European Council on Foreign Relations

Tunisia & Egypt: What role should the EU have?

As Tunisia’s interim government settles down, with plans underway for elections in 6-12 months and civil society in the country starting to reconvene in new ways to pressure for reform, all eyes will on developments in this post-revolutionary state. What happens in Tunisia in the coming months is absolutely critical – not just for the Tunisian people, but as a testing ground for the ability for democracy to take root in an Arab state. 

Attention is inevitably moving - as coverage of Egypt shows - to the wider region and the impact that the Jasmine Revolution will have. Opinion is divided on which way this will go. Other North African leaders are certainly rattled, so one possible scenario is a major crackdown on protests in Tunisia’s neighbourhood. Following the elections in Lebanon people have taken to the states in a number of cities there; Libya and Algeria are also seeing

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Why can’t Putin beat the terrorists?

There has been another blast in Moscow. The explosion at the baggage-belt of Russia’s largest airport was tragic—dark, shaky clips began circulating online minutes afterwards—but for Russia depressingly familiar. Last March bombers struck the Moscow metro, killing 40 people. One bomber detonated herself at the station bearing the mocking name of the secret service headquarters, ‘Lubyanka.’

Vladimir Putin came to power after a wave of terror in the Russian capital, gaining popularity through his aggressive response to the threat. “If we find them (terrorists) in the airport,” he said at the time “and excuse me… if we find them in their toilets, we’ll kill them in their outhouses.” Yet despite having rolled back democratic freedoms and given huge power to the secret services, why has the ‘Alpha dog’ president has been unable to stop terror’s return to Moscow?

One answer is

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Sofia view: Never a dull moment in Kosovo

Kosovo is still a long way from becoming a boring affair. In the wake of the early elections on 12th December, a report by the Council of Europe made allegations that senior politicians, including the leader of the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) Hashim Thaci, were implicated in an organ-harvesting ring.  The story about the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) executing Serb POWs has been around for quite some time, but this was the first time that a high-profile international body such as the CoE has taken a stance.  Even if the claims are not proven, this is a major embarrassment for both Prishtina and the EU plus its large rule-of-law mission (EULEX). Catherine Ashton has called on Dick Marty, the former Swiss prosecutor behind the report, to provide evidence.

There might be a silver lining to the scandal. The PDK and the other groups, perhaps even the runner-up in the elections,

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Sofia view: Enter the dragon

A stream of news from Europe’s East. Out of the blue, EU-hopeful Serbia decided not to attend the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony and honour imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo. Facing Brussels’ ire, Belgrade then mde a U-turn and dispatched the ombudsman, Saša Janković.

“This had nothing to do with a payback to China over Kosovo?” was the question The Economist’s Tim Judah shot to Prime Minister Mirko Cvetković.  Cvetković: “No, nothing to do with Kosovo”.

The premier’s answer was probably disingenuous, but only up to a point. Back in February, Beijing and Belgrade struck a deal to upgrade the thermal power plant at Kostolac (Serbia’s second largest), with China’s EXIM bank offering a loan to cover 85% of the 1.25 bn dollars project.  On 7 December,  Energy Minister Petar Skundrić and Chinese officials  endorsed a follow-up agreement for the first tranche to  the tune of

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Rome View: Double Standards on Human Rights Day

On Friday, 10th December, the world celebrated Human Rights Day. Friday was also the day when China, Pakistan, Iran, Sudan, Russia, Kazakhstan, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Venezuela, the Philippines, Egypt, Cuba and Morocco failed to attend the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, the day of an empty chair in Oslo that reminded us of all the political prisoners around the world.

On 10th December each year, we, in the Western world, usually recall the importance of protecting human rights. However, this year’s 10th December was different. Last Friday was not only the day when violations of basic human rights were remembered; on Friday, we discovered a very real double standard in the application of human rights. On Friday, we discovered that the Emperor is naked.

On Friday, Western ministries of foreign affairs celebrated Mr Assange’s imprisonment.

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