We use cookies to help improve and maintain our site. More information.
close

February 17, 2017

Watch out for instability of the Balkans

The Western Balkans are mostly outside our purview as only Slovenia is in the eurozone, but Croatia is also an EU member state and the EU runs a protectorate in Bosnia in all but name. Added to this is the major role of the Balkan route in the migration crisis of 2015-16. Political instability in the Balkans is the last thing the EU needs when it is already faced with geopolitical uncertainty from Brexit, the Trump administration, and the diplomatic conflict with Russia over the war in Eastern Ukraine.

In recent weeks we have caught a number of analysis pieces both from a European and American perspective, warning about the potential for instability in the Balkans and Russia's alleged role in stoking conflict in the region.

Most recently, Salvador Llaudes of Spanish think tank Elcano wrote about how the arrival of the Trump administration can affect the Western Balkans, and the EU's interests in the region. In principle, Trump is good news for Putin because he prefers to deal with strong-leder types than with multinational organisations like the EU - or even NATO which Trump has even called obsolete. Possible flashpoints include the increasingly tense relations between Serbia and Kosovo; and the breakdown of Bosnian intercommunity relations as the Serb entity the Republika Srpska increasingly contests Bosnia's constitutional court. The situation in Bosnia directly involves the EU as it oversees the application of the Dayton agreement through its high representative. Montenegro, on the other hand, appears strongly committed to both EU and NATO membership. The US is favourable to Montenegro's accession to NATO, which woud be a setback for Russian designs in the region.

Writing in the LSE's European politics and policy blog, Florian Bieber writes that Trump's presidency will encourage regional oligarchs - which he calls Balkan Princes - to become more brazen as they can now not only emulate Erdogan or Putin, but also Trump. He also notes the return of geopolitics with increasing talk by Western analysts about redrawing the borders along ethnic lines - basically, carving out Bosnia. Such talk has elicited strong rejoinders such as this from Dejan Anastasijevic, who says the last thing the people of the Balkans need is experts fanning the flames of future conflicts.

Commentary from the US tends to focus more on Putin vying for control of the region with the US. The analysis relegates the EU to a background role. We note a piece in Bloomberg by Leonid Bershidsky warning that the Russian sphere of influence extends into the Balkans though Serbia. John Schindler writes  that Putin is beating the drums of war by arming Serbia and encouraging stunts like the recent chartering of a Russian-made train to Kosovo with the decoration "Kosovo is Serbia" in over 20 languages. The train never made it to Kosovo amid rising tensions. Schindler calls Putin's actions in the Balkans Trump's first foreign policy crisis.

Show Comments Write a Comment

February 17, 2017

The economic consequences of Trump for Europe

It is still too early to pass judgement on the impact of the Trump administration but some strands are becoming visible. Philipp Liesenhoff and Peter Sparding from the German Marshall Fund have done a good job of trying to distil the impact of Trump’s economic policy announcements on Europe. The bottom line is that it will be positive in the short run, but very negative in the long run. They go into the details of Trump's broader economic policies - fiscal policies, his impact on monetary policy through several FOMC appointments coming up in the next 18 months, and of course his declared intention to eradicate America’s trade deficit and negotiate more bilateral trade deals. 

The long term problem for Europe is the likely erosion of the multilateral trading system, which will be impossible to maintain in the absence of the US. Others, like China, will try to fill the policy vacuum forcing the EU to re-position itself - something it may not be able to do effectively. The authors also note that Trump is playing to anti-German sentiments within Europe, in attempt to create divisions. He will try, and quite possibly succeed in this endeavour.

“...criticism from Washington regarding the German approach to the euro area is not new, but the harsher and more direct tone from the new U.S. administration could signal an attempt at widening existing divisions in order to set the stage for a stronger focus on bilateral relations with European countries. With President Trump already calling out Germany in a newspaper interview for its trade surplus with the U.S. and the country previously being included on a currency watch list under the Obama administration, the potential for a confrontation should be taken seriously.”

Show Comments Write a Comment

February 17, 2017

On muddled thinking in Ireland

Kevin O’Rourke has been writing about the inconsistencies of the Irish government’s position on Brexit for a while. Enda Kenny, the Irish prime minister, has been saying that his number one priority is to prevent a hard border between the north and the Republic after Brexit. O’Rourke agrees that a border, however soft, is appalling. But he argues that’s no excuse for muddled thinking:

“It is logically coherent, if lunatic, to argue that Ireland should quit the EU and join the UK customs union (leaving the EU would on its own obviously not suffice to avoid a North-South border: our exit from the EU would have to be of the red, white, and blue variety). It is logically coherent to argue that Northern Ireland should remain within it, and I wish it would. That seems like something worth arguing for. But it is logically incoherent to argue that if we remain in the EU and its customs union, and the North leaves both, there can be some special deal that will avoid the need for a customs frontier on the island.”

There is no majority in Ireland for an exit from the EU. Ireland’s prosperity is based on EU membership. But there is a possible dynamic. If the government holds up the fairy tale of a soft border after Brexit, this will end up in disappointment. And that in turn could lead to unjustified criticisms that the EU has let Ireland down. The Brexit campaign has shown that such dishonesty can pay off.

Show Comments Write a Comment

This is the public section of the Eurointelligence Professional Briefing, which focuses on the geopolitical aspects of our news coverage. It appears daily at 2pm CET. The full briefing, which appears at 9am CET, is only available to subscribers. Please click here for a free trial, and here for the Eurointelligence home page.

 

Recent News

  • September 18, 2017
  • Why Germany cannot lead Europe, let alone the free world
  • Will Macron help to build up Mélenchon?
  • Boris' Coup
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • August 31, 2017
  • Where are the Républicains?
  • Poland unmoved by EU rule-of-law sanctions
  • May will stay through Brexit, and then fight the 2022 elections
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • August 21, 2017
  • Soft, getting softer
  • Tsipras' chances of a boost
  • On the fallacy of a middle-ground option for the eurozone
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • July 27, 2017
  • Löfven's move
  • The nearing end of petrol and diesel engines
  • Why a second referendum in the UK won’t happen, and why it would be wrong
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • July 10, 2017
  • EU in self-destruction mode
  • The EU's fault lines
  • Fake News and Fake views
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • June 20, 2017
  • How to soften Brexit?
  • The deep roots of Brexit: Thatcher and the Germans
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • July 09, 2018
  • German panic about Target2
  • AfD level with SPD
  • How the EU could fail
  • May 31, 2017
  • Getting real in the debate on the euro's future
  • Russia's growing influence in Italy
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • May 28, 2018
  • A no-confidence motion that could backfire
  • The political repercussions of a historic referendum in Ireland
  • Why the lack of an international role for the euro matters
  • May 10, 2017
  • PSOE primary campaign in full swing
  • Czech government crisis escalates
  • Backroom dealing on electoral reform in Italy
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • April 13, 2018
  • German support for eurozone reform next to zero...
  • ... and no support for France on Syria either
  • A French sermon
  • Why the euro endures
  • April 19, 2017
  • Shadows of money
  • Breppe Grillo vs Eurointelligence
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • February 26, 2018
  • Angela Merkel's cabinet
  • March 27, 2017
  • Governing formation troubles - Northern Ireland edition
  • Did Trump present Merkel with a bill for Nato?
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • January 08, 2018
  • Getting real on Brexit
  • Macron in China
  • March 01, 2017
  • The threat of Frexit
  • Fear and loathing of a referendum in Spain
  • How to get around Theresa May’s little ECJ issue
  • Solve the problem
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • November 13, 2017
  • A pro-European list: Wauquiez' nightmare
  • Catalan separatism isn't going away
  • Why oh why does Germany behave the way it does?
  • Why the four freedoms matter
  • February 02, 2017
  • Will it come to the use of force in Catalonia?
  • The day Brexit became irreversible
  • Can Trump and May succeed?
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • June 01, 2018
  • Will France and Germany stick together in their response to US trade tariffs?
  • From a eurozone budget to a slush fund
  • September 18, 2017
  • Why Germany cannot lead Europe, let alone the free world
  • Will Macron help to build up Mélenchon?
  • Boris' Coup
  • January 05, 2017
  • French Socialist primaries - old wine in new bottles
  • Le Pen's hard ecu
  • Will Tusk get a second mandate?
  • Themes of 2017
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • February 16, 2018
  • How big will the euro budget be?
  • July 10, 2017
  • EU in self-destruction mode
  • The EU's fault lines
  • Fake News and Fake views
  • November 30, 2016
  • Is Russia behind a massive cyber attack in Germany?
  • Will Fillon move to the centre?
  • The Dutch left field is getting crowded
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • April 16, 2018
  • Italy's and Germany's pained response to the Syria attacks
  • On the end of the eurozone's economic honeymoon
  • Why Bulgaria should stay out of the euro
  • Where shall we meet after Brexit?
  • October 16, 2017
  • What‘s the deep meaning of the elections in Lower Saxony?
  • Can Brexit be revoked?
  • Macron's grand narrative
  • April 19, 2017
  • Shadows of money
  • Breppe Grillo vs Eurointelligence
  • October 20, 2016
  • No games please, we are Europeans
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • June 11, 2018
  • The end of the G7 - good riddance
  • Macron needs allies for his European agenda
  • Who is going to be the next director-general of the Italian treasury?
  • January 29, 2018
  • Where is the opposition in France?
  • Scenarios and risks for Syriza over Macedonia
  • September 21, 2017
  • Time to get serious about Brexit
  • Would the FDP claim the job of finance minister?
  • The return of the ultra-right to German politics
  • May 15, 2017
  • SPD and CDU disagree on how to respond to Macron
  • Was Rajoy blackmailed?
  • The rise of the re-leavers
  • January 05, 2017
  • French Socialist primaries - old wine in new bottles
  • Le Pen's hard ecu
  • Will Tusk get a second mandate?
  • Themes of 2017
  • August 30, 2016
  • Brexit facts on the ground
  • Burkinis and Republican primaries
  • The SPD and TTIP
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • June 20, 2018
  • Does Macron support Merkel over refugees?
  • Arising doubts whether the meaningful vote rebellion will succeed
  • The message of two shocking polls
  • May 22, 2018
  • A €60bn ESM credit line - is this what they call a backstop?
  • Will Nato survive Trump?
  • Northern Ireland's Brexit disillusion
  • Would Corbyn become prime minister if he accepted the single market?
  • April 23, 2018
  • More bad news for the SPD
  • Will Theresa May accept a customs union? The Times says yes. We think so too.
  • A comeback for Marine Le Pen?
  • March 26, 2018
  • On the run no more
  • Terrorist attack will challenge Macron
  • A double-whammy of geopolitical and financial uncertainty
  • February 26, 2018
  • Angela Merkel's cabinet
  • January 29, 2018
  • Where is the opposition in France?
  • Scenarios and risks for Syriza over Macedonia
  • January 05, 2018
  • Catalonia's government by Skype
  • The case for EEA membership
  • December 06, 2017
  • Ireland in search of its own path in the EU
  • Who owns the eurozone?
  • Gabriel's big speech
  • November 14, 2017
  • The apolitical movement inside LREM
  • On the unity of the PD and the visions of the Italian left
  • A clarification on glyphosate
  • On freedom of movement
  • October 23, 2017
  • Macron's plans for the European Parliament
  • First phase of Brexit negotiations in final stretch
  • Why the left hates Europe
  • October 02, 2017
  • Catalonia recalls EU and eurozone instability
  • French trade unions increase pressure over labour reforms
  • Watch out for a political accident in the UK
  • Municipal elections boost Portugal's Socialists
  • September 11, 2017
  • Turkey issues travel warning for visitors to Germany
  • How nasty is the AfD?
  • August 21, 2017
  • Soft, getting softer
  • Tsipras' chances of a boost
  • On the fallacy of a middle-ground option for the eurozone
  • July 24, 2017
  • Macron's popularity falls amid more budget cuts
  • Orbán to support Polish government against EU
  • No exit from Brexit
  • July 05, 2017
  • Europe’s next migration crisis
  • Philippe: French need to kick spending addiction
  • June 20, 2017
  • How to soften Brexit?
  • The deep roots of Brexit: Thatcher and the Germans
  • June 05, 2017
  • What happens to Brexit if Labour wins?
  • What Russia wants
  • May 22, 2017
  • Catalonia's independence blueprint
  • Commission wants completion of eurozone by 2025
  • The case for more honesty about the abolition of cash
  • The case against an Italian euro exit
  • May 08, 2017
  • A message of hope
  • Barnier's not so easily agreed Brexit principles
  • The rebirth of the paranoid conspiracy theory
  • April 26, 2017
  • The realities of Brexit - residency rights edition
  • How Franco-German economic imbalances manifest
  • Pasok - the now classic Socialist dilemma
  • April 15, 2017
  • Happy Easter
  • April 05, 2017
  • What if Macron were to become president?
  • The case for relative optimism about Article 50
  • March 28, 2017
  • To vote or not to vote
  • The pressure is on for the Dutch Green Left
  • On macro risk in the eurozone
  • March 20, 2017
  • Does the language of communiques matter?
  • Spain snap election rumblings
  • Will there be a Brexit deal?
  • March 13, 2017
  • Poland and the future of the EU
  • Polls show 40% support for Costa's Socialists
  • Council of Europe questions Spanish constitutional court reform
  • March 05, 2017
  • Poland vs Tusk
  • Juppé - a recovered candidate?
  • Will Italy leave the euro?
  • February 27, 2017
  • May’s next gamble
  • Macron and the rise of the centre
  • Bite the bullet and get on with it
  • Who is the AfD?
  • February 24, 2017
  • Schulz effect stabilises
  • Wilders security breach becomes campaign issue
  • Kenny wants Ireland clause in Brexit deal
  • On why Europe should not overreact to Trump
  • February 22, 2017
  • Schulz and the neoliberals
  • How to get back into the EU
  • The second phase of Trump
  • February 20, 2017
  • SPD ahead of CDU/CSU
  • Fillon bounces back
  • The Brexit timetable
  • February 17, 2017
  • Watch out for instability of the Balkans
  • The economic consequences of Trump for Europe
  • On muddled thinking in Ireland