EU Reluctant to Add Six Balkan States

EU and Balkan leaders pose for a group photo in Sofia, Bulgaria, May 17
EU and Balkan leaders pose for a group photo in Sofia, Bulgaria, May 17 (European Council)

EU leaders met with their counterparts from the six non-EU Balkan states today to discuss their possible accession to the bloc.

Central and Eastern European members are eager to include Albania and the former Yugoslav republics. Other countries are less sure:

  • Voters in France, Germany and the Netherlands are wary of EU expansion.
  • Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Spain and Slovakia have yet to recognize Kosovo’s independence from Serbia.

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy, who faces a separatist rebellion in Catalonia, even boycotted the summit. Read more

Europe Doesn’t Know How to Handle Trump, Macron Runs Tight Operation

German chancellor Angela Merkel speaks with American president Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, March 17, 2017
German chancellor Angela Merkel speaks with American president Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, March 17, 2017 (Bundesregierung)

Stephen Walt argues in Foreign Policy that the diplomatic crisis around the Iran nuclear deal shows European leaders don’t know how to handle an American bully:

[I]nstead of getting tough with Trump and warning him that Europe would both stick to the deal and defy any subsequent US effort to impose secondary sanctions on them, [France, Germany and the United Kingdom] chose to mollify and flatter Trump instead.

It seems to no avail.

It pains me to admit it, but Walt has a point:

[T]he European response to Trump shows how successfully the United States has tamed and subordinated the former great powers that once dominated world politics. After seventy-plus years of letting Uncle Sam run the show, European leaders can barely think in strategic terms, let alone act in a tough-minded fashion when they are dealing with the United States.

I do think this is slowly changing. Trump is a wakeup call. The EU is rushing new trade agreements with Japan and Mexico. France is leading efforts to deepen European defense cooperation outside NATO. The Balts and Scandinavians are remilitarizing.

But deferring to America is a hard habit to kick. Read more

Macron’s German Challenge, What America Should Attempt in Syria

French president Emmanuel Macron gives a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, April 17
French president Emmanuel Macron gives a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, April 17 (European Parliament)

Eric Maurice writes in EUobserver that French president Emmanuel Macron’s biggest challenges comes from Berlin, where Angela Merkel and her conservative party are skeptical of plans to create a European Monetary Fund and establish a European deposit insurance scheme to protect savers:

Although the two plans were initiated by the EU before Macron took them, their rejection would signal a clear rebuttal of the French president’s more ambitious proposals for the longer term.

Merkel hasn’t ruled out a European Monetary Fund, but — like the Dutch and other deficit hawks in the north of Europe — she wants it to be an “intergovernmental”, as opposed to an EU-led, institution.

Germany isn’t in favor of creating a eurozone budget and finance minister either.

I predicted in September that these would be the most difficult items on Macron’s wishlist, but other things are still doable: harmonizing corporate tax rates and asylum procedures, creating an EU military intervention force, reforming the Common Agricultural Policy. Read more

Please Don’t Worry About World War III

An American EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft prepares to launch from the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush on deployment in the Mediterranean Sea, June 9, 2017
An American EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft prepares to launch from the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush on deployment in the Mediterranean Sea, June 9, 2017 (USN/Matt Matlage)

It’s been a while.

As balances become clearer, life is better sorted and all that jazz, I find myself pulled, like the United States in the Middle East, back to the fray. Read more

Trump Doesn’t Understand New Cold War, Doesn’t Understand Presidency

American president Donald Trump arrives in Salt Lake City, Utah, December 4, 2017
American president Donald Trump arrives in Salt Lake City, Utah, December 4, 2017 (ANG/Annie Edwards)

Donald Trump doesn’t understand why Russian “resets” have failed in the past, tweeting, “Bush tried to get along, but didn’t have the ‘smarts.’ Obama and Clinton tried, but didn’t have the energy or chemistry.”

The real reason, as Ryan Bohl has explained here, is that America and Russia have diametrically opposed interests in Europe. “Smarts” or personal chemistry has nothing to do with it.

In fairness, Trump is hardly the first American president who believes he can overcome the restraints of history and geopolitics through the sheer force of personality. Nor is he the first one to fail. Read more

Trump Agrees to Meet Kim, Trans Pacific Partnership Continues Without Him

Presidents Moon Jae-in of South Korea and Donald Trump of the United States meet on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, October 2, 2017
Presidents Moon Jae-in of South Korea and Donald Trump of the United States meet on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, October 2, 2017 (White House/Shealah Craighead)

Donald Trump has accepted an invitation from Kim Jong-un to meet one-on-one. It would be the first time a sitting American president met with the North Korean dictator.

North Korea craves international legitimacy, which the United States have deliberately withheld. Trump’s break with decades of policy is risky — but it’s not if existing policy has worked. North Korea remains a rogue state. It has only continued its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs.

The challenge now, as Fred Kaplan writes in Slate, is organizing a careful diplomacy that includes coordinating common negotiating positions with Japan and South Korea.

Unfortunately, Trump has yet to appoint an ambassador to Seoul. The State Department’s top North Korea expert has resigned. None of the three top foreign-policy officials in Trump’s government — Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster — have much experience in Asia.

Also read this thread by Robert E. Kelly about why Korea hands are skeptical. Read more

Merkel Praises Macedonia, EU Struggles to Influence Romania

German chancellor Angela Merkel receives Macedonian prime minister Zoran Zaev in Berlin, February 21
German chancellor Angela Merkel receives Macedonian prime minister Zoran Zaev in Berlin, February 21 (Bundesregierung)

German chancellor Angela Merkel has praised judicial reforms in Macedonia as well as steps to improve transparency and resolve the former Yugoslav republic’s name dispute with Greece.

“In the last ten years, the solution has not been as close as now and it would be wonderful if the remaining difficulties can be bridged,” she said during a news conference with her Macedonian counterpart, Zoran Zaev.

It would, but the dispute with Greece is only one of the many obstacles to the Balkan nation’s EU accession.

The EU has nevertheless set a target date of 2025 for the remaining states of the Western Balkans to join, fearing that otherwise Russia might take advantage. Read more