Blog AnalysisEU diplomacy

2016, a world between two phases. And Europe: folded in on itself?

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(B2) The new year that is opening seems no less surprising (and dangerous) than the year 2015. But I would nevertheless dare to strike a slightly more optimistic note. Contrary to appearances, and what some commentators say, 2015 was not a completely dark or gloomy year. It has sometimes even been positive, I would even dare to say with a little hope... Several peace agreements have thus been reached in numerous crisis zones and in others negotiation processes, more or less solid or fragile ( depending on the state of mind), were engaged, especially at the end of the year. All of these projects certainly have a particularity: they need to be consolidated, still require a lot of work and are not all completely implemented (sometimes very little implemented). But these are agreements.

A series of interesting agreements

With theIran, a global agreement was reached in July to dismantle part of Iran's nuclear power after an initial framework agreement in April (read: A historic agreement with Iran on the nuclear issue. The main terms of the agreement).

Au Mali, an agreement was signed in June in Algiers, between different parties in northern Mali. And even if several attacks punctuate the year, both in the north of the country and in Bamako (which is a novelty), the country maintains its stability.

General elections were held in Central, at the end of December, a few days behind schedule but they were held in a certain serenity, contrary to all concerns.

En Colombia, the historic negotiation between the FARC rebel movement and the government took a decisive turning point, in July with a general ceasefire, in September and December with the agreement on transitional justice, a key point of a peace agreement. peace which should be signed in March 2016 and would thus end a bloody war (more than 200.000 dead) of almost 50 years.

Even at Cashmere yarns , between Pakistan and India, seems to be blowing a new wind, with the surprise visit of Indian leader Narendra Modi to his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, on Christmas Day.

Two more amazing chords

En Libya, a government of national unity was able to see the light of day, after the Skhirat agreement, ratified under the aegis of the international community in December, after months of negotiation. It remains to be seen whether he will be able to make his authority heard.

And Syria, we see an unexpected evolution. The Vienna and New York agreements concluded between all the countries of the region and the members of the Security Council make it possible to define a transition timetable leading to a change of Constitution and new elections, all under the aegis of the UN. Very optimistic timetable, strewn with pitfalls and unknowns (read also: The inter-Syrian dialogue engaged. A unanimous UN resolution. What remains to be settled in 2016? All !). But who would have bet on such an agreement a few months ago?… These two agreements, if they hold and come to fruition, will (perhaps) be enough to say that the 2016 shift will be successful.

Conflicts in the process of being resolved?

En Ukraine, the Minsk II agreements, concluded in February, are holding, more or less, even if the (overly optimistic) timetable has been pushed back by six months. The ceasefire is regularly undermined. But the number of victims per day has fallen noticeably, with rather calm periods. The conflict sort of froze. The free trade agreement between kyiv and the European Union entered into force at the beginning of 2016 without provoking any reactions other than economic retaliatory measures.

Finally, at Cyprus, negotiations between Greek Cypriots and Turks seem well underway. And everyone hopes for an agreement by spring which could change the situation at European level. It is the last remaining (frozen) conflict within EU member countries (after the peace agreements in Ireland and the Basque country).

A European awareness

At EU level, the question of Greece remaining in the Eurozone could have been avoided. The Greek issue has thus, for the moment, been removed from the priorities of Heads of State and Government. If the management of flow of refugees and migrants now largely occupies minds, with a problematic delay, Europeans finally seem to have become aware of the difficulty of the question and reforms have been initiated, not the least of which is the transformation of Frontex into a security agency. borders and coast guards. After more than a year of procrastination, the States have also decided to accelerate the implementation of a new package of measures in terms of fight against terrorism. The Juncker Commission proves that it has a certain springiness that the previous one did not have. There would then be something to rejoice…

A dark threat

But this horizon is tarnished by the terrorist threat which is re-emerging in Europe. A terrorism which is not new in itself but does not really resemble the terrorism of past years. Neither totally political nor totally geographical, it is both interior and exterior, and seems to have no real political claim, other than that of sowing terror for terror's sake, to destroy a model of society. He is riding a wave of identity, with sectarian overtones, and is attracting many young people, while governments seem helpless. Strengthening military intervention in the Middle East - assuming that it actually succeeds in eradicating the Islamic State organization - will not solve the problem.

The crisis of Homo Europeus

This is the moment when in several European states (Hungary, Poland, Finland, Denmark, United Kingdom and France, etc.) a certain nationalism resurfaces which takes different paths; populist or patriotic. Added to this, in several of these countries, is a sort of constitutional coup d'état, aimed at calling into question past achievements. The situations are very different and cannot be confused. But the smells are very worrying. Today they reveal the desire to no longer live together but side by side (in the best case), even against each other, to no longer really have solidarity but only a market (which has never worked a long time). The European Union therefore seems today to be deeply questioning its future, its reason for being and its ambition for an integrated community. It’s not really his opponents who are making progress. Over the years, it has lost some of its supporters, disappointed, tired, exasperated by a structure which seems to have lost itself in an ideology which no longer has anything to do with the projects of its founders: to be a human community of progress. . In a word: Europe no longer makes people dream… or mobilize. The financial crisis of 2007-2008 and even the Euro Zone happened there. But not only. It's the crisis ofgay europeus who is on his way. And it should still have its effects in 2016, leading to a withdrawal that is all the more dramatic as it has lasted for almost 10 years. And the world continues to chip away.

Civil wars at the gates of Europe

Offshore, the civil war continues, inexorably, to slice lives apart, particularly in the Middle East, in Syria and Iraq, but also in Yemen. And it is not really heterogeneous military interventions - ranging from Iran and Russia to the United States and Saudi Arabia, via France, the United Kingdom and a few others - which can really bring peace in a region. There is no real common political objective nor envisaged way out (negotiating with the Islamic State organization appears today as heresy). These interventions harbor more than one contradiction within them. The Kurdish PKK, Lebanese Hezbollah, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, etc. are all classified as terrorist movements by the European Union. This does not prevent them on the ground from supporting them or at least demanding their support to fight Daesh or the Islamic State. Between Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran, we cannot say that the atmosphere is one of cordial understanding. The signing of the agreement with Iran has restarted the race for regional leadership. And anything goes…

An African continent under tension

En Africa, all danger is not over. The elections, which are a moment of risk, of explosion, on the continent could bring back to the countries of the Great Lakes, a resurgence of civil conflicts. While tensions in South Sudan as in the Horn of Africa or in the northern Sahel zone seem very tenacious. Not to mention possible uncertainties in the Maghreb. Here again, it is the Libyan situation which could set the tone throughout the region. In Mediterranean sea, Europeans have however become much more realistic. Between a perfect democracy and stability, they have chosen, it is now stability which takes precedence even if it means having an imperfect democracy, on the contrary... A sudden realism, cynical at times, which thus prevails in the different countries around it leading to deafening certain possible criticism, for example in Turkey or Egypt, or even in Morocco or Algeria.

An excellent 2016 to all our readers, with one certainty: the 'strategic surprise' will be there.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Lire: 2014, a year of crises… And it's not over in 2015!

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).