Following the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union (EU), the Brexit negotiations are entering the decisive next phase: In a transition period of now only 10 months, the future relationship between the EU and the United Kingdom with regard to economic, internal security, and foreign policy as well as an overall institutional framework must be negotiated. But the signs point to confrontation. The main aim of the domestically strengthened British government is absolute dissociation from the EU; the list with potential points of conflict with the Union’s negotiation objectives is long. Together, the negotiators must find a new model of cooperation between partnership and competition.
The conflict between Egypt and Ethiopia over the distribution and use of the Nile water has entered a new phase. Questions about how and over what period of time the reservoir of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) will be filled are taking centre stage. Against this backdrop, the USA launched a new mediation attempt at the end of 2019. However, initial hopes of a swift agreement have not materialized. The longer substantial results are postponed, the more apparent it becomes that external mediation alone will not suffice to resolve the dispute. In order to defuse the conflict, it might be necessary for Egypt to compensate Ethiopia for concessions on the GERD. Germany and its European partners should provide Egypt with financial support for creating a compensation mechanism. This would promote stability in Europe’s conflict-ridden neighbouring region, and reduce migration pressure. But Europeans should tie financial contributions to clear conditions vis-à-vis Cairo, aimed at improving water management and overall governance.
In the second half of 2020, Germany will take over the Council Presidency of the European Union. It will form a presidency trio with Portugal and Slovenia, who will succeed Germany in 2021. The Federal Government should use its presidency to strengthen the EU’s role in global health policy. The EU has so far focused primarily on (infectious) disease prevention and control as it has most recently in response to the coronavirus outbreak (Covid-19). However, in order to contribute to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, it should focus more comprehensively on health systems. This would require an intersectoral and preventive approach at EU level, opening the door to coherent collaboration, alliances and a people-centered policy in line with European values.
The Agreement Establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) came into force in May 2019. Ultimately the AfCFTA is designed to create a comprehensive African market; what is does at this stage is set in motion a set of complex and foreseeably very lengthy negotiations. The outcome of that process will not yet be full free trade in Africa, but it will bring about a reduction in tariffs with the potential to stimulate production and trade and boost regional value chains. It is, however, too early to be discussing modifying the European Union’s trade policy towards Africa, or for this to be an issue for the upcoming German Council Presidency. Nevertheless, Germany and the European Union should continue to follow and support the process of establishing the AfCFTA, which is an important political process with significant long-term economic potential for Africa.
The current escalation in Idlib between Turkish and Russian-backed Syrian forces has two dimensions: the immediate Turkish involvement in Syria and the broader Turkish-Russian rapprochement. An assessment by Salim Çevik.
In 2019, China commemorated several anniversaries of politically significant events in its recent history: the May Fourth Movement (100 years), the foundation of the People’s Republic of China (70 years), the Tibet Uprising (60 years), the beginning of the reform and opening policy (40 years), and the massacre on Tiananmen Square (30 years). How China officially commemorates these events – or does not – weighs heavily on the country’s domestic and foreign policy. The state-constructed interpretations of history as a claim to power are directed not only at Chinese society, but also at foreign partners interacting with China, especially governments and companies. The concealment of problematic events from the past is alarming, not least because it increases the danger that historical mistakes will be repeated.
■ The Sino-American conflict syndrome contains several elements. It is based on a regional status competition, which is increasingly becoming global.
■ This competition for influence has become combined with an ideological antagonism that has recently become more focused on the US side.
■ Since the United States and China perceive each other as potential military adversaries and plan their operations accordingly, the security dilemma also shapes their relationship.
■ The strategic rivalry is particularly pronounced on China’s maritime periphery, dominated by military threat perceptions and the US expectation that China intends to establish an exclusive sphere of influence in East Asia.
■ Global competition for influence is closely interwoven with the technological dimension of American-Chinese rivalry. It is about dominance in the digital age.
■ The risk for international politics is that the intensifying strategic rivalry between the two states condenses into a structural world conflict. This could trigger de-globalization and the emergence of two orders, one under the predominant influence of the United States and the other under China’s influence.
With the recent reform of India’s citizenship law, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is pushing its Hindu-nationalist agenda. The reform became necessary to fix the shortcomings of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in the state of Assam and to pave the way for a national citizens’ register. Critics are accusing the government of outright discrimination, against Muslims in particular, because the plan could deprive a large number of people of their right to citizenship and undermine fundamental values of the constitution. The measures have also met with much criticism internationally, including from the United States and the United Nations. India’s foreign minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, has defended the reform plans and referred to China’s handling of domestic political problems. If India were to embark on such a path in the long term, this could possibly spark a discussion on whether, and to what extent, an increasingly Hindu-nationalistic India can still be considered a partner that shares values with the West.
Richa Arora, Christian Wagner
Despite its recent threats, Ankara is signalling interest in cooperating on migration governance. In the likely continuation of the Statement, the EU should link the implementation of the Statement to issues of rule of law. An Assessment by Sinem Adar
Over the last decade, the gap between the military and political elites in Israel has increased and eventually peaked in 2019, when a group of senior officers who had just retired from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) formed a new party – led by three former chiefs of staff – and called for the replacement of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. This gap has developed because Israel’s previous governments have represented a new kind of polarising, right-wing politics beyond what is considered a shared national common sense. The military, on the other hand, is striving to maintain the character it has acquired as a “Nation in Arms” by reflecting the entire society of Israel and acting according to its professional ethos and national statist values. The stated goal of the officers entering politics was to defend those values against perceivably partisan and polarising governmental politics. The composition of a future government is thus both: A competition over principled values of the state, but also a determination about the steps regarding the military and political leadership in Israel, as well as the military’s relations with society at large.