As the EU-Eastern Partnership summit, scheduled to take place in Vilnius at the end of November, approaches, a heated debate has been going on about the possible participation of official representatives from Belarus. Those who would normally get the invitation –President Alyaksandr Lukashenka or foreign minister Vladimir Makey – are both on the EU’s visa ban list, which makes their participation in Vilnius highly improbable. Some EU states suggest that the foreign minister’s name is suspended from the list so that he can attend the summit; others insist that the Belarusian authorities should not be engaged unless all remaining political prisoners are released and rehabilitated. The EU is of course right to push the regime to free those who rot in jail for their political activities. But just how many such prisoners are there in today’s Belarus? And would their rehabilitation really
Sure, divorce is normally not considered good news; and above all it is a personal matter. But what is a personal decision for the Putins is also a historic step for Russia. Remarkably, Lyudmila Putina is now likely to become the first person ever to divorce a Russian ruler and go on living in freedom.
There is no need to mourn the Putins’ marriage: their alienation has been obvious for many years; their children are adults; and Lyudmila has been visibly uneasy whenever she appears in public together with her husband. If anything, formal separation was overdue. But in properly authoritarian countries heads of state rarely divorce – they either stay married regardless of anything, or their spouses die in unclear
I've just produced a new podcast that's likely to be of interest to those who follow the work of our Middle East North Africa programme and the Middle East peace process in particular: an interview with James Rodgers, who was the BBC's Gaza correspondent during the time of the second Intifada. He's just written a book that draws on his experiences there, emphasising the impact of the politics of the region on people's lives, and the role played by faith and religion.
This ties in with Nick Witney's conclusions in his paper, "Europe and the vanishing two state solution", where one of his arguments concerns the need to normalise the economy of the Palestinian territories, which at the moment are overly dependent upon aid.
Have a listen, read Nick's report, and read James' book. All are interesting!
Late last month, the electoral campaign for the 11th Iranian presidential elections scheduled for 14 June officially began, opening the floor to the competing candidates to promote their views in TV debates, in an attempt to gain the Supreme Leader and the voters' endorsement.
The Council of Guardians – a 12-member body charged with overseeing the compatibility of presidential hopefuls with constitutional criteria – concluded its vetting process on 21 May, saying that just eight out of 686 candidates can run. In view of the eight men's profiles, it seems likely the candidates’ standpoint on the nuclear issue and on Iran's strategic posture toward the West might be the main issue in the vote in June. Three of them have been involved – in different degrees and under different administrations – with the nuclear dossier and have held negotiations with the E3+3 (Britain, France,
A seat at the table of the Asia security summit, more commonly called the Shangri-La Dialogue, allows one to watch the strategic dance that is being played on the public stage of the meeting, and more discreetly in the hallways. Over the years, the Shangri-La has become the main venue for defence ministers and other high officials from Asia-Pacific countries – with an increasing participation of European, and particularly British and French, officials. But it is a peculiar exercise, where these officials also compete with each other on stage, with a limited but real range of questions addressed at each of them: not all defence ministers excel at this Q&A game.
This year, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, a life-long politician, won the game easily. Shirking black suit and matching tie for a sports jacket, joking about his own limited expertise, he painted a picture of the DoD
What next for China's military-industrial complex?
A crisis “made in China”
What does the end of "managed democracy" mean for Europe?
A diplomatic strategy for the conflict in Syria
Europeans are losing faith in the EU
Europe can rescue the two-state solution
27 countries in search of a proper security strategy
How Europe can help Egypt
Understanding the influence of the Gulf States
A new era for EU-Georgia relations?
What next for Egypt, Tunisia and Libya?