Elections in France: Europe's crucial day
On April 23, 2017 in France the first round of presidential elections will take place. Among the 11 presidential candidates there are five favourites who have a real chance to fight for access to the second round of elections. According to recent opinion polls, 24% of French citizens are ready to vote for the centre-left candidate Emmanuel Macron, 23% - for the leader of the extreme-right "National Front" Marine Le Pen, 19% - for the centre-right candidate Francois Fillon, 19% - for the ultra-leftist candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon and 8,5% - for the socialist Benoit Amon. While the choice of French citizens will be largely determined by the candidates` approaches to solving social and economic problems, migration, fight against terrorism, the global players are more interested in what will be the French foreign policy under the new president. Depending on the victory of one or another candidate the substantial changes in France's relations with key global players may occur. EU Macron, Fillon and Amon belong to the “euro-optimists”, although each of the three candidates sees the future of the EU in their own way. Emmanuel Macron stands for the deepening integration in financial, security and defence sector as well as the democratization of the EU. Francois Fillon proposes to deepen security cooperation in the EU, but to return more powers in other areas to national governments. Benoit Amon differs in the resistance to the austerity policy and intentions to democratize the EU. Thus, the victory of any of these candidates cannot resolve contradictions between different groups of EU countries. Yes, Macron`s victory will increase the contradictions between the Franco-German tandem and Central Europe countries, Fillon`s accession to power will bring France and Central and Northern Europe countries together but it may undermine the Franco-German relations, and Amon`s presidency will deepen the split between South and North Europe. Instead, the victory of extreme-right or ultra-leftist candidate in France will hurt the economy and prestige of the EU. If Marine Le Pen or Jean-Luc Melenchon will become the president, so France may withdraw from the Euro zone and the Schengen area and also submit Frexit to the national referendum. However Melenchon occupies a softer stance on the possible France withdrawal from the EU than the leader of the "National Front". USA French-American relations are likely to remain unchanged in case of victory of Emmanuel Macron or Francois Fillon. In this scenario, France will remain a part of the NATO military structure and continue to be one of the most important US allies in Europe. Despite the “awakening of the Anglo-Saxon world” (Brexit and Trump`s victory), Marine Le Pen`s accession to power will complicate relations between Paris and Washington because it will be harder for charismatic leaders of the two countries to achieve political or economic agreements. Bilateral relations will deteriorate further in case of victory of Jean-Luc Melenchon who considers NATO an instrument of “American imperialism”. Anti-Tramp statements of Benoit Amon will also complicate the Franco-American relations in the case of the socialist victory however a substantial revision of the strategic areas of bilateral cooperation won`t take place. Russia The most profitable scenario for Russia is the accession to power of Marine Le Pen or Jean-Luc Melenchon. The common goal unites the Kremlin and European extreme-right and ultra-leftist politicians: fragmentation of the EU and NATO. In addition, Le Pen or Melenchon can recognize the annexation of Crimea and help to build a new world order more acceptable to Russia. In case of Francois Fillon`s victory the French-Russian rapprochement will be limited by lifting the sanctions in connection with the “Ukrainian crisis” and the fight against terrorism in the Middle East. By Emmanuel Macron`s presidency France will try to simultaneously support sanctions against Russia and carry on dialogue with the Kremlin in solving of other international problems. Benoit Amon currently shows the most critical position towards Russia's actions in Ukraine and Syria, but the socialist has a very little chance to get into the second round of presidential elections. Expectations of Ukraine Ukrainian-French relations have never been close since the independence of Ukraine. Our country has never occupied an important place in the foreign policy of France. No matter who wins the election, Ukraine should not expect to deepen relations with France or Paris support of Kyiv rapprochement with the EU and NATO. The national interests of Ukraine may be considerably affected only by the change in the position of France in Normandy Quartet under the new president. In the case of a hypothetical victory of Benoit Amon France may take more loyal position to Ukraine on the conflict settlement in Donbas. If Emmanuel Macron will become the president, France is likely to continue the balanced and equidistance policy towards Ukraine and Russia, followed by Hollande. Instead, the victory of any of the three candidates - Marine Le Pen, Francois Fillon or Jean-Luc Melenchona - will lead to a rapprochement between France and Russia and worsen the international position of Ukraine. However, Ukraine must avoid the sole support of any of the presidential candidates in France and not to repeat the mistakes made by Ukrainian politicians and diplomats during the presidential elections in Poland in 2015, the United States and Moldova in 2016. In contrast, Ukraine should establish contacts with all the favourites of the election race and prepare for different scenarios of French foreign policy.
Europe will open borders to the Ukrainians: The European Parliament voted to grant visa-free regime
The European Parliament voted to grant visa-free regime with the EU for citizens of Ukraine. For the approval of the draft legislative resolution on bringing Ukraine to the list of third countries for which citizens visa requirements are abolished, 521 Members of the European Parliament voted. How further events with visa-free can develop, senior analyst of ICPS Iryna Ivashko explained on the radio station Holos Stolytsi. Do you think that Ukraine has really deserved, conquered a positive vote in the European Parliament, whether it is the first political decision from the Europeans, because even pull nowhere to? In fact, I can tell you that the European Parliament was the least problematic point in this whole procedure. We always had support there, I mean, visa-free support for Ukraine, always. Just one thing that this vote couldn`t procedurally get to European Parliament, that they gave the green light. The problem was associated with the internal migration situation in the EU. That's why this decision couldn`t possibly get to European Parliament, and now it finally reached, and today we got this vote. But I want to emphasize that this is not something unusual, that it was impossible to get. The European Parliament ... we always had support there. And then of course on the procedure it should be understood that not tomorrow we will be able to travel without visas to the Schengen area, no matter we have to go through several formalities, but they should be completed. And approximately, if there will be no procedural adjournment in the EU, bureaucracy, in late June, I think, visa-free will work for our citizens. Onward we have approval at ambassadorial level of the EU and EU Council of Ministers. May some pitfalls appear? No, actually I don`t think we should expect. We have to understand that Ukraine fulfilled all the criteria. And it has already been indecorous from the EU, European bureaucrats to postpone the decision, because it really was not fair towards us, because technically we fulfilled all the criteria which were outlined for us. And it was told and confirmed repeatedly by Europeans. And we didn`t understand why the decision is being deferred. I want to note that there shouldn`t be problems during the EU Council of Ministers meeting because the decision is taken by a qualified majority there, that allows to pass it, even if someone of ministers will be against of it. If we consider those 75 deputies who voted against granting visa-free to Ukraine, the representatives of these specific countries are present in the EU Council of Ministers? It is necessary to see the list, who exactly of these 75 people represent the country, but I say if there will be some countries, it won`t give us the obstacle. Qualified majority - it does not mean unanimity, it really won`t have, even if some countries, ministers will speak against it, but now I don`t see obstacles. According to your forecasts, this June is the end point, the borders will be opened? It won`t be June, I think it will be the end of June.
Brexit: a point of no return
It is known that on June 23, 2016 the Britons voted in a referendum for country`s exit from the European Union, the so-called Brexit. Thereafter, the long process of preparation for the Britain`s exit procedure from the European Union started under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty on European Union. Today, on March 29, the country's permanent representative to the EU, Tim Barrow conveyed the letter to President of the European Council Donald Tusk, where the intentions of the country to get out of European Union were set out. Under the Lisbon Treaty the country`s exit from the EU may take up to two years. “I don`t think it will stretch up on two years, but I doubt that it will be resolved quickly. Why it won`t be resolved quickly? If the British government will determine its position, which consists in the fact that Britain goes out completely and won`t remain as part of the EU common market, so there is no such single legitimate position currently between European countries. Besides this, the elections in France and Germany were held. They are likely to complicate quick consensus decision in the EU on Britain” - senior analyst Evgen Yaroshenko notes. What problems it will bring to the EU and Britain? For the EU, it will have some serious problems. Firstly, the EU will lose the country – which is the second European economy in terms of GDP – and important financial donor. According to estimates of some economists EU financial assistance to less developed countries of Central Europe, like Poland, Romania, could shrink somewhere in 15%. In other words, without the UK it will be more difficult to the EU as the common market. Secondly, it will change the balance of forces because for a long time Britain has played the role of balancer between France, Germany and other countries. And for many weaker countries in the political sense as Poland, Hungary, it will be harder to defend their interests under the pressure from France and Germany, who will try to impose their vision of the European Union development and their individual policies. For example, it is about the same immigration quotas or financial discipline. Third. Of course, the exit of the country can inspire Eurosceptics in other countries, and according to the domino theory this exit could spread to some other countries. At this point, those countries which have financial problems are at risk, and they consider the EU as the source of these problems, because the EU and Germany comply to more austerity, which is not popular in society. Or those countries that are considered significant donors, and they do not want to spend more of their resources to shelter the weaker countries. Also question of some loyalty countries to the EU concerns those countries that have close economic relations with Britain. And if rates appear in Britain relations with these countries so those countries won`t certainly be profitable. For Britain the exit from the EU will create a lot of risks. The first risk is associated with trade. It is estimated that share of the EU in British trade makes up 45%. In other words, recovery of barriers will certainly hit the British producers. And if for a short period after the UK leaving, the EU, consisting of 27 countries, will not conclude the new trade deal like the agreement on free trade, so Britain will quickly understand the negative consequences of Brexit and citizens will feel it. There is a second challenge, and maybe it is more serious than economic issues. This is a question of the UK integrity. It is known that in a referendum majority of population in Scotland, Northern Ireland voted for Britain to remain in the EU. And these regions largely depended on subsidies of the EU. They are firstly interested to receive these subsidies. Secondly, that there were no trade barriers. Northern Ireland has close trade and cultural relations with the Republic of Ireland, and it is clear that the emergence of barriers can restore the Ulster conflict. And how Britain gently and without the substantial losses go out from the European Union, the further destiny o Scotland and Northern Ireland will depend on it.
The "war of words" between Germany and Turkey
Recently, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused Germany of using “nazi practices”. The statement of the Turkish leader was made against the backdrop of a diplomatic dispute between Ankara and Berlin. German authorities have banned performances of Turkish officials at the events in Germany, where the ministers had to agitate for constitutional reform. Instead, the Turkish authorities are interested in supporting by approximately 1.3 million Turks who will have voting rights in the referendum on April 16. Now the relations between Germany and Turkey are called “war of words”. This characteristic very realistically describes a peak situation that was a few days ago. The starting point of aggravation of these relations was “incomplete revolution” held in Turkey in summer. Then, literally in the middle of February in Turkey the journalist was detained who works for the German Die Welt newspaper. The journalist, who is still imprisoned, was accused of terrorism. Why did Erdogan state that Germany is using Nazi tactics? The whole essence of this conflict is that the referendum on constitutional amendments is approaching in Turkey which should strengthen the presidency of Erdogan. It is clear that campaign for plebiscite preparation is taking place now. German local authorities have canceled activities within that campaign, relying on safety reasons. Erdogan used the situation immediately and began to accuse Germany that it inhibits freedom of speech and the rights that were, of course, Erdogan's obvious manipulation. The canceling of demonstrations in Germany was the beginning of diplomatic ping-pong between the two countries. Erdogan's statements are very politically motivated. His ruling party should send maximum efforts to mobilize electors to support constitutional changes. It should be understood that many Turks are living in Germany who can vote in the referendum - there are 1.3 million people. Why does the referendum cause such concerns in particular in Germany and the EU? That`s why because Erdogan wants to bring to completion the “sultanization” of his country, turning on parliamentary republic to fully presidential. These changes increase powers of the President and decrease powers of the Prime Minister and the Vice President position is introduced. The critics of such measures say that such changes are absolutely negating any system of political balance. A very good method of activating of his electorate is to portray his enemies, real or imaginary. It works. Erdogan also likes to blackmail. Through migration agreement the EU is highly dependent on Turkey and the Turkish president uses it. If the referendum held by the necessary scenario for Erdogan, it will have a serious impact on the relationship with the EU countries. One can recall that before the intention to hold the referendum and the military incomplete revolution the EU has frozen entry into force Turkey`s membership to EU. If the referendum is held according to plan, the EU will review its relations with Erdogan and Turkey. Erdogan, of course, couldn`t foresee such a development. We must pay tribute to Erdogan: he was able to conclude an agreement with the EU and thus put it in dependence. Now he feels fine, by which and what to pick up the EU. Most likely, all this intense rhetoric will go into decline and will calm down after April 16, when a referendum will be held. Germany and Turkey are very interconnected countries and their relationship should be adjusted. It can be shown now by Merkel`s reaction to Erdogan's statements. German Chancellor showed her balanced position, noting the unacceptability of such statements, but she gave a hint that Germany will work on relationship consolation. Erdogan, in turn, sees his country a leader and dominant in the region, so he will still try to make Turkey the EU member.
Round table "International interim administration as a model of Donbas conflict settlement"
International Centre for Policy Studies supported by the International Fund “Renaissance” held a roundtable discussion “International Interim Administration as a model for conflict resolution in Donbas”. The event is the continuation of series of ICPS's developments devoted to conflict resolution. In particular, on October, 2016 the experts presented the study “Models and costs of Donbas conflict settlement: International Experience and Ukrainian Realities”. It should be noted that since the Minsk agreements have been deadlocked, the conflict resolution requires new ideas and suggestions. In this regard the establishing of the International Transitional Administration in non-controlled territories can unlock the Minsk process and promote the peaceful settlement and reintegration of uncontrolled parts into Ukraine. Within the project “Modeling the implementation of the Minsk agreements” ICPS experts presented a study in which the opportunities and obstacles to the establishing of the Transitional Administration in non-controlled territories were analyzed. ICPS Chairman Vasyl Filipchuk as the moderator of the event stressed the importance of analyzing the practical aspect as how is it possible to restore the sovereignty. The Deputy Minister of temporarily occupied territories and IDPs George Tuka noted that Ukraine should do everything to return under control the temporarily occupied territories of Donbas and not to abandon the region. Senior ICPS analyst Evgeny Yaroshenko during the presentation emphasized that the mechanism of the transitional administration is the international practice that allows us to establish on the transitional period the legitimate government in a certain territory which has been gripped by conflict or become the victim of aggression of another state. Introduction of administration provides problem solving in military and civilian spheres. In particular, the task of the military sphere is to maintain peace through deployment of the "blue helmets" which has to reduce the violence from both sides. In turn, the civil sector concerns establishing the public order, creating and training the police forces and holding local elections. There are many examples in the world of how the interim or transitional administration has contributed to the return of the states territories. Such administration operated in Kosovo, eastern Slavonia (region of Croatia) and East Timor. “From the perspective of Ukraine, the most revealing example is the peaceful reintegration of Eastern Slavonia by Croatian example. In the information space, we usually understand the forcible return of the territory under the Croatian scenario. If clarify most of the territory of the Serbian margin, which in the early 90s was controlled by the Croatian government troops, it was returned by force. But Eastern Slavonia was re-integrated into the Croatian constitutional space due to the important international mechanism, as the transitional administration”- said Yevgeniy Yaroshenko.
Ukrainian issue on the Munich Security Conference 2017
On February 17-19, 2017 the 53rd Munich Security Conference was held. The Security Forum was attended by more than two dozen heads of state and government (including Federal Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel, President of Poland Andrzej Duda, Prime Minister of Turkey Binali Yıldırım, President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko), Vice President of the USA Mike Pence, Secretary General of the UN António Guterres, Secretary General of the NATO Jens Stoltenberg, dozens of foreign ministers (France, Germany, the Great Britain, China, Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Turkey, Saudi Arabia), defence ministers and prominent politicians, diplomats and experts. Participants discussed the problems of the European Union, the NATO, transatlantic relations, democracy, terrorism, the Syrian crisis, the situation in East Asia and other challenges to international security. The Chairman of the Munich Security Conference was a prominent German ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger. On the first day of the Conference the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko delivered a speech. In the President’s speech, there are the following messages: to refrain from appeasement of Russia not to repeat the experience of the Munich Agreement in 1938 on Nazi Germany; to strengthen the transatlantic unity; "Supporting Ukraine is the cheapest investment into security of Free World"; No deals on Ukraine's future behind Ukraine; to continue sanctions until Russia withdraws its troops from Crimea and Donbas; to deepen rapprochement between the EU and Ukraine as " Ukraine now is the most Euro-optimistic nation on the European continent". Poroshenko's speech contains a lot of calls to the West for supporting Ukraine and countering Russian aggression. However, apart from continuing sanctions, the President of Ukraine did not submit any new proposals to restrain Russia. Poroshenko also said nothing about the contribution that Ukraine was could make into the European and Euro-Atlantic security. Primarily, key partners are interested in Ukraine’s possibilities in addressing common challenges, and not only in solving the problem of Crimea and Donbas. On the second day of the Conference a meeting of the Normandy Four Foreign Ministers (Ukraine, Germany, France and Russia) was held. The diplomats agreed that the ceasefire and the withdrawal of heavy weapons should be a precondition for the start of the political process. In addition, the parties agreed to provide access of the Red Cross to the occupied territories of Eastern Ukraine. However, it was stressed that negotiations in Normandy format should not be extended by the State Secretary of US Rex Tillerson. The meeting in the Normandy format has not shown any breakthrough. Instead, it was once again emphasized that the implementation of the political provisions of the Minsk agreements should be preceded by the creation of a proper security environment. The main innovation was the German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel first participation in Normandy Group. In general, this year's Munich Security Conference has not provided a separate panel for Ukrainian issue n. The conflict in Donbas and the annexation in Crimea were only indirectly mentioned during the discussion of other international security issues. Meanwhile, world leaders were waiting for concrete proposals from Ukraine to address common security challenges, but not the repetition of the old messages.