Georgios Kostakos is Executive Director of the Foundation for Global Governance and Sustainability (FOGGS) in Brussels, and co-founder of Katoikos.eu. He has held several positions with the United Nations in New York and in the field, and has also worked with the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP), the University of Athens, The Hague institute for Global Justice and Salzburg Global Seminar. The opinions expressed here are his own.
Shlomo Ben-Ami is an old hand in Israeli and international politics. He has been Minister of Internal Security and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Israel, and now serves as Vice President of the Toledo International Center for Peace in Madrid. This is a summary of a 30-minute discussion with him following the 17 March 2015 Israeli election. He talks about Mr. Netanyahu’s reelection, the state of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and possible steps by the international community to move things forward under the current circumstances.
Starting from the recent Tsipras – Rajoy war of words, on who sabotages whom at the Eurogroup and in electoral politics, I attempt to put together evidence that shows a major shift in European politics. Building also on an increasing number of satirical videos about European politics, and from my personal experience, I reach an anecdotal, not so scientific but most probably correct conclusion: We are getting a European demos, in which we all feel comfortable enough and are knowledgeable enough about each other to be able to make jokes, break the ice, get on each other’s nerves occasionally, but basically express what we increasingly realize that we are: a diverse, noisy, funny, stubborn, intrusive and generous section of humanity that one could call “the Europeans”.
The recent beheading of Egyptian Copts working in Libya by ISIS and the subsequent air bombardment by the Egyptian air force of ISIS installations in Libya show how close the war and ISIS have come to Europe. If Syria and Iraq are considered still far from the EU heartland, Libya is only a few hundred nautical miles away from the coasts of Italy, Malta and Greece. This is too close for comfort. What can Europe do to address these emerging threats that are getting closer and closer to its soil? What it can certainly not afford to do is stay idle and wait. In this article I suggest a few measures that should at least be considered by the European leaders and the EU Institutions. One may think that such measures would move the EU closer to integration in defence and security matters, and that would probably be right, but that should not constitute a reason for panicking. On the contrary, one should start to worry about the future of a Europe facing determined enemies that stays fragmented and expects the US and others to do the heavy lifting for its security.
President Putin’s visit to Budapest on 17 February has raised eyebrows externally and provoked protests within Hungary. Many Hungarians feel that their country is drifting to the East, while its present and future lies with the West. Prime Minister Orban does have some valid points for explaining his association with Mr. Putin. What is more worrisome in the long-run is the authoritarian affinities between the two.
The EU central institutions seem to be stuck to what 19th Century Europe identified as “mission civilisatrice”, fuelled by an underlying sense of self-righteousness and superiority vis-à-vis others, while individual member states continue to pursue their narrow but concrete geopolitical and economic interests, which go in different directions. It should come as no surprise that EU members are steadily losing ground on the charts of state power and influence in the world, overtaken by more dynamic, emerging powers. Of course, with its ambition, innovation and flexibility the US remains steadily at the top, as would the EU as a whole, should it become really united.
In this first “letter from America” I make a series of critical comparisons between New York and Brussels in an attempt to distil the best of both worlds, and hopefully infuse what is missing from one to the other. For Europe, which is the focus of this publication, this would mean less parochialism and more ambition for the future at individual and collective levels; more client orientation and more flexibility in employment conditions, while keeping an overall guaranteed social safety net that is the jewel of the “European model”; more openness to other cultures and influences, notably those from other EU countries but also beyond; much more openness towards and investment in new ideas, innovation and creativity; and an overall more optimistic attitude and can-do spirit…
A drama in many funny acts unfolding in the bowels of the EU headquarters in Brussels
(Part II of Episode 1 just published!)