In March 2016 the European Union made a deal with Turkey to stop the immense flow of refugees and to secure Europe’s external borders. In this article I would like to focus on the deal’s implications for Turkey, the EU and the relationship between both parties.
For Turkey, the deal offers several incentives. In terms of financial help, Turkey receives a six-billion-dollar aid package, from which 3,2 billion euro have already been transferred (Engel, 2020). The money flows into local humanitarian aid organizations and more than hundred projects (Engel, 2020). Furthermore, Turkey benefits from visa-liberalizations for Turkish citizens for the Schengen-Area and from a resumption of EU-membership negotiations (Heck and Hess, p. 45). Ankara thus profits financially as well as strategically from this deal. However, due to human rights violations and anti-democratic developments, “Turkey’s membership perspective is no longer tenable“ and Turkey is rather seen as a “major strategic ally“ (Saatçioğlu 2020, p.170).
In order to maintain the deal, the EU was forced to make normative concessions (Saatçioğlu 2020, p.169). The is EU largely dependent on Turkey’s compliance with the deal to protect EU external borders and prevent illegal immigration. Turkey’s bargaining power is thus unprecedented (Saatçioğlu 2020, p.175). In the last years, Turkey disregarded core democratic values and violated Human rights. However, the EU made significant normative and political concessions in order to manage the crisis. The deal is thus at the cost core democratic principles (Saatçioğlu 2020, p.177).
The relation between the EU and Turkey deteriorated significantly lately. The Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has the impression that Turkey is not sufficiently supported by the European Union and thus threatened the EU by opening its borders (Braun, et al., 2020). Moreover, he claims that the EU does not comply with the deal (Kirchner, 2020). In terms of the EU’s compliance, one can say that the European Union did not comply with all the agreements, but at least, the required money has been transferred (Kirchner, 2020). Therefore, Erdoğan actually cannot claim that the EU does not financially supports Turkey.
In conclusion, the European Union made not only financial, but also normative concessions in order to maintain the deal. Erdoğan’s claims that the EU does not comply with the agreements of the deal are only partly correct, but not in financial terms as the EU paid its agreed part.
The COVID-19 pandemic has left the European Union a region that is not only hit differently by the virus, but also dealing with diverse economic outlooks. Some countries went into a strict shutdown for months and others started relaxing their measures after just a few weeks. Bound together in the European Union, these countries now have to find a way to keep the region from spiralling into a recession – and provide financial support for the states hardest hit.
In early April, after three days of difficult negotiations, the Council of Ministers decided on a €540 billion relief package – but this is far from where the story ends. For one, experts are suggesting the EU might need another €500 billion to mitigate the effects of the shutdowns. And for another, not all member states are happy with the initial package.
“Italy doesn’t need the ESM,” was Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte’s comment on the decision, effectively refusing €39 billion in aid. Next to support for installing short-time work and loans from the European Investment Bank, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) was decided to be the third part of the EU’s relief package. First installed in 2012, its purpose is to support member states who are highly in debt – but its money is bound to strict conditions. Italy’s Five-Star Movement had threatened to end the coalition government should Conte say yes to the ESM – out of fear the country would be put under similar controls as Greece was during the debt crisis. Regardless of the fact that the EU had abandoned all conditions that are usually bound to the ESM out of respect for Italy’s difficult situation, and against initial resistance from the Netherlands.
But Italy is not the only country that wants to move away from the ESM, and install the so-called Coronabonds instead. Next to Italy, France has also expressed their support, with Macron telling the British media that they were “necessary” as otherwise eurosceptic populists in Italy, France and elsewhere would win. Their support has been met with heavy resistance from the northern countries, particularly the Netherlands, Germany, Austria and Finland, which sparked a debate that Conte warned could threaten the existence of the bloc.
“Coronabonds” are essentially the new application of an old idea: joint debt that would be collectively guaranteed. Which would, as countries like Italy are hoping, lead to lower borrowing costs and more favourable terms. But on the other side, the northern countries are hesitating to sign loans for countries whose spending they cannot control – fearing it will lead to their taxpayers paying the bill; with neither side ready to give, which way the EU will go is still uncertain. And during the summit on the 23rd of April, the European Council passed the initial relief package that was put forward by the EU’s finance ministers – putting the topic of a recovery fund in the form of Coronabonds off for another day.
Boffey, D. (2020, April 9). EU strikes €500bn relief deal for countries hit hardest by pandemic. The Guardian. Retrieved fromhttps://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/apr/09/eu-risks-break-up-over-coronabonds-row-warns-italian-pm
When one thinks of Spain, it is hard not to recall La Liga, or at least, its two major teams, Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. As Pele for Brazil and Maradona for Argentina, there is a strong relationship between the image of the Iberic country and football. It is not a coincidence that my friends and I got our first contact with a myriad of countries by fulfilling FIFA´s 2010 World Cup album, which was won by Spain. Since 2010, Spanish teams won an incredible six out of nine editions of the Champions League, and today people from all over the world save the date to watch El Classico, the most-watched club game in global football, played by Real and Barça. In Spain, the football industry goes far beyond the pitch, encompassing an astronomical amount of money, cultural identity and social responsibility.
According to Price Waterhouse Cooper (PwC), the professional football industry generated approximately 15,7 billion euro in economic activity and 4,1 billion euro in taxes in Spain during the 2016/2017 season. Furthermore, 184,626 jobs were generated, and the industry represented 1.37% of the country´s GDP. Another report from PwC demonstrated that in all regions, except for one, the contribution was over 1% of the GDP. In Barcelona the numbers are outstanding as one can see by visiting the Espai, which is the FC Barcelona sports complex and the greatest of its kind in Europe. In fact, Barça´s museum is the third most visited in Spain, and Nike´s megastore has the highest revenues per square meter on earth. In addition, FC Barcelona is responsible for 6% of the tourism market of the fifth most visited city in Europe and generates 1.7 million overnight stays according to Deloitte.
Due to TV contracts (keep in mind that only four countries do not transmit La Liga games), marketing, and a massive global communication capacity, Spanish teams can produce impacts on a planetary scale. In terms of operating revenues, Real and Barcelona lead among all sports teams on the planet, and alone are responsible for 1.20 out of 1,000 euro produced in Spain. The Blaugrana team overtook Real in Deloitte´s money league 2018/2019, and is the richest club in the world, reaching 837 million euro against 757 of its rival. Moreover, six out of the 10 most expensive transactions of the sport´s history were made by one of the two, including the most expensive one, the Brazilian player Neymar Jr., who was sold to Paris Saint-German for 222 million euro, surpassing the price of many great European companies i.e, the Dutch IT group Getronics (220 M).
In despite of the high revenues coming from the stadiums, on the 1st of October of 2017 Barcelona decided to play against Las Palmas behind closed doors in protest to the violent repression of the Spanish police to prevent the Catalonia´s independence referendum. As it says in its motto, written in Catalan, FC Barcelona is more than a club, being a resistance symbol of the region. Catalonian flags are waved at Camp Nou, fans sing cheerful or protest chants in Catalan, Barcelona jerseys now and then are stamped with the Catalonian flag, and the national feeling is amplified when the match is against Real Madrid, which represents the crown and the Spanish identity.
Having in mind their relevance, the Catalans and Merengues are involved in a series of technological and social initiatives. Barcelona supports start-ups, is engaged in partnerships with universities and co-develops several products, which are tested on what is deemed by Josep Maria Bartomeu as the greatest human lab in the world: 2,500 men and women athletes from 8 to 30 years. Furthermore, the hub of 16 staff is partnering in about 40 studies of muscle and tendon injuries and developed Pol, a new robot that helps sick people to visit places by controlling it from their hospital beds. The team joins technological progress with social responsibility. Real Madrid, in turn, effects its social commitment through the creation of adapted and inclusive social sports schools, supports charity initiatives and triggered the final boost that Spanish women´s football needed to fulfill its potential by purchasing Club Deportivo Tacón as Real Madrid´s official women´s team. According to Xavi Bové, sports marketing consultant, Real will attract global and local sponsors and awareness over the category. Over the past 15 years, the number of women playing football more than quadruplicated in Spain and mixed teams from very young age became frequent.
As one can see, it may seem so at first sight, but football is much more than just a game. In the case of Spain, it involves matters that range from economic impact to the national identity of a region, to social engagement and public awareness. The football industry can connect fans, companies and players worldwide, and is an active agent who can and should work for society. Regarding the financial impact of the game on the Spanish economy Javier Tebas, president of La Liga, said “ this reinforces our message about the importance of taking responsible and well considered decisions over everything that could affect this industry, one that is so relevant for our society.” After all this data, I finally discovered what to do during this quarantine: training my football skills at home.
On the 1st of May 2004, Hungary was one of ten eastern European countries to join the European Union (EU) as part of the biggest enlargement to date. Since then, political and economic changes have shifted Hungary’s relationship with the EU – from an applicant in the process of consolidating its democracy, to a country in the middle of some of Europe’s most challenging conflicts. As a leading Hungarian foreign policy think-tank, The Institute for Foreign Affairs and Trade (IFAT) not only carries out research in all fields of Hungarian foreign policy, but also publishes its own foreign policy journal and organises conferences and workshops.
In an interview, Dr. Attila Kovács, a Senior Research Fellow at the institute, describes the work of the institute as well as his own judgements on the current position of Hungary in the European Union.
What does your day-to-day work look like?
The work is flexible, so I am not in the office every day. Sometimes I have meetings with representatives of other think-tanks, or I go to the ministries. But normally we are writing; for example, we follow the daily news from other countries. I could also talk to the media about once a week on average. Especially when there is a political situation, for example a plenary week of the European Parliament, then it’s very common that I will get calls to give my expectations on what’s going to happen. But in the very end, we are measured based on the written outcome of our work.
So would you say written reports are the biggest part of your work?
To me personally, yes. Sometimes these are not for the external audience, but for inside: for the ministry; for decision makers. I haven’t organised that many events yet, but many of my colleagues are concentrating on increasing the visibility of the institute via organising lots of events. Another thing is that when there is a foreign delegation coming to Hungary, we regularly meet with them. Top-level diplomats are going to the ministry, but at the expert-level, they come to the institute, where we have workshops or talks with them. It can be just an exchange of views, or we establish some relationships with them.
I read about the round-table on minority affairs in the European Parliament that was organised by the IFAT. The report mentioned that Hungary’s involvement in minority affairs in Europe is due to the fact that they are also at the centre of Hungarian domestic politics. Could you explain why that is the case?
It comes from one hundred years ago exactly. This year in June a hundred years ago, two-thirds of the previous territory of Hungary were detached from the country and given to neighbouring countries. […] Five million Hungarians were put outside of the country’s borders. Historically, it was one country with a similar population, and that’s a historical wound in Hungary. It’s still a living wound, and many Hungarians consider this as a very unjust outcome of the First World War. This is the root of the situation. Since then – depending of course on the ideological orientation of the government – we have been paying special attention to Hungarians living outside of the official borders of Hungary. Most of them live in Romania, Slovakia, Serbia and a small part in Ukraine, which is very sensitive nowadays because of the Ukraine-Russia relations. But apart from that, there is a specialised group in the European Parliament dealing with the traditional minorities in Europe, for example the Catalans in Spain. But with these issues, there is a high level of political sensibility; there are independence movements, autonomy movements and many other, so you need to be very delicate when you approach these things. That was the root of the event. And I can see that Hungarian politicians – no matter what political side they are – are paying attention to these situations frequently.
How do you see Hungary’s position in the new European Commission under Von der Leyen?
There is a debate in Hungary, but also in Central Eastern European countries including Poland and the Czech Republic, that after sixteen years of the EU enlargement – so after sixteen years of EU membership since 2004 – there is not a double standard within the European Union, for example regarding the allocation of positions and the level on influence that countries have. Many believe that the allocation is still biased in favour of the old member states, and we are not represented based on the population. To answer your question, in this new Commission, Hungary got a good portfolio, which is Enlargement and Neighbouring Issues. I think so far this is the most important position that we have had in the European Commission. Previously, we had things like Youth Issues and Sports, which is not as important. For many young students, things like Erasmus are impactful, but politically speaking, Enlargement is much more important.
What do you see as Hungary’s long term goals for European Integration?
Hungary could be – and this is why the Enlargement and Neighbourhood portfolio is important – a bridge to Russia, and to Turkey. Orban has good relationships with Putin and with Erdogan. We need to maintain good relationships with Turkey and Russia. I think this could be a special role for Hungary in the European Union, to be an intermediary. Economically speaking, based on logistics, but also politically speaking, Hungary can be an intermediary; a bridge between the European Union and Russia and Turkey. And another thing is the Balkan countries, which we are neighbouring with, and that have a very special set of power relations. For example, the last war in Europe was in the Balkans, and the Balkans are one of the main sources of migration in Europe, which is also a sensitive issue. And again, Hungary is at the crossroads.
What is the position of the current Hungarian government towards the European Union? Under the current government, Hungary’s position is very critical, but it is not critical towards the European Union itself, but more towards the leadership – or the lack of leadership – regarding the European Union. […] For example, if you take a look at the current coronavirus situation, we didn’t see bold decisions like we see them now from the previous European Commission, while Von der Leyen immediately disclosed huge funds to handle the economic consequences of the virus. So what Hungary had a problem with was the lack of leadership. The second thing is more of an ideological approach. The current Hungarian government believes that the European Union should be about economic integration, not necessarily a political or cultural type of melting pot but economic cooperation of nation states. And this is a huge, fundamental debate; whether we should one day be the United States of Europe or a loose cooperation of nation states. Hungary represents that states still need to have significant powers in the European Union, and that can be a conflict. I can also tell you that Hungary has never been as important as it is today and in the last fifteen years. No matter what you think of Orban’s policies, everyone agrees that he has put Hungary on the map of Europe. Before that, it was a country no one really cared about, but now Orban became a reference point. Be it in a good sense or a bad sense – that’s a matter of personal interpretation – but Hungary counts today.
Xi Jinping’s new Silk Road initiative was launched in 2013 and pursues several objectives. China’s intentions are, amongst others, to resolve the problem of industrial overcapacity, to gain access to the European market and to enhance its political influence in the EU through targeted investments in Southeast Europe and the Mediterranean (Casarini, 2016, p. 95). China’s new Silk road initiative also involves significant financial and monetary dimensions (Casarini, 2016, p. 99). But what does this imply for the European Union and for the Sino-European relations?
From the European perspective, there are positive and negative implications. The initiative increases the Sino-European trade, improves logistic connections and enhances the connectivity between Europe and China’s huge domestic market. Extended railway links between China and Europe are expected to lower transportation time and costs and to increase the general trade volume (Baark, 2019, pp. 81-82). Moreover, the Chinese initiative provides opportunities to increase „exports of food and agricultural products, health products and business services such as financial services“ (Baark, 2019, p. 93).
Despite the economic advantages the initiative promises, there are severe concerns about the political implications going along with the Chinese project. With its huge investments in European infrastructure, China increases its soft-power in Europe and thus also increases its chance to introduce alternative norms and regulations (Dave & Kobayashi, 2018, p. 277). Besides the question of compliance with international and European norms, critics also highlight the issue of cybersecurity and recommend to „develop awareness-building measures in order to sensitise potential targets of Chinese intelligence activities“ (Baark, 2019, p. 87). Furthermore, there are growing concerns that the European competitiveness could be threatened by Chinese dumping goods as China aims at tackling its problem with industrial overcapacities. China intensively invested in European ports, amongst others in the port of Piraeus in Greece. These harbours are consequently almost completely in Chinese ownership. European countries with big container ports as the Netherlands, Belgium or Germany will thus face a tough competition in future (Casarini, 2016, p. 105).
However, the main concern is that China’s investments undermine Europe’s unity as Xi Jinping’s investments in Southeast Europe already caused disagreements among member states. Greece and Hungary, for instance, are unwilling to support Brussel’s criticism of the Human Rights records in China (Baark, 2019, p. 90).
In conclusion, the initiative promises several economic and financial opportunities. However, the political implications are a cause for concern. With its investments, China increases its soft power in Europe, so that alternative norms can be introduced more easily. The European Union is at odds with itself and unable to agree on a common strategy with regard to China. This massively weakens the position of the EU. A common response to China’s initiative is therefore absolutely necessary.
Baark, E. (2019). European perspectives on the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative. China: An International Journal, 17(4), 76-95.
Casarini, N. (2016). When all roads lead to Beijing. Assessing China’s new Silk Road and its implications for Europe. The International Spectator, 51(4), 95-108.
Dave, B., & Kobayashi, Y. (2018). China’s silk road economic belt initiative in Central Asia: economic and security implications. Asia Europe Journal, 16(3), 267-281.
Since 1945 the European defence integration is a matter of dispute. Many ideas to establish a European defence system separate from NATO have been presented, but none of them have been particularly successful (Howorth, 2017, p. 14). The European Defence Community (EDC) is a perfect example: The project failed due to the absence of the United Kingdom and the failure of the French parliament to ratify the plan (Howorth, 2017, p. 18). But why were so many projects fruitless? The answer to this question is pretty complex.
First of all, the Europeans disagree with the extent of the European defence integration. How much sovereignty and autonomy should nation states give up in favour of a supranational project? In 2014 Jean-Claude Juncker, the former president of the EU Commission, announced his vision of a “European army” (Kucera, 2019, p. 2). His idea initiated a polarizing debate about the future of the European defence policy (Kucera, 2019, p. 2). The overarching idea that underlies this project is a “transfer of national sovereignty onto a supranational institution” (Kucera, 2019, p. 3). This caused scepticism as many politicians feared the loss of autonomy and some Eurosceptics even perceived national security policy as “raison d’être of a state” (Kucera, 2019, p. 5). Ever since, European defence integration projects are difficult to implement.
The majority of projects that have been presented thus far suffered from the problem that the extent of commitment and implementation depends on the individual members of the EU. I would like to provide two examples: Firstly, the Global Strategy introduced by the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, and secondly the PESCO (Permanent Structured Cooperation) project.
Global challenges and threats do not stop at national borders and therefore require a common respond. The Global Strategy recognizes these security threats (e.g. terrorism and climate change). However, the Global Strategy is rather “aspirational” than “transformative” (Arteaga, 2017, p. 4) as the commitment to the strategy remains voluntary. The non-binding nature of the Global Strategy increases the risk of non-compliance and thus raises questions about the effectiveness of the project (Arteaga, 2017, p. 4). Members of PESCO also have the right to decide to which extend they would like to implement the measurement proposed by the project (Jopp & Schubert, 2019, p. 135). PESCO states are currently engaged in 34 projects “in the areas of training, land-based formations, naval and airborne systems, cyber defence (…), capacity building projects or space systems” (Jopp & Schubert, 2019, p. 130). Nevertheless, it remains uncertain to what the degree its member states will commit to the project in future as nothing is obligatory (Jopp & Schubert, 2019, p. 135).
However, the Brexit initiated again an intensive debate about the future of the European security. The retreat of the UK implies that the EU loses a member state with important military capacities as the UK is not only a nuclear power, but also member of the UN Security Council (Svendsen, 2019, p. 994). Nonetheless, some scholars see the Brexit as “window of opportunity” (Jopp & Schubert, 2019, p. 122) as Europe is forced to think about alternatives in terms of their defence policy.
Since 1945, the Europeans actually rely on the United States in terms of their security. Over the course of time the EU basically lost the motivation to think about own defence possibilities as bandwagoning became part of the political habit (Howorth, 2017, p. 19). Due to current political developments as Brexit and Trump’s unreliable commitment to Europe’s security, demands on “greater European strategic autonomy” (Schreer, 2019, p. 10) have received more attention.
Additionally, the increased scope of the global challenges (e.g. climate change) force Europe to take action. The security threats afore mentioned are not manageable for a single state. Therefore, a supranational military organization coping with all the potential security gaps is certainly a desirable vision in order to maintain the peace in Europe (Kucera, 2019, p. 19).
Arteaga, F. (2017). European defence between the Global Strategy and its implementation. Real Institut Elcano. 2-18.
Howorth, J. (2017). European defence policy between dependence and autonomy: A challenge of Sisyphean dimensions. The British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 19(1), 13-28.
Jopp, M., & Schubert, J. (2019). PESCO and new methods of intergovernmental integration. L’Europe en Formation, 389(2), 121-139.
Kucera, T. (2019). What European army? Alliance, security community or postnational federation. International Politics, 1-18.
Schreer, B. (2019). Trump, NATO and the future of Europe’s defence. The RUSI Journal, 164(1), 10-17.
Svendsen, Ø. (2019). Brexit and the future of EU defence: a practice approach to differentiated defence integration. Journal of European Integration, 41(8), 993-1007.
959.51 billion in commitments and 908.4 billion in payments – this is how much money the last Multiannual Financial Framework of the European Union (EU) decided on. The Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) – is the EU’s long-term budget. Covering a period of at least five but usually seven years, its purpose is to help the adaption of the annual budget and set ceilings for the EU’s payments and commitments (meaning, the amount of legal obligations the EU can enter). Subsequently, the MFF also has a big influence on the contributions of member states to the EU, which can make these negotiations a crucial affair especially for the net contributors to the union, which is why the budget is decided on in the European Council by unanimity.
This month, the EU debated the budget of 2021-2027. After meeting with all leaders of the member states, president of the European Council Charles Michel called for a special summit on the 20th of February. But what he had planned to finish in one summit would go on to be what Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki described as the “most difficult negotiations in history” on the EU budget.
After Brexit, the EU is left with an up to 75 billion Euro big hole in its contributions, and member states are in disagreement on how to make up for it. Proposed solutions include bigger payments of the net contributors, and less concessions to the net beneficiaries, but not all members are prepared to agree to this. In what has been labeled as the “frugal four”, Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden have joined to advocate for a cap on the EU budget at 1 percent of the gross national income. Describing their demands, Austrian chancellor Kurz stated: “We insist on permanent net corrections to prevent excessive budgetary imbalances and achieve a fair, sustainable outcome.”
When the summit closed after two days of negotiations, the member states had failed to agree on a new budget deal. The proposal that stood at the end of the summit was rejected by the majority of member states. And while Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte stated the document was “moving in the right direction,” though still insufficient, Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa claimed it to be “bad” and further claimed it would only make things more complicated. With the summit ending without a budget deal and no date yet set for further negotiations, it is difficult to say when the EU will reach a decision. Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković even questioned whether this will happen during his country’s presidency of the Council, which is running out at the end of June.
According to the Hellenic National Defense General Staff (HNFGS), on December 17th of 2019 Turkish fighter jets F-16s invaded the Greek airspace forty times, even entering the Athens Flight Information Region without submitting flight plans or asking for an authorization. These violations led to 16 mock dogfights, which were already proven lethal in other interception attempts by Greek forces in the past 19 years of invasions. The relationship between the two NATO allies went through moments of sympathy and animosity throughout history. Notably, moments of tensions took place during the Turkish War of Independence and the invasion of Cyprus in 1974. Nevertheless, a great feeling of partnership was seen, for instance, in the summer of 1999, when a terrible earthquake hit both countries and several measures of solidarity and reciprocity improved Greco-Turkish relations in what would be known as the earthquake diplomacy. This feeling was extended until the early 2010s, with the approximation between Turkey and the European Union. Nevertheless, from there onwards substantial diplomatic differences came up between Greece and Turkey, and in 2018 the deterioration in their diplomatic relations became rougher.
The delimitation of economic zones, territorial waters and national airspace are at the heart of the tensions. In addition, Turkey claims sovereignty over a myriad of islets off its southwestern coast. The vehemence of the topic is due to the overwhelming number of Greek islands in the Aegean Sea. In particular, Turkey´s complaints regard a chain of Greek islands lined up along the Turkish west coast blocking the latter from extending its zone of influence. It is important to highlight that both territorial waters and airspace are measured from the nearest inhabited territory, and thus influence zones are critical when it comes to securing partial control over shipping, full control over the airspace above, and exclusive right to economic exploitation of resources on and under the seabed. Due toTurkey´s strategic importance to the European Union in anti-terrorism policies, migration containment and as a NATO ally, the transcontinental country only suffered mild economic sanctions of the European Union over the past months in protest against President Erdogan´s violations of human rights and over what the EU sees as Turkish interference with Cyprus´ EEZs.
The concern of European leaders regarding Erdogan´s decisions got higher at the end of 2019. In December, the Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, accused Turkey of not abiding by the EU 2016 refugee agreement, as the number of migrants coming through Turkey to the already worrisome Greek refugee camps dramatically enlarged. Whereas at a ceremony on the 27th November in Istanbul, the UN-recognized government of Libya, at odds with its parliament, and Turkey signed a security accord and a memorandum understanding on the demarcation of maritime jurisdiction areas, aiming at gas and oil exploration and production in the region. Moreover, after President Erdogan said that he would send ships to drill for energy off Crete in the coming months, Vice- President Fuat Okay declared that military forces could be sent into the East Mediterranean. The EU Parliament issued a statement arguing that not only the memorandum is arbitrary and geographically questionable, however it also ignores the sovereign rights of Cyprus. Furthermore, as Italy and France have high stakes in the region because of the activities of ENI and Total in the gas drills off Cyprus, they agreed together with the Cypriot army to perform a joint naval exercise in Cyprus´ EEZs.
Hubert Faustmann, professor in the University of Nicosia and Cyprus director of the Bonn-based Friedrich-Ebert Foundation, said that Ankara´s agreement with Libya was a tactic to delay the multi-billion-dollar EastMed gas pipeline project planned by Greece, Israel, Italy and Cyprus, as it would cross maritime zones claimed by Ankara. The EastMed project would make of the involved countries a vital link to Europe’s energy supply chain, and Turkey holds its key as it can block any agreement by fostering its military, navy and air force capabilities in Northern Cyprus. According to the professor, “Turkey´s strategy is to create grey zones and disputes territories within the economic exclusive zones claimed by Cyprus and also Greece.” It is worth remembering that Turkey does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus, and claims Nicosia´s gas and oil exploration areas.
In response to the memorandum, Greece and Egypt are speeding up the demarcation of their territorial waters, while the European Council reaffirmed its solidarity with Greece and Cyprus. The EU issued soft sanctions over Turkish energy ships drilling off Cyprus and the Cypriot government received international warrants for the crews arrest but did not enforce them. Furthermore, Greece is trying to isolate Turkey internationally, forcing the annulment of the Turkish-Libyan accords, expelling Libya´s ambassador, looking at making an official complaint to the UN and requiring a meeting of EU leaders to condemn Turkey´s actions. In spite of being backed by Russia, Israel, Egypt, EU countries and the United States, the Greek Defense Minister stated that “if it came down to a fight in the Aegean, we shall not wait for anyone to come and help us… Whatever we do, we shall do alone.” Turkey, in turn, defends that the memorandum is in accordance with international law and that Cyprus and Egypt issued a similar document in 2015. Moreover, it uses its army, geo-political importance and cooperation towards migration control as leverage against Europe. Charles Ellinas, an Atlantic Council senior associate, however, believes Turkey has nothing to gain from escalating military moves in Cyprus.
An 800 kilometers coastline, olive groves leading to timeless cities of unscalable heritage value, mountains, cliffs, sanctuaries, home of Virgil, shelter of three UNESCO world heritage sites and an inspiration for one of the most representative Italian songs Nel blu dipinto di blu. Apulia is the most dynamic region in Southern Italy and is precisely located in the “heel” of the Italian “boot”. In recent years, it has become a trendy destination for tourists interested in exploring more in depth a country that keeps enchanting the world with its culture, nature and history. Emphatically, both culture and tourism have been an essential and interlinked part of the shift away from a primary-based economy, representing a big asset for regional economic growth. Rather than a natural coincidence for a gifted region, however, increased tourism has been the result of several projects sponsored by the European Union and the Italian government aimed to deal with important local challenges for international markets.
The first challenge for a further tourist development was the relative remoteness of Apulia regarding the main Italian destinations’ circuits, such as Venice, Florence and Rome. The second was the presence of small and medium sized tourism enterprises with difficult representation in the global market due to a lack of resources or willingness, thus problematizing the matching between single suppliers (e.g. hotels) and smaller suppliers (e.g. Bed and Breakfasts) with international tour operators involved in the organization of travel for foreign tourists. Additionally, a lack of highlight to the treasures of the region, seasonality, lack of private investment and infrastructure problems were also key issues to solve. A myriad of important projects was designed to address these matters, nevertheless in this text we are going to focus on two of them: “Buy Puglia” and the “PiiiL Culture” plan.
Buy Puglia was a Cohesion Policy program largely funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), lasting from 2007 to 2013. Its main goal was to give visibility to local sellers in national and international markets to attract foreign buyers. Pugliapromozione, the agency responsible for implementing the project, promoted exhibitions, trade sector initiatives to expose regional products, and provided educational tours, familiarizing tour operators with tourist attractions. The heart of Apulia´s strategy focused on two pillars, these being culture and tourism. Firstly, the action was based upon promoting culture as a place-branding and tourism attractor, strengthening the idea of culture as an employment generator tool and building competitive advantage. For tourism, the rationale was based upon reducing seasonality and attracting foreign investment via tourism promotion, diversification of the offering (from romantic routes to a sports destination), restoration of key monuments, fostering and supporting employment, and stimulating a more widespread growth of tourism including in less popular areas. Additionally, the ERDF invested heavily in ports, airports and in the restructuration and linkage of cultural and environmental heritage, becoming an important regional driver of economic activity for both employment and the overall economic development of the region.
Besides, in coherence with the EU strategy “Europe 2020”, which emphasizes a European agenda for growth and jobs in the coming decade, Apulia became a model of cultural planning by implementing the “PiiiL Culture” plan. As the name suggests, it is an economic development policy based on culture which aims on achieving smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. With an investment of 400 million euros for ten years, beginning in 2017, the region government decided to focus on the “PiiiL” acronym: Product (building a cultural product of quality), Identity ( defining identity as rooted, authentic, half-caste, open and plural), Innovation (regarding both product and its shaping), Enterprise (from volunteering to a new business culture) and Work (without good employment there is no economy of culture). Also, in partnership with the Apulian Film Commission Foundation, the Regional Ministry for Tourism changed the traditional approach on the promotion of specific areas (i.e. Salento and Vale d´Itria) towards the promotion of the brand “Apulia” and “Apulia and cinema” in Italy and abroad. The “PiiiL Culture” is planned triennially and favors public-private partnerships, innovation, internationalization, valorization of urban and suburban areas, use of underused spaces and the growth/formation of the public through cultural activities.
Today, international flights land in the main airports of Puglia in Brindisi and Bari, and the official tourism website of the region offers ready-to-take itineraries and tips on things to do, where to go and events to attend. If you have any social media, you may also use the hashtag #WeAreInPuglia to discover new places and find more about the experience of other people who visited those. Abraham Lincoln once said that the best way to predict the future was to create it, and Apulia, supported by the European Union and the Italian government, is building it in a sustainable, inclusive and attractive way.
In Western Europe right-wing populist parties are less influential than in Eastern Europe, but their popularity is continuously rising. During the last French presidential elections in 2017, for example, Marine le Pen from the right-wing populist party FN (Front National) progressed to the second-round run-off against president Emanuel Macron (Eiermann, Mounk & Gultchin, 2017, p. 9). Why are right-wing populist parties so successful in Eastern and Western Europe?
In states like Poland and Hungary right-wing populist parties are increasingly expanding their power and seem to be more anti-democratic at least in comparison with Western European populist parties (Allen, 2017, p. 277). They violate basic democratic principles as judicial independence and freedom of the press. However, the continuous destruction of the media is not only on the agenda of Eastern European populists, but also part of the policy of Western European populist parties (Eiermann, Mounk & Gultchin, 2017, p. 7). The effectiveness of Eastern European populist parties is particularly visible as populist parties were able to promote an anti-Muslim propaganda even if these countries were almost unaffected by Muslim immigration (Kende & Krekó, 2020, p. 31). Why were populist right-wing parties as PIS (Poland) and Fidesz (Hungary) so successful with their anti-Muslim rhetoric? Throughout history post-communist countries experienced not only threats to their territorial integrity, but also threats to their national integrity. These insecurities concerning their sovereignty contributed to an increased fear of the loss of national identity. Since that time, populist right-wing parties were able to easily manipulate people psychologically with the help of these consolidated fears. This also explains why these parties were able to easily mobilise against minorities as the Roma or the Jews (Kende & Krekó, 2020, p. 30). The refugee crisis in 2015 was thus an ideal tool to promote an anti-Muslim propaganda even though these countries were almost unaffected by Muslim immigration. Particularly in this case the influence and power of the right-wing parties is very extreme as even in the absence of terrorism and immigrants, fears were easily fuelled by the populists. With the help of the anti-Muslim rhetoric populist right-wing parties as PIS (Poland) and Fidesz (Hungary) successfully secured their power in government. They effectively capitalised from the people’s historically consolidated fears (Kende & Krekó, 2020, p. 31).
In Western European countries right-wing populist parties are also on the rise. In Western Europe, their success lies amongst others in the voter’s political frustration. In the view of the electorate that turned to populist parties, traditional parties were unable to deal with current political challenges as for example immigration and European integration. The disenchanted electorate is therefore more prone to accept the radical solutions proposed by populist right-wing parties (Albertazzi & McDonnell, 2007, p.1).
Interestingly, the most successful populist parties are those which effectively employ the rhetoric of democracy. Therefore, populist parties try to justify discriminatory policies with the claim to defend Western values. This rhetoric adaption plays an important role in their attempt to appear as a mainstream party (Halikiopoulou, 2018, p. 2). Part of this strategy is also the promotion of direct democracy, including the idea of a referendum, for example. In this manner, right-wing populist parties claim to promote the will of the people. The longevity of a party generally depends on the party’s success to recruit potential voters. For this reason, the talent of the party leader to persuade and socialise sympathisers represents a crucial factor. Socially disadvantaged groups generally represent an important target group (Pauwels, 2014, p. 7). However, different populist parties attract different social classes. Some right-wing parties mainly focus on the lower-class whereas others focus on the middle-class (Betz, 1993, p. 676).
Overall, right-wing populist parties differ significantly with regard to their rhetoric, target group, ideology and agenda (Halikiopoulou, 2018, p. 3). Due to their disrespect for minorities, pluralism and the rule of law, populism is essentially illiberal (Mudde, 2016, p. 28). A very important shared trait is their exclusionary agenda and their claim to fight for the will of the people (Immerzeel & Muis , 2017, p. 910). The reasons for the popularity of right-wing populist parties are slightly different in Eastern and Western European countries. In Western Europe, the popularity of right-wing populist parties lies in the voter’s political frustration whereas in Eastern Europe, right-wing populist parties are particularly successful due to their anti-Muslim rhetoric which effectively fuels historically consolidated fears.
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