European Council on Foreign Relations

Gaza reconstruction: The new Israeli strategy

This article has originally been published by Middle East Eye.

The Israeli military has arrived at the conclusion that its near-total blockade of the Gaza Strip “has done more harm than good”, Israeli website Ynet - the online presence of daily Yedioth Ahronoth - reported on Friday.

The report listed the details of what veteran military correspondent Ron Ben Yishai described as Israel’s comprehensive plan for the Gaza Strip in the wake of the summer’s war.

According to Ben Yishai, who relies throughout the piece on unnamed military and government sources in Israel, the new strategy represents a decisive shift away from the idea of negotiating an independent state for the Palestinians and toward a tightly monitored “conflict management” approach. Under this approach, Palestinians will be allowed greater freedom of movement and greater autonomy, but under close Israeli and

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Ukraine’s fragile ceasefire

Welcome to the first of four posts in the run-up to the Ukrainian elections on 26 October.

The vote comes in the middle of a precarious cease-fire, with nothing less than the size, shape, strength and viability of the Ukrainian state itself at stake. While optimists are hoping that the elections will reboot the political system, and the long-delayed reforms to Ukraine’s dysfunctional post-Soviet society and economy that demonstrators were demanding and dying for in February will finally begin, pessimists are assuming that such hope has already been lost under the pressure of Russian intervention and an economy under threat of collapse.

Future posts will look at the participants, poll predictions and prospects for change after the elections. But the most pressing issue is whether the cease-fire agreed on 5 September can hold. My new book, Ukraine Crisis: What the West Needs to

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Messy elections in Bulgaria: An attempt for a read-out

For the first time in Bulgaria’s post-'89 history, eight parties will enter the 240-seat parliament. The complicated choreography of the negotiations necessary for building the government is still in the air, but one thing is clear: it will be messier than ever and will require more fortitude and political responsibility from the parties.

The biggest share of the exercise goes to the centre-right GERB of former Prime Minister (2009-2013) Boyko Borissov. Although he scored high – more than twice the votes of his main rival, the Bulgarian Socialist Party – Borissov will not enjoy a comfortable plurality. With only 84 MPs, GERB will be forced to strike a coalition with one or even two parties. A centre-right coalition with the Reformist Block (RB) would be ideologically the most logical one but appears increasingly difficult due to personality issues. The Block’s leaders declared they

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How Hong Kong’s protests weaken Xi Jinping’s strongman image

How will Xi Jinping get out of the quandary he has put himself in? That is the puzzle presently discussed among observers of Beijing politics, Chinese and non-Chinese alike. This is the burning question behind protests in Hong Kong and Europe should be discussing it.

Over decades, the People's Republic has moved away from the one-man-dictatorship of Mao's days. Deng still had supreme authority, but he set in place the mechanisms of collective leadership, which were later fine-tuned during Hu Jintao's rule. Then, in November 2012, Xi as the new secretary-general of the Party came in and claimed for himself the head of not only the Party and the state, but also of the Central Military Commission and a number of newly created “Commissions” that steer all of the crucial government institutions. Xi likes to compare himself to Deng, but his subjects increasingly compare him to Mao. A man

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Why fighting the “war on terror” in Libya is a mistake

Since the end of the Cold War, it has become common (and convenient) for Middle Eastern leaders to depict their opponents as “terrorists” as a way to gain support, military or otherwise, from powerful Western governments to act against them. American and European involvement in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) has only increased such practices.

Libya’s ruling elite is unfortunately no different. In his speech before the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) last week, acting Libyan head of state Ageela Saleh said that the international community had to provide arms and training to the Libyan army “in its war against terrorism”, noting that the Dawn coalition, which also happen to be the adversaries of the Tobruk government, included “Al-Qaeda ideologists”.

This “war on terror” narrative plays into the concern of most European governments that Libya’s large ungoverned

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