China-Russia Gas Pipeline Should Concentrate Minds in Brussels

The Power of Siberia natural gas pipeline in Russia's Far East
The Power of Siberia natural gas pipeline in Russia’s Far East (Gazprom)

Russia has started piping gas to China through a new pipeline, called Power of Siberia. After five years of construction, it will be able to send up to 38 billion cubic meters of gas to China per year.

The pipeline marks a reorientation of Russian energy policy away from the European market, which should give European policymakers some concern. Read more “China-Russia Gas Pipeline Should Concentrate Minds in Brussels”

Balkans Propose Mini-Schengen

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and Prime Ministers Mateusz Morawiecki of Poland, Boyko Borissov of Bulgaria and Zoran Zaev of North Macedonia deliver a news conference at the Western Balkans Summit in Poznań, July 5
Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and Prime Ministers Mateusz Morawiecki of Poland, Boyko Borissov of Bulgaria and Zoran Zaev of North Macedonia deliver a news conference at the Western Balkans Summit in Poznań, July 5 (Government of the Republic of Northern Macedonia)

Their EU accession blocked by France, Albania and North Macedonia are opting for a regional, if temporary, solution. Together with Serbia, the Balkan states are looking to create their own version of the EU’s passport-free Schengen Area.

  • Citizens of the three countries would no longer need a passport to cross the border, but only have to show an ID card.
  • Labor movement would be liberalized through the mutual recognition of diplomas and qualifications.
  • Students could go on exchange.
  • Capital flows would be smoothened.

The other non-EU countries in the region — Bosnia, Montenegro and Kosovo — have been given the green light to join. Read more “Balkans Propose Mini-Schengen”

EU Breaks Promise to Balkan States

German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Emmanuel Macron speak privately while entering a meeting with other European leaders in Brussels, March 22
German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Emmanuel Macron speak privately while entering a meeting with other European leaders in Brussels, March 22 (Bundesregierung)

Last week, French president Emmanuel Macron blocked the start of EU accession talks for Albania and North Macedonia, arguing that the Balkan states haven’t made enough progress to qualify and that the EU must reform internally before admitting new members.

His concerns were shared by the leaders of Denmark and the Netherlands.

They are not without merit. It would be naive to assume that decades of institutionalized corruption and crime, particularly in Albania, have been washed away over the course of a few years.

That said, progress has been made. North Macedonia’s name change is far from trivial. It represents a willingness to move on from the past. Albania has reformed its judicial system, encouraged by the prospect of membership.

If the French were so adamant about halting enlargement, they should never have made promises to Albania and North Macedonia in the first place.

Poland’s Andrzej Duda said it best: “Western Balkans states are taking part in a race that does not have a finishing line.” Read more “EU Breaks Promise to Balkan States”

Poland Needs EU Support to Meet Climate Goals

Turów Power Station in Bogatynia, Poland, December 3, 2009
Turów Power Station in Bogatynia, Poland, December 3, 2009 (Wikimedia Commons)

Poland will not be able to meet the EU’s 2050 zero-emissions target without additional funds. In an interview with the Financial Times, the country’s chief energy advisor, Piotr Naimski, argues that the European Union needs to take its particular circumstances into account.

Poland’s extreme reliance on coal makes the goal to reduce net emissions to zero a tall order. Coal generates about 80 percent of Poland’s electricity. It also curbs its reliance on Russian energy, which is of geopolitical significance.

There is a political consideration as well. Mining unions are still strong in Poland. The industry has long provided well-paying jobs with a high degree of stability. Miners enjoy special retirement provisions. This makes them a powerful voting bloc. Read more “Poland Needs EU Support to Meet Climate Goals”

Germany Under Pressure to Spend

Angela Merkel Mark Rutte
German chancellor Angela Merkel receives Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte in Berlin, May 16 (Bundesregierung)

In the face of weakening economic growth, outgoing European Central Bank president Mario Draghi has called on the fiscally conservative governments of Germany and the Netherlands to spend more.

The Dutch are heeding his advice with plans for a long-term economic investment fund. Will the Germans follow suit? Read more “Germany Under Pressure to Spend”

Germany Can’t Blame Trump for Its Slowing Economy

Berlin Germany
A bird sits on top of one of the spires of the German Reichstag building in Berlin, December 31, 2005 (Max Braun)

Germany may be heading into a recession. Its economy shrank .1 percent in the second quarter of this year.

Donald Trump’s trade war with China is partly to blame, but it has also exposed Germany’s home-grown vulnerabilities: an overreliance on exports and weak domestic demand. Read more “Germany Can’t Blame Trump for Its Slowing Economy”

Serbia Should Break with Russia

Vladimir Putin
Russian president Vladimir Putin attends negotiations in Minsk, Belarus, February 11, 2015 (Press Service of the President of Ukraine)

Russia and Serbia share a rich history of religious tradition and support. Russia has stood by what it considers its little brother for centuries and it continues to do so today. Just last week, Serbia received ten armored patrol vehicles from Russia. Thirty T-72B3 tanks are underway.

Serbian president Aleksandar Vučić has thanked Vladimir Putin for beefing up the Serbian military, but he should be wary of the implications. If Serbia wants to join the EU, it must avoid playing with fire. Read more “Serbia Should Break with Russia”

Kosovo Must Come to Terms with Reality

President Hashim Thaçi of Kosovo visits Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, September 29, 2017
President Hashim Thaçi of Kosovo visits Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, September 29, 2017 (US Army/Elizabeth Fraser)

Last month, the president of Kosovo, Hashim Thaçi, dropped a bombshell, calling for unification with Albania.

Kosovo is majority ethnic Albanian, but unification would actually hinder the progress of both countries. Here’s why. Read more “Kosovo Must Come to Terms with Reality”

How Close Are Western Balkan States to Joining the EU?

European Council
The European Council meets in Brussels, November 25, 2018 (Bundesregierung)

Leaders of the six Western Balkan countries that remain outside the EU are meeting in Poland this week to discuss their possible accession to the bloc. Four — Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia — are candidates to become member states.

Last year, a similar summit was held where the existing member states expressed their concerns about corruption, weak governance and unfree markets in the region. What has changed since then? Read more “How Close Are Western Balkan States to Joining the EU?”