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  • Author: Luca Franza
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Dolphins are being spotted in harbours, canals in Venice have never looked so clean and the temporary ban of corridas has spared the lives of a hundred Spanish bulls. Looking at the bright side of things is an admirable quality, but we should not get too carried away with the idea that COVID-19 is good for the planet. Besides the anecdotal phenomena quoted above, the collapse of mobility and economic activity induced by COVID-19 are generating meaningful short-term consequences for the environment. These include a sharp reduction in Hubei’s and Northern Italy’s air pollution levels and a likely reduction in global CO2 emissions in 2020. Rejoicing over such news rests on a short-sighted view. The interlinkages between COVID-19, energy and climate issues are so complex that we are actually looking at a mixed bag of consequences.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Environment, Pollution, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Global Focus
  • Author: Francesca Ghiretti
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The bilateral relationship between Italy and China is back in the spotlight one year after the signature of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on China’s Belt and Road Initiative. To date, Italy is the second hardest hit country by COVID-19 pandemic after China. Despite strict measures in place to limit the crisis, numbers keep rising, placing the national health care system under severe strain.
  • Topic: Health, Bilateral Relations, Foreign Aid, Propaganda
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Asia, Italy, European Union
  • Author: Alessandro Marrone
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The Italian armed forces need to adjust to a changing operational environment, whereby threat levels are on the rise and the United States is more reluctant to lead military operations than in the past.
  • Topic: International Relations, NATO, Armed Forces, Military Affairs
  • Political Geography: Europe, Italy, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Elisa Murgese
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: China’s 2018 import ban on mixed “recyclable” plastic waste revealed deep-rooted problems in the global recycling system and uncovered the wasteful and harmful nature of the recycling trade. Repercussions have been global. In April 2019, Greenpeace East Asia took a closer look at the top plastic waste importers and exporters globally. This data details the 21 top exporters and 21 top importers of plastic waste from January 2016 to November 2018, measuring the breadth of the plastics crisis and the global industry’s response to import bans. Two core trends emerged from China’s ban and the Greenpeace analysis.
  • Topic: Crime, Environment, Trafficking , Waste
  • Political Geography: Europe, Malaysia, Asia, Italy
  • Author: Nicola Bilotta, Alissa Siara
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: One of the key priorities of the new European Commission is to enhance the EU’s geopolitical credentials and “learn to use the language of power”, as stated by the incoming EU High Representative Josep Borrell. The EU’s ambition is two-fold: to increase the Union’s ability to project power and influence at the global level, including through increased integration and coordination among member states, and secondly to enhance the EU’s strategic autonomy from the US in the political, military and economic domains. Both objectives, ambitious in the best of circumstances, are today under severe strain by the COVID-19 crisis. Implications will be long-lasting and multidimensional, and for Europe, its impact will have a direct bearing on its ambition for strategic autonomy, touching each of the three pillars outlined above.
  • Topic: Regional Cooperation, Geopolitics, Economy, Autonomy, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: Europe, European Union
  • Author: Alessandro Marrone
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic will negatively affect the defence field from a budgetary, industrial and politicostrategic point of view, particularly in Europe. Depending on the pandemic’s duration, its economic consequences and national and EU responses, effects may range from contained damages to a much wider European security crisis.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, Crisis Management, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: Europe, European Union
  • Author: Daniele Fattibene
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development stands at a crossroads. While Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have progressively entered the political discourse and agendas of numerous states, without long-term financial investments, building a more just and sustainable future will remain little more than a rhetorical embellishment.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Development, United Nations, Sustainable Development Goals
  • Political Geography: Europe, European Union
  • Author: Elena A. Korosteleva, Irina Petrova
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Resilience has recently emerged as a possible solution to address the increasing dysfunctionality of national and global governance, strengthening its ability to deal with the frequenting crises and the adversity of VUCA – the more vulnerable, uncertain, complex and ambiguous – world around us.
  • Topic: Politics, International Relations Theory, Institutions, Coronavirus, Resilience
  • Political Geography: Europe, European Union
  • Author: Tommaso Emiliani
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The killing of top Iranian General Qasem Soleimani by a US drone strike on 3 January 2020, followed by the Iranian retaliation on US military bases in Iraq, left many Europeans wondering how – if at all – the European Union can foster de-escalation in the Middle East. The EU is presently stuck between a deepening strategic rift with its US ally and its inability to advance its independent interests and policies vis-à-vis Iran. It is now clear that Europe cannot protect its relations with Washington while also salvaging the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or Iranian nuclear deal. Borrowing from an old Persian proverb, Europe cannot have both God and the sugar dates.
  • Topic: Sanctions, Military Affairs, Trade, Transatlantic Relations, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: Europe, Iran, Middle East, United States of America, European Union, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Luca Barana
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The European Commission’s Joint-Communication “Towards a Comprehensive Strategy with Africa”, published on 9 March 2020, envisioned the beginnings of a new and more equal partnership with the African Union (AU).[1] Meanwhile, COVID-19 has had an unprecedented disruptor effect on the world scene. Its impact dramatic and long-lasting, the crisis may also be an opportunity to move beyond policy principles and actually consolidate the EU–AU relationship. The Commission aspires to structure this new course of EU–AU relations around five thematic partnerships and ten actions so as to concretely step up cooperation. A common thread emerging from the Communication is the need to strengthen multilateralism and the rules-based international system.
  • Topic: Migration, United Nations, Multilateralism, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: Africa, Europe, European Union, African Union
  • Author: Nona Mikhelidze
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: On 25 March, one month after Russia registered its first confirmed case of Coronavirus, President Vladimir Putin announced a week of paid national holiday and invited Russians to stay home in a televised address to the nation. Further measures were subsequently introduced to limit the spread of the virus, while authorities prepared emergency plans to safeguard socio-economic conditions in the country. Initiatives included providing a new support package to businesses hit by the pandemic, a monthly bonus to medical personnel and the construction of new hospitals, following the Chinese model. Meanwhile, the constitutional referendum meant to extend Putin’s term limit as president was postponed. Originally scheduled for 22 April, this delay is due to Putin’s concern for public health and the multidimensional impact of the pandemic, a perfect storm involving quarantine measures, declining living standards, inflation and a weakened exchange rate, rising prices and increased job insecurity. Taken together, these challenges could jeopardise the outcome of the referendum. A recent poll conducted by the Levada Center in March highlighted a very slim majority (45 per cent) in favour of Putin’s constitutional amendments.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Health, Soft Power, Coronavirus, Vladimir Putin
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Italy
  • Author: Nicoletta Pirozzi
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Every era has its symbols. In 1984, Mitterrand and Kohl held hands on the battlefield in Verdun, coming to symbolise the importance of peace in the pursuit of European integration. Today, in times of COVID-19, the so-called “Coronabonds” could have emerged as the symbol of a new Europe, one that is ready and able to do what it takes to collectively overcome the present crisis. Yet, what some member states consider an indispensable emblem of European solidarity, namely debt mutualisation to face an unprecedented symmetric crisis brought about by COVID-19, is regarded by others as an ultimate excuse for moral hazard. As a result, Europe could end up with a politically more digestible European Fund, as proposed by Commissioners Paolo Gentiloni and Thierry Breton, designed to issue long-term bonds.[1] Or, as outlined by the Eurogroup, a Recovery Fund that is “temporary, targeted and commensurate” to the extraordinary costs of the current crisis, helping to spread them across time.
  • Topic: Financial Crisis, Governance, Finance, Economy, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: Europe, European Union
  • Author: Manfred Gerstenfeld
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: An important tool in understanding the dynamics of antisemitism is the identification of moments when its boundaries shift. This occurred with the Trump Peace Plan, the antisemitism crisis in the British Labour party, the UN’s first World Conference against Racism, the huge outburst of antisemitism in France in 2000, and the German welcome policy for refugees and asylum seekers.
  • Topic: Politics, Ideology, Peace, Anti-Semitism, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, Israel, Palestine, United States of America
  • Author: James M Dorsey
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: As tens of thousands more refugees are shunted by Turkey toward Europe and a new phase of the brutal Syrian war unfolds, Russia, Turkey, the EU, and the international community are being handed the bill for a flawed short-term approach to the nine-year conflict that lacked empathy for the millions of victims and was likely to magnify rather than resolve problems.
  • Topic: War, Refugees, Syrian War, International Community
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Turkey, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Anne Herzberg
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: UN treaty bodies are increasingly violating their mandates as part of discriminatory anti-Israel campaigns. In March 2020, the UN Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) embraced this disturbing trend by adopting a BDS agenda after being convinced to do so by the NGO Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA).
  • Topic: Human Rights, Politics, United Nations, BDS, NGOs
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, Israel, Norway, Palestine
  • Author: Emil Avdaliani
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: Though analysts tend to portray Russia’s foreign policy as truly global (that is, independent of Europe, the US, and China), the country is plainly tilting toward Asia. The Russian political elite does its best to hide this development, but the country is accumulating more interests and freedom to act in Asia than in Europe or anywhere else.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Geopolitics, Global Security
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Eurasia, Asia
  • Author: Ferdinando Nelli Feroci
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: A few months after the European Parliament elections, and a few weeks before a new European Commission is fully operational, the European Union is facing old and new challenges, both domestic and international. Internally, the EU will soon be testing these new institutions. In the recently elected European Parliament, nationalist and Eurosceptic political forces are a minority, but pro-European mainstream parties, which have the numbers to control the proceedings of the Parliament, have not been able to consolidate a stable and comfortable majority. The new European Commission has encountered setbacks in the confirmation procedure of three of its members and will therefore fully assume its responsibilities with some delay on 1 December.
  • Topic: Government, Nationalism, Politics, Elections, Transatlantic Relations
  • Political Geography: Europe, North America, United States of America, European Union
  • Author: Nicoletta Pirozzi, Francesco Musi
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The civilian dimension of conflict prevention, conflict resolution and post-conflict stabilisation has long been prominent in EU crisis management missions. From 2000 onwards, the EU has developed its monitoring, capacity-building, strategic advice and training tools, deploying a total of 22 civilian missions beyond its borders. Currently, there are 11 active civilian missions, stretching from the Balkans (EULEX Kosovo) to the Middle East (EUBAM Rafah, EUPOL COPPS, EUAM Iraq), from Eastern Europe and Caucasus (EUAM Ukraine, EUMM Georgia) to Africa (EUBAM Libya, EUCAP Sahel Mali, EUCAP Sahel Niger, EUCAP Somalia). Their main tasks include policy reforms on the rule of law, the fight against organised crime and security sector reform.
  • Topic: Politics, Reform, Budget, Crisis Management, Institutions
  • Political Geography: Europe, European Union
  • Author: Nicola Casarini
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Should the EU enforce a containment policy towards the People’s Republic of China (PRC – or simply China), joining efforts undertaken by US President Donald Trump, who has unleashed a trade and technological war against Beijing with the aim of permanently subordinating the Asian giant to the West? Or should the EU continue its engagement policy towards Beijing – and even seek to maximise Sino-European ties to put limits on those US unilateral policies that are detrimental to Europe’s interests and fundamental values? What would be the best policy mix of engagement and containment for EU–China relations? And to what extent should the EU align its China policy with that of the US?
  • Topic: International Relations, Politics, Institutions
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Asia, United States of America, European Union
  • Author: Jiri Valenta
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: The revolution that took place in the Czech Republic thirty years ago was not just the work of Vaclav Havel and his Charter 77 followers. The spark was a KGB coup directed by General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev. A Kremlin coup also helped spur revolutionary change in Germany. The late 1980s saw unprecedented power struggles within the Soviet elite and Politburo under Gorbachev.
  • Topic: History, Geopolitics, Coup, Revolution
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Czech Republic
  • Author: Katerina Sokou, Aristotle Tziampiris
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: The challenging geography of Greece makes it hard for the country to take full advantage of its natural resources and expand its energy grid. Though it has doubled its share of renewables, it needs to redouble those efforts to reach the EU’s ambitious goal of covering a third of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2030. The Greek islands that have been at the forefront of the migration and refugee crises would particularly benefit from a targeted policy to reach that goal, as the transition would increase their energy security, reduce their energy costs, and diversify their economies. Greece has the potential to be a model of sustainability that would enhance the stability of the entire Eastern Med.
  • Topic: Security, Climate Change, Energy Policy, Natural Resources, Refugee Crisis, Sustainability
  • Political Geography: Europe, Greece, Mediterranean
  • Author: Manfred Gerstenfeld
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: Berlin has surpassed Malmö as Europe’s antisemitism capital, with a wide variety of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel attitudes on display. They include dozens of cases of physical aggression against Jews, including rabbis. Jewish pupils have had to leave public schools. Thirty-five percent of Berliners view Israelis as analogous to Nazis. An Al-Quds Day march takes place annually that calls for the destruction of Israel. Both the municipality and the federal government are two-faced about the problem of antisemitism.
  • Topic: Politics, Judaism, Ideology, Anti-Semitism
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Germany
  • Author: Julia Hamann
  • Publication Date: 02-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP)
  • Abstract: More fragmented than ever, Europe is at a crossroads, making the 2019 European Parliament election an immensely political event. Stakes are high for Emmanuel Macron, Matteo Salvini and Viktor Orbán, all of whom could shake up the balance of power in the EP. Macron has lost much of his initial vigor, and the disruptive potential of Salvini and Orbán is significant. If played well, their combined power could send shock waves across all European institutions
  • Topic: Elections, Democracy, Europe Union
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Julia Hamann, Sara Jakob
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP)
  • Abstract: For many young people in France, President Macron’s reforms failed to alleviate their social anxieties. Unemployment remains high, employment conditions precarious, and what started as a protest against new fuel taxes quickly spilled over to other reform areas including social policy. Macron will need to gain the youngsters’ trust ahead of the European Parliament election – not least because its outcome will decisively shape his domestic credibility, and consequently, his political fate
  • Topic: International Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Lee Willett
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Institut français des relations internationales (IFRI)
  • Abstract: Russia’s Syrian campaign has demonstrated the returning challenge the West faces in the underwater domain. Combat operations in Syria have been an opportunity for Russia’s military forces to prove on operations a new generation of capabilities, just as Operation ‘Desert Storm’ in 1991 saw the United States demonstrate its own new generation of military technology. One of the first weapons fired in ‘Desert Storm’ was a Tomahawk sea-launched cruise missile (SLCM), launched on the first day from several surface combatants. Two days later, a Los Angeles-class nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSN) became the first submarine to fire Tomahawk in combat.[1] The USN’s re-roling of its SSNs as primary power projection platforms in the 1990s/early 2000s underlined the shift in Western focus in the underwater battlespace away from the primary Cold War task of anti-submarine warfare (ASW) to counter Soviet naval activity. Simply, the strategic collapse of the Soviet Union saw what was a significant submarine threat disappear almost overnight, and with it – for that moment, at least – the Western requirement for ASW capability. Today, the underwater threat is back. Since 2008 – which saw both Russian naval forces engaged in the Georgia campaign and the re-emergence of regular deployments by Russian submarines (and surface ships) south of the Greenland-Iceland-UK (GIUK) gap – naval power has been central to Russia’s strategic resurgence.
  • Topic: Military Strategy, Military Affairs, Weapons , Maritime
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Eurasia, Middle East, Syria, Mediterranean
  • Author: Guilhem Penent
  • Publication Date: 06-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Institut français des relations internationales (IFRI)
  • Abstract: It is a classic exercise to imagine what today’s world would be like if all satellites were shut down. The exact consequences of such a scenario, which is not unlikely given the inherent vulnerability of space systems to natural, accidental and deliberate interferences, are however difficult to appreciate, even for specialists. In the smartphone age, much of what we take for granted is provided by space technologies. They are so effective at delivering essential, though unseen, services (e.g. positioning, navigation and timing signals, geographic information data, and broadcasting relay and amplification) that many aspects of our modern society have become reliant upon them. As emphasized by Florence Parly, the French minister for the armed forces, in last September: “From rural to urban areas, from the very small to the large companies, every day, more than 10 satellites on average accompany us and help us in our daily lives.”
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Science and Technology, Space, Autonomy
  • Political Geography: Europe, European Union