Category Archives: European Foreign Policy

Propaganda and Satellite Imagery in Georgia

There has been a lot of talk about the role of information/propaganda during the war in Georgia. The question what information is actually correct has been one of the major problems in analysing the conflict. Robert Amsterdam posted a translation of Propaganda 2.0, a good article on the topic (here the original in German).

Via Paul Goble’s blog I discovered some interesting data from UNOSAT, that is the” the UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) Operational Satellite Applications Programme”. Basically they released satellite images that were taken during the conflict in the region. Paul Goble explains the implications:

Satellite photographs analyzed by United Nations experts show that only five percent of Tskhinvali was destroyed during the fighting there but that 50 percent of ethnic Georgian villages were destroyed in that region by Ossetian marauders behind Russian lines, a pattern that undercuts Moscow’s claims about what took place. (…) But these photographs taken over the course of August also call into question repeated Russian claims that the Georgian army had destroyed much of the South Ossetian capital – the satellite photographs show only five percent of its buildings having been damaged — and that Georgian forces had carried out a systematic genocide there.

Human Rights Watch also offers some further explanations here.

I am pretty sure that we will see more of this kind of data in the future, also for other conflicts. Satellite technology has been developed rapidly and quality improved considerably in the last years. And when free services such as Google Earth already show quite detailed images, what about high quality, high resolution satellite images frequently used by governments? Propaganda and the spread of false information will definitely get more difficult.

I also wonder whether the EU Satellite Centre has similar evidence regarding the conflict in Georgia? Never heard of this EU agency? Here the short mission statement:

The mission of the European Union Satellite Centre (EUSC) is to support the decision-making of the European Union by providing analysis of satellite imagery and collateral data. The EUSC is an Agency of the Council of the European Union. It is one of the key institutions for European Union’s Security and Defence policy, and the only one in the field of space.

At least with that in mind the proposed EU “fact finding mission” in Georgia could get quite interesting…

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Karadžić arrested, ambassadors back – What next for Serbia?

Serbia’s new government really seems determined about its pro-EU ambitions.

The arrest of war criminal Radovan Karadžić is clearly a political breakthrough, not only for Serbia but also for the entire region as well as a promising sign for EU-Serbia relations.  Actually it can be interpreted as a success for the EU foreign policy approach towards Serbia in the last couple of months which consisted of openly supporting pro-EU forces coupled with some small concessions.

So what is behind this bold move of Serbia? Obviously symbols are very important in diplomacy (referring to the discussions about the “pro-EU” government) but I do not think this is purely a short term bit of PR. It is poltics, in a very realist sense of the word. The arrest of a war criminal like Karadžić is a politically risky business. And more importantly, the improvement of relations with the EU and the prospect of getting better contractual relations with the EU seems to be a political priority for the Serbian Government. So  it is rather easy: In order to receive any benefits out of the SAA (just consider the economic problems!) they needed to show their willingness to cooperate with the ICTY. If they are serious about their policy priorities they have to deliver. (BTW: The SAA, which was not that easy to get for the Serbian government in the first place, is signed but not implemented, implementation depends on full ICTY compliance.)

What next for Serbia?  – Here is the “to do”- list for the Serbian government:

1.) Serbia needs to get the SAA implemented which is in its own interest. However, the arrest of Karadžić might be enough for the time being to prove “full compliance with ICTY” which is a precondition for the SAA implementation. A bit of diplomatic wrangling (especially with Netherlands and Belgium) will be needed but it is possible to get the “full compliance” despite the other missing war criminals.

2.) Arrest Ratko Mladic & Goran Hadzic – Could happen quite soon. Apparently Karadžić was found during a operation that was aimed at Mladic. Of course the success now gives them a bit of extra time to arrest the next one. (I would look for someone with a long beard … just a thought after the arrests of Saddam Hussein and now Karadžić)

3.) Push the Kosovo issue in the background for the time being. Finding a diplomatic formula over the Kosovo issue is obviously the most difficult thing for Serbia, so tactically it is better to get it out of the way. I don’t think a quick solution is likely here. My guess is that this will be one of the political chapters in the EU accession negotiations, so it will be on the agenda in 5 years or so…. Although a final solution can be posponed until the very last moment of the negotiations (maybe with one of those very tense EU summits…), but eventually a Serbian recognition will happen. Plus, the EU will not repeat the Cyprus mistake.

4.) Status of an official EU candidate: Depends a bit on the complex “Lisbon Treaty and Ireland” issue. But I think once the SAA is implemented, the logical next step would be to get the offical status of a EU candidate, maybe next year. We are not talking about EU accession here, not even about opening EU accession negotiations, that is clearly a long term project.

Another interesting (and somewhat overlooked) story is that Serbia’s foreign minister Vuk Jeremic announced plans to reinstate the country’s ambassadors to twenty (!) EU countries that recognized Kosovo’s independence.  Belgrade withdrew its ambassadors for “consultations” on Feb 17 following the recognition of Kosovo by the majority of EU countries. So far these plans do not include ambassadors to the US and Japan.

However, another sign that Belgrade has priorities. And the priority, at the moment, is to have better links with the EU. I know it is strange to write and read about “policy coherence” in a Serbian context and that some “election promises”  were actually not forgotten and official priorities are treated like priorities… but c’mon why not give them some credit for a remarkable political move !?

After Karadžić, Mladić?

Recent developments in Serbia give the impression that the newly established government tries to act in a  “European way” and fulfill the criteria of the SAA as quickly as possible. Probably everyone who follows the developments in the region and who knows something about the Yugoslav conflicts is relieved after this capture.

However, there are also some questions which made me think about the whole story and transnational justice in particular: a hardly recognizable grey-haired man lived in the Serbian capital and no one knew anything about him for years? Of course it is more than obvious that there was not enough political will or maybe some influence from the outside.

The story of ICTY is also a difficult one. On the one hand it is a modern response to secure justice on a transnational level and it gives hope that even if justice is blind inside the national framework there is a chance on the international level. However, it is well-known that the institution had to go through different stages, and a huge lack of financial resources because of the political indifference. And in this sense it displays an example of sharp division between morality (as presented in the religious world) and politics as such. But as we see from the recent development sometimes the two can meet… but can they meet also in the case of Mladić?

Written by Tanchi

The regionalisation of the EU neighbourhood

There is quite some interesting developments going on in the realm of the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP). To start with the basics: The ENP aims at developing a secure and prosperous neighbourhood, in a way a “ring of friends” around the EU.  So, the EU offers a wide range of cooperation possibilities coupled with economic incentives and EU  funding. However, the ENP is “everything but membership” and does explicitly   rule out any prospect of EU membership for the participating countries. The relations between the EU, or more precisely the European Commission, and the ENP countries are based on bilateral agreements. This bilateral approach is obviously a rather traditional foreign policy that is often criticised to have “double standards”, since every country is treated differently depending on its willingness and capabilities to engage with the EU. The latest state of the play can be found in numerous “Action Plans, Country Reports and Progress reports”.

But now the EU is moving towards a more regional approach in ENP questions. First there was the publicly unnoticed Black Sea Synergy, followed by the much discussed Mediterranean Union; and now a new Eastern Partnership seems to be in the making…

So let’s have a look at the different approaches:

The “Black Sea Synergy” was developed in early 2007 in order to increase cooperation among and between the countries in this particular region. Through the Black Sea Synergy, the EU is also proposing more common projects in areas like transport, energy,  the environment, maritime management, fisheries, migration, and civil society development, the information society and cultural cooperation. At the same time, the  “Black Sea Synergy” also addresses “soft” security issues, such as drug smuggling, human trafficking, migration, as well as “hard” security  issues, ranging from frozen conflicts in the region to European energy security. But the specific aims of this foreign policy initiative are quite broad:

  • To stimulate democratic and economic reforms;
  • To support stability and promote development;
  • To focus on practical projects in areas of common concern;
  • To respond to opportunities and challenges through coordinated action in a regional  framework; and
  • To develop a climate more conducive to the solution of conflicts in the region.

However, this initiative is not a fully-fledged policy strategy, since EU policy towards the region is already set out in various bilateral agreements, such as the pre-accession strategy with Turkey, the  ENP and the Strategic Partnership with Russia. It is nevertheless a sign that the EU has started  thinking strategically about the region.  However, the Black Sea Synergy can also be understood as an attempt to make EU foreign policy more coherent, more effective and more flexible. Moreover, one of the main aims of the Black Sea Synergy is the promotion of regional cooperation among the countries in the region and between the EU and the Black Sea region.

A lot has been written about the Mediterranean Union, originally proposed by French President Sarkozy but significantely changed (some would say “watered down”) over the past months following a French-German disagreement. Now it is called the “Barcelona Process: Union for the Mediterranean”  and it aims at enhancing the partnerships between the EU and its Mediterraneean neighours. The new initiative will be “project-oriented”,  which means it will focus on energy security, environment, civil protection and transport as Ms Ferrero Waldner, the Commissioner for External Relations pointed out:

Potential projects will be the opening of new sea traffic routes, a clean-up of Mediterranean waters, improvements to maritime security and exploitation of solar power in North Africa to help meet the energy needs of the region.

Contrary to the “Black Sea Synergy”, the proposed upgrade of relations with the Mediterranian neighbors also includes a political dimension with biennial summits of Heads of Government, the establishment of a co-Presidency to manage these summits as well as a annual Foreign Affairs ministerial meetings and sectoral ministerial meetings and a range of “Euromed Committee” meetings. Moreover, a joint secretariat will be established to promote and follow up projects, while the Commission also proposes the creation of a permanent committee of Euro-Mediterranean representatives. At the same time, a very striking similarity to the “Black Sea Synergy” can be found in the official EU press release:

While the European Neighbourhood Policy already addresses the needs in the region by a differentiated approach in the bilateral relations with Mediterranean partners, the Barcelona Process: Union for the Mediterranean will complement this by building on the strong points as the expression of regional political commitment.

The latest addition to the regional approaches is the “Eastern Partnership” , which can be described as a mixture of both initiatives described above. The EUObserver writes about the aims and the structure of this new instrument:

The “Eastern Partnership” envisages a multinational forum between the EU-27 and neighbouring states Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, Polish press agency PAP reports. The forum would aim to negotiate visa-free travel deals, free trade zones for services and agricultural products and strategic partnership agreements with the five countries. It would also launch smaller, bilateral projects on student exchange, environmental protection and energy supply, but would avoid the controversial topic of EU membership perspectives. It would also launch smaller, bilateral projects on student exchange, environmental protection and energy supply, but would avoid the controversial topic of EU membership perspectives.

The structure of the Eastern Partnership forsees a special coordinator within the European Commission but no special secretariat. Interestingly, the ENP budget will be used for projects within that initative whereas the budget for the Mediterranean Union will be “dependent on the mobilisation of additional funding outside the traditional existing budget allocations. Financial resources are expected to come from the private sector, international financial institutions and bilateral cooperation and contributions from EU member States and Mediterranean Partners.”

This short overview makes it clear that all these new regional approaches of the EU have similar aims and objectives and are all connected to the ENP.  One underlying aspect is also the hesitation of EU policy makers to offer membership perspectives to countries such as Turkey and Ukraine. However, a more interesting aspect is the emerging regionalisation of the EU neighborhood which is promoted (some would say “invented”) by the EU. At the same time a new kind of conditinality will be introduced. The “old” ENP approach works with a simple conditonality: country A fulfils benchmark X and receives EU reward Y. The “new” regional approach will add a new conditionality: county A must cooperate with country B  (+C,+D..) in order to receive EU reward Y. Theoretically, this could support the argument that the EU is trying to replicate its own model of cooperation through its foreign policy. However, the question is of course whether the ENP countries welcome these new approaches and whether those newly added “ENP layers” contribute to a more effective EU foreign policy?

Should the EU offer a SAA to Serbia? (and possibly influence the elections?)

“Ministers, over lunch, will discuss the situation in the Western Balkans, notably in the run-up to the Serbian general elections on 11 May.” This is the seemingly unimportant announcement on the GAERC Council Agenda for the April 29th meeting in Luxembourg. But EU Foreign Ministers will have to decide on quite a difficult issue: Should the EU offer Serbia a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) before the Serbian elections? (which might even influence the election outcomes?)

The pessimistic perspective

The International Crisis Group thinks that the EU should not make a deal with Serbia before the upcoming elections. In a recently published research paper “Will the Real Serbia Please Stand Up?“, the think tank argues that the EU should not offer a SAA unless Serbia cooperates fully with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). The EU should also “stop intervening directly in support of one or another political force” in Serbia because it would backfire at the ballot box :

“At best, the EU and U.S. will have limited influence for many months, until a new government is formed, which may not be until September or later. Meanwhile, the public anger over Western support for Kosovo’s independence is such that any attempt to pressure or even induce Belgrade into more cooperation risks strengthening the nationalist vote.”

The think tank sums it up with the statement “appeasement has already failed in the Balkans for over a decade and a half”. One should also not underestimate regional dynamics. In many Western Balkan countries, the EU is seen as having double standards and offering a deal to Serbia now would only support this kind of argumentation, especially because cooperation with the ICTY is a crucial point for the whole region. Ultimately, a SAA with a concession on ICTY cooperation would weaken the negotiation position of the EU in other SAA and accession negotiations in the region.

The optimistic perspective

As part of a “blog-round table” (more about that later!) I had the chance to talk to Milica Delevic, the Serbian Assistant Foreign Minister for European Integration. Obviously she would welcome an early offer from the EU and argues that “EU engagement is always better than isolation”. However, she also admitted that the Serbian government is a bit “schizophrenic” on the issue because the SAA is more and more linked to a recognition of Kosovo (Koštunica:”Signing SAA means signing away Kosovo“). But signing a SAA is not EU membership and it has nothing to do with Kosovo either, it would rather establish contractual relations as well as better trade relations with the EU, and it would give Serbia access to EU funding. (Delevic: “Russia has better contractual relations with the EU than Serbia!”).

The Serbian electorate is quite evenly split between “nationalists” and “moderates” which will make it probably difficult to form a new government after the elections. But a SAA could give the EU some leverage over the next government, be it moderate, nationalist or a coalition. At the same time, EU integration is supported by a comfortable 70% majority of the population, and a clear sign from the EU could motivate voters to vote for more moderate and pro-EU parties.

The EU is likely to find a compromise on the ICTY question (which is of particular interest of the Netherlands and Belgium) that would link parts of the implementation process of the SAA to the full ICTY cooperation and not the SAA offer. Deutsche Welle quotes Belgian Foreign Ministry spokesman Francois Delhaye on the position of Belgium and the Netherlands on the issue: “The two countries would agree to a proposed Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA), but Serbia should not benefit from the advantages of this accord without full cooperation with the International War Crimes Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).”

What future for Serbia?
What future for Serbia?

So what should the EU do? – Here are the official Kosmopolit recommendations:

It is necessary to overcome the pure political argumentation here and to highlight the important process of reforming the country. Symbols still prevail in the Balkans. It is time for focusing on economic and social issues in order to overcome the power of symbolism, which has been present in Balkan politics for too long. By offering a SAA now, the EU can show that it has not given up on Serbia, which can be perceived as quite a powerful statement in Belgrade! Signing the SAA can bring a different perspective and a new hope, especially for the young generation/voters. The agreement would at least restart the pro-European debate and possibly turn the attention away from Kosovo. Although the SAA offer might not directly influence the election outcome, it will certainly increase the pressure on politicians to get serious about reforming the country. The persistence and attraction of radical and nationalistic ideologies can be traced back to the lack of economic and social reforms that are long overdue. The proposed SAA would not directly introduce reforms, it may nevertheless open the door for the long awaited process.

Written by: Tanchi & Kosmo

Update 29/04/08: The EU decided to sign a SAA with Serbia. However, the implementation and the ratification of the agreement will depend on Serbia’s full cooperation with the ICTY:

Russia – A new European partner?

During the last several weeks a range of interesting events happened in EU-Russia and in NATO-Russia relations. After quite some time full with “new cold war” rhetoric, new partnerships are being negotiated:

– Russia will support the EUFOR Chad mission by deploying 6-8 helicopters. According to some EU officials, these helicopters are quite crucial for the mission…

– At the NATO summit in Bucharest, Russia agreed to give logistical support to the NATO mission in Afghanistan. The plan foresees that Russia will provide a land corridor on its territory for NATO transports. Given the troublesome history between Russia and NATO, this can be seen as a milestone development.

The Kremlin in Moscow

It seems as if a constructive dialogue has started between European diplomats and their Russian counterparts. Of course it is too early to come to a final conclusion but basically two scenarios are possible: (1) in a more positive outlook, this could be the first sign of a new partnership between Europe and Russia; (2) a more negative (‘realist’ if you want) interpretation would also take into account all other problematic areas/ disagreements ranging from CFE , missile defence and energy issues to Kosovo, Ukraine and Georgia. One could even conclude that Russia sees itself in a stronger position which led to the perception that it can deal with the “West” on a more equal basis. In that context, the above mentioned issues are perceived to increase Russia’s relative power position.

Another scenario is relatively simple: It may only be a ” diplomatic present” of the “new” Russian president/government in order to symbolize a kind of new beginning … whatever the direction may be! (the fact that Putin was responsible for these negotiations is not a contradiction: Medvedev and Putin are, at least for the time being, a very efficient team)

Some random thoughts on Kosovo

I actually did not want to write something about Kosovo…but well, here we go again. First a few good pieces from around the web and then a few random thoughts on Kosovo.

A good commentary on Kosovo can be found on stanley’s blog that writes “Recognition of Kosovo’s independence is an unfortunate solution, but there is currently no better solution.” Another outstanding article by Timothy Garton Ash (This dependent independence is the least worst solution for Kosovo) with some great quotes:

The Balkanisation of Belgium meets the Belgianisation of the Balkans. (…)

Here is the 21st-century European style of decolonisation: from protectorate to EU member state, without ever achieving full, sovereign independence in between. (…)

And it was in Belgrade, not Pristina, that I heard this joke: the Serbs will do anything for Kosovo except live there. (…)

Both statements are true: Kosovo is unique, and there will be more Kosovos.”

Plenty of interesting stuff, so go and read the article here. A few days ago Dusan Reljic gave this interview. On the whole I agree, but I think it is a bit exaggerated when he argues about international law and the UN (that unfortunately lost credibility not only because of Kosovo). And I also would have liked him to answer the question on partition… Public Policy Watch thinks that ” the decision whether to recognize Kosovo’s independence or not is determined primarily by the self-interest of individual countries” However, the most convincing point is this one: “Perhaps the majority of democratic countries with respect for human life still perceive Kosovo as a victim and Serbia as an aggressor.(…) This perception enables European countries to endorse an action contrary to the spirit and practice of international law in the area of state sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Kosovo flagSince I don’t want to repeat much that has already been said, I just want to throw a few random thoughts into the discussion:

– I always failed to grasp a general common feature of South Eastern Europe: Why do people still argue with stories and myths that come straight from the 14th century?

– 10 years ago there was a genocide in Kosovo so maybe Kosovo has a point of not wanting to be ruled from Belgrade? (To be fair I have to add that ethnic cleansing happened on both sides…) However, there is a 90% majority for independence. Apart from that, Belgrade has had not control over Kosovo for the last 9 years… (the dilemma is of course that Kosovo is not economically sustainable)

– A number of mistakes have been made in the 1990s by all actors involved (that includes Germany). But it is also ironic that now 7 “independent and sovereign” states exist that all want to join the EU to share competences (again). They will eventually negotiate with each other in Brussels…oh yes and I guess they also want to join the Euro and Schengen… so what was the point in splitting up in the first place?

– Despite the recognition debate, the EU acted with one voice. Thanks to the “formula of constructive abstention“(as reported by the EUobserver) the Council decided to deploy its biggest foreign policy mission to date to Kosovo. And of course it was not a coincidence that both events, the decision of the Council and the declaration of independence, took place within a few days … The official voting records will reveal that most of the countries that made a fuss about the independence approved the mission. But without the approval of the EU mission there would have been no declaration…

– Does it set a precedent? well, everything is a precedent if somebody in politics uses it as an argument. Anyway, it seems people like comparing apples with oranges. So what about Bangladesh, Eritrea, … I am not aware of any legitimizing UN resolution in these cases. Maybe even the whole process of decolonalisation and the collapse of the Soviet Union could also fall in this category… (ok, I admit, also too much history!)

– Sovereignty and independence are also quite relative (one could even argue dying) concepts – especially within the EU, so it is hard to understand that EU member states think the case might have an impact on their domestic situation. Regionalisation in the sense of subsidiarity has always been a EU principle and usually everyone is quite fond of highlighting that.

– Without any further comment: Belgium has recognised Kosovo

– And finally the idea of partition: diplomatically this could become a solution in a few years. The deal could be: Serbia takes control over the north of Kosovo, in return it recognises Kosovo as a state (which also means Russia drops the veto in the UN). At the same time the EU could offer Serbia some sort of fast track EU membership (again).

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