After several years of absence, politipond is back in business. The world, and especially European politics, hasn’t stopped. To many the European continent was perceived as a stable, to some degree boring, region of the world. Well, since 2007 and the collapse of the financial markets, Europe has re-become a central region of the world; a key piece of the global chessboard. With the current shifts of regional and global balances of power, the existence of the Union is questioned on daily basis. For instance, Britain under conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron, is calling for a return of power from Brussels to the Member States. The eventual British referendum on the future of Britain’s EU membership will be an interesting event to monitor in the coming years. So far, European integration and enlargement have only been about horizontal and vertical deepening, not the other way around.
On the international scale, the US under President Obama has shifted its attention towards Asia, known as the pivot. Additionally, the American grand strategy is in period of retrenchment, requiring European allies to take on the lead and some of the burden in stabilizing their neighborhoods and acting as regional power. At the exception of France, no other powerful EU Member State has answered the call. Britain has cut its defense spending, Germany has been a reluctant foreign policy actor, and Southern European Member States are more concerned about their economic recoveries and structural reforms than foreign affairs. Such inward looking by European Member States is a worrisome trend as the neighborhoods require more attention and actions. The EU cannot let its neighborhoods in flame as the consequences – terrorism, illegal migration, illegal drug, human and arms traffickings – could become heavy, costly and dangerous for the stability of the Member States and the EU. The concept of Fortress Europe is only a constructed idea; threats and problems do not stop at European borders. Last but not least, despite the recent visit of President Obama for the 70th anniversary of the débarquement in Normandy, the transatlantic relations have been under severe strains caused by the Snowden’s leaks, difficult negotiations around the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and other strategic, economic and financial disagreements.
Politipond will be analyzing, reflecting and commenting on a broad range of issues as illustrated below:
- European neighborhoods are in absolute shamble: East with Ukraine and Russia; South with a changing Egypt and rise of instabilities in Libya; South-East with the continuation of the violent and vicious war in Syria; and Middle-East with the massive instabilities created by the terrorist network ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria)
- The political climate in Europe is turning towards radical political movements and becoming extremely vicious and euro-skeptic. For instance, several EU Member States have seen the rise and influence of extreme right-wing movements such as the Front National in France winning the latest European elections in France, and in other countries like the UK, Denmark and Austria. Others have seen the solidification of the extreme left parties like Syriza in Greece. The domestic rise of populism in most EU Member States is certainly affecting the quality of democracy and political debates in Europe. Their consequences and impacts on the political agendas are already visible.
- Then, the Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) is facing serious challenges: lack of willingness and commitment of EU Member States; lack of strategic vision; limited relevance. Once seen has a very positive European endeavor soon after its creation in 1998, the CSDP has been one of the main victims of the Eurozone crisis. The latest CSDP mission in Central African Republic (CAR) does not show the CSDP under a positive light. It instead underscores the lack of interest by most EU Member States to the CSDP and to some degree the rise of European isolationism. The upcoming book, Debating European Security and Defense Policy. Understanding the Complexity, looks in depth at the transformation of the CSDP since its creation and evaluates the CSDP over time.
- Now that the European elections are over, the European game of thrones has already began with the behind the doors’ discussions around the selections of high level officials: the President of the Commission; the President of the European Council; and the High Representative/Vice President of the Commission.
- The economic outlook of the Eurozone and the EU is not very bright. Many experts are talking of an eventual lost decade for the EU, the same way the 1990s were for Japan. The consequences of such dark economic prospects are causing serious challenges for the future of the Union: rise of inequalities; high level unemployment for European youths; rise of populism; lack of structural reforms; perpetual blame of Brussels for domestic and European problems/failures.
- In the US, the debate on privacy and power of the government in assuring security to the homeland has been raging since the massive Snowden’s leaks a year ago. The debate over transparency in national security and foreign policy has only taken place in D.C. President Obama has expressed at several occasion his commitments to transparency, but policies haven’t followed, just yet.
- Last but not least, the transfer of power from the West to the Rest seems to be happening faster than expected. The liberal order, created and enforced by the US since the end of World War two, incorporating core values – democracy, individual and collective freedoms –, an economic model – capitalism, even though there are several variants –, multilateral institutions – the UN systems, NATO, OSCE, WTO, Council of Europe –, seems to be under serious challenges. The Americans and Europeans have had some difficulty in first assessing the risks of the shift of global order, and second, in adjusting the liberal order in accordance with the new global realities and forces.