Border dispute resolution changes social policies

Andreja Jerončič and Danijel Crnčec
In the last six months, the Slovenian foreign policy was characterised by the Arbitration Agreement regarding the ongoing border dispute between Croatia and Slovenia and by the Brdo process concerning the future of the Western Balkans that started in March 2010 with the Brdo Conference. Additionally, the government’s decision to reform the pension system, employment policy and the family code were among the most discussed issues. All of the mentioned are discussed separately in the following paragraphs.
Slovenia and Croatia to move forward on the border dispute resolution
By signing the Arbitration Agreement between Croatia and Slovenia in Stockholm in November 2009, the two countries agreed to establish a five-member arbitration court empowered to resolve the nearly 20-year border dispute.[1] According to Article 3 of the Arbitration Agreement, “the Arbitral Tribunal shall determine the course of the maritime and land boundary between the Republic of Slovenia and the Republic of Croatia, Slovenia’s junction to the High Seas and the regime for the use of the relevant maritime areas.”[2]

Constitutional review, US missile defence systems, and the Danube Strategy

Agnes Nicolescu and Mihai Sebe
A new Constitution – A universal panacea?

Political climate and national elections

Arnout Mijs
An important development in Dutch politics is the fall of the government on 20 February 2010 as a result of divergent opinions in the government on the extension of the Dutch Afghanistan mission. Elections took place on 9 June 2010. During the debate the focus shifted from immigration towards the economy, because of the recent developments. Only the anti-immigration party of Geerts Wilders, the Party for Freedom (PVV), held on to the former topic. Budgetary savings on all possible policy fields were fiercely debated and supported by strong evidence on the need for budget cuts provided by the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Planning (CPB). In the respective programmes of the political parties, foreign policy played only a marginal role. In political debates foreign politics were hardly discussed, although this is not uncommon in Dutch parliamentary elections.[1] There was one recurrent issue in the political programmes of the majority of the parties on foreign politics. They stated that if they are elected part of the next government, they will strive to reduce the Dutch contribution to the EU.[2] This accounts amongst others for the Liberal Conservative party (VVD), the Labour Party (PvdA), the Socialist Party (SP), and the PVV.

The democratic initiative, the constitutional package and change of leadership in the opposing CHP

Sait Akşit and Özgehan Şenyuva
In 2010, three major issues and events have occurred affecting the competition and position among the political parties. First, a human rights and minority rights reform initiative proposed by the ruling Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi – AKP) in summer 2009, which was initially called the “Kurdish initiative” and was later expanded to include various other aspects and thus came to be known as the “democratic initiative”; second, the constitutional package proposed by the AKP with an aim to expand democratisation efforts; and, third, the resignation of the Republican People’s Party (Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi – CHP) leader Deniz Baykal in early May 2010 under very controversial conditions.
The Turkish political scene has been dominated by four major political parties since the 2002 general elections. There has been a very tense and sometimes confrontational competition between the governing AKP and the opposing CHP and Nationalist Action Party (Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi – MHP). Another party which is also represented in the parliament, the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (Barış ve Demokrasi Partisi – BDP, formerly known as the Democratic Society Party (Demokratik Toplum Partisi – DTP) is the other major actor in the Turkish political scene.[1]

Illegal immigration and spring hunting

Stephen Calleya
The issue of illegal immigration remains a priority issue with the government of Malta now officially deciding to withdraw from participating in Frontex Operations in the Mediterranean. The government officially declared that this decision was taken due to the decreasing number of illegal migrants arriving in the course of last year. But this decision coincides with the EU’s announcement that all migrants rescued by Frontex operations will now be taken to the country conducting the rescue operation prompting everyone to believe that Malta’s decision to withdraw was taken due to this new provision.
Another major issue dominating politics in Malta in recent months is the issue of spring hunting. The government of Malta decided to open this year’s spring hunting for one week, much to the dismay of activists in favour of birds. The government has announced that it will be discussing this issue extensively with the EU in the coming months before deciding whether to open the season for a lengthier period next year, as the hunter’s association have been consistently requesting.

Trouble in paradise

Jean-Marie Majerus
The German Press Agency (dpa) released an astonishing headline on 28 April 2010: “Uproar in paradise – crisis splits Luxembourg.”[1]
The Grand-Duchy’s economy, already badly shaken by the banking crisis in the aftermath of the Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy, did not have to wait for the consequences of the Greek crisis to learn that new unhappy times were dawning. Being accustomed to growth rates of 4 to 9 percent over the last years, always meeting the Maastricht criteria without a problem, Luxembourg now had a “paradise lost” feeling. The beloved “Luxembourg model” seemed to guarantee a never-ending economic growth success story.

Unemployment, nuclear energy, and the Baltic Sea Strategy

Jurga Valančiūtė
Unemployment has grown drastically
Lithuania has been deeply influenced by the current financial crisis. One of the most problematic consequences of the crisis is a significant increase in the level of unemployment. Several years ago, Lithuania did not face the problem of unemployment, as its level was very low, but according to the latest data provided by the Lithuanian Office of Statistics, the level of unemployment was as high as 13.7 percent at the end of 2009.[1] This means that Lithuania has the third highest unemployment level in the EU after Spain and Latvia. In this context, it is becoming harder for inexperienced and young people to find jobs and, in 2009, the unemployment level among the youth had reached 29.3 percent.[2] The Bank of Lithuania estimates that the level of unemployment might reach up to 16.7 percent this year.[3]
Closure of Ignalina nuclear power plant was not postponed

Miscellaneous current issues in Italy

Jacopo Leone
Immigration: At the beginning of 2010, an impressive social uprising took place in southern Italy, involving numerous African crop-pickers and the Italian police. Clashes lasted several days, and the news was reported on all national media.[1] This is just one episode which well describes the Italian concern over illegal immigration and its connection with crime. Public opinion seems increasingly worried about the lack of public order, sometimes even in big cities, where closed racial neighbourhoods have emerged in the last decade.
Corruption: The past six months have seen a series of political scandals, connected in various ways to corruption and the illegal use of public money.[2] Both sides of the Italian political establishment seem to be involved in the events, leaving a deep sense of dissatisfaction in the national public opinion towards politicians in general.
Afghanistan: Following the arrest in Afghanistan of three Italian aid workers of Emergency, a charity organisation funded by Gino Strada, accused of supporting a plot to assassinate the Governor of the Helmand province, a tense debate emerged in the Italian press and political establishment.[3] The episode obtained large coverage in TV shows and parliamentary auditions, even after the release of the three prisoners.[4]

New coalitions of the willing

Shane Fitzgerald
The former Taoiseach (Fine Gael party) and influential political and economic commentator, Garret FitzGerald, recently argued that the governance of the EU has evolved in a disturbing direction and that European Council meetings on the Greek crisis showed that the “big three” of France, Germany and the UK now dominate proceedings.[1] Meanwhile, speaking at a recent Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA) seminar on the future of European foreign policy after Lisbon, Martti Ahtisaari and Mark Leonard made the point that many traditional EU responses to crises are now off the table.[2] Treaty change is not an option in the current political climate. Neither will high-minded rhetoric and solemn declarations suffice. Leonard described a world where more informal relations between powers are taking the place of much of the formal architecture of global governance in which the European powers, and the EU, have traditionally done so well. And he noted that this resurgence in realpolitik was much in evidence inside the EU’s borders as well as out. Just as the global economic crisis has proven that globalisation is an asymmetric process, so too is it demonstrating that European integration is not the same for everyone.