In the days ahead of the Greek snap elections on 25 January 2015 a huge range of opinions has appeared on what Greece and its lenders should do. A large group of people are saying that Greek public debt is unsustainable and a significant part of it should be written off. In their view, the Troika is responsible for the deep crisis, austerity has failed, and the fiscal space gained from the debt write-off should be used to stimulate growth.
As the dust and emotions still settle over the attacks by jihadists in Paris, there has been a great deal of commentary on the lessons we should derive from this tragedy. The focus has largely been on free speech, integration, intelligence failures, and the competing claims of responsibility by the Islamic State and Al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). So what lessons should we draw?
A Matter of Integration?
Stuck in the middle of different as well as relevant regional complexes, the Caspian Sea basin represents a critical geopolitical hub in the heart of Eurasia landmass.
Political, economic as well as strategic considerations contribute to determine the systemic relevance of the Caspian Sea, whose reputation in the West is mainly linked to the vast availability of largely untapped oil and gas resources. However, behind the fierce competition aimed at the exploitation and transportation of the basin's hydrocarbons lies a much more complex picture, consisting of interlinked legal, military and soft power issues and threats.
Aim of the volume – result of a joint research project conducted by the Center for Strategic Studies under the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan (SAM, Baku) and the Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI, Milan) – is to address the relevance of the Caspian Sea in the post-bipolar international system, analyzing both soft and had security threats emerging form the basin, as well as the policies of littoral and extra-regional actors.
Germany has had to rethink its relations with its European partners twice in four years: in 2010, when the sovereign debt crisis hit the euro area - and following the winter of 2013/14, when Ukraine's westward course triggered a conflict with Russia.
While the EU’ member states are absorbed by the political campaign in view of the European elections and apprehensive about the implications of the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, the Balkan question remains in the background. The Balkans, nevertheless, continue to make progress on the convergence with the EU and for some of them the membership is getting closer. After Croatia's accession to the EU last July, thanks to the Brussels agreements of April 2013, Kosovo opened the negotiations for the Stabilisation and Association Agreement in October 2013 and Serbia for the EU accession in January 2014. Meanwhile, the European Commission and the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee issued positive opinions on granting candidate status to Albania, even though the Council later postponed the signature of further verification to June 2014. Despite the successful path towards the EU, there are still unsettled issues (Kosovo's status, ethnic slow down the process of European integration and make the region unstable. For this reason the EU needs to not neglect the Balkans and to continue with its commitment towards enlargement.
When the decision about shifting the election date to the European Parliament to May was taken, an exceptional opportunity for the party campaigners in the Central and Eastern Europe seemed to arise. It had to be a relatively easy task to combine the stocktaking of the decade of EU membership with the positive narrative as to the future (mainly domestic) challenges, with the politicians ensuring to be the only ones able to properly cope with them and find the right answers.
Jihadism in Italy has followed a route that differs somewhat from the paths it has taken in most Western European countries. Italy was one of the first countries on the Continent to witness jihadist activities on a relatively large scale: as early as the first part of the 1990s, various Italian-based North African networks were playing a prominent role in the nascent global jihadist movement. Yet, in the early and mid-2000s, when most Western European countries were confronted by various challenges coming from both traditional and home-grown jihadist networks, the situation in Italy was relatively quiet.
This was the result of two factors. First, the pressure put by Italian authorities on structured networks either disrupted them or forced them to decrease the intensity of their activities. At the same time, this diminished role did not correspond to a growth of home-grown networks. Throughout the early and mid-2000s, Italian authorities did not detect any sign of the forms of home-grown radicalisation that were increasingly spotted throughout Europe.
Three years after the Libyan uprising in 2011, and a few days after the elections for the Constitutional Assembly, the country is preparing for the “Friends of Libya Conference” in Rome on March 6, designed to provide support on security, justice and the rule of law in the country. The conference, a follow-up to one a year ago in Paris, arrives against a background of continuing insecurity. The European Union and its individual members are trying to support Libyan transition, but, till now, they have had little impact on stabilization.
Executive branches of governments have always enjoyed a primacy in managing foreign policy and waging war. However, the highly influential parliamentary debates in the United Kingdom, the United States or France on the Syrian conflict have given rise to the perception that parliaments are becoming increasingly influent in first-order international affairs. When looking at recent developments concerning the Syrian crisis, could it be that parliamentary prerogatives in matters of foreign and defense policy are gaining new momentum?