Archives for category: Middle East

In my book, The Politics of Nation-Building, I explore the reasons behind a state’s choice to assimilate, accommodate, or exclude ethnic groups within its territory.[1] I develop a theory that focuses on the international politics of nation-building arguing that a state’s nation-building policies toward non-core groups — any aggregation of individuals perceived as an unassimilated ethnic group by the ruling elite of a state — are influenced by both its foreign policy goals and its relations with the external patrons of these groups. Through a detailed study of the interwar Balkans, I conclude that the way a state treats a non-core group within its own borders is determined largely by whether the state’s foreign policy is revisionist or cleaves to the international status quo, and whether it is allied or in rivalry with that group’s external patrons. However, as I admit in the book, this argument does not travel to states where the ruling elites are not motivated by a homogenizing imperative.

Some places in the world are run by core groups consisting of apparent minimum winning coalitions,[2] others by elites that go at great lengths to establish national states.[3] Why do some countries have leaders that try to make the national and the political unit overlap and others that opt to rule with a minimum winning coalition? One argument suggests that maybe the degree of diversity prevents the nation-building path in some cases, other arguments focus on the pattern of spread of nationalist ideology and/or the prevalence of competing ideologies such as communism, yet others put forth the importance of war-making and imitation of successful military tactics as a mechanism that accounts for the spread of nationalism and the nation-state system.[4] In The Politics of Nation-Building I build on some of these and suggest that the main reason that leaders adopt the nation-building option is the reality, or anticipation, of other powers using non-core groups in their state to undermine their stability or even annex parts of their territory.

The European story is well known and so are the interactions between the Russians and the Europeans. Tilly’s argument that war made the modern national state may be correct but it is also based on an understood reality: borders were constantly changing during the centuries that modern European states developed.[5] But the Westphalian principles have been adhered to more in some parts of the world than others.[6] Border fixity did not only vary tremendously over time but it also significantly varied crossnationally across the globe.[7] For example, following the Treaty of Berlin in the end of the 19th century the borders of Africa “froze” after the decision of the Great Powers.[8] This led to a completely different incentive structure for both ruling elites and counterhegemonic elites in countries with “fixed borders”. Beyond the case of Africa, however, we can point to other places with similar levels of border fixity that resulted from different geopolitical configurations, such as Latin America—the back yard of the USA—or the Middle East, where the colonial powers also left their mark on the demarcation of borderlines.[9]

Overall, areas that were part of a geopolitical configuration that guaranteed border fixity had less of an incentive to pursue nation-building policies. Within these cases the only countries that I would expect to see nation-building policies emerging involve cases where an external power (major power, regional power, neighboring state, diaspora group and so forth) attempted to cultivate a fifth column within their territorial boundaries. Moreover, it would not be surprising if this phenomenon of external backing of non-core groups would be less pronounced in regions where border fixity was perceived to be really high. However, this ‘equilibrium’ becomes more or less sustainable based on the structure of the international system and the ability—real and/or perceived—of regional actors to defy these geopolitical configurations I described above.

The crucial question today is: What is the future of border fixity in today’s world? More importantly, what is the perception of the relevant actors across the world with respect to this question? The list of border changes is longer than we want to admit. One just needs to cite former Yugoslavia and USSR;[10] but more recently we find cases beyond the traditional spaces where nation-building has already made its mark like Sudan.[11]Discussion of border changes has also emerged in the case of Iraq, Mali, and even Syria. It remains to be seen if any such plans will materialize. Granted the list of cases could have been much longer if nationalist principles were to be fully operative but this is not a satisfactory answer. Even if we only get a few dozen of the hundreds of border changes we would get based on nationalist principles, the reverberations will be felt globally. Moreover, such a situation would further push the spread of nationalism, encourage external involvement, and boost nation-building projects across these areas. We are already observing manifestations of this dynamic, but more border changes would certainly intensify it. This in turn will have the direst consequences for the well being of ethnic groups that are perceived as having ties with external powers that are perceived as enemies by core elites. Shi’as in various Sunni dominated states in the Middle East are a case in point.

What can be done? The International community can impact perceptions of border fixity by either investing resources in upholding the norm of territorial sovereignty or by promoting regional integration schemes around the globe that would indirectly guarantee existing borders and, according to The Politics of Nation-Building, would also lead to accommodationist policies. However, neither of the two solutions is sufficient without important investments in economic and political development.

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 The article was published at e-IR on May 8, 2013 | © e-International Relations (e-IR)

Harris Mylonas got his Ph.D. at Yale University in 2008 and then joined the Political Science department at George Washington University as an Assistant Professor in the fall of 2009. He was also an Academy Scholar at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies in 2008-2009 and 2011-2012 academic years.

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[1] Harris Mylonas, The Politics of Nation-Building: Making Co-Nationals, Refugees, and Minorities. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2012.

[2] William H. Riker, The Theory of Political Coalitions. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1962; Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, James D. Morrow, Randolph M. Siverson and Alastair Smith, “Political Institutions, Policy Choice and the Survival of Leaders,” British Journal of Political Science, Vol. 32, No. 4 (Oct., 2002), pp. 559-590; Bueno de Mesquita, Bruce; Alastair Smith, Randolph M. Siverson and James D. Morrow. The Logic of Political Survival. The MIT Press, 2003.

[3] Eugen Weber. Peasants into Frenchmen: The Modernization of Rural France, 1870-1914. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1976; Ernest GellnerNations and Nationalism. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1983; Smith, Anthony. 1986. “State-Making and Nation-Building,” in John Hall (ed.), States in History. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 228–263; Rogers Smith. Stories of Peoplehood: The Politics and Morals of Political Memberships. Cambridge University Press, 2003; Keith Darden and Anna Maria Grzymała-Busse. “The Great Divide: Literacy, Nationalism, and the Communist Collapse,” World Politics – Volume 59, Number 1 (2006): 83-115.

[4] Connor, Walker. The National Question in Marxist-Leninist Theory and Strategy. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1984Barry Posen. “Nationalism, the Mass Army and Military Power,” International Security, 18, 2 (1993): 80-124; Andreas Wimmer. Waves of War: Nationalism, State Formation and Ethnic Exclusion in the Modern World. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

[5] Charles Tilly (ed.). The Formation of National States in Western Europe.  Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1975; Charles Tilly.Coercion, Capital and European States: AD 990-1990. Cambridge, MA: Basil Blackwell, 1990. Charles Tilly and Wim P. Blockmans (eds.). Cities and the Rise of States in. Europe, AD 1000 to 1800. Boulder: Westview Press, 1994.

[6] Leo Gross. “The Peace of Westphalia, 1648-1948,” The American Journal of International Law, Vol. 42, No. 1 (Jan., 1948), pp. 20-41.

[7] Boaz Atzili. Good Fences, Bad Neighbors: Border Fixity and International Conflict. Chicago, IL: University Of Chicago Press, 2012.

[8] Förster, Stig, Wolfgang J. Mommsen, and Ronald Edward Robinson. Bismarck, Europe, and Africa: The Berlin Africa Conference 1884–1885 and the Onset of Partition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989.

[9] Livingstone, Grace. America’s backyard: the United States and Latin America from the Monroe Doctrine to the War on Terror. London; New York: Zed Books, 2009.

[10] Rogers Brubaker. Nationalism Reframed: Nationhood and the National Question in the New Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996; Ronald Grigor Suny. The Revenge of the Past: Nationalism, Revolution, and the Collapse of the Soviet Union. Stanford University Press, 1993.

[11] Andrew Natsios. Sudan, South Sudan, and Darfur: What Everyone Needs to Know. Oxford University Press, 2012.

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Building democratic states is a complex and challenging task at the best of times. After violent conflict this task is additionally complicated by the fact that peace needs to be secured, institutions need to be comprehensively reformed, if not built from scratch, civil society and political culture need to be reinvigorated, and economies need to be put back on a path to sustainable growth.  All these tasks are urgent and success (and failure) across the state-building agenda mutually reinforcing.

Sustainable peace, democracy and prosperity depend crucially on choosing the right institutions, but these institutions cannot flourish unless there is security. For Libya, this means first and foremost putting an end to the current violence resulting from the resistance that the old regime is still offering. It also means ensuring that law and order are restored quickly, weapons collected, rebels demobilised and reintegrated. Given the brevity of the revolution, the latter should be relatively easy to accomplish without leaving the new transitional government defenceless. In the medium-term, a proper security sector reform needs to occur, establishing full democratic control over all armed and other security forces.

As the new government assumes responsibility for running the country, a functioning system of law and order needs to be established, including mechanisms to investigate and prosecute crimes committed by the Gaddafi regime and to ensure that justice is also accessible to those who came to harm during the revolution, regardless of who the perpetrators were. This will require a carefully balanced approach that is neither equivalent to wholesale criminalisation of former members and supporters of the regime nor offers a blanket amnesty for past crimes. As the National Transitional Council has already made clear, justice needs to enable reconciliation.

A stable, peaceful, democratic and prosperous Libya can only be built with international support, especially in the short-term. This will require financial and technical assistance, especially when it comes to rebuilding the economy, formulate a sound economic and fiscal policy, restore sources of government revenue, and avoid long-term dependency on international aid. A secure environment and international assistance are crucial factors to rebuild public finances, create a climate in which economic growth can be fostered, and gradually enable states recovering from conflict to become less aid-dependent and provide a range of public services that, in turn, will contribute to greater legitimacy of their institutional framework. Libya’s hydrocarbon wealth should make this task easier, but here, too, pitfalls exist. As the haggling over Iraq’s oil and gas law has demonstrated, managing resource wealth and sharing it fairly are demanding tasks that require balancing local, national, and international individual, state and corporate interests.

State-building also requires nation-building, or more precisely establishing a vibrant civil society and a political and media culture that can sustain peace and democracy by promoting cooperation and trust between different segments of society. This process can be facilitated by international actors, but it needs to be organic and bottom-up if it is to succeed. It is important that political institutions are built with the input from all local and civil society actors, that institutions are built which enable civil society and media to develop and to shape the nature of the state that is being built in the long-term as well. The legitimacy of the state that now emerges in post-Gaddafi Libya will crucially depend on the ability of institutions to facilitate the growth of civil society and truly free and independent media.

In the short-term, and beyond, however, the most crucial link is that between security and legitimacy. Any post-conflict state’s capacity to provide security for its citizens determines its legitimacy. Vice versa the legitimacy the state has (in terms of elections, the participation of key stakeholders and elites in decision-making) conditions the degree to which security is seen by citizens as protecting them rather than a new regime. The new government will need to consider carefully its options: ensuring a broad-based transitional government, preparing elections in which all political actors committed to a political, democratic process can participate, and containing those forces within the country that are set to disrupt this process. This is unlikely to be a smooth process, but nonetheless one which can succeed if all actors agree to a set of basic principles of political conduct, enshrine them in institutions, and remain united against anyone violating this consensus.

Building a secure and stable, democratic and prosperous Libya will not be easy or quick to accomplish. If local leaders realise this, and make an effort to explain the complexity and length of the task ahead to their constituents, if the international community musters the resources, stamina, and enthusiasm to support Libya on its difficult road ahead, and if the institutions being built now establish inclusive, transparent and accountable government, Libya might well turn into a case of successful democratic state-building.

Stefan Wolff is Professor of International Security at the University of Birmingham, England, UK.  His website is www.stefanwolff.com.

(1) If Gaddafi supporters in/outside the regime did not fight, where are they and what are their plans?

Resistance collapsed relatively quickly on the road to, and in, Tripoli, but that does not mean that the regime as a whole and across the country has been comprehensively defeated. The rebels clearly have the upper hand now and momentum is on their side, but there is a danger of setbacks. Looking at the most recent, and most traumatic, transitions of a similar kind, in both Iraq and Afghanistan regime loyalists of varying kinds resurfaced. In Iraq, they were partly defeated and partly co-opted after a very violent civil war drawing in significant foreign forces; in Afghanistan this process is still far from resolved. Both cases also demonstrate that al-Qaeda and its upshots are very adept at exploiting the instability that usually follows violent regime collapse, if only to establish (temporary) alliances of convenience to further their own agenda.

(2) How united are the rebel forces and who is in overall command?

Rebel forces have advanced on Tripoli from three sides—this does not only reflect geographical divisions. United by the will to oust Gaddafi, it is not clear how much of a common vision for a new Libya there is among the diverse rebel forces, how much they trust each other, and the extent to which the transitional council is recognised widely inside Libya (as opposed to internationally) as the new legitimate government. Rebel unity is not about an identical political agenda shared by all, but about a basic agreement on ground rules. This needs to include a commitment to an inclusive political process, to institutions for a transitional period before elections, and to respect for the rule of law rather than wanton retribution on former members and supporters of the Gaddafi regime. Some thought also needs to be given on how to deal with those who are unable or unwilling to sign up to such basic principles. The rebel leadership needs to manage this transitional period carefully, they need to accept the principle of inclusive government, and step back from maximalist demands. This will also require managing the expectations of their own constituencies and respecting the need for their allies in the movement to do the same. If this can be achieved, it will lay a significant foundation for a new political culture in Libya.

(3) Who will lead the international post-conflict reconstruction effort in support of a new Libya?

So far only vague statements have emerged about learning the lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan, about existing preparations, about the need for the UN and the contact group to lead, and about NATO willing to continue protecting civilians. This does not amount to a coherent and coordinated strategy even for the short term when the foundations will be laid for the new Libya that will emerge. The nature, level, and sustainability of a civilian international effort in the aftermath of the fighting in Libya will be important for the country itself, but no less impactful for the region as a whole. Making a success of Libya’s revolution will primarily depend on Libyans, but also on the kind of support they receive internationally. In many a country, internationally-led post-war reconstruction has not completely failed, but it has not had a stellar record of achieving sustainable peace, development and democracy either. The lessons are there, ready to be learned—as are, unfortunately, the mistakes to be repeated. International support is not only a Western ‘business’. Libya’s neighbours (and that includes the European Union) and the Arab world as a whole will want, and need, to play a role, as will China and Russia. Overall UN leadership is likely to provide legitimacy, but not necessarily effectiveness. While a joint UN-EU-AU-Arab-League mission is conceivable, it is important to bear in mind that the multi-organisational effort in Kosovo headed by the UN and involving the European Union, NATO and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe offered more problems than solutions.

(4) What do developments in Libya mean for the Arab Spring and the Middle East more broadly?

While Libya has commanded much media attention over the past 2-3 days, it is not the only country experiencing significant upheaval. In Syria, the regime appears to be firmly in control—unsurprisingly given the lack of a similarly well-organized and armed opposition and the absence of NATO military support. Yet it is not clear how sustainable Assad’s rule is especially if Saudi Arabia and Turkey increase pressure. A transition here might still be possible, although probably in the form of a more gradual, negotiated process. In Yemen, President Saleh has been out of the country for more than a month, but the opposition is deeply divided and has very different aims. The Houthi rebellion in the North and the secessionist movement in the South precede the democratic opposition by years, al-Qaeda has a very strong base in the country now, but, despite its alliance with the southern secessionists, shares otherwise very little with the forces confronting the Saleh regime. A regime collapse here is unlikely to usher in either democracy or stability in this strategically important country. At the same time and in the shadow cast by the events in Libya, there has been a significant escalation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—Israeli approval of expanded settlements, Palestinian attacks in Eilat and Israeli counter-attacks, the latter also leading to the killing of several Egyptian border guards and a consequential deterioration of relations between Egypt (another Arab Spring country) and Israel. In the run-up to a Palestinian push to achieve UN recognition as a non-state member at the General Assembly in September, this is hardly helpful, albeit not utterly surprising as the sides stake out their positions.

Stefan Wolff is Professor of International Security at the University of Birmingham, England, UK.  His website is www.stefanwolff.com. 

 

 

Winning a war and winning the peace afterwards are two different things. Banal as this may sound, the track record of international efforts at peace building would suggest that even such a banality is worth repeating over and over in the hope that one day success rather than failure becomes the rule, and that the violence and instability that have been (and are) characteristic of Afghanistan and Iraq, Somalia and Kosovo, Cote d’Ivoire and the Democratic Republic of Congo does not remain the hallmark of post-war reconstruction. Yet, even though the balance sheet of internationalised peace and state building is less than stellar it offers important lessons—lessons that become ever more relevant as the conflict in Libya seems to edge towards some sort of negotiated settlement.

Assuming that Gaddafi will exit from a position of relative strength with core elements of his regime still largely intact, one issue is how to handle the transition of power in such a way that real and sustainable change occurs. For a transitional period, this will almost certainly mean continued participation of Gaddafi ‘loyalists’ in governing institutions. They must not be allowed to bloc change, nor must they be deprived of the opportunity to embrace it. The whole-sale dismissal of Saddam Hussein’s army in post-war Iraq serves as a warning of the dire consequences of such a move.

Legitimate and inclusive governing institutions, rightly emphasised as key to stability in the UK government’s recent Building Stability Overseas Strategy, can be achieved through free and fair elections. However, early elections after civil wars are not only likely to deepen divisions and to polarise and radicalise societies, they are often also flawed because they take place before there is anything akin to a functioning civil society, free media, and institutions that make the electoral process work—from electoral commissions to political parties and a judicial system respected and capable of resolving disputes before and after elections. Elections cannot and should not be delayed forever and a day, but scheduled too soon, they are likely to do more harm than good.

Yet the challenges are unlikely to stop there. Gaddafi’s exit from power is likely to trigger some sort of a succession struggle. This will weaken regime camp, but it will equally increase instability and make it more difficult to maintain whatever fractious consensus on a transitional, post-Gaddafi period might emerge over the coming weeks (or months). Equally, the opposition movement, loosely held together in the Libyan Interim National Council will soon come to realise that apart from their desire to get rid of Gaddafi and his regime there is little that unites them in terms of substantive policies. The current anti-Gaddafi consensus is sure to give way quickly to internal struggles for power and positions. While it would be foolish to speculate about how violent potential in-fighting will be among regime loyalists and the opposition, neither bodes well for post-Gaddafi stability in Libya.

Another recurring issue in many post-war situations has to do with transitional justice. Already there are signs, albeit few, of extra-judicial retribution on the rebel side. Revenge attacks are common once the tables have turned, and history is littered with incidents of spontaneous and systematic reprisals—killings, torture, rape, and expulsions are phenomena that are all too common to be ignored. Not only do they cause immediate human suffering but they also contribute to instability further down the line, creating an environment for social and political divisions to consolidate and for hatreds to deepen. A stable political, let alone inclusive democratic process in such situations is difficult at best. Even where proper judicial processes are in place—in country or in international institutions—it is difficult for members and supporters of a former regime not to see them as ‘victor’s justice’. This is not to say that serious crimes should go unpunished but that a balance needs to be struck between dealing with the past and building a sustainable future. The former Yugoslavia, South Africa, and Rwanda, to name just a few recent examples, have all approached this issue differently, and their successes and failures offer some food for thought.

At the core of these issues lies the question of institution building in the post-Gaddafi era. This will be a complex undertaking, involving reforms of existing institutions and the establishment of new ones, as well as a whole host of staffing decisions. Such institutions will have to be representative of the diversity of Libya. They will derive their legitimacy in part from the degree to which they are representative, but equally from their ability to deliver security, justice, prosperity, and democracy.

 

Libya will face profound challenges on the day after Gaddafi is gone, challenges that will not be easy or quick to address. But as the signs increase that this day may be nearing, now is the time to think about the post-Gaddafi era and how the knowledge and understanding that has accumulated on how to deal with post-war situations can be put to good use. Even though Libya does not lend itself to an international UN or AU-led model of international administration, this does not mean that the international community has no role to play. Helping Libyans to build institutions and institutional capacity will be the most valuable contribution that the international community can make in assisting that country to avoid the mistakes made elsewhere and build the foundations of a democratic society.

Stefan Wolff is Professor of International Security at the University of Birmingham, England, UK.  His website is www.stefanwolff.com. 

On 25 May 2011, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Commission Vice-President, Baroness Catherine Ashton, and the European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy, Štefan Füle, presented a new communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions. Boldly entitled ‘A new response to a changing neighbourhood’, the document is the outcome of a review of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) begun in summer 2010 in response to the changes of the Union’s new foreign affairs set-up under the Lisbon Treaty. It proclaims the need for a new approach to build and consolidate healthy democracies, pursue sustainable economic growth and manage cross-border links and specifically mentions ‘stronger political cooperation on … security [and] conflict resolution matters’.

Comprising the countries on the southern and eastern Mediterranean shores—Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt; and the Palestinian Territories, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria—the Southern Neighbourhood faces no shortage of security and conflict-related challenges. In order to assess how well the revamped ENP is likely to perform in addressing them, these challenges first need to be identified. They fall into two broad categories, the first of them being issues related to instability and insecurity IN the Southern Neighbourhood itself:

  • Latent/unresolved conflicts between states, primarily evolving around borders in the Middle East between Israel and Syria and Lebanon
  • Communal/sectarian/secessionist civil wars, primarily the (currently suspended) power struggles in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, as well as the self-determination struggle in Morocco/Western Sahara
  • The Israeli-Palestinian conflict which combines elements of inter-state and intra-state conflicts linked to the broader regional setting of the Arab-Israeli conflict
  • The so-called ‘Arab Spring’, i.e., the popular uprisings against a widely perceived lack of economic opportunity, freedom and dignity in a number of the authoritarian regimes in the Middle East and North Africa—with their largely unpredictable outcomes and consequences

All of these conflicts pose a serious humanitarian challenge (and have in many instances done so for years if not decades), but they also constitute a security challenge to the EU (and more broadly) in that they are an essential part of an environment that is conducive to the proliferation of cross-border security threats. In this second category of security challenges, the issues are of more immediate and direct impact on the EU itself:

  • Illegal (trans-) migration to EU member states
  • Transnational organised crime, especially related to smuggling of goods and trafficking in humans, arms, and drugs
  • International terrorism
  • Supply and transit dimensions of European energy security

The new ENP mission statement recognises that addressing these threats is a shared interest with the countries of the Southern Neighbourhood, and at least implicitly, also makes a connection between the two categories in seeing problems IN the Neighbourhood among the causes of security threats BEYOND its geographical boundaries. More to the point organised crime, international terrorism, etc., are, to some extent, symptoms of underlying problems in the countries of the southern and eastern Mediterranean.

Looking back over more than half a decade of ENP, the track record of the policy to achieve its strategic goals of strengthening the prosperity, stability and security of the EU and its neighbours is less than stellar. Among all the countries of the Southern Neighbourhood, only two—Morocco and Jordan—have fully implemented, and moved beyond, their original action plans. In recognition of this, the EU granted them ‘advanced status’ in 2008 and 2010, respectively. Yet, one might question, for example, how much Morocco really has advanced since the inauguration of the ENP in 2003: the conflict in the Western Sahara—after all, one of the security challenges in the Southern Neighbourhood constantly referred to in EU documents—is nowhere nearer a resolution than it was eight years ago.

Is this likely to change now? The ‘new response to a changing neighbourhood’ signifies a certain degree of continuity in its commitment to democracy, economic development, sub-regional cooperation and regional differentiation that has characterised the ENP since 2003. What is if not new, so at least far more explicit, is a greater emphasis on conditionality and political and security cooperation. Thus, the EU seeks to ‘enhance [its] involvement in solving protracted conflicts’. However, rather than outlining concrete steps that go beyond the implementation of ENP (and CFSP) to date, the emphasis is on continuing what already happens (and has arguably not been very effective): membership in the Middle East Quartet, opposition to violent border changes, using operational presence through existing missions to back reform efforts, and employing instruments that promote economic integration and sectoral reform to support confidence-building measures and conflict resolution objectives. The only, partially innovative new initiative is an emphasis of the EU’s preparedness to develop post-conflict reconstruction scenarios as incentives for conflict settlement.

While the EU recognises that ‘more continuous and more intimate political dialogue’ is necessary to ‘tackle the sources of instability and conflict’ in the Southern Neighbourhood, the section in the new ENP strategy on ‘Partnership for Democracy and Shared Prosperity in the Southern Mediterranean’ (originally launched by Ashton and Commission President Barroso on 8 March 2011 in response to the ‘Arab Spring’) is rather silent on political and security cooperation in this respect, as is the ‘Dialogue for migration, mobility and security with the Southern Mediterranean Countries’ (released on 24 May 2011). It thus remains unclear how the EU will translate is aspirations for more security and stability into the fast-changing reality of the Southern Neighbourhood. How can we explain this?

 

There are a number of problems that have beset the ENP from the very start:

  • Member states still find it hard to speak with a common voice on foreign and security policy matters, they are often divided among themselves, and rifts also frequently emerge between member states and the EU institutions, and among EU institutions. Policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and more recently on Libya provides ample illustration for that.
  • The EU’s (and its member states’) internal security agenda often dominates, thus privileging the treatment of symptoms (organised crime, terrorism, illegal migration) over a more comprehensive approach to their causes.
  • EU capacity to develop and implement an effective security and conflict resolution policy remains underdeveloped, especially as far as human resources are concerned—in the institutions in Brussels and in the delegations on the ground.

 

More fundamentally perhaps, however, the EU seems to have ‘bought’ too much of its own narrative about the all-persuasive power and cure of democracy and economic development as sufficiently effective substitutes for a more strategic and powerful security and conflict resolution policy. To the credit of the Union, the stronger emphasis on conditionality indicates that democracy and economic development will not always be readily embraced by everyone in the neighbourhood. The jury is still out on whether tougher conditionality can deliver the reforms that the EU, correctly, believes to be necessary to tackle not only the symptoms but also the root causes of conflict and instability. It may not work in every case, but even it works in only a few countries in the Southern Neighbourhood, this would be much needed, significant and welcome progress.

Stefan Wolff is Professor of International Security at the University of Birmingham, England, UK.  His website is www.stefanwolff.com.

A few countries around Europe and the Middle East have been having a harder time forming a government than most. If most Brits got nervous that there was no government formed for a few days following last years’ election, such a scenario sounds like a remote dream for Belgium, Bosnia, Lebanon and Iraq.

It took Iraq around nine months to form a government following parliamentary elections in March 2010, Lebanon had a change of premier in January, but the new premier Najib Mikati only was able to form a new cabinet a few days ago (based on support from Hizbollah and its allies). Belgium is “celebrating” a year since the parliament elections without a government and Bosnia is slowly catching up (emphasis on slowly) with Belgium, having held elections in October 2010 and only a few days ago the three member state presidency held a straw poll who might be the best candidate for the post—it looks likely that the government will not be formed before the fall. Of course, all four countries share a key feature: They are power-sharing systems, which require coalitions of the unwilling. Coalitions are between parties which have campaign against one another and which have often antagonistic views over the future of the country, not to mention its policies. Thus, coalitions are not based on securing “just” a majority, but rather on including parties representing the often deep divisions in society. With fractious and unstable party systems, forming a government is not an easy task.

It might be tempting to conclude that power sharing system which allocate power to parties claiming to represent these different ethnic, linguistic or religious groups should be done away with. Simple majority rule is, however, no alternative in the three countries. In Lebanon, Hizbollah would be able to take over the country, in Belgium Flemish nationalists would be able to dismantle the state with not consideration of the Walloon community, in Bosnia, a Bosniak parties might govern over a state that can’t govern of half of it, the Serb Republic (or alternatively, a Croat-Serb coalition would dominate at the expense of the largest population group), etc. A different alternative is the system used in Northern Ireland. Instead of lengthy coalition negotiations between parties which in all probability anyhow have to end up in government with each other, the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 just does away with complicated government formation altogether. Here the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister are elected by a double majority of both unionists and nationalists, all subsequent ministers are chosen by the D’Hondt system, which allows parties to pick ministerial posts according to their size and means that there is no need for negation between parties and all have a stake in the government. Of course, this also means that no party will be in opposition, but voting largely determines the dominance in the executive, rather than who is represented at all.

If such a solution is not possible, the question arises, does one really need a government? In Belgium, there have been protests in favor of any government (probably a first in history), a senator calling for a sex strike of the wives of Belgian’s politicians and the initiative G1000 which seeks to bring together 1000 citizens to demonstrate than in a few days of popular debate more feasible solutions and compromises can be found than after more than a year of talks among parties. Despite all the civic activism for a government, Belgium managed to hold the EU presidency, reduce its budget deficit and generally have a working country with only a caretaker government. The others’ are less lucky. Without a proper government and a budget, Bosnia was unable to draw further loans from IMF, is unable to move forward with EU integration, whereas Lebanon and Iraq were similarly paralyzed without a fully acting government. The secret to Belgium’s ‘non-governmental’ success despite its difficulties is simple, it is called the European Union and its regions and communities to which many powers are devolved. Granted, the EU lacks clear decision making structures and much of what one would expect from a government, but the Belgium experience demonstrates that it can be a crucial proxy for having a government. Monetary policy, no need. Foreign and security policy, not a big deal for a small EU member. Most laws and regulations come from the EU. What is not done by the EU in terms of everyday life is organized by the regions or communities. This leaves Belgium in the absence of a legitimate government much less exposed than Lebanon, Bosnia or Iraq. Now, of course, the problem is that some ethnic, linguistic or religious parties actually want to demonstrate just that—namely that the state is unnecessary. If citizens don’t feel the pinch of having a government, they might become less attached to the state. This is of course a fundamental dilemma, who much government does there need to be to make it worthwhile for citizens to have a state and what is the maximum of government and state some citizens can take before they support some alternative. Whatever the specific answer maybe, there are times when a country can work, even if there is no government.

Florian Bieber is a professor for Southeast European Studies at the University of Graz.