By Dionis Cenuşa

Subjectio.org @subjectio2020

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Belarus, Minsk: Theater students follow a course with Russian teachers at the Belarusian State University of Culture and Arts. © Pierre Crom

“The diversity of realities in Eastern Europe requires from the EU a “differentiated diplomacy” which emerges from the dynamics of local and external factors, dominant in the region …”

The European strategy for the Eastern Neighborhood is losing ground to the ever-changing reality. The ability of the European institutions to forecast rapid change, many of which are imminent and therefore predictable, is questionable. In some cases, the EU has shown a lack of preparation for scenarios that follow the disappearing of the initial status quo, as shows the situation in Belarus and around Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Predicting and anticipating the steps of political actors in the Eastern Neighborhood is a weakness for the EU, which has to be yet addressed. Several causes may underlie this deficit of observation and anticipation. …


By Dionis Cenuşa

Subjectio.org @subjectio2020

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Calfa, Moldova: Polling staff wait to register voters at a polling station. © Pierre Crom

General introduction[1]

On November 1, 2020, Moldova will hold its 4th direct presidential elections since the country’s independence in August 1991. The date of the elections was set by Parliament on May 21, shortly after the country had emerged from a 2-month COVID-19-related state of emergency. It is worth mentioning that these direct presidential elections are a result of the 2016 Constitutional Court Ruling[2] that cancelled the president’s appointment by Parliament, bringing back the pre-2000 procedure of direct voting by citizens. The electoral period started on August 25, when the Central Electoral Committee (CEC) published the list of 48 political parties eligible to put forward candidates. At the beginning of the electoral campaign in early October, the CEC registered 8 candidates in the following order: 1) Renato Usatîi; 2) Andrei Năstase; 3) Tudor Deliu; 4) Igor Dodon; 5) Violeta Ivanov; 6) Maia Sandu; 7) Octavian Țîcu; 8) Dorin Chirtoacă. …


by Teuta Kukleci

subjectio.org

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Kosovo, Pristina: Teenagers walk past the Newborn monument. © Pierre Crom

On September 4, Kosovo and Serbia signed a deal on ‘Economic Normalization’ in the White House. Not unlike Trump’s other foreign policy endeavors, the deal was ridiculed by pundits. It also received political backlash from the international community. The EU, which has facilitated the dialog between Belgrade and Pristina for the past nine years, was quick to warn the parties against parts of the deal. …


By Dionis Cenuşa

Subjectio.org @subjectio2020

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Belarus, Minsk: Underground party in an abandoned factory. Photo © Pierre Crom

“Given that the political crisis is already geopolitical, the Belarusian opposition must capitalize on geopolitical factors in its favor, just as Lukashenko does…”

The regularity of the peaceful protests engages the Belarusian population in a synergy of democratizing the “social contract” with the state. The aggressive pressures continuously applied by the authorities — sequestrations, arrests, criminal investigations, political cases — produce the opposite effect of intimidating and stopping the democratic revolution, respectively (IPN, August 28, 2020). In addition to the perpetuation of the protests, they spread across new age categories, due to the involvement of youth and overall younger social strata — students and pupils. Attempts by the protest movement, led by Svetlana Tikhanovskaya — who embodies the essence of the newly emerging citizenry attitude among the protesters — to negotiate with the authorities continue to fail. Using the prohibitive legislation in force, Aleksandr Lukashenko’s regime criminalized the work of the Coordinating Council. The latter is accused of mulling a coup, though the Council has given itself no other mission than to establish a political dialogue with the government. The aggressiveness and total lack of compassion of the Belarusian authorities deepen dissident thinking within Belarusian society. The critique of the authorities’ brutality crossed the walls of universities and the church. Earlier, the anti-government criticism has mobilized the strikes of public sector workers.

The manifestations of the democratic revolution in Belarus show no severe signs of fatigue, entering the second month of protests. Thus, the deepening of the political crisis seems imminent and lasting. Broad political legitimacy at home is impossible because of the falsified presidential elections, which have also blocked Western external recognition. Alexander Lukashenko is still able to govern state institutions and even the public sector, but not the outraged population. De facto, the pyramid of authoritarian government, at the top of which Lukashenko stands, co-exists in a confrontational relationship with the civic sector, which through protests challenges the regime’s authority.

While the regime exploits external relations to improve its positions, the protest movement is undetermined about the permissiveness of the involvement of external actors. Opposition leaders accept external involvement, but strictly for “showing solidarity” with the Belarusian population. Even after a month of protests (August 10 — September 7, 2020), Belarusian opposition leaders reject the idea of ​​individual sanctions and even more so economic ones. Regardless of the permission of Belarusian political actors, the geopolitical powers have tailored, depending on their interests, their involvement in resolving the political crisis in Belarus. As a result of the integrationist framework of the Russian-Belarusian relationship and Lukashenko’s isolation internally and externally, Moscow was allowed to intervene on Belarusian soil, if the need arises. A more silent diplomatic support comes from China, which regularly shows solidarity with other authoritarian regimes. Lukashenko’s resistance to Western pressure also corresponds to China’s ongoing effort to stifle EU-US criticism of interference in domestic affairs over Hong Kong’s anti-democratic crackdowns. In the case of the EU, there is no other manner left than trying to influence the behavior of the authorities and the protest movement in Belarus. On the one hand, the Europeans warn of the developing system of sanctions and, on the other hand, they provide financial assistance to the independent media and civil society, which are anti-governmental players. …


By Vesko Garcevic

subjectio.org

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Montenegro, Podgorica: Serbian nationalists and worshippers of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC) march from mountain villages to Podgorica. © Pierre Crom

In a tight and bitterly contested parliamentary election, described by many as historic for Montenegro, the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists lost the majority in the Parliament, for the first time in the last 30 years.

Election day witnessed a high turnout with more 76% of the country’s citizens casting a vote, the highest since the referendum on independence in 2006.

Given its rhetoric, iconography, symbols, flags, and public discourse for those of us who remember former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic’s “Serbian awakening”, it is not difficult to draw a parallel between this “happening of the people” or the “meetings of the truth” with an event 30 years ago that changed the history of Yugoslavia and plunged it into a decade of conflict. …


By Dionis Cenuşa

subjectio.org

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Moldova, Transnistria (Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic): A man waits for a bus on the local market of Tiraspol, the capital city of the Russia-backed unrecognized Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic. © Pierre Crom

“ Ultimately, the real degree of resilience in the Eastern Partnership depends on the state of critical infrastructure and how the EU prioritizes it in its relations with its eastern neighbors …”

In the post-2020 period, the eastern neighbourhood of the European Union (EU) will be subjected to generate state resilience. This is extremely necessary for its eastern neighbors, but equally useful for European geopolitical interests. The European institutions envisage vertical transformations in the Eastern Partnership that concern the political, economic, environmental and societal arteries. These are essential for the functioning of any state. They are even more imperative for the states that are former subjects of tsarist-Soviet colonialism, the remnants of which still determine the Russian influence on the area. Over almost three decades since the collapse of the USSR, categorized by Taras Kuzio as the moment of “decolonization of the last empire in the world”, the EU uses the state resilience paradigm with which it implements a kind of “Eastern Partnership 2.0”. In essence, it renews the ambitions associated with the determination to make the transition to democracies with effective governance, albeit using old rather than new instruments. Besides, the development of internal resilience in the region offers more encouraging prospects for post-Soviet “decolonization”, which would also include overcoming separatist issues and ensuring effective peace (Donbas, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Nagorno-Karabakh or Transnistria).

Thanks to the idea of resilience, the EU keeps the temptations of liberal state-building interventionism at bay. And instead, priority is given to restoring and modernizing the states in the EU’s eastern neighborhood, combining local capacity and European assistance. Within the theoretical argument proposed by David Chandler in 2013, the EU would have realized that “it” cannot solve “their” problems. At the same time, they cannot be expected to break out of the reproduction of these problems or ‘traps’ without external assistance.” The EU seems to reiterate Chandler’s position that “behavior change or adaptation must come from within […]” because resilience cannot be ‘given’ or ‘produced’ by outside actors.

The core of the European approach is to create a predictable neighborhood, which is as autonomous as possible in countering internal and external risks, mainly of Eastern origin. But the EU does not hide the fact that increasing the resilience of Eastern European states serves its own geopolitical interest in “building a stronger Europe in the world”. In other words, as a result of the transformations in the region, the beneficiaries will sit on both sides of the initiative — the investor in Eastern European resilience (the EU) and the recipient of the resilience prescription (the Eastern Partnership states). As a result, the supranational and national level officials in the EU perceive resilience not as an instrument of isolation and withdrawal from the region, but rather as a way of taking on the role of co-participant and source of inspiration for institutional strengthening and reshaping public affairs in the countries of the neighbouring East.

The European format of state resilience for Eastern Europe

Broadly speaking, the EU has established the depth of the concept of resilience for Eastern Partnership countries following several aspects — the ongoing actions within the EU, the measures designed and already in place in the region, and the initiatives that European actors envisage for themselves in the next European multiannual budget cycle (2021–2027). Therefore, the final vision of resilience that Brussels has outlined comprises its own available resources, as well as its very strategic wishes. At the same time, the expectations for regional resilience coincide with or substantially reflect the views collected from local actors in Eastern Europe via a massive consultation exercise throughout 2019. But these views are by no means an agenda that the region dictates to the EU in order to target the long string of local problems. In reality, the EU-resilience-approach materializes a “menu” that balances between the actual possibilities of the EU and the urgent, sometimes existential, needs of the states in the eastern neighborhood.

The first direction of actions paves the path to economic resilience. New EU investment in this area is meagre, as trade relations depend on free trade principles, local productivity capacity and European market demand. The EU openly acknowledges that economic measures are based on the implementation of the Association Agreements (Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine), which are in the implementation phase, and the possible expansion of trade cooperation with other countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus). Furthermore, the EU is open to attracting the European Green Deal or the Digital Strategy to greening and innovating neighboring economies. At the same time, as it did in the past, the European side promises to use macro-financial assistance to help during economic crises. Moreover, the EU confirms that it is going to maintain the financing instruments for SMEs. A new aspect becomes the EU proposal to facilitate the accession of its eastern neighbors to the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA — 36 countries, including the 27 EU countries). This would simplify, speed up and drop the costs of low-value electronic payments and banking transactions (loans, invoices, salaries) to all SEPA countries. The interconnection of roads, energy infrastructure and geospatial are also in the category of economic resilience. At social level, youth programs for interaction with European education or volunteer networks (Erasmus +, European Solidarity Corps) are maintained. An added value idea consists of protecting young people on the local labor market and training them through professional exchanges within the Eastern Partnership region. …


By Vuk Vuksanovic

www.subjectio.org

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Serbia, Belgrade: Serbian guards raise a Serbian flag during a National Day ceremony. © Pierre Crom

Speaking in July 2018, then European Commissioner for Enlargement Johannes Hanh referred to Balkan countries that were the recipients of Chinese infrastructure financing, like Serbia and Montenegro, as China’s potential Trojan horses among future EU members. The logic of the Trojan horse appears salient for Serbia these days, as Belgrade is breaking its tradition of staying neutral on significant international issues and is now backing China diplomatically. However, this is opportunistic behavior that will not last indefinitely.

The story behind the relationship

Ever since the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) reached the Balkans, the idea of the Trojan horse has been circulating. This notion implies that the countries covered by the BRI project would either accumulate unbearable Chinese debt, through so-called “debt trap diplomacy”, or they would be more susceptible to Chinese political influence. That way, these countries would not only be friendly towards China, but they would also increase the number of Chinese allies in the EU and dilute the EU’s ability to implement a more assertive China policy. …


By Vuk Vuksanovic

subjectio.org

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Belgrade, Serbia: A mural depicting Donald Trump covered with black paint in a residential area of Belgrade. Photo © Pierre Crom

Russia and Serbia are gearing up for an official visit exchange over a week-long period. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will visit Serbia on June 18, and just six days later, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić will visit Moscow to attend the postponed Victory Parade marking the Soviet victory in World War II. In between those two visits, Serbia’s parliamentary elections will take place on June 21. That is no coincidence: Russia plays a major part in Serbian politics.

The importance of domestic politics in the Serbo-Russian partnership is overlooked by many in the West. Serbian politicians have to keep Russia onside in order to stay competitive on the political market. This is the powerful effect that the Kosovo issue still has on Serbian politics and on Russia’s popularity in Serbian public opinion. …


By Dionis Cenuşa

subjectio.org

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Moldova, Chisinau: Russian officers distribute flowers prior to a remembrance ceremony on the Russian Day of the Defender of the Fatherland at the eternal flame monument of Chisinau. © Pierre Crom

The ongoing public health crisis associated with Covid-19 provides an opportunity to assess the maturity of European multilateral organizations. For nearly seven decades, the North Atlantic Alliance (NATO) and the European Union (EU) have demonstrated an impressive capacity to ‘build community’ beyond the level of the nation state.

Showing organizational supremacy over the years, both NATO and the EU has created a perfect image, unintentionally increasing the costs for each episode of inefficiency, as unveiled the sanitary crisis. The high expectations from these organization nurture great disappointment of any sort of dysfunctions, such as belated, insufficient or disarranged reactions to manage the Covid-19 situation. Though the restoration of their public image is essential. The urgency of restoring underlying sanitary, social-economic and public security prevails. …


By Dr. Neil Melvin

subjectio.org

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Serbia, Belgrade — A mural depicting deceased Russian warlord Motorola, who fought against Ukrainian forces in Donetsk, Ukraine, is seen in a residential area of Belgrade. © Pierre Crom

With new amendments to Russia’s Law on Citizenship, the Kremlin is establishing a legal pretext to threaten or actually to use force based on a claim to protect Russian citizens resident in neighbouring states.

On 24 April, President Vladimir Putin signed a law to amend Russia’s citizenship law. The new provisions had been rushed through the Russian parliament, passing both houses in just two weeks. Under the terms of the amendments, described as ‘revolutionary’ for Russia’s approach to citizenship, key groups of foreigners, notably including ethnic Russians and Russian speakers resident in states neighbouring Russia, will qualify for a simplified procedure to obtain citizenship. …

About

Subjectio

Subjectio is an experimental online storytelling project by digital designer David Veneman and multimedia journalist Pierre Crom www.subjectio.org

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