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Diplomacy
PARIS, FRANCE - February 8, 2023: French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky with Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the Elysée Palace

The Impact of the War in Ukraine on the European Union

by Tomasz G. Grosse

한국어로 읽기Leer en españolIn Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربيةLire en françaisЧитать на русском French and German credibility has reached new lows on the Ukraine issue, risking European security as each seeks to sure up political and geopolitical influence. Solidarity is weak, and arms corporations have proven influential in national decisions for EU integration on security matters. In the numerous crises that hit the European Union (EU) in the 21st century – the role of the so-called “integration engine,” as the French-German duopoly is called – was crucial. However, after Moscow’s aggression against Ukraine in 2022, both integration leaders from Western Europe receded into the background. The leaders of aid for fighting Ukraine were mainly the countries of NATO’s eastern flank, led by Poland and the Baltic states. Germany and France defended themselves against too radical sanctions imposed on Moscow, did not support Kiev, and did not want, among other things, either Ukraine’s accession to the EU nor to NATO. Why did Paris and Berlin distance themselves from Russian aggression in 2022, which violated European values and human rights and also threatened the EU itself? In short, the war hit various economic interests that France and Germany conducted with Vladimir Putin’s regime. An example of this was the expansion of Nord Stream, a gas pipeline through the Baltic Sea, after Putin’s first military aggression against eastern Ukraine in 2014. It is worth recalling that the entire climate transformation in the EU in its initial phase was based on cheap Russian gas. Economic ties were not the only reason for the strange behavior of Berlin and Paris in the face of Moscow’s aggression. Geopolitical considerations were even more important. The elites of Western Europe have traditionally, with minor interruptions, cooperated with Russia and considered it an important economic and political partner. The geopolitical goal of both Western European countries was to seek strategic autonomy from Washington and rapprochement with Moscow and Beijing. Historically, Central Eastern Europe has been treated as an area of influence of Berlin and Moscow, which they share or (less frequently) compete for. Before 2022, for Berlin, this sphere of influence included the Central European countries and the Baltic states; for Moscow, this included Belarus and Ukraine. This is why, among other things, Western Europe distanced itself from Moscow’s aggression in 2022. It did not want to spoil relations with Moscow. It also did not want to provoke even greater Russian aggression, fearing a full-scale war with NATO. Western Europe wanted to reach an agreement with Putin as quickly as possible and return to the previous economic and geopolitical arrangement. However, in 2024, there was a clear change in Western Europe’s position towards the war in Ukraine. First, Germany increased its financial and military assistance, although it continued to block the delivery to Kiev of the most modern weapons requested by President Volodymyr Zelensky. France and Germany increased the scope of sanctions imposed on Moscow, although they were still full of loopholes that allowed the Kremlin to avoid them. Meanwhile, Berlin and Paris unblocked their veto on Ukraine’s accession to the EU, nevertheless they continued to maintain their opposition to Kiev’s membership in NATO. Under the influence of both Western European countries, the EU’s financial and military assistance to Kiev increased. It was still too small in relation to Ukraine’s needs, and Brussels faced great problems and delays in fulfilling aid declarations. The most radicalized person was President Emmanuel Macron who announced in 2024 that he would send troops to Ukraine. In the same year, German politicians proposed that NATO troops should protect the sky over western Ukraine from the territory of Romania and Poland. What caused this radical turn in Berlin and Paris? First of all, it turned out that both countries were losing credibility in NATO and the EU, and thus political influence in Central Europe and Ukraine. What was no less dangerous – especially for German politicians – was the growing dissatisfaction with their attitude in the US. The Germans feared that Washington would lose trust in Berlin and focus on NATO’s eastern flank, mainly Warsaw. Furthermore, Germany and France believed less and less in renewing good relations with Moscow. They also had little hope that their “neutral attitude” could protect Europe from further aggression by Putin, including his attack on NATO and EU countries. At this point, both Western European countries launched a diplomatic offensive to introduce changes in the European Union. It was primarily about revising EU treaties to strengthen the political influence of the two largest countries in Western Europe. Therefore, it was proposed, among others, the abolition of voting based on unanimity in foreign and defense policy, which gave a decision-making advantage to the countries with the greatest voting power (Germany and France). In addition, efforts were made to strengthen the Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP). The main goal was to increase the production of ammunition and weapons from EU funds. Typically, such actions were aimed at strengthening the potential of arms corporations in Western Europe, as well as limiting arms exports from outside the EU, including from the US and South Korea. It goes without saying that in the event of a real threat from the East, the EU should not limit the transportation of weapons from non-European allies, because Europe itself produces too little ammunition and weapons. Nevertheless, subsequent actions of the European Commission after 2022 clearly rewarded aid for German and French corporations, as well as restricting access to arms imports from outside the EU. These attempts to strengthen the strategic autonomy of the EU against Washington are short-sighted in the face of a real threat on the EU and NATO. Moreover, instead of primarily supporting coordination within NATO, France and Germany have sought to duplicate the structures of the North Atlantic Alliance, focusing on the expansion of EU’s rapid reaction forces (rather than NATO’s rapid reaction forces), which were much more modest in terms of numbers and equipment. In other words, their goals were political, not real defense. The idea was to strengthen Franco-German leadership in Europe, and this was to be achieved by supporting the development of EU structures in the area of security. All these aspirations to expand the CSDP could encounter serious obstacles in implementation. First, Germany and France often disagree on EU security considerations, particularly when it comes to their own national interests. For example, the French were disappointed with Germany’s decision to purchase the American F-35 multi-role fighter capable of carrying nuclear warheads. This affected plans to build a sixth-generation aircraft in cooperation between German, French, and Spanish corporations. Moreover, Berlin was developing its own anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense project in the EU (European Sky Shield Initiative), to which it did not invite the French, and even competed with their own European defense program (La défense aérienne du continent). Therefore, Macron criticized the German shield initiative, which he considered hasty and incomplete. Instead, he promoted a truly “European initiative,” where the French arms industry is the dominant force. Secondly, the actions of France and Germany in the field of defense have been delayed and ineffective. More than two years after the announcement of the famous Zeitenwende, the modernisation of the Bundeswehr, the federal government in Berlin managed to order only eighteen Leopard 2 tanks and twelve Panzerhaubitz 2000. Thirdly, it became increasingly clear early on that Germany and France were not ready to defend NATO’s eastern flank in solidarity, wanting rather to show initiative and leadership in order to maintain geopolitical influence in Europe. In terms of real security, their subsequent ideas were controversial. They were certainly beneficial to their arms corporations. For all these reasons, the credibility of Germany and France has been trending downwards on eastern EU security considerations. For the time being, it is difficult to predict whether the plans of Paris and Berlin will ultimately be implemented and whether cooperation within the CSDP will be strengthened. However, if this does not happen, it will paradoxically be a good solution for the security of the eastern flank. Efforts to defend it will be focused within NATO and, above all, located in the countries most at risk from Moscow’s aggression. This analysis is based on a recent article published by the Journal of International Affairs.

Defense & Security
Troop carrier and tank with Ukrainian flag, Ukraine

The War in Ukraine among contemporary Armed Conflicts

by Anton Bebler

한국어로 읽기Leer en españolIn Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربيةLire en françaisЧитать на русском Abstract The war in Ukraine is the biggest, bloodiest and longest war in Europe since 1945. Its initial stage holds similarities with several other armed conflicts and wars in the last 50 years on Cyprus and in the territories of the former Soviet Union and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY). Among the cases in ex-Yugoslavia the greatest similarity is seen with the war in Croatia (1991–1995). These conflicts stemmed from almost simultaneous breakdowns of two multinational ‘socialist federations’ and their communist regimes. The dissimilarity of the second stage of the war in Ukraine and the war in Croatia is primarily due to the processes of NATO and EU enlargement coupled with the USA’s policy of using NATO enlargement and Ukraine as tools to harm and weaken Russia. The conflict about Ukraine developed into an indirect war between Russia and the US-led West, where Ukraine is the West’s proxy and the main victim. The final outcome of the war in Ukraine will be decided on the battlefield and not around a diplomatic table. Still, it will be very different from that in Croatia. Responsibility for the war in Ukraine and its consequences must be shared between the two direct belligerents, the co-responsible USA and other NATO members. Introduction Among about four dozen contemporary wars, the armed conflict in Ukraine since 2014 stands out as an exceptional event. It involves in its second stage four nuclear powers –one as a direct belligerent and three as providers of many-sided assistance to the second belligerent, with the presence of military personnel of all four nuclear powers on the territory of Ukraine. The war has been the biggest, bloodiest and longest war in Europe since 1945. It has also produced a strong impact on Europe and the broader international community. According to two measures (at least), the war in Ukraine has been exceeded by a number of other wars since 1945, namely those occurring in Asia and Africa. In terms of mortality, it has been exceeded by the wars in Korea, Vietnam, Algeria, Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi and Iraq. In terms of duration, it is unlikely to be longer than the wars in Vietnam, Algeria, Sudan and Afghanistan. Among all these armed conflicts, the war in Ukraine may be sharply distinguished by the reverse ratio between military and civilian mortality. In the European framework, the central trigger of the first stage of the war in Ukraine was similar to what caused the armed conflicts and outright wars occurring between 1974 and 1999 on Cyprus, in Moldova, Georgia, the Russian Federation, Azerbaijan as well as on the territory of the SFRY. Among the former, the first stage of the war in Ukraine most resembled the war in Croatia (1991–1995). The war in Croatia, which started prior to its international recognition, and the war in Ukraine 22 years after its recognition as an independent state, display a number of similarities that not accidental. The second stage of the war in Ukraine has had several similarities with the war in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (1999) which ended up with forceful separation of Kosovo from Serbia. The similarities The wars in Croatia and Ukraine involved two adversary pairs of neighboring and partly overlapping Slavic nations. These wars unfolded in the territories of two defunct ‘socialist federations’ – the SFRY and the USSR. The causes of both wars were closely related to the almost simultaneous breakdowns of these two federations in 1991 and the demise of their communist regimes that had preceded and caused the breakdowns. The institutional structure of the SFRY was modelled after and closely resembled the structure of the older ‘socialist federation’, the USSR. Shared features of the two included the division of each federation into full-fledged republics and autonomies. Most or all of these federal units were ethnically designated. The minorities of the biggest ethnic groups (Serbs and Russians) were not accorded autonomy within other republics. In both cases, war followed the declarations of ‘sovereignty’ and ‘autonomy’ and referenda organized by some members of the Serbian community in southwest Croatia and some members of the Russian and Russian-speaking community living in Eastern Ukraine. In each case, the central governments refused to negotiate with the insurgents and decided to suppress them militarily. The armed conflicts in Croatia and Ukraine developed into partly different combinations of civil and interstate wars. The civil war component referred to an armed conflict between the ultranationalist regime in the former second-most populous republic on one hand, and part of the biggest national minority related to the largest ethnic group in the former federation, on the other. The civil war deepened the divisions based on loyalty within both the Serbian community in Croatia and the Russian community in Ukraine. Each war was fought almost exclusively on the territory of the former second-most populous republic, which suffered the most. In both wars, the two sides were responsible for gross violations of international humanitarian law. International sanctions were applied in these two wars. The causes of each war were tangibly related to profound geopolitical changes underway in Europe about 35 years ago. These changes entailed the slackening and termination of the Cold War between two military-political blocs and the wave of liberal-democratic transformation of political systems in Eastern Europe. Over the span of 3 years, about 30 different state entities declared their sovereignty in the area of 3 ‘socialist federations’ (Yugoslavia, Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia). Of these, 23 entities survived and soon gained universal recognition as sovereign states, including Croatia and Ukraine. The specificity of the war in Ukraine Ancestors of today’s Russians and Ukrainians shared in the distant past close to 400 years of common history in Kievan Rus. In the XIII century this large state formation was destroyed by the invasion of Tatars-Mongols. The subsequent centuries-long domination of Lithuanian and Polish feudal rulers over the ancestors of today’s Ukrainians contributed greatly to their cultural and language distancing from the Russians. In 1648, the Cossack ancestors of some of today’s Ukrainians rebelled against Polish feudal rule, in 1654 begged for protection and voluntarily submitted themselves to Moscow Tsardom. For two and a half centuries, until 1917 they remained as part of the Russian empire, named Ruthenia and later Malorossiya. In 1918, an independent state was proclaimed under the new name Ukrainian People’s Republic. The name Ukraine remained under the Bolsheviks and in 1922 Soviet Ukraine became a constituent republic of the Soviet Union. Over several decades, the territory of Soviet Ukraine was more than doubled by Moscow in several successive stages in 1920–1922, 1939–1940, 1945–1947 and 1954. This was accomplished by including into it the lands of Novorossiya, with millions of Russian and Russian-speaking people in the East and South, as well as annexed parts of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania and part of Moldova in the West. In all of these cases, this was done without their population’s consent. In 1992, all these territorial gains became parts of independent Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders, whereas the collective rights of the Russian and Russian-speaking population were left unprotected. From 1945 for more than four and a half decades Ukraine enjoyed Moscow’s symbolic gift – the status of a UN founding member although it had been a constituing part of another UN founding member (USSR). When Ukraine, at Moscow’s initiative attained independence it did not have to apply for UN membership which from then on it deserved. Divergent political and economic developments in the two independent states exposed a number of different interests and of problems unresolved at the time of separation. These issues, in somewhat different combinations during the two stages of the war contributed to three groups of conflictual relations: (1) between the Russian Federation and Ukraine, (2) inside Ukraine and (3) between the Russian Federation and the West, primarily USA. The non-recognition of collective minority rights by the Ukrainian authorities became a growing political problem with the rise of Ukrainian ultranationalism. Combined with divergent attitudes in Western and Eastern parts of the country concerning Ukraine’s relations with Russia, EU and NATO, language-related problems contributed tangibly to political explosions in Ukraine in February/March 2014. Since 1991, two processes have altered the geopolitical map of Europe. These are the Eastward expansion of the US-dominated NATO along with the closely intertwined enlargement of the European Union. The first stage of these two processes in 1990–1991 – the absorption of Eastern Germany into both organizations – had no impact on the internal crisis in Yugoslavia, including the conflict in Croatia. Two decades later, however, the process of NATO expansion had already reached the borders of both Ukraine and Russia, thereby adding a very real extra-regional component to the conflict in and about Ukraine. For over two decades, one of the USA’s geostrategic goals has been by fostering ‘color revolutions’ to bring about regime change in the post-Soviet space, including Ukraine and also Russia. By using Ukraine as a tool, the USA has endeavored to harm and weaken Russia. Under US pressure and notwithstanding German and French objections, at the NATO summit held in Bucharest in April 2008 Ukraine was promised membership in the alliance, yet without stating a date. Openly and strongly opposed by Russia, this decision unleashed a chain of events, 6 years later leading to a war in Ukraine. The European Union and its policy of Eastern neighborhood negatively contributed to these developments. The prospect of an association agreement with the EU deepened the internal political conflict in Ukraine and motivated a mass protest movement that was exploited in February 2014 to stage a US-guided coup d’état in Kyiv. The combination of Ukraine’s promised membership in NATO and the new regime in Kyiv fully dependent on the USA foretold that Russia would certainly lose its old naval base in Sevastopol, for which it had paid high rent since 1992. Moreover, as a NATO naval and air base, Sevastopol would pose a direct threat to Russia and its geopolitical position in the Black Sea and Mediterranean area. To thwart this threat, lightly armed detachments of Russian marines, already legally stationed on Crimea, were ordered to move in unmarked uniforms to take control of the entire peninsula. They did so without facing any resistance, on Kyiv’s strict orders, from the about 22,000 Ukrainian troops or inflicting any casualties. The Ukrainian officialdom then simply vacated Crimea. This takeover was soon followed by a successful referendum accompanied by international observers on approving Crimea’s legal separation from Ukraine and it rejoining Russia. Moscow thus took back Nikita Khrushchev’s present to Ukraine on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of its unification with Russia. First stage of the war in Ukraine Closely related to the dramatic developments in Kyiv, there were uprisings in several Ukrainian cities and proclamations of ‘‘sovereignty’’ and ‘‘autonomy’’ in Lugansk and Donetsk. These uprisings largely featured protests against the discriminatory measures adopted by the new authorities against the Russian and Russian-speaking population. The ultranationalist regime in Kyiv responded on 13 April 2014 by branding the protesters ‘‘terrorists’’, declaring a “wide anti-terrorist operation” and entrusting the Ukrainian Army to carry it out. This military operation launched the first stage of the war in Ukraine. In its attacks on the Donbas autonomists, the Ukrainian Army employed bombers, tanks, armoured vehicles and artillery while battalions of Ukrainian ultranationalist volunteers with neo-Nazi leanings and financed by Ukrainian oligarchs used artillery and light weapons. On the defending side, there were about 35,000 members of the territorial people’s militias of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics as well as Russian and other (including Serbian) volunteers. The Russian Federation offered multi-sided support to the two besieged republics, encompassing financial, material, humanitarian and military assistance. Russian professional military personnel were integrated into the local militias and did not operate as separate and regular units of the Russian Army. At the same time, the US and British armed forces offered very sizeable material and other military assistance to the Ukrainian Army, also involving thousands of advisors and instructors. In numbers, they were comparable to the Russian military personnel on the other side of the frontline. By February 2022, this armed conflict had led to 14,000 to 20,000 dead. Two armistice agreements, Minsk 1 and Minsk 2, did not halt the Ukrainian shelling of Ukrainian territory, which was responsible for thousands of casualties among the civilian population of the two self-proclaimed republics. These attacks continued for more than 9 years, accompanied by gross violations of international humanitarian law. In February 2015, Petro Poroshenko, the President of Ukraine signed the Minsk 2 agreement. It was co-signed by the leaders of Germany, France and Russia and unanimously adopted as a resolution by the UN Security Council, thereby becoming part of international law. The Minsk 2 agreement provided for peaceful resolution of the conflict in Donbas. Nonetheless, Petro Poroshenko and his successor Volodimir Zelenski refused to implement most of Ukraine’s 12 obligations, including the key provisions under which Ukraine was to grant constitutionally guaranteed autonomy to the Russian and Russian-speaking population in Donbas. In addition, Zelenski reneged on his pre-election promise that saw him win the election in 2019 and did not stop the war. Second stage of the war in Ukraine On 21 March 2021, Zelenski blatantly violated the Minsk 2 agreement and international law by ordering the Ukrainian Army to liberate the territories of the two republics and Crimea. The bulk of the Ukrainian Army was then relocated to their vicinity, clearly visible by Russian satellites. Instead of peaceful resolution of the conflict, Zelenski, no doubt with the USA’s full approval, thus decided on full-scale military suppression of the Donbas autonomists and on reconquering Crimea, well aware that it would provoke a strong reaction from Russia. On 16 February 2022, upon his order the Ukrainian Army initiated the second and much more violent stage of the war. From that date on, the intensity of Ukrainian shelling started to grow from several tens to 1,500 explosions daily. Combined with movements of Ukrainian troops, this strongly indicated that a massive attack was coming as part of implementation of the March 2021 order. It was very similar to the Georgian offensive against the self-proclaimed Republic of Southern Ossetia on 7 August 2008. This escalation was no doubt coordinated with US President Joe Biden, who publicly predicted that Russia would invade on 16 February 2022. Ukraine’s stepping up the level of violence successfully provoked a predictable Russian response. On the political and legal levels, this entailed the Russian Federation’s recognition of the two republics as independent states, signing two agreements on friendship, cooperation and mutual assistance, accepting their pleas for assistance and protection in line with Art. 51 of the UN Charter and invoking the Responsibility for Protect. In the latter the Russian Federation used a very similar justification as did NATO in 1999 for its aggression against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. On the military level, Putin was faced with the real prospect of Ukraine quashing the two client Russian-speaking parastates. This would have submitted their discriminated Russian and Russian-speaking majority population to retribution by the Ukrainian ultranationalist and assimilationist regime, causing it to flee en masse across the border. He later explained that moral duty is higher than legality. Putin could not, also for domestic reasons, afford a humiliating political defeat similar to that suffered by Slobodan Milosevic in Croatia in August 1995. Unlike in August 2008 in Georgia, he did not wait for an all-out Ukrainian attack. Putin knew full well that stronger Western sanctions than those currently in place would follow, even if Russia’s response to the Ukrainian offensive were only moderate. Probably on the basis of a faulty assessment of both Ukraine’s capacity and determination to resist and the West’s response, he precipitously and knowingly in violation of international law ordered a ‘special military operation’ with an invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, by a limited contingent of Russian land forces. This move was combined with extensive destruction of the Ukrainian air force, the air defense system, and other military infrastructure. Ignoring an axiom of military science, an invading force of some 90,000 Russian land troops was sent against the Ukrainian Army thrice superior in numbers. It was also grossly insufficient and unprepared to accomplish the officially declared task of “demilitarizing” and “denazifying” entire Ukraine. In spite of its shortcomings, this force managed to swiftly occupy additional 15% or so of Ukrainian territory (some as a diversion and only temporarily) and effectively protected the two republics. It additionally established and secured a land bridge between Crimea and Donbas, made the Azov Sea part of Russia’s internal waters, took control of the largest European nuclear power station at Zaporizhie, and deprived Ukraine of its stocks of plutonium and uranium. These stocks would have been sufficient to make Ukraine the world’s fourth-strongest nuclear power. The latter was an effective response to Zelenski’s earlier declaration that Ukraine was intending to again acquire nuclear weapons. Preventing this dangerous prospect certainly served as an additional and important incentive for Putin’s decision. For USA, the by far most frequent transgressor of international law, provoking Russia into an act of aggression fitted nicely with the their strategic goal. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine provided a perfect occasion for demonizing and isolating it internationally and for uniting the West under USA’s guidance on imposing on Russia an unprecedented array of drastic economic and other sanctions. These punitive measures were expected to quickly ruin the Russian economy, hopefully bring down Vladimir Putin’s regime, defeat Russia militarily without losing American lives, and cause the fragmentation of Russia into several states (as elaborated earlier publicly by Zbigniew Brzezinski and the RAND Corporation). However, these hopes have not materialized. Moreover, the effects of the Western sanctions proved to be more harmful to the EU economies than to Russia while in no way helping Ukraine. The two wars compared Still officially undeclared by both direct belligerents, the war in Ukraine is already twice as long as the war in Croatia, and is still ongoing. There are also other important differences caused by the mismatch between Croatia and Ukraine in the size of their population and territory (approximately 1:10), and by the different configuration and extent of the theatres of war. Further, there are differences in the size and structure of the armed forces involved, in the disparities between Serbia’s and Russia’s military capabilities compared to the respective capabilities of Croatia and Ukraine. The war in Ukraine in its second stage is also unlike the war in Croatia due to the massive use of particular weapons systems (notably drones and missiles). Vast differences also exist in the direct involvement of international organizations and other external actors in the two wars. In the autumn of 1991, the European Economic Community (EEC) sent Croatia its first mission of white-clad and unarmed observers who as impartial intermediaries tried unsuccessfully to stop the armed clashes between the Croatian police and Serbian insurgents. The United Nations established UNPROFOR (UN Protection Force) in February 1992, operating from Zagreb. It was followed by UNCRO (UN Confidence Restoration Operation in Croatia) in 1995–1998, UNTAES (UN Transitional Administration in Eastern Croatia) in 1996–1998, and UNMOP (UN Mission of Observers in Prevlaka) in 1996–1997. For several years, the UN-supported International Conference on Former Yugoslavia was active operating from Geneva. In comparison, there have been no UN or EU peacekeeping or observer missions in Ukraine. The UN General assembly has adopted a number of resolutions related to the war in Ukraine. In several resolutions it deplored and condemned Russia’s invasion with huge majorities for and only five votes against. The OSCE had no observer missions in Croatia, but deployed two such missions in Ukraine, notably the sizeable OSCE Special Monitoring Mission from 2015 until March 2022. In addition, the OSCE played an active role in facilitating the Minsk 1 and Minsk 2 ceasefire agreements. Extra-regional states were not openly involved in the war in Croatia. In 1991–1992, the Croatian forces included 456 foreign fighters (British, French, German et.al.), accompanied by about 2,000 private American military instructors. On the other hand, Ukraine has received huge support from several dozen foreign states, in particular the USA, as well as other NATO and EU members in the form of heavy arms, ammunition, training, intelligence, economic and humanitarian assistance. According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, since 2022, 13.387 foreign fighters, mercenaries and volunteers joined the Ukrainian Army of whom 5.962 lost their lives. Polish citizens have been most numerous in both categories – 2.960 enlisted and 1.497 dead. They are followed by Americans and others. This strong external involvement transformed the local war into an extra-regional armed conflict between Russia and the US-led collective West, with Ukraine acting and sacrificing its soldiers and itself as the West’s proxy. The war in Croatia and its outcome were closely linked with the war in neighboring Bosnia and Herzegovina, while there has been no similar regional linkage of the war in Ukraine. The war in Ukraine has also had by far a bigger international political and economic impact on other countries, not only in Europe, than the war in Croatia. Most importantly, there are enormous differences between the two wars in the number of dead (at least 1:25), number of refugees and displaced persons (approximately 1:25), and extent of destruction and amount of economic damage (at least 1:20). The war has inflicted considerably greater damage on Ukraine as a state and on Ukrainian society than the war did on Croatia. Since 2014, the population under Kyiv’s control has so far been reduced by at least one-third and the territory by close to one-fifth. It is estimated that the Ukrainian Army, National Guard and volunteers have suffered well over 400,000 deaths. Ukraine has also lost a good deal of its industrial capacity, agriculture, energy generation and critical infrastructure. The war’s continuation suits the USA’s geostrategic, chiefly anti-Russian objectives, whereas Ukraine is paying a horrible price for them. The dragging on war of attrition is sapping Ukraine’s ability to sustain itself, at least in its already rump shape. It increases the probability of Ukraine becoming (again) a landlocked country on less than a half of its territory internationally recognized since 1992. The first stage of the war in Ukraine and the war in Croatia revealed substantial similarities as far as their causes and destructive consequences were concerned. On the other hand the second stage of the war in Ukraine strongly differs by being predominantly an interstate war and the first interstate armed conflict in Europe caused by NATO enlargement. As a result, the war in Ukraine is sharply distinguished by its magnitude, destructive outcomes, violations of international humanitarian law, international impact, and the involvement of great powers. At the beginning of the second stage of the war in Ukraine, the Russian Army pre-empted the anticipated Ukrainian version of an offensive akin to the Croatian operations “Flash” and “Storm”. It not only prevented the possibility of Volodimir Zelenski’s triumphant entrance in Donetsk like Franjo Tudjman’s entrance in Knin. The Russian Federation also annexed four Ukrainian provinces with Russian and Russian-speaking majorities in their populations and the Russian Army occupied a good share of them. In 2014 and 2022, Moscow thus took back a considerable part of former Novorossiya given to Soviet Ukraine in 1920 and 1954. Unlike in Croatia, but like in Kosovo (1999) the war in Ukraine has extended the list of the more than three dozen new or de facto changed borders between European states since 1945. Responsibility for the war in Ukraine In a speech given at the UN General Assembly, US President Joe Biden ascribed Russia with full responsibility for the war in Ukraine. Yet, in fact, a number of states are directly responsible or co-responsible for its outbreak and continuation, including notably USA. First, the war was initiated by the Ukrainian Army in April 2014 according to orders of the Ukrainian interim Presidency. Under two subsequent Presidents Poroshenko and Zelenski, Ukraine violated two armistice agreements and sabotaged realization of the Minsk 2 agreement on peaceful resolution of the Donbas conflict. President Zelenski failed to fulfil his pre-election pledge to end the war, a pledge that had seen him win the election in 2019. On 21 March 2021, he ordered the Ukrainian Army to attack Donbas and Crimea in direct violation of both the Minsk 2 agreement and of international law. The Ukrainian leadership’s orders to steeply increase the artillery shelling of Donetsk from February 16, 2022 on, together with the movement of troops provoked an invasion by the Russian army. This led to the armed conflict transforming from an internal to largely an interstate war. In April 2022, President Zelenski reneged on an initialed agreement with the Russian Federation on resolving the conflict, as forged with assistance from the leaders of Israel and Turkey as intermediaries. Ukraine is responsible for the casualties and damage caused by its forces in Ukraine and in the Russian Federation. On the other hand, the Russian Federation has grossly violated the UN Charter, the Helsinki principles, and a dozen international treaties and agreements by which it guaranteed Ukraine’s security and sovereignty within its internationally recognized borders. In February 2014, it committed an act of aggression by occupying and annexing Crimea. On 24 February 2022, it committed a second act of aggression by invading, occupying and annexing four Ukrainian provinces. The Russian Federation is responsible for the casualties and huge damage the Russian armed forces have caused on Ukrainian territory. The leading NATO members are co-responsible for the outbreak and continuation of the interstate conflict and war in and over Ukraine. This primarily applies to the USA, which knowingly unleashed a chain reaction in the conflictual relations between NATO and Russia. The USA used NATO to embroil EU in this conflict, even though that contradicts the objective economic and other interests of many EU members, notably Germany. This chain reaction led to the political conflict deteriorating into a war in which the USA is using Ukraine as a tool to harm and weaken Russia. Germany and France with their swindling signatures under the Minsk 2 agreement and with subsequent policies for 7 years allowed Ukraine’s sabotaging of peaceful solution of the Donbas conflict. As leaders in the European Union’s collective foreign policy, they encouraged and supported Ukraine’s active preparations for a war with Russia. The Western powers became co-responsible for the transformation from a relatively limited internal war in Ukraine into a wider, much more lethal, bloody and destructive, predominantly interstate war. In April 2022, the USA and Great Britain prevented the conclusion of an initialed Russian-Ukrainian agreement on resolving the conflict. The members of NATO and EU by politically encouraging and by providing arms and funds to Ukraine have been enabling the continuation of this war. Without this intrusion, the war in Ukraine would already be over and very probably on better terms for Ukraine than there will actually be. The NATO and EU members will certainly fail to achieve their main declared goal – Ukraine’s victory and hence Russia’s military and political defeat. This applies chiefly to the leader of the West. After that in Afghanistan, the USA will suffer one more political defeat. On the other hand, the USA has this time been rather successful in realizing several related goals. The USA has solidified its hegemony in the Western camp and in most of Europe, reactivated NATO, attracted two new members Finland and Sweden, bolstered its dominant role in the alliance, subordinated even further and simultaneously economically and politically weakened the European Union, for quite some time poisoned Germany’s and the EU’s relations with Russia, and inflicted very considerable economic and political damage on Russia. Conclusion Ukraine is today much farther away from accomplishing its cardinal strategic goal – to re-establish its sovereignty on the entire internationally recognized territory – than it was in February 2022, let alone in February 2014. Moreover, another goal remains unattained. It was stated in Zelenski’s decree as a condition for lifting the prohibition on any negotiations with the Russian Federation – to remove Putin from the position of President. However, with his mandate expired in May 2024 Zelenski himself will certainly be out of his presidential office much sooner than Putin will be from his. On the other hand, the Russian Federation has achieved some of its strategic goals, albeit not the two declared principal ones – Ukraine’s permanent “neutralization” and “demilitarization”. Due to the two sides’ mutually excluding objectives, the final outcome of the war in Ukraine will not be decided around a diplomatic table as a compromise. Like what happened in Croatia in August 1995 and very recently in September 2023 with the fate of Nagorno-Karabakh, it will be decided on the battlefield. Still, the outcome will be very different from both cases mentioned above and certainly will not be viewed as just by both belligerents. Just like how almost all wars end. SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY Baud, Jacques (2023): Ukraine entre Guerre et Paix. Paris, Max Milo. Bebler, Anton (ed.). (2015): ‘Frozen conflicts’ in Europe. Opladen, Barbara Budrich. Brzezinski, Zbigniew (1997): Geostrategy for Eurasia. Foreign Affairs 76 (5): 56–68. Goldstein, Ivo (2008): Hrvaška zgodovina. Ljubljana, Društvo Slovenska Matica. Larrabee, F. Stephen, Peter A. Wilson and John Gordon (2015): The Ukrainian Crisis and European Security. Santa Monica, RAND Corporation. Maver, Aleš (2023): Ukrajina: Od Igre Prestolov do Vojne za Samostojnost. Celje, Celjska Mohorjeva Družba. Pleiner, H. (2023): Der Konflict um die Ukraine. ÖMZ 5: 571–583. Wien. Plokhy, Serhii (2022): Vrata Evrope: zgodovina Ukrajine. Ljubljana, UMCO.

Energy & Economics
Chinese Yuan on the map of South America. Trade between China and Latin American countries, economy and investment

Ahead of the curve: Why the EU and US risk falling behind China in Latin America

by Ángel Melguizo , Margaret Myers

한국어로 읽기 Leer en español In Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français Читать на русском As Beijing’s investment approach to Latin America focuses on industries of strategic importance, the EU and US will need to contend with growing Chinese competition China is pouring less foreign direct investment (FDI) into Latin America. But while this may seem like a sign of Beijing’s disinterest in the region, data suggests that Chinese companies are simply recalibrating, not retreating. In doing so, they are becoming important players in sectors key to Western interests: critical minerals, fintech, electric vehicles, and green energy. While the European Union and the United States have long been top investors in Latin America, increased competition with Chinese investment now jeopardises their interests in the Latin American industries that will become most crucial to the digital and green transitions. The number of Chinese projects in Latin America grew by 33 per cent from 2018-2023, compared with the previous five-year period of 2013-2017, even as the total value declined. In other words, Chinese companies are making more investments in the region but are pursuing smaller-scale projects on average. These investments are also more focused on what China calls “new infrastructure“ (新基建), a term which encompasses telecommunications, fintech, renewable energy, and other innovation-related industries. In 2022, 60 per cent of China’s investments were in these frontier sectors, a key economic priority for the country. Beijing also views smaller projects in these industries as incurring less operational and reputational risk, especially compared to some of the large-scale infrastructure investment projects often associated with the Belt and Road initiative. Like China, the investment priorities of the G7 grouping – particularly the US and the EU – are centring on critical minerals, fintech, electric vehicles, and green energy as they aim to grow and reinforce existing economic and political partnerships in Latin America. However, both the US and the EU risk falling short of China’s investment strategy in the region. The US has signalled want for greater economic engagement with the region, especially in sectors of strategic interest. However, to date, US efforts to compete with China remain largely focused on building US domestic capacity in these strategic sectors, even as some US companies, such as Intel, are increasingly focused on including regional partners in their supply chains. Some see opportunity for Latin America in Joe Biden’s landmark legislation, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which is aimed at incentivising the energy transition while also de-risking critical supply chains. For example, certain countries in the region may benefit from preferential market access for their lithium or other key inputs to new energy and technology supply chains. However, the reach of the IRA – which remains a largely domestic policy – does not stretch as far as China’s current investment reshuffle. The Americas Act, announced by members of Congress in March could generate promising new investment opportunities for the region, as it encourages US companies and others to move their operations out of China, to which Latin America stands as a promising replacement. But Americas Act reshoring would primarily incentivise textiles and potentially medical equipment manufacturing, with less overall focus on the range of “new infrastructure” industries that China is prioritising. Chinese interests in information and communication technologies reveal a similar story. While the US has focused its policy on 5G equipment sales, China is undertaking a process of vertical integration in Latin American tech sectors that will dramatically boost its competitiveness. For instance, Chinese company Huawei is rapidly expanding its focus to include data centres, cloud computing, cybersecurity, and other services, especially in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru. (Computing accounted for a sizable 41 per cent of total Chinese information technology investment in the region between 2018 and the first half of 2023.) At the same time, Global Gateway, the EU’s proposal for a global investment initiative is yet to reach its potential in the region. Brussels is looking to be Latin America’s partner of choice by building local capacity for making batteries and final products like electric vehicles, as European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen noted last year. Yet even as the EU signals renewed commitment, China is becoming increasingly dominant in the electric vehicle market in Latin America and other regions. China surpassed the US in electric vehicle sales in 2023, with Chinese companies accounting for 45 per cent of total global sales and three times that of Germany’s. What is more, China has invested $11 billion in lithium extraction in the region since 2018, as part of a bid to control a third of global lithium-mine production capacity. Meanwhile the EU has secured some access to lithium as part of trade deals with Chile, alongside other nations, but this pales in comparison to what will be required to fuel the future of EU battery production. Latin America as a whole accounts for an estimated 60 per cent of the world’s lithium reserves. Based on its current levels of engagement in the region, the EU risks falling short of lithium, stalling its battery production and subsequently, its electric vehicle sales, just as China advances in this field. The window is closing for the EU, the US, and other partners looking to both maintain market share and compete with China in these Latin American industries, despite still-high rates of US and EU investment in and trade with the region. Indeed, US automakers increasingly see Chinese competition across the globe as an “extinction-level event.” Ensuring competitiveness in “new infrastructure” and related sectors will require a continuous commitment by partners to building and supporting project pipelines, and to delivering products and services at price points that can compete with China’s subsidised offerings. Both the EU and the US remain critical economic partners for Latin America and are contributing in ways that China is not. Still, complacency risks allowing China to take the lead in emerging industries in the region, some of which weigh heavily in the EU’s green and digital transformation. To protect their own future industries, the EU and the US need to first take a longer look at Latin America’s – especially as China vies for a dominant position.

Diplomacy
Taiwan, EU and China Flag

The post-election Taiwanese economy: decisions ahead and takeaways for the European Union

by Alicia García-Herrero

The EU should try to attract more business from Taiwan, though Taiwan’s January 2024 election hasn’t made the job easier Taiwan’s economy has transformed since 2016 under the leadership of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). In particular, the Taiwanese economy has diversified away from mainland China, while reliance on semiconductors is now even more acute than eight years ago. In elections in January, the DPP won the presidency for a third term but lost overall control of Taiwan’s parliament, the Legislative Yuan. In contrast to the previous two terms, the DPP therefore needs to agree policy, including economic policy, with other parties. this could signal a softer approach in relation to the continuation of diversification away from the mainland. Ongoing diversification Mainland China remains Taiwan’s biggest export and investment destination, despite the share of Taiwan’s exports that go to China reducing from 40 percent on average between 2016 and 2019 to 35 percent in 2023 (Figure 1). This has happened even though Taiwan signed a free trade agreement with mainland China in 2010 – the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) – which at the time led to an increase in Taiwanese exports to the mainland. The COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 also triggered a sharp increase as the rest of the world entered a deep recession, but the trend has not lasted. Since 2021, the share of Taiwanese exports going to the mainland has dropped significantly, influenced by US export controls on high-end semiconductors, with a clear knock-on effect on Taiwanese exporters.   Taiwanese FDI into mainland China has also shrunk rapidly, from 65 percent of total Taiwanese FDI on average from 2008-2016 to 34 percent on average from 2017-2023 (Figure 2). The difference between these periods is that in the former, Taiwan was governed by the Kuomintang (KMT, Chinese Nationalist Party), which favours closer relations with the mainland, while in the latter period the DPP was in charge. There are both geopolitical and economic reasons for mainland China’s falling share of Taiwanese FDI. First, the ECFA trade and investment agreement, reached under the first term of KMT President Ma Ying-jeou, was not extended when a new round of negotiations started in 2012, to include technological cooperation, finance and people-to-people exchanges. A broader economic agreement between Taiwan and the mainland, mostly focusing on services – the Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement (CSSTA) – fell victim to lack of consensus among Taiwan’s main political parties, increased tensions in the Taiwan Straits and student protests in Taiwan (the so-called Sunflower movement) in 2014.1 Second, with the DPP victory in 2016, the new Southbound Policy 2 was launched, offering incentives for Taiwanese companies investing in 18 Asian countries, including ASEAN 3, India and other South Asian and Australasian nations. In addition, rising labour costs in mainland China, the ongoing trade war between the US and China, an increased regulatory burden in the mainland and political tensions between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait also pushed Taiwanese businesses to look elsewhere to invest. -    The new political reality and geographical diversification While the election-winning DPP wants to see further diversification away from the mainland, the more pro-China party, the KMT, wants reinforced economic relations with China.4 Because of the now-hung parliament, the DPP will need to take some of the KMT’s wishes into account it wants pass new rules, including those related to geographical diversification. Beyond the two parties’ preferences, two other important issues also need to be factored in. First, geographical diversification requires open markets but Taiwan is increasingly unable to open any market through trade or investment deals. Taiwan has spent the last eight years negotiating bilateral deals with its closest allies, Japan and the US, but the DPP administration has not even been able to complete these. Incoming President Lai has said that Taiwan should continue to push to be part of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), to which it applied in September 2021, but the reality is that Taiwan’s application has little hope of success. China officially applied to be a member of the CPTTP only a couple of days before Taiwan. Since then, the United Kingdom has become a member of CPTTP, but the negotiation processes with Taiwan and mainland China have not started. Australian’s prime minister, Anthony Albanese, has expressed severe doubts about Taiwan’s ability to become member of CPTTP because of lack of international recognition of it as a nation-state.5 Second, while the DPP is likely to continue to offer more fiscal incentives to promote diversification in Southeast Asia and India (under the Southbound Policy), the fastest-growing destination for both exports and foreign direct investment from Taiwan is the United States, followed by Japan. This can be explained by the ongoing artificial intelligence revolution, which needs semiconductors, and the decisions of some key Taiwanese chip companies (especially TSCM) to open factories overseas for chip production, with the US and Japan as the most important destinations. In other words, the DPP’s push for geographical diversification might not be the main reason why diversification has happened; rather, it has been driven by market forces and business opportunities. This also means that the KMT push to maintain – if not deepen – economic ties with mainland China might not succeed unless China’s currently underwhelming economic performance turns around. Implications for the European Union So far, the EU has benefitted little from Taiwan’s trade and investment diversification, at least when compared to the US and the rest of Asia. The EU’s export share into Taiwan has remained practically stagnant (while the US has doubled its share), notwithstanding a large increase in exports from the Netherlands for a single item – ASML’s lithography machines for chip production. The EU lacks a trade or investment deal with Taiwan, but so do some of Taiwan’s other trading partners, including the US. Considering that the EU is the largest foreign direct investor in Taiwan, the question arises of whether the EU should do more to foster more bilateral economic relations. The gains could be substantial, especially from inbound FDI as Taiwanese investment focuses on high-end manufacturing. There has been some movement. A €5 billion investment in France by a Taiwanese company (ProLogium) was announced in May 2023 to build a battery factory 6 . TSMC announced in August 2023 a €4.5 billion investment in a semiconductor factory in Germany 7 . But for the EU to catch up with Japan and the US as a recipient of outbound FDI from Taiwan, the result of Taiwan’s elections could be an obstacle. This is because the DPP will have less control of the economic agenda because it does not control the Legislative Yuan. The close-to-impossible negotiation of a trade and investment deal between the EU and Taiwan – as shown by Taiwan’s difficulties in relation to Japan, the US and the CPTTP – does not point to any improvement in the institutional framework for economic relations to improve. The question, then, is what can the EU offer to attract high-end foreign direct investment from Taiwan? Subsidies to attract semiconductor factories cannot be the only answer, given the very large amounts needed and the pressure such subsidies put on EU member states’ already stretched finances (Legarda and Vasselier, 2023). Working with business associations and chambers should be a key driving force to improve business relations between Taiwan and the EU, especially considering that the EU is the largest foreign foreign direct investor in Taiwan, while Taiwanese companies have been absent from the EU single market until recently. Overall, the US and the rest of Asia have been the main winners from Taiwan’s rapid diversification of its economy away from mainland China. The EU, which is lagging, should work to enhance its economic exchanges with Taiwan. Hopefully the January 2024 election results will facilitate this. Most importantly, the EU should aim to attract more high-tech FDI from Taiwan. Unfortunately, a better institutional framework through a trade/investment deal seems highly unlikely, for geopolitical reasons. This puts all the burden on chambers of commerce and other forums to improve business relations. References 1- The Sunflower Movement was a student-led protest that occuped Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan to put pressure on the KMT government against signing a second cooperation deal with mainland China. See Ho (2018). 2- See the New Southbound Policy portal at https://nspp.mofa.gov.tw/nsppe/. 3- Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. 4- Alicia García-Herrero, ‘Taiwan’s future economic direction hinges on the election outcome’, First glance, 12 January 2024, Bruegel https://www.bruegel.org/first-glance/taiwans-future-economic-direction-… 5- Claudia Long and Stephen Dziedzic, ‘Albanese says Australia is unlikely to support Taiwan 6- France24, ‘Taiwanese battery maker Prologium to invest €5 billion in French factory’, 12 May 2023, https://www.france24.com/en/europe/20230512-taiwanese-battery-maker-pro…. 7- DW, ‘Taiwan’s TSMC to build semiconductor factory in Germany’, 8 August 2023, https://www.dw.com/en/taiwans-tsmc-to-build-semiconductor-factory-in-ge…. Ho, M.-S. (2018) ‘The Activist Legacy of Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement’, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2 August, available at https://carnegieendowment.org/2018/08/02/activist-legacy-of-taiwan-s-sunflower-movement-pub-76966 Legarda, H. and A. Vasselier (2023) ‘Navigating Taiwan relations in 2024: Practical considerations for European policy makers’, China Horizons, 21 December, available at https://chinahorizons.eu/our-research/policy-briefs/278-navigating-taiwan-relations-in-2024-practical-considerations-for-european-policy-makers

Energy & Economics
EURO vs. Yuan. European and Chinese flags

Overcoming an EU-China trade and trust deficit

by Shairee Malhotra

Beijing seeks normalisation of ties with Europe; however, for Brussels, reconciliation will be conditional on Beijing’s willingness to address fundamental divergences On 7-8 December, European Commission President von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel will be in Beijing for the 24th European Union (EU)-China summit, but the first in-person one in four years, taking place at a critical juncture in EU-China ties. At the previous EU-China virtual summit in April 2022, the Ukraine conflict was the primary talking point for the Europeans and other issues such as climate and economics were relegated to the back burner. This time, the focus is likely to be economics. A relatively constructive meeting between United States (US) President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping on 15 November, which led to the resumption of US-China high-level military dialogue and Xi’s assurances on Taiwan, has contributed to paving the way for the EU to focus on ironing out economic irritants. Deficits, dependencies and de-risking With daily EU-China trade amounting to 2.2 billion euros, the EU is concerned about its widening goods trade deficit with China—400 billion euros in 2022—referred to by EU Ambassador to China, Jorge Toledo, as the “highest in the history of mankind”. In the context of China’s restrictive environment for foreign companies, the EU is keen for a level playing field and greater reciprocity in trade. Another major area of contention is Chinese overcapacity through subsidies in key industrial export sectors such as electric vehicles (EVs) that are undermining European automotive industries. The European Commission has already launched a probe for the EVs sector and is now considering other major sectors including wind energy and medical devices. In addition, Europe is heavily dependent on critical raw materials such as lithium and gallium from China, which are intrinsic to its green transition. While over 90 percent of the EU’s supply of raw materials comes from China, the EU aims to address this dependency through its Critical Raw Materials Act. Factors such as Chinese aggression in the South China Sea, human rights violations in Xinjiang, and pandemic-era supply chain disruptions have deteriorated European perceptions of China. The downswing in EU-China ties was further accentuated by Beijing’s posture in the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the failure of European leaders to coax China to positively use its influence with the EU’s most immediate security threat, Moscow. Thus, a major trust deficit has accompanied the trade deficit. On 6 November, only a month before the summit, von der Leyen in her speech warned against “China’s changing global posture” with its “strong push to make China less dependent on the world and the world more dependent on China”. While acknowledging China as Europe’s most important trading partner, she emphasised the “explicit element of rivalry” in the relationship. Another dialogue of the deaf? The EU and its member states are recalibrating their China policies, with countries such as Germany even releasing China-specific documents outlining their approach. The EU’s “de-risking” strategy aims to reduce dependencies in critical sectors, and through an expansion of its policy toolbox, the Union is implementing a range of measures including greater scrutiny of inbound-outbound foreign investments, anti-coercion instruments, and export controls for dual-purpose technologies. In this context of an evolving European approach, the upcoming summit is a much-anticipated one for EU-China watchers. Despite the strain in relations, high-level diplomatic exchanges have continued in full swing, many of which, such as von der Leyen’s visit to China in April, EU Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis’s visit in September, and EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell’s visit in October were conducted in preparation for this summit. A sluggish Chinese economy gives Europe room to wield its economic leverage. However, grey areas in Europe’s China policy remain, especially with regard to the implementation of measures and the need for more effective coordination, often compromised by a lack of unity amongst member states and tendencies of leaders such as French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to prioritise business interests over all else. Thus, straddling the fine balance between economic opportunities and security risks will continue to be a test for how Europe manages its interdependence with the lucrative Chinese market. Previous EU-China summits have not produced a joint statement, and according to sources, this summit is unlikely to produce one as well. Yet it is an opportunity for the EU to put forward unresolved concerns and forge some common ground. Without concrete deliverables, the upcoming summit risks being another “dialogue of the deaf” as Borrell famously described the previous one. Amidst renewed transatlantic solidarity, Beijing’s rhetoric indicates that it seeks normalisation of ties with Europe and a more independent European policy towards China away from Washington’s influence. Yet for Brussels, reconciliation will be conditional on Beijing’s willingness to address fundamental divergences.

Diplomacy
President of Croatia Zoran Milanović giving speech

Address by the President of the Republic Zoran Milanović at the 78th Session of the United Nations General Assembly

by Zoran Milanović

Mr. Vice President, Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen, It is my particular honour to address this august body. I would like to use this opportunity to congratulate you on being elected to your esteemed position and I wish you much success in your work during these challenging times. The world we live in today requires joint, global and concerted efforts as a key to success in addressing serious global crises. We strongly believe that we have to strengthen the multilateral system based on international law, and make sure it is effective and fair, able to endure and deliver results that will serve to achieve our common goals, commitments and a better future for the people and planet. We need to safeguard the role of the United Nations as the centre of global cooperation. We are also hopeful that genuine efforts will be invested in the reform of the Security Council, our main instrument for securing global peace and security. In 2015, we adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development also on the basis of the consensus that to transform our world we need to realize that „sustainable development cannot be realized without peace and security; and the peace and security will be at risk without sustainable development.“ In 2023, at the mid-point in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, the assessments of the Global Sustainable Development Progress Report show that the efforts to achieve that synergy so far have proved insufficient. Time to reinvigorate our political commitments to the full and efficient implementation of the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals is irreversibly running out. In the meantime, the necessary boost came with the UN Secretary-General`s vision offered in “Our Common Agenda” as an overarching roadmap in fighting the multiple crises. The Preparatory process for the next year’s Summit of the Future, along with its outcome the Pact for the Future, represents a unique opportunity to strengthen national and international governance and to make it more sustainable and resilient to future crises and shocks, safeguarding the planet for future generations. The international financial system is increasingly unable to adequately and efficiently respond to the challenges at hand. More needs to be done to update and upgrade the global financial infrastructure so it becomes more adapted to the needs of the world. Most notably, we need to scale up development and climate finance. In this sense, we support the efforts by the international financial institutions to review their structures and operating processes, with a view to reform in order to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Peace is not maintained by itself. Investment in conflict prevention is far more cost effective than investing in conflict resolution and recovery after the fact, post factum. This is why prevention of conflict and sustaining peace should be at the centre of the framework of the New Agenda for Peace, intertwined with a renewed commitment to multilateralism, global solidarity and trust. Croatia, as Chair of the UN Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) for 2023, strongly advocates its strengthening and enlarging of both its geographical and thematic scope. We support the Secretary General’s call for the universality of conflict prevention and sustaining peace, and the development of national conflict prevention strategies. The PBC could review these strategies, helping to mobilize resources for their implementation when needed. The PBC should also work more closely with international financial institutions and regional actors, forming the Sustainable Peace Network. In addition to its advisory powers, the PBC could also be vested with decision-making powers, enabling it to establish UN civilian missions upon the request of countries concerned, helping to address the root causes of instability. In this regard, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals can be an excellent prevention tool by bringing prosperity and inclusion while leaving a safer place for future generations. According to the Sustainable Development Report 2023, Croatia’s performance in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals was assessed among top ranks. However, a lot of work is still in front of us. Croatia has a large natural heritage that it wants to preserve for future generations through the implementation of the SDGs. While accepting the clean energy transition, Croatia is taking a number of measures to alleviate the transition shock in the rejection of fossil fuels, and to ensure a fair transition and prevent energy poverty. With regard to biodiversity, Croatia is committed to work jointly for the development and full implementation of an ambitious and transformational Kunming-Montreal global biodiversity framework. Furthermore, we firmly believe that protecting, restoring and sustainably using biodiversity is essential for pandemic prevention and promotion of the “One Health Approach” which needs to be included in future prevention plans. We are also committed to working together to intensify cooperation in protecting the marine environment and combatting plastic pollution. If we want healthy oceans and seas, our ambition needs to be high and ocean protection stepped up significantly. Croatia welcomes the landmark adoption of the “Treaty of the High Seas” on ocean biodiversity (BBNJ). The successful negotiation of the BBNJ Agreement is the most recent proof of devoted multilateral work and presents not only a milestone in conserving marine biodiversity of nearly two-thirds of the world’s oceans, but also a triumph for multilateralism. Today, Croatia proudly joined the first tier of countries that have signed the Treaty, and commits to ratify it as soon as possible. We call on other countries to do so as well to enable its swift entering into force and to start its effective implementation. As a member State of the EU Croatia has already committed itself politically and legally to contribute in making Europe the first climate neutral continent by 2050. By further pursuing that course and by accelerating development of renewables and increasing green investments, we believe we can turn the current crisis into a new chance for our economies. Here I will mention as an example one such project that can boost new growth of the European economy based on decarbonisation and clean industry. It is the project “North Adriatic Hydrogen Valley,” which encompasses the Italian region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Slovenia and Croatia. By putting clean energy transition in the heart of the fight against climate change on the global level, we should not forget that the most vulnerable communities, which have historically contributed the least to climate change, are often the ones most and the worst affected – both by the climate conditions and by the costs of the green energy transition as a remedy. The establishment of a Loss and Damage Fund to help vulnerable countries cope with the destructive impacts of climate change at COP27 marked a historic breakthrough in this respect. How we go about this issue at the Climate Ambition Summit and COP28 will be a true test of trust and solidarity among nations and will impact current and future generations. Creating a world of peace and security that respects human rights and promotes social progress is the very foundation of the United Nations. The amount of human rights violations and humanitarian crises around the world demonstrates that more must be done in terms of atrocity prevention and the operationalization of the responsibility to protect. Croatia is honoured to contribute to this cause by serving as co-chair of the Group of Friends of R2P in New York along with Costa Rica and Botswana. The Croatian Government remains committed to determining the fate of 1806 persons that went missing during our Homeland War in the 90s. Based on such a tragic national experience, we continue to render our unwavering support to all efforts to provide answers to those still suffering the anguish of uncertainty, anywhere in the world. We remain committed to combating hate speech, advancing the rights of women and children, protecting minorities, and the abolition of the death penalty. Gender equality is a foundation of a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world. In that vein, we highlight the importance of education and equal opportunities for girls and boys. We will continue advocating against discrimination and hate speech, including antisemitism. Croatia continues to attach utmost importance to its immediate neighbourhood in Southeast Europe. Issues of the past and war legacy, like resolving remaining cases of missing persons and engaging in meaningful cooperation in handling war crimes without discrimination and in line with international standards, access to archives, as well as other unresolved and highly sensitive issues must be fully tackled. We actively support the European perspective of our close neighbour Bosnia and Herzegovina and have warmly welcomed the recent EU decision on the granting to B-H the status of EU candidate country. We continue to advocate electoral reforms that would ensure legitimate representation of all constituent peoples, in particular Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs, at all levels of the Government, which is in our view essential for the future stability and prosperity of the country. We are very concerned about the latest developments in Kosovo–Serbia relations and would like to encourage measures for the de-escalation of tensions. Similarly, these two countries need to focus on the normalization of relations and deliver on their commitments and start implementing what was agreed on this year in Brussels and Ohrid. We continue to advocate universal recognition of the Republic of Kosovo and its right to existence as an equal member of the community of nations. It is in our interest to promote stability and further development of this region, as well as the process of European integration, which we believe remains crucial for the future prosperity of our neighbours, and which we are hopeful will be accelerated in the coming years. Thank you.

Defense & Security
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, Russia's President Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko answered media questions

by Vladimir Putin

Following the Russian-Belarusian talks, the two leaders answered questions from the media. Question: Mr Putin, a couple of questions? President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Please, go ahead. Question: Your comment and the one by the Vice-President of Laos [Pany Yathotou], which you made at the EEF plenary session, on the use of cluster munitions, is being widely discussed. The United States is now supplying such munitions to Ukraine. What is the latest information on the use of these weapons in the special military operation zone? Vladimir Putin: They are being used in the broadest possible way. But I have already commented on this, I have nothing to add. The only thing worth mentioning, perhaps, is that this situation, like a drop of water, reflects what is happening in the world as a whole. What I mean by that is that there is one country that thinks it is exceptional, and that country is the United States. That country even thinks it is allowed to do what it considers a crime – it is the United States that uses cluster munitions, using the Ukrainian army in this case. I mean the country considers this a crime, but does it nonetheless, and this is the main problem of today's international relations. This is the reason why the overwhelming majority of participants in international communication have joined us in fighting to create a multipolar world, since no one sees this situation as acceptable. I said almost because even those countries that appear to be allies of the United States, I can assure you, they do not like this situation either, where they are reduced to the role of extras. So yes, unfortunately, they are using them, they call it a crime and are still doing it. Question: If I may, one more question. A broad discussion arose – again at the Eastern Economic Forum – over the possibility of peace talks between Russia and Ukraine and [US Secretary of State Antony] Blinken’s statement that “it takes two to tango” about Russia and Ukraine. How do you assess the prospects for talks? Vladimir Putin: As for the Americans, they do not even know how to tango, they have a tendency to – for all the wonderful, amazing music, and beautiful movements – the United States is trying to approach everything from a position of force: through economic sanctions, or financial restrictions, or threats to use military force, and actually using it. They are lecturing others even though they have no idea how to do it and do not want to. Most likely, they just do not want to. This is the first point. Second, I already said that we have never refused to hold talks. So, please, if the other party wants them, they should say so directly. I am speaking about it but the other side keeps silent. Finally, tango is good, of course… I think Ukraine should not forget about its gopak dance. It is important, otherwise they will keep dancing to someone else’s tune. And by the way, everyone will have to perform the barynya dance or, in the best-case scenario, the kazachok. Alexander Lukashenko: They sort of started dancing and held three rounds of talks in Belarus, then in Istanbul, and then [US Secretary of State Antony] Blinken and [US Secretary of Defence Lloyd] Austin told Zelensky… Vladimir Putin: Gave a command, and that was it. Alexander Lukashenko: Gave a command and he prohibited them to hold talks. The facts are on the table, they are obvious. So, they should not blame anyone. Vladimir Putin: He signed a decree prohibiting talks. Alexander Lukashenko: Exactly, they forbade themselves. Question: The last question relates to Kim Jong-un’s visit. Many in the West believe that the visit will aggravate tensions in the region. They say that Russia all but asked North Korea to send volunteers to take part in the special military operation. What can you say on this matter? Vladimir Putin: I can say that this is complete nonsense. A couple of days ago, I said that 270,000 of our men, our warriors signed contracts with the Russian Armed Forces. But it was old information. This morning it was reported to me that there were 300,000 contracts signed by people who – I want to emphasise this – are ready to sacrifice their lives for the interests of our Motherland, to protect Russia’s interests. Yes, we pay them some money, which is much, much more than the average monthly salary in the country. But can money compensate for a death or a severe injury? Of course not. So first of all, our men who sign these contracts are guided by the most noble patriotic sentiments. It commands respect. This is the first thing. Second, about some kind of provocations, escalations, and creating a threat to anyone. We do not threaten anyone. The largest threats in the world today are created by today’s ruling elites. They themselves say this. Several years ago, a former [US] Defence Secretary Mr [Robert] Gates, I think, said the greatest threat to the United States came from the territory where the Capitol or the White House is located. They talk about it themselves, while looking for a threat outside. Therefore, I want to stress once again that this is complete nonsense: Korea is our neighbour, and we must build good neighbourly relations with our neighbours one way or another. Yes, there are certain specifics associated with the Korean Peninsula. We discuss this openly; we never violate anything; and in this case we are not going to violate anything. But, of course, we will look for opportunities to develop Russian-North Korean relations. Alexander Lukashenko: Mr Putin, the Westerners have to count first how many of their mercenaries they have sent there, and how many are fighting there. There are dark-skinned, Asian, and white Americans, all of whom are fighting on the side of the Ukrainians. Why blame Russia for inviting someone there? So maybe that is why they need to do it. Secondly, this is a dangerous statement on their part, because they dream about seeing their regular military units there, already lined up near the border in Poland. You have also talked about this. Military units have been formed and are ready to enter Ukraine. You need to look at yourself first and not reproach others. Vladimir Putin: I absolutely agree. By the way, we have detected foreign mercenaries and instructors both on the battlefield and in the units where training is carried out. I think yesterday or the day before yesterday someone was captured again. We do not need to invite people from outside for combat operations. Moreover, I want to emphasise this again, 300,000 people signed contracts and came as volunteers. And moreover: the units that are now being formed are equipped with advanced types of weapons and equipment, and some of them are already 85–90 percent equipped. <…>

Diplomacy
President of Latvia Edgars Rinkēvičs addressing at Europe Justice Ministers' Informal Conference

Address by the President of Latvia Edgars Rinkēvičs at Council of Europe Justice Ministers’ Informal Conference ‘On the Path to Justice for Ukraine’

by Edgars Rinkēvičs

Madam Minister,  Distinguished ministers, Madam Secretary General, President of the Parliamentary Assembly, Commissioner, Ladies and gentlemen, A very warm welcome to Riga! I am very pleased to open this conference, a signature event during Latvia’s Presidency in the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. The conference is a direct continuation of the Reykjavik Summit that took place in May of this year. The focus of today’s conference is the existential issue Europe is facing now. Namely, justice for Ukraine in the wake of Russia’s aggression and full-scale military invasion. Before briefly addressing the central themes of the conference, I want to recall that the Council of Europe was the first international organisation to decide on the discontinuation of Russia’s membership. This principled position of our organization once again confirmed our commitment to democratic values and the international rule of law. It also affirmed that our organisation is ready to assume a leading role in actively defending these values. Today’s conference confirms that our commitment has not wavered. We seek justice for Ukraine. We stand with Ukraine as long as it takes. Ladies and gentlemen, During today’s conference, you will address themes that represent pillars on which justice is built – accountability, resilience, and hope. First, accountability. Russia has brutally violated international law. It must therefore face full accountability. By “full accountability” I mean both, responsibility of Russia as a state, and the individual liability of those Russian officials who launched the war of aggression against Ukraine. Those who committed war crimes and other most serious crimes of international concern. Russia must also bear full responsibility for the damage, loss, or injury caused to Ukraine and its people. I commend the Council of Europe for creating the Register of Damages. This is an important step towards a future international compensation mechanism. The Register of Damages will ensure proper registration and documentation of the devastation Russia has brought to Ukraine. I call on all countries that have not yet done so to join the Register and demonstrate our solidarity with and support to Ukraine. During our Presidency in the Council of Europe, Latvia is determined to advance the operational launch of the Register. I welcome the intention of the Ministers to adopt today a Declaration containing principles that will guide the functioning of the Register or Riga Principles. I particularly welcome the emphasis on victim-centred approach. We must make sure that victims, in particular the most vulnerable, such as women and children, remain the focus of our efforts. Second, resilience. The justice system of Ukraine is currently bearing a heavy burden. It continues to ensure justice and the rule of law, including through the investigation of crimes committed by Russia. By continuing to uphold fair trial standards, Ukraine clearly demonstrates its values and the strength of its democracy. I encourage member states of the Council of Europe to provide support to the Action Plan on Resilience, Recovery, and Rebuilding of Ukraine. Latvia has already provided its financial contribution. Finally, hope. We all have heard and seen heartbreaking reports about Ukrainian children being forcibly and illegally deported to Belarus and Russia. We must do our utmost to ensure the return of these children, to ensure that they are reunited with their families. We must restore hope. Ladies and gentlemen, In Reykjavik, we committed to strengthening the role of the Council of Europe. We also reiterated our common resolve to unite around our values and standards. I am confident that today’s conference will be an important contribution to our work for the benefit of all Europeans, including future generations. Thank you!

Diplomacy
Prime Minister of Slovenia Robert Golob

Speech delivered by Prime Minister of Slovenia Robert Golob at Bled Strategic Forum on the 28th of August

by Robert Golob

Dear Charles.  Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the Bled Strategic Forum and welcome to Slovenia.  This month, on the 3rd of August, Slovenia was hit by the most devastating floods in the country’s history. Within just a matter of hours, 10,000 people lost their homes. Families lost everything.  We were able to secure relief from the EU. We received offers of aid from our neighbouring countries within the region. Even NATO responded. Everyone understood the severity of the disaster and sent their best engineering teams, along with heavy equipment, some of whom are still here helping our people rebuild their communities. I would also like to express my gratitude to all of you, all of those who have already helped, either physically or financially, and to others who will perhaps contribute in the coming hours. It is by showing solidarity, by working hand in hand with our friends, neighbours, and allies, that we truly make the world a better place. This is a message that we should not forget under any circumstances, not just when we are facing dire times, because you never know when the situation will become too difficult for you.  And as Peter Grk, Secretary General of the Bled Strategic Forum said, in Europe, sometimes or even most of the time, we live under the impression that extreme events do not happen here. They happen far away, far abroad. Well, not anymore. The extreme weather that we are currently facing is, of course, a localized phenomenon. But the conditions that caused this weather are indeed worldwide. Climate change is not something that any of us can escape. It is here. It is happening. We can see its impact growing every year, though its specific effects are unpredictable. The only predictable thing about climate change is that it is not going to get any better by itself. This is a message that we must never forget.  Still, we need to put in place mechanisms to adapt to the catastrophes like the one that hit Slovenia three weeks ago, because they will happen again. And we can only address such a demanding project at the international level. No nation, especially not individual small nations, can face it alone. Even the biggest nations cannot face it alone. This is one of the most important messages that we will bring to the table during our membership in the UN Security Council. We want to place the climate agenda at the top of our priorities. And one reason why I think we may be successful in this endeavour, not because of the catastrophe that we faced three weeks ago, is that, as a very small country with little international clout makes us a very honest broker. I can tell you right now that we are brave enough to undertake this rule. We want to be an honest broker. We want to be sincere, perhaps addressing issues that bigger nations are somehow neglecting due to their own national agendas.  The second of our primary goals is figuring out how to bring peace to Ukraine. It is practically impossible at this time, perhaps, but we will invest all of our knowledge, all of our time in this one particular goal, whether we are ultimately successful or not. No one can tell. But will we try? Yes, we will, because this is the single most important topic on the table of the United Nations. And that's the only place where this war can end: at the table of the United Nations. And we will do everything we can to bring it forth.  Finally, I'm really glad to have all of you here, my dear colleagues from the Western Balkans. I'm glad that you all made it here safely. Nobody is missing. Just this in itself is a huge success. But it doesn't stop here, because the message that I want to impart, and I'm pretty sure that Charles [Michel] will do so even more decisively, but the message that I want to share is that the momentum is changing due to Russia’s aggression on Ukraine. The stance of European Union Member States regarding the enlargement of European Union took on a totally new perspective. Things are changing rapidly. In the next 12 months I'm pretty sure that the enlargement process will not just gain attraction but an entirely new perspective. And I urge all of you not to be left behind. I urge all of you to continue pressing on with the reforms, but also to be aware of what's going on regarding the changes within the European Union itself. We all know that we will have to reform our processes within the European Union. And as I said, these reforms will either happen within the next 12 months or they may not happen for a very long time. This is an occasion that shall not be overlooked. Slovenia will remain a strong supporter of your membership. Slovenia will continue to do all those things that are necessary within the European Council and also in dialogue with the European Commission to make it possible for you to become members of our European family, to put you where you belong. That is the last message that I wanted to impart: you all belong with us.  And as I said, none of these challenges that I addressed are going to be easy to meet. None. We will have to work hard. It will cost a lot of money, especially for flood relief and the reconstruction. It will take a lot of time, but we need to find both the courage and the wisdom. And we will do so, in order to show that yes, we can, we can build a better world. A world based on solidarity.  Thank you.

Diplomacy
Nikolay Denkov Prime Minister of Bulgaria

Speech of Bulgarian Premier Minister Academician Nikolai Denkov

by Nikolai Denkov

Dear Mr. Prime Minister of the Hellenic Republic / Dear KyriakosDear Ministers, Dear Governor, Dear Mayor of ThessalonikiDear Mr. Dzikas, Dear Greek friends It is, indeed, a privilege to address you in the context of the Thessaloniki International Fair. I thank the organizers of the HELEXPO and I thank the Greek Prime Minister for his kind invitation. Let me start by saying that during the last days and weeks we have witnessed the worst possible consequences of the climate crisis. We have seen scenes of destruction that we could not imagine we would see in our lifetime. Some of these tragic events happened here in Greece - our closest neighbor and most friendly country, just a few kilometers from our common border. Allow me to express my deepest condolences for the victims of the recent floods in your country and our full solidarity with the friendly Greek people. Tonight I want to send a message loud and clear: Greece is not alone. You have many partners and friends and we will spare no effort to help you mitigate the consequences. Bulgaria and the whole Europea Union stands with you.  We also have victims from the floods in Bulgaria. Both countries face similar problems, such as floods and fires. Helping each other and working together is a must. As an example, this year we have twice deployed Bulgarian firefighting teams to help you overcome devastating fires. Climate change is a global challenge, which demands a common answer. We need to work more closely together to share information and technologies, to integrate our weather forecast systems and our early warning systems to better prevent disasters in the future. I can assure you we are ready for such a mutually beneficial cooperation. Ladies and Gentlemen,Bulgaria is the honoured country at this year’s Thessaloniki International Fair. This is great honour for us, but above all, this is an acknowledgement of the exemplary level, which the relations between Bulgaria and Greece have reached. This is also an acknowledgement of the important role, which my country plays in the region. The presence at such an important international forum provides a broad range of opportunities to enhance further our already excellent economic ties. Bulgaria is represented in several related sectors such as IT, hi-tech, energy, infrastructure, construction, education, tourism and the food industry. Bulgarian companies with a strong international presence participate, including EnduroSat, a significant player in the satellite industry and space technology, and Telerik Academy, providing accessible and innovative digital technology training. Among the participants is Sofia Techpark which provides a platform for global, regional and national companies to develop innovative technologies and to exchange know-how. The Bulgarian Investment Agency, which supports the creation of projects leading to new jobs, exports and transfer of know-how, is also here. The Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, whose experts conduct scientific research, training and activities of international importance, is present as well. Dear Prime Minister,This is the right occasion to acknowledge the fact that your leadership has transformed Greece into an attractive destination for international investments. Let me assure you that this is valid also for the investments from Bulgaria. At present, they are mainly focused in the energy, infrastructure and tourism sectors. I hope that in the near future we will witness Bulgarian investments in new fields, such us communications and information technologies. The IGB project for the gas interconnector between Greece and Bulgaria, in operation since October 2022, in which Bulgaria participates with a 50% stake, is a clear example of a strategic, long-term investment with a broad regional scope. The same applies to the project for a floating LNG terminal near Alexandroupolis in which Bulgaria participates with 20%. We are jointly working on a project for an oil pipeline connecting Alexandroupolis and Burgas where we have the biggest refinery in the Balkans. Bulgaria has a particular interest in the plans for the future development and management of the Greek ports of Kavala and Alexandroupolis. Bulgarian businesses are also showing strong interest in using these two commercial ports, especially in the context of the blocked trade routes in the Black Sea due to the Russian aggression against Ukraine.  All this implies the establishment of a much better, let me call it by its proper name, a modern connecting infrastructure between our two countries, relevant for two members of the European Union and bringing new opportunities for our economic cooperation in the next decades. These new realities are best embodied by the Sea2Sea initiative, which aims at connecting Bulgarian ports on the Black Sea and the Danube river with the Greek ports in the north Aegean Sea through a modern transport, energy and communication infrastructure. In practical terms, it would be an alternative route to the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles. Undoubtedly, Greece and Bulgaria have the potential to create together an energy and transport hub in Southeast Europe, the importance of which would be not only of regional, but of pan-European scale. Dear friends,I am scientist by profession. As such, I cannot offer a magic formula how to transform the Balkans into a prosperous and modern European region. But I strongly believe in three factors which might do the “miracle”: 1. The consolidating and transformational role of the European Union; 2. The regional connectivity 3. The good-neighborly relations.  Good-neighbourliness is an indispensable guiding principle for the regional transformation. What we have to ensure is that words turn into deeds by all countries in the region.  I am proud to say and I hope that my dear colleague Kyriakos Mitsotakis would agree with me that our two countries, Bulgaria and Greece, are leading by example. An example for the whole region.  The history of relations between Bulgarians and Greeks is very, very old. I can think of no other two nations in Europe who have a longer history of relations. We have been neighbours for centuries. We have shared a turbulent past, marked by ups and downs, wars and peace, opposing blocks and alliances. It is not a miracle that after more than a thousand years of controversies, today Bulgaria and Greece enjoy such exemplary good-neighbourly relations. The truth is that it has taken decades of joint efforts of wise Bulgarian and Greek politicians, incl. Konstantinos Karamanlis, who was born here in Northern Greece. It has taken a lot of good will and dedication from diplomats and ordinary people to overcome the shadows of the past and to build mutual respect, trust and confidence.  The Greek-Bulgarian relations have flourished because they have a solid ground –our common values and our strong belief in a democratic international system, based on the principles and norms of international law.   We are proud with our strategic partnership which plays a crucial role for the stability of the whole region of South-East Europe.  Our nations share common hopes and concerns.  We are allies and friends. We are good neighbours who respect and trust each other. Such relations have an enormous potential for the future generations of Greeks and Bulgarians and they deserve our dedication. Dear Greek friends, A thought by the famous Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard comes to my mind: You can understand life only looking backwards, but you can live your life only looking forward.    We cannot change history, but we can definitely shape our common future. Through leadership, strategic vision, more connectivity and mutually beneficial cooperation.  I believe we can do it together. Bulgaria and Greece.Hand in hand, leading by example. Thank you!