Some unlikely names are beginning to appear in Syria, Egypt, Libya and countries which lie south of the Sahel belt of Africa. Wagner Group, a Russian private military company (PMC) which won its spurs in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine and in Syria where it guards oil facilities, has spread its wings to the Central African Republic, where a hundred of its men are training the army which is being rebooted after free elections brought a new man, Faustin-Archange Touadéra, to the presidency two years ago. Russia had already agreed to sell weapons to the country despite a UN embargo which followed severe rioting in 2013, to the consternation of the United States and France.
The European Union has played a complementary role to that of the United States over many issues in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), including the relationship with the Islamic Republic and the Iranian nuclear programme. The 2015 nuclear deal, which would not have been possible without US support, has so far been the main foreign policy success for the EU. Beyond the deal’s economic and security benefits and the moral obligations involved, therefore, the EU has vital political interests in keeping the deal alive and ensuring it is implemented. For Iran, the nuclear deal means that it could avoid war and preserve the regime – despite domestic economic and public concerns – while maintaining its right to use nuclear energy for civilian purposes, a symbol of modernity and regional power status. With the deal, the EU and its UN Security Council (UNSC) permanent members (the United Kingdom and France), plus Germany, have been – successfully from the Iranian point of view – distanced from the United States.
We live in the era of cities: more than half the world’s population lives in urban areas and forecasts suggest that this trend will increase over the coming decades. We also live in the era of globalisation: the world today is inevitably interconnected and subject to interdependencies that oblige us to think and act outside the conventional theoretical and political frameworks.
In March 2017, Jean Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, presented his five possible future scenarios for a fragile European Union in search of a renewed compromise and probably a more flexible construction. Right after Juncker’s announcement, the four large Eurozone countries -Germany, France, Italy and Spain- met in Versailles to discuss their next moves towards greater integration and to draw a future Union at various speeds. The presence of the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, at that meeting in the outskirts of Paris, after a long period of absence in the directory commanding the ship of a European Union in crisis, was a turning point, from Madrid’s perspective. Spain was smoothly overcoming the deteriorated image of a deep economic and political crisis, in order to take a new role.
Carme Colomina, Associate Researcher, CIDOB
The attacks committed on August 17th and 18th 2017 in Barcelona and Cambrils (17A) surprised various analysts and observers, not because Spain was not likely to be attacked but because 17A was different from the recent attacks on European territory in certain ways. Both the profile of the perpetrators and the reactions it produced invite us to reflect on three questions: Why did 17A happen? Who are directly and indirectly responsible for this tragedy? And, how can another be prevented? Though these are the questions that tend to arise following each terrorist attack, the case of 17A is different from the others for one main reason: the fleeting nature of the debates that followed.
Moussa Bourekba (coord.)