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Category: Magazine

Russia’s Middle East crusade

Russia’s growing influence in the Middle East is a result of the United States’ lack of strategy in the region. Through its engagement in Syria, Moscow seeks a return to the first league of global players.

In mid-December 2017 Vladimir Putin unexpectedly visited the Hmeimim air base, southwest of the Syrian city of Latakia. He was the first president of a major power to visit the war-torn Syria since the conflict began seven years ago. The visit resembled a victory parade. While the level of triumphalism was clearly over the top, as Syria is still immersed in the fight against the self-proclaimed Islamic State, Putin, two years after sending his troops, can deem his endeavour a success.

February 26, 2018 - Paweł Pieniążek

A German riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma

The definite re-election of Vladimir Putin in Russia will consolidate his authoritarian model of governance and assertive foreign policy for another six years. In Germany, the formation of a new government is to be expected after an unusually long time of coalition talks. The question will then turn towards the direction of Germany’s Ostpolitik and the future of relations between Russia and the West.

In 1939 Winston Churchill famously remarked that he cannot forecast the actions of Russia: “It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” The same could be said of Germany’s Ostpolitik, which has left observers puzzled and perplexed in recent years. Previously and often simplistically explained by the catchwords “energy” and “business”, Germany’s role in the Ukraine conflict has seemingly defied all prior assumptions about Germany’s special relationship with Russia and its purely geo-economic interests.

February 26, 2018 - Liana Fix

How Russia could leave Crimea

The illegal annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation is becoming a huge burden on the Russian economy and is limiting its modernisation potential. Therefore, one could speculate that a post-Vladimir Putin Russia may decide to undo the process of annexation in order to gain access to much-needed western investment and development aid. If such a scenario unfolds, there are some tools that already exist that could help ease the painful process of a Russian withdrawal.

Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea has resulted in damaging sanctions on the country as well as political isolation. Under the sanctions, Russia lost its potential for economic development and the annexation has hindered its modernisation. Nevertheless, the Kremlin continues to increase its military presence on the peninsula and refuses to backtrack on the issue. Since the Russian authorities believe the international community is not united on the issue, they believe that recognition of Crimea as Russian territory is only a matter of time.

February 26, 2018 - Pavel Luzin

Helping refugees in Russia. An act of bravery?

The influx of refugees has become one of the major challenges for Europe in recent years, which has required a response and mobilisation. In Russia, on the contrary, only a few non-governmental organisations are trying to help those who arrive to the country in a search of asylum. They face little compassion and a lot of bureaucracy.

According to the most recent figures from last October fewer than 3,000 people have refugee or provisional asylum status in the Russian Federation – a ridiculously small number for a country of 140 million. Thousands more who have applied will never receive such status and will be eventually deported. Yet, in Russia no one really pays attention to this problem.

February 26, 2018 - Natalia Smolentceva

Ukraine’s aviation fiasco

Ryanair’s decision to pull out of a deal with Ukraine in late 2017 will be a blow to the development of the country’s aviation sector. Experience has shown that as long as the market is dominated by Ukraine International Airlines, owned by oligarch Ihor Kolomoyskyi, there is little chance for market expansion. Nevertheless, there is some hope for 2018.

Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 opened a dark chapter in the history of Ukraine’s civil aviation sector, lighting a fuse that would see Donetsk International Airport razed to the ground and Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 shot out of the sky. Though hostilities rumble on in the eastern Donbas region, life has gradually returned to normal for most Ukrainians. The number of passengers carried by local airlines grew 22 per cent in 2016 to reach 5.7 million – just shy of pre-conflict levels – thanks in large part to the flag-carrier Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) which has stepped up its role as a transit carrier linking Asia with Europe. Kyiv’s Boryspil International Airport, UIA’s home base, accommodated more than ten million passengers last year and expects 20 million by 2023.

February 26, 2018 - Martin Rivers

Activists fight for Ukraine’s disappearing Soviet mosaics

Following the implementation of Ukraine’s decommunisation law in 2015, many Soviet-era mosaics have faded from the country’s landscape. One group however, is making a stand against their disappearance, arguing that the works hold significant artistic, educational and even touristic value.

The last decade has witnessed the release of countless coffee table books dedicated to Soviet-era architecture, reflecting a growing interest, particularly in Western Europe, in buildings often typecast as “relics of a forgotten future” and “remnants of a failed utopia”, among others. Such interest has veered beyond an affection for the buildings themselves, centring on design elements such as socialist mosaics.

February 26, 2018 - Elizabeth Short

Seeking the Eastern Partnership’s greatest integer

In many regards, the 2017 Eastern Partnership Summit in Brussels illustrated that the “old normal” has disappeared. Instead, another disenchanting reality – crisis as the “new normal” – needs to be reckoned with.

The next Eastern Partnership (EaP) Summit in 2019 will mark the tenth anniversary of the project as a joint initiative involving the European Union, its member states and six Eastern European partners: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. Perhaps it is for this event that the partners are keeping their solemn and ambitious statements. And, moreover, they are right to do so. After surviving the Riga Summit in 2015, the 2017 Brussels Summit became a sobering moment – and not a celebration. It was the summit where mesmerism met discernment, aspiration met disenchantment and one reality met another reality.

February 26, 2018 - Andriy Tyushka

The redrawing of the Eastern map

Over the past five years a counterintuitive picture has emerged in the Eastern Partnership. On the one hand Moldova, which was praised for its exemplary progress in adopting EU sanctioned reforms, has been on a downward spiral. Georgia, on the other hand, has now arisen to the status of peak performer in the region.

The most striking result from last November's Eastern Partnership (EaP) summit, held in Brussels, has been the EU’s contrasting approaches to Moldova and Georgia. The EU signalled displeasure with Moldova by withdrawing its latest funding that was intended for reforms, whilst rewarding Georgia’s progress with an increase in funding. That outcome might be because the EU has seen Georgia as the region’s last hope, with Tbilisi’s willingness to put shared values into practice through the implementation of reforms. By granting the country financial support, the EU has been able to ensure Georgia’s continuation as the role model, despite some shady performances, especially its behaviour regarding ongoing internal conflicts.

February 26, 2018 - Nina Lutterjohann

Eastern Partnership and the final frontier

Since ambitious geopolitical objectives are not necessarily available for the Eastern Partnership in the foreseeable future, it is worth prioritising economic activities. One instrument which supports such development is the Earth Observation for Sustainable Development programme being carried out by the European Space Agency and which has its own Eastern Partnership component.

The European Union is looking to provide assistance to countries that in the past found themselves in the exclusive sphere of Soviet influence and continue to struggle today with incessant provocations or pressure from Russia. This is precisely the aim of the EU’s active Eastern policy within the framework of the Eastern Partnership (EaP). One innovative opportunity for the countries in the region has emerged: a new programme called Earth Observation for Eastern Partnership (EO4EP). This project aims to closely co-operate with the Eastern Partnership countries so that they can better manage agricultural and environmental programmes. It is envisioned that better management in these sectors could help strengthen public management in other sectors as well as supporting the ultimate aims of the EaP.

February 26, 2018 - Paweł Ziemnicki

Macedonia is turning the page

Exclusive interview with Zoran Zaev, the prime minister of the Republic of Macedonia. Interviewer: Adam Reichardt

ADAM REICHARDT: You have been in power now since May 2017, with a promise to change the direction of Macedonian politics, including its European and NATO future. This was highlighted in your recent trip to Brussels to lobby on your country’s behalf. Can you give our readers some insight on how you plan to bring Macedonia back on the European path and what are the challenges you see ahead?

ZORAN ZAEV: My country went through a very difficult political crisis. A very big part of this crisis was the frustration that the society felt for the delayed European and NATO integration of the country. In 2005 we received candidate EU status, but nothing else beyond that. In 2008 Greece did not agree with our NATO membership at the Bucharest Summit. Now that we have emerged from this political crisis, our citizens’ expectations are very high that we will get the country back on track. This is what has been happening in the past six months. The new government has set strategic priorities for the upcoming period. This includes entering NATO – becoming a full NATO member – and then starting the negotiations for EU membership.

February 26, 2018 - Adam Reichardt Zoran Zaev

Yevpatoria. Crimea’s microcosm

An interview with Stanislav Tsalyk, a Ukrainian writer and historian. Interviewer: Katarina Novikova

KATARINA NOVIKOVA: Several years ago you wrote a book on Yevpatoria, a multi-cultural city in Crimea which seems to be a fascinating place. How did you discover Yevpatoria in the first place?

STANISLAV TSALYK: When I decided to write a historical guide to Yevpatoria, my friends were quite surprised, asking me what I could write about it. We all would visit this place as kids as it was a favourite beach resort for families in the Soviet Union. At that time, however, touring Yevpatoria was a very different experience. Sightseeing was limited to the monuments commemorating the victims of the Second World War and the Lenin monument. There were also organised tours offering visits to famous palaces in the south of Crimea, including the tsar’s residence at Livadia, the Vorontsov Palace in Alupka and others.

February 26, 2018 - Katarina Novikova Stanislav Tsalyk

In Macedonia it takes tourism to raise a dying village

Many of the 1,733 villages of rural Macedonia face a grave fate. Over a quarter have fewer than 50 residents. More than 150 have been entirely depopulated, according to official data. As families and the youth move to cities, these areas are destined to become little more than a memory. However, for these dying villages, tourism could breathe new life into them.

The sun is high in the sky while the 74-year-old Petko Tošeski toils away. The thudding of his axe echoes throughout the red-roofed village, punctuated by the odd crack of success. Log after log splits, ready to eventually nestle in the stone hearth indoors. Tošeski is the only sign of life in a place that seems to have been petrified for decades. The village of Bonče in southern Macedonia appears on the verge of abandonment.

February 26, 2018 - Fieke Snijder and Samantha Dixon

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