Netherlands Intervenes in Curaçao to Make Sure Elections Proceed

Dutch foreign affairs minister Bert Koenders speaks with Lucille George-Wout, the governor of Curaçao, in The Hague, September 24, 2015
Dutch foreign affairs minister Bert Koenders speaks with Lucille George-Wout, the governor of Curaçao, in The Hague, September 24, 2015 (Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken)

The Dutch government has given extraordinary powers to the governor of Curaçao to allow elections to go forward on the island despite opposition from its ruling parties.

Lucille George-Wout, who nominally represents the Dutch king, has been given authority over public services to make sure the elections can proceed.

It is the first time the Netherlands has intervened so overtly in the politics of the Caribbean island since it became self-governing in 1954. Read more “Netherlands Intervenes in Curaçao to Make Sure Elections Proceed”

Spanish City in North Africa at the Heart of Diplomatic Row

View of the Spanish city of Ceuta from Gibraltar, January 30, 2011
View of the Spanish city of Ceuta from Gibraltar, January 30, 2011 (José Rambaud)

Russia withdrew a request for a flotilla of warships to refuel at Spain’s North African city of Ceuta on Wednesday, sparing the NATO country the embarrassment of having to either turn the Russians down or accept the outrage of its allies.

Madrid had come under criticism from politicians in continental Europe and the United Kingdom for possibly allowing the Russian ships to dock at Ceuta.

A group of warships led by Russia’s only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, was expected to stop for supplies in the port after passing through the Strait of Gibraltar on Wednesday morning.

The vessels are sailing for Syria, where they would join Russian military efforts in support of the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

NATO’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, warned on Tuesday that the battle group may be used to increase Russian airstrikes in and around Aleppo, a major city in the north of Syria where tens of thousands of civilians are trapped between loyalist and opposition forces. Read more “Spanish City in North Africa at the Heart of Diplomatic Row”

Spain Unwilling to Keep Gibraltar in EU Single Market

Prime Ministers Mariano Rajoy of Spain and Theresa May of the United Kingdom meet in Madrid, October 13
Prime Ministers Mariano Rajoy of Spain and Theresa May of the United Kingdom meet in Madrid, October 13 (La Moncloa)

Since Britain voted to leave the European Union in June, Spain has ramped its rhetoric surrounding the territory of Gibraltar, a sliver of land that has been in British hands for centuries but to which Spain continues to claim sovereignty.

Earlier this month, the acting foreign minister, José Manuel García-Margallo, threatened to “put up the flag” on the Rock, hinting at a Spanish takeover.

He insisted that if Britain leaves the EU, “Gibraltar is out” as well, even though 96 percent of its residents voted to stay. Read more “Spain Unwilling to Keep Gibraltar in EU Single Market”

Ukraine Would Be Better Off Cutting the Donbas Loose

Ukrainian armored personnel carrier
An armored personnel carrier takes part in a military exercise in Yavoriv, Ukraine, October 21, 2014 (Arseniy Yatseniuk)

We haven’t heard much from the Donbas recently, but the two separatist republics there are still slowly being annexed by Russia. It may ultimately be for the best for the rest of Ukraine.

Alexander J. Motyl, a Ukraine scholar, reports for World Affairs Journal that the Donetsk People’s Republic alone now spends more on propaganda than Ukraine’s Ministry of Information Policy. Its newspapers, radio and television stations constantly denounce the Kiev “junta” and the “fascists” who have supposedly taken over since the more pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovich, was ousted in a pro-European coup in 2014. Local museums are devoted to exposing the “atrocities” committed by the Ukrainian army.

In the Luhansk People’s Republic, a children’s magazine recently featured a story about an evil Fasciston (Washington) being defeated by a valiant Vladimir Putin-like Papa.

Economically, the two self-declared republics are drawing closer to Russia as well. They use the ruble as currency. Residents can apply for Russian passports. The Russian Ministries of Defense and Internal Affairs control the territories’ soldiers and security forces. Finance, infrastructure and transportation are all run through an interdepartmental commission in Moscow supervised by Putin’s advisor, Vladislav Surkov. Read more “Ukraine Would Be Better Off Cutting the Donbas Loose”

Gibraltar and Scotland in Talks to Stay in European Union

View of Gibraltar at dusk
View of Gibraltar at dusk (Shutterstock/Philip Lange)

Gibraltar is in talks with Scotland to find a way for both to stay in the European Union, the BBC has learned.

One possibility under discussion is for Gibraltar and Scotland, which both voted to stay in the EU, to maintain the United Kingdom’s membership of the bloc.

Northern Ireland, which also voted to remain, could potentially be included in the talks.

Majorities in England and Wales voted in a referendum on Thursday to leave the EU. Read more “Gibraltar and Scotland in Talks to Stay in European Union”

Islanders Kingmakers in Danish Parliament

Danish parliament Copenhagen
Windows of the Christiansborg Palace, seat of the Danish parliament, in Copenhagen (iStock/Carsten Brandt)

Exit polls showed Denmark’s left- and right-wing blocs tied on Thursday night and suggested that deputies from the Faroe Islands and Greenland could be kingmakers in the Nordic country’s next parliament.

The poll, shown on TV2, gave Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt’s coalition 87 seats against 88 for the right-wing opposition.

Such an outcome would hand the balance of power in Denmark’s 179-seat unicameral Folketing to the four representatives of the autonomous Faroe Islands and Greenland. The latter have traditionally aligned with the left while the Faroese tend to split their two seats between the blocs. Read more “Islanders Kingmakers in Danish Parliament”

Frozen Conflict in Ukraine’s Donbas Becoming More Likely

Ukrainian armored personnel carrier
An armored personnel carrier takes part in a military exercise in Yavoriv, Ukraine, October 21, 2014 (Arseniy Yatseniuk)

As the war in Ukraine’s southeastern Donbas region seems to be fizzling out, another conflict on Russia’s borders could soon be frozen.

Although a truce negotiated by the leaders of France and Germany last month is still tenuous and although Russia has yet to fully back down, the civil war it instigated in the largely Russian-speaking frontier region of its former Soviet republic is losing intensity.

Edward W. Walker, a comparative political scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, believes a frozen conflict is now more likely. Neither the separatists, who are supported by Russia, nor the authorities in Kiev are in a position to decisively end the war, he argues. Read more “Frozen Conflict in Ukraine’s Donbas Becoming More Likely”

Britain to Boost Falklands Defenses, Argentina Eyes Russia

Britain will boost its defenses in the Falkland Islands, Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said on Tuesday, as Argentina was reportedly considering to lease bomber planes from Russia in return for beef exports.

Argentina still poses a “very live threat” to the British-ruled islands, Fallon said.

“The principle threat to the islands remains,” he told lawmakers in London. “I am confident that, following this review, we have the right deployment.” Read more “Britain to Boost Falklands Defenses, Argentina Eyes Russia”

Russia Signs Integration Treaty with South Ossetia

Vladimir Putin
Russian president Vladimir Putin chairs a government meeting at his country residence outside Moscow, October 13, 2014 (Kremlin)

On the one-year anniversary of its annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, Russia signed an integration treaty with Georgia’s breakaway region South Ossetia, seemingly paving the way for absorbing that territory as well.

In Moscow, Russian president Vladimir Putin signed a twenty-five-year pact with his self-declared South Ossetian counterpart, Leonid Tibilov, under which Russia takes responsibility for the region’s borders and security and South Ossetia gets €140 million in aid over the next three years. Russia has already given the region €670 million in the last six years.

The treaty is similar to one Russia signed with Georgia’s other breakaway region, Abkhazia, late last year. Read more “Russia Signs Integration Treaty with South Ossetia”

Russia Believed to Give Up on Donetsk, Luhansk Self-Rule

Vladimir Putin
Russian president Vladimir Putin listens during a meeting in Voronezh, August 5 (Kremlin)

Russia has abandoned the idea of promoting independence for the Ukrainian breakaway republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, a liberal newspaper in the country reported on Monday. But that might not be enough to satisfy the West.

A report in the Novaya Gazeta — one of the few Russian newspaper critical of President Vladimir Putin’s government that has been allowed to remain in circulation — cites Kremlin sources saying they have given up fostering independence for the Russophone areas in the southeast of Ukraine and instead intend to “push the republics back into Ukraine on conditions of some kind of autonomy.” Read more “Russia Believed to Give Up on Donetsk, Luhansk Self-Rule”