Thursday, September 29, 2016

A Bomb in Budapest: “New” Europe and Terrorism

On 24th September, Saturday, explosion ripped through the centre of Budapest and seriously injured two policemen. The blast occurred a week before the country goes to the polls to vote in the controversial migrant quota referendum. The social media chatter immediately connected the bombing with the referendum as some attempted to blame the government for staging the attack so that it could be seen as a victim of ISIS terrorism, just like France and Germany. This, if the perpetrator was to be a Muslim refugee/immigrant, was to allegedly underscore the case for voting “no” in the upcoming referendum and thus deliver a political success for prime minister Orban.

However, this was not the only conspiracy theory on the origins of the Budapest blast peddled by the social media. Orban’s followers also had a field day. They accused the “left” or the “liberals” of staging the attack so they could later claim that the government had really been responsible for the bombing. This interpretation of the event would “allegedly” be looked upon favourably by the international media which remain extremely suspicious of the Hungarian government.

Either way, many claimed this was a cover-up which was meticulously planned and timed. [footnote: The proponents of both conspiracies received a blow when on 26 September prime minister Orban indicated that there was no link between the attack and the migration crisis].

Thankfully, the Hungarian media and especially its police would not involve themselves in such deliberations. The police is still searching for the perpetrator and steers away, so far, from politicizing the issue. Its chief indicated that terrorist motive is one of the lines of inquiry his force is pursuing in relation to the blast.

One could say that this is an unprecedented event in recent Hungarian or Central European (CE), Central-Eastern European (CEE) history as terrorism seemed to have hardly made an impact on this part of Europe. There simply were no high profile attacks, elaborate plots or spectacular arrests of terrorist operatives for terrorism researchers to study and for the general public to even notice the phenomenon.

The Budapest blast, however, is not the first act of terrorism in CE(E). While studying it and considering its implications or timing, let’s remind ourselves of two major facts related to this phenomenon’s history and development in the region:

1. This is not the first act of terrorism in Central Europe, Central-Eastern Europe, or post-communist “new EU.” Remember Burgas bombing in Bulgaria from 2012 where 7 people were killed. And this is just the tip of the iceberg (see here for an outline of terrorist activity in the region). Yes, most of it was not violent in nature as terrorists gathered intelligence or worked towards providing material support to their parent organisations or groups.

2. Despite the data (always contentious) provided by “new” EU Member States to Europol (see e.g. here for a snapshot of terrorism attacks, arrests and convictions in all Member States), this part of Europe is not “terrorism free.” Of course, it suffers from far, far less terrorism than Western Europe or the “old’ EU but it had its share of:

a)     hoaxes, bomb scares, more or less credible news of elaborate plots being prepared – Warsaw 2005, Prague 2006.
b)     Attempted or successful Lone wolf attacks – shooting in Estonia’s ministry of defence in 2011; an attempt to target Slovenian Prime Minister by a citizen of Croatia in 2009; bombing of McDonald’s in Kosice, Slovakia in 2011.
c)     Far-right terrorism akin to Germany’s National Socialist Underground (Hungary 2008-09) – targeting Roma, just like their German counterparts, the terrorists had links with the local security services.
d)     Hostage dramas as the inhabitants of the region found themselves kidnapped by terrorist organisations or in regions with high level of terrorist activity (Poland 2008, Czech Republic 2013, Estonia 2012,  Hungary 2012).
e)     Prolonged courtroom sagas (Poland 2012, Lithuania 2009-2010) related to attempted terrorist attacks.
f)      Re-emergence of the foreign fighter phenomenon (remember, Poles have been involved in going to foreign wars from at least late 18th century, the country’s national anthem is a song of foreign fighters), this time in relation to Islamist militancy abroad (and also the conflict in Ukraine). Although the statistics from “new” EU Member States (e.g. Poland: 20-40, Slovakia: 8) show, just like the Europol data, that the region’s experience with this phenomenon bears little resemblance to the French or Belgian ordeal, it nonetheless appears to be gaining recognition and traction. One Polish jihadi returnee from Syria will go on trial later this year or early new year. It is now certain that he met other likeminded Islamists in Poland, most probably at a mosque in Warsaw, and together they travelled to Syria.
g)     ISIS or ISIS sympathisers activity: 2015 saw arrests of what was dubbed a “logistics cell” performing fundraising activities for “brothers in Syria” in Poland.
h)     Bombings – yes, a surprise but there were also others bombings in the “new” EU, and not just the recent blast in Budapest or the aforementioned 2011 Kosice bombing of a McDonald’s restaurant. There was a spate of (e.g. more than 80 in 1995 in Estonia alone) bombings in the region in the aftermath of 1989 as different criminal syndicates fought never-ending turf wars.

The Budapest bombing (termed #Budapestexplosion in social media), if terrorist in nature, is a new for the “new” Europe but it comes on top of other terrorism developments. Consequently, we should not be surprised that a growing number of individuals or groups will utilize this method of warfare for accomplishing political goals. In the last couple of years, quite a few already tried to stage their own “Budapest explosions” before someone actually succeeded in doing that. Unfortunately, more will follow.

Kacper Rekawek

Head of Defence and Security Programme, GLOBSEC Policy Institute

Monday, September 19, 2016

Western Balkans in times of the EU existential turmoil

How to make sense of the EU enlargement cause amidst great uncertainty over the future course of the European Union after Brexit? Can the Western Balkans avoid the disintegration and conflict exacerbated by fraying Transatlantic and European bonds? These and other questions were addressed by over 30 political analysts and experts from around the EU and South-eastern Europe over a workshop organized by the Belgrade-based European Fund for the Balkans in September 16-18, 2016 in Opatija, Croatia.

When the Brainstorming with the Balkan Advisory Group (BIEPAG) met in early 2016, we discussed gradual eroding of the EU perspective for the region (‘loss of the paradigm’). EU Enlargement was seen as still dominant political discourse on the surface while in fact it was becoming only a formal reference (or mantra) providing ‘external legitimacy’ but without much policy substance in the respected Balkan accession or pre-accession countries.

A lot has happened in the past few months: the UK vote to leave the EU, presidential candidacy of Donald Trump, the increased popularity of the anti-establishment, anti-immigrant and far right parties across the EU, frequent ISIS-inspired terrorist acts in Western Europe, or consolidation of authoritarian regime in Turkey come to mind. As Florian Bieber, Director of the Centre for Southeast European Studies at the University in Graz pointed out, the resulting effect is more inward looking EU, and lower attractiveness of the enlargement and liberal democracy. ‘Not that the geopolitical challenges are strong but the European offer is so weak’. Furthermore, the potential electoral success of far-right parties in upcoming elections in Austria, Netherlands and France will have clear negative repercussions: they oppose the EU project and reject enlargement. This symbiotic relationship between authoritarian strongman outside the EU and eurosceptics within it is likely to strengthen in the near future.

However, as the source and engine of crisis lies primarily in the EU itself, reform processes in the WB6 countries – all at different stages of European integration - have to be driven more from within. This is not likely to happen: EU conditionality and leverage through the enlargement process, plus the US diplomatic muscle and NATO’ as security provider have been the pillars of progress and stability in this post-conflict region over the past two decades.  As all of these outside actors are now less able or willing to play a decisive role, Balkan strongmen are more on their own – and willing to drag their feet, as it in the continued, deep internal crisis in Macedonia.

Yet, as other participants pointed out, people working on the Balkans in the EU institutions – or in NATO, for that matter - sound much more up-beat and optimistic in their assessments. In July, few weeks after Brexit, Serbia has opened two key chapters in the EU membership talks, Montenegro is slightly ahead (as it is becoming full member of NATO), and Albania on the right path to start membership talks next year, if it implements the justice reform. Some minor achievements came also from ethnically divided laggards – Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo. Even amidst the current EU turmoil, there still are huge majorities in support of joining the Union in all six Western Balkan countries. So the enlargement train is moving on, Brexit will not stop it. In a long-term run, the EU Commission officials are convinced that ‘enlargement process by stealth’ will work, although it might take more time – perhaps 15 years rather than eight as in the case of Croatia. But will there still be a Union to join in 2030? Or are these officials like captains at the enlargement Titanic which is slowly sinking?    

This moment of EU’s existential crisis is perhaps a very good moment to start thinking outside of the box about the future of this non-integrated, fragmented south-eastern European enclave of some 20 million people living in six small states: what might be an alternative strategy to the EU enlargement? How can we re-think our approach if a more differentiated, multispeed Europe takes concrete shape in the near future? How can we incentivise more reforms and economic modernisation even without the pre-accession IPA funds? How can we incentivise more regional cooperation and further progress towards good neighbourly relations even when mutual hostilities from recent conflicts are still alive? Stay tuned for analysis of these and other questions, which were put forward for the EFB's Balkan Advisory Group to work on for the next period.

Milan Nič
Head of Future of Europe Programme
GLOBSEC Policy Institute

Friday, September 16, 2016

What does the Bratislava Summit have to say about Russia?

Nothing and a lot.
There will be no grand joint statement on relations with Russia when 27 leaders convene in Bratislava on Friday.
And that’s not only because it’s an “informal” summit. The Summit is expected to focus on areas that the 28-1 leaders can agree on. Relations with Russia is not one of them.
The imposing of sanctions has been the rare measure in which EU member states could agree on a common position leading to clear policies. As the Minsk agreements have not yet been implemented, there is no push for an immediate reversal of sanctions ahead of the next revision scheduled for January 2017. But attitudes vary greatly across member states.
Greece, Ireland, Cyprus, and others with close economic ties to Russia were only just convinced to support sanctions in the first place. Given the smaller than expected effects of sanctions on Russia and the negative repercussion on the economies of many member states, countries have not grown any more fond of the policy.
The UK, the traditional hardliner on Russia in the EU, will not be part of Friday’s talks and will naturally play a smaller role in EU foreign policy. Moreover, Russia has welcomed Boris Johnson as a foreign minister who may be able to normalize relations between the countries.
With a range of other pressing issues on the agenda, there is little reason for the EU to rush into another murky internal disagreement and attempt to revise its policy on Russia.
Nevertheless, the ghost of Russia will be looming over the discussions. That is not because Russia holds parliamentary elections two days after the summit. Due to the carefully crafted system and internal skirmishes of the opposition, the elections won’t change the make-up of the Duma.
But Russia’s alleged influence on fundamental developments in Europe – from populism to the rise of the far right to the migration crisis – is so significant that Russia will earn at least a (dis)honorable mention in each of the topics on the agenda.
First, the EU leaders are looking for ways to reinstate trust in the European project. This implies addressing populism, nationalism, growing suspicions towards elites, and the rise of far-right and fringe parties.
It is hard to avoid discussing the purported Russian footprint on these issues. The questionable portrayal of events by Kremlin-backed media and Russian financial support of far-right and fringe parties aggravate the situation in Europe make the task of resurrecting trust in democracy ever more daunting.
The growing discontent with globalization and the associated fear of economic and social instability makes the European public question the viability of the liberal democratic model the EU advocates. With the help of media, Russia has come across as a potential alternative to the part of the European public that feels neglected and marginalized.
On the other hand, as EU leaders seek to boost economic growth, it might be worth thinking through potential new modes of relations with Russia. The idea of a “trade zone from Lisbon to Vladivostok” already started to be floated around again in the summer. The Commission seems to be more open than ever to talking directly to its Eurasian Economic Union counterpart. Although the possibility of a continental trade partnership rests in the distant future, an innovative upgrade of a partnership and cooperation agreement and liberalization of the visa regime with Russia might bring economic benefits for both sides in the near future.
Of course, all these scenarios are conditioned on the implementation of the Minsk agreements and a better compliance with international rules by Russia. The ceasefire in Syria announced by the US and Russia on September 10, if implemented, might be – or might not be – a sign of Kremlin’s willingness to demonstrate the latter.
Third, the EU should factor in Russia while deliberating on internal security. Organized crime stemming from or with links to post-Soviet countries is a concern in the EU. Linking it to the Russian government might be too big of a stretch and hard to prove. But the EU must increase cooperation with Russian authorities to combat crime networks.
Moreover, a family of “Bears”, cozy and fancy, – hackers allegedly connected to Kremlin – are a growing headache to cybersecurity officials in the EU. Hacking of governance systems and critical infrastructure is a threat that can no longer be downplayed.
Fourth, the situation in Eastern Ukraine is extremely fragile. With dozens dying monthly, all sides accusing each other of “subversion” or even “terrorism” and Russia amassing its troops next to the Ukrainian border, there is a risk that the flows of those fleeing conflict will intensify.

“Principled pragmatism” is in fashion today. The EU made its principled statement on Russia in July and will not deliver another one on Friday. Now crucial pragmatic steps, even if less visible, might serve the EU better. These steps would include improved cooperation between intelligence services and police across Europe to address organized crime and other security threats; boosting cyber-defense capabilities and improving integration of EU cyberspace; monitoring Russian moves regarding Ukraine, while also pushing Ukraine to speed up reforms and deliver on its part of the Minsk agreements; and consideration of new modes of economic and trade partnerships.

Alena Kudzko
Deputy Director of Globsec Policy Institute

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

European Security Without the UK? No, thanks.

On 16 September 2016 Bratislava will host a rare and headline grabbing event – an “informal”  EU Summit with all but one EU leader present. As a seemingly logical consequence of the Brexit vote, the UK prime minister will not attend a meeting devoted to the future of the EU after the recent British vote.  This is, however, more than unfortunate as security features prominently amongst topics to be discussed in Bratislava, and the UK, a traditional net security contributor to both the EU and NATO, will be very much missed there. Thus the Summit marks a test for the whole EU as it enters an age of uncertainty in security coordination and provision without the powerful British input. The key question of “where do we go from here” looms large over the Bratislava Summit.
Before the EU respond to this question it must drop talk of grandiose projects, such as the recently touted “European army.” This is a distraction from the urgent need to focus on development of a more viable EU counterterrorism measures, ideas on how to successfully share intelligence on strategic threats to the EU Member States, and how to increase Europe’s capabilities in strategic communication. The British can be of immense value in the discussions on all of these points and it makes a lot of sense to bring them back into the fold, even in an informal capacity. Thus the “army” must wait but the UK cannot be shunned. Nowadays, one must day that shunning London seems now like a popular sport in the EU. Some interpret the upcoming Brexit as a chance to actually create valid and viable European defence capabilities and structures WITHOUT the troublesome UK. This narrative stresses the fact that NATO focused London always blocked European integration in this respect. Nonetheless, it also obscures UK’s role in bringing to life the project of European defence in the late 1990s, its formidable by European standards, albeit diminishing, power projection capacity, and its second to none contribution to countering terrorism at both local, regional and global levels. As a result of all this, the EU must be honest with itself and accept that the team’s star player is about to leave, to use a football analogy, the club. Let’s make sure there is no real divorce, and that he does not join another (security) club.
Seen in this light, the Bratislava Summit is not a chance to go forward without the troublesome British, as some see it, but rather an entry into uncharted waters. How uncharted they really are can be gleaned from the words and actions of different EU leaders who are now clearly working on creating a political momentum and a narrative for a more security oriented Union. Given the scale of security issues plaguing the EU and its neighbourhood (wars in Syria and Ukraine, recent coup in Turkey, migrant crisis), this is a worthy cause. The only problem is that one cannot be sure to what extent the thinking of all EU leaders on this topic converges. Of course, there is communication between EU’s traditional tandem of Germany and France with chancellor Merkel calling for more action “to ensure our security,” and wishing for an increased cooperation in the fields of defence and intelligence sharing, and president Hollande touring Europe with similar ideas in mind. This communication or indeed coordination was then extended onto the Italian prime minister Renzi who hosted the mini-summit with Germany and France devoted to the future of the EU in the aftermath of Brexit. Its closing part was a carefully staged press conference on the deck of an Italian aircraft carrier, a novelty meant to stress the securitization the EU discourse. As if on cue, some Central European leaders also entered the security debate and vaguely called for an establishment of a “European army,” a subject floated by Jean Claude Juncker, the EU Commission President, but deemed rather unworkable in the current day EU. It would be astonishing to suddenly witness the EU still getting over the shock of the Brexit vote to embrace a “more Europe” solution in the field of defence.

Bratislava Summit will bring closure to this choreography of statements, meetings and press conferences dedicated to defence. It remains to be seen how the Central European seemingly maximalist vision of new and unified armed forces will fare amongst other EU leaders. Expect it to find relatively few takers but at the same time stay tuned for some, but not that many , specifics in how our security can be ensured via a closer and reignited European cooperation. Look for statements on referring to “Europe’s collective security” and initiatives focusing on e.g. defence industry cooperation, counterterrorism, cyber security or strategic communication. Do not, however, anticipate a truly revolutionary summit ,and frankly this should not worry anyone as it would be unwise to decide anything major and transformative on security in Europe  without the presence of the UK. Let’s hope participants of the Bratislava Summit have this in mind during their deliberations.

Kacper Rekawek, PhD
Head of Defence and Security Programme, GLOBSEC Policy Institute

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The EU and Its Discontents

 Jakub Wiśniewski

The topic of my little posting today will be quite banal. It is Europe. Are you familiar with limericks of Edward Lear? Here is one:

There was an Old Man who said, 'How

Shall I flee from that horrible cow?

I will sit on this stile,

And continue to smile,

Which may soften the heart of that cow.

I want to say through this poem that we –be us eurocrats, eurofederalists or simply good Europeans – cannot wish away the crisis of the European integration.
I want to put on a mask of a cynic today. There will be more questions than answers in this little blog but isn’t it in the good tradition of Socrates to put everything into doubt? Hope nobody will serve ma a cup of hemlock during lunch.
Imagine a chariot making its way through wilderness. Sparks fly from the iron wheels at every turn. The chariot is drawn by two horses. One is black as coal, the other is white as snow. Foam is at their mouths. The rider tries to keep control but the horses are too wild.
The chariot is us – Europe. The charioteer represents rational Europeans - be them OECD ambassadors or analysts.
One horse is the lustful appetite of national instincts and the other - noble passion of EU idealism.
Is the chariot heading for a crash? Will it tumble from the cliff?
We will need a little help from Sigmund Freud. He has a story to tell about human nature. His words are not happy or cheerful, which rhymes well with the current EU mood.
Freud once said “When you think of me, think of Rembrandt – a little light and a great deal of darkness”.
So what if we look at the EU through his lenses? Would he perceive the EU as the collective expression of individual aggression? Would he find it hopelessly ineffective, embattled and besieged?
Let the patient lie down on the couch and let the psychoanalytic session begin.
Freud developed a concept of tripartite self – ego, id and superego. We are divided within ourselves between conflicting sets of motivations and drives, expectations and aspirations. Europe, just like Freud’s patients, is suffering from a common malady that we have termed “the alienated split self.”
Let me go, one by one, through the three parts of European personality.
Policy-makers with their choices and dilemmas constitute the European ego. This part of our personality is realistic, perfectly aware of the following inconvenient truths:
  • [Fact no. 1] As Belgians, Swedes or Slovaks in the wider world, united we stand, divided we fall. European countries are too small a fry to be players at global level.
  • [Fact no. 2] Demography is inexorable and Europe needs immigration. One point four child per family will not keep us around, as civilization, for long. Anyways Fortress Europe as a concept of immigration policy will never work.
  • [Fact no. 3] If we let our neighborhood quietly fester it will come back to export to the EU instability, crime and asylum-seekers.
  • [Fact no. 4] EU institutions are partly dysfunctional because this is how they were deliberately designed – to be helpless in the face of governments.
The ego is also the weakest part of identity of our countries. It tries to negotiate and conciliate among the external world, id, and superego, but ultimately it is dominated by the id and superego.
The European id is the bundle of instincts aimed at getting pleasure and avoiding pain. It lives for its own sake. This is the spoiled brat in our self – it is selfish and pleasure-seeking, nationalistic and pandering to primitive moods, antisocial but populist.
What gives pleasure to the id? Let me come up with some examples:
  • Greece bashing (remember certain head of international organization, not the OECD, who – when asked about compassion with Greece – said: I think more of the little kids in a little village in Niger. As far Athens are concerned I think of all the people who are trying to escape tax all the time).
  • Germany bashing (This is not European Germany they want but German Europe)
  • Poland bashing (‘Ex-communist' is synonymous with ‘poor', ‘nasty' and ‘ignorant'). Poles and other Central Europeans frequently lose an opportunity to shut up when the policies in Europe are decided.
And finally:
  • Europe bashing (I want my money back! Europe is making us accept immigrants who transmit diseases).
The beastly id will sometimes apply lipstick to its big mouth so that it looks nicer. Beggar-thy-neighbor policies thus acquire some nicer nicknames such as “the intergovernmental method”. But the ultimate worldview of the id is homo homini lupus (“man is a wolf to man”).
The id inevitably dominates the other parts. It knows no moral value judgments. It is always bubbling there in the innermost EU procedures, institutions, forums. The id is impulsive and domineering.
The ego says to the id, begs it to consider some logical choice - you may have, id, this or this or that. And the id will reply: I want this, and this and that, and I want it now and I want all of it!!!
What does the id tell us to do?
  • To block the External Action Service from any meaningful activity, while paying lip service to its merits.
  • To turn a blind eye when a Member State blocks access of some Member States nationals to its labour market, as long as these are not my compatriots.
  • To negotiate mala fide the EU membership, finding excuses to block the process. (This is a dangerous tactics, mark you: il faut une bonne mémoire après qu’on a menti, as Pierre Corneille once said).
The European superego is a stern parent of our self, the ultimate Eurocrat – making impossible demands developed by socialization. The superego represents conscience and imposes standards of moral perfection that are impossible to attain. It is the id’s main adversary. Its main weapon is guilt (instilled by Fathers of Europe as the main shapers of the superego). The pleasure and reality principles are replaced with the morality principle.
What does the superego want?
  • The EU should speak with one voice.
  • Europe needs to stand by its values.
  • The EU must never go back from the path to ever closer union.
It will make us adopt roadmaps for visa liberalization, it will make us coin nice sound-bites such as “more for more”. The European Commission will write hundreds of communications. We will organize thousands of seminars, conferences on European integration.
This is the scary portrait of our European personality. In this mirror of the EU realpolitik Dorian Grey would look lovely in comparison. As a result the EU mixes idealism with selfishness.
Here the newspeak is useful: we will come up with mobility partnerships that are meant to block mobility, or visa liberalization roadmaps that are aimed to put everything in limbo. Terms like “Coreper” or “Antici” will ensure nobody will understand what we are after anyway. 
What can we do? Let us go back to Sigmund Freud. He describes three ways in which humans cope with suffering:
  • Isolation. One might look for relief in solitude. In this way a country might exit the EU - seek reclusion in the vain hope that EU troubles will not come to bother them.
  • Sublimation. This is the expression of a powerful aggressive impulse in socially acceptable fashion, such as through sports or work. We can let it all hang out in the ball field; through sport of EU negotiations  – be it another treaty change or the Multiannual Financial Framework negotiations or another ordinary European Council summit. We can quarrel for hours, over draft conclusions of the European Council, whether Ukraine or Moldova, in principle, have European vocation or not. All this to little concrete result.
  • Intoxication. This is the crudest kind of palliative that we know. Euro championship finals, Eurovison contests, like alcohol, constitute drowners of cares.
We can also intoxicate ourselves with some useful myths. Here are examples:
    • [Myth no. 1] The EU is undemocratic – once we introduce direct elections for all the EU institutions, our problems will disappear.
    • [Myth no. 2] The EU is an economic giant at global scale. It only needs to flex its muscles more and everyone will stand in awe of our strength. The truth is that the EU more and more resembles the Cheshire cat, who is long gone while its self-confident smile remains.
    • [Myth no. 3] The Cold War having ended, Europe is safe from war, conflict.
    • [Myth no. 4] Every country can ask of the EU all these nice things like structural money or free flow of capital. And there will no strings attached, no price tags, no duties to fulfill.
All three remedies - isolation, sublimation, and intoxication offer temporary respite, at best. Is there a permanent cure for such alienation? What shall we do?
Freud says: we can confront the problem of alienation constructively by raising our consciousness. The remedy is analysis.
(By the way Freud was convinced that analysis is open only to a few. He would say the masses will probably continue on their destructive paths and, perhaps, destroy us all).
We must strive to reinforce our ego so that we will not cave in and surrender to a runaway id or be smothered by the guilt of a suppressive superego. In that struggle, strengthening of the ego is our last best hope in a world fraught with aggression. We need to realize the integration is not about some lofty idea of brotherhood. Nor is it some form of Jurassic Park. It is simply the best way to make Member States thrive. Once we realize this we will start to pose the right questions:
  • Is there an alternative to the Single Market of the EU?
  • Whom should Europe choose as interlocutor in the Middle East – intolerant islamists or dictatorial secularists?
  • Which Russia is more dangerous to itself and to the world – the one that is flush with money from dear oil and eager for military interventions or the one poised for systemic change, whose oil money is not there?
  • Do we welcome Chinese economic activity and financial presence in Europe or are we scared of it?
Civilization and Its Discontents, by Freud, published in 1929, is a magnificent but also terrifying book. It is a reflection of Freud’s horror at the senseless slaughter of World War I and the Bolshevik Revolution, his own financial difficulties, and his personal fight with cancer. Freud died in 1939. With his perspicacity, he easily would have foreseen the WWII. Not only he would have foreseen it, but he would have understood it. He would not have been surprised.
What does pre-war Europe have to do with Europe of today? As a father of a two year old I listen a lot to French nursery rhymes. There is one that goes like this Ci cette historie vous amuse, nous allons la recommencer; si au contraire, elle vous ennuie, nous allons la répéter. 2015 is not 1939 but, Sigmund Freud would point out, human nature has not changed. All the hell might break lose.

Let the charioteer take full control of the horses before it’s too late. 


Friday, September 2, 2016


This is how the blog starts – quietly, without fanfare or grandiose statements. The analysts from the Globsec Policy Institute will share with you their observations and research. 

Let me tell you something about the title, to begin with. The Globsec organisation is situated just a couple of hundred meters from the Michalska Veža, part of the impressive Michalska Brana built around the year 1300. The Michael's Gate is the only city gate in Bratislava that has been preserved of the medieval fortifications and ranks among the oldest town buildings. If you let your imagination run wild, you can almost see the drawdbridge over the moat and hear the wooden carts rolling on the cobblestones of this medieval city. The past is always with us when we deal with the presence and future – of Slovakia, Central Europe, the whole Old Continent and the world. 

Our blog title is also an allusion to Bob Dylan’s famous song from 1967. “There must be some way out of here, said the joker to the thief. There is too much confusion, I can’t get no relief. Businessmen they drink my wine, plowmen dig my earth. None of them along the line know of any of it is worth”. It happens we deal with confusion professionally, by trying to understand the world of international relations. And we are desperate to learn the truth about surrounding reality and we contribute a little to make the international environment more safe and more stable. 

Jakub Wiśniewski