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The ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 14/09/2017

The ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 14/09/2017

LSE—Pol Morillas / Juncker’s State of the Union: Where now for multispeed Europe?

  • When the European Commission presented its White Paper earlier this year, many thought that Juncker should have proposed a way forward, making full use of the Commission’s right of initiative, instead of opening a debate on the future of Europe, as think tanks tend to do.
  • Emmanuel Macron’s election in France and the slow but steady acceptance of the multispeed approach by Angela Merkel increased the prospects of reform in this direction. In Versailles, Italy and Spain also rallied behind the multiple speeds formula.
  • But yesterday, Juncker advocated for all countries to join the Eurozone by 2019 and to open Schengen to Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia as soon as possible. There shall be no such thing as “first class” Europe if all countries share the same currency and enjoy freedom of movement.
  • Goal-wise, it is reasonable that the European Commission aims to strengthen European integration and avoid any kind of “second class” Europe. But as a method, a multispeed or flexible Union still has a comparative advantage vis-à-vis the alternatives.
  • Divisions will make it all the more likely that the first scenario of Juncker’s White Paper, muddling through, will eventually materialize.

Al-Monitor—O. Al Sharif / Jordan opens crossing with Iraq, makes nice with Syria

  • Amman and Baghdad celebrated the reopening of the only land crossing between their two countries on August 30, two years after it was closed due to the Islamic State’s (IS) gaining control of most of Anbar province on the Iraqi side.
  • Jordanian officials have been wooing Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi since he took office in 2014 with visits to Baghdad. In 2016, the two sides signed an agreement to build an oil pipeline from Basra, in southern Iraq, to the Jordanian port of Aqaba. This should further help the struggling Jordanian economy.
  • Jordan has insisted that its backing of rebel groups in southern Syria is aimed at fighting IS and other terrorist groups and not the regime. It also indicated that it was willing to reopen its side of the border near Daraa after the Syrian army takes control.
  • During the past two weeks, top Syrian officials have made positive statements about the future of relations with Jordan.

Financial Times—N. Bozorgmehr / Iran cracks down on Revolutionary Guards business network

  • Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps is being forced to shrink its sprawling business empire and some of its senior members have been arrested as part of President Hassan Rouhani’s attempts to curb the elite force’s role in the economy.
  • According to a relative of Ayatollah Khamenei, “other than economic concerns, Mr Khamenei feels the need to save the guards [from corruption] and has naturally thrown his support behind the move.”
  • The Trump administration has imposed new sanctions on companies and individuals affiliated to the guards. The measures have put off international investors who fear they could inadvertently end up doing business with entities linked to the guards’ opaque empire.
  • Mr Rouhani last month increased the official budget for the corps’ ballistic missile program and overseas military campaigns in a bid to placate the guards and counter their argument that they need businesses to fund their operations.

The New York Times—A. Higgins / Russia’s war games with fake enemies cause real alarm

  • Russia and Belarus are conducting a six-day joint military exercise (Zapad-2017) that is expected to be the biggest display of Russian military power since the end of the Cold War a quarter-century ago.
  • There are fears that Moscow may be moving far more troops into Belarus than it intends to withdraw, establishing a permanent military presence there on the border with NATO countries. And officials in the Baltics and Poland have voiced alarm that the exercises could be used as a cover for Russian aggression, as happened in 2014.
  • The Baltic States and Poland say they believe that the number of Russian troops taking part in Zapad-2017 could reach 100,000. On the other hand, Moscow and Minsk insist that this week’s Zapad exercise will involve just 12,700 troops.
  • Russia has dismissed Western anxieties over Zapad-2017, saying that the exercises are purely defensive.

Brookings—S. Pifer / Test Putin’s proposal for U.N. peacekeepers

  • Russian president Vladimir Putin made headlines last week when he suggested a U.N. peacekeeping force for the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine. His proposal likely was not sincere, but Ukraine and its friends in the West should test the proposition.
  • Both the U.S. and Germany cautiously welcomed the proposal, which was the right thing to do despite the set of conditions laid out by Putin. Now that proposal must be reshaped. A U.N. peacekeeping force could make a serious contribution to ending the conflict—if it has a proper mandate.
  • The force should be able to operate in the whole region and for a longer period of time than Putin wants it to. In addition, it should be able to assert and maintain authority in the region; a repeat of the United Nations Protection Force performance in Bosnia in the early 1990s would not help.
  • Some see in Putin’s proposal a sign that the Kremlin seeks a way out of the Donbass quagmire, but we must be skeptical about this possibility.

 The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and ESADEgeo. 


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