The International Spectator, Vol. 51, No. 4, December 2016

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The Foreign Policy Legacy of Barack Obama
David C. Unger
Barack Obama finishes his second term with a mixed but positive foreign policy legacy. America’s global standing is much improved from the waning days of the George W. Bush administration eight years ago. Obama’s most notable achievements were the international agreement slowing Iran’s progress toward nuclear weapons capability and diplomatic normalisation with Cuba. On the other side of the ledger were his failure to extricate America from military overextension in the greater Mideast and from the global policing mindset that produced that overextension. Also marring his record was his incoherent response to Syria’s deadly civil war and Libya’s collapse into anarchy following the 2011 international intervention.
Keywords: Obama, foreign policy, transformation, policing mindset, Iran, Cuba
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Europe’s Leadership Deficit
Stephen F. Szabo
The European Project is currently experiencing the most serious crisis in its sixty year existence. Past crises have produced transformational leaders who used them to build more Europe. Today transformational leadership at the European level has been replaced with transactional and laissez faire leaders and is being challenged by charismatic populist ‘strong men’ who oppose more Europe. The structure of the EU, the rise of new media, the large flows of immigrants and refugees combined with economic stagnation and the decline of traditional ideologies have undermined the ability of leaders to shape effective policies. Emerging leaders will be grounded in the nation state and in a more Gaullist Europe.
Keywords: Leadership, post democracy, populism, neo-liberalism
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Financial Markets Matter More than Fiscal Institutions for the Success of the Euro
Erik Jones
Many argue that the euro is handicapped as a currency because European governments are unwilling to pool responsibility for fiscal policy in common institutions. This argument is derived from the theory of optimum currency areas and fuelled by analogy with US experience. It is mistaken. A monetary union does not need a fiscal union to work. Worse, efforts to build European fiscal institutions are likely to distract European policymakers from a more important agenda. Europe needs a fully functioning banking union with a common risk-free asset if Europeans want to stabilise the euro as a common currency. Moreover, it would need these things even if the euro did not exist and all it had was the common market. Financial stability – and not fiscal federalism – is the key to Europe's future. European policymakers should focus their efforts on building the necessary institutions.
Keywords: Banking union, fiscal federalism, euro, financial crisis, sudden stop
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Fixing Financial Plumbing: Tax, Leaks and Base Erosion and Profit Shifting in Europe
Robert Dover
Aggressive tax planning by multinational enterprises (MNEs) costs EU member states between €50-70 billion and €150-190 billion per annum through base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS). This tax gap has been blamed on ‘unethical’ companies acting legally, but inappropriately. Action to curtail this behaviour has been made possible by the confluence of two powerful movements: a popular articulation of tax morality as it relates to MNEs and the high issue salience reached as a consequence of the financial crisis and austerity in Europe, an emerging discourse around tax morality, and the efforts of prominent whistleblowers. As a result, domestic governments have removed their ‘soft’ veto and facilitated supranational bodies in innovating on corporate taxation, helping to rebalance the technical and structural superiority of MNEs in the international tax system.
Keywords: Tax, business, ethics, BEPS, EU, whistleblowers
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The Leverage of the Gatekeeper: Power and Interdependence in the Migration Nexus between the EU and Turkey
Asli Okyay and Jonathan Zaragoza-Cristiani
In March 2016, the European Union and Turkey reached an agreement seeking to end the refugee flows from Turkey to Greece. This agreement is the outcome of a bargaining process in which Turkey gained considerable leverage from its position as a ‘gatekeeper’ situated between Syria and an increasingly ‘immigration-averse’ and securitised EU. More importantly, this bargaining process might have broader implications for the EU and its relations with its periphery, since Turkey has progressively reversed the asymmetries of power by demonstrating the indispensability of its continued commitment to act as gatekeeper vis-à-vis an increasingly fragmented and anxious EU.
Keywords: European Union, Turkey, migration, agreement, refugee crisis, leverage, interdependence
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Securitising Migration: The European Union in the Context of the Post-2011 Arab Upheavals
Tamirace Fakhoury
The migration-security nexus, already at the heart of EU policymaking before the 2011 Arab uprisings, became acute after the forced displacements from Syria and the deterrence measures introduced. The internalisation by broader publics of “security knowledge” regarding migration contributed to the securitisation move. However, the construction of migration into a security-laden notion goes beyond both the adoption of deterrence measures and the straightforward association of migration with state as well as societal (in)security. Through the lens of its cooperative tools with its southern neighbours, the EU has built complex interdependencies between migration, post-2011 regional stabilisation and security. In order to read the EU’s securitised migration politics properly, the migration-security nexus must be embedded in its social, geopolitical and temporal fields. Perceptions of geopolitical threats, concurrent strains and divergences over European integration and immigration constitute an enabling terrain for the politics of securitisation.
Keywords: Securitisation, migration, EU, Arab Spring, security knowledge
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Reflections on Global Climate Politics Post Paris: Power, Interests and Polycentricity
Sebastian Oberthür
The Paris Agreement on climate change adopted in December 2015 has the potential to shape future climate politics and governance significantly, with broader implications for world politics at large. First of all, it solidifies the importance of ‘low-emission capacity’ as a source of power in international climate politics. Second, it supports the ongoing societal mobilisation and reinforces interest in the new climate economy. Third, it points, as a result, toward a more multipolar future climate world order. Finally, the Agreement recalibrates the role of the multilateral UN process as providing overall direction towards global decarbonisation, while leaving implementation to states, other international organisations and various non-state actors and initiatives. Therefore, phasing out global greenhouse gas emissions within the next few decades requires subnational and national policy frameworks that facilitate and promote overachievement and hence drive an upward dynamic – making the Paris Agreement a real-world experiment with an uncertain outcome.
Keywords: Climate change, climate governance, climate policy, geopolitics, Paris Agreement, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
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When All Roads Lead to Beijing. Assessing China’s New Silk Road and its Implications for Europe
Nicola Casarini
The Belt and Road, unveiled by President Xi Jinping in late 2013, is China’s most ambitious geo-economic and foreign policy initiative in decades, combining a land-based Silk Road Economic Belt and a sea-based 21st Century Maritime Silk Road which connect China to Europe. With this grandiose initiative, Beijing seeks to tackle industrial overcapacity at home and acquire political influence abroad through investment. Sitting at the end-point of the maritime Silk Road, Southeast Europe and the Mediterranean have been the main focus of investment in infrastructure projects so far. If managed successfully by both sides, China’s Belt and Road could be a great opportunity for a European continent that is still struggling to recover from the crisis. What is urgently needed in Europe is a comprehensive response to China’s new initiative, with the focus not only on the economy and trade, but also on the monetary and financial aspects of the Belt and Road, including discussion of the political and security implications of Beijing’s inroads into Europe and its neighbourhood.
Keywords: China, Silk Road, Europe, investments, infrastructure
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The Belt and Road Initiative and its Implications for China-Europe Relations
Zhao Minghao
The EU brought out a Global Strategy for foreign and security policy in June 2016, which indicates European efforts to reflect on and reshape its grand strategy. Meanwhile, China is also conducting an in-depth assessment of the international order under transition, and strives to rebalance its own national development and foreign policies. Beijing is pursuing a connectivity-oriented grand strategy. The peaceful rise of China depends on whether China and other economies can fully leverage each other’s development opportunities, and become stronger by taking advantage of increasing interconnectedness in the world. The One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative is a key element of such a grand strategy and will have far-reaching implications for China-Europe relations.
Keywords: One Belt One Road, China, Europe, Silk Road
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The Trans-Pacific Partnership: Defence, Industry and Strategy
Daniel Fiott
The Trans-Pacific Partnership, if ratified by all parties, is likely to have ramifications for the global defence market and the US’ economic and political strategy towards the Asia-Pacific region. Although the TPP excludes a number of defence-related issues such as defence procurement, the TPP’s provisions on technology transfers and intellectual property rights could bolster the US’ military-technology relations with the Asia-Pacific. For Europe, which is excluded from the Partnership, the likely impact of TPP is uncertain and could raise important challenges and opportunities related to Europe’s own defence-industrial relations with the Asia-Pacific and its wider security role in the region.
Keywords: Trans-Pacific Partnership, Europe, Asia-Pacific, dual-use, defence industry
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The NATO Warsaw Summit: Reflections on Unfinished Business
Ian O. Lesser
The deterioration of the European security environment has put NATO back at the centre of transatlantic strategy. The recent Alliance summit in Warsaw focused on some critical priorities, above all strengthening European security vis-à-vis an increasingly assertive Russia. But the summit left some other pressing matters to be addressed, including the difficult questions of strategy toward the Black Sea, the Mediterranean and the south in general. Concerns about Brexit, the US elections and the challenge of trust on both sides of the Atlantic were just below the surface in Warsaw.
Keywords: NATO, Warsaw Summit, Obama, Mediterranean, transatlantic relations
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Book Reviews
Information Warfare: A New Pillar of Russia’s Foreign Policy
Daniele Fattibene
Review of: Putin's propaganda machine : soft power and Russian foreign policy, by Marcel H. Van Herpen, Rowman & Littlefield, 2016
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