In early 2016, the Polish Law and Justice Party (PiS) paralyzed the country’s constitutional court with a number of political moves, endangering the tripartite separation of powers. This was a vivid example of the attack on liberal democratic values that is taking place across Europe. PiS is just one of several right-wing, populist parties (such as the UK Independent Party, the Alternative for Germany, and Fidesz in Hungary) whose resurgence Europe has experienced in recent years. In Central Europe, Orbán’s Fidesz party and Szydło’s PiS have concentrated their power by limiting independent media and crippling the judiciary using their majorities in parliament and ethno-nationalist, euro-skeptic rhetoric.The Polish constitutional crisis has elicited critical reactions everywhere from Warsaw to Brussels and even from Washington DC. However, more international pressure is needed to convince the Polish government to restore the independent and efficient functioning of the Constitutional Court. Continue reading “International Pressure Can Resolve the Polish Constitutional Crisis”
Today Nadiya Savchenko, a Ukrainian pilot and symbol of Ukrainian resistance against Russian aggression, was finally released after being kidnapped and detained for nearly two years. While a step forward, the Minsk Agreements have yet to be implemented in full. With the Ukraine crisis now into its third year, how can we better understand the West’s response to Russia’s actions? I will focus on Central Europe because the Visegrad nations have been the key architects of the EU’s more general Eastern Neighborhood Policy (EaP), even if France and Germany are the chief negotiators of the Minsk Agreements. The V4 (Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia) have been criticized for not speaking in a unified voice on Russia policy, despite eventually coalescing around the same, mainstream EU position of condemning Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its military intervention in Eastern Ukraine and supporting economic sanctions. If their country positions are the same, why the wildly differing rhetoric? It has as much to do with the politics of today as it does with the politics of the past. Continue reading “Russophilia, Russophobia, and Russia Policy in Central Europe”
In today’s political (and academic) debates we constantly hear about the crisis of European solidarity. Who is not showing enough solidarity? Who is showing solidarity with the wrong parties? Precipitated by “external” shocks like the global recession, the refugee/migration situation and Russian aggression toward Ukraine, the EU is facing its biggest challenges to unity, peace and prosperity since the euphoric days of the 2004/7 enlargement. And, I argue, the concept of solidarity is no longer fit for the task of meeting these challenges.
A recent RAND report concluded that in the event of Russian aggression toward the Baltic States, the countries of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia would fall within three days. Since Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the hybrid war in eastern Ukraine, NATO has been busy figuring out how best to respond to Russia’s belligerence. NATO has to convince Russia (and as importantly its own member states) that it can defend its territory without inciting Russia to further military actions that could spiral into a Cold War 2.0. What then is NATO doing? Or more to the point, what is NATO not doing? In other words, what is the fine line between persistence and permanence? Continue reading “Atlantic Resolve and the Eastern Flank”
The Syrian conflict has arrived at Europe’s doors first in the form of the refugee crisis and now via the November 13th terrorist attacks on Paris striking at the very heart of Europe. It is clear that Europe cannot deal with these crises alone because it lacks internal solidarity and an effective common security and defense policy. How then do real or potential allies like the US, Turkey and Russia fit into Europe’s response to the refugee crisis and recent terrorist attacks?
The conservative party Law and Justice (PiS) recently took the parliament in Polish national elections. The election is historic in two ways (1) it is the first time since 1989 that one party succeeded in getting over 50% of the mandates and (2) it is the first time since 1989 that the post-communist party, the Democratic Left Alliance, has not made it into the Sejm. The incumbent center-right party, Civic Platform, after 7 years of governing is now in the opposition. This change in government will definitely have repercussions on domestic public policy, including a suspension or even roll back of reproductive rights, such as in vitro, LGBT rights, such as recognition of same-sex couples, and religious freedom, such as the right to abstain from religious instruction in public schools. But perhaps the strongest PiS aftershock will be felt in foreign policy. What repercussions will this election have on Poland’s relationship with Russia, on the one hand, and Germany and the EU more broadly, on the other?
The refugee crisis over the last month has rocked the very foundations of the European Union by renewing old East/West divides, questioning the sanctity of open borders, and straining European solidarity. The one thing Western and Eastern Europe could agree on was that the root cause of the migration had to be addressed, which in practice means the difficult task of defeating or at least curtailing the violence of the Islamic State. And here is where Putin found an opening not only to pretend that he is helping Europe with its migrant crisis by “fighting” ISIS, but also to strengthen his position in the region vis-a-vis the United States, to embarrass Europe for not doing anything to counter ISIS and its consequent migration crisis, and to potentially divide Europe further over the issue of Ukraine as Russia becomes an “indispensable” partner in the fight against ISIS.