Main News

Europe

Waking up: the vital long-term finance goal of the Paris Agreement

By Illari Aragon, International Institute for Environment and Development, 02 August 2022

Next year’s Global Stocktake offers an incentive to unpack and advance the Paris Agreement’s long-term goal on climate finance, captured in Article 2.1c. Failure to explore the goal, including how to track and report it, will impact two better-known ambitions: limiting temperature rise to well below 2°C and increasing ability to adapt.

To date, developed countries’ obligation to fund climate action by developing countries – captured in Article 9 of the Paris Agreement – enjoyed high-level consideration. But, vital as this funding is, it doesn’t provide the full picture of global ambition needed on climate finance.

Article 2.1c sets a critical long-term climate finance goal for Parties to the agreement, namely "making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development".

The last of three interlinked long-term goals, Article 2.1c sits alongside two more recognised and advanced objectives: 2.1a, on limiting global temperature rise, and 2.1b, on increasing ability to adapt.

But as a new IIED briefing explains, overlooking the transformative potential of the far-reaching final goal is unwise.


A vital piece of the Paris puzzle


Article 2.1c not only recognises that we must increase climate finance to achieve the temperature and adaptation goals, but gives us the means to do so: re-orienting finance (both public and private) that is locking countries into high-emission, low-resilience futures.

When financing the global transformation of the energy sector alone will require US$4.4 trillion annually over the period 2021-2025, it is clear that decarbonising the global economy to mitigate the effects of climate change will require no less than that the entire financial system ‘aligning’ their practices, investments and portfolios with the long-term climate goals of the Paris Agreement.


Scaling up and scaling down


Current financial flows offer an unbalanced picture. In 2017-18, climate finance reached as much as $775 billion on average per year (PDF); but investments in fossil fuels amounted to $977 billion in the same period, and subsidies amounted to $472 billion in 2018 alone.

Article 2.1c signals an uncomfortable truth: to address climate change, we must increase climate funding and gradually eliminate financing for fossil fuels. COP26 highlighted fossil fuel finance, calling for inefficient subsidies to be phased out.


No template for progress


Article 2.1c of the Paris Agreement is relevant to all countries, but options and progress for implementing it will vary by context. As some countries have emphasised (PDF), it is unrealistic to expect developing countries to transition their economies and embark on a low carbon pathway at the same pace as developed countries; many still rely on fossil fuels for energy and as an export to support public spending.

Developing countries will require significant funds to take effective action. Among other measures, this will involve:

- Diversifying national economies to create sustainable alternatives and jobs for those in sectors and locations that depend on carbon-intensive industries, and

- Enhancing their ability to attract ‘green’ private finance and create the right policy and regulatory frameworks to incentivise investment in sustainable sectors.

Developed countries must drive implementation of Article 2.1c, in terms of domestic and international financial flows and by providing support to developing countries to progress on this goal.


The definition problem


Without the necessary consideration, uncertainties around how to interpret, implement and assess the third long-term goal remain high.

Article 2.1.c refers neither to the traditional terms related to climate finance nor to its providers and recipients; instead, it uses new terms, such as ‘flows’, ‘consistent’ and ‘pathway’, without further defining them. While the phrase ‘Paris alignment’ is commonly used, there is no uniform understanding of what it means. These knowledge gaps challenge operationalisation and assessment.

Real progress requires public and private sector actors to explore which activities could be relevant, asking, for example, what exactly constitutes a ‘climate-aligned’ investment? Does consistency mean alignment with a 2°C target, or 1.5°C?

Interpretations of this goal and ways to advance it will differ by actor: governments, multilateral development banks, multilateral climate funds, investors and other private sector entities channelling finance flows.


Global Stocktake: a deadline for clarity?


Greater clarity can’t wait. In 2023, the first Global Stocktake (GST) will assess how far implementation of all three long-term goals has advanced, drawing on the Standing Committee on Finance (SCF), the IPCC and other reports. However, it is unclear how progress on Article 2.1c will be assessed or what additional data or sources will be considered.

In June, a roundtable meeting at the GST’s first technical dialogue discussed progress on climate finance, and specifically Article 2.1c; this confirmed the ongoing uncertainties around interpretation and implementation.

Parties have another chance to engage more deeply with these issues later this year and in June 2023, at the third and fourth technical dialogues. In the meantime, country delegates keen to assist the GST could propose a new work programme under the UNFCCC dedicated to discussing Article 2.1c in greater detail and engage private sector actors and other stakeholders.

Such a work programme could seek to articulate common definitions; crystallise the relevant methodologies and standards to track progress; and more generally provide the guidance needed for the international community to realise the transformative potential of this pivotal long-term goal.

 

 

 

Democratic deterrence: Why Europeans should challenge China’s narrative on Taiwan

By Janka Oertel, Director, Asia programme, European Council on Foreign Relations, 4 August 2022

Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan is no deviation from established protocols as China claims. Rather, it is a sign of a fundamental change in lawmakers’ ability to support democracy.

 

US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi just completed her visit to Taiwan. She was on a tour of Indo-Pacific countries, visiting Washington’s friends and allies in the most important region for global growth and the decisive theatre in the intensifying confrontation between the United States and China. The trip met with fierce pushback from Beijing, as the Chinese leadership claims sovereignty over the island and has left no doubt about its desire to gain control over what it sees as a renegade province. Were the Chinese Communist Party to achieve this aim, one of the most economically dynamic and progressive democracies in Asia would come under its rule – and, as China’s ambassador to France recently declared, “after reunification will come re-education”.

By framing Pelosi’s visit as the ultimate provocation, Beijing is attempting to justify a further increase in its military pressure on Taiwan and to change the status quo and established protocols. Beijing is also reinforcing the narrative that it merely resists the aggressive behaviour of others – that it is the victim of a US unwilling to accept a diminished role in the world and that China needs to defend its own interests. This corresponds with the rhetoric in the Sino-Russian joint statement of 4 February, which argues that “certain States, military and political alliances and coalitions” attempt to seek “military advantages to the detriment of the security of others … intensify geopolitical rivalry, fuel antagonism and confrontation, and seriously undermine the international security order and global strategic stability“.

Beijing claims that the provocation comes from US attempts to strip away Taiwan’s agency and the fact that both the Taiwanese government and the opposition welcomed the visit. Chinese diplomats warn that the US will come to regret its “interference” in cross-strait relations and will bear the consequences of subsequent developments, conveniently blaming any further escalation on Washington.

The US government is watching such developments closely. So are Europeans, who are worried about how further escalation in the Indo-Pacific could quickly shift Washington’s attention away from the war in Ukraine. But, at the same time, this is a scenario that European leaders have needed to prepare for since 24 February 2022, when Russia launched its all-out invasion of Ukraine.

Europe has a genuine interest in stability across the Taiwan Strait. Supply chains and the global economy would take a massive hit from a conflict there – as would, more importantly, public faith in democracies’ ability to resist mounting authoritarian pressure. In response to bullying, collective defiance is a better strategy than acquiescence. The recent statement on Taiwan by G7 foreign ministers is an important signal, but lawmakers such as Pelosi and European parliamentarians are demonstrating that they have a key role to play in this as well. Europeans do not need to give Beijing a pretext for aggression by finding excuses for it. Buying into the Chinese narrative on Pelosi’s visit only plays into Beijing’s hands.

In response to her trip, the Chinese leadership has already announced import bans on Taiwanese food and agricultural products, as well as restrictions on exports. It has started an unprecedented array of military manoeuvres and live-fire exercises near Taiwan, effectively surrounding the island with a form of blockade for at least a few days. The fact that this does not already affect global supply chains remains largely due to prudent contingency planning by Taiwan.

Beijing seems not to want to launch an invasion but rather to engage in a show of force – and, as a useful side-effect, provide the People’s Liberation Army with an opportunity to enhance its readiness and practice coordinated operations involving the air force and the navy. There is now a high risk of miscalculations and accidents. Civilian traffic will be affected. And Beijing could decide to prolong its military activities, leading to greater disruption. Although the US gets all the blame, it is Taiwan that bears the consequences. But there is no panic in Taipei, as the threat is not new – it has just become much more visible to the world.

Taiwan’s leadership has repeatedly asked for support in withstanding the new level of aggression it has faced in the last few years. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Taipei has accelerated its efforts to beef up its defensive capabilities. At the same time, the leadership under President Tsai Ing-wen has avoided any form of aggressive action or rhetoric: it has not called for independence but has created a model system for dealing with the mounting challenge of Chinese disinformation, working with its partners to address this aspect of Beijing’s hybrid attacks. Throughout, Tsai’s government has shown a high degree of political discipline and restraint.

Most Taiwanese citizens appeared to see the visit as a crucial form of support in difficult times. The Chinese air force’s incursions into the island’s air defence and identification zone have become so numerous that only large spikes in such activity make the news. The Chinese military – equipped with capabilities such as Russian SU-35 fighter jets and S-400 air defence systems that Beijing purchased with a Taiwan contingency in mind – is now routinely exercising in east Asia alongside its Russian partners. And it is aiming its growing arsenal of missiles and other advanced weaponry across the Taiwan Strait.

Taiwan is not the only target of such assertiveness as China strives for a more powerful regional and global role. Beijing is behaving aggressively across vast areas of the Indo-Pacific. China is now locked in disputes with neighbours ranging from India and the Philippines to Australia, exerting varying degrees of military or economic pressure on them to align with its political demands.

Taipei has focused on continued economic engagement with China and attempts to rally support around its core value: democratic governance. And this seems to resonate with lawmakers around the world – particularly those in Europe. In the last few years, European parliamentarians have been increasingly outspoken about Beijing’s threats, be they in relation to Huawei’s presence in Europe’s 5G networks, Chinese human rights violations in Xinjiang, or the drastic rollback of freedoms in Hong Kong.

As part of this, Taiwan has in recent months seen visits from dozens of lawmakers, including those from EU member states and the vice-president of the European Parliament. In this light, Pelosi’s trip is not an unacceptable deviation from established protocols as China claims. The visit has been a matter of controversy in the US domestic debate, drawing criticism from various parts of the US government – including, as widely reported in the US media, senior members of President Joe Biden’s national security team. But it received broad support from her fellow lawmakers, in a rare show of bipartisan agreement in an otherwise deeply divided Congress.

Therefore, Pelosi’s trip is also a sign of a fundamental change in lawmakers’ willingness and ability to rally support for democratic principles, and to demonstrate their resolve against the use of coercive force – at a time of growing systemic rivalry with China and heightened pressure on Taiwan. It is a peaceful and expressly unprovocative form of democratic deterrence.


The European Council on Foreign Relations and CEMAS do not take collective positions. ECFR publications only represent the views of their individual authors.

 

 

 

Why the U.S. Should Not Designate Russia as a State Sponsor of Terrorism

By Delany Simon and Michael Wahid Hanna, International Crisis Group, 04 August 2022


As Russia’s war in Ukraine grinds on, and reports of atrocities mount, many are calling on the U.S. to list the Kremlin as a state sponsor of terrorism. The costs of this risky step would greatly outweigh any benefits.

 


A chorus of voices is pressing the Biden administration to place Russia on the U.S. State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism. Members of the U.S. Congress are lobbying Secretary of State Antony Blinken to make the listing, and both the Senate and the House of Representatives – the higher and lower congressional houses – have introduced resolutions calling on him to do so, with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi describing the designation as “long overdue”. This advocacy follows vigorous efforts by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy since April to get Congress and the White House on board with the idea. Thus far, Secretary Blinken has resisted the pressure, but the introduction of a bill by House members that would designate Russia indicates that the issue is still alive (though at present there appears to be little support for moving forward legislatively). Should the U.S. make this designation, Russia would join a very small group of countries on a list that the U.S. government has traditionally reserved for those nations it considers pariahs – a designation that by all appearances is often based at least as much on overall enmity as on a country’s specific relationship to terrorism. The list presently includes Cuba, Iran, Syria and North Korea; past designees have included Sudan, Libya and Iraq.

The reason for the push is clear: civil society groups, opinion leaders and politicians in the U.S. have urged Washington to levy additional penalties in response to its massive February invasion of Ukraine. The calls grow louder as the war drags on and as journalists and civil society groups circulate graphic, well-documented accounts attributing atrocities to Russian forces in Ukraine. Proponents of the state sponsor of terrorism designation hope it will further stigmatise and isolate Russia for launching a brutal war on its neighbour. But the concrete implications of a designation could be highly counterproductive – narrowing space for diplomacy if and when the moment for peace talks arrives, driving up already dangerously high tensions and impeding multilateral efforts to address conflict situations and humanitarian crises around the world.


How States Are Designated and Why it Matters


Congress has delegated to the secretary of state substantial discretion to designate a state as a sponsor of acts of international terrorism. Designation requires the secretary to make a determination that a state has “repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism”. The three statutes that provide authority to make these designations do not comprehensively define “international terrorism”, although other legislation provides some idea of the parameters that apply.

There is no requirement that the secretary of state designate every country that meets the relevant criteria or even that the states on the list be the most significant sponsors of international terrorism at a given time. Given the flexibility created by this statutory framework, policy and domestic political considerations, seemingly including some unrelated to counter-terrorism, appear to weigh heavily in the designation decision. The designation of Cuba on the basis of questionable links to terrorism per se is widely considered to be such an example.

State sponsor designations are highly consequential, both legally and politically, and for this reason Washington typically avoids listing states with which it has multifaceted relations. Indeed, what Cuba and the other three currently listed states have in common is that the U.S. has no formal diplomatic or commercial ties with them. In each of these four cases, very poor relations preceded the state-sponsorship listing, and in all four, the designation has been a further source of friction.

As Ingrid Wuerth has explained, a state sponsor of terrorism designation implicates two areas of law, sanctions and sovereign immunity. It triggers export controls for dual-use items – materials with both civilian and military uses; disallows U.S. arms sales and foreign assistance; and restricts access to debt relief and international financing. It also prompts other restrictions, which are unspecified in the statutes but which in other cases have coincided with increasingly severe sanctions that wind up applying to the entire economy and population of the listed country.

The designation can trigger application of other miscellaneous sanctions laws that penalise entities and individuals engaging in certain types of trade with the sanctioned state. Unlike the more widely used foreign terrorist organisation and specially designated global terrorist designations, which focus on individuals and groups, this designation applies at the level of the state.

A state sponsor of terrorism designation also limits a designated state’s entitlement to immunity under U.S. law. While the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act generally shields foreign states from suits in U.S. courts, it provides that U.S. nationals (as well as U.S. government employees, contractors and service members) may sue designated countries for certain listed offenses, including torture, extrajudicial killing and hostage-taking.

If they prevail, they can claim their award from the designated state’s blocked assets. Past awards have been substantial (although they have, for the most part, not been distributed to victims); for example, a court ordered Iran to pay nearly $9 billion to victims of the bombing of a U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon, and North Korea to pay more than $500 million to the family of student Otto Warmbier in connection with his hostage-taking, torture and extrajudicial killing.

In addition to the above penalties, the designation can result in a range of other nebulous, but consequential, effects. In part because it has so long been applied to countries that the U.S. in effect deems outcasts, the listing carries a greater stigma than other sanctions. U.S.-based businesses and non-governmental organisations may assume that any engagement with or in a designated state is off limits, even for activities that are technically allowed. Non-U.S. firms may also be concerned that engagement will expose them to legal action in the U.S., especially if they have U.S.-based operations or personnel.

Often, firms find it difficult to obtain sufficient clarity on the legality of engagement to feel confident investing. Legal implications aside, the reputational risks of being tied to a country formally designated by the U.S. as supporting terrorism are so high that many businesses steer clear of states with this label without investigating the technicalities.

For example, firms refused to re-engage with Sudan (which was designated as a state sponsor from 1993 to 2020) even after Washington lifted comprehensive economic sanctions in 2017 as part of a conscious effort to permit them to increase their activity there. Because the state sponsor designation remained on the books, and with it a persistent chilling effect, most businesses still deemed engagement too hazardous.

Designations tend to stick, partly because rescinding a country’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism can be a politically fraught process with rigorous requirements. It requires the U.S. president to submit a report to congressional leaders affirming that the concerned state has either

1) undergone a fundamental change in leadership and policy, ceased supporting acts of international terrorism and provided assurances that it will not abet such acts in the future or

2) refrained from supporting international terrorism during the preceding six-month period and provided assurances that it will not resume supporting them in the future. Congress can block a proposed rescission, but only by introducing a joint resolution, which the president can veto.

(Congress can overcome the veto but doing so requires a two-thirds majority in both Houses, which is an extremely high bar.) Past administrations removed Cuba, Iraq, Sudan and Libya from the list with congressional support, although the Trump administration put Cuba back on it in 2021.


The Flawed Case for Designation

 

Those arguing for the U.S. to designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism say doing so would send a powerful message of support to the Ukrainian government and people. While some proponents believe the move would be largely symbolic, others predict it would have “severe” economic effects and see that as a reason to designate Russia, arguing that such a drastic step may be the only tool strong enough to affect President Vladimir Putin’s behaviour.

Both camps tend to agree that the U.S. should use every weapon in its non-military arsenal to punish Russia for its crimes in Ukraine. Many also hope that where avenues for accountability are lacking, the legal routes that the designation opens for claimants in U.S. courts can be a first step toward securing justice for victims.

While Russia’s actions in Ukraine are the impetus for their push, advocates make a much broader case for designation. They argue that over the years Moscow can be viewed to have met the statutory requirements by consorting with groups engaged in political violence (whose actions would therefore constitute terrorism by some criteria), helping their supporters and engaging in activities that themselves should be seen as international terrorism.

By way of evidence, they point to the presence of Russian combat troops in and supporting Syria, a designated state sponsor of terrorism; Russian development and support of separatists in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region since 2014; the alleged poisoning by Russian operatives of political enemies abroad; and Russia’s use of the Wagner Group, a private security company accused of violence against civilians in Libya, Sudan and elsewhere, to further its foreign policy goals. Others have pointed to its conduct in prosecuting wars in Chechnya and Georgia. Proponents argue that with this track record, Russia should have been designated a long time ago.

But the issues presented by the Russian situation are not so straightforward. While Secretary Blinken likely has the ability within the flexible parameters of the relevant authorities to designate Russia, if he did so he would muddy U.S. practice concerning what it does and does not consider to be terrorism, which already suffers from some inconsistency.

(The struggle to define terrorism consistently is not unique to the U.S.) The traditional U.S. approach to terrorism-related designations typically distinguishes terrorism from the conduct of hostilities by state security services – which is at the core of much of the evidence cited above – even when such conduct might violate the laws of war. Such concerns partly explain the Pentagon’s resistance to designating Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a state organ, as a foreign terrorist organisation under the Trump administration. The concern in this regard is that doing so would establish a precedent and expose the U.S. and its partners to similar kinds of designations by adversaries in the future.

Stretching U.S. practice to designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism could fuel Moscow’s claims of the designation’s illegitimacy and (for the reasons discussed below) could also make it more difficult to defend a rescission of the designation should the U.S. at some stage wish to take that step in order to advance a peace effort. It may also invite future pressure to use the designation authority on a broader range of states, with all the risks that would entail.


Implications for the Ukraine Conflict


There is little to suggest that designating Russia a state sponsor of terrorism will dissuade Moscow from its current course in Ukraine or anywhere else. Russia is already enduring some of the most sweeping sanctions ever imposed – and the sanctions are still being ratcheted up. Western states have condemned Russia’s actions in Ukraine, multilateral bodies have censured the Kremlin and the International Criminal Court is investigating possible war crimes. While the desire to find new ways to pressure Moscow into ending the war or deter it from committing further atrocities is entirely understandable, there is little to suggest that this move will do either.

But the designation could still have substantial impact – particularly should the parties reach the point where they are ready for peace talks. Unfortunately, that impact could well be negative. While Western powers will likely be reluctant to rescind all of the sanctions they have applied since the first Ukraine invasion in 2014, Russia will almost certainly insist that some be rolled back, and Crisis Group has recommended that Ukraine’s partners be prepared to take some measured steps. Synchronising sanctions relief with the terms of a future peace deal will already be extremely challenging but the state sponsor designation would add a big obstacle.

Russia will surely want to see it rescinded as part of any deal both because of its symbolism and because its persistence would make even partial economic normalisation much more difficult. Yet the same symbolism would make rescission very difficult for the U.S., as demonstrated by the controversy over the possibility of dropping Iran’s Revolutionary Guards from the foreign terrorist organisation list. Domestic resistance to the lifting of that designation significantly complicated negotiations for the U.S. to return to the Iran nuclear deal.

In the Ukraine conflict, similar dynamics will almost certainly be at play. A U.S. presidential administration supportive of a future Russia delisting would have to win the support of a public whose impressions of the Kremlin would be shaped both by the atrocities committed in Ukraine and by the framing of Russia as a terrorist state. Even if it lacks the votes to block delisting, Congress could create major political friction if it is not on board.

If the U.S. stretches traditional parameters to make the designation based on a broad range of past Russian transgressions, any removal will likely be judged by whether Russia has stopped meeting those expanded criteria. That will be a difficult bar to clear, as the Kremlin is unlikely to radically change its behaviour. Given that other countries might follow Washington’s lead by issuing their own designations, a delisting could be further encumbered by additional diplomatic coordination.

Opening up the U.S. courts to lawsuits against Russia could also have negative implications for the Ukraine conflict. As part of any future peace deal, Russia, if it has any standing to do so, is likely to insist upon the unfreezing of some if not all of its assets. That process would be much more complicated, and potentially impossible, if those assets were to be implicated in judicial awards or ongoing litigation.

It is entirely possible that U.S. claimants will find a basis for pursuing legal action in the event Russia loses its sovereign immunity because of designation, not least because U.S. citizens have been killed in Ukraine. Frozen Russian assets could become politicised, with U.S stakeholders lobbying for their disbursement to U.S. victims instead of in service of a potential peace deal or reconstruction plan. As Wuerth has noted, providing damages to U.S. nationals from frozen Russian assets could also deprive Ukrainian victims of a source for future compensation or reparations that might be awarded as part of a peace deal or by an international tribunal.

A designation may also make it harder for actors to be nimble in striking arrangements like the UN-backed deal recently signed by Ukraine and Russia to facilitate grain exports. It could also undermine implementation of this and other similar arrangements if businesses and aid organisations fear that carrying or distributing Russian-sourced commodities exposes them to legal, political and reputational risks. While such concerns may be addressed through the issuance of waivers, such bureaucratic hurdles and perceived risks have traditionally had a chilling effect.


Implications for International Peace and Security


While designation would be intended to send a bracing signal of condemnation to Moscow, the message it sends could have more troubling dimensions. Moscow will at one level find the designation deeply insulting, not least because it views itself as at the forefront of countering terrorism. Thus, the Russian foreign ministry has threatened to break off diplomatic relations with the U.S. if such a decision is taken.

Even more worrying is the prospect that President Putin could regard this move as an overt call for a change in Russia’s government – particularly given that one of the two statutory paths to rescission involves a change in the designated country’s leadership. U.S. President Joe Biden has explicitly said that the U.S. is not looking to force Putin from power. Yet this designation would give Putin something concrete to point to in disputing that claim, feeding his sense of grievance against the West and the related risk of confrontation.

 Listing Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism would also hamper international cooperation on global conflict and crisis management. Security Council dynamics are already strained due to the deterioration of great-power relations and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The unprecedented designation of a permanent Security Council member may lead to more and worse complications. Such a move would also likely debilitate the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, a body which has been instrumental in containing the conflicts that erupted after the Soviet Union dissolved. Multilateral gridlock would also have implications outside the Council, including in peace negotiations where Russia and the West have a common interest in stabilisation or even resolution. Existing processes such as the 5+2 talks in Moldova, the Geneva International Discussions on Georgia, negotiations on Nagorno-Karabakh and UN-led dialogue regarding Libya would be at acute risk. Prospects for negotiations leading to settlements elsewhere, such as in Syria or Mali, would become even bleaker.

Given the size of Russia’s economy, which dramatically exceeds that of the countries now on the state sponsor of terrorism list, the shocks of such a development to an already fragile global economy could be severe. Russia’s partners in the Eurasian Economic Union (Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan) are already concerned that a designation could lead the union, and the free trade zone within it, to collapse. These developments could destabilise Central Asian countries and Armenia and could also shake up Georgia, Türkiye and even some European Union member states whose economies have strong links to the Russian economy.


Weighing the Costs and Benefits


Designation might be a powerful display of support for Ukraine, and an answer to President Zelenskyy’s pleas, but it is unlikely to persuade Russia to end or reverse its aggression or deter atrocities. The modest benefits it offers pale before its potential costs, which could include a lower bar for escalation from a Russian government that sees the U.S. as bent on its ouster. While meaningful diplomatic efforts to stop the fighting may seem far away, when and if the day arrives, a designation would create serious obstacles.

Meanwhile, it would surely lead to a further deterioration in the capacity of U.S. and Russian diplomats to work together in multilateral forums, where some collaboration around conflict prevention and humanitarian support for crisis-affected regions has quietly continued even in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion. If designating Russia a state sponsor of terrorism were a purely symbolic act, as some proponents suggest, then there would be little or no cause for concern beyond worries about appearing ineffectual. But a designation would not be simply an expression of opprobrium: it would inject additional risk into a situation that is already tremendously perilous. The U.S. administration has been wise to resist efforts to push it in this direction. It should continue to do so.

 

 

 

 

How do Global South politics of non-alignment and solidarity explain South Africa’s position on Ukraine?

By Elizabeth Sidiropoulos, Brookings, August 2, 2022


The war in Ukraine is often described by Western analysts as a turning point in international relations that has upended the post-Cold War international order. In the Global South, the war is equally historic, reinvigorating foreign policy autonomy and non-alignment as geopolitical tensions rise between the West and Russia (and China).

The Russian invasion of Ukraine revealed more than Russia’s neo-imperialist vision for a reconstituted empire. It revealed that many countries in the Global South—with market economies and democratic political systems and values like those espoused by the West—prefer not to take sides even in the face of a clear violation of a sovereign state’s territorial integrity.

Many in the West were baffled by the lack of overwhelming support from the Global South. South Africa, for example, vacillated between the Foreign Ministry initially calling for Russia to withdraw from Ukraine, only to within a few days of the invasion withdraw that position. This was followed by an abstention at the United Nations General Assembly and a call for both Ukraine and Russia to negotiate.

South Africa’s response should be understood through two elements: (1) its key foreign policy principles and positions and (2) the continuing importance of solidarity with old “friends.”


Foreign policy principles and positions


South Africa is proud of its independent and non-aligned foreign policy that resists becoming embroiled in great power conflicts. Numerous statements by South African government officials have emphasized this importance. In addition, the government does not consider the war as one between Russia and Ukraine, but as a proxy war between Russia and NATO—a war that has its roots in NATO’s eastward expansion despite Russia’s legitimate security concerns.

South Africa joined the non-aligned movement (NAM) shortly after its first democratic elections in 1994, and the pressure felt by developing countries to support the West’s position on Ukraine has reignited the NAM principles in South Africa and elsewhere.

South Africa’s international relations and cooperation minister has
argued for closer cooperation with the other members of the NAM that would “actively contribute to shaping the reform deliberations with the United Nations system, as well as giving new content to the United Nations Security Council.” South Africa, along with other members of the Global South, should resist “becoming embroiled in the politics of confrontation and aggression that has been advocated by the powerful countries.” They should rather seek to “assert their independent, non-aligned views” and promote “peaceful resolution of the conflict through dialogue and negotiation” in the of maintaining independent foreign policies.

However, South Africa faced difficulty in that some of the statements of government ministers belied its professed commitment to non-alignment, even though the foreign minister stated categorically in
April that “our non-aligned position does not mean that we condone Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine, which has violated international law” and that “South Africa has always opposed violations of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of member states, in keeping with the UN Charter.”

The peaceful resolution of disputes has been a core principle of South Africa’s foreign policy since 1994, as demonstrated by its efforts to resolve several African conflicts (e.g., DRC, Burundi, and South Sudan/Sudan). These conflicts are not characterized by a full-scale invasion by one country against another as by Russia in February 2022, but are often insurgencies and civil wars—albeit supported by external actors. South Africa’s position on Ukraine has been that dialogue is essential for the war to end. While reasonable and principled on one level, pushing for a negotiated settlement in the early days of the war was probably naive in the context of Russia’s objectives in Ukraine.

Nevertheless, six months into the war, the need for the international community to find off-ramps for this conflict and to push for requisite compromises on both sides is essential. This is more so the case because other more pressing issues on the global agenda have been neglected or compounded by the war in Ukraine—from climate change to the Sustainable Development Goals, to war in Yemen, to energy and food insecurity. The diplomatic challenge for South Africa (and other BRICS countries) is whether there is leverage to bring Russia to the negotiating table and push for a sustainable compromise.

A fairer and more consistent multilateral system is another core tenet of South Africa’s foreign policy. Crucially, South Africa recognizes the U.N. as the apex of the global governance system but advocates for the system and the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to be overhauled. This latter call was amplified by the U.N.’s inability to respond effectively to the Ukraine crisis.

Lastly, South Africa is generally opposed to the imposition of unilateral sanctions against countries by the West, especially because these reveal double standards in the handling of different conflicts. South Africa also considers the “regime change” rhetoric used by the West—whether in Iraq or Libya—as highly problematic and a violation of state sovereignty. While the West has insisted that regime change is not its aim against Russia, South Africa views this with some skepticism. Ironically, it has not called out Russia for its objective of removing the current government in Kyiv.


Politics of solidarity


A core feature of the African National Congress (ANC) government’s foreign policy is that of solidarity with parties and countries that supported the national liberation struggle against apartheid or that are still fighting for their independence. The Western Sahara and Palestine are both long-standing examples of the latter, while economic support and solidarity with Cuba is a case of the former. The ANC also had a long-standing relationship with the Soviet Union, which supported its armed struggle and where many ANC leaders were educated or received military training. This support contrasts with the U.S. labeling of the ANC a terrorist organization and the Reagan and Thatcher administrations’ opposition to the movement in the U.S. and the U.K. in the 1980s.

The ANC bridles at what it perceives as the West’s arrogance and imperialist behavior—whether in Iraq, Afghanistan, or Libya—or in ignoring the concerns of the developing countries on issues such as vaccine access or the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights waiver. Migration and the treatment of African migrants—also in the early days of the war at the Ukrainian border—is another sore point.

Soviet/Russian support during apartheid—coupled with the West’s double standards on multilateralism, the use of force, and rule of law and democracy—make many in the ANC, the South African Communist Party (part of the ruling tripartite alliance), and the populist Economic Freedom Fighters (an offshoot of the ANC) be inclined toward Russia’s justification of its “special military operation.”

BRICS ties add another layer of solidarity. Since the BRICS’ creation, the West has dismissed it as an anomaly given the political and economic differences among its members. But the West has underestimated its relevance to its members as a Global South geopolitical grouping (Russia is an “honorary” Global South member). For South Africa, the smallest of the BRICS members, it remains a very important geopolitical body where the country can rub shoulders with the rising superpower, China, and other important leaders in the Global South that share similar views on the need for the reform (or transformation) of the global system.


What can the West learn?


Much of the South African government’s narrative on the Russian invasion focused on the West’s hypocrisy. But it also called the invasion a violation of international law and the U.N. Charter. South Africa repeatedly emphasized that it had a right to exercise an independent and non-aligned foreign policy, and should not be expected to take a side in a conflict in which it had no direct interest, or where it risks its interests by aligning with one side.

Early in the war, the West couched the conflict as one between democracies and authoritarian systems. The voting behavior of developing countries over the course of three votes in the United Nations General Assembly illustrated that this analysis was flawed. South Africa and other developing countries adopted “non-aligned” positions not because they necessarily condoned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Rather, this became a proxy for countless examples where the West had failed to deliver or live up to the rules that it expected others to follow. Countries in the Global South are no longer willing to automatically fall into line when pushed by the great powers. This means that the West (and others) should not take the support of developing democracies for granted. The invasion of Ukraine has highlighted that developing countries look at the whole scorecard in determining whose side to take or indeed to take no side at all.


Author: Elizabeth Sidiropoulos is Chief Executive - South African Institute of International Affairs.

 

 

 

Mediterranean

What role should southern Europe play after the pandemic and the war in Ukraine? Towards a shared agenda for EU reform

Authors: CIDOB, IFRI, IAI, ELIAMEP, Real Instituto Elcano, IPRI - NOVA, April 2022.

Relations between southern European member states have often been marked by a loose cooperation or, worse, by logics of competition. Precisely when regional groupings within the EU are increasingly shaping the agenda, these dynamics have hindered the capacity of France, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain to pursue shared interests and objectives, while acting as a force for good for the European integration project. Recent events such as the post-pandemic recovery or the war in Ukraine show that, when cooperation occurs, positive results can be achieved.

Southern member states can capitalise on a certain ideological affinity and a pro-European vision, despite their governments belonging to different political groups. They share converging interests in the areas of fiscal policy and economic governance, strategic autonomy in energy and technology and even foreign policy priorities, particularly towards the Mediterranean and relations with other global powers. This joint publication by six southern European think tanks identifies several policy areas for fruitful cooperation between southern European member states.


Introduction


Regional groupings within the European Union have been on the rise and are increasingly shaping the EU agenda. To some extent, it is natural that countries that share similar interests or objectives come together to push these aims forward. Groups of member states join forces to influence political outcomes and promote political positions, even when this occasionally comes at the expense of European unity. Geography has often been the obvious trigger for joint endeavours, but shared policy views are converging factors too. The Nordics, the Baltics, Benelux, the New Hanseatic League and the Visegrád Group have frequently worked together to push forward their demands on various matters, from trade, economic and fiscal policies to migration and relations with external actors like Russia.

However, relations between southern European member states have often been marked by a loose cooperation or, worse, by logics of competition. There are both historical and political reasons for the absence of a reinforced southern cooperation.2 The significant variation in size, economic power and foreign policy interests makes the southern grouping highly heterogeneous. For instance, if France is listed as a southern (or at least Mediterranean) European member state, it may perceive its role more as a leader than as an equal, as it is the only member state with equal weight to Germany at EU level. But France acting as primus inter pares might well be contested by other important countries like Italy (also an EC founder member) and Spain.

Indeed, there has often been a logic of competition between these three countries, with the Mediterranean as their playing field. France, Italy and Spain have tried to gain credit and increase their reputation through their foreign policies towards the Mediterranean, frequently with differing interests and without coordination. The Libya crisis of 2011 bore witness to this, with France and Italy supporting different factions in the conflict. In the 1980s, Greece also looked upon Portugal and Spain’s accession to the then EEC with distrust, seeing competitors for Community funds. France was not the strongest supporter of the Iberian countries’ membership either. Portugal and Spain’s EEC membership negatively impacted agricultural producers in France, as both countries competed with lower prices and became net beneficiaries of the Common Agricultural Policy, alongside its largest beneficiary, France. Meanwhile, despite sharing a long border and mutual challenges, Portugal and Spain have an extensive record of bilateral non-cooperation, prompted more by inertia than substantial reasons.

Most recently, during the financial crisis of 2008, Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain were labelled the “PIGS”, as they shared ever-increasing risk premiums, mounting public debt-to-GDP ratios, banking systems in crisis, bailout programmes and onerous economic adjustment conditionalities. Northern European countries moralisingly accused them of having lived beyond their means and imposed harsh austerity measures. Uncompetitive southern economies struggled to shake off stagnation and in their efforts to get back on track weakened public services and engaged in social dumping. In the meantime, EU fiscal rules encouraged the acceleration of economic antagonisms within the southern bloc, giving rise to conflicting interests instead of mutual effort for projects of common interest.

While the North–South divide deepened, southern European member states failed to establish a common front or solidarity among themselves. On the contrary, they made a conscious effort to avoid being associated with whatever the other southern neighbour was experiencing in order to avoid the stigma of becoming an unreliable partner for the rest of the EU.

However, the current situation of southern member states is different from ten years ago. Shortly before the pandemic broke out, southern Europe had broadly overcome the 2008 crisis, although in macroeconomic terms the recovery was uneven. The COVID-19 crisis almost put these countries on the spot again, given their relative economic vulnerabilities and legacy of high public debt levels. But it was the initial efforts by Italy and Spain – with the immediate support of Portugal and Greece – to devise innovative solutions for a common EU response based on burden-sharing that paved the way for the Franco-German proposal to launch Next Generation EU (NGEU), a historic investment package for the Union, funded through a common borrowing scheme. This time around, the approach of the European South became the EU mainstream and led Europe’s reaction to the pandemic-induced economic crisis.

So, when cooperation towards the convergence of interests occurs, positive outcomes for southern Europe as a whole can follow, and there have been other recent examples of Southern European countries showing competence and leadership. Portugal and Spain were the first two countries to submit their recovery plans and have them endorsed by the European Commission. Greece’s management of the pandemic in 2020 was widely praised, as was the speed of the digitalisation of its public and health services. Spain was the country to receive the first disbursement from Next Generation EU. Politically, Italy has boosted its credibility and heft with the appointment of Mario Draghi as prime minister, while the Portuguese electorate has recently returned an absolute majority that brings stability to a pro-European and reformist government.

Despite some flaws, respect for EU principles is more solid among southern European member states than in other parts of the continent. Confidence in EU institutions among citizens in the south has also generally increased, even if the image of the EU remains remarkably negative in countries like Greece. Indeed, southern European citizens often trust EU institutions more than national ones. Meanwhile, The Economist on February 3rd 2022 praised the competence and reformist zeal of southern Europeans, setting them as an example for their northern neighbours. So, while significant underlying challenges persist, the narrative on southern Europe has clearly shifted.

As consistent supporters and a joint driving force of deeper European integration over the years, southern European member states today have the potential to become a pro-active dynamic alliance on many issues under discussion in the EU agenda, as well as for building beneficial cooperative schemes for the economies of southern Europe. Instead of acting as a blocking force as other regional groupings have done in the past, southern Europe can help advance much needed European reforms, re-establishing confidence in their role in European integration and the trust of the rest of member states. Southern member states can capitalise on a certain ideological affinity and a pro-European vision, despite their governments belonging to different political groups. They share converging interests in the areas of fiscal policy and economic governance, strategic autonomy in energy and technology and even foreign policy priorities, particularly towards the Mediterranean and relations with other global powers. The war in Ukraine also calls for cooperative responses. The following sections will look in more detail at policy areas where our five institutes believe that a joint effort towards shared interests can bring fruitful cooperation between southern European member states.


The reform of the EU economic governance framework: an opportunity for southern European countries


COVID-19 has provoked an unprecedented economic crisis, which has resulted in the most severe global recession since 1945, with a generalised fall in GDP growth. In Europe, governments have reacted with massive expansionary policies and increased public spending, which have partially offset the shock and helped contain the most devastating effects of the economic crisis while also reducing social unrest. The EU as such has generally reacted in a rapid and effective manner. The suspension of the existing rules on budgetary discipline (through the activation of the escape clause); a more flexible interpretation of the rules on state aid; the ECB's adoption of a new bond-buying programme (known as PEPP); and finally the adoption of a common strategy to support a sustainable post-COVID recovery, with the Recovery and Resilience Plan and Next Generation EU: all these measures have significantly helped to cushion the pandemic shock and support the recovery of the European economies.

More recently – prior to the Russian invasion and war in Ukraine – the situation was progressively returning to a new normal and the forecasts for economic recovery and growth were encouraging. Nevertheless, some developments could have an impact on the prospects for economic growth for the years to come. Escalating inflation may force the ECB to revise its accommodating monetary policies. The major increase in public debt levels in almost all EU countries could seriously constrain the adoption in the future of similarly expansionary fiscal policies by member states. With public debt having become a collective problem, much more collective and cooperative solutions will be needed. The evolution of the pandemic remains unpredictable and new containment measures may yet come, bringing potential negative consequences to EU economies. And, finally, the war in Ukraine is likely to impact global economies and have serious economic consequences for Europe, particularly if the sanctions imposed on Russia aim to be credible, effective and long-lasting.

Against this backdrop, in its Communication of October 19th 2021, the EU Commission prepared the ground for a reform of the economic governance framework, which will be officially launched with formal proposals, possibly before the summer. Member states’ views diverge on the scope, depth and nature of such reforms, and the issue risks reproducing divisions among member states similar to those that emerged during the economic and financial crisis. It would thus be useful for the countries of southern Europe to approach the negotiations over this review with a common platform containing a few well-identified, shared objectives and goals. The successful precedent of the negotiations that led to the agreement on NGEU should inspire a common initiative by these countries.

The context in which the envisaged economic governance reforms will take place is characterised by a few distinctive elements:

1. The very significant increase of public debt ratios in almost all EU countries (with some countries more indebted than others);

2. The need for massive public (and private) investments to support sustainable economic growth and to finance energy and digital transitions;

3. The need to allow fiscal room in national budgets to support countercyclical fiscal policies in case of further unforeseen emergencies;

4. The likelihood that EU member states will be forced to adopt further measures to compensate for the extra costs incurred by companies and families due to the war in Ukraine;

5. The need to continue the practice of coordinating fiscal policies at national and EU levels, which has been successful during the pandemic emergency and should be maintained in the post-COVID period;

6. The need to forge a common approach to reducing the EU’s dependence on Russian gas. The EU agreement to grant Portugal and Spain the right to lower energy prices at the EU Council of March 25th 2022 is a noteworthy step.


Furthermore, some principles or criteria should inspire the envisaged reform:


1. Public debt ratios will have to be reduced in the post-COVID phase, but in a manner that is consistent with the need to continue to support sustainable economic growth;

2. Besides the reform of fiscal rules, a review of the EU economic governance framework should also focus on improving coordination between monetary and fiscal policies (fully respecting ECB independence), and should aim at increasing convergence of member states’ economies (through a revision of the Macroeconomic Imbalances Procedure [MIP]);

3. The new rules should be simpler and make use of observable variables to measure compliance. They could continue to use reference values of a general nature, provided that national paths of reducing deficit and debt-to-GDP ratios are adapted to the specific requirements of individual member states. They should allow a certain flexibility and should increase national ownership and more effective compliance;

4. Finally, useful lessons should be drawn from the experience of the Next Generation EU and of the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF), in particular regarding the governance of the revised fiscal rules. That could be based on agreements between the Commission and individual countries accompanied by clear conditionality, with increased priority given to strategic security, environmental and climate standards.

Against this complex background the countries of southern Europe have a clear interest in coordinating their positions in view of the incoming negotiations on the economic governance framework for a number of reasons. These countries have been relatively more affected than others in Europe by COVID and the economic recession of 2020. Their economies are recovering well but will need continued support from an appropriate mix of fiscal and monetary policies. They are the most significant beneficiaries of the EU financial resources made available through NGEU. Consequently, they have an interest in demonstrating that this extraordinary programme is a success and can constitute a model for a future evolution of EU economic governance. They generally have a relatively higher debt-to-GDP ratio than northern European countries, and they thus share the objective of a more pragmatic and growth-friendly debt reduction rule. More generally, they have an interest in rules that maintain budgetary discipline while allowing a sufficient degree of fiscal space for expansionary domestic fiscal policies to support investment and sustainable growth. Finally, they have a common interest in defining a more effective system of incentives aimed at reducing macro-economic imbalances and increasing economic convergence.

The fiscal rules (the revised Stability and Growth Pact plus the Fiscal Compact), which are presently suspended, are the result of a series of legislative interventions. They are complex, non-transparent, difficult to implement and too often rely on non-observable variables. Nevertheless, they have allowed the necessary flexibility in their implementation, even if it has come at the expense of clarity and uniformity. Starting from the recognition that a progressive reduction of the excessively high debt ratio will be necessary in the post-COVID phase, any reform should aim at defining rules that are simpler and more transparent, and that avoid the use of obscure parameters. In particular, the present, unrealistic (and never seriously implemented) 1/20 debt reduction rule should be revised in the light of the present levels of public debt. Moreover, the fact that high public debt levels have become a widespread problem in the eurozone legitimises the pursuit of a collective EU approach to debt management.

Given the well-known political constraints, the common quantitative reference values defined in the Protocol annexed to the Maastricht Treaty (3% of GDP for deficits and 60% of GDP for debts) need not be modified. But more flexibility should be introduced into the path of convergence towards these objectives by introducing country-specific speeds of the processes of adjustment. Fiscal rules should also account for the composition and quality of public finances, and incorporate important features of public debt sustainability, such as the profile of the debt. Such processes should be based on a dialogue between the Commission and individual member states, subject to periodic reviews and accompanied by some form of conditionality. The model of “contractual arrangements” could be utilised to manage fiscal adjustments programmes in a manner that would increase mutual trust and national ownership.

The possibility of exempting certain categories of public investments from the calculation of public deficits and debts, the so-called “golden rule”, remains controversial. Those who oppose it mainly cite the extreme difficulty of defining investments that would be eligible for exemption. One way to circumvent this objection would be to focus on national public investments that are unequivocally linked to the implementation of shared EU strategies (including European strategic autonomy) or programmes. Although difficult to agree and implement, a similar “golden rule” would stimulate and support the realisation of common EU objectives.

The economic crisis originated by the pandemic and, more recently, the war in Ukraine are likely to have asymmetric impacts that will increase divergences between the economies of EU member states, and will underscore the need to reduce both large current account deficits and large current account surpluses. In order to ensure a more credible return to a path of convergence between member states’ economic and financial performances, a revised and strengthened Macroeconomic Imbalances Procedure should be put in place. The revision of the MIP should particularly concentrate on its implementation phase, with a view to making this instrument more credible and effective.

The European Semester, enriched by the experience gained in the implementation of the NGEU, should remain at the centre of the economic governance framework as the main policy coordination instrument. It should include National Reform Plans, National Recovery and Resilience Plans and National Stability Programmes. It should lead to country specific recommendations that would address the main challenges for each member state. In its implementation, more effective national ownership should be ensured through better involvement of national parliaments.

Ideally, the creation of a common central fiscal capacity, in other words, a common EU (or eurozone) budget with a stabilisation function, and financed by a set of its own new and authentic resources, would be the most appropriate solution to provide the EU (or the eurozone) with an instrument to face future challenges that could be utilised in a series of specific circumstances. The precedent of NGEU, financed as it is by common EU bonds issued by the Commission, and with a model of governance based on agreements between the Commission and individual member states, may provide a useful model.

Nevertheless, it is well known that several member states consider NGEU to be a “one-shot” non-replicable programme. It is equally recognised that the creation of common fiscal capacity would require treaty changes, for which there is generally little or no appetite at all. At this stage, the idea remains divisive and will probably not figure as one of the deliverables of the present reform. But it would be advisable, at a minimum, to flag support for this proposal for at least two reasons: first, because it is economically and conceptually sound; and second, to avoid its exclusion from the possible deliverables of a medium- to longer-term reform.

The above ideas and suggestions are meant to constitute a reasonable common platform for southern European member states and they should correspond to a minimum common understanding for a group of presumably like-minded countries. In the past, other groups of countries from northern Europe, like the so-called “frugals” and the New Hanseatic League, have adopted a tough stance on these subjects. A common, or at least coordinated, position by the countries of the south should not be presented as in opposition to other groups of countries, but as a contribution to the definition of rules of the game for EU economic governance that are more adequate and effective in the new circumstances.


Cooperation on climate change, agricultural policies and energy sources


Climate change poses a global threat, and southern European countries share reasons to view it as a grave problem that demands immediate action. This is due to two interlocking factors. The first is their greater exposure to climate effects like desertification, droughts and wildfires—a slow-rolling emergency brought to the fore every summer, with Greece in 2021 as the latest example. The second is their reliance on agricultural sectors that are acutely sensitive to rises in global temperatures, including the fruit, vegetable and wine industries of southern European countries. Climate change is not expected to as negatively affect the yields of specific crops and even forestry areas in northern Europe, meaning countries in the south will bear much greater costs from global temperature rises. Tourism – another important economic sector across southern Europe – is similarly expected to be negatively impacted by rising temperatures throughout the summer season, sometimes associated with the increasing wildfire risk in certain tourism-heavy areas.

Southern EU countries therefore share an interest in establishing a coordinated and ambitious response to the ongoing climate crisis. They can rally behind a mobilisation of public investment at EU level to accelerate the transition toward clean energy sources and measures to mitigate the effects of climate change. Rather than being passive recipients of European funds, they should shape this agenda, in part through their potential as energy hubs for renewable sources – with an emphasis on solar power, the generation of which grew roughly twenty-fold between 2008 and 2020, making it the fastest-growing renewable energy source in the EU, representing 14% of its renewable energy output. Green hydrogen is another source of energy of which southern European countries can become critical suppliers through the development of green hydrogen projects using both NGEU and private sector funding. The Iberian peninsula’s level of interconnection with the rest of the EU remains low, and the recent push to connect its energy grid to the rest of the bloc is a key area where potential contributions can be made in the medium term – all the more so given the urgent need to reduce the EU’s high dependence on imports of fossil fuels from Russia and the US (after the newly signed US gas deal), but also on imports of critical raw materials from China.

A shared commitment to contain the most harmful effects of climate change could also lead to increased cooperation on updating the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy. Traditionally a source of competition between southern member states for EU funds, CAP should instead be reassessed as a critical asset to mitigate the threat posed by global warming toward all agricultural sectors across the EU’s south. This logic of cooperation on strategic investment and provision of public goods on a European scale should be extended to EU investment in industries understood to be critical for the development of strategic autonomy at the economic level, food sovereignty, short food supply chains and local food systems, including the development of microchip and semiconductor production plants.

Policy areas where opinions diverge will nevertheless remain. The controversy generated by the inclusion of natural gas and nuclear energy as “clean” sources in the recent EU taxonomy is a case in point. Moreover, gas resources vary greatly by country, with some more reliant on Russian supplies than others. This will likely affect each government’s stance and priorities when it comes to redesigning the EU’s energy mix. In any event, southern European countries share a common interest in developing more interconnected European energy markets and strategic plans to strengthen the provision from alternative providers in order to facilitate divestment from Russian gas.


A shared neighbourhood: the Mediterranean and Northern Africa


Geography also plays a critical role in developing similar concerns across the EU’s south. The first is the shared interest in events in the southern Mediterranean basin. However, there is no shared outlook when it comes to foreign policy positions on Northern Africa – for example, Paris and Rome support different political and military actors in Libya. There is – barring France –consensus that the European Commission’s repeated attempts to coordinate migratory policies and the Dublin Regulations have failed to yield a sustainable framework for countries who are front-line recipients of migrants and refugees, as well as the fact that there is a need to re-evaluate the scope and objectives of Frontex operations across the Mediterranean. Nevertheless, the salience of migration as a contested political issue varies by country: it is greater in Italy, Greece and France than in Portugal and Spain. Similarly, diverging approaches toward key actors in the neighbourhood – most notably Turkey, Greece’s main security challenge – will remain a source of contention.

Second, shared areas of interest for southern European countries when they look south of the EU extend beyond the Mediterranean basin. They include concerns with the security challenges – including a rise in Islamic extremism – affecting the Sahel region, as well as the willingness to deepen ties with countries across Sub-Saharan Africa, where the coming decades will witness a remarkable take-off of economic and demographic growth. Both Northern and Sub-Saharan Africa are identified as key destinations for green investment in the Quirinal Treaty recently signed by the Italian and French governments.

Third, maritime security impacts the EU’s southern European states in six domains: freedom of navigation and safety of commercial routes (piracy but also military manoeuvres by non-Mediterranean countries); counterterrorism measures; migration monitoring (although the weaponisation of migration is an issue that is not only linked to maritime security); hybrid threats; climate change and its impact on the Mediterranean; and energy security (reducing energy dependence on Russia, for example by importing liquified natural gas from the US, Qatar or Algeria), or by exploiting untapped natural resources in the Eastern Mediterranean).

It is worth noting that the areas of cooperation explored in this section are not isolated from each other. For example, the impact of climate change is already contributing to destabilising economies and societies across the African continent. This, in turn, exacerbates existing migratory trends, both within African countries and between them and the EU. Southern European states therefore share an interest not just in developing tools to mitigate climate change within the EU, but also to ensure all signatories of the Paris Agreement abide by its guidelines, and to assist states in creating an enabling environment for sustainable and equitable growth in both the Mediterranean basin and Sub-Saharan Africa to meet these targets. Ensuring that their cooperation and development aid can reinforce these goals will be a critical challenge throughout the coming years.


The EU and the wider world


The Ukrainian war has put new issues on the European agenda and forced leaders to rethink their priorities. The current security issues, such as the EU’s energy dependence – especially on Russian gas – and the management of refugee flows, are very familiar issues for the five southern European countries. They are pro-active in promoting new “gas route” projects with, for example, Algeria (Italy is Algeria’s biggest importer of gas, followed by Spain), as well as in the Eastern Mediterranean. Some, meanwhile, especially Greece and Italy, were on the front line during the 2015 migration crisis in the region. When dealing with the consequences of the war in Ukraine, the European decision-makers should thus rely on their experience and capacities. Moreover, southern European states can contribute on a broader scale to deepening European foreign policy, as these five countries form a rather homogeneous group, holding similar stances on a range of international matters. Their converging diplomatic positions, the variety of regional mechanisms they have created or in which they participate, and their unwavering commitment to European integration, provide a solid institutional basis to better anchor the EU’s external credibility.

During the Portuguese presidency of the EU in the first semester of 2021 the process towards European strategic autonomy gained traction. All southern European states support this concept and are pushing for the development of common European defence. Between them they could enhance cooperation to promote capacity building, interoperability and joint exercises. The French–Greek strategic partnership signed in September 2021 is a concrete development in that direction, as is the joint commitment to further developing the provisions of article 42.7 TEU, the “mutual defence clause”. Defence budgets are on the rise in all these countries; the Portuguese, Italian, Spanish and Greek armies are modernising their equipment. Meanwhile, France, Spain and Italy have efficient defence industries that could bolster European efforts towards a common armament policy. At the same time, southern European states remain attached to the transatlantic relationship and to NATO, particularly since Ukraine, with a significant number of US and NATO military bases on their territories. Thus, the development of European strategic autonomy does not equal estrangement from NATO, but rather complementarity with it. The shared stance of these states regarding the EU’s response to the war in Ukraine exemplifies these principles: unanimous condemnation of the Russian invasion, support for the EU and NATO’s position, support for the shipment of military equipment to Ukraine and acceleration of the reflection on European strategic autonomy, as shown by the recent adoption of the EU’s Strategic Compass.

Southern European states also share similar positions on the future means of action of the ‘geopolitical union’ envisaged by EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. They support the idea of an active EU within international cooperation networks, especially on development issues, and they advocate increasing engagement with environmental preservation, especially as they are all dramatically affected by global warming (deforestation, rising temperatures, wild fires, etc.). They wish to include the fight against climate change in a global international framework by cooperating with other Mediterranean countries (Maghreb and Eastern Mediterranean countries, notably Turkey). This cooperation can be operated within pre-existing formats, such as the Union for the Mediterranean, which could benefit from an emergency boost in terms of environmental issues. They also advocate for realistic but fair management of migration flows, and their expertise on this matter should be taken into account in order to reform the Schengen area – a project carried out under the French presidency of the EU Council. Finally, all southern European countries insist on the need to promote a more participatory approach on these issues, particularly within the EU–Africa relationship.

The future of the EU as a geopolitical actor will also depend on its capacity to incorporate the grand diplomatic traditions and networks developed by southern European states, with a view to expanding its international presence in regions where the EU has not yet invested. Respective French, Greek, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish diplomatic clout can help renovate EU partnerships and strengthen alliances in the MENA region, the Eastern Mediterranean and Sub-Saharan Africa. The EU has already launched several initiatives in that direction, as shown by the EU–African Union Summit held in February 2022. In addition, Spain and Portugal are an invaluable gateway to Latin America. Reinvesting in these regions will also allow the EU to efficiently address some strategic issues, such as energy. Southern European states have already developed partnerships – mostly gas-oriented – with extra-European actors (Nigeria, Algeria, Egypt and Israel). These partnerships should contribute in the future to reducing the EU’s dependency on Russian gas and, given their experience, southern European member states could play a key role in negotiating the joint purchase of gas recently agreed by the EU.

Southern European states share the same vision of what the EU’s role in the world should look like. They will be important contributors to the development of European strategic autonomy thanks to their own roles on the international stage and their concrete policies. They could collectively upload these issues to the European level and support European strategic autonomy as a group, which would also provide them with more weight and influence. This group would be able to draw on the strengths of each member, and should at the same time focus on achieving a fair balance between them. From an intra-European perspective, this progressive and reformist alliance could be a counterweight to the Visegrád Group, which tends to advocate more conservative views on international issues. Building regional groups around shared interests and visions within the EU is very relevant today, as the enlargement question is on everyone’s mind once again. The question of potential EU enlargement towards the east – with the recent membership requests made by Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova, in addition to ongoing membership negotiations with the Western Balkans – should not eclipse the south as a long-term priority for the EU, as embodied in the multi-decade common effort on Mediterranean issues since the 1995 Barcelona Conference.


Conclusion


Coalition-building across regional groupings has become increasingly important in an age of growing political fragmentation. At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine have exerted pressure on the EU as a whole to act, making the case for coalition-building even more pressing in order to advance concrete responses. Whereas other regional EU groupings have existed for some time, the southern member states are only now beginning to emerge as a strengthened group with shared interests.

Southern European EU leadership matters. After a decade of crises, southern European member states are no longer seen as an obstructive bloc as they were during the eurozone crisis a decade ago, but rather as a group of states that can develop a constructive narrative that addresses economic governance reform, climate change, migration, security and defence. They now constitute a fairly homogeneous grouping led by pro-European governments and pro-EU leaderships which should increasingly work together in a better coordinated manner as they and their societies in general share a confidence in EU institutions. They should follow a positive agenda which aims to contribute to a reform-oriented and forward-looking European Union to forge common responses and policies to face the multitude of challenges.

There is a general convergence of interests on the revision of economic governance and budgetary rules, for example, on the EU’s fiscal framework regarding public debt, unemployment and fiscal austerity. There is a shared southern perspective on the growing challenges of climate change, migration and maritime security. There is overall convergence between southern European governments on strategic autonomy, support for PESCO and deeper defence cooperation, as well as strategic autonomy, ensuring a technological edge and energy security. Finally, there is agreement, reinforced by the war in Ukraine, on a more ambitious EU as a geopolitical global actor.

Southern European countries have a shared interest in supporting a joint approach to reforming economic governance and ensuring that policies of counterproductive austerity such as those applied during the EU’s decade of crisis are not repeated. They also share an ambition to strengthen the mechanisms to make the union and its citizens more resilient towards outside economic and financial shocks. Here, avoiding excessive dependence on commercial globalisation by making strategic European industries more autonomous seems key. Strengthening resilience in all sectoral areas is essential to upgrading the EU as a geopolitical actor. Thus, joining efforts not only helps deepen cooperation among southern European countries, it helps to further their interests on the wider European stage, at a time when, inevitably, much of the EU’s attention is focused on the war in Ukraine and its impact on Europe as a whole.

These shared interests notwithstanding, there are also significant differences which the EU’s southern European leaders should address. In the absence of a common EU energy policy, and in light of the Commission’s ongoing attempt to reduce energy dependence on Russia through joint gas purchases, it will be interesting to observe whether southern European governments will pursue a common approach. On strategic autonomy it is not yet clear that the five states will engage sufficiently in a cooperative approach to defence. The radical change in Germany’s defence policy towards a major increase of its defence budget creates additional pressure. On Russia and the war in Ukraine, southern European member states have maintained a joint position of condemnation and sanctions on Russia and political, financial and military support for Ukraine, but in this their position did not stand out from the other EU member states. Meanwhile forging a joint position on China might prove to be more challenging.

As the European Union faces multiple great challenges regional sub-groupings will tend to play an increasingly important role in setting the agenda and prioritising EU policies. Forging consensus, or at least maintaining a joint position on a majority of EU issues will be no easy task for the EU’s southern European countries. But after a decade of crises whose impact fell much heavier on the European south, France, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain must realise that a common approach to the most pressing issues facing the EU (economic governance, climate change, migration flows, energy dependence security and overall strategic autonomy) better serves their national interests in most cases than isolated efforts. To sustain a coherent approach policymakers will need to deepen cooperation at their annual multilateral and more systematic bilateral meetings, forging common approaches and putting forward new policy proposals. On a number of issues, the view of the European south is increasingly becoming the EU mainstream; southern European member states should seek to translate their growing relevance into greater impact through closer political coordination.


Footnotes


1- All authors and co-authors participated in the seminar “EU priorities for 2022 and beyond: A view from Southern Europe”held at CIDOB in Barcelona on February 4th 2022 and/or contributed to the draft of this policy paper.

2- Southern European ministers have been gathering regularly since 2013. Seeking support following disputes with creditor countries during its economic crisis, Greece suggested upscaling these meetings to the level of heads of state and government. Meanwhile a different format, the EuroMed Group (formed of Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Spain and, since 2021 Slovenia and Croatia), has been gathering almost annually to list the challenges shared by Mediterranean member states, but for the time being it lacks a clear path on how to articulate coordinated responses.


Authors: Pol Morillas, Director, CIDOB (coord.); Thomas Gomart, Director, IFRI; Ferdinando Nelli Feroci, President, IAI; George Pagoulatos, Director, ELIAMEP; Charles Powell, Director, Real Instituto Elcano; Nuno Severiano Teixeira, Director, IPRI - NOVA

Co-authors: Filippa Chatzistavrou, Research Fellow, ELIAMEP; Carme Colomina, Research Fellow, CIDOB; Patricia Daehnhardt, Integrated Researcher, IPRI - NOVA; Francesca Leso, Research Assistant, CIDOB; Ignacio Molina, Senior Analyst, Real Instituto Elcano; Héctor Sánchez Margalef, Researcher, CIDOB; Dorothée Schmid, Senior Research Fellow, IFRI; Asli Selin Okyay, Senior Fellow, IAI; Eduard Soler i Lecha, Senior Research Fellow, CIDOB1.

 

 

 

Was the EU's response to Shireen Abu Aklek's funeral enough?

By SAMI ABU SHEHADEH, the EUobserver, 02 June 2022


JAFFA, - The assassination of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was widely condemned, especially by the European Union.

The image of the EU Representative in Palestine trying to mediate for Israeli Occupation Forces to allow the funeral to take place entered almost every Palestinian home.

As did the brutal attacks against those carrying the coffin at the French Hospital; against the vehicle transporting it; against the mourners that were leaving the Catholic church of Jaffa Gate of Jerusalem's Old City; against the gathering where the family was receiving condolences and the thousands that were prevented from joining the procession due to Israel's movement restrictions.

Despite the efforts of European diplomats on the ground and the strong statements coming out from Brussels and other European capitals, Israel did exactly what it wanted.

The aggressions were mainly motivated by the fact that the mourners had raised Palestinian flags to bid farewell to a Palestinian hero brutally murdered.


Palestinian flag ban


This week the Israeli parliament went one step ahead, voting on a resolution to ban the Palestinian flag. Only 16 votes were cast against, mainly from Palestinian citizens of Israel.

The European Union could do much more than leaving its representative to Palestine alone in trying to remind Israel, the occupying power, of its obligations under international law.

This begins by messaging — a simple analysis of the EU delegations to Israel and Palestine shows that both have radically different approaches: while those in Palestine focus on human rights and respect for international law, those in Israel seem to consider Israel's colonial-settlement occupation of Palestine, and its apartheid regime, a secondary issue to economic matters.

In other words, the EU delegation in Tel Aviv sends a message to Israelis that grave and systematic human rights violations are not a priority and that nobody will be held accountable.

This is similar to what the speaker of the European parliament Roberta Metsola told the Israeli parliament last month.

We were astonished to see her avoid referring to the Israeli occupation and daily crimes and violations.

She even ignored that over 20-percent of Israel's population are Palestinian citizens and centred her address to Israeli Jews, who were pleased to see someone, despite of the Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch reports on Israel's apartheid policies, decided to claim that Europe and Israel share "common values".

Of course, justice for Shireen Abu Akleh was not part of the statement from someone who should be truly concerned about Israel's systematic violation of basic principles of their agreements with the EU, including Article 2 of the Association Agreement that conditions its implementation to respecting human rights.

What we see is that the emphasis on accountability from Brussels takes place only against the Palestinian people.

The anti-Palestinian obsession of commissioner Oliver Varhelyi has succeeded in preventing Palestinian hospitals from receiving European funds. This is not very different to what the Trump Administration did.


Palestinian textbooks issue


The worst part of it is that his attacks against the Palestinian government, particularly with regards to Palestinian textbooks, are largely based on right-wing Israeli think tanks and even settlers rather than what impartial reports have shown.

In 2022 the voice of Israeli settlers seems to be more considered by some in Brussels than what Amnesty International says about Israeli apartheid policies. Regretfully, this does not stop there.

Some of the favourite ministers in the current government by their European counterparts, including Yair Lapid and Omer Barlev, have contributed to the misinformation campaign around the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh and supported the fascist march that took place in Occupied East Jerusalem.

In Barlev's case, a Labor Party member, he himself approved a demonstration last Sunday that involved turning parts of Occupied East Jerusalem into a violent riot with thousands of radical Zionists shouting "Death to the Arabs".

Only one day after this took place, the German minister of interior Nancy Faeser was seen smiling meeting Barlev, committing to more cooperation.

Did she ask about his role in the attacks against Shireen Abu Aklek's funeral? About how Christians were prevented from reaching the Holy Sepulchre at Easter? About the attacks against Al-Aqsa mosque during Ramadan? I think we all know the answer.

It is difficult to explain to our people how the EU made immediate use of all diplomatic tools at its avail in the case of Ukraine after five days of conflict but has avoided to do the same in Palestine during the past 74 years.

Europe cannot continue to avoid to assume its responsibilities in Palestine.

This avoidance undermines the whole concept of a multilateral rules-based world order. With the case of Shireen Abu Akleh the EU had an opportunity to revert this path.

Regretfully, it has exhibited a lack of political will to take any kind of action — and Israel knows that well.


AUTHOR


Sami Abu Shehadeh is a Israeli-Arab MP from the Joint List in the Israeli Knesset.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hacking the press: The surveillance threat to MENA's journalists

By Sherif Mansour, The New Arab, 18 July, 2022

This article is part of The New Arab’s States of Journalism series, a sustained exploration of freedom, repression, and accountability in MENA and global media landscapes.


States of Journalism: The use of spyware by regimes across the Middle East has created a dangerous and hostile environment for journalists. But despite the rise in digital authoritarianism, surveillance fell off the radar during Biden's visit.

 

President Biden has just wrapped up his first visit to Israel since taking office, and while he has followed in the footsteps of previous US leaders by refusing to hold Israel accountable for human rights abuses, one thing that he should be commended for recently is applying the necessary pressure to end talks by a US defence firm to purchase Israeli spyware company NSO.

As Biden works to uphold his ambitious effort to curb the trade of spyware globally, another issue that human rights organisations and activists were hoping he would add to his agenda on his Middle East tour was the lack of protections for journalists against surveillance in an increasingly hostile press environment across the region.

In addition to admitting the threats that are posed to US national counterintelligence operations by these spywares, there are also global implications for press freedoms that the targeting and surveillance of journalists pose.

Exactly one year ago, the Pegasus Project investigation revealed that NSO Group’s Pegasus software has already been detected in at least 45 countries, targeting at least 180 journalists worldwide, posing an existential threat to the privacy that’s necessary for press freedom to flourish.

Just a week before president Biden's trip to the Middle East, the Israeli Minister of Defence announced a $3 billion arms sale. It is still unclear how much of this will include military-grade surveillance technologies that will be used to silence journalists and dissidents inside and outside the region.

Questions over what the Biden administration is prepared to do to ensure journalists are protected from state surveillance and abuse, even as it extends its support to this new defence pact in the region, still remain unanswered.

In his op-ed laying out his reasons to go to the region, and his public statements during the trip, president Biden fell short on specifics and vision when it came to press freedoms, despite activists calling on him to put pressure on Saudi Arabia and Israel for the killings of Jamal Khashoggi and Shireen Abu Akleh respectively.

In November, the Biden administration’s move to blacklist the Israeli spyware company NSO Group for developing and supplying spyware known as Pegasus, which foreign governments used to target journalists, was welcomed by organisations working for press freedoms and the protection of journalists. The administration also announced that it would lead a global coalition to address the proliferation of spyware.

However, less than one year later it seems that the priorities for the US administration have shifted away from press freedoms, digital authoritarianism, and wider human rights abuses in the region to focus on security and energy. One look at the leaders Biden met with during his Middle East trip confirms that these meetings brought together some of the most severe abusers of surveillance technologies in the region.

Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Egypt, three of Biden’s closest regional allies, worked collectively — using NSO’s Pegasus software — to surveil and silence Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, along with 10 of his associates and family members inside and outside the region, both before and after he was brutally murdered by the Saudi regime.

The use of surveillance technologies has expanded across the world and has been well documented in the region for decades. More than ten years ago, the Egyptian government hacked into journalists’ personal and professional communications, including those of this author, using software from the London-based company called Gamma Group.

With tens of journalists behind bars, today Egypt is considered the world’s third worst jailer of media workers, and surveillance technology enables this.

What started as a desperate response from Middle East dictators to the Arab Spring uprising has become a worldwide threat to journalists, dissidents, and even policymakers. Recent research from the Committee to Protect Journalists and investigations by Citizen Lab, Amnesty International, and the Pegasus project show how the Middle East has become the world's epicentre for spyware trade and digital authoritarianism.

Recent research from Freedom House also found that at least 17 countries engaged in physical, transnational repression using spyware. For example, former Wall Street Journal reporter Bradley Hope was based in London and reporting on Saudi Arabia and UAE when was potentially selected for surveillance by these Gulf states.

The UAE allegedly deployed NSO Group’s technology against journalists with Qatari links. Morocco and the UAE reportedly used Pegasus to spy on French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson respectively.

Reports also show how NSO played a key role in Israel's Gulf diplomacy strategy. CPJ’s research shows that authorities in the region have redoubled their efforts to monitor the activities of journalists and others who criticised their policies.

Governments imported surveillance experts from the US and other allies to develop their own monitoring infrastructures, and collaborated with allies to buy and sell surveillance technologies.

In addition to buying surveillance software, authoritarian regimes across the region also invest significantly in these technologies. The UAE has become a regional leader in surveillance and digital authoritarianism.

Abu Dhabi hired former US government staff members, as CPJ documented in December 2020 and January 2019 respectively, to help develop a new surveillance tool called Karma, which was then used to hack into the phones of activists, political leaders, and dissidents. Like Pegasus, Karma is a zero-click malware, meaning that it does not require targets to click on a link in order to infiltrate their device.

The trend also extends to other US allies in the region like Jordan and Bahrain, who have used spyware to target journalists and dissidents. Morocco is one of the region's worst offenders. Le Desk reporter Omar Radi was targeted with Israeli technology to hack his phone in the year prior to his arrest in 2020, Amnesty International reported.

Press freedom advocate and journalist Maati Monjib was arrested several times and continues to face legal threats, and the Moroccan government tried to install spyware on his phone, he told CPJ in an interview.

As the cyber security race continues between regional powers, research and advocacy by human rights groups and activists to influence policymakers and promote digital safety for journalists, and legal challenges against spyware use, have managed to gain traction.

In addition to Biden’s decision to blacklist NSO last year, the United Nations called for a moratorium on the sale of surveillance software like Pegasus. The European Union also has separately agreed on export control regulations for surveillance technology which, once enacted, will promote transparency.

Activists in the region, therefore, hope that president Biden will join this global momentum and clearly assert what, if any, real actions his administration will take against governments that abuse surveillance technologies, instead of acquiescing on this important issue for the veneer of diplomacy.

Among the actions they wish to see are actively calling out the region’s and the world’s worst abusers of spyware; sanctioning both state and private actors who have spied or facilitated spying on journalists through the sale or use of spyware; reporting on the use of spyware against journalists and news organisations in its annual human rights reports, and creating an annual list of companies to sanction and blacklist, like NSO.

President Biden had an opportunity during his Middle East trip to reclaim the mantle of champion for press freedom around the globe. Instead, it seems he has backtracked on one of the core tenets of his foreign policy agenda.

The repercussions of this unchecked proliferation of surveillance and spyware in the region will reverberate well into the future.

 

Sherif Mansour is an Egyptian-American democracy and human rights activist and the Middle East and North Africa Programme Coordinator at the Committee to Protect Journalists.

 

 

 

Containing a Resilient ISIS in Central and North-eastern Syria

International Crisis Group, 18 July 2022


Its self-declared caliphate is gone, but ISIS continues to stage attacks and intimidate the public in much of its former domain. The forces fighting the group need to hinder the militants’ movement between Syria’s regions – and, above all, to avoid debilitating conflicts with one another.

 

What’s new? ISIS is waging a resilient insurgency throughout central and north-eastern Syria. It treats these two quasi-independent zones as interconnected theatres, giving it flexibility in its strategy for reasserting territorial control. The myriad forces battling the group, meanwhile, often work at cross-purposes.

Why does it matter? Counter-ISIS campaigns have made significant yet inconclusive gains. In particular, they have done little to stop fighters from crossing the lines of control in Syria. The longer this situation persists, the deeper the militants can sink their roots and the harder they will be to beat.

What should be done? First and foremost, those fighting ISIS should avoid escalation among themselves that would give the group more breathing room. Each actor should also work to limit the militants’ freedom of movement between theatres, primarily by closing off smuggling routes.


Executive Summary


ISIS – the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria – has shown considerable resilience since March 2019, when it lost the last piece of territory it held in Syria and Iraq. It has maintained, and in some cases expanded, a robust insurgency in four parts of Syria, each held by a different set of Syrian forces, three of which have foreign backers. Its adversaries, who are often at odds with one another, have siloed their counter-ISIS efforts and done little to stop the movement of militants across the permeable lines of control. ISIS is exploiting this disorder to bolster its fighting capacity. Policymakers on the various sides conducting counter-ISIS operations appear to be a long way from forging a détente, but they should nonetheless strive to avoid new conflict among themselves, which could only serve ISIS. They should ensure that their strategies account for developments in regions outside their control. They should also crack down on the smuggling routes that ISIS uses to transport fighters and supplies from one theatre to another.

The Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate came to an end with its defeat in the Syrian town of Baghouz near the Iraqi border. Since then, a multitude of parties have taken over the land that once made up its domain: the Iraqi army and Popular Mobilisation (al-Hashd al-Shaabi) paramilitary groups in Iraq; the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), backed by the U.S.-led Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS in north-eastern Syria (the U.S. also continues to launch airstrikes on ISIS targets in other parts of the country); Türkiye and its Syrian partners in northern Aleppo; the Islamist group Hei’at Tahrir al-Sham in Idlib; and the Damascus regime and its Russian and Iranian allies in the central Syrian desert known as the Badia.

Today, ISIS leaders appear mostly to be providing broad guidance through online messaging rather than exercising day-to-day command over all the group’s members and sympathisers in Syria. The group now seems to operate on two levels: a core of militants acting on the leadership’s directives conducts complex attacks, while a second, larger set of decentralised cells carries out smaller, more frequent raids, intimidates the public and handles the money. In this manner, ISIS has entrenched communication and transit networks linking the country’s various regions, assigning its cells specific roles in each place and viewing its activities in each area as enhancing those in the others. ISIS is readying itself to pursue the goal of regaining overt territorial control if and when circumstances allow.

ISIS uses each of its four zones of influence in Syria in a distinct way. In the Badia, the rear base for its operations in Syria, as well as Iraq, it also trains most of its new recruits. In the north east, it gathers funds and stores supplies, as it stages attacks on security forces, technocrats and tribal notables to weaken public confidence in local governance. In the north and north west, it maintains hideouts for mid-level and senior commanders, who enjoy a degree of anonymity among the hundreds of thousands of displaced Syrians living in makeshift settlements. The ISIS insurgencies in central and north-eastern Syria are particularly intertwined. The group moves men and materiel between regime- and SDF-controlled regions depending on its changing objectives, its logistical needs and its foes’ vulnerabilities in each area. These movements appear to be coordinated among central, regional and sub-regional commanders.

The ceasefires that froze Syria’s front lines in 2020 allowed Damascus and its external backers to redeploy troops to fight ISIS in the centre and east. This effort led to a drop in ISIS attacks on regime targets throughout 2021. Some ISIS fighters withdrew to even more remote parts of central Syria to avoid interdiction, while many others moved into Iraq or north-eastern Syria. This second cohort of fighters appears to have bolstered the cells in the latter areas, enabling ISIS to carry out more operations, including the spectacular January 2022 assault on the SDF-run prison in Hasakeh holding ISIS fighters and adolescent boys from Syria and Iraq, as well as third countries.

Omens of a large-scale ISIS attack had been visible for some time. Throughout much of 2020 and 2021, ISIS cells had been lying low in the north east, building an intelligence network, raising money through theft, extortion and smuggling, and degrading the SDF’s capacity to gather intelligence and provide services through its Autonomous Administration. The cells picked up the pace of their efforts in mid-2021, as their revenues grew.

SDF-held Syria is particularly vulnerable to a resurgent ISIS. The SDF, despite its earlier strides in battling the group, faces myriad problems that could derail counter-ISIS efforts and hamper its ability to guard the thousands of militants, as well as affiliated women, whom it holds in camps along with their children. ISIS cells are assassinating local SDF commanders and tribal notables, sowing fear in order to heighten their sway over people in areas the group previously controlled. In particular, the cells’ growing reach in Deir al-Zor has frightened residents, thwarting the SDF and U.S.-led coalition in efforts to collect intelligence. The SDF’s willingness and ability to counter ISIS is contingent on continued U.S. military support, and perhaps also lowered Turkish and regime threats to its rule.

Despite this unstable situation, those fighting ISIS can still prevent the group from resurging. Primarily, they will need to forgo conflict among themselves that could give ISIS a new lease on life. But they can do more than that.

In the north east, U.S.-led coalition members should expand their political and economic support, particularly where residents are at high risk of ISIS recruitment, such as Raqqa and Deir al-Zor, and increase material aid for and training of security forces. They should simultaneously push for reforms to policies in Arab-majority areas that have generated grievances of which ISIS takes advantage. With the U.S.-led coalition’s help, the SDF should also clamp down on corruption and smuggling.

Damascus and Moscow should likewise secure the lines of control in the Badia, as a stronger ISIS in the north east could soon try to bolster cells in the central desert with new recruits and supplies. The Badia’s oil and gas fields would be vulnerable to attack if ISIS were to return in significant numbers. The regime and its external backers should keep taking the fight to ISIS in central Syria. The group is unlikely to again pose the global menace it did when it ruled its caliphate some years ago. But in the right conditions, it could take advantage of the discord or distraction among its enemies to expand its military and financial reach and add misery to the lives of Syrians and Iraqis in areas where it operates.

Deir al-Zor/Hasakeh/Washington/Brussels, 18 July 2022

For the full report, visit: https://www.crisisgroup.org/middle-east-north-africa/east-mediterranean-mena/syria/236-containing-resilient-isis-central-and-north-eastern-syria

 

 

 

North Africa

War in Ukraine and Food Insecurity in Tunisia: Where is reform most needed?

By Khouloud Ayari, Arab Reform Initiative, 04 August 2022


Since February 2022, food insecurity due to the war in Ukraine has become a key issue of public debate in Tunisia, shedding light on the country’s food dependence, given that it imports more than half of its needs. This paper analyzes the significant changes concerning agriculture and food in terms of dependency and sovereignty in the contemporary agricultural history of Tunisia.


Since February 2022, food insecurity due to the war in Ukraine has become a key issue of public debate in Tunisia, shedding light on the country’s food dependence, given that it imports more than half of its needs.

This alarming figure exacerbates people’s concerns, and rightly so, because the annual crop yields do not enable the country to cope with a sudden interruption of food imports. The agricultural production model is not free of contradictions. For instance, it does not take into account demographic changes that occurred between 1984 and 2014 (GPHC 2014). Despite the growing needs of a population that increased from 7 to 11 million during this period, the surface area of ​​lands allocated to cereal production since 1984 has not significantly changed.1 The Tunisian government instead chose to increase cereal imports and gradually withdraw from harvesting in favor of private developers.2

The crisis caused by the war in Ukraine is a drawn-out event with long-term consequences. It cannot be isolated from the crises and shortages that have occurred in Tunisia in the past.3 The country’s current food insecurity stems from the agricultural, economic and social policies introduced by successive governments since independence and which are directly related to global food systems. They face two temporal contradictions: the urgency of meeting immediate daily needs, on the one hand, and, on the other, the importance of building a perennial and fair agricultural model that prevents potential environmental, social and political crises.

This paper will analyze the significant changes concerning agriculture and food in terms of dependency and sovereignty in the contemporary agricultural history of Tunisia.


Food Sovereignty, the Uprooting of Farmers and Access to Rights: Key Issues on the Activists’ Agenda since 2011


The halting of trade in two major grain, mineral and hydrocarbon exporting countries has raised key issues underlying the problem of food insecurity: food sovereignty, farmer displacement, 4 agrarian reform, etc.

In Tunisia, the debate on food sovereignty has taken on a sense of urgency since February 2022, which is felt by both the public and mass media. This comes after years of documentation, studies and action research in Tunisia, positioning the country as part of the global struggle for food sovereignty, particularly at the level of the international farmers’ movement La Via Campesina. Some of the most notable associations specialising in these issues include the Observatory of Food Sovereignty and the Environment (OSAE) (since 2017), the Working Group for Food Sovereignty (GTSA) (2019), the Tunisian Association of Permaculture (2013), Terre et Humanisme, etc.

Research in rural social sciences is gradually being undertaken and brings together geographers, sociologists and historians for a multidisciplinary and systemic analysis of contemporary trends in Tunisia and the region (Arab region and the Global South generally). At the heart of this new space5 of activist research in Tunisia is an agricultural vision that considers access to resources and the dignity of farmers as key factors for responsible agriculture.

Farmers, who are the pillars of our food systems and our very survival, continue to be considered by bourgeois elites as obstacles to the modernity to which Tunisia aspires. Paradoxically, their mobilization is seen by the authorities as a disturbance of public order and a threat to national interests.

Despite the convergence of the struggles for rights and dignity since the Arab Spring, which brought together urban and rural areas in Tunisia, change has yet to materialize. However, despite these difficulties, new research spaces have been developing a new narrative that respects both history and current lived realities, filling the existing gap.

This narrative existed on a small scale6 before the revolution but has since expanded. Building on previous works, a bibliography7 has been documented and published on the Tunisian association Observatory of Food Sovereignty and the Environment (Observatoire de la Souveraineté Alimentaire et de l’Environnement - OSAE) website.

Documentaries, films, books, and study reports were produced, such as the documentaries “Thirsty Tunisians”, “Couscous: the Seeds of Dignity”, “Pousses de printemps” (Spring Sprouts), and field reports by the Working Group for Food Sovereignty (GTSA)8 . The screening (at cinemas, universities and associations) of these works has allowed farmers’ voices to reach urban areas and has redirected public attention towards the rural world.

In a State that resorts to more borrowing to repay its existing debts, the hope of food sovereignty seems utopian for some, but realistic for others. However, if this hope was difficult in times of peace, will it become possible in times of war? Will Tunisian agriculture succeed in its transition towards a model that is more concerned with food security and less concerned with productivity and surplus production?

Food sovereignty, which is more urgent than ever before, is a potential response to the current food crisis. It is a solution to the food dependency and insecurity that come to light with each crisis.


The Emergence of Food Sovereignty as a Response, as opposed to Food Security


The first aspect of local actors’ fight for food sovereignty is semantic. There are slight but important nuances in the meaning of each concept, which affect the conditions of agriculture and the food that is generated. This has been argued by La Via Campesina (the international farmers’ movement) since 1996:

Following the energy, drought and hunger crisis of the 1970s,9 food security has become an important topic of discussion at the World Food Summit. Agriculture is now based on productivity and crop intensification to feed the greatest number of people in an attempt to fight global hunger. This coincided with the advent of the Green Revolution in developing countries: a production-centered approach to agriculture without farmers.

At that time, hybrid10 seeds were distributed for years free of charge by the government to Tunisian farmers, as evidenced by Jalel, a farmer who worked in a cooperative farm in Sidi Bourouis.11 As a result, many farmers abandoned ancestral seeds. This was by no means a trivial development, as it represented another means of dispossession of farmers (an article published on Houloul platform highlights the introduction of these seeds in Tunisia).

Officials at the Ministry of Agriculture and Higher Education in Agronomy advocated for modernity, which brought the promise of development to the country. The modernity that Bourguiba referred to in his daily speeches led people to believe that everything related to traditions is archaic and must be replaced.

To be fair, these shifts were already underway before independence. Inspired by the agricultural techniques used by the colonizers, Tunisian farmers were already tempted to use modern means through farm automation on their plots of land, which were remarkably smaller than the colonized12 fields around Wadi Majardah.

Large farms and intensive agriculture replaced subsistence farming under the successive regimes that have ruled Tunisia since the Ottoman era to date. Subsistence farming, food crops and farmer-family agriculture are the antitheses of profit-based agriculture. Subsistence farming based on ancestral seeds harvesting represents a heritage of practices and know-how that the new seeds introduced cannot bring.

A practice widely used by wheat and barley farmers was the matmoura: underground granaries where seeds were stored and used for consumption and adaptation to harsh seasons. Matmoura also existed in Morocco and Algeria but started to disappear in the 1980s. For the crop of the following year, breeders reserved the seeds of the best plants. This peasant engineering contributed, over the centuries, to the development of local species and varieties highly adapted to the land – that is, species that offer higher resistance to precipitation and temperature fluctuations and to diseases.

The cultivation of ancestral seeds also requires less water, according to Zakaria Hechmi, a farmer from the oasis of Chenini Gabes, where agroecology is still being practiced. Zakaria is known for his adamant efforts to preserve peasant seeds and the respect of the peasantry.

With seed technology, farmers have been demoted to the bottom of the production cycle, becoming mere consumers:

Since these major shifts, farmers have found themselves dependent on companies that provide them with the package to be planted: seeds, fertilisers and insecticides. In this regard, fruits have become ready-to-plant products, bereft of their natural essence. Currently, 50% of global seed production is controlled by three multinational companies: Syngenta, Monsanto and Dupont-Pioneer. Deprived of their autonomy and misled by promises of enrichment and development, farmers have lost control of their work and are being forced to adapt to market prices.

Moreover, farmers face problems related to agricultural land management and the dual legal system currently in place, resulting in land fragmentation. Given the restrictions related to their land rights, farmers have resorted to annual leasing for the cultivation of cereals and sometimes even for cattle breeding. These leases only offer smallholdings, with an area of no more than a few hectares, with limited possibility of expansion. Based on the testimony of Amine, a 25-year-old young man from El Krib, more and more farmers favor cattle breeding or monoculture of olives over cereals. Cattle breeding earns him 2,000 dinars per month on average, depending on the price of fodder (alfa) and sales.


Back to basics


The current crisis reminds us of our collective priority. As Edgar Morin says, “By sacrificing the essential for the urgent, one ends up forgetting the urgency of the essential.” We have disregarded what is essential at the cost of short-term solutions that have only eased the food crisis since its emergence. Indeed, the adoption of an agricultural model based on food security, at the expense of nutrition-centered agriculture, has led to a complex situation: the loss of local seeds, increased food dependence and the irreversible uprooting of the peasants.

Fifty years after the World Food Summit, there are still famines and food insecurity around the world, in addition to the loss of a substantial genetic heritage (75% of seed varieties have disappeared over the past century according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO).

The outcome is clear: food security has impoverished our diet. It prevents consumers from choosing their foods and reduces the genetic wealth inherited from millions of years of evolution and thousands of years of agriculture.

This is the basis for the struggle for food sovereignty across the world, by restoring seeds, reviewing seed legislation, rehabilitating soils, learning once again how to farm and changing production methods, especially with the imminent threat of climate change. Countries, farmers, researchers and social actors around the world should make concerted efforts in this regard.


What has changed?


Beyond our nostalgia for a romanticized era that remains under-documented in Tunisia, when sovereign fellahin14 were masters of their seeds, their land and their (more abundant) water, the return to responsible agriculture is still possible today.

Different associations are now calling for more access to land, water, peasant seeds and food sovereignty. Rural social movements are emerging and joining forces with movements in the neighborhoods of Tunis, Sfax and the agglomeration born of the rural exodus of the last century.

The very origin of the Arab Spring in Tunisia can be traced back to the dispossession of farmers: the injustice felt by Bouazizi is primarily linked to the dispossession of his land and his indebtedness to the National Bank for Agriculture (BNA).15

The struggle for food sovereignty adopts some of the same slogans that dominated public discourse after 2011: dignity, rights, justice... Protesters in Tunis carry slogans in support of farmers, such as the #WrongGeneration movement in solidarity with the #OuledJeballah movement, as seen in the photos below. Ouled Jebalah also protested against the rising prices of fodder and the shortage of fertilizers, which strongly affected the harvest season in 2021.

Despite the presence of unions like SYNAGRI and UTAP,16 farmers suffer from a lack of union representation, as they do not represent the interests of small farmers. In the absence of an agricultural inventory (data and agricultural map), there is a lack of knowledge regarding farming trades. As a result, it is more difficult for social actors to diagnose the situation, as Wassim Laabidi from the Working Group for Food Sovereignty explains.

Indeed, given the scarcity of literature, surveys and field research are often retrospective and very basic in their initial stages. In light of the few documentary resources available, social actors form on-site research groups with the farmers to better understand the current situation. This qualitative analysis of Tunisia’s diverse agricultural lands is adding more meaningful insight to the purely technical diagnosis of agriculture to which we are accustomed.

Within these new frameworks of analysis and documentation, a new narrative (which integrates international solidarity and class consciousness) is beginning to take shape: multidisciplinarity, the revival of the role of social sciences and access to political rights are all elements that contribute to these efforts.

These researchers and activists believe that experts and technicians tend to limit the analysis of the vulnerability of our agriculture to environmental factors or the inescapable impacts of globalization to conceal political liability. Terms such as "water stress" and "climate change" become an abuse of language, since water scarcity (and environmental problems more generally) is primarily due to the obsolete management of resources by the State.

The choice of crops, irrigation in the heart of the desert, and the overexploitation of groundwater for export crops are examples of poor resource management or even a lack of sovereignty over these resources. Current agricultural policies are indeed a significant colonial legacy, which modified the customs regime in favor of exportation.

In 1904, the Customs Union exempted wheat exports and fruits that ripened before their time from taxes, at a time when France was in dire need of wheat. Hence, an orientation towards an agriculture that produced the highest yield was required.
Degrowth as an Alternative

Degrowth is a concept that refers to a collective effort to reconsider our consumption patterns, primarily in industrialized countries. It is a favorable framework that can unite efforts for the restoration of a better and fairer lifestyle.

Countries that have witnessed major political and food crises as well as economic embargoes have shifted towards an agricultural policy that best suits their lands and their population needs. This was the case of Iran and Cuba. In Cuba, for example, the malnutrition rate fell from 21.9% to 5% during the 1990s.

The Republic of Cuba is the most prominent example of food sovereignty relevant to Tunisia (we all remember when Cuban doctors came to support Italy during the spike in mortality rates in 2020). Land management ensures that farmers cultivate their land without resale and without capital accumulation. However, even by shifting toward agroecology (or ecological agriculture), Cuba has not managed to completely break free from industrialization, as the State still keeps fields of monoculture.

It should be noted, however, that agroecology, which is practiced in 25% of agricultural lands, produces 65% of the country’s food.17 These concrete indicators show that food sovereignty, which is an integral part of the degrowth model, is not unattainable, but is rather the most pragmatic alternative for the current model that has proven its shortcomings.

However, we still have a long ways to go in terms of seed production: Despite the fact that the Tunisian Association of Permaculture organizes an annual seed festival with farmers, this practice remains illegal. In the week of April 7, 2022, Hafedh Karbaa from Monastir was forced to stop distributing his peasant seeds for free and to dispose of the seeds he had. After first appearing on the 8 pm news bulletin of El Watania channel, he stated on Shems radio that he was prohibited from pursuing his project.

Seed laws,18 which are adopted in all countries, are legal instruments used by multinational companies empowered to classify living organisms as being “illegal.” Law No. 99-42 of 10 May 1999 is the legal text which governs the use of seeds and intellectual property in Tunisia. Article 44 of Chapter IV (Crimes and Sanctions) stipulates that fines can reach 50,000 dinars: “In the event of recidivism [of the crime], the penalties provided for in Articles 43 and 44 [...] shall be doubled.”

Social and solidarity economy, permaculture, agroecology, agroforestry and other similar concepts are all agricultural approaches that take into account the sustainability of practices and ecosystems. These are still practiced in isolation, but they promise a much more efficient usage of resources, not to mention that they would allow farmers to become more independent, especially with regard to water and land restrictions. Although solutions do exist, researchers and activists believe that the structural problems of access to land should first be addressed.

Farmers’ right to land is undeniable, yet the distribution of State land does not prioritize landless farmers. Agrarian reform is necessary in Tunisia, as it is on the basis of such a reform that the situation of thousands of farmers could be changed for the better and the experience of a perennial agricultural production meeting local needs could be achieved.

 

Endnotes

 

↑1 Based on NIS data in 2016, published in the Analysis of the Cereals Sector in Tunisia and Identification of Key Areas of Dysfunction Leading to Losses, Raoudha Khaldi.
↑2 Law No. 2005-60 of July 18, 2005 Amending and Supplementing Law No. 91-64 of July 29, 1991 on Competition and Prices.
↑3 These events include the bread riot of 1984 or the previous series of droughts and plagues that led to the deterioration of the agricultural sector from 1815, Food Insecurity and Revolution in the Middle East and North Africa, Habib Ayeb and Ray Bush.
↑4 Simone Weil, The Need for Roots: Prelude to a Declaration of Duties Towards Mankind.
↑5 The collective framework is recent (from 2017 with the OSAE), but its members have individual backgrounds preceding the debate on sovereignty in research, book publishing or trade union activism.
↑6 Academics recognized each other, clearly positioning their research politically in light of the pre-revolution context, in which the humanities and social sciences were marginalized and alienated.
↑7 Max Ajl, A Bibliography of Agriculture, Planning, and Rural Development in Tunisia.
↑8 Working Group for Food Sovereignty.
↑9 “In 1972, global cereal production fell by a total of 41 million tons, half in developed countries and half in developing countries. In 1974, it fell again by 30 million tons.” Food and Agriculture Organization.
↑10 Laboratory-developed seeds cross different species that cannot produce new generations of plants. However, these hybrid varieties and the need for biodiversity in agriculture are subjects of debate. The problem is not the hybrid plants per se, but rather the control over the means of production.
↑11 Heir to a land fragmented by inheritance and colonization, Jalel faces difficulties in accessing the lands in which he has invested his savings but which are not yet his. Joint possession and inadequate land ownership laws are a glass ceiling for small farmers who wish to expand and landless farmers.
↑12 Discussed during the food sovereignty workshops in Nafta in October 2021. See the archives and documentation of French colonization in Tunisia. Jean Poncet, European Colonization and Agriculture in Tunisia since 1881: A Study of Historical and Economic Geography. Landscapes and Rural Problems in Tunisia.
↑13 Seeds, Michael Turner.
↑14 Fellah can be translated as: peasant, farmer, agriculturist, cultivator, etc.
↑15 Bouazizi: A life, an investigation, Lydia Chabert Dalix.
↑16 Farmers Union and Tunisian Union of Agriculture and Fisheries.
↑17 Cuba: A laboratory of food sovereignty? Jose Fuca, Anne Gauthier, Luc Pepin.
↑18 Seed laws that criminalise farmers: resistance and fightback.


For charts and graphs, visit: https://www.arab-reform.net/publication/war-in-ukraine-and-food-insecurity-in-tunisia-where-is-reform-most-needed/

 

The views represented in this paper are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Arab Reform Initiative or CEMAS, its staff, or its board.

 

 

 

 

As North African energy links are redrawn, Italy becomes Europe’s southern gas hub

By Francis Ghilès, Associate Senior Researcher, CIDOB, July 2022

We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual and these interests it is our duty to follow, Lord Palmerston, House of Commons, 1st March 1848.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine is accelerating a reshaping of the political and economic landscape of the central and western Mediterranean, above all regarding the energy sector and, specifically, gas supply.

In this context, Italy is reasserting its influence, especially in the central Mediterranean as it replaces its Russian-sourced gas with greater amounts of Algeria, Egyptian and now Israeli gas.

Italy and Algeria came to an agreement on May 11th 2022 whereby the volume of gas shipped via the TransMed (Enrico Mattei) pipeline would be increased from 21 bcm to 30 bcm by the end of 2023. This pipeline, which carries Algerian gas to Italy via Tunisia, thus acquires greater strategic importance.

Moreover, Italy is looking beyond gas. Stronger cooperation between Italy and Algeria should help stabilise Tunisia, not least because the first two countries see eye to eye on Libya. Tunisia faces an increasingly dire economic situation which Tunisian president Saied ignores at his political peril.

The war that began in Ukraine in February 2022 is reshaping international relations – in some sectors faster than others. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the field of energy, especially where gas and green energy are concerned. The European Union (EU) has underestimated the role natural gas would play in the energy transition since the turn of the century, irrespective of any given energy transition scenario. Hence the scramble to find more gas internationally once the EU decided to cut gas supplies from its major foreign supplier, Russia. The scramble was worsened by the fact that non-Russian producers of gas will not, for the next three years, have much extra supply capacity. Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is even scarcer that piped gas.


Italy moves to diversify its gas suppliers


In the context of the looming gas crisis last autumn, Italy, which is very dependent on Russian gas imports, was quick off the mark and engaged with different gas producers from Qatar to Mozambique. It will continue to import gas in LNG form from Egypt and will shortly add Israel to its list of suppliers. In November 2021, it started negotiating its first contract to buy more gas from Algeria, ensuring that by the end of 2023 its North African neighbour will increase its throughput of gas via the TransMed pipeline from 21 billion cubic metres (bcm) per annum to 30 bcm. Earlier this year Italy’s state oil and gas company Ente Nazionale dei Idrocarburi (ENI) secured a broad range $1.5 bn contract with its Algerian counterpart Sonatrach to explore and develop new sources of gas, hydrogen, ammonia and electricity from renewable sources.

ENI has three strong cards to play in Algeria, which include: a) longstanding relations going back 60 years between Sonatrach and ENI; b) the first ever underwater gas pipeline from Algeria to Sicily through Tunisia and under the Mediterranean – an Italian engineering feat that is a tribute to the country’s sophisticated oil and gas industry, which spans every aspect of the hydrocarbon sector; and c) last but not least, the role ENI’s founder Enrico Mattei played in advising the Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic in its difficult negotiations to gain independence from France at a time when France was attempting to prevent the recently discovered Saharan oil fields from belonging to the nascent country. Mattei died in an unexplained plane crash in 1963, a year after Algerian independence.

Since the First World War the history of the oil and gas industry is littered with coups, assassinations and wars, and not just in the Middle East.1 The conflictual relations between France, the United Kingdom, the US and leading Middle Eastern countries from Iraq to Saudi Arabia and Algeria offer the key to understanding many aspects of international politics over the past century. That history has often been written in blood and murder as major Western oil companies sought to retain control of the region’s vast oil and gas resources, only to be met by fierce reactions from Middle East producers. Seasoned observers of history are not surprised that the West’s increasingly fraught relations with Russia in recent years have ended in a brutal confrontation on oil and gas. It is too early to say which of the two sides will be the most damaged economically. But higher energy and food prices and the inflation they entail point to fraught international relations in the years ahead.


Italy’s increasing role as a gas hub


Italy is fast becoming the Mediterranean’s new gas hub. Three pipelines, from Azerbaijan, Libya and Algeria, bring gas to its southern shores. Floating storage and regasification units will allow more gas to be brought in from Egypt and Israel. If Germany decides to import more gas from Mediterranean producers, part of it could travel through Italy which can stock the stuff easily in the disused Po Valley gas fields.

Italy is looking beyond gas. In his recent discussions with Algerian president Abdelmajid Tebboune, Prime Minister Mario Draghi made clear that he was very interested in the well-armed North African country helping to stabilise Mali and other countries to the south of Libya. The Algerian head of state noted that both men were keen to help Tunisia at this point, although any financial support is likely to remain beneath the radar.

As Italy increases its Algerian gas imports to 30 bcm in 2023, the TransMed gas pipeline gains importance. Meanwhile, four fibre optic lines from Kelibia and Bizerta connect the Tunisian mainland to Italy and the SEA-ME-W4 cable that connects Asia to the EU. These could in the future carry solar-produced electricity from North Africa to Europe, running alongside the TransMed gas line from El Haouaria in Tunisia to Mazara del Vallo in Sicily. However, talk of a hydrogen pipeline between Algeria and Italy is premature.2

t is worth noting that Rome, Ankara and Algiers see eye to eye on Libya, whose UN-backed government they support against the eastern self-proclaimed Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar in Benghazi. He enjoys the support of Egypt, the Emirates and, to a lesser degree, France and Russia. France’s policy has left Italy very unhappy and torpedoed all attempts to forge a united EU policy on Libya. The recent appointment of Sabri Boukadoum as UN envoy to Libya strengthens Algeria’s hand. Just two years ago, Ramtane Lamamra, an Algerian diplomat who has since become his country’s foreign minister, was vetoed for the job by the US despite the very high respect for him internationally from Moscow to Washington, not to mention in African and European capitals.

Rebuilding Libya will eventually bring a great deal of work to Italian but also Tunisian companies which had invested a lot in Libya before 2011. Remittances from Tunisian workers in Libya helped stabilise southern Tunisia for decades. The stability of North Africa’s smallest country is essential for Italy as it helps allow the EU to control illegal immigration flows from Africa.


Complexities of intra-North African relations


Algeria has, since 2011, played a major role in stabilising Tunisia, whose president, Kais Saied, is reverting to a presidential constitution after years of a hybrid presidential–parliamentary system which made the country virtually ungovernable and much poorer. Saied’s suspension of parliament and the government on July 25th 2021 and the role Egypt played in advising him then has brought the army into domestic politics for the first time since 1956. It risks weakening the role it has held as neutral guarantor of the perennity of the state. Algeria is sensitive to US military influence but more concerned about the pressure Morocco and the United Arab Emirates are putting on Tunisia to recognise Israel. Algeria has helped Tunisia fight terrorism but its support has also been financial. Earlier this spring, it discreetly extended an estimated $1.5 bn loan to its western neighbour and reopened the frontier between the two countries, which had been closed by COVID-19 in 2020. Algerian tourists make a major contribution to Tunisia’s important tourist sector.

European capitals, not least Berlin, are openly supportive of Kais Saied and appreciate that branding him “authoritarian” while remaining silent about the fierce repression in Egypt smacks of hypocrisy. Tunisians have suffered a sharp fall in living standards since 2011, bewildered at the sight of a newly minted political class fiddling while Carthage burned. Popular support for Saied one year after he suspended the government and national assembly will be tested when the draft of the new constitution is submitted to referendum on 25th July. That said, Tunisia faces an increasingly dire economic situation which Saied ignores at his political peril.


Meanwhile, Morocco plays its own cards


As its star rises in the Mediterranean, Italy also benefits indirectly from the tense state of Spain’s relations with Morocco until last year and today with Algeria. Combined with Algeria’s traditional rivalry with Morocco, this has resulted in the closure of the pipeline which until last autumn carried Algerian gas to the Iberian Peninsula via Morocco, even as Medgaz has remained open, which carries Algerian gas directly to Spain. This closure was effective well before Spain’s change of position on the eventual status of the disputed territory of the Western Sahara. Algeria expressed its displeasure at the Spanish move but continues to value Spain as its second-largest gas client.

Spain, which has roughly twice the regasification capacity its domestic market requires, will only be able to contribute more to the EU’s overall gas security when France’s nuclear lobby lifts its longstanding veto on increasing the 7 bcm capacity of the gas line that carries gas northward across the Pyrenees. The Iberian corridor will then come into its own. Meanwhile, flows in the Maghreb–Europe pipeline restarted on June 28th 2022, with reverse flows of gas using the pipeline that closed on November 1st 2021 when Algeria cut off supplies to Morocco. The largest German energy company RWE has won the contract that allows Morocco to access Europe’s largest LNG market.

Meanwhile Morocco is developing other energy links beyond the EU with the United Kingdom. Energy tech pioneer Octopus Energy Group, in partnership with Xlinks, last May contracted to build the world’s largest subsea power cable to deliver renewable energy from Morocco to Devon in the southwest of the United Kingdom. This project fits with Morocco’s longstanding ambition to become a world leader in solar energy.


So, energy links are being redrawn


In the midst of these changes, it should not be forgotten that North Africa has done little to reduce its carbon imprint. Most of Morocco’s electricity comes from coal, and 100% and 90% of Algeria and Tunisia’s from gas, respectively. Climate change will hit the Maghreb hard, however its energy links with the EU are redrawn.

Although the stars are aligned to give Italy unprecedented influence in the central Mediterranean, other national actors in North Africa (Morocco) and outside the region (China and Turkey) are increasing their economic footprint and, in the case of the latter, their military presence in the Maghreb. France can only fight to retain what it considers its historic sphere of influence. The Russian invasion of Ukraine is accelerating a reshaping of the political and economic landscape of the central and western Mediterranean. The framework of economic cooperation put in place by the Barcelona Process in 1995 has given way to a quite different Mediterranean order – in the key field of energy at least. New and important energy transactions continue despite what a senior adviser to kings Hassan II and Mohamed VI once called “le bétisier sans fin des relations algero-marocaines”.3 What is occurring is less an economic decoupling between the EU and the Maghreb than a recoupling which is inserting Morocco (in energy but also financial terms due to the growing importance of Casablanca Finance City) into more global networks.


Footnotes


1- Think of Hitler’s failed dash for the Caucasus oil fields in 1942–1943.

2- Pipelines carrying CO2 exist as a result of years of injection into gas and oil fields, but there is no experience of H2 pipelines, where specific issues of distance, material and compressor stations have yet to be solved. There is no market for hydrogen today, only greatly differing assumptions about pricing and cost. Any capital to finance such projects would thus have to come from the state, as no private sector bank or investor could justify putting up the necessary money.3- The never-ending stupid tit for tat of Algerian-–Moroccan relations.

3- The never-ending stupid tit for tat of Algerian-Moroccan relations

 

 

 

The last 'Arab Spring' democracy is dangling by a thread

By Nadeen Ebrahim, CNN, 27 July 2022

Abu Dhabi, UAE (CNN) - Once regarded as the sole democracy to have emerged from the mass protests of the Arab Spring in 2011, Tunisia on Tuesday passed a newly minted constitution that analysts fear could be the final nail in the coffin of its democratic era.

With no minimum voter threshold, only 30.5% of eligible voters took part in Monday's poll, according to the latest figures by the electoral commission, with approximately 95% of those who participated voting 'yes.'

Analysts say that a new constitution would be the final blow to the social and political gains made by the North African country since the Arab Spring, setting the country on a path that will be difficult to return from.

Tunisian protesters raise flags and placards on July 23 during a demonstration in the capital Tunis, against their president and the upcoming July 25 constitutional referendum.
Tunisian protesters raise flags and placards on July 23 during a demonstration in the capital Tunis, against their president and the upcoming July 25 constitutional referendum.

"A version of this story first appeared in CNN's Meanwhile in the Middle East newsletter, a three-times-a-week look inside the region's biggest stories. Sign up here."

Abu Dhabi, UAE (CNN)Once regarded as the sole democracy to have emerged from the mass protests of the Arab Spring in 2011, Tunisia on Tuesday passed a newly minted constitution that analysts fear could be the final nail in the coffin of its democratic era.

With no minimum voter threshold, only 30.5% of eligible voters took part in Monday's poll, according to the latest figures by the electoral commission, with approximately 95% of those who participated voting 'yes.'

Analysts say that a new constitution would be the final blow to the social and political gains made by the North African country since the Arab Spring, setting the country on a path that will be difficult to return from.

"We will establish a new republic that is different from the one we have had over the last ten years," Tunisian President Kais Saied said Monday on state TV after casting his vote.

When waves of protest rocked the region 12 years ago, engulfing Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Syria and Yemen, Tunisia temporarily rose as the sole success story to emerge from the Arab Spring.

Egypt and Algeria soon came under strict military rule; critics say freedoms and rights have since regressed in both countries. Meanwhile Syria, Libya and Yemen plunged into bloody civil wars. To this day they remain bitterly divided and wracked by grueling poverty.

However, progress in the former French colony has also stalled.

Last summer, faced with anti-government protests following a spike in Covid-19 cases and growing anger over chronic political dysfunction and economic malaise, Saied dissolved the 2014 constitution and began ruling by decree.

Saied has defended his decrees, saying they are driven by a need to "correct the course of the revolution" and to rid the country of corruption. Among Saied's targets was the moderate Islamist Ennahda party, whose leader Rached Ghannouchi remains under investigation for money laundering (Ghannouchi denies the allegations, which he has denounced as politically motivated).

Ennahda, a major political player in the country since the Arab Spring, has recently come under criticism for its central roles in Tunisia's years of economic and political crisis.
Some initially celebrated the decision, with huge crowds gathering in his support in Tunis and other cities, but the opposition has called Saied's move a coup.
Analysts say the new constitution would eliminate the last structure remaining from the country's days of democracy.

Tunisia's 2014 constitution was "the crowning achievement of Tunisia's democratic era," said Monica Marks, professor of Middle East politics at New York University Abu Dhabi, adding that it represented the hard work done in the "post-2011 political transition away from dictatorship."

In May, Saied appointed a "National Consultative Commission for a New Republic," and tasked it with drafting a new constitution -- to be voted on in today's referendum.
Published in the state gazette on June 30, the draft constitution alarmed activists and rights watchdogs, who say it limits the influence of parliament and essentially signs off on one-man rule.

"There is no meaningful separation of powers," Marks told CNN.
"There is no oversight between branches of government and there is no presidential accountability," she added.

Among the constitutional features that concern critics are articles which set out that the government answers to the president, that the president appoints the head of government, and that the president can -- at any point -- dismiss the government or its members. The draft constitution also makes it harder for parliament to pass a no-confidence vote in the government.

While rights and freedoms are promised protection, as under the existing constitution, an array of other issues are sounding alarm bells.
The lack of balance of power and the "absence of checks and balances" in the new draft constitution are a great worry, according to Aymen Bessalah, programs coordinator for Human Rights at Al Bawsala, a non-profit organization founded in 2011 by Tunisian activists.

"These are similarities to the 1959 constitution," Bessalah told CNN, referring to a previous version that granted sweeping powers to the president.
"He has large and powerful executive powers, and judicial independence is not guaranteed," Bessalah added.

Other articles grant the president executive authority to appoint senior officials, both civil and military, to take "exceptional measures" in the case of dangers to national security, and to rule by decree until a newly-elected parliament takes office.

While an amended draft of the new constitution was published on July 8, it only included minor changes and kept the president's proposed powers in place, analysts say.

Several political parties have already rejected the July 25 referendum, and Tunisia's powerful labor union (UGGT), an influential group with more than a million members, branded Saied's constitution a threat to democracy but said it would allow its members to vote.

Earlier on Tuesday, the National Salvation Front, Tunisia's opposition coalition, reiterated its rejection of the referendum.

"The proposed draft dismantles many of the safeguards provided in Tunisia's post-revolution constitution and fails to provide institutional guarantees for human rights," said Heba Morayef, Amnesty International's regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, adding that it sends "a chilling message" and sets Tunisian efforts back by years.

Tunisian authorities did not respond to CNN's request for comment on either the draft constitution or the government's plans to safeguard freedoms and rights should the referendum pass.
A series of protests and strikes took place in the capital Tunis ahead of Monday's referendum.

"This hyper-presidential system is a step back and will be difficult to recover from, at least on the short-term," said Bessalah, adding that once the new constitution is approved -- as many expect it will be -- a crackdown on freedoms is likely to follow.
"[The referendum] is one extremely important event in a long, continuous process of Kais Saied's dictatorial consolidation," said Marks. "That's the real reason why it is terrifying."

 

 

 

RABAT, MOROCCO - The Loch Ness Monster’s existence is “plausible” after fossils of plesiosaurs were found in a 100-million year old river system that is now Morocco’s Sahara Desert, researchers have said.

A new paper from the University of Bath suggests that plesiosaurs, once thought to be sea creatures, may have lived in freshwater - meaning the theory that the monster could have been a prehistoric reptile is likely.

“The ancient Moroccan river contained so many carnivores all living alongside each other. This was no place to go for a swim,” coauthor Dave Martill said.

 

 

 

Research Papers & Reports

Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2022

By Nic Newman with Richard Fletcher, Craig T. Robertson, Kirsten Eddy, and Rasmus Kleis Nielsen

LONDON - We live in an age of extremes, also when it comes to some aspects of news and media use. Climate change, the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, and the Putin regime’s invasion of Ukraine are all examples of hugely consequential challenges that journalists, at their best, help us all understand and respond to, said in his report forward Professor Rasmus Kleis Nielson, Director of Reuters Institute for Study of Journalism (RISJ.)

And a growing number of news media willing to embrace digital technologies and able to offer distinct journalism in an incredibly competitive marketplace for attention are doing well by doing good.But most news media continue to struggle in an unforgiving winner-takes-most online environment, where the bulk of audience attention and advertising spending goes to digital platforms, and where many new voices – ranging from creators and influencers to activists and politicians – are carving out their own place, competing head-on with journalists for attention.

And at a more basic level, while many of the most commercially successful news media primarily serve audiences that are, crudely put, like me – affluent, highly educated, privileged, in many countries predominantly male, middle-aged, and white – our findings this year document that the connection between journalism and much of the public is fraying.

Despite the huge difference independent professional journalism can make in helping people understand the world beyond personal experience, we find declining interest in the news, lower trust – after a positive bump last year – as well as a growth in active news avoidance amongst some groups. Large numbers of people see the media as subject to undue political influence, and only a small minority believe most news organisations put what’s best for society ahead of their own commercial interest.

For younger people, these issues are compounded by differences in how new generations use media – looking specifically at the news habits of those under 30, we find much less interest in connecting directly with news media, different views on what journalism ought to look like, and a much heavier reliance on social media platforms.

There is not one uniform way in which these developments are playing out across the world, but both trends – a weakening of the connection between journalism and much of the public, and younger people using media in ways that challenge inherited approaches to the business and practice of journalism – are present in almost every one of the countries covered here in the eleventh edition of our Digital News Report.

We find that news and media use is in many cases not as politically polarised as is often assumed. But we also document real social inequalities in how people engage with news, and who it is most lucrative for most media organisations to serve.

The 46 markets we analyse account for more than half the world’s population, and can perhaps illuminate trends elsewhere. Our focus is on countries which are either broadly democratic or generally compare themselves to countries with a democratic tradition. Because we use online polling, we also continue to focus on countries with high internet penetration, though we remain committed over time to extending our work to more countries in the Global South – in line with the international mission of the Reuters Institute.

The increasing number and diversity of markets covered – including 11 in Asia, five in South America, three in Africa and North America, as well as 24 in Europe – have led us to compare fewer data points across the whole sample and to focus on meaningful comparisons across markets that are broadly similar. We’ve provided more detail about differences in polling samples in both the methodology pages and the relevant country pages.

This report continues to benefit from a strong network of partners and sponsors around the world. We are proud to have the opportunity to work with a number of leading academics, as well as media experts from the news industry. Our partners have helped in a variety of different ways, checking questionnaires, helping with interpretation, and in many cases publishing their own reports, prof. Klein Nielson concluded.

 

Executive Summary and Key Findings


By Nic Newman Senior Research Associate Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism

Last year’s report contained some positive signs for the news industry, with higher consumption and rising trust amidst a second wave of Coronavirus lockdowns. Many traditional news brands seemed to benefit not just from greater attention, but also financially, with more people taking out online subscriptions and advertisers looking to associate themselves with reliable content.

A year on, we find a slightly less optimistic picture. While a break-out group of primarily upmarket news publishers across the world report record digital subscription numbers and growing revenues, more broadly, we find that interest in news and overall news consumption has declined considerably in many countries while trust has fallen back almost everywhere – though it mostly remains higher than before the Coronavirus crisis began.

We’re also seeing news fatigue setting in – not just around COVID-19 but around politics and a range of other subjects – with the number of people actively avoiding news increasing markedly. Since our main data set was collected in early February, a new threat to global security has emerged in the form of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

This event clearly increased news consumption across all news sources, but a second Digital News Report survey in five countries undertaken in early April saw further levels of selective avoidance, even in countries like Poland and Germany that have been directly impacted by the conflict. We devote a special chapter to the impact of the Ukraine crisis and attitudes towards media coverage.

A clear throughline in this year’s report is the changing habits of younger groups, specifically those under 30, whom news organisations often struggle to reach. Throughout this Executive Summary, and in a separate chapter, we find that this group that has grown up with social media is not just different but more differentthan they were in the past.

We also explore their use of newer visual networks for news such as TikTok and Instagram, with support from a detailed qualitative study in three countries (UK, US, and Brazil).More widely, this year’s data confirm how the various shocks of the last few years, including the Coronavirus pandemic, have further accelerated structural shifts towards a more digital, mobile, and platform-dominated media environment, with further implications for the business models and formats of journalism.

In our country and market pages, which combine industry developments with key local data points, we see how different media companies are coping with these various headwinds. We find a mixed picture of downsizing and layoffs in some places, but optimism around business models, industry cooperation, and format innovation in others.

And everywhere we find growing concerns about a looming cost-of-living crisis that could be making people rethink how much they can afford to spend on news media.This eleventh edition of our Digital News Report, based on data from six continents and 46 markets, aims to cast light on the key issues that face the industry.

Our more global sample, which since 2021 has included India, Indonesia, Thailand, Nigeria, Colombia, and Peru, provides some understanding of how differently the news environment operates outside the United States and Europe. The overall story is captured in this Executive Summary, followed by Section 2, with chapters containing additional analysis, and then individual country and market pages in Section 3 with extra data and context.


A SUMMARY OF SOME OF THE MOST IMPORTANT FINDINGS FROM OUR 2022 RESEARCH


• Trust in the news has fallen in almost half the countries in our survey, and risen in just seven, partly reversing the gains made at the height of the Coronavirus pandemic. On average, around four in ten of our total sample (42%) say they trust most news most of the time. Finland remains the country with the highest levels of overall trust (69%), while news trust in the USA has fallen by a further three percentage points and remains the lowest (26%) in our survey.• Consumption of traditional media, such as TV and print, declined further in the last year in almost all markets (pre-Ukraine invasion), with online and social consumption not making up the gap. While the majority remain very engaged, others are turning away from the news media and in some cases disconnecting from news altogether. Interest in news has fallen sharply across markets, from 63% in 2017 to 51% in 2022.

• Meanwhile, the proportion of news consumers who say they avoid news, often or sometimes, has increased sharply across countries. This type of selective avoidance has doubled in both Brazil (54%) and the UK (46%) over the last five years, with many respondents saying news has a negative effect on their mood. A significant proportion of younger and less educated people say they avoid news because it can be hard to follow or understand – suggesting that the news media could do much more to simplify language and better explain or contextualise complex stories.

• In the five countries we surveyed after the war in Ukraine had begun, we find that television news is relied on most heavily – with countries closest to the fighting, such as Germany and Poland, seeing the biggest increases in consumption. Selective news avoidance has, if anything, increased further – likely due to the difficult and depressing nature of the coverage.

• Global concerns about false and misleading information remain stable this year, ranging from 72% in Kenya and Nigeria to just 32% in Germany and 31% in Austria. People say they have seen more false information about Coronavirus than about politics in most countries, but the situation is reversed in Turkey, Kenya, and the Philippines, amongst others.

• Despite increases in the proportion paying for online news in a small number of richer countries (Australia, Germany, and Sweden), there are signs that overall growth may be levelling off. Across a basket of 20 countries where payment is widespread, 17% paid for any online news – the same figure as last year. Persuading younger people to pay remains a critical issue for industry, with the average age of a digital news subscriber almost 50.

• A large proportion of digital subscriptions go to just a few big national brands – reinforcing the winner takes most dynamics that we have reported in the past. But in the United States and Australia we are now seeing the majority of those paying taking out more than one subscription. This reflects the increased supply of differentiated paid news products in areas such as political opinion, local news, and a range of specific niches – holding out hope that more people will ultimately pay for multiple titles.

• But in the face of rapidly rising household bills, we find some respondents rethink the number of media subscriptions they can afford this year – which include news, television, music, and books. While most say they expect to retain the same number of media subscriptions, others say they expect to take out fewer, as they look to save money on non-essential items.

• With first-party data collection becoming more important for publishers with the imminent demise of third-party cookies, we find that most consumers are still reluctant to register their email address with news sites. Across our entire sample, only around a third (32%) say they trust news websites to use their personal data responsibly – comparable to online retailers such as Amazon – and the figure is even lower in the United States (18%) and France (19%).

• Access to news continues to become more distributed. Across all markets, less than a quarter (23%) prefer to start their news journeys with a website or app, down nine points since 2018. Those aged 18–24 have an even weaker connection with websites and apps, preferring to access news via side-door routes such as social media, search, and mobile aggregators.

• Facebook remains the most-used social network for news but users are more likely to say they see too much news in their feed compared with other networks. While older groups remain loyal to the platform, we show how the youngest generation has switched much of its attention to more visual networks over the last three years.

• TikTok has become the fastest growing network in this year’s survey, reaching 40% of 18–24s, with 15% using the platform for news. Usage is much higher in parts of Latin America, Asia, and Africa than it is in the United States or Northern Europe. Telegram has also grown significantly in some markets, providing a flexible alternative to Meta-owned WhatsApp.

• While social media have increased the profile of many digital journalists, we find that the most well-known journalists are still TV anchors and presenters in most countries. When asked to name journalists they pay attention to, few people can name foreign correspondents, while newspaper columnists have higher name recognition in the UK and Finland than in Brazil, the United States, or France.

• The smartphone has become the dominant way in which most people first access news in the morning, though we find different patterns across countries. In Norway, Spain, Finland, and the UK, the smartphone is now accessed first ahead of television, while radio retains an important role in Ireland. Morning newspaper reading is still surprisingly popular in the Netherlands; television still dominates in Japan.

• After last year’s slowdown in part caused by restrictions on movement during the COVID-19 pandemic, growth in podcasts seems to have resumed, with 34% consuming one or more podcasts in the last month. Our data show Spotify continuing to gain ground over Apple and Google podcasts in a number of countries and YouTube also benefiting from the popularity of video-led and hybrid podcasts.


https://reutersinstitute.politics.ox.ac.uk/sites/default/files/2022-06/Digital_News-Report_2022.pdf

 

 

 

 

Warding off Renewed War in Nagorno-Karabakh

International Crisis Group, 09 August 2022

Several soldiers have been killed in clashes between Azerbaijani troops and ethnic Armenian forces answering to the de facto authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh, raising fears of escalation. Crisis Group experts Olesya Vartanyan, Zaur Shiriyev and Anita Mihaeljana explain what can be done to safeguard the ceasefire.


What do we know about the latest fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh?


The incidents have to do with disagreements over provisions of the Russian-backed ceasefire that ended the 2020 war over this mountainous enclave, which Armenia and Azerbaijan have been fighting for since the Soviet Union’s demise. At the end of their first war, in 1994, Armenian forces were in full or partial control of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven adjacent districts. In the 2020 fighting, Baku took back the seven districts as well as part of the territory.

Under the ceasefire, Russian peacekeepers deployed to the areas of Nagorno-Karabakh still held by ethnic Armenians after Armenian troops withdrew. The truce did not settle the territory’s final status or the disposition of the de facto authorities who administer the entity’s Armenian-held areas from the city of Stepanakert. Azerbaijan says the only deal it wants is one that begins with unequivocal acceptance by Armenia of Baku’s sovereignty over all territory within its internationally recognised borders, including the whole of Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenia and the de facto authorities want special security provisions and rights for Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians.

In March, Azerbaijani forces had seized territory around Farukh, an ethnic Armenian-populated village patrolled by Russian peacekeepers as part of the 2020 ceasefire, and established new positions in the nearby mountains. Because Farukh lies in a strategic spot, the surrounding heights giving direct views deep into Armenian-populated areas, the move seeded concerns in Stepanakert and Yerevan that Baku would mount a new offensive, taking advantage of Moscow’s divided attention as it pursues the campaign in Ukraine and Azerbaijan’s much stronger military position since the 2020 war. Diplomacy briefly prevailed when EU mediation brought together the Azerbaijani and Armenian leaders, who agreed to start peace talks in April.

But tensions have been on the rise again in recent weeks. Since mid-July, residents of Azerbaijani villages have told Crisis Group of additional activity by Azerbaijani forces in Lachin, near the border with Armenia, and Shusha, which lies on high ground close to Stepanakert and is thus a strategic outpost. State-controlled media in Baku have also run reports of a potential new Azerbaijani military operation. On 1 August, the de facto authorities in Stepanakert said a soldier under their command had been wounded in clashes with Azerbaijani forces at the north-eastern front – an incident confirmed by Russian peacekeepers watching over the area.

On 3 August, Baku launched a military operation in Nagorno-Karabakh, saying an Azerbaijani soldier had been killed in the Lachin region in an exchange of fire with the Armenian de facto Nagorno-Karabakh forces. De facto authorities in Stepanakert reported that Azerbaijani forces were advancing in a number of locations on the western and north-western fronts and near the main road that connects the entity with Armenia. The Azerbaijani defence ministry released footage of drone attacks on a de facto Nagorno-Karabakh base, as well as another outpost. Stepanakert said two of its soldiers were killed and nineteen wounded in these strikes.

The fighting in areas that have been largely calm since the 2020 war, as shown in this Crisis Group visual explainer, has renewed fears of a broader Azerbaijani offensive in the coming days. In a conversation with Crisis Group on 4 August, the de facto authorities accused Azerbaijan of breaching the truce by retaking positions that both sides had agreed to vacate in 2021 due to their proximity to civilian settlements. On 5 August, Azerbaijan said its military had taken control of another strategic location, Mount Buzdukh and the adjacent heights.

The de facto authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh have called on residents of the entity’s Armenian-populated parts to evacuate areas north of where the 3 August drone strikes took place. One target of a wider offensive, they fear, could be the Armenian-populated village of Yeghtsahogh, which is home to more than 200 people, lying as it does near a strategic road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia, known as the Lachin corridor. In another village, Vaghuhas, whose 800 inhabitants were also told to leave, a resident said few are complying because they do not know where to go. “The situation is really bad”, 23-year-old Svetlana told Crisis Group by telephone. “The thing is that there are no roads for us to leave or in emergency situations to escape. We are surrounded on four sides … People are in a panic”.


What is Azerbaijan hoping to achieve?


Baku has called the military operation a “revenge” for the death of its soldier in what it said was an Armenian assault, but its actions appear to owe as well to dissatisfaction with the situation on the ground. Baku has three goals it wants to achieve either by force or the threat thereof, which it hopes will pressure Armenia to capitulate in negotiations.

The first concerns the overland route that goes from Stepanakert to Armenia. The only road now is the Lachin corridor, which runs past the outposts where Baku staged its drone strikes and proceeds through Azerbaijan’s mountainous Lachin region to Shusha, which Azerbaijani forces retook in the 2020 war. The ceasefire agreement provides that the parties build an alternative road within three years, after which the Russian peacekeepers deployed along the current route will relocate to the new one.

Completion of the new road will allow Azerbaijan to take back control of Lachin city and surrounding areas. Baku believes Yerevan is stalling on laying its several-kilometre section of the new road, although Armenia issued a tender for beginning construction in August.

A senior de facto official insisted after the 3 August clashes that Stepanakert is willing, including via a temporary arrangement, to stop using the Lachin corridor as soon as possible. The de facto authorities have told the remaining residents of Lachin who moved there after Armenian forces took the town from Azerbaijan in 1992 to leave by the end of August. Baku, meanwhile, has almost completed its 32km section of the new road. “The Armenian side is trying to delay the commissioning of the new road this year, thereby purposely delaying the handover of the city of Lachin and a number of villages to Azerbaijan”, an Azerbaijani official said.

 Azerbaijan’s second grievance relates to what it says is Armenia’s failure to withdraw forces from Nagorno-Karabakh, as the ceasefire says it must do. Yerevan says it has done so. The issue, it says, is Azerbaijan’s concern that Nagorno-Karabakh’s de facto authorities retain an armed force. Baku argues that this force is illegal, demanding that Russian peacekeepers disarm it, while Armenia and the de facto authorities say its disarmament was never part of the ceasefire deal. Baku seized upon comments Armen Grigoryan, Armenia’s Security Council secretary, made in an interview in mid-July that Armenia would withdraw forces by September as evidence of its claims. Yerevan has since furiously tried to walk back words it says were taken out of context. On 4 August, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan reiterated that all Armenian armed forces have left Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said on 15 July the “Russian side had promised to our defence ministry that Armenian armed forces would withdraw from Karabakh by June, but this issue hasn’t been resolved yet”. An Azerbaijani military official told Crisis Group that it will press ahead with operations until the area is fully demilitarised.

Thirdly, Baku appears keen to proceed to talks over a treaty that it hopes will end the conflict to its advantage. At the 6 April meeting between the Azerbaijani and Armenian leaders in Brussels, the two declared their readiness to start talks on such an agreement. Azerbaijan has voiced frustration that subsequent diplomacy has moved too slowly. An Azerbaijani official alleged that Armenian officials are purposely delaying talks. “They think that, by prolonging the negotiations, they can wait for the geopolitical situation to change in their favour”, the official said.


What is the view from Armenia?


For their part, officials in Yerevan blame Baku, saying its representatives, not theirs, are dragging their feet in EU-mediated talks and hoping to take advantage of the world’s focus on Russia’s war in Ukraine. Amid mutual accusations, Baku cancelled a third round of talks between high-level officials that was to take place in Brussels after meetings in March and May. In response, Prime Minister Pashinyan said, “It is clear that Azerbaijan is trying to legitimise a large-scale attack on Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia”.

From a military standpoint, Armenia and de facto authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh view Baku’s seizure of Farukh in March, as well as positions held by the de facto Nagorno-Karabakh forces near the Lachin corridor and along the front lines in the entity’s north and north west, as an attempt to gain high ground and, thus, strategic advantage.

Yerevan views the escalation as an attempt to pressure it to drop any calls to sustain discussions on Nagorno-Karabakh’s future status. Baku has not been interested in exploring creative solutions for the status of Nagorno-Karabakh of the sort floated before the 2020 war that entailed a high degree of autonomy from Baku and self-governance. In April, Pashinyan said he would be ready to soften Yerevan’s long-time insistence that talks address the question of Nagorno-Karabakh’s independence claim if that could prevent a renewed war.

The residents’ security and rights, he said, were more important. “What we are saying is that the people of Karabakh must not leave it, the people of Karabakh must live in Karabakh, the people of Karabakh must have rights, freedoms and a status”, Pashinyan said on 14 April, responding to domestic criticism that he was preparing to compromise on the entity’s status.


Can Russian peacekeepers deter Azerbaijan and enforce the ceasefire?


Amid the rising tensions, on 1 August Russian President Vladimir Putin along with his foreign and defence ministers held calls with counterparts in Baku and Yerevan to try lowering the temperature. For now, the Russian diplomatic effort appears not to have deterred Azerbaijan.

In Yerevan and Stepanakert, some have grown frustrated with what they see as the Russian peacekeepers’ inaction in stopping ceasefire violations, though it is unclear how much the Russians can actually do. The de facto entity’s president, Arayik Harutyunyan, spoke out against calls for protest by local activists and residents on social media in front of the peacekeepers’ headquarters on 3 August.

Meanwhile, Pashinyan on 4 August blamed the peacekeepers' apparent inability to intervene more forcefully on Azerbaijan’s refusal to agree on a clear mandate for the Russian mission. In effect, he said, these limitations tie the peacekeepers’ hands. The mission does publish regular updates, warning on 3 August of an “aggravated situation”, in its strongest wording to date.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, its peacekeeping mission has faced even greater challenges than before, with criticism mounting from both sides. In a bid to improve the peacekeepers’ image, the Russian mission’s head invited a number of local activists and politicians for a rare meeting on 4 August to discuss recent incidents. All signs point to Russian peacekeepers actively monitoring the situation in the area where the most intense clashes have taken place.

Since early May, they have been conducting daily patrols on Sarybaba heights close to the Lachin corridor. The patrols stopped a couple of days before the Azerbaijani advances, however, for reasons that are unclear. A senior de facto official in Stepanakert said the peacekeepers often feel powerless. “Everyone understands that Russia is weaker than ever before in the international arena”, the de facto representative said.


How can diplomacy help?


The escalation has prompted a rash of renewed diplomacy to curb the fighting and calls from Brussels, Washington, Moscow and Paris to respect the ceasefire. The UN and NATO have chimed in with the same message. Efforts by Moscow and Brussels to tamp down tensions in the spring had brought important milestones – including the first-ever talks between the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers, which took place in Tbilisi in July, and a 15 July agreement between Baku and Yerevan to hold talks on delimiting the state borders. Even as Baku was signalling frustration with the status quo in July, a number of Western officials told Crisis Group that Armenia and Azerbaijan were on verge of finalising agreements on new, much anticipated trade routes in the region.

The parties should not allow the August clashes to slow the positive diplomatic momentum. The Armenian government, in particular, has shown itself willing to make difficult concessions in recent weeks despite fierce criticism at home and security worries among residents in Nagorno-Karabakh. Its officials dropped reservations on the format of talks, agreeing to meet anywhere with or without third-party mediation. Yerevan agreed to look into ways of signing a peace treaty with Baku that would leave the issue of the status of Nagorno-Karabakh open.

That is a big step for Yerevan although officials in Baku have dismissed it. Senior Armenian officials admit in private that they feel they have little choice but to cede some of Azerbaijan’s demands, given their weaker military position and doubts that their main ally, Russia, will come to their aid given its entanglement in Ukraine.

Azerbaijan should not waste what U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has dubbed a “historic opportunity” to broker a peace treaty. It should take steps immediately to de-escalate tensions and return to negotiations. Among people in Azerbaijan, unlike in the lead-up to the 2020 war, support for the latest military operations is muted. A number of civil society representatives told Crisis Group that continued tensions will undermine the EU-mediated peace talks.

Continued tensions have the potential to damage Baku’s reputation, putting at risk other aspects of bilateral cooperation with the European Union, from development funding to energy. They could also jeopardise other diplomatic initiatives, such as the rapprochement between Türkiye and Armenia, which could boost overall trade in the South Caucasus. Behind closed doors, some Azerbaijani officials appear to support opening those two countries’ long-sealed border.

President Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan missed an opportunity to publicly urge the two sides to de-escalate at their meeting in Russia’s southern city of Sochi on 5 August. Both have a stake in avoiding a broader escalation and, in particular, encouraging the sides to move ahead with the talks on new transport routes.

The clashes have once again highlighted the challenges faced by the Russian peacekeeping mission without a clear mandate for how it can engage beyond its monitoring role – a problem made worse by Russia’s loss of standing following its invasion of Ukraine. In a 2021 report, Crisis Group called on the sides to hold talks on clarifying the peacekeepers’ role. They appear increasingly unlikely to do so, particularly amid increasing criticism of the mission by both Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Such frustration risks undermining the peacekeepers’ ability to carry out their existing mandate of observing the ceasefire in the conflict zone. If and when the time becomes ripe, international mediators must urge the sides to revisit this issue, which will likely come to a head in any case in 2025 when Baku and Yerevan must give their assent to the mission’s continuation.

The EU, which is the only party besides Moscow to bring Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders together since the November 2020 ceasefire, has played a useful role in keeping contacts going. It should redouble its efforts, including with high-level visits, such as European Council President Charles Michel’s trip in the summer of 2021, which helped advance talks.

Postponement – or worse, cancellation – of a planned meeting between the Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders later in August could exacerbate the situation. Washington should also throw its weight behind attempts at diplomacy; it should remain engaged in supporting the EU’s mediation and in its own closed-door facilitation of contacts between the two countries’ officials.

Most importantly, Western capitals and Moscow should try to ensure that their standoff over Ukraine does not bleed into mediation efforts in Nagorno-Karabakh. Russia, long the leading outside power in this conflict, fears being sidelined in negotiations if it loses influence with Baku and Yerevan. Even distracted, Moscow pays more attention to Armenia and Azerbaijan than does Brussels or Washington.

It remains the only country that has been willing to dispatch forces to the region and it remains a key trade partner of both countries. Working with Moscow, distasteful as it may be in European capitals, improves the odds of bringing peace to the South Caucasus. Concerted diplomacy by all outside actors might yet avert a return to war and keep nascent talks about an eventual peace settlement and new trade routes on track.

 

 

 

 

How Russian hybrid aggression could threaten Moldova

By Dumitru Minzarari, European Council on Foreign Relations, 29 July 2022


Summary

Russia could target Moldova by embarking on a limited-scope but overt military invasion; or by pursuing more covert hybrid aggression scenarios.
The three most plausible Russian aggression scenarios are: a military action launched from Transnistria; a local, elite-focused rebellion similar to Russia’s exploits in Donbas in 2014, likely centring on the Moldovan region of Gagauzia; and popular unrest stoked by Russia and containing violent elements.
The EU and Moldova underestimate the risk of one or more of these happening.
The EU’s preferred “resilience” approach to hybrid threats lacks an active component that can effectively respond to, and repel, Russian aggression.
Moldova should draw on Western support to implement an “active resilience” policy to better confront and undermine Russian actions.
The EU should set up a CSDP mission in Moldova comprising both civilian and military components that helps the Moldovan authorities plan and conduct security threat assessments and protect against military and hybrid risks.


Introduction


Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has prompted policymakers in the region and beyond to examine the chances of Moscow embarking on a similar action elsewhere in the neighbourhood. High on the list of at-risk states is Moldova.

As a former Soviet republic, Moldova regularly finds itself subject to senior Russian figures’ suggestions that the country lies within Russia’s supposed “sphere of influence”. Despite this, Western policymakers and Moldovan officials alike currently underestimate the likelihood of Russian action. This paper describes potential scenarios of Russian aggression in Moldova. It demonstrates that Russia not only intends to undermine the Moldovan state but also that it has the capabilities to do so.

The paper sets out three scenarios that Russia could pursue. The first involves a military invasion from Transnistria, with Moscow drawing on the presence on Moldova’s territory of Russian and Transnistrian troops. The second and third scenarios, or variants thereof, would play out below the threshold of conventional war but still meet the Kremlin’s goal of incapacitating the Moldovan state or even acquiring partial or full control of it.

Russia has numerous openings to exploit in Moldova. The country has long been caught between pursuing greater integration with the European Union, on the one hand, and political elements, on the other, that are keeping the country under Russian influence (and which have some popular support). Moldova’s recently acquired EU candidate status may encourage Russia to jumpstart a train of events, perhaps in the name of “protecting” local minorities.

Another difficult factor lies in current social conditions in Moldova, with high inflation affecting vulnerable parts of the population. And Moscow has already used gas supplies as a tool to cause problems for Chisinau. Indeed, it is yet to push this issue as much as it could do, with a risk to the Moldovan authorities of heightened social tensions if prices soar further. Moscow also has an opening in the form of Moldova’s existing major exposure to Russian influence operations through traditional and social media.

With war raging next door – still, according to the Kremlin, proceeding as a “special operation” – Moldova can neither look on Ukraine as a convenient buffer nor rely on its future military success. Chisinau can best retain its control of Moldovan territory by rapidly upgrading the EU’s preferred hybrid threat approach, which focuses on “resilience,” to an “active resilience” response. It should work with Western partners to add new, more combative components to its defences.

Policymakers need to understand the logic guiding Russian decision-making on states such as Moldova and take steps accordingly. A good first move would be for the EU to establish, on Moldovan territory, a long-term assistance force under its Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). This mission should work quickly to assess the failings in Ukraine that emboldened Russia to invade and implement these lessons in Moldova, with the accompanying funding and political support to provide a true deterrent.


The Russian threat to Moldova


Current debates over the risk to Moldova – both inside the country and among its Western partners – have so far largely concluded that the risk of Russian aggression is minimal. During this year’s NATO summit in Madrid, the alliance’s deputy secretary general, Mircea Geoana, insisted on calm because the Russian military was unable to form a land bridge to Moldova from positions in Ukraine.

Moldova’s top public officials have also voiced similar conclusions since the start of Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. The country’s president, Maia Sandu, has said there is little indication of a military threat from Russia. Her prime minister, Natalia Gavrilita, has even suggested that Moldova’s neutrality should be enough to forestall a Russian invasion.

However, observers should set to one side the question of whether Russia could build a land bridge and focus instead on the Kremlin’s other options. If Russia should decide to acquire control over Moldova – including indirect control, or stymying its governing institutions so that they are effectively unable to take sovereign decisions in contradiction to Russia’s wishes – then it will pursue any and all means to reach these ends. Indeed, Russia’s patchy progress in Ukraine reduces the likelihood of a full-scale military invasion of Moldova through the Odesa region, making it even more important to understand what else it could do.

Recent history is instructive here. While Russia’s current open military aggression against Ukraine may consist of 90 per cent kinetic or military activities and only 10 per cent information operations, its annexation of Crimea in 2014 shows that Moscow is able to slide along a spectrum of options; before the eventual takeover, its Crimea action comprised in essence some 90 per cent information operations and 10 per cent kinetic or military activities. But both routes have paid Moscow similar dividends in the form of territorial losses for Ukraine and difficulty for Kyiv in carrying out its governing functions.

For Moldova, Russian actions that fall short of all-out invasion could prove just as disastrous, because their ends are identical: to control Moldova’s territory, policies, or both To understand the risk to Moldova, it is worth considering whether Russia has an intention and the capabilities to launch an action. If its intention is real and Russian capabilities are adequate to the task, the risk is likely to be significant.


Intention: Would Russia initiate an attack on Moldova?


Many Russian officials’ statements on Moldova echo the views they articulated about Ukraine both prior to and since the 2022 invasion. For instance, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, recently suggested that Moldovan authorities are anti-Russian and are attempting to ‘cancel all that is Russian’. This came in response to attempts by Chisinau to curb Russian influence operations conducted through the mass media in Moldova.

Even while the Russian president’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, said that Moldova’s receipt of EU candidate status constitutes “internal European affairs”, he also subtly suggested that the Kremlin views this step as “anti-Russian”. The deputy chair of Russia’s Security Council, Dmitry Medvedev, went further, comparing Moldova’s EU integration with being “swallowed up” by Romania. In the context of Moldova, this is a highly charged statement: in the 1990s, Russia triggered the violent stage of the Transnistrian conflict by warning of possible unification between Moldova and Romania, sounding the alarm over the alleged resulting danger for local Russian speakers.

Recently, even the former head of the Carnegie Moscow Center think-tank Dmitri Trenin – now of hawkish pro-Kremlin views – said that Russia would likely annex Transnistria (and the region of Gagauzia) if it were to acquire control over Ukraine’s Odesa region. And, during the decades of negotiations that have taken place over the conflict, Russia aggressively forced on Moldova the conditions that would dictate that Transnistria and Gagauzia should become independent “if Moldova loses its sovereignty”.

Together, such statements from senior Russian officials and commentators exemplify the key “grievances” that Russia has voiced as justification for its war on Ukraine: threats to Russian speakers and their rights; the “loss of sovereignty” of former Soviet states derived from integration into the EU or NATO; and a state becoming “anti-Russian”. Any of these could form a casus belli for a Russian intervention in Moldova.


Capabilities: Could Russia attack – and could Moldova defend itself?


One of the main reasons leading policymakers believe the risk of an overt Russian military threat to Moldova is low is because they have assessed Russia’s capabilities to be inadequate. They have also long regarded Ukrainian territory as insulation from such threats. Placed together with the expectation that Russia is unable to take Ukraine’s Odesa region, this has led to an underestimation of the danger.

These judgments may be correct contextually, on their own terms, but Russia has forces stationed on Moldovan territory, in Transnistria, which have the latest Russian equipment. Sources in Moldovan government agencies suggest that even the military troops under the formal command of the Kremlin’s local proxy – the Transnistrian “authorities” – have acquired Russian equipment and are de facto integrated into Russia’s military structures.

And, since Moscow began its aggression in Ukraine in 2014, these sources also suggest that the number of military activities in Transnistria – involving the Russian forces, the local armed structures, or both – has increased from 30 per year to over 300 per year.

These have also been conducting more frequent and more effective live-fire exercises. Civil society experts in Moldova have sought to monitor Russian military activities and have corroborated these growing military training trends. Sources in the Moldovan government confirmed this evolution and have suggested the figure is in fact more than 300 a year.

In addition, Moldova’s military forces are relatively small, estimated at roughly 3,000 military personnel, who are inadequately trained and poorly equipped. Even though the ministry of interior’s Carabineri troops are officially designated as part of the country’s defence capabilities, they are unsuitable for combat operations. Carabineri units protect government installations, maintain public order, and ensure public safety. They are not trained to engage in lethal combat with enemy armed forces.

Furthermore, the Moldovan defence ministry has recently acknowledged that its forces are equipped with hardware largely produced between the 1960s and 1980s. And, in terms of training, the Moldovan military rotates just a few small units into various NATO Partnership for Peace exercises. The bulk of its troops typically fire just a handful of live ammunition rounds during the whole duration of conscripts’ year-long military service.

With the troops it controls on Moldova’s territory, and given the current state of the Moldovan armed forces, Russia could use even limited military means to disrupt Moldova as a functioning state. Despite this, it should still be possible for the Moldovan armed forces to improve their combat capabilities and effectively resist a military threat originating from Transnistria.

 

Scenarios of Russian aggression


Russia has already shown it can implement strategies other than overt military aggression that allow it to achieve control of foreign territory or centres of power. The Russian operations in Donbas and Crimea are examples of ‘hybrid war’, with the outcome being Ukraine’s loss of administrative and political control over these territories. An act of aggression can be successful even if not driven by overt, full-scale military attacks, although some form of armed component (or violence) is still important if the act is to succeed. It is difficult to conquer the territory of a country or to force it to change key policies merely by conducting cyber-attacks or by interfering in elections.

Beyond the pursuit of all-out military invasion, Russia’s available toolbox in Moldova includes the following options.

- A limited military invasion. Russia launches this from within Moldova’s territory –

from the region of Transnistria, which it controls – potentially with some long-range military support from Crimea or its Black Sea fleet. It follows this up by installing a de facto military administration in Chisinau and eventually conducts fake elections to claim popular legitimacy for a regime in Moldova loyal to Russia.

- Hybrid action 1: An elite-focused rebellion. Moscow inserts agents to stoke local unrest either in support of Russia-loyal local authorities in a region such as Gagauzia (which already shows signs of rejecting the authority of Chisinau) or to support local pro-Russian elites (such as political figures that may not currently be in charge locally) to replace regional leaders loyal to Chisinau. Meanwhile, Russia organises violent groups to pose as local militia and take control of regional administrative functions, including forcing out Moldova’s law enforcement agencies, with the subsequent formation of an armed local ‘popular guard’ to protect the new status quo.

- Hybrid action 2: Popular unrest. An issue such as an election or gas prices generates protests in Chisinau or in towns close to Transnistria and Gagauzia. Small groups of Russian operatives mix with the demonstrators, attacking both sides and provoking clashes between the protesters and Moldova’s law enforcement agencies, resulting in casualties. A possible end point for this hybrid action is when a local Russian political proxy – such as the Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova – requests the armed ‘protection’ of the Russian government.

Each scenario contains a target vulnerable to Russian aggression in Moldova: territory, political elites, and the population. These together also represent three key pillars of national sovereignty. By this logic, hybrid aggression that attempts to undermine one or more of these pillars is an attempt to destroy or undermine a target country’s sovereignty. This makes these aggression scenarios comparable in effect to open military aggression. Policymakers concerned with deterring Russian aggression in Moldova should consider these scenarios and how best to respond to them – indeed, how to ward them off in the first place.


A limited military invasion


Given that Russia would not necessarily need to mount a large-scale invasion to meet its goals in Moldova, it could pursue a military attack that is narrower in scope and use troops based in the country. The Kremlin may commence such a scenario with a limited aim of taking territory close to Transnistria, seizing the Gagauzia region, or even marching on the capital. At this point, options for Russia could include replacing the civilian government with a local Russian proxy backed by the Russian military, followed by conducting falsified elections that provide a veneer of legitimacy to the new authorities.

It is not too hard to picture how such a scenario may begin. In fact, it already made the press this year – albeit in a “newspaper from the future”, as local Moldovan media came to dub it.

On 2 May 2022, the Pridnestrovie newspaper, published by the Transnistrian ‘authorities’, reported on “bloody terrorist attacks against the region during the May holidays” that claimed “dozens of dead and hundreds wounded”. The edition also included “the Transnistrian people’s” appeal to President Vladimir Putin to employ the “Transnistrian armed forces in assisting the response of the Russia’s Army to eliminate the Nazi threat”. The newspaper assigned the blame for the “attacks” to the Ukrainian armed forces, which “had NATO support”. It also alleged that the Moldovan authorities had provided the coordinates of targets, including of civilian infrastructure.

Yet that story appeared online on 30 April. The newspaper’s editor denied involvement and said it was a fake. On top of this, a few days earlier the Transnistrian ‘authorities’ had cancelled the annual 9 May Victory Day military parade, citing security reasons – an unprecedented move for a symbolically important event. All this was preceded by: an attack using portable rocket-propelled grenade launchers on the KGB office in Tiraspol, Transnistria’s main city; and by an explosion next to two major Soviet-era Russian radio towers. These incidents caused minimal casualties and looked suspiciously like false-flag operations.

There are two likely explanations for the fake-news invasion and the real (if limited) attacks. The first is that Moscow intended to implement the scenario as described by the newspaper story during the 9 May parade in Tiraspol, using the attacks to justify a military invasion of Moldova. The obstacles to this option were likely the earlier failure of the Russian amphibious operation in the Odesa region (which, if successful, could have facilitated the land-bridge option), and perhaps also opposition from local elites in Transnistria.

If the latter was the case, local elites may have pre-emptively leaked the story in an attempt to avoid war and preserve their economic interests. The fact that the Tiraspol ‘authorities’ cancelled the parade suggests a wish to avoid the fabrication of a pretext for intervention. That being said, in reality, if Russia were serious about implementing this scenario, local elites would be unable to block it.

The second possibility is that Russia deliberately allowed the story to be published, using it to pressure the Moldovan government. The Russian military presence in Transnistria makes the Ukrainian authorities uneasy, and around that time had led them to suggest that Chisinau could accept Kyiv’s military assistance to recover its administrative control over the region and push the Russians out. On this reading, Russia’s goal was to intimidate the Moldovan authorities into rejecting Ukraine’s proposals.

Nevertheless, the story’s mere appearance suggests that – as in Ukraine – Russia has no need for any genuine, or even genuine-looking, casus belli. A targeted action using Russian troops, Transnistrian troops, or in all likelihood both together is fully within the bounds of possibility for the Kremlin. And, given the parlous state of the Moldovan armed forces, Moscow could easily achieve its key objectives. As in Ukraine, NATO troops are unlikely to enter Moldova to support Chisinau. It is also impossible to discount the use of long-range missile strikes from Russia, occupied Crimea, or Belarusian territory in support of such an operation, whether to attack military units and destroy military installations or merely to cow the Moldovan authorities.

Any future “appeal from the Transnistrian people” (or from Gagauzia) could therefore mark the start of a potentially limited but rapid Russian military intervention launched from within Moldova and threatening the integrity of the state.


Hybrid action 1: An elite-focused rebellion


No “newspapers from the future” are needed to understand the hybrid options Russia may pursue in Moldova. When armed fighters took over Crimea and Donbas, observers in Ukraine and abroad looked on in astonishment as these groups seized government buildings and replaced the local Ukrainian authorities. But these observers had failed to understand the logic that guided Moscow’s choices, including its use of tools of aggression.

A more detailed look at the Russian action in Donbas offers a good illustration of how Moscow may pursue a hybrid aggression strategy. Before Russia sent its own armed forces into Ukraine to stop Kyiv’s military attempt to recover its control of Donbas in the second half of 2014, its operation comprised three stages, which can serve as a guide.

The initial stage is to use local agents, or to place groups on the ground, to trigger civil unrest against the central government. In some parts of Donbas this operational element was implemented with the support of local authorities or political forces loyal to Russia. The apparently internal nature of the conflict is a critical element for operating below the threshold of war; following Ukraine’s April 2014 presidential election, the new authorities in Kyiv were unsure how to respond. Deploying armed forces may not necessarily quell a genuine regional rebellion, but only armed forces can be effective against a foreign aggression camouflaged as internal, civil conflict. (The geography factor also matters – the smaller the target territory, the fewer troops or armed groups an aggressor needs to establish effective administrative control.)

The second stage is to put pressure on and intimidate any recalcitrant local authorities and law enforcement agencies to either leave the contested territory or switch sides. This is the stage when the aggressor takes control of government buildings and installs its own ‘authorities’, removing incumbent elites and office-holders, and building local legitimacy for the transfer of power to the local proxies.

The final stage is to make observable the armed groups that played a critical role in forcing law enforcement agencies out of the contested territory. The aggressor may ensure these groups are, for example, seen on camera so that central authorities know they are facing an armed resistance. This last stage plays a strong deterrent role, since it consolidates the new status quo, which is then difficult and costly to reverse. The Transnistrian conflict in the late 1980s and early 1990s roughly followed a conceptually similar version of this model.

Such hybrid operations permit Russia to undermine one of the three elements of the target state’s national sovereignty: political control exercised via local governing elites. The armed component secures the gains of the new status quo. Indeed, this plays a critical role in separating success from failure: Russia’s 2014 attempts to repeat its Luhansk- and Donetsk-style successes in Kharkiv and Odesa failed because it had not ensured the deployment of an armed component. Therefore, while it is true that Moldova is likely to experience a form of Russian aggression that is below the threshold of conventional war, it is also highly probable that Russia will combine this with an armed component to protect the new facts on the ground.

In Moldova, Russia could repeat variations of its Crimea or Donbas operations, centring on the Gagauzia region in particular, but also other Russian-speaking areas of the country. (Such a scenario would not apply to Transnistria, since Russia already effectively controls that region.)

The Autonomous Territorial Unit of Gagauzia lies in the south of Moldova. It is largely inhabited by ethnic Gagauz, who make up 82 per cent of the region’s 150,000 people and represent over 4 per cent of the total population of Moldova. Gagauzia is preponderantly pro-Russian, which election results demonstrate. As an illustration, in Moldova’s 2020 presidential election, more than 94 per cent of the region’s electorate voted for the Russian-backed Igor Dodon, while only slightly more than 5 per cent supported Sandu.

Gagauzia’s regional parliament (the People’s Assembly) has repeatedly contested the authority of the central government in Chisinau. Among the most serious recent challenges were repeated votes by the assembly to cancel the effects of a bill passed by the Moldovan parliament in April 2022. That law banned the use of symbols of Russian aggression, including the black-and-orange ribbon and the “Z” and “V” symbols. Nevertheless, the Gagauzia assembly voted to permit the use of the ribbon for the 9 May celebrations, referring to it as a “symbol of victory”.

In this way it intentionally broke Moldovan law. Following the suspension of this decision by a local court of appeal, the Gagauz legislators met in an “urgent session” on the night of 8 May and voted again to approve the use of the ribbon on the region’s territory. In addition, following Moldova’s success in obtaining EU candidate status, the Gagauzia assembly issued a declaration that implied the candidacy was against the interest of the region’s inhabitants. This made reference to a bogus referendum held in Gagauzia in 2014, in which a majority voted for Moldova to join the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union rather than the EU.

These examples show that the Gagauz local authorities are willing to ignore Moldovan law, and that they have done so with impunity; the central government has mounted little response to this act of defiance. Given this backdrop, it appears that Russia could deploy hybrid aggression to contest Moldova’s control over Gagauzia. It could pursue this via a “separatist” disguise to generate political pressure for Chisinau to renounce its European integration aspirations and return to the Russian fold. It is not hard to imagine a situation in which the People’s Assembly votes to secede from Moldova – and does so after having already welcomed several hundred armed troops from Transnistria onto the region’s territory.

These troops would take control of police stations and other central government agencies across Gagauzia. If it felt this was an insufficient deterrent, the assembly could then additionally issue a request for Russian “military protection”. Only armed action ordered by Chisinau could reverse this new status quo, which would be inherently costly.

In a more escalatory scenario, Russia could attempt to consolidate its territorial control over the main pro-Russian regions in Moldova by implementing an informal annexation of Gagauzia, perhaps connecting it to Transnistria. The conditions to facilitate this are already in place and are comparable to those surrounding Crimea prior to its invasion – these include both the proximity of a sufficient military force and the political loyalty (or at least neutrality) of the population in the targeted territory.

The only way the Moldovan government could resist such a course would be to drive out armed groups or Russian troops almost immediately after they first arrive, or even prevent them reaching Gagauzia or other key locations. However, the signs are that the Moldovan authorities would be highly likely to fail in resisting the imposition of a new status quo in the region. They have not devoted sufficient time and funding to improving defence capabilities or even to effective monitoring and early warning.


Hybrid action 2: Popular unrest


Moldova is also vulnerable to an externally instigated popular revolt scenario. Into such a mix, Russia could insert violent elements during popular protests that challenge public order, by launching attacks against both protesters and law enforcement agencies, thus pitting them against each other. This opportunity exists in Moldova with the presence of the erstwhile governing Party of Socialists, which is a Russian proxy. Russia could then engineer or construct a number of events, creating opportunities to work through its proxy to place pressure on the population and the government. Alongside or subsequently to this, it may also send in operatives to cause violence and exacerbate brewing unrest.

The most effective context would be around an election, in which a Russian proxy could contest the results of the vote, organise protests, and instigate violent actions during the demonstrations. These could include attacking the police, government buildings, and protesters themselves. This type of crisis is not unknown in Moldova: in April 2009, following a parliamentary election, violent protests erupted that led to the ransacking and burning of the buildings of the presidency and the parliament.

The images from the protests indicated that the crowd was infiltrated by an organised group that successfully instigated protesters to attack government buildings and provoke them into clashes with the police. Later investigations declined to suggest who was behind these violent provocations. (Elements of this model were on display in the 2021 attack on the US Capitol. The model’s power was also evident during the 2014 Maidan protests in Kyiv, when protesters were killed by sniper fire in what looks like a covert operation.)

A second opportunity exists with gas supplies. Indeed, Russia already appears to have begun to create the conditions for stoking popular unhappiness with the Moldovan government around this. Since the end of 2021, Moscow has sought to create a social and economic crisis by abruptly raising the price that Moldova pays for imported natural gas. The target of the pressure was the newly appointed government and the parliamentary majority of the Party of Action and Solidarity (PAS) backing it. PAS won the 2021 election, ending the absolute political control of the Party of Socialists. Russia’s goal was to either coerce PAS into submission or to generate enough popular pressure to challenge its hold on power.

To achieve this, Russia deliberately dragged its feet over extending the contract for the export of natural gas, waiting until the very last moment and the approaching winter to raise the price. Ordinary Moldovans’ expenditure on gas heating and electricity in autumn 2021 more than doubled. During negotiations, Russian officials requested that Moldova give up its pursuit of stronger ties with the EU and make federalisation-related concessions in negotiations over Transnistria in exchange for lower prices. The Russian position eventually softened, but only as part of two wider considerations for Moscow.

In October 2021, Russia still wanted to maintain a benign image in negotiations with the West over Ukraine; but it also did not want to undermine its credibility as energy provider, given the pressure that the United States was placing at that time on Germany over the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project. The Russian efforts also fell short in part thanks to a financial package worth €60m issued by the EU, which allowed the Moldovan government to make direct support available to private consumers. As a result, despite regular Russian pressure since October 2021 – applied via the local Moldovagaz company, which Gazprom controls – the potential for popular unrest that Russia wanted to exploit was mitigated. Still, recent polls show that more than 65 per cent of the Moldovan population say they are under heavy financial pressure due to increases in gas and electricity prices.

Popular anger at election results and gas price rises represent only a couple of ways that Russia could seek to influence ordinary Moldovans. But there is no doubt that Russia has the proxies on the ground as well as the means and the influence to stir discontent, including by bringing about drastic changes to Moldovans’ economic or social conditions. To meet its goals Russia does not necessarily need the resultant protests to be particularly large.

It can deploy a mix of approaches, combining smaller demonstrations with violence that exacerbates the public’s unhappiness. Ultimately, if this scenario panned out successfully from Moscow’s point of view, its proxy could request Russian “protection against NATO.” Or a situation could emerge that resembles the second scenario, with ‘local’ groups taking advantage of the chaos to seize control of either local or national government and state institutions.*

Recent and current Russian actions could enable the activation of any of the three scenarios outlined here. If Russia decides to raise the stakes in Moldova, it has some chance of success. How, therefore, could Moldova resist the successful Russian application of these scenarios or their variants? And what support can its Western partners provide? It is impossible for Moldova to create effective countermeasures to such threats unless one understands the logic that the implementer of hybrid aggression is pursuing. Russia could select the destabilisation of Moldova as its goal and experiment with different options to achieve this.

Russia will also be fully aware that the EU’s framework for supporting countries at risk of such threats aims to bolster a state’s “resilience.” But this approach is highly unlikely to be up to the challenge of dealing with the sorts of scenario Russia could launch. Instead, the EU and other powers friendly to Moldova should move quickly to elevate their support to an “active resilience” offer. This upgraded approach would enable Moldova to more forcefully deal with the significant threats that each of these scenarios represents.


Active resilience


The EU has placed “resilience” at the core of its approach to hybrid aggression and hybrid threats. In what was arguably its first such comprehensive thematic policy document – “Joint Framework on countering hybrid threats – a European Union response” – in 2016 the EU defined resilience as “the capacity to withstand stress and recover, strengthened from challenges”. The EU 2020 Strategic Foresight Report extended the description of resilience to: “the ability to withstand and cope with challenges but also undergo transitions, in a sustainable, fair, and democratic manner.”

At first glance, “resilience” looks like a logical response to the threats and manifestations of hybrid aggression, given the potentially expansive nature of hybrid war. However, it suggests that the EU has only a partial understanding of hybrid threat mechanisms. The bloc’s strategy is heavy on recommendations such as “information exchange and best practices”; its existing policy responses lack measures to actively weaken the intensity of Russian hybrid aggression. This may be because the EU and Moldova do not yet fully understand the different pathways that Russia’s hybrid aggression could follow.

The weakness rests with the resilience approach’s reliance on passive means. For example, one of the most effective ways to counter Russian disinformation would be to block all the sources and channels the Kremlin uses to conduct influence operations. Yet those EU countries that have applied this in practice have done so only unwillingly and very slowly, with opponents usually invoking the freedom of press and of information – protecting democratic values from an opponent that has no interest in such niceties. As a result, Russia has had the freedom to make a politically relevant impact on public opinion in major EU states.

In addition, the resilience approach alone is unlikely to work in the face of some of the aggressive active tactics outlined in the scenarios available to Russia. For example, the first stage of the elite-focused rebellion scenario can be triggered by the participation of a small minority of a particular population, used as a smokescreen. But most of the heavy lifting is done by the main aggressor – who is beyond the reach of enacted resilience efforts. One might have strengthened citizens to be able to resist such ploys, but a sizeable and geographically concentrated minority could still be attracted by the aggressor and run through the stages of this scenario up to the full takeover of local institutions with armed support. At this point, a belief in democratic values will fare poorly as a tool of resistance.

A more effective response in the face of such a scenario would involve the defending state being able to identify the true nature of the threat and then move quickly to block the violent second stage of the aggression. In this regard, a more valuable and more comprehensive resilience strategy should focus both on passive defence and on taking the initiative to weaken the opponent’s offence prior to and during an attack. This component may be termed “active resilience”, to emphasise its offensive, combative element.

To fill this gap in their defences, the EU and Moldova can create active resilience tools for use in different domains, over different timescales.


Application of short-term active resilience measures


The following section sketches out ideas that Moldova or other targeted states could initiate – even if in the form of partial but workable models – to increase their active resilience to the three types of scenario. Pursuing these will require significant investment and planning, which should start immediately, with support from the EU and other partners.


A limited military invasion


An essential part of preparing for this scenario should include reducing Russia’s capacity to transport additional troops and logistics to Moldova from Crimea or the Black Sea. Russia could attempt to move these by using low-altitude helicopters, land transport, or sea transport, including through the port of Giurgiulesti, disguised as legitimate cargo. It could also infiltrate a special forces unit up to the size of a battalion into the Transnistria region over the course of several months, using civilian air and ground transport and presenting individuals as legitimate travellers using foreign (likely not Russian) passports. Given the size of the Moldovan armed forces and the country’s small territory, this unit size could have a significant operational impact.

To address this, Moldova in conjunction with its Western partners could establish an early warning and early response system. This would include monitoring political developments in Transnistria, military-related developments and movements, and training activities and exercises. Given the importance of territorial control, the Moldovan authorities should place potential areas of access from Transnistria under artillery targeting. This would allow them to strike moving forces and access zones such as bridges or amphibious operations areas.

The Moldovan armed forces should also introduce operational protocols for mobile units with high firepower to intercept enemy troops. They should prepare the coordinates of military installations in Transnistria to be destroyed immediately at the start of an invasion. Moldova should also make sure it can protect its own military installations and resources from long-range strikes, which Russia would likely target early in an invasion.


Hybrid option 1: An elite-focused rebellion


During this scenario, active resilience measures are feasible even for smaller, more vulnerable states such as Moldova. This is because at the beginning of Russia launching this scenario, the local armed element aims to stay inconspicuous and unobservable. It is lightly armed and has no official backing. This not only makes it easier to destroy but is also less costly in terms of damaging the image of the more powerful aggressor. The most effective approach to counter scenarios similar to that in Crimea (and that observed at the initial stage of the war in Donbas) is to strike and destroy the low-profile armed element before it can trigger stage two of the hybrid aggression mechanism. Ideally, national special forces and operatives would do this so that the public is not even aware these countermeasures are under way.

Alongside this, and depending on the stage an aggression scenario has reached, the defending state should be ready and able to enact measures such as: closing its borders to prevent influxes of armed groups; identifying the networks and leaders of the hybrid aggression; intercepting and blocking foreign funding; preventing transfers of arms or access to arms; tracking armed groups’ locations; arresting or attacking combatants; and publicly exposing the aggressor.


Hybrid option 2: Popular unrest


In the event of popular unrest, the aggressor requires the presence of a local political force on the ground to exploit protests or other social discontent. The defending state would pursue its active resilience approach by drawing up a set of tailored strategies to limit that proxy in its actions and then develop the capabilities to deliver them.

This could include gathering effective intelligence to enable the state to identify and monitor the connections of the local political proxy with its foreign patron, including financial links. Among other things, active resilience in this scenario also requires effective law enforcement agencies, whose members are trained in crowd control and can quickly identify and separate the violent element and the leaders from the genuine protesters, who are being exploited and whose safety and security is paramount.


Medium- and longer-term active resilience measures


The information domain


In the medium and longer term, implementing active resilience means that Moldova, or any other targeted state, needs to increase its regulation and control of the national information space. Modern technological developments make the information space a borderless operational domain of war, in which it is difficult to counter foreign activity. Without regulation, an aggressor can acquire information access to a target country’s population.

The Moldovan authorities have recently made attempts to prevent Russian-funded audiovisual media from conducting influence operations. Parliament recently passed a law on countering disinformation, which restricts the broadcast of news, analysis, military, and political content not produced in the EU, the US, and Canada or states that have ratified the European Convention on Transfrontier Television.

However, while this is a step forward, the law is unlikely to fully address the problem or improve Moldova’s resistance to Russia’s influence operations. This is because the law is not built on a clear understanding of the logical mechanism of Russian influence operations. To illustrate, Russia could easily create media companies in Turkey, Cyprus, Malta, or Austria, for instance, and avoid the restrictions of the new legislation.

The law’s provisions also ignore social media, which account for a significant source of information for Moldovan citizens. A pre-emptive response to Russian actions in this domain would be, for instance, to map the channels through which Russia conducts influence operations in Moldova, and (depending on resources and capabilities) target their most critical elements.

The “active” part of this strategy would include not simply blocking channels of Russian disinformation and manipulation as and when they appear; it would also involve aggressive engagement with the public, providing narrative alternatives to the Russian story. If the Moldovan authorities cannot inform the population and choose to leave that job to the “invisible hand” of the information market, then Russia will succeed in winning over a critical segment of Moldova’s population.


Defence


Ukraine’s successes on the battlefield in 2022 can be attributed to improved strike capabilities, comparatively better intelligence than it previously had, and higher mobility. It began developing these in earnest after Russia’s invasion of Crimea and its activities in eastern Ukraine in 2014. Despite this progress, Ukraine has lost a significant amount of territory, trading space for time. As a small country, Moldova will be unable to use a “space for time” strategy.

Effective Moldovan resistance to military aggression would instead inflict rapid and sizeable losses on the enemy, whether the latter is advancing overtly or disguised as military proxies. Its success would hinge on the advantage of defence compared to the exposure of offence in modern warfare, but crucially also because of Moldova’s physical distance from Russia and location beyond Ukraine. While it is no panacea, this insulation limits the number of troops Russia can send to Moldova and the logistical supplies it can provide to maintain combat activities.

Resisting a full-scale military invasion or the armed elements of a hybrid aggression is feasible for Moldova if it makes the right preparations and puts in place effective strategies. To achieve this, the country would need to completely reformat its current model of armed forces modernisation and training, which currently focuses on maintaining a light infantry force as well as being able to carry out peacekeeping and humanitarian operations.

The EU and the US should provide aid to advance such reforms – but current assistance fails in this regard. For instance, the EU has committed some €47m to Moldova via its European Peace Facility instrument. This aims to strengthen the Moldovan armed forces’ capacities in logistics, mobility, command and control, cyber-defence, tactical communication, unmanned aerial reconnaissance, military engineering, and medicine. But the EU’s support package stresses the non-lethal character of the assistance. Given the logic of the mechanisms exploited by Russia to mount aggression, this kind of help is almost inconsequential because it does not develop Moldova’s active military resistance capabilities.


Conclusion and recommendations


Arguments made in the West to avoid “provoking” Russia are misguided and put countries such as Moldova (as well as Western countries) at risk. Indeed, this paper has shared evidence that suggests Russia has the intention to target Moldova, and that it has the capabilities to successfully pursue a number of scenarios that meet this goal. Episodes such as the “newspaper from the future” and the plethora of Russian official opinions on Moldova signal the choices the Kremlin could make. Russia is an aggressive and revanchist power, and policymakers should approach it as such.

While policies such as confidence building, arms control, and geopolitical concessions that create “buffer zones” may have their place with a country that is facing genuine insecurity, applied to Russia they do nothing more than encourage further aggression. Strategically, the only effective policy is to apply military and political counter-pressure that blocks and weakens Russia’s attempts to control other countries.

Having identified Russian threat scenarios in Moldova, Western and Moldovan policymakers need to map the – numerous – important gaps that exist in the current resilience policies adopted to deal with hybrid actions. With the assistance of specialised EU agencies and partner nations, the Moldovan government should urgently scrutinise such threat scenarios and identify potential solutions. The key challenge to this is the Moldovan authorities’ lack of technical and logistical capabilities to conduct thorough assessment exercises. They also lack capabilities to plan, implement, and monitor related solutions.

To address this, the EU should set up a long-term, on-site assistance force. This force’s value would lie in the creation of an effective feedback loop with relevant EU agencies, which should improve the quality of European assistance, increasing its funding impact. Incidentally, it would also allow the EU to use the lessons learned in Moldova to strengthen its understanding of how modern hybrid threats work under conditions different to those in most EU countries, even those member states subject to Russian hybrid aggression.

This force would operate under the EU’s CSDP, and would contain civilian and military components, focusing on the hybrid aggression elements to which Moldova is most vulnerable. They would provide training, expertise, and technical support to assist the country to counter Russian influence operations that target its population. The force would help build and maintain an effective hybrid aggression early warning system, by strengthening the capabilities of the military and civilian elements of Moldova’s security sector and improving their coordination and interoperability.

This EU mission would also draw on the experience of Ukraine to optimise Moldova’s responses to foreign aggression, and build a robust military capacity appropriate for the magnitude of the military and hybrid threats Moldova is facing. It would work to understand the mistakes of Ukraine, the EU, and others that failed to deter Russia or defend Ukraine, and would apply this new knowledge in Moldova.

Specifically, this mission should strengthen the capabilities, training, and planning related to responding to a live act of hybrid aggression, which in Moldova is highly likely to contain an armed component. It would identify the intelligence, special forces capacity, mobility, striking power, and effective force employment Moldova could use in the early stages of a Russian action.

No resilience strategy for Moldova can be effective if it omits key elements to diminish and erode the ability of an aggressor to pressure the country into submission. Only by building active resilience capabilities and strategies can Moldova improve its ability to deter or defeat hybrid acts of foreign aggression.


About the author


Dumitru Minzarari is a research associate with the Eastern Europe and Eurasia division of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP). His research interests focus on international and national security, military strategy, modern warfare and conflict technologies, the diffusion of authoritarianism, and Russia’s foreign and security policies. Minzarari has worked as the secretary of state (for defence policy and international cooperation) at the Moldovan Ministry of Defence; held expert positions in Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe field missions in Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan; and worked with a number of think-tanks in eastern Europe. For ECFR, he previously co-authored (with Vadim Pistrinciuc) “A problem shared: Russia and the transformation of Europe’s eastern neighbourhood”.

 

for chart on Russian aggression scenario in Moldova, visit: https://ecfr.eu/publication/the-next-war-how-russian-hybrid-aggression-could-threaten-moldova/


The European Council on Foreign Relations and CEMAS do not take collective positions. ECFR publications only represent the views of their individual authors.

 

 

 

How to manage the world’s fertilizers to avoid a prolonged food crisis

By Juergen Voegele Vice President for Sustainable Development at World Bank

WASHINGTON - Hidden behind the worst global food crisis in a decade, fertilizer prices have skyrocketed and remain volatile . This poses a serious threat to food security, as the planting season starts this summer. So far, the war in Ukraine has mostly affected countries importing wheat and corn. But many countries, including some major food exporters, are net fertilizer importers. Persistently high fertilizer prices may spread to a broader variety of crops including rice, a staple which has not yet seen war-related price hikes. We must act now to make fertilizers more accessible and affordable to avoid prolonging the food crisis.

The World Bank’s fertilizer price index rose nearly 15 percent from earlier this year – prices have more than tripled compared to two years ago. High input costs, supply disruptions, and trade restrictions are driving the recent spike. Natural gas prices started rising last fall as tensions between Russia and Ukraine escalated leading to widespread production cutbacks in ammonia—an important part of nitrogen-based fertilizers. Similarly, the rising price of coal in China, the main feedstock for ammonia production there, forced fertilizer factories to cut production.

To ease the current food crisis, action needs to be taken now to maintain food production by making fertilizers more accessible and affordable. There are several ways to do this.

First, countries should lift trade restrictions or export bans on fertilizers. Export restrictions make things worse, putting fertilizers further out of reach of poorer developing countries who face the highest levels of food insecurity and hunger. As of early June, there were 310 active trade measures across 86 countries affecting food and fertilizers, and nearly 40% of these have been restrictive. This number is now approaching levels not seen since the 2008-2012 global food price crisis. To facilitate trade, countries can reduce delays and cut compliance costs by getting rid of unnecessary red tape for importing targeted goods.

One of the local bottlenecks of global fertilizer trade is the financing needs of manufacturers, traders, and importers. In some cases, the financing needs for fertilizer buyers have tripled, compounding the general scarcity of local commercial bank financing in many of these markets. Short-term credit facilities and guarantees, mobilized with the support of international development actors, may be necessary in some cases.

Second, fertilizer use must be made more efficient. This can be done by providing farmers appropriate incentives that do not encourage their overuse. Nitrogen use efficiency, for example, ranges from 30-50 percent in general. Meanwhile, the European Union Nitrogen Expert Panel recommends nitrogen use efficiency of around 90 percent. Subsidies that encourage excessive use of fertilizers also encourage wastage. Even worse, this has devastating environmental and climate change implications.

More efficient use of fertilizers can help ensure available supplies go further, especially to countries most in need. Rich countries consume 100 kilograms of fertilizers per hectare, nearly twice as much as developing countries. Sub-Saharan Africa consumes the least, with about 15 kilograms per hectare.

There are opportunities to rework public policies and better target scarce public expenditures to create the incentives for more productive and sustainable use of fertilizer. An example of the kind of transformation that is possible are the reforms that the European Union’s 1992 Common Agriculture Practice (CAP) implemented. Prior to these reforms, support to EU’s agricultural sector – such as minimum prices, import tariffs, government purchases – kept EU farm prices above world rates, which encouraged excessive use of fertilizers. With the reforms, support to the EU CAP shifted to direct payments and farm prices became more closely aligned with world prices. These changes increased the incentives to use fertilizer more efficiently.

Third, we must invest in innovation to develop best practices and newer technologies that will help increase output per kg of fertilizer used. This includes investing in knowledge to ensure the best suited fertilizer and quantity are applied to specific crops. We must also invest in soil health to maximize the effectiveness of fertilizers.

Precision agriculture is one example of such improved technologies that are already available. Fertigation is another, which combines fertilization with irrigation, using fertilizers in measured quantities determined by sensors. But much more can and needs to be done by investing in pushing the frontiers of knowledge to make sure waste is minimized, only the right amount is applied as is needed for a particular plant at a particular stage of growth. Another option is to supplement conventional fertilizers with viable bio-fertilizers and practices. This will not only help with the current supply challenges, but also reduce the impact of fertilizers on the climate, and on soil and water resources.

Our ability to maintain global trade and the movement of fertilizers will be one of the determining factors on the length and severity of this food crisis. As farmers have started to alter their production due to challenges in fertilizers, policy makers must urgently make the right choices so that the world can cut short the current food crisis.

 

 

 

Africa

By Katja Leikert

BERLIN - During US foreign secretary Antony Blinken trip to Africa this week, countering Russian influence will be high up on his agenda, just as it was for French president Emmanuel Macron a few days ago.

The focus is right. Russian influence in Africa has gradually grown over the past decade and poses various problems — for local populations as well as for US and European interests. The sooner we get to grips with that, the better.

Blinken and European leaders like Macron need to be careful though. Trying to constrain Russia in Africa is one thing. But if we put too much pressure on African leaders to choose sides, this could easily backfire and make things worse.

Moscow's influence on the continent came into the limelight earlier this year when, at the UN vote to condemn Russia's invasion of Ukraine, 17 African states abstained and eight didn't vote at all.

The following drama in Mali, where Russian mercenaries played a notable role in pushing out Western troops, added to the headaches in European capitals.

Yet these are just the latest symptoms of a longer trend. Russia has gradually increased its influence across the continent over the past decade.

Since their invasion of Crimea, they have concluded at least 20 military cooperation agreements with African states and sent mercenaries into several countries.

Their exact strategy depends on the country, but the playbook is often very similar. Russia offers support to beleaguered dictators that are desperate to cling on to power and protects them militarily (e.g. via the Wagner mercenary group) and politically (e.g. through their veto power in the UN Security Council).

In return, they receive political influence as well as concessions on resource extraction (e.g. in Sudan, where they notoriously engage in gold smuggling).

We shouldn't overestimate Russian influence in Africa. As many experts point out, their power on the ground is often less impressive than news reports suggest. Still, even in its relatively minor role as a spoiler, Russia's presence poses problems.

For a start, Russia's involvement often has negative consequences for the local populations. It engages in state capture that props up highly corrupt elite cliques, gives autocratic dictators a new lease of life and slows down democratic change, while perpetuating the problems linked to resource extraction.

There is also a clear security risk involved for Europe — in particular considering the current state of affairs — as Russia seeks to build new military bases on Nato's southern flank, for example in Libya and Sudan.

Influence along the main migration routes could allow Moscow to use refugees as a weapon against Europe, as its allies in Belarus did last year.

Lastly, Africa has the potential to become a key partner for Europe in the coming decades, in particular with regards to the energy transition. This carries big upside potential for both sides — yet Russian destabilisation may put it in peril.

The argument for countering Russian influence in Africa is clear. What is less clear, however, is how to best counter it. Here the West needs to tread carefully.

There is no use in panicking over Russian presence, nor in sulkily retreating from every place that opens its doors to Russian state-linked actors. Instead, we need evidence-base assessments on a case-by-case basis.

We also have to be realistic about the fact that many African states see the current situation as the start to a new cold war and are extremely reluctant to pick sides.

This is understandable. The past few years have seen significantly bigger international engagement on the continent (not just by China, but also by India and Middle Eastern countries) that gave states new leverage and opportunity they are loath to part with.

They might — not totally unreasonably — fear that if they now follow Western wishes to break ties with Russia, they might soon be asked to do the same with China.

Instead, we must convince them on merit. By showcasing that, at the end of the day, prioritising cooperation with Europe and the US can be the best and most sustainable way forward for them.

For a start, this requires showing that we mean business — that we are credible when we talk about partnership on equal footing; that our promises to support infrastructure development, e.g. via the EU's Global Gateway initiative, come through; and that we can help regional integration initiatives progress to their next levels.

This will be challenging and take time. It will also force us to go back and fix some of our own mistakes of the past. But in the long term, it may offer the best way forward.

 

Author

 

Katja Leikert is a German MP who sits in the Bundestag's foreign-affairs committee and who is the conservative CDU party's rapporteur on EU-Africa relations.


Disclaimer


The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver or CEMAS.

 

 

 

 

US Secretary of State Blinken to visit Africa as tension with China and Russia intensifies

By Landry Signé, Brookings, August 5, 2022

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his team will be in sub-Saharan Africa from August 7 to 12, paying visits to three countries: South Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and Rwanda. The visit comes at a critical time given the global pandemic and the war in Ukraine, which has profoundly impacted the entire continent of Africa.

Overall, Blinken’s goal is to build on his visit of last November and foster closer relations between African countries and the United States—to accelerate progress on mutual interests so that both sides can flourish together within a complex global environment. This context includes both intense competition between advanced and emerging powers and the strengthened ability of countries in Africa to contribute to solving global challenges.

To advance the relationship, Blinken will announce Biden’s U.S. strategy for sub-Saharan Africa. Moreover, launching the strategy while visiting leaders in Africa is an important milestone in the U.S. relationship with African countries and sends a strong message of respect by recognizing that “African countries are
geostrategic players and critical partners on the most pressing issues of our day.” A second key goal of the visit will be to improve bilateral relations by focusing on pressing issues within the three countries he is visiting, issues that will have profound effects on the continent more broadly, as well as on relations between the U.S. and these specific countries.

This high-level visit also comes at a time when the current economic, health, and geopolitical pressures are shaping into a unique moment that will likely realign priorities and further actions. African countries continue to experience severe economic shocks as they attempt both to recover from COVID-19 disruptions and manage crises induced by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

As agriculture and food exports from both countries have halted, the war in Ukraine is threatening the already-fragile food supply chains in Africa. The war has caused other geopolitical tensions as well: Blinken will be visiting Africa just days after
Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov’s visit to four countries in Africa (Uganda, the Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, and Egypt)—a trip aimed at expanding Russia’s presence in Africa while vying for support over the war.

Blinken’s visit also comes in the wake of the Biden administration’s announcement of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit to be held in Washington, D.C. in December 2022. Blinken’s visit is being shaped by Washington’s desire to reassure African countries and leaders that they are important partners, with each of the countries on the itinerary providing a unique backdrop and opportunity to transform the United States’ relationship with Africa.


South Africa


Blinken’s first stop will be South Africa, one of the United States’ most important partners in the region, particularly in terms of health, education, environment, and the digital economy. During his visit, Blinken will lead the U.S. delegation to the U.S.-South Africa Strategic Dialogue, which focuses on “shared priorities, including health, infrastructure, trade and investment, and climate.”

South Africa is the United States’ largest trade partner in Africa and hosts over 600 American businesses, many of which are headquartered in the country. South Africa contributes 25 percent of all U.S. income from the continent and consistently receives the most foreign direct investment (FDI) from the United States. About half of African companies worth $1 billion or more are in South Africa, which is a gateway to access other African markets. Beyond these economic implications, South Africa has great geopolitical importance.

On the continent, it is the regional dominant powerhouse of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and is—along with Nigeria and Egypt—one of the three largest economies on the continent, representing more than 50 percent of combined consumer and business spending. South Africa also plays a key role in decisionmaking related to the African Union and was one of the founding countries of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, now the African Union Development Agency.

South Africa has so far maintained relative neutrality with respect to the Ukraine war—likely due to Moscow’s support for the ANC’s liberation struggle against the apartheid government. These relations are likely to be a topic of discussion during the Blinken visit given the pressure that Western powers, nongovernmental organizations, and human rights activists are exerting on the country to condemn Russia.

Blinken’s visit, and particularly his leadership in the upcoming dialogue in South Africa, will reinforce that this bilateral relationship is a priority for the United States and reemphasize South Africa’s central role in the subregion and on the continent in actively promoting greater trade integration and continentwide prosperity.


Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)


From South Africa, Blinken will travel to the DRC to discuss topics of mutual interest including achieving peace in the Great Lakes region, supporting future economic relations through trade and investment, promoting human rights and freedoms, and combating corruption. The DRC is the largest country in sub-Saharan Africa by land area and is home to immense resource wealth (an estimated $24 trillion worth of untapped mineral resources), significant hydropower potential, and great biodiversity. However, despite these advantages, the DRC has historically been, and continues to be, subject to political instability, violent conflict, and humanitarian crises.

The March 23 Movement rebel group (M23) emerged after the Second Congo War ended in 2003 and continued to terrorize communities until their defeat in 2013 by the Congolese army and U.N. peacekeepers. Other armed groups have since emerged and are causing widespread human rights violations and extreme violence. The DRC’s resource wealth has fueled violence in the region as armed groups often sustain their operations by raiding mines and collaborating with smugglers.

The eastern region alone is estimated to have over 100 different active armed groups. As a result, millions have fled the violence in recent years: There are currently 4.5 million internally displaced persons in the DRC and more than 800,000 DRC refugees in other nations. Weak governance has accelerated the armed conflict, as the leadership does not have control over the entire territory.

Meanwhile, about 60 million Congolese—about 73 percent of the population—
lived on less than $1.90 a day in 2018. It will be critical for the United States and the DRC alike to find a solution for peace and stability as the ongoing violence of rebel groups has managed to stunt development efforts. Despite these obstacles, recent efforts by the state such as public sector reforms and free primary education indicate potential for a new relationship between the state and its citizens. The U.S. should recognize these changes and work to scale up the state’s capacity while also ensuring that the election slated for 2023 will be democratic and safe.

Notably, the conflicts discussed above are factors contributing to low U.S. involvement in the country’s large mining industry—which is a missed economic opportunity. Home to 70 percent of the world’s cobalt, 60 percent of the world’s coltan, and as the fourth-largest producer of copper, the DRC is in a position to achieve prosperity for its people and the continent more broadly.

Since cobalt and coltan are key minerals for clean technologies, the DRC’s endowment of these natural resources presents a significant opportunity for U.S. investors. Thus, as the DRC works toward greater peace and stability, the U.S. should also be working toward better positioning of itself as a key player in that mining sector. However, so far, China has been dominating the clean energy technology sector, a trend that will continue if its attempts to secure access to these minerals in the DRC are successful.

In fact, according to The New York Times, “Americans failed to safeguard decades of diplomatic and financial investments in Congo, where the world’s largest supply of cobalt is controlled by Chinese companies backed by Beijing.” China’s current dominance in this sector should not lead the U.S. to concede, but rather more aggressively create and implement a model for accelerating investment in the DRC in the mining sector and beyond.

During his trip, Blinken should take the opportunity to start a conversation around how the United States might encourage mining companies to also create value locally in the DRC, thus supporting sustainable development in the long term. Such partnerships would be beneficial for both sides, as creating value locally will help the DRC diversify its exports and economy, providing even greater investment opportunities in other key areas and leading to a competitive edge that will outperform purely extractive models of investment from competitors. Blinken should also take the opportunity to discuss the DRC’s main challenges to overall investment, which include corruption, poor infrastructure, and an arbitrary taxation system.


Rwanda


Blinken’s final stop will be in Rwanda to discuss peacekeeping, Rwanda’s role in reducing tensions in the DRC, and ongoing human rights concerns. Rwanda has evolved as an important player at the subregional and continental level as well as the international level. After a genocide that nearly destroyed the country, and in the context of the international community’s failure to protect them, Rwandans have created a successful example of recovery through the state’s capacity to effectively deliver goods and services and proactive peacekeeping diplomacy on the continent. President Paul Kagame
was seen as a stable ally for the United States when he was first appointed in 2000 and he has been successful in easing barriers to doing business, leading to greater U.S. foreign investment. He has also been willing to increase peacekeeping missions, which complements recent U.S. reluctance to be directly involved in such activities, preferring instead to offer countries such as Rwanda support in return for their peacekeeping efforts (especially given Rwanda
provides extensive personnel for these missions).

Despite these positive trends, not all of Blinken’s trip to Kigali will be easy:
Tensions between Rwanda and the DRC over increased activity of the DRC-based rebel group M23 (which Kinshasa claims is backed by Kigali—something Kigali
denies) has been bubbling over in recent months, with about 170,000 people displaced in the violence as of early July. Related, Blinken will likely have a number of other sensitive issues to discuss with Kagame. In fact, Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), who chairs the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, wrote a
letter last month calling for a review of the U.S. approach in Rwanda, raising recent human rights concerns. Blinken himself has mentioned that he will be discussing these concerns, including the “
wrongful detention of U.S. Lawful Permanent Resident Paul Rusesabagina,” along with shared priorities such as peacekeeping.

Blinken’s visit could also highlight the great potential for expanding mutually beneficial economic opportunities between the U.S. and Rwanda. Despite having a small market, Rwanda is an important destination for U.S. foreign investment, thanks to its successful efforts to create a conducive business environment. Kagame has developed relationships with leaders of multinational companies wishing to invest in East Africa, leading major companies such as Volkswagen, Starbucks, and Visa to open factories,
buy commodities, and invest in financial growth in Rwanda. Investment and business opportunities will likely grow, to the benefit of both Rwanda and the United States (and, of course, the continent), with a successful implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

Thus, during his visit, Blinken will likely aim to harmonize the strengths of Rwanda—peacekeeping, state effectiveness, its pro-business environment—and work to overcome its accountability and human rights challenges, so that it can expand its reach as a critical player for other countries on the continent.

All in all, while Blinken will be visiting just three countries and the focus will be on advancing U.S. bilateral relations with South Africa, DRC, and Rwanda, these visits are part of the administration’s effort to revitalize U.S.-Africa relations. What ultimately matters, beyond the announcement of the U.S. strategy for sub-Saharan Africa, is that the United States tangibly align the goals, ways, and means to take action and implement this strategy for the mutual, long-term benefits of Africa and the United States.

 

 

 

GENEVA - Monkeypox is not a new disease, and in some African countries it is endemic. However, the international outbreak which began in May 2022, has prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare a global health emergency. Here are some of the important things to know about monkeypox.


What is Monkeypox?


Monkeypox got its name in 1958, when it was detected in several laboratory apes. It is a zoonotic viral disease, which means it can be transmitted from animals to humans. It can also pass from human to human.

Human monkeypox was first identified in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in a 9-month-old boy, in a region where smallpox (a close relative) had been eliminated in 1968.

Symptoms are similar to those seen, in the past, in smallpox patients, but it is clinically less severe (smallpox was eradicated worldwide in 1980). In 2003, the first Monkeypox outbreak outside Africa was reported in the United States and was linked to contact with infected pet prairie dogs.

Despite the name, most of the animals susceptible to contracting the disease, and then infecting people, are rodents, such as Gambian giant rats, dormice, or tree squirrels.


Where is it typically found?


Monkeypox is most found in the rain forests of central and western Africa, where animals that can carry the virus are native, and the disease is endemic. In these countries, it is increasingly appearing in urban areas.

On occasion, it can also be found elsewhere, in people who could have been infected after visiting these countries.


What are the symptoms?


Symptoms usually include fever, severe headache, muscle aches, back pain, low energy, swollen lymph nodes, and skin rashes or lesions.

The rash usually begins on the first or third day of the onset of fever. The lesions may be flat or slightly raised, filled with clear or yellowish fluid, then crust over, dry up, and fall off.

The number of lesions varies, from a few to several thousand. The rash tends to appear on the face, the palms of the hands, and the soles of the feet. They can also be found in the mouth, genitals, and eyes.


Can people die from monkeypox?


In most cases, the symptoms of Monkeypox go away on their own within a few weeks but, in between three and six per cent of cases reported in countries where it is endemic, it can lead to medical complications and even death. New-born babies, children, and people with immune system deficiencies may be at risk of more severe symptoms and death from the disease.

In severe cases, symptoms include skin infections, pneumonia, confusion, and eye infections that can lead to vision loss.

Many of the fatal cases are children or people who may have other health conditions.


How is monkeypox transmitted from animals to humans?


The virus can be spread to people when they come into physical contact with infected animals, which include rodents and primates.

The risk of contracting it from animals can be reduced by avoiding unprotected contact with wild animals, especially those that are sick or dead (including contact with their flesh and blood).

It is crucial to stress that any food containing meat or animal parts should be cooked, especially in countries where Monkeypox is endemic.


How is it spread from person to person?


The virus is spread through physical contact with someone who has symptoms. Rashes, body fluids (such as fluids, pus, or blood from skin lesions), and scabs are particularly infectious.

Ulcers, lesions or sores can also be infectious since the virus can be spread through saliva. Contact with objects that have been in contact with the infected person - such as clothing, bedding, towels - or objects such as eating utensils can also represent a source of infection.

People who have the disease are contagious while they have symptoms (usually within the first two to four weeks). It is not clear whether or not people who are asymptomatic can transmit the disease.


Who is at risk of getting it?


Anyone who comes into physical contact with someone with symptoms or an infected animal, is at increased risk of infection.

Those who live with infected people have a high risk of infection. Health workers, by the very nature of their job, are at risk of exposure.

Children are often more likely to have severe symptoms than teens and adults.

The virus can also be transmitted from a pregnant woman to the foetus through the placenta, or through contact of an infected parent with the child, during or after delivery, through skin-to-skin contact.


How can I protect myself and others?


You can reduce the risk of contagion by limiting contact with people who suspect they have the disease, or are confirmed cases.

Those who live with infected people should encourage them to self-isolate and, if possible, cover any breaks in the skin (for example, by wearing clothing over the rash).

It is important to wear a face mask when in close proximity to the infected person, especially if they are coughing or have mouth sores, and when touching the clothing or bedding of an infected person. Avoid skin-to-skin contact by wearing disposable gloves.

Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially after coming into contact with the infected person, with their clothing (including sheets and towels), or touching other items or surfaces (such as utensils or dishes) that may have come into contact with rashes or respiratory secretions.

Clean and disinfect any contaminated surfaces and dispose of contaminated waste (such as dressings) properly, and wash the infected person's clothing, towels, sheets, and eating utensils with warm water and detergent.


What should I do if I suspect that I have been infected?


If you think your symptoms might be related to Monkeypox, or if you have had close contact with someone who has these symptoms, or suspects that there is a possibility of being infected, notify your doctor immediately.

If possible, isolate yourself and avoid close contact with other people. Wash your hands frequently and follow the steps listed above to protect others from contagion. Your doctor, or other health professional, should take a sample for testing so you can get the right care.

Symptoms usually last two to four weeks and go away on their own without treatment.


Is there a vaccine?


There are several vaccines, developed for the prevention of smallpox that also provide some protection.

A smallpox vaccine (MVA-BN, also known as Imvamune, Imvanex, or Jynneos) was recently developed and approved in 2019 for use in preventing Monkeypox but it is not yet widely available.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is working with the manufacturer of the vaccine to improve access to it. People who have been vaccinated against smallpox in the past, will also have some protection.


Is there any treatment?


Symptoms often go away on their own without the need for treatment. It is important to care for the rash by letting it dry if possible or cover it with a moist bandage if necessary to protect the area.

Avoid touching any eye or mouth sores. Mouthwashes and eye drops can be used as long as products containing cortisone are avoided.

For severe cases, an antiviral agent known as tecovirimat, that was developed for smallpox, was licensed by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for Monkeypox in 2022, based on data in animal and human studies. It is not yet widely available.


What do we know about the current outbreak?


In May 2022, cases were reported in more than 10 countries in non-endemic areas. Additional cases are being investigated. You can find the latest information on case numbers from the WHO here.

As of May 2022, there is no clear link between reported cases and travel from endemic countries, and no link to infected animals.

Studies are also underway in affected countries to determine the source of infection for each identified case and to provide medical care and limit further spread.

The WHO is working with all affected countries to improve surveillance and provide guidance on how to stop the spread and how to care for those who are infected.


Is there a risk that it will turn into a bigger outbreak?


Monkeypox is generally not considered highly contagious because it requires close physical contact with someone who is contagious (for example, skin-to-skin). The risk to the public is low.

However, the WHO is responding to this outbreak as a high priority to prevent further spread; for many years Monkeypox has been considered a priority pathogen. Identifying how the virus is spreading and protecting more people from becoming infected is a priority for the UN agency

Raising awareness of this new situation will help stop further transmission.


Is monkeypox a sexually transmitted infection?


The condition can be spread from one person to another through close physical contact, including sexual contact. However, it is currently unknown whether it can be spread through sexual transmission (for example, through semen or vaginal fluids). However, direct skin-to-skin contact with lesions during sexual activities can spread the virus.

Rashes can sometimes appear on the genitals and in the mouth, which probably contributes to transmission during sexual contact. Therefore, mouth-to-skin contact could cause transmission when there are lesions in one of these parts.

The rashes can also resemble some sexually transmitted diseases, such as herpes and syphilis. This may explain why several of the cases in the current outbreak have been identified among men seeking care at sexual health clinics.

The risk of becoming infected is not limited to sexually active people or men who have sex with men. Anyone who has close physical contact with someone who is contagious is at risk.


WHO response to stigmatizing messages circulating online?


Messages that stigmatize certain groups of people around this outbreak have been circulating: the WHO has made it clear that this is unacceptable.

Anyone who has close physical contact of any kind with someone with Monkeypox is at risk, regardless of who they are, what they do, who they choose to have sex with, or any other factor.

The WHO points out that it is inadmissible to stigmatize people because of a disease.

Anyone who has been infected, or who is helping care for people who are unwell, should be supported: stigma is likely to only make things worse and slow efforts to end the outbreak.

 

 

 

 

LONDON - “Like pandemics, climate change ignores borders,” says Nathalie Delapalme, the executive director of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, which recently released a report on the climate crisis in Africa titled “The Road to COP27: Making Africa’s Case in the Global Climate Debate.

The foundation best known for its African governance rankings and awards released a “Road to COP27” report in the lead-up to the UN Climate Change Conference in November in Egypt, aiming to provide a blueprint for African leaders in advocating for Africa’s issues at the event.

Sub-Saharan Africa contributes less than 2.5% of the global carbon emission, but the continent bears a disproportionate burden for the effects of climate change. According to Delapalme, global debate on climate change has mostly focused on mitigation and carbon zero goals, but left out adaptation.

At last year’s COP26 in the UK, 39 countries and developing agencies pledged to stop direct international public financing of fossil fuel projects—including natural gas—by the end of 2022. Even with the huge potential for renewable energy in Africa and 22 African countries already using renewables as their main energy source, providing access to the 600 million Africans who still have no access to energy remains a challenge.

If Africa’s challenges are not taken into consideration in global climate discussions, Delapalme says, “we risk just kicking away the development ladder under hundreds of millions of people.”

For the full report on the Road to COP27: Making Africa’s Case in the Global Climate Debate, visit: file:///Users/alibahaijoub/Desktop/The%20rod%20to%20Cop27-making%20Afri%20case.pdf

 

 

 

 

Francais

Guerre en Ukraine et insécurité alimentaire en Tunisie, où se situe l’urgence?

Par Khouloud Ayari, Arab Reform Initiative, 4 out 2022

Depuis février 2022 la question de l’insécurité alimentaire suite à la guerre en Ukraine devient centrale dans le débat public où l’on comprend de plus en plus l’état de dépendance alimentaire dans lequel se trouve la Tunisie, qui importe plus de la moitié de ses besoins. Dans cet article nous chercherons les changements significatifs qui ont eu lieu dans le rapport à l’agriculture et à l’alimentation en termes de dépendances et de souveraineté dans l’histoire agricole tunisienne contemporaine.


Depuis février 2022 la question de l’insécurité alimentaire suite à la guerre en Ukraine devient centrale dans le débat public où l’on comprend de plus en plus l’état de dépendance alimentaire dans lequel se trouve la Tunisie, qui importe plus de la moitié de ses besoins.

Ce chiffre alarmant renforce les craintes, et à raison, car l'annualité des saisons agricoles n’offre pas la possibilité au pays de s’adapter dans l’immédiat en cas d’arrêt de ces importations. Il existe beaucoup de contradictions dans le modèle de production agricole. Ce dernier ne prend pas en compte les changements démographiques entre 1984 et 2014 (RGPH 2014).

Malgré une croissance des besoins pour une population qui est passée de 7 à 11 millions durant cette période, la superficie des terres céréalières depuis 1984 n'a pas significativement évolué1 . Le choix de l’Etat tunisien a été d’augmenter les importations de céréales, et de se désengager progressivement de la collecte au profit de promoteurs privés 2 .

La crise engendrée par la guerre en Ukraine est un événement récent qui s'inscrit dans le temps long et ne peut être isolé des crises et pénuries qui ont déjà eu lieu en Tunisie par le passé3 . L'insécurité alimentaire actuelle a pour origine les politiques agricoles, économiques et sociales instaurées par les gouvernements successifs depuis l'indépendance qui sont une conséquence directe des systèmes alimentaires mondiaux. Ces systèmes voient s’opposer deux temporalités : l’urgence de répondre aux besoins quotidiens immédiats et l’importance de construire un modèle agricole pérenne et équitable prévenant les crises environnementales, sociales et politiques éventuelles.

Dans cet article nous chercherons les changements significatifs qui ont eu lieu dans le rapport à l'agriculture et à l'alimentation en termes de dépendances et de souveraineté dans l’histoire agricole tunisienne contemporaine.
Souveraineté alimentaire, déracinement paysan et accès aux droits : questions progressivement centrales dans l’agenda militant depuis 2011

L’arrêt de commercialisation de deux grands pays exportateurs de céréales, minerais et hydrocarbures a permis de soulever des questions essentielles sous-jacentes au problème de l’insécurité alimentaire : souveraineté alimentaire, déracinement paysan4 , réforme agraire…

En Tunisie, le débat sur la souveraineté alimentaire revêt depuis février 2022 une urgence ressentie auprès du public et des médias de masse. Cela advient dans un cadre où, depuis des années, un travail de documentation, de mémoire et de recherche-action se constitue, qui place la Tunisie dans la lutte mondiale pour la souveraineté alimentaire notamment le mouvement paysan international Via Campesina.

Les plus notables sont des associations qui se sont spécialisées sur ces questions : l’Observatoire de la souveraineté alimentaire et de l’environnement (depuis 2017), le groupe de travail pour la souveraineté alimentaire (2019), l’association tunisienne de permaculture (2013), Terre et humanisme … Une recherche en sciences sociales rurales s’établit progressivement et rassemble des géographes, sociologues, historiens pour une analyse pluridisciplinaire et systémique contemporaine tunisienne et régionale (région arabe, pays du Sud).

Au cœur de ce nouvel espace5 de recherche militante en Tunisie se construit une vision de l’agriculture qui prend en compte l'importance de l'accès aux ressources et la dignité des paysans comme facteurs déterminants pour une agriculture responsable. Ces paysans, qui sont le socle de l’alimentation et de notre survie, continuent à être considérés par l'élite bourgeoise comme des freins à une modernité à laquelle aspire la Tunisie. Paradoxalement, leur mobilisation est synonyme pour les autorités de trouble à l'ordre public et à l'intérêt du pays.

Malgré la convergence des luttes pour les droits et les dignités depuis les printemps arabes, qui rapproche l’urbain et le rural en Tunisie, le changement tarde à s’amorcer. Toutefois, malgré cette difficulté, une littérature respectueuse de l'histoire et des vécus commence à se structurer par ces nouveaux espaces de recherche, palliant le vide existant. Cette dernière existait timidement6 et se fait de manière plus audible depuis la révolution. Sans faire table rase du passé, une bibliographie7 a été documentée et publiée sur le site de l’OSAE. Des documentaires, des films, des livres, des rapports d'étude, des émissions de vulgarisation sont créés : on peut mentionner les documentaires Assoiffés tunisiens, Couscous: les graines de la dignité, Pousses de printemps, les rapports de terrain du GTSA8 ... La projection en salle (cinémas, universités, associations) de ces travaux a permis à l'écho des voix paysannes d'arriver jusque dans les villes pour cesser avec l'oubli du monde rural.

Dans le contexte d'un Etat qui s'endette pour rembourser ses dettes, l’espoir d’une souveraineté alimentaire semble utopique pour certains, réaliste pour d'autres. Mais si elle a été difficile en temps de paix, deviendra-t-elle possible en temps de guerre ? L’agriculture tunisienne réussira-t-elle sa transition vers une agriculture plus soucieuse de l’alimentation et moins soucieuse de productivité et surplus de production.

La souveraineté alimentaire qui s’annonce comme une urgence se présente comme une réponse à la crise alimentaire actuelle, elle est un parcours à prendre pour se libérer des dépendances alimentaires et de l'insécurité qui se révèle à chaque crise.


Pourquoi la souveraineté alimentaire est-elle une réponse ? Le contexte de création de ce concept et la différence avec celui de sécurité alimentaire


Le premier aspect de la lutte des acteurs locaux pour la souveraineté alimentaire est d'ordre sémantique. Il y a une nuance significative entre les deux concepts, nuance qui influence la condition de l’agriculture et de l’alimentation qui en suit. Ce que Via Campesina (le mouvement international des paysan) cadre depuis 1996 :

Suite à la crise de l'énergie, de la sécheresse, et de la famine des années 19709 , la notion de sécurité alimentaire voit le jour au sommet mondial de l'alimentation. L'agriculture se base désormais sur la productivité et l'intensification des récoltes pour nourrir le plus grand nombre, pour la lutte contre la famine dans le monde. Cela coïncide avec l'avènement de la révolution verte dans les pays en développement : approche purement productiviste d’une agriculture sans paysans. A cette époque et pendant des années, des semences hybrides10 étaient distribuées gratuitement par l'Etat auprès d’agriculteurs tunisiens, comme en témoigne Jalel, agriculteur fils d’agriculteur qui a travaillé dans une ferme coopérative à Sidi Bourouis11 . L'abandon des semences ancestrales s'est rapidement généralisé auprès des agriculteurs, remplacement non anodin qui représente un autre moyen de dépossession des agriculteurs (un article paru sur la plateforme Houloul revient sur l’histoire de l’introduction de ces graines en Tunisie).

Les officiers et cadres du ministère de l'agriculture et l'enseignement supérieur de l'agronomie prônent alors la modernité qui apportait la promesse du développement pour le pays. La rhétorique de la modernité que Bourguiba diffusait lors de ses discours quotidiens a influencé les esprits à croire que tout ce qui a trait aux traditions est synonyme d’archaïsme et doit être remplacé. A vrai dire, ces transformations avaient déjà commencé avant l’indépendance. S’inspirant des techniques agricoles utilisées par les colons, l'agriculteur tunisien a été tenté de moderniser son labeur déjà par le travail mécanisé de sa parcelle dont la superficie reste remarquablement plus petite que celle des domaines colonisés12 , autour du oued Majerda.

Les grandes exploitations agricoles et l'agriculture intensive ont remplacé l'agriculture de subsistance au fil des différents régimes qui ont gouverné de l’époque ottomane à aujourd’hui. L’agriculture de subsistance, vivrière, familiale ou paysanne est l’antithèse d’une agriculture basée sur le profit. Elle est à l’origine d’un patrimoine de pratiques et de savoir-faire que les nouvelles graines introduites ne peuvent pas apporter. On peut mentionner une pratique chez tous les cultivateurs de blé et d'orge qu'était la « matmoura » : des greniers creusés à même le sol dans lesquels étaient stockés les graines. Ces greniers servaient la consommation et l'adaptation aux saisons rudes, pratiques existant aussi au Maroc ou en Algérie perdues durant les années 1980. Pour la culture de l'année suivante les sélectionneurs réservent les graines des meilleurs plants. Cette ingénierie paysanne a contribué à avoir au fil des siècles les espèces les plus adaptées à la terre autochtone, c'est-à-dire celles qui offrent une plus grande résistance aux variations de précipitation et de température et aux maladies. La culture des graines autochtones nécessite d’ailleurs moins d’apports en eau comme en témoigne Zakaria Hechmi, agriculteur de l’oasis de Chenini Gabes où on continue de faire de l'agroécologie. Zakaria est connu pour sa lutte pour la sauvegarde des semences paysannes et le respect de la paysannerie.

Avec la technologie des semences, l'agriculteur se trouve désormais à la fin du cycle de production, placé au simple rang de consommateur :


Le cycle de production des semences 13


Depuis ces grandes transformations les agriculteurs se trouvent dépendants de firmes qui fournissent le paquet à planter : semences, engrais et insecticides, le fruit est devenu synonyme d’un produit prêt à planter dépourvu de son essence mère. Actuellement 50% de la production des semences mondiales est contrôlée par trois multinationales : Syngenta, Monsanto et Dupont-Pioneer. Dépossédés de leur autonomie et dupés par les promesses d'enrichissement et de développement, les agriculteurs ont perdu la main sur leur travail obligés de s'adapter aux prix du marché.

A cela s'ajoutent les problématiques de gestion du foncier agricole, du système juridique dual aboutissant au morcellement des terres. Dans la limitation de leurs droits fonciers, des agriculteurs ont recours à la location annuelle pour la culture de céréales et parfois même pour l’élevage bovin. Il s’agit toujours de petites superficies agricoles, quelques hectares qui limitent toute possibilité de s’agrandir. Partant sur le témoignage d’Amine, 25 ans d’El Krib, on constate que de plus en plus d’agriculteurs favorisent l'élevage bovin ou la monoculture d'olive aux céréales. L’élevage bovin lui rapportant en moyenne 2000 dinars par


Un retour à l’essentiel


La crise actuelle nous rappelle ce qui devrait représenter notre priorité collective, car comme l’illustre Edgar Morin « A force de sacrifier l'essentiel pour l'urgence, on finit par oublier l'urgence de l’essentiel ». L’essentiel a été bafoué au prix de solutions court-termistes qui n’ont fait que panser la crise alimentaire depuis l'apparition de ses premiers symptômes. En effet, le choix d'un modèle agricole basé sur la sécurité aux dépends d'une agriculture centrée sur l'alimentation a mené à une situation complexe : des semences locales perdues, une dépendance alimentaire accrue et un déracinement paysan irréversible. Et cinquante années après le sommet de l’alimentation, il existe encore des famines et une insécurité alimentaire qui concerne l’ensemble de la planète à laquelle s’ajoute la perte d'un patrimoine génétique conséquent (75% des variétés de graines ont disparu au cours du dernier siècle selon la Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO). Le constat est clair, la sécurité alimentaire est un concept qui a appauvrit notre alimentation. Elle ôte au consommateur la possibilité de choisir ce qu’il met dans son assiette et réduit la richesse génétique héritée de millions d'années d'évolution et de milliers d'années d'agriculture.

C’est de cette base que naît la lutte pour la souveraineté alimentaire dans le monde, les régions et les pays : rétablir les graines, revoir les législations semencières, réhabiliter les sols, réapprendre à faire de l’agriculture, changer les modes de production et cela dans le contexte de changements climatiques avérés imminents. Les efforts devront être faits de manière collective, entre pays mais aussi entre paysans du monde, chercheurs et acteurs sociaux.


Qu’est-ce qui a changé ?


Au-delà de la nostalgie d'une époque romantisée et qui reste sous documentée en Tunisie de fellahs14 souverains maîtres de leurs semences, de leur terre et d'une eau plus abondante ; le retour vers une agriculture responsable est abordé aujourd’hui comme quelque chose de possible.

Différentes associations mettent en avant aujourd’hui la question de l’accès à la terre, à l’eau, aux semences paysannes et à la souveraineté alimentaire. Des mouvements sociaux ruraux bourgeonnent et se rapprochent de mouvements apparents dans les quartiers de la marge de Tunis, de Sfax et des agglomérations nées de l’exode rural du siècle dernier.

L’origine même des printemps arabes est paysanne en Tunisie : l’injustice vécue par Bouazizi est d’abord liée à la dépossession de sa terre et à l'endettement auprès de la banque nationale agricole15 . La lutte pour la souveraineté alimentaire intègre les notions apparues après 2011 dans l’espace public : dignité, droits, justice… On voit dans des manifestations à Tunis des slogans venant en soutien aux agriculteurs : comme le mouvement #WrongGeneration solidaire du mouvement #OuledJeballah tel qu'on le voit sur les photos ci-après. Ouled Jebalah ont manifesté contre la hausse des prix de l’alimentation animale, la pénurie d’engrais qui a fortement touché la saison des récoltes en 2021.+

Même s’il existe des syndicats comme le synagri et l’UTAP16 , les paysans ressentent le manque de représentativité syndicale : les syndicats ne représentent pas les intérêts des petits agriculteurs. En l'absence de recensement agricole (données et carte agricole), il n’y a pas réellement une visibilité sur le corps de métier des paysans. Ceci rend le diagnostic plus long pour les acteurs sociaux, c'est ce qu'explique Wassim Laabidi du Groupe de Travail sur la Souveraineté Alimentaire.

En effet, au vu de la rareté de la littérature, le travail d'enquête et de recherche de terrain est souvent rétrospectif et élémentaire en première étape. Partant de peu de ressources documentaires, les acteurs sociaux organisent des groupes de recherche sur site avec les agriculteurs pour mieux cerner l’existant. Ce travail qualitatif de la réalité des territoires agricoles très diversifiés en Tunisie commence à donner plus de profondeur au diagnostic purement technique de l’agriculture auquel nous sommes habitués. Dans ces nouveaux cadres d’analyse et de documentation, un nouveau récit (qui intègre les solidarités internationales et la conscience de classe) prend forme : la pluridisciplinarité, le retour vers les sciences sociales, l’accès aux droits politiques sont tous des éléments qui contribuent à cet effort.

Aux yeux de ces chercheurs et militants, il existe une facilité auprès des experts et techniciens à limiter l’analyse de la fragilité de notre agriculture à des facteurs environnementaux ou la fatalité de la mondialisation pour mieux faire disparaître la responsabilité politique. “Stress hydrique”, “changements climatiques” deviennent rapidement un abus de langage puisque à l’origine de la rareté de l’eau (et plus globalement des problèmes environnementaux), la gestion caduque de la ressource par l’Etat est le problème principal.

Le choix des cultures, l’irrigation en plein désert, la surexploitation des nappes pour des récoltes vouées à l’export sont autant d’exemples de mauvaise gestion des ressources, voire, d’absence de souveraineté sur ces mêmes ressources. Les politiques agricoles actuelles sont en effet un héritage significatif de la colonisation qui a modifié le régime douanier, favorable à l'exportation… En 1904, l'Union douanière a permis l'exonération des taxes sur l'exportation du blé et l'exonération des taxes sur les fruits qui mûrissent avant leur temps. La France avait surtout besoin de blé d'où l'orientation vers une agriculture qui apporte le plus de rendement.


La décroissance comme alternative


La décroissance est une notion qui s’adresse à un effort collectif de repenser nos modes de consommation et concerne d’abord les pays industrialisés. C’est un cadre propice pouvant rassembler les efforts pour un retour vers un mode de vie plus juste.

Des pays qui ont vécu des crises politiques et alimentaires importantes et des embargos économiques ont fait la transition vers la politique agricole la mieux adaptée à leur territoire et aux besoins de la population comme le cas de l’Iran ou de Cuba où, dans ce dernier, le taux de malnutrition est passé de 21,9% à 5% pendant les années 1990.

La république de Cuba est l’exemple le plus populaire sur la question de la souveraineté alimentaire en Tunisie (nous gardons tous en tête l’image du renfort des médecins cubains lors du pic des mortalités en Italie en 2020). La gestion de la terre garantit la possibilité pour les fermiers de cultiver leur terre sans revente et sans accumulation de capital. Mais dans sa transition vers l’agroécologie (ou agriculture écologique), le pays ne s’est pas complètement libéré de la phase industrielle : l’Etat garde des champs de monoculture. On note cependant que l’agroécologie qui concerne 25% des terres, produit 65% de l’alimentation17 . Ces indicateurs concrets nous poussent à croire que la souveraineté alimentaire, qui s’intègre dans le modèle de la décroissance, n’est pas utopique et représente le choix le plus pragmatique face à un modèle qui a montré ses défaillances.

Mais il reste un chemin à faire comme pour le cas des semences : même si tous les ans l’association tunisienne de permaculture organise avec les agriculteurs une fête des semences, cette pratique reste illégale : Hafedh Karbaa de Monastir la semaine du 7 avril 2022 a été contraint d’arrêter de distribuer gratuitement ses graines paysannes et de se débarrasser des semences en sa possession. Ayant d’abord figuré dans le journal télévisé de 20h de la chaîne nationale, il témoigne sur les ondes de la radio Shems qu’on lui a interdit de continuer son projet.

Les législations semencières18 existent dans tous les pays, elles sont des organes de contrôle des multinationales, qui ont la légitimité d’accorder au vivant le statut d’illégal. La loi n° 99-42 du 10 mai 1999 est le texte juridique qui régit l’usage des semences et la propriété intellectuelle en Tunisie, on peut y lire dans le titre IV De la constatation des crimes et des sanctions, dans l’article 44 qu’une amende peut atteindre 50 000 dinars. Et “en cas de récidive [de crime] les peines prévues aux articles 43 et 44 [...] sont portées au double”.

L’économie sociale et solidaire, la permaculture, l’agroécologie, l’agroforesterie … sont autant de pistes pour une agriculture qui prend en compte la durabilité des pratiques et des écosystèmes. Encore pratiqués de manière isolée, ils promettent plus d’efficacité quant à l’usage des ressources et sont une voie vers l’autonomisation des agriculteurs. Spécialement par rapport aux contraintes de l’eau et de la terre. Mais pour les chercheurs et militants, si des solutions existent, il faudrait d’abord que les problèmes structurels d’accès à la terre soient abordés. Le droit foncier pour les agriculteurs est indéniable, pourtant la distribution des terres domaniales n’a pas pour priorité les agriculteurs sans terre. Une réforme agraire est nécessaire pour la Tunisie et c’est à partir de ce changement que la condition de milliers de paysans pourrait être améliorée et que l’expérience d’une production agricole soutenable et répondant aux besoins locaux pourrait être envisagée.

 

Endnotes


↑1 Basé sur les données de l’INS en 2016, publiées dans l’Analyse de la filière céréalière en Tunisie et identification des principaux points de dysfonctionnement à l’origine des pertes, Raoudha Khaldi
↑2 Loi n°2005-60 du 18 juillet 2005, modifiant et complétant la loi n°91-64 du 29 juillet 1991 relative à la concurrence et aux prix
↑3 Nous pouvons remonter à l’émeute du pain de 1984 ou plus loin encore, vers la série de sécheresse et de peste qui a abouti à la détérioration du secteur agricole à partir de 1815 Food Insecurity and Revolution in the middle east and North Africa, Habib Ayeb and Ray Bush
↑4 Simone Weil dans L’Enracinement, prélude à une déclaration des devoirs envers l'être humain
↑5 Le cadre collectif est récent (à partir de 2017 avec l’OSAE) mais les adhérents à cet espace ont individuellement des parcours antérieurs au débat sur la souveraineté dans la recherche, la publication de livre ou le militantisme syndical
↑6 Les universitaires se reconnaissaient entre eux, positionnant clairement leur recherche politiquement compte tenu du contexte d’avant la révolution où les sciences humaines et sociales ont été marginalisées et aliénées.
↑7 Max Ajl, A Bibliography of Agriculture, Planning, and Rural Development in Tunisia
↑8 Groupe de travail pour la souveraineté alimentaire
↑9 « En 1972, la production mondiale de céréales a baissé de 41 millions de tonnes au total, dont la moitié dans les pays développés et la moitié dans les pays en développement, et en 1974, elle a de nouveau chuté de 30 millions de tonnes. », Food and agriculture organization
↑10 Des semences développées en laboratoire croisent des espèces différentes qui ne peuvent générer de nouvelles générations de plantes. Un débat réside néanmoins sur ces variétés hybrides, sur la biodiversité nécessaire en agriculture et le problème n’est pas l'existence de ces plantes hybrides mais de la nécessité d’avoir un contrôle sur les moyens de production.
↑11 Héritier d’une terre morcelée par l’héritage et par la colonisation, Jalel se voit dans la difficulté d'acquérir des terres sur lesquelles il a investi son épargne mais qui tardent à être siennes. L’indivision de la propriété et le chevauchement des lois sur la propriété foncière est un plafond de verre pour les petits agriculteurs qui s’agrandissent et les agriculteurs sans terre.
↑12 Discuté lors des ateliers des journées de la souveraineté alimentaires à Nafta en octobre 2021. Voir les archives et la documentation de la colonisation française en Tunisie. Jean Poncet La colonisation et l'agriculture européenne en Tunisie depuis 1881. Étude de géographie historique et économique. Paysages et problèmes ruraux en Tunisie.
↑13 Les semences, Michael Turner
↑14 Fellah dans sa traduction englobe la notion de paysan, de fermier, d’agriculteur, laboureur …
↑15 Bouazizi; une vie une enquête, Lydia Chabert Dalix
↑16 syndicat des agriculteurs et union tunisienne de l’agriculture et de la pêche
↑17 Cuba, un laboratoire de la souveraineté alimentaire ? Jose Fuca, Anne Gauthier, Luc Pépin
↑18 Les lois semencières qui criminalisent les paysannes et les paysans : résistances et luttes


Les opinions représentées dans cet article sont celles des auteurs et ne reflètent pas nécessairement les vues de l’Arab Reform Initiative, de son personnel ou de son conseil d'administration.

 

Pour des chartes, visiter: https://www.arab-reform.net/fr/publication/guerre-en-ukraine-et-insecurite-alimentaire-en-tunisie-ou-se-situe-lurgence/

 

 

 

 

Un « pacte avec le diable » au cœur des Grands Lacs

International Crisis Group, 29 juin 2022

Dans l’est de la RDC, les cycles de violence s’enchaînent depuis bientôt 30 ans. Les experts de Crisis Group, Onesphore Sematumba et Nicolas Delaunay, se sont rendus à Béni, au Nord-Kivu, peu après le début d’une opération ougandaise contre les Forces démocratiques Alliées, un groupe islamiste basé dans la région.


Onesphore Sematumba (O.S)


Sur un fond de rumba congolaise, quelques rires percent le brouhaha du restaurant Inbox, dans le centre de Beni, une des principales villes de la province du Nord-Kivu, dans l’est de la République démocratique du Congo (RDC). Après un bref échange de banalités, la conversation devient sérieuse. Mon interlocuteur, contact de longue date et membre de l’administration locale, détourne le regard, scrute sa bière posée sur la table en plastique qui nous sépare et esquisse un léger sourire. Je viens de lui poser une question qui « chatouille ».

Nous sommes le 13 décembre 2021. Depuis deux semaines, et avec l’accord du président congolais Félix Tshisekedi, l’armée ougandaise est déployée dans les territoires autour de Beni pour combattre les Forces démocratiques alliées (ADF), une milice islamiste aux origines ougandaises mais basée depuis de nombreuses années dans l’est de la RDC.

L’intervention de l’armée ougandaise est une réponse directe à la triple attaque à la bombe menée le 16 novembre 2021 à Kampala, la capitale de l’Ouganda, et attribuée aux ADF. Cette présence militaire peut aussi être vue comme un moyen pour l’Ouganda de sécuriser ses intérêts économiques au Congo – notamment le chantier d’une route qui reliera à terme les villes frontalières ougandaises aux agglomérations de Beni, Butembo et Goma, au Nord-Kivu, et devrait faciliter les échanges commerciaux entre les deux pays. Pour Kinshasa, l’appui militaire de son voisin, qui est passé de 1 700 soldats à plus de 4 000 en quelques mois et a été étendu à la province septentrionale de l’Ituri en février 2022, est une aubaine. En effet, la réponse « robuste et rapide » à l’insécurité dans l’est du pays promise par Tshisekedi lors de son accession au pouvoir en janvier 2019 n’a pour le moment connu que des résultats mitigés.

 Si nous sommes à Beni, Nicolas et moi, c’est pour prendre le pouls de cette ville de plus de 350 000 habitants et regarder au-delà de la communication positive des dirigeants congolais et ougandais vis-à-vis de cette collaboration militaire. Nous voulons savoir ce que pensent les habitants de Beni de la présence ougandaise. C’est cette question qui « chatouille » mon interlocuteur de l’Inbox.

Malgré l’optimisme affiché par Kinshasa et Kampala, le déploiement ougandais dans l’est de la RDC est loin de couler de source. Après tout, l’Ouganda a un lourd passé au Nord-Kivu et, plus au nord, en Ituri. A la fin des années 1990 et au début des années 2000, l’Ouganda a en effet occupé de larges territoires de ces deux provinces, où ses forces armées, coupables de pillages, de meurtres et de viols, ont laissé de douloureux souvenirs. Le 9 février dernier, la Cour internationale de justice, le plus haut organe judiciaire des Nations unies, a d’ailleurs condamné l’Ouganda à verser 325 millions de dollars à la RDC pour les dommages causés à cette époque.

Je m’attendais donc à une réaction hostile de la part des habitants de Beni face à l’annonce du déploiement ougandais. Ce n’est pas le cas. « Il faut ce qu’il faut », affirme un homme que nous croisons dans une rue de Beni. « J’espère que les Ougandais vont nous aider », renchérit plus tard un jeune représentant de la société civile, tandis qu’une notable de la ville me rétorque : « Et pourquoi pas ? »

Les Béniciens auraient-ils la mémoire courte ? Alors que je partage mon étonnement avec mon compagnon de tablée, ce dernier marque un silence, puis m’adresse un regard insistant : « Tu sais Onesphore, à situation désespérée, solution désespérée. Et si on doit faire un pacte avec le diable pour vaincre les ADF, ainsi soit-il ».

Cette réponse me choque, mais l’évidence me saute alors aux yeux. Naïvement peut-être, j’avais oublié l’espace d’un instant qu’au cours des trois dernières décennies nous avons vécu impuissants face à la violence dans l’est de la RDC. Mon interlocuteur est venu me rappeler tout ce que les habitants de cette région subissent depuis si longtemps. La violence, la mort et le fatalisme, qui les ont conduits à une désillusion totale vis-à-vis des dirigeants et de l’armée congolaise. Peu importe d’où vient l’aide, pourvu qu’elle vienne.


Nicolas Delaunay (N.D.)


Beni, la ville (à ne pas confondre avec les territoires de Beni, qui entourent l’agglomération) se trouve au cœur d’une zone dans laquelle opèrent plusieurs groupes armés, dont les ADF, et le moyen le plus sûr de s’y rendre est par les airs. Onesphore a déjà maintes fois emprunté la route reliant Goma, la capitale économique et administrative du Nord-Kivu, à Beni, dans le « grand nord » de la province, mais la route est difficile et dangereuse. A une dizaine de kilomètres à peine au nord de Goma, le goudron s’efface, faisant place à 340 kilomètres de piste en mauvais état qui se mue en patinoire de boue dès que la pluie s’en mêle.

 Le désagrément d’une piste glissante et cabossée n’est toutefois que peu de chose comparé à l’insécurité qui règne sur cet axe vital pour l’économie de la région. Depuis des années, des groupes armés extorquent, rackettent, kidnappent et tuent le long de cette piste étroite qu’entoure une luxuriante forêt propice aux embuscades. Depuis 2016, les autorités provinciales ont mis en place un système d’escorte militaire sur un long tronçon de la route, mais les résultats sont mitigés. C’est sur cette route, à une vingtaine de kilomètres au nord de Goma et en bordure du parc national des Virunga, que l’ambassadeur italien en RDC, Luca Attanasio, a été tué par balles le 22 janvier 2021, lors de l’attaque du convoi du Programme alimentaire mondial des Nations unies dans lequel il voyageait.

C’est donc un vol de la MONUSCO, la Mission des Nations unies en RDC, qui nous emmène à Beni, où nous allons mener nos recherches et les documenter en images. A l’approche de notre destination, le hublot laisse entrevoir un îlot de terre rougeâtre posé au milieu d’un massif forestier dense et vert.

Au fil des ans, Beni a été relativement épargnée par les attaques des divers groupes armés présents dans la région. Son centre bouillonne d’activité. Les motos-taxis et les camions vont et viennent à proximité des étals installés le long de la route principale, qui débordent de vêtements, d’huile de palme et de bananes. Assis sur des chaises en plastique sous des parasols, des agents de change troquent des francs congolais contre des dollars, et vice versa, tandis que des haut-parleurs informent les passagers des arrivées des bus.

Ce sentiment de normalité que nous éprouvons en arrivant n’est toutefois qu’éphémère tant abondent les signes des 30 ans de violence qui ont marqué l’est de la RDC. Au va-et-vient des motos et camions s’ajoute celui, incessant, des pick-up de l’armée congolaise surmontés de fusils mitrailleurs et des véhicules blindés des Casques bleus. Çà et là, des graffitis clament : « Non à la violence ! » D’autres appellent au départ de la MONUSCO, qu’une partie de la population juge trop passive.

 L’odeur puissante des fèves de cacao séchant sur de larges bâches, elle aussi, nous rappelle à cette violence diffuse. Le cacao, qui transite principalement par l’Ouganda avant d’être exporté en dehors du continent africain pour être transformé, fait partie intégrante de l’économie de guerre construite autour des ressources naturelles de la région des Grands Lacs. « Il y a l’or à Bunia, le coltan à Masisi, la cassitérite à Walikale, et puis il y a le cacao à Beni et dans ses alentours », résume Christophe, un agriculteur qui cultivait des cacaoyers à Mbau, au nord de Beni, avant que les groupes armés ne le forcent à fuir son champ. « C’est malheureusement souvent la même chose », raconte-t-il. « On travaille dur pour cultiver le cacao et puis les ADF viennent prendre le contrôle de nos cultures quand la récolte approche ». « A chaque fois qu’on produit beaucoup de cacao, les massacres se multiplient », ajoute une agricultrice rencontrée à Kipriani, un quartier du nord de Beni.

Beni étant ce qui se rapproche le plus d’un havre de paix – très relatif – dans la zone où opèrent les ADF, des milliers de déplacés internes y ont trouvé refuge. Ils vivent souvent chez des membres de leur famille, des amis ou des connaissances, car la ville ne compte pas de camp de déplacés. « Mes trois oncles et mes trois tantes ont été tués, dans la même maison, en 2015. Les bandits les ont coupés en morceaux », se souvient Divine, une jeune femme de 25 ans rescapée d’un massacre. « C’était les ADF. Ils ont attaqué mon village, il y a quelques semaines », murmure un jeune homme rencontré dans le couloir sombre d’une école à quelques pas de la mairie, le bras en écharpe soigneusement pansé. « Un coup de machette… mais ça va mieux maintenant ».

Comme pour confirmer ce que tout le monde sait déjà, le lendemain de notre arrivée, les médias locaux titrent sur une attaque meurtrière perpétrée par les ADF non loin de la ville de Mangina, environ 25 kilomètres à l’ouest de Beni.

L’impact humain de cette précarité sécuritaire est profond, et le quotidien rythmé par la violence et les déplacements pèse de tout son poids sur une population asphyxiée. Outre la brutalité des massacres que décrivent les personnes que nous rencontrons à Beni, ce qui m’interpelle, c’est la difficulté qu’elles éprouvent à planifier leur existence à moyen ou long terme, à vivre autrement qu’au jour le jour. Comme si une population entière s’interdisait de rêver ou de se projeter dans un futur qui risque de leur être arraché par une balle de fusil ou un coup de machette.

D’autant que l’insécurité a des conséquences vicieuses. Entre 2018 et 2020, les provinces du Nord-Kivu et de l’Ituri ont connu la deuxième plus importante épidémie d’Ebola de l’histoire, qui a fait plus de 2 200 morts. A l’époque, un ami journaliste était revenu profondément marqué d’un reportage réalisé au Nord-Kivu, où les violences armées ont compliqué la réponse sanitaire à ce virus mortel. « Une plaie qui décuple les effets d’une autre », avait-il résumé.

A son tour, Onesphore, qui est né dans l’est de la RDC, résume avec son humour habituel toute la fragilité de la vie dans cette région. « Ici, on a un dicton qui dit : “L’espérance de vie, c’est 24 heures, renouvelables chaque jour” ».


O.S.


La violence dans l’est de la RDC, c’est un cocktail extrêmement complexe dont les populations civiles sont les principales victimes. Depuis les années 1990, les groupes armés se succèdent et se ressemblent dans cette région riche en ressources naturelles. La plupart de ces groupes, ceux communément appelés maï-maï, se considèrent comme les défenseurs des communautés dont ils sont issus et sont en compétition pour le pouvoir politique ou coutumier, les ressources foncières, ou encore l’accès aux infrastructures. Ajoutez à cela un Etat qui ne fournit pas les services de base, des liens avérés entre certains politiciens et des milices locales et un manque de perspectives socio-économiques, et vous obtenez un cadre propice au recrutement de jeunes miliciens congolais.

La violence trouve aussi sa source en Ouganda, au Rwanda et au Burundi, voisins orientaux de la RDC. Certains groupes armés, comme les ADF, y sont nés avant de trouver dans l’est de la RDC une zone de non-droit où se replier et opérer. Mais la dimension régionale de l’insécurité va plus loin : les profondes rivalités entre ces trois voisins de la RDC, articulées principalement autour de la compétition pour les ressources minières du pays, nourrissent aussi les violences, tout en faisant obstacle aux efforts diplomatiques régionaux et internationaux. Ces trois pays sont tous intervenus militairement par le passé dans l’est de la RDC. Si, officiellement, ils cherchaient à y poursuivre des rebellions hostiles à leurs gouvernements, ils y ont dans le même temps mené plusieurs guerres par procuration en soutenant des groupes rebelles opposés à leurs rivaux.

 Le bilan humain de ces cycles de violence est extrêmement lourd. Les chiffres les plus communément utilisés, malgré certaines controverses sur la méthode de calcul, estiment que les conflits dans l’est de la RDC et leurs conséquences humanitaires ont fait quelque 6 millions de morts depuis 1998.

Lors de son accession au pouvoir, en janvier 2019, le président congolais Félix Tshisekedi avait fait de la lutte contre l’insécurité dans l’est de son pays une priorité. Après deux années marquées par l’absence de résultats tangibles, il a pris deux mesures phares : l’instauration, en mai 2021, de l’état de siège dans les provinces du Nord-Kivu et de l’Ituri, les plus touchées par les violences, puis, à partir du 30 novembre 2021, la coopération militaire avec l’Ouganda.

Ces deux mesures ont un point commun : elles illustrent la tendance des autorités congolaises à donner la primauté aux réponses militaires pour contrer l’insécurité dans l’est, et ce au détriment de mesures cherchant à résoudre les conflits fonciers, à donner des perspectives économiques aux jeunes, à poursuivre les politiciens ayant des liens avec les groupes armés, ou encore à construire une diplomatie régionale efficace et apaisée.

En tant que citoyen congolais, je me dis qu’au moins, les autorités congolaises n’ont pas abandonné la lutte contre l’insécurité dans ma région, malgré la succession sans fin des cycles de violence. Mais le réalisme que m’impose mon travail de recherche sur les causes de ces conflits entraîne un jugement sans appel sur l’obstination de nos dirigeants à penser qu’une stratégie de stabilisation axée principalement sur le militaire pourra un jour ramener la paix. L’usage de la force a son utilité, mais ses victoires resteront sans lendemain tant qu’il ne sera pas accompagné de mesures allant à la racine du problème.

Suite à l’instauration de l’état de siège en Ituri et dans le Nord-Kivu, les gouverneurs et les maires ont été remplacés par des officiers de l’armée et de la police. Cette mesure a été accueillie avec le même enthousiasme résigné que l’arrivée des soldats ougandais. Lors d’une visite dans la ville de Bukavu, dans la province du Sud-Kivu, en mai 2020, certains habitants se disaient même jaloux de cet état de siège qui n’avait pas été décrété chez eux. Mais quelques mois plus tard, ce dispositif juridique d’exception n’avait pas arrêté les massacres dans le Nord-Kivu et en Ituri, et ces mêmes personnes ne demandaient plus qu’il soit appliqué dans leur région.

La « mutualisation » des forces congolaises et ougandaises, telle qu’elle a été qualifiée par Kinshasa, prévoyait initialement un déploiement militaire ougandais entre Beni et la frontière. Ce déploiement a depuis été étendu à l’Ituri. Le terme mutualisation est trompeur : dans les faits, Ougandais et Congolais mènent leurs opérations en parallèle. Ils se tiennent au courant de leurs activités respectives, mais ne combattent pas au sein d’unités mixtes. Pour le moment, ces opérations n’ont enregistré que de timides succès. Certes, plusieurs camps des ADF ont été pris, des otages libérés, des armes saisies et des rebelles arrêtés. L’épicentre des attaques des ADF s’est même déplacé légèrement vers le nord. Mais les massacres continuent malgré tout.

Plus encore, les ADF semblent avoir mis un point d’honneur à rappeler à tous leur force de frappe, malgré la pression militaire exercée sur eux. Le 25 décembre 2021, le lendemain de la prise de Kambi Ya Yua, un des principaux camps du groupe, un kamikaze a fait exploser une bombe dans un restaurant de Beni bondé de clients venus y célébrer Noël. L’attaque a fait au moins huit morts. Ce restaurant, c’était l’Inbox, où je me suis rendu une dizaine de fois pour rencontrer des interlocuteurs.

 Pour couronner le tout, les opérations ougandaises en territoire congolais – que les armées des deux pays ont prolongées de deux mois le 1er juin dernier – pourraient ouvrir la voie à une dangereuse multiplication des interventions étrangères non coordonnées, voire concurrentes, dans l’est de la RDC. Depuis l’autorisation accordée à Kampala, l’armée burundaise s’est invitée au Sud-Kivu pour traquer les rebelles burundais de RED-Tabara. En février dernier, le président rwandais Paul Kagame a évoqué la possibilité d’envoyer son armée en RDC pour combattre le groupe rwandais des Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR), un vestige de la milice hutue rwandaise qui a massacré une grande partie de la minorité tutsie et de nombreux Hutu modérés pendant le génocide de 1994. Kagame a d’abord justifié une potentielle intervention en alléguant de liens entre les FDLR et les ADF. Plus récemment, il a accusé Les Forces armées de la République démocratique du Congo (FARDC) de s’être associées aux FDLR pour combattre une autre milice, le Mouvement du 23 mars (M23).

Un cocktail complexe, vous disais-je…


N.D.


Nous sommes assis dans le hall de la mairie sous le regard de Félix Tshisekedi, dont le portrait est accroché au mur. Nous attendons patiemment le colonel de police qui, en vertu de l’état de siège, fait office de maire. Le silence règne dans l’édifice, rompu de temps à autres par les claquements de bottes des soldats et policiers affectés à la protection de la mairie et par les échos d’une lointaine rue commerçante.

Un officier de police inspecte nos papiers et documents, notamment l’autorisation de photographier et filmer obtenue auprès du ministère de l’Information. « Il est beau votre papier, mais ce n’est pas le bon. Vous auriez dû vous adresser au ministère de la Défense, pas à celui de l’Information. C’est l’état de siège ici, vous comprenez ? »

Deux jours plus tard, après plusieurs réunions et explications avec le maire, ses conseillers et les services de renseignements, il semble que nos papiers soient malgré tout en règle.

« C’est leur manière de te rappeler que ce sont eux qui sont aux commandes pendant l’état de siège », relativise un de nos interlocuteurs, rencontré un soir au bar de notre hôtel. Nous lui faisons part de notre surprise de voir la mairie de Beni aussi calme et déserte. Dans le souvenir d’Onesphore, le bâtiment était une fourmilière grouillant de visiteurs venus effectuer des démarches administratives ou chercher à obtenir une faveur du maire. « Les gens sont désormais méfiants, ils ne font pas confiance à la police et à l’armée, c’est pour cela qu’il n’y a plus personne », nous explique-t-il.

De fait, les forces armées congolaises sont elles aussi une pièce du puzzle complexe de la violence dans l’est de la RDC. La population, l’ONU, des diplomates et des organisations de défense des droits humains accusent souvent des militaires de collaboration, voire de complicité, avec les groupes armés opérant dans leur zone. Ces liens se développent autour d’activités telles que l’exploitation des ressources minières ou le contrôle de « checkpoints » illégaux. Des enquêteurs de l’ONU et des organisations de défense des droits humains, dont Human Rights Watch, ont également accusé les forces armées congolaises de profiter de l’instabilité dans la région pour racketter la population et d’avoir commis des meurtres et des viols de civils.

« Je choisis la paix, je soutiens les FARDC ». Le panneau publicitaire installé à l’entrée nord de Beni ne trompe personne. Pour les esprits les plus malicieux, il est même à l’image du lien de confiance entre l’armée et la population : délavé, vieux et obsolète.

 
O.S.


Ce lien brisé entre les Congolais de l’est et leurs forces de sécurité, et de manière plus générale avec leurs autorités, explique la réaction initiale des Béniciens face à la coopération militaire avec l’Ouganda. En fin de compte, leur timide espoir d’une amélioration aura été une nouvelle fois déçu.

J’ai le sentiment de reconnaître dans la réaction des Béniciens un phénomène que j’ai malheureusement eu l’occasion d’observer à maintes reprises dans l’est de la RDC. Je l’appelle « le transfert des attentes » : les Congolais sont tellement las de l’inefficacité de leurs propres armée et gouvernement qu’ils ont cessé d’en attendre quoi que ce soit, préférant placer leurs espoirs dans des mains extérieures. Et si ces espoirs sont déçus, c’est aussi à « ces venus d’ailleurs » qu’ils demandent des comptes.

Le 20 novembre 2012, le M23, un mouvement rebelle congolais soutenu par le Rwanda et l’Ouganda, a attaqué Goma, la ville dans laquelle j’habite depuis 32 ans. Après une timide résistance au nord de l’agglomération, l’armée congolaise s’est repliée vers la ville de Minova, à 50 kilomètres à l’ouest. Comme les milliers d’autres habitants de Goma massés sur le bord des routes, c’est le regard médusé que j’ai vu les colonnes de chars et de soldats partir vers l’ouest, laissant la ville à la merci des rebelles. « Cette guerre est politisée », se justifiaient certains militaires interpellés par la population, faisant référence aux liens supposés entre les rebelles et certains hommes politiques ou officiers, qui dissuaderaient les soldats au front de combattre le M23. Malgré cela, quand plusieurs centaines de jeunes ont manifesté le lendemain contre ce « retrait stratégique », c’est devant la base de l’ONU à Goma qu’ils se sont rassemblés. C’est aux Casques bleus uruguayens qu’ils réclamaient des explications et non aux dirigeants ou soldats congolais en déroute.

L’hostilité de la population vis-à-vis de la MONUSCO est, par ailleurs, compréhensible. Les Congolais voient défiler dans leurs rues des militaires mieux armés et mieux entraînés que les FARDC, mais qui ne mènent que peu d’opérations militaires (des exceptions notables existent, dont la « Force Intervention Brigade » créée en 2013 suite à la prise de Goma par le M23). Face à ce qui est perçu par une partie de la population comme de l’indifférence, la colère gronde dans les rues de Butembo, Beni ou Goma. Les jeunes des mouvements citoyens et des groupes de pression y manifestent parfois contre la MONUSCO, allant jusqu’à bloquer le passage de convois ou les caillasser. En réponse, la MONUSCO répète inlassablement que la responsabilité de la sécurité des populations incombe d’abord aux forces de défense et de sécurité congolaises et que les Casques bleus leur apportent leur appui mais ne peuvent se substituer à elles.

 Ce « transfert des attentes » sur des forces étrangères signifie-t-il que les Congolais ont définitivement tourné le dos à leurs dirigeants ? Non. Nous avons pu le constater sur place.

Le bâtiment de la mairie de Beni, dans lequel nous avons rencontré le maire, est flambant neuf. Il a été inauguré il y a à peine un an, en remplacement de l’ancienne mairie, incendiée en novembre 2019 par des manifestants protestant contre l’incapacité des autorités à mettre un terme aux violences. Je ne cautionnerais bien sûr jamais une manifestation qui tourne mal. Mais je me dis que si les Congolais interpellent encore de temps à autres les autorités, c’est qu’ils n’ont pas totalement abandonné l’espoir qu’elles trouveront un jour le moyen de soulager leurs maux. Et heureusement, car si les acteurs extérieurs peuvent nous aider à bien des égards, il échoit aux Congolais de construire la paix, s’ils veulent qu’elle dure.

En attendant ce jour, la vie suit son cours dans l’est de la RDC, au gré de cycles divers. Cycles d’espoirs et de désespoirs ; cycles de violences perpétrées par des groupes armés, qui s’en vont puis réapparaissent ; cycles de négociations mal ficelées et inabouties ; cycles électoraux, qui suscitent de nouvelles violences ; cycles de tensions régionales à température variable…

Si l’attention était résolument portée sur les ADF lors de notre passage à Beni en décembre, un autre groupe rebelle fait désormais parler de lui au Nord-Kivu. Le M23, qui avait été mis en déroute en 2013, peu après sa prise de Goma, a refait surface fin 2021 dans le territoire de Rutshuru, situé à une petite centaine de kilomètres au nord de Goma, et frontalier de l’Ouganda et du Rwanda. Alors qu’on le pensait moribond, le groupe a pris les autorités militaires au dépourvu. Depuis novembre 2021, il a mené de nombreuses attaques contre les forces armées congolaises, forçant les civils à fuir leurs foyers. Le 13 juin, le M23 a même pris le contrôle du poste-frontière de Bunagana, qui relie la RDC à l’Ouganda. En parallèle, les tensions diplomatiques se sont intensifiées ces derniers mois : Kinshasa reproche à Kigali de soutenir le M23, et Kigali accuse les FARDC de coopérer avec les FDLR dans la lutte contre le M23.


N.D.


Ces cycles dont parle Onesphore, et l’incapacité de l’est de la RDC d’en sortir, apparaissent à chaque rencontre, dans chaque conversation que nous menons dans le cadre de nos recherches à Beni.

Le dernier jour de notre visite, ces recherches nous emmènent le long d’une route du sud de la ville, où chaque passage de camion, voiture ou moto soulève des nuages de poussière, irritant les yeux et les poumons. Accoudé au comptoir de son magasin de boissons, une pièce sombre et exiguë de quelques mètres carrés au rez-de-chaussée d’un bâtiment en béton, Ibrahim raconte comment, il y a quelques années, lorsqu’il avait dix-sept ans, il a rejoint un groupe maï-maï.

Sans perspective d’avenir ou d’emploi, révolté par la prolifération de la violence, il se disait – naïvement, de son propre aveu – qu’il pourrait contribuer à changer les choses en rejoignant une milice. « J’ai vu les désordres qui se déroulaient dans ce pays et j’étais déçu », dit Ibrahim, qui affirme avoir définitivement renoncé à se battre car il a maintenant un travail.

Qu’en est-il des griefs qui l’ont poussé dans les bras d’un groupe armé ? « Bon, la situation est toujours la même », répond-il timidement, mais sans appel. Il souligne qu’il a obtenu son emploi actuel grâce à une ONG congolaise aidant les rebelles démobilisés à déposer les armes puis, dans un second temps, à reconstruire leur vie – et donc à ne pas reprendre les armes. En effet, sans être rare, la reconversion d’Ibrahim relève plus de l’exception que de la règle. Le gouvernement congolais a lancé en mars un nouveau programme de Désarmement, Démobilisation et Réinsertion dans l’est de la RDC. Il reste à voir s’il aura plus de succès que les précédents, dont l’efficacité a été très limitée.

« Les programmes de DDR ne sont pas bien conçus et pas bien financés, donc évidemment que beaucoup de jeunes démobilisés retournent tôt ou tard dans la brousse », nous affirme Noëlla Muliwavyo, une cadre de la société civile bénicienne et membre de l’Association Africaine pour les droits de l’Homme, une ONG congolaise. « Prenez par exemple la manière dont on traite les communautés dans lesquelles on veut réinsérer les ex-rebelles. On ne prépare pas les communautés à cela, on ne communique pas avec elles, on ne leur donne aucuns moyens. Et puis du jour au lendemain, sans explications, on amène un ancien rebelle dans une communauté qui a beaucoup souffert des violences, dont de nombreux membres ont été tués. Comment voulez-vous que cela fonctionne ? Comment voulez-vous que cette communauté accueille cette personne ? »

De manière générale, nos interlocuteurs sur place déplorent le fait que l’Etat ne prenne pas à bras-le-corps les causes profondes du conflit dans l’est de la RDC, celles qui poussent tant de jeunes à prendre les armes. Tant que l’Etat n’offrira pas de réponses adéquates aux conflits fonciers entre communautés, aux liens entre groupes armés et politiciens, ou aux manques de perspectives économiques, groupes rebelles et milices continueront à trouver dans la région un terrain propice au recrutement des jeunes. Dans le même temps, certains de nos interlocuteurs regrettent l’incapacité des pays des Grands Lacs à mettre un terme aux dangereuses luttes d’influence qui nourrissent l’instabilité dans l’est congolais depuis trop longtemps.

Avant mon arrivée en RDC, Onesphore m’avait prévenu. Les innombrables problématiques liées à l’insécurité dans l’est de son pays se lacent et s’entrelacent en permanence, formant une tapisserie dont il est parfois difficile de saisir toute la complexité. Et malgré une violence accablante, je repars de Beni convaincu que si l’est du Congo courbe aujourd’hui l’échine, il ne rompra pas.

Avant de reprendre l’avion pour Goma, je demande à Onesphore si notre espérance de vie a bien été renouvelée pour les 24 heures à venir. Dans un éclat de rire, il me répond qu’« un jour, on fera mieux que 24 heures ». En attendant, dit-il, « il faut comprendre que l’humour, c’est notre résilience. C’est notre manière de rendre un peu supportable un quotidien qui ne l’est pas, en espérant qu’un jour, ça ira mieux ».

 

Contributeurs


Onesphore Sematumba: Analyst, Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi

Nicolas Delaunay: Senior Communications Officer for Africa

 

 

Mali : Rester engagé malgré les désaccords

International Crisis Group, 25 Mai 2022


Après deux coups d'Etat en autant d'années, Bamako continue de combattre les insurgés jihadistes au Mali. Dans cet extrait de l'édition de printemps de la Watch List 2022, Crisis Group exhorte l'UE et ses Etats membres à soutenir des pourparlers visant un retour à l'ordre constitutionnel, à renforcer leur aide à la société civile et à encourager les réformes électorales.


Le conflit opposant le gouvernement malien aux insurgés jihadistes est entré dans sa dixième année, sans résolution en perspective. Les autorités de transition au pouvoir depuis 2021 ont adopté une position populiste et anti-occidentale, rejetant la responsabilité de l’impasse sur la France, son alliée de longue date dans la lutte contre les insurgés. Elles ont également intensifié leurs offensives militaires, ce qui a entraîné une augmentation du nombre de victimes civiles. Frustrés par la rhétorique de Bamako et son rapprochement avec la société de sécurité privée russe Wagner, la France et d’autres Etats membres de l’Union européenne (UE) retirent leurs troupes du Mali, à l’exception de celles affectées à la mission des Nations unies dans le pays. L’armée malienne a récemment remporté quelques victoires limitées dans le centre du pays, mais le départ de ses alliés les mieux équipés pourrait affecter la dynamique du conflit, revigorer les militants et aggraver l’interminable crise humanitaire. Les autorités de Bamako ont jusqu’à présent rechigné à relancer un accord de paix conclu en 2015 avec les groupes armés (non jihadistes) du nord. Entretemps, l’Etat a engagé des poursuites judiciaires contre ses opposants politiques et restreint l’espace de débat public, tandis que les attaques en ligne contre les médias indépendants se multiplient.

Les actions de Bamako ont considérablement compliqué la tâche des acteurs extérieurs impliqués dans la stabilisation du Sahel. Le bras de fer entre le gouvernement et la France semble lui avoir octroyé un large soutien interne, mais il a inquiété les pays voisins qui luttent pour contenir la violence jihadiste sur leur propre sol. Bamako s’est également opposée à la tenue d’élections début 2022, conformément à l’accord conclu entre le précédent gouvernement de transition et d’autres capitales d’Afrique de l’Ouest. Ses relations avec la plupart de ses voisins sont au plus mal depuis que la Communauté économique des Etats de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (CEDEAO) a imposé des restrictions commerciales au Mali en réponse à l’intransigeance des autorités sur la question des élections.

Malgré le retrait progressif des troupes françaises et européennes et l’antagonisme croissant du Mali vis-à-vis de l’Occident, l’UE et ses Etats membres devraient s’efforcer de maintenir la communication avec les autorités maliennes. Ils devraient éviter les différends publics avec Bamako, qui pourraient saper les efforts déployés par la CEDEAO pour aider à restaurer un régime civil au Mali, tout en travaillant discrètement avec les partenaires régionaux afin d’orienter les autorités vers une transition consensuelle.


Pour ce faire, l’UE et ses Etats membres devraient :


- Soutenir les pourparlers pilotés par la CEDEAO, qui visent à trouver un consensus sur le calendrier d’un retour à l’ordre constitutionnel au Mali, en exhortant les parties à rechercher la désescalade et les compromis.

- Renforcer leur soutien diplomatique et financier aux organisations de la société civile malienne, en particulier aux groupes qui soutiennent les libertés de mouvement et d’expression et surveillent les restrictions de ces droits

- ​​​​​​Proposer et, le cas échéant, fournir leur soutien aux initiatives de réformes électorales, notamment en travaillant avec les organisations de la société civile et les autorités compétentes lorsque l’occasion se présente. Un progrès important, que l’UE et les Etats membres devraient soutenir, consisterait à mettre en place un organisme électoral indépendant.


Le Mali se détourne de ses partenaires traditionnels après un second coup d’Etat


Après avoir renversé le président Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta en août 2020, l’armée a mis en place un gouvernement essentiellement civil qui a établi de bonnes relations de travail avec ses partenaires étrangers et les pays voisins. Cet arrangement s’est cependant avéré instable. Les chefs militaires ont continué à influencer les décisions du gouvernement, provoquant l’irritation des acteurs civils.

Les tentatives du gouvernement de limiter l’influence des militaires ont incité des officiers de l’armée à opérer un second coup d’Etat en mai 2021. Ils ont alors nommé président de la transition le colonel Assimi Goïta, qui occupait précédemment le poste de vice-président, et installé Choguel Kokalla Maïga comme Premier ministre. Exploitant la montée du ressentiment contre la politique de la France, qui résulte en partie des griefs accumulés au cours des années de présence militaire française, Maïga a imputé la détérioration de la situation sécuritaire au Mali à la stratégie de stabilisation promue par Paris, qui s’articule depuis 2014 autour d’une campagne militaire de contre-insurrection, l’opération Barkhane. En outre, le nouveau gouvernement a considérablement ralenti la mise en œuvre de l’accord de paix signé en 2015 avec les groupes armés du nord et soutenu par l’UE et d’autres acteurs internationaux.

 Une série d’accrochages verbaux de plus en plus violents a ensuite attisé les tensions entre le Mali et ses partenaires occidentaux et régionaux. Ces derniers ont vivement critiqué le projet de Bamako de faire appel à des mercenaires du groupe russe Wagner, ce qui a conduit à une impasse. En parallèle, le gouvernement a remis en cause l’accord que le précédent gouvernement de transition avait conclu avec la CEDEAO et qui prévoyait la tenue d’élections en février 2022. En janvier, en réponse à ce qu’elle considérait comme une provocation de Bamako, qui proposait une transition allant jusqu’à cinq ans, la CEDEAO a restreint le commerce régional avec le Mali et gelé ses actifs financiers. Le bloc a également imposé des sanctions individuelles aux hauts fonctionnaires du gouvernement. Ces sanctions ont profondément contrarié les dirigeants maliens, qui ont appelé la population à manifester, affirmant que la CEDEAO agissait sous pression étrangère.

L’impasse régionale a également touché un autre groupement, le G5 Sahel. Son objectif était de promouvoir la sécurité et le développement dans les cinq pays, même s’il n’a obtenu que peu de résultats tangibles. Le Mali a d’ailleurs quitté le groupe à la mi-mai, lorsque ses partenaires ont refusé de céder la présidence tournante aux autorités militaires à Bamako.

Dans ce contexte, les relations entre le Mali et ses partenaires européens se sont rapidement dégradées. Le 24 janvier, les autorités maliennes ont demandé au gouvernement danois de retirer immédiatement un contingent de 90 personnes qui devait opérer au sein de Takuba, une force opérationnelle européenne que la France avait contribué à mettre en place pour compléter l’opération Barkhane. Les autorités maliennes affirmaient que le Danemark avait enfreint la procédure. Une semaine plus tard, en réponse aux remarques désobligeantes du gouvernement français sur la légitimité des autorités de transition, Bamako expulsait l’ambassadeur de France. Le 4 février, à l’instar de la CEDEAO, l’UE a imposé des interdictions de voyager et des gels d’avoirs à cinq personnalités, dont Maïga, qu’elle accusait d’avoir saboté la transition.

Depuis lors, le fossé a continué à se creuser. Lorsqu’il est devenu évident que, bien que les autorités démentent formellement une quelconque association avec Wagner, des Russes en tenue de camouflage arrivaient effectivement sur les bases militaires du centre du Mali, le président français Emmanuel Macron a déclaré que la présence de la force antiterroriste française dans le pays était devenue intenable. Le 17 février, il a annoncé que les troupes françaises et européennes participant aux opérations Barkhane et Takuba se retireraient du Mali et seraient redéployées dans d’autres pays du Sahel d’ici juin. En avril, l’UE a suspendu ses activités de formation de l’armée malienne. Elle continue cependant à proposer des cours de droit humanitaire et à prodiguer des conseils stratégiques et organisationnels au commandement militaire et au gouvernement, en particulier au ministère de la Défense. À peu près au même moment, la situation sécuritaire au centre du pays s’est légèrement améliorée grâce à la pression exercée par l’armée sur les groupes jihadistes, ce qui a permis le retour de personnes déplacées et un timide regain d’activité économique.

 

Le gouvernement malien affirme que la situation sécuritaire s’est améliorée parce qu’il a « diversifié ses partenariats », arguant que ses efforts créent un environnement propice à d’éventuelles élections. Les autorités semblent croire sincèrement que l’aide russe, qui comprend la livraison rapide d’armes et la présence de paramilitaires russes aux côtés des forces armées nationales lors des combats, pourrait leur permettre d’avancer dans leur campagne anti-insurrectionnelle, et ainsi de répondre aux attentes du peuple malien dans ce domaine. Ils attribuent l’amélioration de la sécurité dans certaines localités aux nouveaux équipements militaires et aux « instructeurs » russes. L’armée a donné un coup de fouet médiatique à ses avancées à travers une campagne de communication énergique.

Mais il est loin d’être certain que l’armée arrivera à maintenir sa position dans le centre. Les derniers développements montrent que les forces armées n’ont pas les moyens de maintenir un contrôle durable sur les zones qu’elles occupent. Les groupes jihadistes reviennent rapidement, et souvent déterminés à se venger des civils qu’ils identifient comme ayant aidé les autorités. Pendant ce temps, l’insécurité sévit toujours dans d’autres régions du pays. Le départ imminent des troupes attachées à Barkhane et Takuba pourrait donner aux jihadistes l’opportunité d’élargir leurs opérations. De plus, la force de l’ONU sera privée d’une partie de ses ressources, car elle dépendait de la couverture aérienne ainsi que du soutien médical et logistique français. La situation humanitaire reste désastreuse, tant en termes de personnes déplacées que de victimes civiles. En outre, si la mission française a eu sa part de plaintes pour violation des droits de l’homme, les antécédents de Wagner donnent à penser que les abus ne vont faire qu’empirer avec le départ des troupes européennes et l’influence des « instructeurs » de Wagner sur le comportement de l’armée.

En effet, les récentes actions de l’armée malienne révèlent un non-respect des règles du droit international humanitaire chez les soldats maliens et le lourd tribut payé par les civils. En avril, l’armée a déclaré avoir tué 203 militants lors d’une opération dans le village de Moura. Selon de nombreux rapports d’organisations de défense des droits de l’homme et de médias internationaux, l’opération a tourné au bain de sang, les troupes maliennes et les mercenaires de Wagner exécutant sommairement des centaines de civils qu’ils accusaient de collaborer avec les jihadistes. Le gouvernement a empêché les Nations unies d’enquêter sur l’incident.

Les signes d’une restriction de l’espace politique semblent également s’accumuler. Les autorités judiciaires ont arrêté ou lancé des procédures contre certains leaders de l’opposition, notamment les plus critiques à l’égard du Premier ministre, les accusant d’être impliqués dans des activités déstabilisantes et d’inciter à la division ethnique. Elles ont d’ailleurs mis en prison deux hommes politiques pour avoir critiqué le chef du gouvernement. (Leurs critiques ne constituent pas le motif officiel de leur arrestation). Le gouvernement s’appuie également sur une forme de rejet de l’Occident pour justifier des restrictions en matière de débat public, en accusant ses opposants de prendre parti pour des puissances étrangères. Activistes, journalistes et membres de l’opposition politique expriment une inquiétude croissante quant à leur capacité à travailler librement ou à contester le discours officiel.


Comment l’UE peut maintenir son implication


L’UE a longtemps cherché à adopter une approche globale de la situation au Mali, en mettant l’accent sur les solutions politiques aux défis auxquels le pays est confronté, la bonne gouvernance et le développement social, environnemental et économique. Ces dernières années, elle a promis un soutien accru aux dirigeants civils du Sahel pour les aider à promouvoir une bonne gouvernance, mais avec la montée de la violence, sa mise en œuvre s’est avérée difficile. Aujourd’hui, confrontés à l’impasse avec Bamako, les diplomates européens peinent tant à mettre en œuvre leur stratégie qu’à préserver leurs relations avec les autorités maliennes. Toutefois, les Etats membres de l’UE devraient rester impliqués dans la mission de l’ONU au Mali, à l’instar de l’Allemagne qui a annoncé le 11 mai son intention d’augmenter son contingent sur place. Ensuite, l’Union et ses Etats membres pourraient et devraient prendre trois initiatives importantes.


Tout d’abord, l’UE et ses Etats membres devraient activement soutenir la voie diplomatique employée par la CEDEAO, qui tente de persuader Bamako d’accepter un délai raisonnable pour le retour à l’ordre constitutionnel. Les récentes déclarations des deux parties indiquent que les tensions entre Bamako et le bloc pourraient s’apaiser, ce qui renforce les perspectives d’un accord. Une diplomatie discrète et, le cas échéant, un soutien public permettraient à l’UE d’user de ses bons offices pour faire progresser ces négociations vers un consensus. À ce stade, de nouvelles sanctions risqueraient de compliquer des négociations déjà délicates. L’UE devrait plutôt signaler son intention de commencer à réduire les sanctions en cas de progrès avec l’organisation ouest-africaine.

Deuxièmement, l’UE devrait renforcer son soutien actuel aux organisations de la société civile malienne face au durcissement des restrictions en matière de liberté d’expression. Les groupes internationaux de défense des droits humains et les médias étrangers ayant de plus en plus de mal à travailler au Mali, les acteurs nationaux seront amenés à jouer un rôle essentiel, à la fois en mettant en lumière les abus et les restrictions et en permettant un débat public dynamique. Mais ils sont confrontés à une pression croissante. Le soutien diplomatique et financier de l’UE pourrait les aider à poursuivre leurs activités, qui sont importantes tant à court terme que dans la perspective d’élections à venir. Même s’il existe un certain risque que les financements occidentaux sapent la crédibilité des ONG locales, l’UE pourrait l’atténuer en travaillant avec des organismes bien établis dans leurs régions et leurs localités, notamment les nombreux groupes de femmes qui travaillent en dehors de la capitale. Pour l’instant, étant donné l’atmosphère politique tendue, l’UE devrait toutefois éviter les initiatives fortement médiatisées.

Troisièmement, l’UE et ses Etats membres devraient proposer leur soutien aux initiatives de réformes électorales. De nombreux diplomates européens à Bruxelles et au Sahel craignent, à juste titre, que les autorités ne s’appuient sur des promesses de réformes majeures, voire d’amendements constitutionnels, pour retarder la transition vers un régime constitutionnel. Un large consensus prévaut néanmoins sur la nécessité de certaines réformes et l’UE devrait indiquer clairement qu’elle est prête à aider à élaborer les restructurations nécessaires pour avancer vers des élections.

Parmi les réformes en cours de discussion, l’une des plus importantes est la création d’un organisme électoral indépendant, que l’UE et les Etats membres devraient soutenir. Un tel organe pourrait reprendre le rôle du ministère de l’Administration territoriale dans l’organisation des élections, tout en limitant la compétence d’arbitrage des litiges électoraux de la cour constitutionnelle. Ces deux mesures permettraient de renforcer la confiance du public dans l’intégrité des élections, de nombreux Maliens accusant l’administration territoriale et la cour d’avoir manipulé les résultats des élections législatives de 2020 en faveur du parti au pouvoir. La création d’une autorité électorale indépendante semble bénéficier d’un soutien national solide – elle a été identifiée comme une priorité dans des forums tels que le dialogue national inclusif de 2019, les journées de concertation nationale de 2020 et les assises nationales de la refondation de décembre 2021. Mais sa mise en place tangible serait une entreprise d’envergure, nécessitant des modifications législatives complexes et des ressources supplémentaires. L’UE devrait indiquer clairement qu’elle souhaite y contribuer par un soutien technique et financier.

 

 

 

Arab Reform Initiate, 23 Juin 2022

Tunis, 23 juin 2022 – L’Arab Reform Initiative (ARI) publie aujourd’hui deux rapports intitulés : « Participation politique des jeunes en Tunisie : Explorer l’impact des quotas jeunes à travers le prisme des conseillers municipaux » et « Compréhensions politiques des jeunes dans la Tunisie post-2011 : La parole donnée aux générations Y et Z ».

Ces rapports sont le fruit du projet mené par l’ARI de janvier 2021 à juin 2022 en partenariat avec les associations tunisiennes We Start et Houmetna visant à consolider la participation politique des jeunes dans les gouvernorats de Kairouan, Kasserine et Béja. Ce travail s’inscrit dans un contexte où la confiance des jeunes en le système politique est faible : 8,8% dans les milieux ruraux, 31,1% dans les milieux urbains selon le rapport sur la jeunesse de la Banque Mondiale en 2014. Cette absence de confiance se traduit par une faible représentation des jeunes dans les sphères politiques : la moyenne d’âge du parlement 2019-2024 étant de 51,8 ans (d’après les données de Marsad ). Les deux phénomènes s’alimentent et se renforcent mutuellement, laissant un espace de plus en plus exigu pour les jeunes en politique.

« Ces rapports cherchent à comprendre pourquoi les jeunes Tunisien∙nes notamment issu∙es de régions longtemps marginalisées ne se sont pas retrouvé∙es dans l’espace politique qui s’est ouvert après la révolution de 2011 » déclare Zied Boussen, chercheur associé à ARI. « Cette question est d’autant plus urgente aujourd’hui vu la grande turbulence que connait la transition démocratique en Tunisie. »


Quel impact pour les quotas de jeunes dans les élections municipales ?


Le rapport « Participation politique des jeunes en Tunisie : Explorer l’impact des quotas jeunes à travers le prisme des conseillers municipaux » est le premier travail de recherche qualitatif à explorer en profondeur la participation des élu∙es municipaux∙les agé∙es de moins de trente-cinq ans à la vie politique locale. De l’acte de candidature à l’avenir politique de ces élu∙es locaux∙les, en passant par la campagne électorale de 2018, ce travail de recherche explore les différentes étapes de la participation des jeunes aux municipales où ils ont obtenu 37% des sièges.

L’étude interroge aussi les élu∙es sur leurs parcours et leurs entourages pour mieux comprendre ce qui les distingue des jeunes non-engagé∙es en politique. Dix entretiens individuels ont été menés avec des jeunes conseiller∙ères municipaux∙les élu∙es lors des élections municipales de 2018 grâce aux quotas obligatoires de jeunes imposés par l’article 49 de la loi électorale de 2014 aux listes candidates.

Le rapport montre que les jeunes ayant fait leur entrée en politique grâce aux quotas jeunes imposés lors des élections municipales sont non seulement parmi les plus diplômés, mais bénéficient en outre d’une socialisation primaire (famille) ou secondaire (syndicalisme étudiant, société civile) qui a facilité leur entrée en politique en les familiarisant à la sphère publique.

Aucun de ces élu∙es n’a été à l’initiative de sa candidature, ils et elles ont été coopté∙es par des listes menées par des personnes plus âgées (anciens professeurs, membres de la famille engagé∙es dans des partis). Le travail de ces jeunes élu∙es au sein des conseils municipaux est souvent rendu difficile par la perception que les autres élu∙es ont de leur âge (synonyme d’inexpérience) et pour les femmes, de leur genre. Toutefois, en croisant l’âge et le genre, la recherche démontre que la jeunesse ne constitue pas une identité suffisamment forte pour créer des alliances basées sur l’âge au sein d’un même conseil municipal.

« Les quotas obligatoires sont bien efficaces pour faire entrer des jeunes dans les sphères de la politique représentative. Toutefois, ils ne peuvent rien pour diversifier la provenance des élu∙es locaux∙les en amont, cela nécessite un travail de socialisation démocratique plus approfondi dans les programmes scolaires pour donner de meilleures chances à toutes et tous » déclare Malek Lakhal, chercheuse associée à ARI, « Les quotas sont par ailleurs insuffisants s’ils ne sont pas soutenus par des mesures d’accompagnement des jeunes élu∙es pour les aider à se familiariser avec le travail municipal et les textes de loi le régissant, puisque face à eux, se trouvent souvent des personnes qui ont déjà occupé ces postes du temps de Ben Ali. »


Générations Y et Z : Y a-t-il une difference entre les jeunes qui ont fait la revolution et ceux qui ont grandi durant la transition democratique?


Le rapport « Compréhensions politiques des jeunes dans la Tunisie post-2011 : La parole donnée aux générations Y et Z » est quant à lui, l’un des premiers travaux de recherche sur la jeunesse en Tunisie à explorer l’hypothèse d’une différence entre jeunes appartenant à la génération Y (aujourd’hui âgés entre 26 et 35 ans), qui ont vécu et participer à la Révolution de 2011 et génération Z (aujourd'hui âgés entre 18 et 25 ans), qui ont grandi durant la transition démocratique.

Pour tester cette hypothèse, douze focus groups ont été organisés dans six localités : Kairouan, Hajeb Laayoune et Chebika dans le gouvernorat de Kairouan, Kasserine et Foussana dans le gouvernorat de Kasserine, ainsi que Medjez el Bab, dans le gouvernorat de Beja. Dans chaque localité, deux focus groups ont été organisés : l’un avec des jeunes de la génération Z et l’autre avec des jeunes de la génération Y.

L’étude montre que les différences de perception politique sont assez importantes lorsqu’il est question de l’Ancien Régime : la génération Z, qui n’a pas connu le régime de Ben Ali a une perception plus positive de ce dernier que la génération Y dont la plupart des membres ont connu la dictature. Toutefois, ces deux générations s’accordent dans une évaluation globalement négative de la transition, tout en reconnaissant le bienfait d’une vie politique démocratique. Le rapport met en lumière les demandes de moralisation de la sphère publique émanant des jeunes issu∙es des deux générations, dans un contexte où la vie politique est secouée de scandales et polémiques quotidiennes tandis que les questions économiques et sociales sont laissées à la marge. L’accès aux services de santé, aux transports, à une bonne éducation sont autant de demandes qui transcendent l’appartenance générationnelle. De fait, bien plus que la génération, c’est l’environnement socio-politique des jeunes qui forge leur compréhension de la politique et détermine leurs appartenances. La « jeunesse » ne constitue donc pas un groupe homogène ou politiquement cohérent : générations, appartenances territoriales, appartenances de classe, et valeurs sont autant de segmentations nécessaires pour comprendre la manière de se penser des jeunes tunisien∙nes onze ans après la révolution.

 

Recommandations


Les deux études recommandent aux autorités tunisiennes de maintenir et renforcer les mécanismes d’inclusion des jeunes à la politique représentative. En amont, une révision des programmes scolaires, notamment en éducation , doit inscrire plus durablement la démocratie comme pierre angulaire de la vie politique en Tunisie. En aval, les autorités tunisiennes doivent mettre en place des mécanismes d’assistance aux jeunes élu∙es locaux, les familiarisant avec leurs fonctions. ARI recommande par ailleurs le renforcement des quotas jeunes sur les listes électorales, en le rendant obligatoire pour les élections législatives et en levant l’interdiction de se présenter aux élections présidentielles qui pèse sur les personnes âgées de moins de trente-cinq ans.

Ces réformes enverraient un message positif vers les jeunes en supprimant le principe paternaliste ayant eu cours jusqu’à aujourd’hui : plus l’élection est importante, moins les jeunes sont les bienvenus.

Ces travaux de recherches ont aussi permis dans un second temps à ARI d’accompagner de jeunes participant∙es aux focus groups à Kairouan et à Foussana, pour les aider à mettre en avant un des problèmes de politique publique auxquels ils et elles sont confronté∙es en tant que jeunes, et à y donner une réponse concrète. Cela s’est matérialisé à Foussana par l’organisation en mars 2022 des journées théâtrales de Foussana, et, à Kairouan par l’organisation d’une campagne de plaidoyer renforcée par une étude qualitative menée par les jeunes eux-mêmes sur l’état du transport dans le gouvernorat de Kairouan.

Cet accompagnement a montré que la participation des jeunes dès les premières étapes d’un projet, notamment à travers une familiarisation avec les méthodes de recherche utilisées, permet de mieux cibler les problèmes rencontrés par les jeunes. Dans un premier temps, des ateliers de travail ont été organisés pour mieux cerner les besoins des jeunes et trouver des pistes de réponses à apporter, puis, les jeunes ont eux-mêmes exécuté ces projets avec l’assistance des associations Houmetna et We Start, ce qui a permis de les familiariser davantage à l’exécution de projets et de plaidoyer de politiques publiques.

 

Les opinions représentées dans cet article sont celles des auteurs et ne reflètent pas nécessairement les vues de l’Arab Reform Initiative, de son personnel ou de son conseil d'administration.

 

 

 

 

Banners