Highlights

Implications of the Ukraine Crisis for the Middle East

Implications of the Ukraine Crisis for the Middle East

Eduard Soler i Lecha, Research Coordinator, CIDOB & Eckart Woertz, Senior Research Fellow, CIDOB

On first sight the Middle East seems to be far away from Ukraine and not directly involved in the escalating events around Crimea’s secession and subsequent annexation by Russia. Yet Ukraine crisis is carefully watched in the region. It could have an impact on oil and gas prices, the Middle East’s most important export goods.

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Transculturality and interdisciplinarity. Challenges for research on media, migration and intercultural dialogue

The I Training Workshop on «Methodology for Research on Media, Migration and Intercultural Dialogue» was organised by CIDOB in collaboration with the Institute on Globalization, Culture and Mobility of United Nations University (UNU-GCM).

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Venezuela in crisis: the Chavista revolution under test

Venezuela in crisis: the Chavista revolution under test

Juan Carlos Triviño Salazar, Researcher at Universitat Pompeu Fabra

The countless images that have circulated in the international media portray Venezuela beleaguered by high inflation, scarcity, large demonstrations and harsh police response. All this suggests that the cycle started by Hugo Chavez in 1998 is languishing.

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Pakistan: Monitoring the Key Regional Powers. Report 1

Pakistan: Monitoring the Key Regional Powers. Report 1

Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies (PIPS)

The purpose of this series of quarterly monitoring reports (2014) is to monitor and track the actions as well as public statements of five key STAP RP regional actors (India, Iran, Russia, China, Saudi Arabia) on Pakistan; the development of, and their participation in relevant international and regional discussion meetings, including the Istanbul Process, Heart of Asia, RECCA, SCO; the five key regional actors’ economic decisions and agreements, including, but not limited to, the energy and infrastructure sectors, which have implications for the identified sources of tension in Pakistan with regional implications (see CIDOB STAP RP Mapping Document at www.cidobafpakproject.com).

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Afghanistan: Monitoring the Key Regional Powers

The purpose of this series of quarterly monitoring reports (2013) is to monitor and track the actions, public statements of five key STAP RP regional actors (India, Iran, Russia, China, Saudi Arabia) on Afghanistan; the development of, and their participation in relevant international and regional discussion meetings, including the Istanbul Process, Heart of Asia, RECCA, SCO; the five key regional actors’ economic decisions and agreements, including, but not limited to, the energy and infrastructure sectors, which have implications for the identified sources of tension in Afghanistan with regional implications (see CIDOB STAP RP Mapping Document at www.cidobafpakproject.com).

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 Tunisia, from hope to delivery

Tunisia, from hope to delivery

Francis Ghilès, Associate Senior Researcher, CIDOB

Tunisians are smiling again. For any regular visitor to Tunis, the change of atmosphere in the capital compared to last autumn, indeed the past two years, is striking. The country’s economic situation has hardly improved however and the fight against terrorism claims regular victims. But the adoption of a new constitution last January which enshrines the equal rights of men and women and the rule of law offers a rare example in the Arab world: a revolt against a dictator ushering in a period of progress, however turbulent and costly in the short term, the respect for the rule of law and, since the appointment of Mehdi Jomâa, a good government.

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The Importance of the European Parliament to Citizens

The Importance of the European Parliament to Citizens

Fernando Guirao, ad personam Jean Monnet Chair of History, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona

Five years ago, on the occasion of the June 2009 European elections and the planned entering into force of the Lisbon Treaty, it was explained that the European Parliament would acquire great importance in a supranational Europe. Five years on, we note that since summer 2009 when the international financial crisis became an institutional crisis for the European Union, nearly all EU action has taken place outside the supranational method, with the exclusive protagonism of the European Council, and, therefore, of the heads of state and governments of Member States without the necessary dialogue with the European Commission and Parliament.

Five years ago, on the occasion of the June 2009 European elections and the planned entering into force of the Lisbon Treaty, it was explained that the European Parliament would acquire great importance in a supranational Europe. Five years on, we note that since summer 2009 when the international financial crisis became an institutional crisis for the European Union, nearly all EU action has taken place outside the supranational method, with the exclusive protagonism of the European Council, and, therefore, of the heads of state and governments of Member States without the necessary dialogue with the European Commission and Parliament.

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EUFOR RCA: EU force or farce?

EUFOR RCA: EU force or farce?

Agnieszka Nimark, Associate Researcher, CIDOB

The European Union’s failure to deploy promptly its military operation to Bangui in the Central African Republic calls into question the EU’s ability to assume its international security commitments as well as the CSDP priorities, even though these were revised as recently as at the EU defence summit last December.

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On the Kremlin’s Disinformation

On the Kremlin’s Disinformation

Carmen Claudín, Senior Research Fellow, CIDOB

This article was published in El País on 9 March 2014. It is translated from Spanish by Tom Hardy, and republished by kind permission.

“Russia, protect us from genocide”, pleads the placard of an elderly woman standing in front of the Crimean parliament. “No to fascism in Ukraine”, proclaims a demonstrator in Moscow. However, not one act of aggression against a Ukrainian citizen for the fact of being a Russian-speaker has been registered since the crisis began. Not even the Russian press has been able to dig up any evidence of one. Thus, if you cannot demonstrate the existence of abuse, you have to create the mass perception that it may well happen and must be avoided. That is what the Kremlin has done among the Russian-speaking population in Crimea and the eastern regions of Ukraine, and it is the argument that it uses when justifying its actions to its own society.

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Ceuta, Melilla y la estrategia de la europeización

Ceuta, Melilla and the Europeanisation Strategy

Elena Sánchez-Montijano, Research Fellow, CIDOB and Eduard Soler i Lecha, Research Coordinator, CIDOB

Spain, similarly to Italy and Greece, wants to Europeanise its border management. These countries insist that the arrival of irregular immigrants to their borders is not a Spanish, Italian or Greek problem but rather a European one. Therefore it calls for a European response. Hence, with regards to the current crisis in Ceuta and Melilla the requests to Brussels have multiplied and there has been an attempt to shift part of the responsibility towards the European institutions. In the Spanish case, the Europeanization strategy has three objectives which are shared with the other southern European countries: first, to increase material and financial aid, second, to share the responsibility of controversial decisions, and third, to obtain support from the public opinion. A Spain-specific objective is to be added to this list: to reaffirm the Spanish sovereignty over the two autonomous cities, insisting that they are EU cities and therefore that their borders are European.

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Why does Putin fear Maidan?

Why does Putin fear Maidan?

Carmen Claudín, Senior Research Fellow, CIDOB

Maidan marks a milestone for all of Europe. Although Yanukovych has fled and now denounces a coup d’état, the fact remains that a regime which lost legitimacy long ago has been ousted as a result of mass protest.

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Policy Brief febrero 2014

This document is a synthesis of the main ideas and conclusions arising from the comparison of the financial crises in Japan and Spain, both of which began a period of depression that has been called a lost decade. In the case of Japan, this decade has lasted nearly 25 years.

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2014 in the Mediterranean and the Middle East: desperately looking for a glimpse of hope

In 2013 North African and Middle Eastern countries have witnessed discontent and frustration with the slow pace of transition processes, growing violence and regional confrontation. This year has been an annus horribilis leading many analysts, opinion-makers and politicians to revisit the old paradigm of Arab exceptionalism and assume that the region will inevitably become a scenario of violence and radicalization in the coming years. Will 2014 confirm their assumptions or, on the contrary, will it offer some reasons to be moderately optimistic about the potential for change and peace in this region?

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Turkey and the EU, a critical turn in relations

Turkey and the EU, a Critical Turn in Relations

Kivanç Ulusoy, Associate Professor, Istanbul University

On the 21st of January the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan paid his first visit to Brussels in five years when the then French president Nicolas Sarkozy invited him. After this long interval and a growing estrangement between Turkey and the EU, it was again a French President, François Hollande, who invited Erdogan who was accompanied his Foreign Minister Ahmed Davutoglu and his new EU Minister Mevlüt Çavuşolu. Talks were held with the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, the European Commission Chairman Jose Manuel Durao Barroso and the president of the European Parliament Martin Schulz.

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France is no longer a normal country

France is no longer a normal country

Francis Ghilès, Senior Research Fellow Associate, CIDOB

For the world media, François Hollande’s private life offers a feast of articles. Not a day goes by without the international media, most notably the Anglo-Saxon ones indulging in gossip on the matter. The French head of state likes to present himself as a normal man but the trouble is that he presides over a country which is anything but normal.

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Egypt: Return of the Deep State. With the Referendum the Military Secures its Privileges, but its main Challenge is the Economic Crisis

If someone fell into a coma in 2011 before the Egyptian “revolution” and woke up today he or she would not notice many changes. Then as now a general ruled, the opposition was illegal or curtailed, elections were managed, the turnout was low, but results were stellar. With the 98 per cent approval of the new constitution by only 39 per cent of voters the deep state is back in Egypt. In a way it was never gone. When Mubarak became untenable the army let him fall in order to preserve its vested interests. During their short rein the Muslim Brotherhood and President Mohamed Morsi never managed to penetrate the pillars of the ancien regime, the Ministry of Interior, the judiciary and the military.

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Ciudades y espacios urbanos en la política internacional

What role do cities play in the XXI century’s international politics? To what extent the inclusion of cities into global governance institutions jeopardizes the role of sovereign states as junction between domestic and international politics? In 2010 cities surpassed the rural areas as home for over half of the world's population, and that number could reach 70% in a generation due to population growth and migrations.

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Tunisia Should Escape from Becoming a Bazaar Economy

Tunisia Should Escape from Becoming a Bazaar Economy

Francis Ghilès, Senior Research Fellow Associate, CIDOB

Five years ago, a report on Maghreb regional and global integration concluded that “the real challenge, which confronts this region of 80m people, rich in oil, gas agricultural products and tourism, is to integrate more fully and faster into the international flows of trade and investment. Were they to do so the five countries would have to adapt faster to international norms of economic, legal and maybe, political governance. Such an evolution can only come about through a process of mutual stake building between the different countries, more particularly Algeria and Morocco, which would suggest cross holdings in equity in the energy and banking sectors, but also in transport and food processing”. At the time of writing (December 2013), intra-regional trade among Maghreb countries was only 1.3% of their total merchandise trade, one of the lowest in the world.

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European Defence Summit:Time to Move Forward

European Defence Summit:Time to Move Forward

Agnieszka Nimark, Associate Researcher, CIDOB

The preparations for this year’s EU Defence Summit and the debates surrounding it clearly indicate that the EU member states are beginning to realize that limited progress in military capability building and the lack of defence cooperation pose a real threat to European security. Even though it has been acknowledged for a long time that the Union’s interests and safety of its citizens depend to a great extent on international stability, European states increasingly lack the ability to intervene militarily in a crisis situation. The overall EU strategic position has also been affected by the economic shift of power from the West to the East and by the recent economic crisis. As national defence budgets have been cut and capabilities reduced, the issue of defence cooperation has been absent at EU Summits since 2008.

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Mandela’s unfinished job is our job

Mandela’s unfinished job is our job

Lorenzo Fioramonti, Director, Centre for the Study of Governance Innovation, University of Pretoria (South Africa)

Mandela is gone. We had been expecting it for years, and yet the realization of his passing comes with a vortex of emotions and reflections. The rain is flowing through the hills of the ‘new’ South Africa. One of the driest countries in the world is flooded with water today. It feels as if the sky is crying, paying respect to the best-known icon of the Rainbow Nation. Over one hundred heads of state and government have travelled to Johannesburg to bid farewell to the man that we affectionately call Tata, ‘father’ in isiXhosa, Mandela’s home language.

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Britain and Europe: backing into the future

Britain and Europe: backing into the future

David Hayes, Co-founder of openDemocracy in 2000 and Deputy Editor from 2003-2012

My working title for this Nota Internacional was "Britain's European problem". To many Anglophone ears the phrase will sound easy, plainly descriptive of the often unsettled relationship between London and the European Union. From the other end of the telescope, though, "Europe's British problem" would be equally accurate, even if to the same ears it might sound discordant or vaguely insulting. So used are the British public to their politicians and media depicting Europe as an irritant or threat, it's hard to consider that - as the conspirator Cassius says in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar - "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, / But in ourselves..."

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Notes internacionals CIDOB, 79.

Operation Ukraine

Carmen Claudín, Senior Research Fellow, CIDOB

The Ukrainian government has given in to Russia. For now. The European Union had already lost all hope when a significant part of the Ukrainian people took to the streets and, for the second time, changed the parameters of the situation. Now all options are open.

A little before the Vilnius Summit with the Eastern Partnership countries in the summer, the signs for the EU were promising: Ukraine seemed prepared to sign a new, more ambitious Association Agreement; Georgia and Moldova were due to initial similar agreements; Armenia was willing to begin negotiations; and only the two more authoritarian states, Belarus and Azerbaijan, would be left out. In September, Armenia gave in to Moscow, while little Moldova persevered despite Russia suspending its wine imports, which are key to its economy. Ukraine, meanwhile, resisted Russian pressure for months, giving hope to Europe and its own citizens by reiterating its intention to sign the Association Agreement on the 28th and 29th of November. Some analysts even suggested that Russian president Vladimir Putin was doing the EU a favor by stepping over the line in his attempts to coerce Ukraine, thereby contributing to the possibility that the Vilnius Summit would be the first far-reaching success of the EU's Eastern Partnership policy.

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A New Chapter in EU-Turkey Negotiations: a Step too Small

A New Chapter in EU-Turkey Negotiations: a Step too Small

Eduard Soler i Lecha, Research Coordinator, CIDOB

Even if something is moving in relations between Turkey and the European Union, the steps are so modest that, for the present, they do not change the general impression that the relationship is still in crisis. One of these movements has been the opening, on November 5, 2013, of a new chapter in accession negotiations. This is chapter 22, which deals with regional policy. If negotiations between Turkey and the EU were symmetrical, a decision of this kind would be almost imperceptible. But Turkey’s candidacy is not like the others, nor do negotiations with Turkey unfold in a climate of normality.

Turkey has been knocking at Europe’s door for more than a half century; in fact, 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the signing on the Ankara Agreement, which established the association of Turkey with the then young European Economic Community, and which affirmed that the ultimate purpose of this association was to smooth the path for the integration of Turkey into the common market. With its 74 million inhabitants and a per capita GNP that places it in the middle of the EU average, the incorporation of Turkey alone would pose a challenge similar to the accession of the ten countries that joined in 2004. This, in addition to the intense debate on European identity and the limits of Europe, is the reason why Turkey’s candidacy generates deep division in the EU. Some governments, political forces, and an important section of public opinion reject its accession, more or less explicitly, for political, economic and cultural reasons. To simplify, for these voices Turkey is too big, too poor, and too Muslim.

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Time to Reform State Subsidies in North Africa

Time to Reform State Subsidies in North Africa

Francis Ghilès, Senior Research Fellow, CIDOB

Statistics do not always lie, contrary to popular belief. North Africa’s addiction to subsidies –on fuel and food produce in particular– is undermining any rationality that might be expected from government policies. The prices distortions which result are also fuelling vast networks of smuggling which state authorities complain is a gangrene but which they do nothing to stop.

Just over three months ago, the Algerian Minister of Energy, Youssef Yousfi indicated that, last year, 1.5bn litres of road transport fuel found its way into neighbouring countries. Any visitor to Tunisia’s eastern frontier can vouch for the huge plastic containers of petroleum from Algeria pilled up in the middle of Tunisian towns, which retails at a cheaper price than the official price in the country. Any visitor to the western Algerian town of Tlemcen witnesses drivers queuing up at 6am in the hope of filling their tanks. Huge lorries meanwhile cross the nearby frontier to sell road transport fuel in Morocco –a boarder officially closed for more than a decade. Such a situation is hardly surprising considering that gasoline prices at the pump stand at a ratio of 1 to 3 compared with Tunisia and 1 to 5 compared to Morocco. It is 1 to 8 compared with southern Europe. Increasing boarder policing is of little use since only a very high level of complicity among Algerian and Moroccan security officials on both sides of the boarder can possibly explain the sorry state of affairs the ordinary Algerian is paying a heavy price for.

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Looking for Europe’s Demos

Looking for Europe’s Demos

Elina Viilup, Research Fellow, CIDOB

There is no European demos, we are being repeatedly told. But is this idea still true? What do the facts tell us? A recent policy brief of a pan-European research project has revealed that the European Union has profoundly changed the lives of all Europeans, offering international opportunities beyond the elites to the average citizen – such as travelling, studying or living abroad. Cross-border contacts facilitated by the Union have also helped to spread cosmopolitan values, such as tolerance and willingness to accept responsibility for the fate of other countries. Contrary to the common belief, the general notion of the international institutions as ways to manage common global or regional issues is widely accepted, despite growing distrust of the European Union itself and its institutions. Indeed, the European integration has transformed all strata of the European societies by bringing along substantial “horizontal Europeanisation”.

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A Hard Line with Roma Migrants may not Work for Hollande

A Hard Line with Roma Migrants may not Work for Hollande

Francis Ghilès, Senior Research Fellow, CIDOB

François Hollande’s approval rating has fallen to 23% which is a record of sorts since the French Fifth Republic was founded in 1959. The government is adrift as the Prime Minister Jean Marc Ayrault attempts to calm the bitter controversy among ministers which followed the expulsion from France of a Roma girl and her family earlier this month. Meanwhile the extreme right National Front (FN) comfortably won a local election in the party’s southern stronghold of Provence and recent polls suggest it would win up to 24% of the vote in next year’s European elections – more than either the Socialists, the conservative UMP or the two centrist parties. Municipal elections at the end of the winter could see the FN winning some important towns – the traditional power base of many French leaders.

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