two permanent and the last two functional in summer), last November it announced the construction of its fifth base (thus equalling the United States at issue ). The new facility, in the Ross Sea, would be operational by 2022.
In relation to these scientific stations, since Xi Jinping came to power in 2013, China has been seeking to create a Specially Managed Antarctic Zone for the protection of the environment around the Kunlun base, something resisted by its regional neighbours, as it would give Beijing dominion over the activities carried out there. This is China's most important base, essential for its programs of study at subject astronomy and, therefore, for the development of the BeiDou, China's satellite navigation system, which is essential for the expansion and modernisation of its armed forces and rivals the GPS (US), Galileo (EU) and GLONASS (Russia) systems. In this respect, and in view of the military implications of Antarctica, the Treaty established the possibility for any country to carry out inspections of any of the instructions sites there, as a way of ensuring compliance with the provisions of agreement (article VII). However, the danger and cost of these inspections have meant that they have been considerably reduced, not to mention that the Kunlun base is located in one of the most climatically hostile regions of the continent.
On the other hand, China currently has two icebreakers, the Xue Long I and the Xue Long II, the latter built entirely on Chinese territory with the Finnish Aker Arctic attendance . Experts believe that, following the construction of this vessel, the People's Republic could be close to building nuclear-powered icebreakers, something that is currently only undertaken by Russia and which would have global consequences.
But the importance of Antarctica for China is not only reflected in the technical and technological advances it is making, but also in its bilateral relations with countries close to the southern continent such as Chile and Brazil, the former with original consultative status and with a territorial claim in the ATS, and the latter with consultative status only. Last September, the Andean country held the first meeting of the Joint Antarctic Cooperationcommittee with the People's Republic, in which, among other matters, the use of the port of Punta Arenas by China as a base for the supply of staff and materials to its Antarctic installations was discussed, conversations that will require further deepening. business As for Brazil, China's CEIEC (China National Electronics Import & Export Corporation) financed a new Brazilian Antarctic base worth $100 million in January.
Approximate location of the main Antarctic instructions . In blue, the US instructions , in red, the Russian , and in yellow, the Chinese .
Finally, it is worth analysing the weight of the US and Russia in Antarctica, although China is likely to be the most important player in the region, at least until the opening of the Madrid protocol for review in 2048. The United States has three permanent instructions (the instructions McMurdo, Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station and Palmer) and two summer only (the instructions Copacabana and Cape Shirreff), so the construction of the new Chinese base will equal the issue total of the instructions US bases.
For its part, Russia, the dominant power in the Arctic, is also the dominant power in its southern counterpart, at least in terms of issue of instructions, since it has six, four of which operate annually (Mirni, Novolazarevskaya, Progrés and Vostok) and the other two only during the summer (Bellingshausen and Molodiózhnaya). However, it should be noted that Russia has not opened any Antarctic bases since the collapse of the USSR, the most recent being Progrés (1988), although it has tried, for example, to reopen the Soviet base Russkaya, without success. The United States also established most of its Antarctic instructions at the height of the Cold War, in the 1950s and 1960s, except for the two summer ones (Copacabana in 1985 and Cape Shirreff in 1991).
China, by contrast, opened the Great Wall base in 1985, the Zhongshan base in 1989, the Kunlun base in 2009 and the Taishan base in 2014 and, as mentioned above, has a new one pending for 2022.
In addition to the countries mentioned above, another twenty countries have instructions of research in Antarctica, including Spain, which has consultative status in the Antarctic Treaty. Spain has two summer instructions sites in the South Shetland Islands, the Juan Carlos I base (1988) and the Gabriel de Castilla base (1998). It also has a temporary scientific camp located on the Byers Peninsula of Livingston Island.
Albania and North Macedonia are forced to accept tougher negotiating rules, while Serbia and Montenegro reassess their options.
Brexit has been absorbing the EU's negotiating attention for many months and now Covid-19 has slowed down non-priority decision-making processes. In October 2019, the EU decided to cool down talks with the Western Balkans, under pressure from France and some other countries. Albania and North Macedonia, which had made the work that Brussels had requested in order to formally open negotiations, have seen the rules of the game changed just before the start of the game.
▲ meeting of the Western Balkans with EU countries, held in London in 2018 [European Commission].
article / Elena López-Doriga
Since its origins, the European Community has been evolving and expanding its competences through treaties structuring its functioning and aims. issue The membership of the organisation has also expanded considerably: it started with 6 countries (France, Belgium, the Federal Republic of Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands) and now consists of 27 (following the recent departure of the United Kingdom).
The most notable year of this enlargement was 2004, when the EU committed itself to integrating 10 new countries, which was a major milestone challenge, given that these countries were mainly from Central and Eastern Europe, coming from the "iron curtain", with less developed economies emerging from communist systems and Soviet influence.
The next enlargement round goal is the possible EU membership of the countries of the Western Balkans (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia). However, at a summit held in Brussels at the end of 2019 to open accession negotiations for new members, some EU countries were against continuing the process, so for the time being the accession of the candidate countries will have to wait. Some EU leaders have called this postponement a "historic mistake".
Enlargement towards Central and Eastern Europe
In May 1999 the EU launched the Stabilisation Process and association. The Union undertook to develop new contractual relations with Central and Eastern European countries that expressed a desire to join the Union through stabilisation agreements and association, in exchange for commitments on political, economic, trade or human rights reform. As a result, in 2004 the EU integrated the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia (the first member from the Western Balkans). In 2007 Bulgaria and Romania also joined the Union and in 2013 Croatia, the second Western Balkan country to join.
The integration of the Western Balkans
Since the end of the Yugoslav wars in late 2001, the EU has played a very prominent role in the Balkans, not only as an economic power in subject reconstruction, but also as a guarantor of stability and security in the region. The EU's goal is in part to prevent the Western Balkans from becoming a security black hole, given the rise of rising nationalism, growing tension between Moscow and Washington, which fuels tensions between ethnic groups in the region, and China's economic penetration of the area. Clearer progress towards Balkan integration was reaffirmed in the Commission's Western Balkans strategy of February 2018 and in the Sofia Declaration following the EU-Western Balkans Summit held in the Bulgarian capital on 17 May 2018. At the Summit, EU leaders reiterated their unequivocal support for the European perspective of the Western Balkans. "I see no future for the Western Balkans other than the EU. There is no alternative, there is no plan B. The Western Balkans are part of Europe and belong to our community," said the then president of the European committee , Donald Tusk.
Official candidates: Albania and Macedonia
Albania applied for EU membership on 28 April 2009. In 2012, the Commission noted significant progress and recommended that Albania be granted the status of candidate, subject to the implementation of a number of outstanding reforms. In October 2013, the Commission unequivocally recommended that Albania be granted membership status candidate . visit Angela Merkel visited Tirana on 8 July 2015 and stated that the prospect of the Balkan region's accession to the European Union (EU) was important for peace and stability. He stressed that in the case of Albania the pace of the accession process depended on the completion of reforms in the judicial system and the fight against corruption and organised crime. In view of the country's progress, the Commission recommended the opening of accession negotiations with Albania in its 2016 and 2018 reports.
On the other hand, the Republic of North Macedonia (former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) applied for EU membership in March 2004 and was granted country status candidate in December 2005. However, the country did not start accession negotiations because of the dispute with Greece over the use of the name "Macedonia". When this was successfully resolved by the agreement of Prespa under the country's new name - Northern Macedonia - the committee agreed on the possibility of opening accession negotiations with this country in June 2019, assuming the necessary conditions were met.
Potential candidates: Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a potential candidate country. Although it negotiated and signed a Stabilisationagreement and association with the EU in 2008, the entrance entry into force of this agreement remained at Fail mainly due to the country's failure to implement a judgement core topic of the European Court of Human Rights. In the meantime, the Parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina has not reached a agreement concerning the rules of procedure governing its meetings with the European Parliament (twice a year), as these meetings have not been held since November 2015, and this status constitutes a breach of agreement by Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Kosovo is a potential candidate candidate for EU membership. It declared its independence unilaterally in February 2008. All but five Member States (Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Slovakia, Spain and Cyprus) have recognised Kosovo's independence. Among the countries in the region, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina have also failed to recognise Kosovo as an independent state. In September 2018, the European Parliament went a step further and decided to open inter-institutional negotiations, which are currently underway. However, the fact that not all member states currently recognise its independence is a major stumbling block.
Negotiating accession: Montenegro and Serbia
Montenegro, one of the smallest states on the European continent, has been part of different empires and states over the past centuries, finally gaining independence peacefully in 2006. It applied to join the Union in December 2008; it was granted the status of a country candidate in December 2010, and accession negotiations started in June 2012. By the end of 2018, 32 negotiating chapters had been opened, out of a total of 35.
Serbia 's process began in December 2009 when former president Boris Tadić officially submitted application for membership and also handed over to justice war criminal Ratko Mladić, manager of the Srebrenica massacre during the Bosnian War, who was hiding on Serbian territory. However, the conflict with Kosovo is one of Serbia's main obstacles to EU accession. It was granted country status candidate in March 2012, after Belgrade and Pristina reached an agreement agreement on Kosovo's regional representation. The official opening of accession negotiations took place on 21 January 2014. In February 2018, the Commission published a new strategy for the Western Balkans stating that Serbia (as well as Montenegro) could join the EU by 2025, while acknowledging the "extremely ambitious" nature of this prospect. Serbia's future EU membership, like that of Kosovo, remains closely linked to the high-level dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo under EU auspices, which should lead to a legally binding comprehensive agreement on the normalisation of their relations.
A step back in the negotiations
In October 2019, a summit was held in Brussels, goal to structure the negotiations of the official candidates for EU membership. Both North Macedonia and Albania were convinced that a date would be set to start the long process of negotiations. However, the process reached a stalemate after seven hours of wrangling, with France rejecting both countries' entrance . France led the campaign against enlargement, but Denmark and the Netherlands also joined the veto. They argue that the EU is not ready to take on new members. "It doesn't work too well at 28, it doesn't work too well at 27, and I'm not sure it will work any better with another enlargement. So we have to be realistic. Before enlarging, we need to reform ourselves," said French President Emmanuel Macron.
The then president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, considered the suspension to be a major historic mistake and hoped that it would only be temporary. For his part, Donald Tusk said he was "ashamed" of the decision, and concluded that North Macedonia and Albania were not to blame for the status created, as the European Commission's reports were clear that both had done what was necessary to start negotiations with the EU.
In Albania, Prime Minister Edi Rama said that the lack of consensus among European leaders would not change Albania's future EU membership aspirations. He asserted that his government was determined to push ahead with the reforms initiated in the electoral, judicial and administrative spheres because it considered them necessary for the country's development , not just because Brussels demanded it.
In North Macedonia, on the other hand, the European rejection was deeply disappointing, as the country had proceeded to reform its institutions and judicial system and fight corruption; it had also changed its constitution, its name and its national identity. The rejection left the country, candidate official status for the past 14 years, in a state of great uncertainty, and Prime Minister Zoran Zaev decided to dissolve parliament and call elections for 12 April 2020 (later postponed due to the Covid-19 emergency). "We have fulfilled our obligations, but the EU has not. We are the victims of a historic mistake that has led to a huge disappointment," Zaev said.
A new, stricter process
Despite the fact that, according to the Commission, North Macedonia and Albania fulfilled the requirements criteria to become accession candidates, Macron proposed to tighten the accession process. In order to unblock status and continue with the process, which the EU claims to be a priority goal , Brussels has given in to the French president's request by establishing a new methodology for integrating new countries.
The new process envisages the possibility of reopening chapters of the negotiations that were considered closed or of fail the talks underway in one of the chapters; it even envisages paralysing the negotiations as a whole. It aims to give more weight to governments and to facilitate the suspension of pre-accession funds or the freezing of the process if candidate countries freeze or reverse committed reforms. The new method will apply to Albania and North Macedonia, whose negotiations with the EU have not yet begun, while Serbia and Montenegro will be able to choose whether to join, without having to change their established negotiating framework , according to the Commission.
One of the main instruments for combating poverty loses its relevance between the end of the "golden decade" and the beginning of the "second lost decade".
So-called Conditional Cash Transfers (CCTs) -submission of money to disadvantaged families with a commitment to schooling, medical check-ups or other basic requirements that, along with improving household incomes, sought to promote the options of the younger generation - have over the last two decades helped to significantly increase the class average in Latin America. But once beyond the subsistence level, citizens have recently begun to demand improved services, such as teaching, healthcare or transport - as seen in the protests of recent months in the region - to which CCTs no longer provided an answer. Just as countries were thinking of readapting their policies in response to this change in perspective, the Covid-19 crisis threatened to throw millions of people back into poverty, so cash transfers became necessary again, this time without conditionalities.
Beneficiaries of Brazil's Bolsa Família, one of the pioneering conditional cash transfer programmes [Gov. of Brazil].
article / María Gabriela Fajardo
The first Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) programmes in Latin America, a pioneer region in the implementation of this instrument, were developed in the mid-1990s in Brazil and Mexico with the intention of "transforming and halting the intergenerational transmission of poverty through the development of human capacities in the most vulnerable families", as stated by a report of ECLAC (United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean). status The CCTs were designed to provide support to families in poverty or extreme poverty with under-age children. The submission of this monetary aid (also non-monetary) was provided as long as the families complied with basic conditions of health, Education and nutrition for the children.
The implementation of CCTs spread rapidly throughout the region. In 1997, only four countries had any of these programmes: Brazil (Bolsa Escola), Ecuador (Bono Solidario), Honduras (Programa de Asignación Familiar) and Mexico (Progresa). A decade later, almost all Latin American countries had adapted the initiative.
Although in some cases this tool has been controversial, given that some governments have been able to use it as "an instrument of social policy and its targeting is discussed as a strategy to address actions that must operate under restricted budgets", according to the aforementioned report of ECLAC, the truth is that CCTs are considered to have contributed to the socio-economic progress of the region. Alejandro Werner, director for the Western Hemisphere of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), recently pointed this out. "In the last 15 years," he said, giving part of the credit to CCTs, "important progress has been made in the topic area of poverty alleviation and reduction of income maldistribution. In this way, Latin America is probably the region where we see the greatest improvement in income distribution".
agreement Between 2002 and 2014, a time known in Latin America as the "golden decade" (a consequence of the commodities boom ), the poverty rate in the region fell from 45.4% to 27.8%, so that 66 million people overcame that status, according to the Social Panorama of Latin America 2019 published by ECLAC. Additionally, the extreme poverty rate decreased from 12.2% to 7.8%. However, since 2015, the level of poverty and extreme poverty began to increase, patron saint which has continued since then, albeit moderately. For 2019, ECLAC predicted an increase in poverty and extreme poverty to fees of 30.8% and 11.5%, respectively, so that 27 million more people returned to poverty compared to 2014.
The challenge: from extreme poverty, to the class average
This slight reversal indicates that many who in that "golden decade" gained access to the class average , making this sector of the population a majority for the first time, find themselves in a high Degree of vulnerability. At the same time, these people have seen their expectations of subsequent progress and access to better services from the state unmet after their previous status of survival. The new challenge in many countries was to make public policies revolve around other factors that would allow the consolidation of these people in the class average . This neglect generated discontent that contributed to the large protests in several Latin American countries at the end of 2019.
The increased demands of a better-off population made structural deficiencies more evident. "The region's structural deficiencies have become more evident and their solution is part of the demands of broad social groups, particularly the new generations", according to report Social Panorama. In particular, ECLAC warned about "segmented access to quality public and cultural services".
In Werner's words, "having achieved such a significant reduction in the reduction of poverty also generates an important challenge for policy makers in Latin America, since the design of social policies has to be oriented towards attending to other factors, not to the reduction of extreme poverty. It is not that we have to forget about that, but clearly the challenge now is to focus also on addressing those segments of the population that are no longer in poverty, which are class average ". After underlining the precariousness of this large group of the population that has moved up the social ladder, the IMF's manager for the Western Hemisphere indicated that "clearly the instruments to address this vulnerability are different from the conditional transfer schemes that were implemented in the past", and specifically cited access to quality health and Education .
However, states have faced the need for this paradigm shift without budgetary support. It is evident that the state has little capacity to respond to the new needs of the vulnerable population affected by low levels of education, few opportunities at work and the inefficiency of the pension system.
The countries have found that economic growth, which between 2000 and 2013 hovered jointly around 2%, has been weakening since 2014. Thus, real GDP per capita in the region has declined by 0.6% per year. The causes of this decline in economic growth can be classified into two factors, as Werner explained. Firstly, structural causes have inhibited potential growth due to "low investment, slow productivity growth, a poor business climate Pass , the leave quality of infrastructure and Education". Second, cyclical causes include weak global economic growth and low commodity prices; uncertainty in large regional economies such as Brazil and Mexico, sudden economic stops in stressed economies such as Argentina and Ecuador, and social tensions in the last quarter of 2019.
The emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic has worsened the economic outlook for Latin America and the Caribbean, for which the April 2020 report forecasts a 5.2% drop in GDP this year. Although the IMF estimates a recovery of 3.4% in 2021, this will not be enough to allay fears of a new "lost decade". In his most recent intervention to comment on these data, Werner warned that between 2015 and 2025 GDP per capita "will be flat".
To cope with this new status, socially aggravated by the health crisis and the suffering of so many people, governments are resorting to direct cash transfers, no longer conditional, to vulnerable households. In a way, it is a return to a stage of need that was even earlier, before the CCTs were extended. It is a return to the urgency of the 1980s, known in Latin America as the lost decade, when countries had to apply shock measures to get out of a severe public debt crisis.
development The president of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Luis Alberto Moreno, believes that it is still too early to speak of a second lost decade, but agrees that the time is ripe for unconditional transfer programmes. "The big question is whether everything we have achieved in the last 15 years in terms of reducing poverty and extreme poverty, with the incorporation of some Latin Americans into the middle classes, is going to be lost or whether, on the contrary, the capacity of the social systems and the governments' drive to increase the debt and the public expense will cushion the effects," Moreno affirms. All the countries "are strengthening the transfer programmes that were developed almost two decades ago, and which have been very successful", although "in this case they will not be conditional, in order to preserve the income of many families".
Apart from China, Italy has received aid from Russia and Cuba, making a risky geopolitical move in the European context.
The global spreading of the virus is putting under stress the big ally of the Union, the United States, which is demonstrating its lack of an efficient social health care system. Furthermore, the initial refusal of Washington to send help to the EU was seen as an opportunity for countries like Russia, China and Cuba to send medical and technical support to those countries of the EU that are most affected by the virus. Italy has taken aid send by Beijing, Moscow and Havana, shaking the geopolitical understandings of the EU's foreign policy.
▲ Russia's aid arrived in Italy in the middle of the pandemic crisis [Russian Defense Ministry].
ARTICLE / Matilde Romito
The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared Corona Virus (Covid-19) a pandemic on the 11th of March, 2020. The fast widespread of the virus pushed numerous countries around the world and especially in Europe where there is the highest number of confirmed cases, to call for a lockdown. This extreme measure is not only leading the EU and the entire world towards an unprecedented economic crisis, but it is also redefining geopolitics and the system of alliances we were used to.
The pandemic. On January 30, 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the first outbreak of novel coronavirus a 'public health emergency of international concern'. In mid-February, numerous cases of corona virus began to be reported in northern Italy and in several European countries. Initially, the spread of the virus mainly hit Italy, which reported the biggest number of cases among the EU states. In March, Italy started with the implementation of social-distancing measures and the consequent lockdown of the country, followed by Spain, France and other European countries. On March 11, 2020, the WHO declared covid-19 a global pandemic. Currently, Europe is the region of the world with the highest number of confirmed cases. According to the WHO, on April 6, Europe reached 621,407 cases compared to the 352,600 cases in America and the 112,524 in Western Asia.
The global lockdown. At first, several major airlines suspended their flights from and to China, in order to avoid further contaminations. Now, the majority of flights in Europe and in other regions have been cancelled. The biggest areas of world are under lockdown and the economic consequences of this are becoming more and more evident. A forced social distancing seems to be the only way to contain the spread of the virus and the closing of national borders is currently at the center of states' policies to combat the virus. However, some European countries, such as Sweden, do not seem to agree on this.
Lack of solidarity
We are assisting to a global situation of 'everybody for oneself,' and this has become highly evident within the EU itself. Individual countries within the Union have shown high levels of egoism on different occasions. The North-South divide within the EU is clearer than ever, particularly between the Netherlands and Austria on the one side, and Italy, Spain, France and Greece on the other side. The former group of countries is asking for compromise and conditions to lend money to the most afflicted ones for countering the crisis, while the latter group is asking the EU to share the debts accumulated in order to save European economies (eurobonds).
The different spread-intensity of the virus in different European countries has shown more than once the fragility of the Union, which demonstrated to be led by the arrogance of the rich. On different occasions European leaders have shown a lack of European identity, solidarity and common vision. For instance, at the beginning of the crisis France and Germany attempted to 'cover with the European flag' medical products directed to Italy, by declaring them 'European products', trying to compensate the initial inaction of the EU. Another example, could be the seizure by the Czech Republic of 110,000 Chinese masks and thousands of breathing supports, which were destined to Italy (March the 21st). Moreover, the lack of unity also came from an unjustified action of protectionism undertaken by Poland, which closed its market to agricultural products coming from Italy on March 18, despite it was already known that the virus could not be spread through such products.
Nevertheless, there are some good and unexpected examples of solidarity. For instance, a good lesson on European solidarity came from the small state of Albania. The Albanian prime minister Edi Rama taught European leaders what it means to be part of the EU by sending a medical unit to the Italian region of Lombardy, despite the numerous difficulties Albania is facing, thus showing that the fight against the virus has no nationality and it cannot leave room for egoistic calculations. Moreover, more recently Germany has accepted to receive and take care of numerous patients coming from Italy, where the majority of health infrastructures are saturated.
Overall, little comprehension and solidarity has been shown between European member states, thus being criticised by the European Commission president, Ursula Von Der Leyen.
The EU is going through numerous changes in the relations between its members. The closing up of individual countries poses a big challenge to the EU itself, which is founded on freedom of movement of people and goods.
Currently, sending masks and medicines seems to have become the main means for countries to exert influence in global affairs. The global spreading of the virus is putting under stress the big ally of the Union, the United States (US), which is demonstrating its lack of an efficient social health care system. Furthermore, the initial refusal of Washington to send help to the EU was seen as an opportunity for countries like Russia, China and Cuba to send medical and technical support to those countries of the EU that are most affected by the virus, like Italy and Spain. After having seen its hegemonic position in Europe under threat, the US decided to send monetary help to some European countries, such as 100 million dollars to Italy, in order to help in countering the emergency.
At the end, the EU seems to start standing all together. But, did the European countries take action on time? Generally, countries, like human beings, are more likely to remember one bad impression better than numerous good ones. Therefore, are countries like Italy going to 'forgive' the EU and its initial inactivity? Or are they going to fall back on countries like Russia and China, which have shown their solidarity since the beginning?
Furthermore, did the EU take action because of an inherent identity and solidarity? Or was it just a counteraction to the Chinese and Russian help? It seemed that specifically Germany's mobilisation followed the exhortation of the former president of the European Central Bank (ECB), Mario Draghi. He accused Germany and other countries of taking advantage of the virus for imposing a 'conditionality' to the countries that were asking for help. Moreover, in an interview on the Financial Times he called for an exceptional investment in the economies and for a guarantee of the debts, in order to jointly face the crisis, because no country can face this unprecedented threat alone. Now, anti-virus economic action turned into a matter of urgency for Europe and the European Commission is working on a common European response to the crisis.
Probably, after the end of the virus spread, the world will assist to important changes in the global dynamics of alliances. Russia and China will most likely have one or more European allies to advance their interests in the EU. On the one side, this could lead to a further weakening of the EU governance and to the re-emergence of nationalism on states' behaviour within the Union. And on the other side, it could lead to the development of further mechanisms of cooperation among the EU members, which will go beyond the eurobonds and will probably extend to the sanitary dimension.
To preserve its unity, the European political-economic-cultural area will need to be strengthened, by fighting inequalities with a new model of solidarity. Its future prosperity will most likely depend on its internal market.
Nevertheless, for now the only thing we can be sure about is that the first impression on the EU was very bad and that this situation is going to lead all of us towards an unprecedented economic crisis, which most probably will redefine the political relationships between the world's biggest regions.
The Alliance maintains its focus on Russia, but for the first time expresses concern about Beijing's actions.
NATO had begun 2020 in the spirit of leaving behind the internal problems of its particular annus horribilis - a 2019 in which the organisation had reached "brain death", according to French President Emmanuel Macron - but the absence of global normality due to the coronavirus crisis is making it difficult to fully implement internship what was agreed at the London Summit, held last December to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the creation of the Alliance. Indeed, the London Declaration expressed concern about China's actions on issues such as 5G.
North Atlantic Treaty Organisation [NATO] Member States
article / Jairo Císcar
internship NATO Summits bring together the Heads of State and/or Government of member countries and serve to take strategic decisions at the highest level, such as the launch of new policies (e.g. the New Strategic Concept at the Lisbon Summit in 2010), the introduction of new members to the Alliance (Istanbul Summit 2004, with seven new members), or the advertisement of major initiatives, as was done at the Newport Summit 2014, where the core coalition of what would later become the International Coalition against the Islamic State was announced.
The London Summit took place on 3 and 4 December to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the creation of the Alliance, which had its first headquarters in the British capital. At the work meetings, attended by all 29 member states, the focus was on three main issues: (a) the continuing tension-distension between Washington and Paris; (b) the economic issue, both the trade war between the European and US defence industries and member states' defence investment; and (c) the management of an increasingly fractious Turkey.
a) The Washington-Paris dispute witnessed a new chapter in the two most committed countries' understanding of the Atlantic Alliance. While the US continues to insist on the importance of focusing the Alliance's efforts on an Eastern axis (against Russia and Middle Eastern jihadism), France wants NATO's strategic axis to focus on the South, on the African Sahel. This is a vision shared and supported by Spain, which participates in several missions on African soil such as EUTM-Mali or the Ivory Detachment in Senegal (which provides strategic transport in the area to the countries participating in AFISMA and especially to France). For Southern Europe, the greatest threat is the jihadist threat, and its centre of gravity is in Africa. Macron made this clear.
b) The economic issue remains fundamental, and was addressed at the Summit. Since the 2014 Newport Summit, at which the 29 members agreed to direct their efforts towards increasing expense in defence to at least 2 per cent of GDP, only nine have achieved goal (Spain is at the bottom, with a derisory 0.92 per cent, surpassed only by Luxembourg). The United States, at the forefront of defence investment within NATO, contributes 22% of the entire budget. The Trump Administration not only wants this increase so that the Alliance will have larger, more prepared and modernised armies, but it is framing the increase in an ambitious commercial strategy, with the F-35 "Lightning" as its main product. As an example, Poland: after reaching the required 2 per cent, the country announced the purchase of 35 F-35s and their software and technical support for $6.5 billion. In this way, the US was able to cope with the losses caused by the break-up of agreement with Turkey after the Ottomans purchased the Russian S-400 system. With this acquisition, Poland jo ins the club of seven other NATO members with this aircraft, facing the commercial offensive of the European producer bloc to continue selling "Eurofighter" packages and, especially, the recent Future Combat Air System (led by Airbus and Dassault), of which Spain is a member. Europe wants to create a strong Defence Industry community for reasons of self-sufficiency and to compete in the markets against the US industry, which is why we are facing a "mini" trade war between allied countries.
c) On Turkey, NATO's most uncomfortable member, there was a clear negative feeling. It is an unreliable ally, which is attacking other allies in Operation Inherent Resolve such as the Kurdish militias, considered terrorists by the Ankara government. Looming over the leaders present in London was the fear of a possible invocation of article 5 of the Washington Treaty by Turkey calling for active confrontation in Syria. NATO has little choice, for if it does not stand up to Erdogan, it would be pushing him into the Russian orbit.
The summit's final statement showed a change of focus within the Alliance: until now, Russia was the main concern and, while it remains a priority, China is taking its place. The Declaration can be divided into three blocks.
1) The first bloc functions as an emergency stopgap, intended to satisfy the most discordant voices and create a picture of apparent seamless unity. In its first point, member states reaffirm the commitment of all countries to the common values they share, citing democracy, individual freedom, human rights and the rule of law. As a gesture towards Turkey, article 5 is mentioned as the cornerstone of the North Atlantic Treaty. It is clear that, at least in the short to medium term deadline, Western countries want to keep Turkey as partner, being willing to compromise in small gestures.
Further on, the Alliance stresses the need to "continue to strengthen the capabilities, both of member states and collectively, to resist all forms of attack". With respect to goal , which is paramount for the US and the top-spending states, it says that good progress is being made, but that "more must and will be done".
2) The next block enters subject purely strategic and less political. The Alliance notes that the current international system is under attack by state and non-state actors. It highlights the threat posed by Russia to the Eurasian region and introduces irregular migration as source of instability.
With respect to this stabilisation, the Alliance's main thrusts will be to secure a long-term presence in Afghanistan deadline, a stronger partnership with the UN, as well as a direct NATO-EU partnership . The Alliance wants to increase its global presence and its presence at all levels. The Alliance wants to increase its global presence, as well as its work at all levels. sample is the forthcoming accession of North Macedonia as the Alliance's 30th member, sending a clear message to Russia that there is no place in Europe for its influence.
Clearly, for NATO we are in 4th generation conflicts, with the use of cyber and hybrid warfare. The commitment to 360° security within the Alliance is mentioned. NATO is aware of the changing realities of the battlefield and the international arena, and sample is committed to adapting and update its capabilities.
3) As a third block, for the first time China is mentioned directly as an issue requiring joint decisions. China's emerging leadership in the field of communications and the internet, especially with 5G technology, is of deep concern within the Atlanticist camp. In an operating environment where cyberwarfare and hybrid warfare will change the way in which conflict is dealt with, there is a need to ensure the resilience of societies that are completely dependent on technology, especially by protecting critical infrastructure (government buildings, hospitals, etc.) and energy security. In London, the importance of developing one's own systems so as not to depend on those provided by countries that could use them against consumers was also proclaimed, as well as the need to increase offensive and defensive capabilities in the cyber environment. It was recognised that China's growing influence in the international arena presents both opportunities and risks, and that this is an issue that needs to be closely and continuously monitored.
The Document ends with a statement of intent: "In times of challenge, we are stronger as an Alliance and our people are more secure. Our togetherness and commitment to each other has guaranteed our freedoms, values and security for 70 years. We act today to ensure that NATO guarantees these freedoms, values and security for generations to come".
While it was a bittersweet summit, with many misunderstandings and unfortunate comments, the reality is that, outside of politics, the Alliance is prepared. It is aware of the threats it faces, both internal and external. It knows the realities of today's world and wants to act accordingly, with a greater and more lasting involvement Degree . While words have often remained on paper, this Declaration and this Summit show an Alliance that, with its particularities, is ready to face the challenges of the 21st century - its old ghosts like Russia, and its new threats like China.
The Trump Administration's Newest Migration Policies and Shifting Immigrant Demographics in the USA
New Trump administration migration policies including the "Safe Third Country" agreements signed by the USA, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras have reduced the number of migrants from the Northern Triangle countries at the southwest US border. As a consequence of this phenomenon and other factors, Mexicans have become once again the main national group of people deemed inadmissible for asylum or apprehended by the US Customs and Border Protection.
▲ An US Border Patrol agent at the southwest US border [cbp.gov].
ARTICLE / Alexandria Casarano Christofellis
On March 31, 2018, the Trump administration cut off aid to the Northern Triangle countries in order to coerce them into implementing new policies to curb illegal migration to the United States. El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala all rely heavily on USAid, and had received 118, 181, and 257 million USD in USAid respectively in the 2017 fiscal year.
The US resumed financial aid to the Northern Triangle countries on October 17 of 2019, in the context of the establishment of bilateral negotiations of Safe Third Country agreements with each of the countries, and the implementation of the US Supreme Court's de facto asylum ban on September 11 of 2019. The Safe Third Country agreements will allow the US to 'return' asylum seekers to the countries which they traveled through on their way to the US border (provided that the asylum seekers are not returned to their home countries). The US Supreme Court's asylum ban similarly requires refugees to apply for and be denied asylum in each of the countries which they pass through before arriving at the US border to apply for asylum. This means that Honduran and Salvadoran refugees would need to apply for and be denied asylum in both Guatemala and Mexico before applying for asylum in the US, and Guatemalan refugees would need to apply for and be denied asylum in Mexico before applying for asylum in the US. This also means that refugees fleeing one of the Northern Triangle countries can be returned to another Northern Triangle country suffering many of the same issues they were fleeing in the first place.
Combined with the Trump administration's longer-standing "metering" or "Remain in Mexico" policy (Migrant Protection Protocols/MPP), these political developments serve to effectively "push back" the US border. The "Remain in Mexico" policy requires US asylum seekers from Latin America to remain on the Mexican side of the US-Mexico border to wait their turn to be accepted into US territory. Within the past year, the US government has planted significant obstacles in the way of the path of Central American refugees to US asylum, and for better or worse has shifted the burden of the Central American refugee crisis to Mexico and the Central American countries themselves, which are ill-prepared to handle the influx, even in the light of resumed US foreign aid. The new arrangements resemble the EU's refugee deal with Turkey.
These policy changes are coupled with a shift in US immigration demographics. In August of 2019, Mexico reclaimed its position as the single largest source of unauthorised immigration to the US, having been temporarily surpassed by Guatemala and Honduras in 2018.
US Customs and Border Protection data indicates a net increase of 21% in the number of Unaccompanied Alien Children from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador deemed inadmissible for asylum at the Southwest US Border by the US field office between fiscal year 2019 (through February) and fiscal year 2020 (through February). All other inadmissible groups (Family Units, Single Adults, etc.) experienced a net decrease of 18-24% over the same time period. For both the entirety of fiscal year 2019 and fiscal year 2020 through February, Mexicans accounted for 69 and 61% of Unaccompanied Alien Children Inadmissible at the Southwest US border respectively, whereas previously in fiscal years 2017 and 2018 Mexicans accounted for only 21 and 26% of these same figures, respectively. The percentages of Family Unit Inadmisibles from the Northern Triangle countries have been decreasing since 2018, while the percentage of Family Unit Inadmisibles from Mexico since 2018 has been on the rise.
With asylum made far less accessible to Central Americans in the wake of the Trump administration's new migration policies, the number of Central American inadmisibles is in sharp decline. Conversely, the number of Mexican inadmisibles is on the rise, having nearly tripled over the past three years.
Chain migration factors at play in Mexico may be contributing to this demographic shift. On September 10, 2019, prominent Mexican newspaper El discussion published an article titled "Immigrants Can Avoid Deportation with these Five Documents." Additionally, The Washington Post cites the testimony of a city official from Michoacan, Mexico, claiming that a local Mexican travel company has begun running a weekly "door-to-door" service line to several US border points of entry, and that hundreds of Mexican citizens have been coming to the municipal offices daily requesting documentation to help them apply for asylum in the US. Word of mouth, press coverage like that found in El discussion, and the commercial exploitation of the Mexican migrant situation have perhaps made migration, and especially the claiming of asylum, more accessible to the Mexican population.
US Customs and Border Protection data also indicates that total apprehensions of migrants from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador attempting illegal crossings at the Southwest US border declined 44% for Unaccompanied Alien Children and 73% for Family Units between fiscal year 2019 (through February) and fiscal year 2020 (through February), while increasing for Single Adults by 4%. The same data trends show that while Mexicans have consistently accounted for the overwhelming majority of Single Adult Apprehensions since 2016, Family Unit and Unaccompanied Alien Children Apprehensions until the past year were dominated by Central Americans. However, in fiscal year 2020-February, the percentages of Central American Family Unit and Unaccompanied Alien Children Apprehensions have declined while the Mexican percentage has increased significantly. This could be attributed to the Northern Triangle countries' and especially Mexico's recent crackdown on the flow of illegal immigration within their own states in response to the same US sanctions and suspension of USAid which led to the Safe Third Country bilateral agreements with Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.
While the Trump administration's crackdown on immigration from the Northern Triangle countries has effectively worked to limit both the legal and illegal access of Central Americans to US entry, the Trump administration's crackdown on immigration from Mexico in the past few years has focused on arresting and deporting illegal Mexican immigrants already living and working within the US borders. Between 2017 and 2018, ICE increased workplace raids to arrest undocumented immigrants by over 400% according to The Independent in the UK. The trend seemed to continue into 2019. President Trump tweeted on June 17, 2019 that "Next week ICE will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States. They will be removed as fast as they come in." More deportations could be leading to more attempts at reentry, increasing Mexican migration to the US, and more Mexican Single Adult apprehensions at the Southwest border. The Washington Post alleges that the majority of the Mexican single adults apprehended at the border are previous deportees trying to reenter the country.
Lastly, the steadily increasing violence within the state of Mexico should not be overlooked as a cause for continued migration. Within the past year, violence between the various Mexican cartels has intensified, and murder rates have continued to rise. While the increase in violence alone is not intense enough to solely account for the spike that has recently been seen in Mexican migration to the US, internal violence nethertheless remains an important factor in the Mexican migrant situation. Similarly, widespread poverty in Mexico, recently worsened by a decline in foreign investment in the light of threatened tariffs from the USA, also plays a key role.
In conclusion, the Trump administration's new migration policies mark an intensification of long-standing nativist tendencies in the US, and pose a potential threat to the human rights of asylum seekers at the US-Mexico border. The corresponding present demographic shift back to Mexican predominance in US immigration is driven not only by the Trump administration's new migration policies, but also by many other diverse factors within both Mexico and the US, from press coverage to increased deportations to long-standing cartel violence and poverty. In the face of these recent developments, one thing remains clear: the situation south of the Rio Grande is just as complex, nuanced, and constantly evolving as is the situation to the north on Capitol Hill in the USA.
Chinese companies develop four mining projects on the island; Trump offered to buy it out
The melting of the Arctic ice opens up new sea routes and makes certain territories, such as Iceland and especially Greenland, whose enormous size also conceals vast natural resources, particularly valuable. Chinese mining companies have been present in the 'Green Land' since 2008; the Danish government has sought to curb Beijing's increasing influence by directly taking over the construction of three airports instead of having them placed under management . Copenhagen veiled fears that China will encourage Greenlandic independence, while the White House has offered to buy the island, as it has tried to do at other times in history.
▲ Population of Oqaatsut, on the east coast of Greenland [Pixabay].
article / Jesús Rizo Ortiz
Greenland is the largest island in the world, with more than 2 million square kilometres, while its inhabitants are less than 60,000, making it the least densely populated territory in the world. This reality, together with the natural wealth still to be exploited and the geographical location, give this Green Earth great geostrategic importance. Moreover, global warming and the struggle for the new world order between the US, China and Russia place this territory dependent on Denmark at the centre of geopolitical dynamics for the first time in its history.
Due to the melting of the Arctic Ocean, new communication routes are emerging between the American, European and Asian continents. These routes, although they will remain subject to limitations in the future, are becoming more and more accessible for longer periods of the year. Greenland is a strategic control and supply point for both the Northern route (following the northern contour of Russia) and the Northwest route (through the northern Canadian islands), not only for goods and commercial ships, but also in terms of security, as the melting of the ocean ice significantly shortens the distances between the main international players.
Greenland's geographical position is core topic, but also what lies beneath the ice that covers 77% of its surface. It is estimated that 13% of the world's oil reserves are found in Greenland, as well as 25% of the so-called rare earths (neodymium, dysprosium, yttrium...), which are essential in the production of new technologies.
Interest from China and the US
The prospects opened up by the increased possibility of navigation through the Arctic have led Arctic powers to develop their strategies. But also China, interested in a Polar Silk Road, has sought ways to be present in the Arctic circle, and has found a gateway in Greenland.
China's foreign policy is largely focused on implementing projects in areas where its financial power is needed, and it is doing so in places where it is needed, such as Africa and Latin America, development . This subject action is also being carried out in Greenland, where Chinese companies have been present since 2008. The main Danish political parties view this connection with Beijing with reticence, but the reality is that many of the Greenlandic population, more than 80 per cent of whom are of Inuit origin, value positively the possibilities for local development investment opened up by Chinese investment. This different perspective was particularly evident when in 2018 the Greenland government promoted three international airports (expansion of the airport in the capital, Nuuk, and construction in the tourist sites of Ilulimat and Qaqortog), which together represented the largest public works contract in its history. Although an offer from the state-owned construction company CCCC was quickly received from China, Copenhagen finally decided to provide Danish public funds and to participate in the ownership of the airports, given the misgivings about the Chinese initiative.
China is in any case present in four previous mining-related projects run by both state-owned and private companies, all of them following the geopolitical purposes of the Chinese government, whose Ministry of Information Technology and Industry has expressed its interest in Greenlandic activity. These four projects are the Kvanefjeld project for rare earth mining, mainly financed by Shenghe Resources; the Iusa project for iron ore mining, fully financed by General Nice; the Wegener Halvø project for copper mining, supported by Jiangxi Zhongrun after a agreement with Nordic Mining in 2008; and finally, the so-called Citronen Base Metal project, at position of China Nonferrus Metal Industry's Foreign Engineering and Construction (NFC).
The United States is not lagging behind in its interest in Greenland. As early as the 1860s, US President Andrew Johnson highlighted Greenland's importance in terms of resources and strategic position. Almost a century later, in 1946, Harry Truman offered the Danish government to buy Greenland for $100 million in gold. Although Denmark rejected the offer, it did agree to the establishment of a US air base at Thule in 1951. This is the northernmost military base in the world, which was core topic during the Cold War and is still in operation today. This base gives the US an advantage not only in the face of the commercial opening of new sea crossings, but also in the face of a hypothetical Sino-Russian coalition seeking to dominate the Northern route. In other words, given Greenland's dual importance (natural resources and security), it is understandable that someone as unconventional as Donald Trump has once again suggested the possibility of buying the huge island, something that Copenhagen has declined to do.
Projected pathways through the Arctic; the top row corresponds to the melting that could occur with low emissions, the bottom row in the case of high emissions [Arctic Council].
At the centre of a 'Great Game
Aside from the current unfeasibility of such an operation subject without taking into account, among other things, the will of the population, it is true that a Great Game is taking place between the main international players to count Greenland among their geostrategic cards.
1) The US already has a military presence in Greenland, as well as good relations with NATO members Denmark and Iceland, so control of the Denmark Strait is guaranteed, as well as the space between Greenland, Iceland and the UK (known as the GIUK Gap), which connects the Arctic with the North Atlantic. However, Washington will have to change its strategy if it wants to take control of Greenland, starting by improving its relations with the Danish government and funding projects on the island.
2) Although not prominent in relation to Greenland, Russia enjoys pre-eminence in the entire Arctic region. It is by far the country with the largest military presence in the area, having reused some of the Soviet installations. It is the hegemonic power along the entire Northern route, considered by the Kremlin to be the main national communication route. Given Russia's absolute empire over this route, the ice that still covers it for much of the year, and US control of its Atlantic side, this route will not (at least in principle) be a real and profitable alternative to the Strait of Malacca, much to China's discomfort.
3) China presented its Arctic policy white paper in 2018, in which it defined itself as a 'quasi-Arctic power'. For the time being, it has set its sights on Greenland as a key point on its Polar Silk Road. The northern route would cut transport time between Asian and European ports by about a week and would be a much-needed alternative to the Strait of Malacca. The big island has so far focused on resource extraction, following its own cautious modus operandi. Moreover, the Chinese funds provide Greenlanders with an alternative to absolute dependence on Denmark, which additionally favours the island's nationalist pretensions.