On July 22, 2011, horrific news from Norway shattered the world. In two acts of terror targeting the government building in Oslo and a youth political camp of the Labour party held on the Utoya island, 76 individuals lost their lives. The perpetrator and his motifs are well known by now: it was Anders Breivik, a self-proclaimed modern day Crusader, who went on a rampage against his political opponents, frustrated with what he saw as silent facilitation of the Islamization of Europe.

“DO NOT for the love of God aim your rage and frustration at Muslims. […] ALL our efforts must be aimed at […] traitors. We will focus on the Muslims AFTER we have seized political and military control. At that point, we will start deportation campaigns.”

The quotation above is an excerpt from a document Breivik disseminated shortly before he commenced with the attacks, an 1500-pages-long manuscript titled “”2083: A European Declaration of Independence” in which he thoroughly explained his political beliefs and the motives for the crimes he committed.

One recurring question these days is if it is worth analyzing his “Manifesto” at all? Do we actually need to ponder upon his ideology? Aren’t we doing a bad thing by repeatedly debating his musings, thus reiterating his messages? At the end of the day, isn’t he just another sociopath and a person with troubled childhood, who resorted to violence as a remedy for his personal frustrations (allegedly being dumped by a girl who fell for a Muslim man)? His political views provide many grounds for disqualifying him as irrelevant to the political debate indeed. The Manifesto shows that his Holy War is driven by Breivik’s narcissism and self-righteousness as well as his delusion of historic mission. He adopts a highly selective approach to seeing the world, makes arbitrary assessments of good and bad, and is in fact excessively judgmental, confronting most of the contemporary values of society (for instance, gender equality). When it comes to his acts, on the other hand, he straightforwardly takes mass murder as a problem-solving technique. Such ideas should primarily concern law enforcement. But how should they be addressed in the political debate?


What makes Breivik different from typical mass murderers and terrorists is that his words (and consequently, his actions – a mere frontal attack on the political opponent) are not only political, but astonishingly rooted in the contemporary political debates in Europe and beyond. Reading the direct and semi-formal text of “2083,” one gets the idea that we have heard many of this claims and arguments before. It can easily be a football hooligan, a drunk man yelling in a smoky tavern or some anonymous who replied to our comments online. It can easily be the hosts of a local TV or radio show that scaremonger on the loss of European identity before the invasion of foreigners. It can be indeed, a representative of any far right political association.

The very ideas that Breivik was advocating for  – alarmism regarding the loss of traditional values, vilification of traitors, preaching homogenization through un-mixing (deportation) and curtailing immigration, as well as expressing deep solidarity with non-western nations perceived as struggling with Islamic terror) are the pillars of various ideologies shared by thousands of Europeans (and Americans). Meticulously pointing out his influences and beliefs, the former member of Norway’s second largest political party, the Progress Party, declares himself as “Western Europe patriot,” nationalist/conservative and cultural Christian who fights the Islamization of Europe and especially its enablers (multiculturalism, political correctness, “cultural Marxism”). He builds upon the ideas of the Dutch radical far righter Geert Wilders, the English Defence League and he would like to meet the glorious Vladimir Putin in person. He sees the EU as an “unelected and unaccountable government for nearly half a billion people” and argues that he and his supporters have allies in the US (“a sizable faction of the Republican Party,” presumably the Tea Party). Hence, understanding Breivik and his political beliefs is crucial for understanding the prospects of the far right. The “2083” Manifesto shows that albeit the diffusion and the divergent conceptions among the far right, their beliefs are inter-related and complementary to each other and they share the sense of a common mission. For now, it is their methods that make them different.


Unlike fellow right wingers, Breivik advocates violence. He does that primarily because he is openly disillusioned with the merits of democracy. Unlike his political idols that participate in elections and engage into institutional debates, Breivik saw democracy as an unfair system that suppresses his fellow patriots from having a say in policymaking, a system that is biased towards liberals and the Left. In his words, in such a system “even if a moderate right wing political party […] manages to gain certain influence […] they will not be able to accomplish anything unless they get more than 50% of the votes.” This “injustice” was the very reason why he left mainstream politics. Even though his former party was “the most successful anti-Islamisation party in Europe,” it could not make a significant change because the 22% of support were simply not enough to push their hundreds of bills against radical Islam taking over. Same goes with civic or at least non-violent activism, as Breivik sees “unnacountable NGOs” as part of the cultural Marxist coalition that undermines national sovereignty and the preservation of European culture.

The Oslo and Utoya attacks were part of Breivik’s master plan to bully his opponents and through shock and blood to affect the status quo of Norwegian and European politics; eventually to outrage Muslims and to cause a religious war. The Norwegian scholar on nationalism, Thomas Hylland  Eriksen argues that the very nature of the radical act of terror committed by Breivik resembles a natural disaster – we could not anticipate it and therefore, were unable to protect ourselves from it, and we can not protect ourselves from similar acts in the future. Yet, this is only partially true.

In the post – 23 July debates, authors seem to forget one very important fact regarding political terror: resorting to violence is not uncommon when radicals are in question. Terror is part of European history, and moreover, part of Europe’s present. The politics of the violent direct action that marked a whole era of European and global politics (one such act was the casus belli for the outbreak of the First World War). Today, even though terror has significantly decreased, it still persists. In 2009, out of 294 terrorists attacks in Europe, only one was carried by Islamists, and the rest by European radicals, especially by extreme nationalists and separatists. Therefore, Breivik’s acts should remind us that violence of this kind, unthinkable before July 23 and unthinkable for Norweigans, might just happen very soon again. Breivik knew that radicals and his fellow “Western European Patriots” can and will opt for violence – and that is what made him say that he is optimistic of the future of his “Holy War.”

The questions we need to answer

The question that can hardly be answered, of course is, how can European governments respond to the ferocious attack, both in terms of security and discursively? How can they protect their people from future attacks carried  by extreme far righters and how can they combat the burgeoning hateful rhetoric that stimulates that type of actions? Introducing frequent check ups on blonde guys wearing branded polo shirts who exhibit high level of etiquette is certainly not an alternative to be considered (part of Breivik’s suggestions are to dress neatly and behave accordingly in order to trick authorities). As Prime Minister Stoltenberg said, the response must follow the ideals of the open and tolerant society. The outrage, the fear and the anguish of this moment have to be overcome.

One powerful mechanism democratic societies of today have is deliberation. And before contemplating any possible solutions, we need to take a step back and reflect on ourselves for a moment. In that respect, there are topics that we will need to discuss in order to maintain the pillars of openness and tolerance.

In Breivik’s case, we have an obvious example of how anti-Islam, far right rhetoric inspires terror (the same goes for any extremist rhetoric). To paraphrase Karl Frisch, while it would be senseless to blame a whole political movement for the acts of an individual, his enablers and idols should be held accountable. “There is a high bar between […] religious extremist and a religious extremist capable of killing someone […]. But [far right ideologues] lower that bar when they paint the Islamic faith with a broad brush and give anti-Muslim bigotry an audience of millions.”  In fact, while his far right heroes condemn Breivik’s methods in the aftermath of the Oslo and Utoya bloodbaths, they did not miss the opportunity to repeat their views that the alleged threat from radical Islam persists and the debate should not be deflected because this individual act. That is the politically correct way (the way Breivik despised) to say that the motives behind the July 23 attacks were in fact justified.

Not only anti-Islam discourse should be tackled on formal grounds, there needs to be a persistent effort to diffuse prejudices, through, for instance, reframing “Muslim questions” as questions of social exclusion/inclusion, while maintaining the secular and liberal-democratic perspective. Same goes with migration – we need to facilitate a shift of the focus of the debate from security issues to the challenges of integration and social cohesion (and target both the immigrants and the native population). Moreover, we need individualization of the discourse – meaning departure from debating religions, cultures and communities as if they were strictly bound and homogenous actors (a self-critical remark is that this should be applied when discussing the far right as well). Finally, we need to agree with Breivik’s assessment that the current political order is ideologically colored, and moreover, that it is tailored to discourage hatred towards individuals and whole categories of the population. In order to make this less outrageous and more plausible for far right extremists, we need to repeat the fact that it is in order to protect their comfort as well.

Anastas Vangeli is a Research Analyst at the Center for Research and Policy Making, Skopje


June 2011 marked the twentieth anniversary of the signing of the Polish–German Treaty of Good Neighbourly Relations and Friendly Cooperation (in German, in Polish), designed to signal a new start between two states, whose relations in the twentieth century had degenerated to the point of fatal toxicity. All the more remarkable is thus the astonishing success that the treaty had in resetting German-Polish relations and bringing them to an unprecedented level of constructive and mutually beneficial engagement across all levels of government, business and society.

Today, this is widely recognised in Poland and Germany, but is hardly appreciated outside these two countries. During the course of a state visit to Germany on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the treaty’s signature, the current Polish president, Bronisław Komorowski remarked that of all the reconciliation projects in Europe, the Polish-German case was by the far the most significant and that the goals set in 1991 had largely been achieved. There is a great deal of truth in Komorowski’s words, but it has taken years of painstaking work to relieve Polish-German relations of the poison in which they were enveloped, particularly during World War Two and its aftermath. During the period of communist rule in Poland negative stereotypes of Germany and the Germans were used to buttress an unpopular regime within a society that was conscious of its own history and which was conscious of its role of victim. In light of this legacy, one cannot but acknowledge the importance of memory in shaping perceptions of Germany and the Germans in Poland. The stereotypes that resulted are still there, but they are less prevalent and less widely spread, notably because both sides have worked hard to overcome them.

Central to this process, and intrinsically linked to each other, have been the status of the German minority in Poland and the country’s endeavour to ‘Return to Europe’ as both have resulted in a re-appraisal of Poland’s historic encounters with Germany and the Germans. This can be easily illustrated by looking at the changed status of the German minority in Opole Silesia, the only region in Poland with a sizeable German community. In recent years the German minority in Poland has become successfully embedded within the politics of the Opole Voivodship. In the late 1980s the German minority in Poland was largely estranged from wider Polish society and was essentially backward–looking and nostalgic towards a past of uncertain provenance. However, as part and parcel of the wider re-appraisal within Polish society with regard to all things German, the German minority in Poland has also sought to re-visit the past and as a result has been able to confront and overcome its own stereotypes. Without the positive steps—taken by successive German and Polish governments alike and since the late 1980s in particular—to encourage, support and sustain this process this re-appraisal of historical memory could not have taken place and Poland’s endeavours to engineer the ‘Return to Europe’ would in all likelihood have been futile.

The changes that have occurred in Poland and in bilateral Polish-German relations since the signing of the Treaty of Good Neighbourly Relations in June 1991 have been momentous. However, it is important to bear in mind that the signing of treaties and international agreements can but be a framework for more fundamental changes in attitude at every level of society that has been essential to lift German-Polish relations to the level where they are today. The road there was paved with serious obstacles at times and not without setbacks, but eventually it was the individual and joint efforts of both governments that brought the success that both sides sought: Poland’s ‘Return to Europe’.

For the Polish government, this meant acknowledgement of the fact that its indigenous German minority was much larger than the claimed 3,500 of the mid-1980s. It meant recognition of the fact that that despite the atrocities visited upon Poland by the Nazis, the wholesale forcible expropriation and expulsion of ethnic Germans between 1945-49 was neither solely the work of the Soviet Union nor “an orderly and humane transfer according to the norms of the Potsdam Agreement”. And it necessitated the establishment of a minority rights regime for the German and other minorities, in accordance with EU and Council of Europe norms.

For the German government it meant according definitive recognition of Poland’s western border and combating stereotypes of ‘polnische Wirtschaft’ and of Poles as argumentative incorrigible drunks. It also meant working with the German minority in Poland and the politically vocal and not always conciliatory community of German post-1945 expellees and refugees from Poland to bring them to accept that the border was fixed, that no special territorial status would be accorded to the minority, and that claims for restitution would have to be abandoned and replaced by an approach that shifted from an obsession with a selective interpretation of the past to the articulation of a political, social and cultural programme firmly directed toward the needs of the community itself. It was only with the common realisation that the pursuit of these and other maximal aims, which themselves had been generated by the memory of past events, had to be abandoned that strategies of rapprochement could be implemented in Opole Silesia itself.

In sum, this change in attitudes has come about as a result of the exploration of memory, its re-interpretation and the application of this re-interpreted memory to the contemporary context. Problems do still remain, as is evidenced to this day by the antics of the national conservative right in Poland and the more antediluvian of some in the expellee community. Yet, the message they articulate has less and less purchase among the wider population. It is the treaty of 1991 and the message behind it that counts today. In other words, Germany and Poland have become genuine partners in Europe and have left behind them, but neither forgotten nor denied, a painful history in which they and/or outsiders decided each other’s fate: from the partitions of the eighteenth century, to the Treaty of Versailles, the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, to the agreements of Yalta and Potsdam. The changes to this pattern of relationships carry a broader lesson. Perceptions of the past govern contemporary attitudes, and in so doing can constrain opportunities for reconciliation whilst simultaneously entrenching the rule of authoritarian elites. It is necessary to challenge established negative stereotypes in order to break free of both such stereotypes and authoritarianism. The changed nature of the relationship between Poland and Germany demonstrates how transitions coupled with the re-appraisal of memory can create new opportunity structures for the re-shaping of bilateral relations that in turn can improve the position of ordinary citizens and allow them to become full members of the societies in which they reside. Above all, the success of the Polish–German Treaty of Good Neighbourly Relations and Friendly Cooperation, signed two decades ago, demonstrates that no matter how painful a common history may be, it need not be repeated over and over again.

Stefan Wolff is Professor of International Security at the University of Birmingham, England, UK.  His website is www.stefanwolff.com. Karl Cordell is Professor of Politics at the University of Plymouth, UK, and is co-editor of Ethnopolitics.

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.


For almost two decades, the brief and comparatively not very intense violent conflict between Transnistria and Moldova has been ‘frozen’: the lack of violence has been matched by the lack of tangible progress towards a final, sustainable settlement. At times, there has been a flurry of activity, on at least one occasion the parties came tantalizingly close to reach status agreement, but for the most part talks between the sides, mediated by Russia, Ukraine and the OSCE, and with the EU and US as observers, have produced very little. To be sure, there are about a half-dozen relatively concrete proposals which reflect a basic consensus on the parameters of a settlement (including most importantly special territorial status for Transnistria, power sharing, and international guarantees). There are also between 140 and 170 different bilateral agreements between the sides, but no-one knows exactly how many, what their legal status is, and which have been made obsolete by later agreements and/or by developments on the ground. What they all have in common, sadly, is that almost none of them has ever been implemented.

The question is, why? It is always tempting in such situations to allocate blame to the sides and/or the third parties involved. Often, Russia is singled out for its alleged obstruction, and while certainly no solution can be found without Russia, Russia cannot single-handedly deliver a solution either. The European Union is a relative late-comer in the process, it runs programmes to make Moldova more attractive for Transnistrians and help the country on its path to closer EU integration, but lacks, at this stage at least, a real strategy for what to do with the conflict. Transnistrians, in public, insist on their right to self-determination and thus independence. But most importantly, one has to recognise that the status quo over the past 19 years has been stable, tolerable for many, and profitable for some—not only in Moldova and Transnistria, but also in Ukraine and Russia, and among the many serious crises the EU has had to deal with since it became a more aspirational international security player, Moldova was hardly a major threat. In other words, there has been little desire on the ground to change things and no pressure from the outside to do so.

Is this a problem? It would not have been had there not all of a sudden been a push on the international level to make the Transnistria conflict a test case for EU-Russia security cooperation, the first collaborative effort between the two in a newly to be created EU-Russia Political and Security Committee, institutionalising the process begun some five years ago with the Common Space for External Security as part of the EU-Russia dialogue. For many in Brussels and Moscow, and to some extent Washington, such a test case is needed to enable Russia and the West to address jointly the real and more serious security challenges they both face, including in Afghanistan, the Middle East and North Africa and which neither side can handle on its own. To press home this point, in quick succession over the past months, senior British, German, EU and US officials visited the Moldovan capital Chisinau, including EU High Representative Baroness Ashton and US Vice President Biden, all making a point about the need and importance of resolving the Transnistria conflict. Yet, this external push is not the problem in itself, it is the lack of preparedness of the conflict parties and the publics on both sides to deal with it. There is little by way of a real understanding, let alone strategy, to manage not only the negotiation of a sustainable settlement but the rather difficult reintegration process that will inevitably follow after two decades of separation.

The challenge for Moldova and Transnistria is now to make the best of this situation. They will need to rely on international support in coming to the right settlement, one that can be sustained over time and makes things better for both sides. The challenge for the international community is to proceed with care in managing the complex dynamics of this process locally, regionally, and internationally. Meaningful security cooperation between Russia and the EU (and by extension NATO) cannot be achieved or sustained at the price of a solution for the Transnistria conflict that will do more harm than good. In this sense, meaningful European and transatlantic security cooperation is not just about improved cooperation, it is also about improved security.

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


What no-one had doubted for quite some time became official on 7 February 2011 with the announcement of the final results of the referendum in South Sudan: a new independent state will emerge on the African continent, the first in over a decade since the secession of Eritrea from Ethiopia in 1993. As clear as the vote for independence was, as formidable are the challenges lying ahead for North and South, as well as the international community at large.

Although Sudan’s president  Omar Hassan al-Bashir announced that he would recognise and accept the result of the popular vote in the South, a potentially violent border dispute is looming over Abyei, where voting in a parallel referendum on whether the region is to remain with the North or join the South has been suspended amid heavy fighting between local tribes. Talks between North and South on resolving the impasse over the resource-rich area have stalled. Even if North and South are not dragged into a full-scale war, instability in Abyei and a lingering dispute will hardly be conducive to a smooth transition to independence for the South and constructive post-independence relations with the North.

Yet, this is not where the challenges of independence stop. The South faces a major economic development problem. Rich in oil, mineral resources and teak, it is poor in infrastructure and heavily dependent on trade with the North. The South lacks even the most basic infrastructure from a road network and electricity grid to a sewage system, public healthcare and running water even in the main towns, mostly due to a long war between North and South that started in the 1980s, exacerbating an already obvious development gap.  Lack of investment is partly responsible for food shortages, too, with food processing plants out-dated and unable to cope with even local demand despite an otherwise productive agricultural sector in a generally fertile environment. Simultaneously there is a local skills shortage making development dependent on foreign investment not only in terms of money.

Heavy reliance on oil is a typical blessing in disguise. It generates significant for the Southern government which can be reinvested into developing a broader-based economy. Yet the only major export route is a pipeline through the North, with refineries in the South far and few between. The fact that about 85% of Sudan’s current oil production is coming from the South is, despite a variety of wealth-sharing agreements in place, a frightening prospect for the North where around 90% of export-generated GDP is from oil. China is a major stakeholder in most existing contracts in Southern oilfields, and will thus be heavily affected by any attempts to untangle current contracts by the time that the various wealth-sharing agreements expire in July 2011. This will be particularly tricky in relation to three so-called producing blocks that straddle the new North-South border, involving not only contract management, but ownership of infrastructure, responsibility for staff, and potentially incompatible tax systems. Combined with an expectation that Southern oil reserves are likely to begin running dry in about 15 years, the typically costly investment in oil infrastructure may not be forthcoming as quickly and comprehensively as hoped, unless North and South agree on forming a joint venture, which is, however, rather unlikely.

An equally significant challenge is fiscal in nature—the future of the Sudanese currency, the pound since 2007 when the then still unified country dropped the dinar. With its value reduced over the past four years by over 10% against the US Dollar, it is not clear what plans North and South now have to resolve the currency issue, and alongside it questions of national and foreign assets and debts.

A range of other economic, developmental and humanitarian issues, quite often deeply entangled, are also on the agenda for the next five months, including water and grazing rights for nomadic tribes along the border between the now two countries. They include citizenship and the rights of northerners in the south and southerners in the north—a perhaps overly simplistic shorthand for the very complex ethnic, religious and cultural identities that cut across physical and tribal boundaries.

As can be expected in any post-civil war situation, security challenges remain high. As part of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, joint units were created between North and South, and these must be separated now, including their equipment. Recent violence caused by a mutiny within one the ‘integrated units’ lead to more than 50 people killed and could be an ominous sign of things to come.

Apart from challenges between North and South, each also faces their own domestic political challenges. In the North, fighting in Darfur has intensified again and a question mark hangs over the progress, and possibly future, of the Doha peace talks between Khartoum and the western movements. Tensions in eastern Sudan could also rise again and destabilise the North, quite apart from the so far short-lived popular protest movement which might gain renewed momentum depending on how the situations in Egypt, Yemen, and Jordan develop.

The South, too, has its own political problems. The near-unanimity of the pro-independence vote, genuine as it may have been, glosses over a highly diverse social, ethnic, religious, and cultural make-up. An interim constitution has been in place since the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005, but is, like most of the provisions dating back to 2005, due to expire in July when the South is expected to declare its independence officially. It does not bode well for the democratic future of the new state that a committee charged with amending the existing constitution and creating a permanent one excludes opposition parties and civil society organisations.

Politicians in the North and South clearly have their work cut for them over the next five months to manage the process of separation, as do those in the region and the wider international community. The challenge is to make a success of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, not in order to create a precedent for secession as a mechanism to settle civil wars, but to prevent the two countries from being dragged into another war with all its nasty consequences for the civilian population and regional stability in this volatile part of Africa.

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

In 2008, Kosovo declared its independence; on July 22nd, the International Court of justice ruled that its declaration was legal. In many parts of the West, especially in Washington, this news was greeted with applause. Reading the Kosovo Declaration of Independence, however, one is amazed at the ability of politicians and pundits to compare it to the American Declaration. Joe Biden even goes so far as to compare the Kosovo Prime Minister to George Washington.

In many ways, the situation of the colonies is analogous to the one in Kosovo. The colonies were stuck between the influence of France and Britain, just as Kosovo is caught between Russia—Serbia’s protector—and the United States. And, the colonies were aware that dissolving their ties to Britain risked igniting separations throughout the world, just as the Kosovo declaration might be a precedent for such declarations elsewhere.

Yet, the way in which America declared independence is drastically different from Kosovo. The Kosovo declaration is short, addresses specific United Nations plans for the composition of government, and thanks NATO for its past help.  What’s notable is what’s missing: unlike the American Declaration of Independence, it does not justify its secession.

The signers of the American declaration, aware of the danger that secession would cause, explained that“Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes.” But, given the specific abuses of the King, it is the colonies’ “right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.” Instead of justifying secession through an appeal to right, the Kosovo declaration narrowly and legalistically justifies its special status. When the American declaration lists twenty-six specific and irrefutable grievances with England; the Kosovo declaration provides no grievance whatsoever. The American declaration is couched in a sophisticated moral and political theory in order to show that any individual can endorse its conclusions; the Kosovo declaration is couched in narrow legalisms designed to provide political cover for the western powers that recognize it.

These are no minor differences. Jefferson thought it right that a declaration of independence makes claims on the conscience of the world, outlining the case for independence, enshrining it in a single compelling statement: “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”  The Kosovo declaration skirts debate, does not make a case for powers to recognize or support it, and represents an international system in which power, not conscience, rules. The American declaration sparked a global debate over the rights of peoples; the Kosovo declaration is sparking a trivial debate over the right interpretation of a UN Security Council Resolution.

In light of the NATO involvement in the Balkans during the late 1990s, the U.S. support for Kosovo’s independence is not surprising. Historically, the U.S. has traditionally backed self-determination movements and independence through de facto recognition. The U.S. supported the French declaration of Independence in 1793, the Greek in the early 19th century—and many more—under the Monroe Doctrine. But this principled position of the U.S. did not last. In the last century, the U.S. has refused to recognize de facto states in Central and Latin America in order to discourage potential rebels and delegitimize Communist regimes. For different reasons, the U.S. did not recognize conquests made by the Fascist Italy and Germany as well as by Stalin before and during WWII. Today, the U.S. refuses to recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia but intensely supports Kosovo’s independence. In other words, over time principled foreign policy soon enough gave way to Realpolitik and pragmatism.

In 1953, President Eisenhower declared that “Any nation’s right to a form of government and an economic system of its choosing is inalienable. Any nation’s attempt to dictate to other nations their form of government is indefensible.” Unfortunately, today’s rhetoric does not match reality. Russia and the United States accuse each other of manufacturing independence movements and then guaranteeing their security until de facto independence is secured. Russia accuses of the U.S. of doing this in Kosovo and the U.S. returns the “favor” in the cases of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Our point is not that Albanians in Kosovo have no case to make; but that they have not made their case. The misplaced and even dangerous triumphalism with which western media greeted the ICJ ruling sends the wrong message to aspiring secessionists. The Kosovo declaration addresses narrow international rules and wide channels of power; it does not address the universal conscience of the world. No one can endorse the document because there is nothing to endorse: no cause, no claim, and no challenge to the Serbian government. If the American declaration of independence was the beginning of the growth of an international community that supports self-determination and democratization, the Kosovo declaration represents the failure of the international community to move beyond power politics, disguising Realpolitik with international law. Is this the international system we aspire to?

Eric Grynaviski and Harris Mylonas are Assistant Professors of Political Science at the George Washington University. This article first appeared on the blog of the The Utopian on November 30, 2010.