Category Archives: Monthly Mind

Every month on the 15th day we post an article, giving this category the name “Monthly Mind”.
We try to capture the latest global trends on the international level and look beyond the surface.
Our aim is to make highly political or scientific topics more easily accessable to people interested in them.

Macron’s influence on the European Union

By Antonina Gain, Council of the European Union Participant 2018

In the French presidential campaign of 2017, Macron’s candidacy came across as a real surprise. Formerly part of Hollande’s government, but otherwise largely unknown by the greater public, his arguments and growing popularity led him to a face-off with the second National Front candidate to ever grace the second round: Marine le Pen. The two politicians had little to nothing in common. Their policies and proposed reforms were indeed on opposites sides of the political spectrum. On the 7th of May, 2017, Macron had successfully allied other parties to his cause and became the new President of the Republic.

Throughout his campaign, Macron had always claimed the European Union was a veil of protection for the French that was not to be forgotten or brushed away. His respect for the long-established European institution is also alive with the hope to change it for the better: he has a number of reforms in the core of the EU on his mind. Being one of the only candidates to consistently defend the idea of a unified Europe, he -though not directly- led his opponents to vehemently put the idea of “Frexit” forward. Following this turn of events, some of the French that voted for Macron that did not particularly care for the EU found themselves in a position of somewhat defending it.

The arrival of a new, surprisingly young French president, and most importantly head of a party that takes great pride in offering a new way as opposed to traditional parties, will undoubtedly change the face of the European Union. Indeed, it is the first time such a person finds themself in the position of head of the French State. His role, mainly because of his political belonging, may change from what previous French presidents could have expected. France, along with Germany, has for a long time, been a leader in Europe. The two countries are even called a “couple”. With the re-election of Angela Merkel in March 2018, Macron can rely on a certain amount of support from his neighbouring governments. Indeed, upon her re-election as Chancellor, Merkel made her first diplomatic visit to France, as per usual. The two heads of state have discussed the most pressing matters (migration, eurozone, Syria, and Russia) and have agreed to bring forward a common line of work for the european elections of June 2018.

In a speech at the Sorbonne University in September 2017, Macron has presented himself as not only wanting to support the EU, but also willing to make substantial changes to its core. Some of these changes cause divergences between the French and German leaders. For instance, Macron is very attached to the idea of creating a designated intereor european budget, a stronger parliament and the post of a Minister of the Eurozone. However, Germany is not quite ready to follow. Indeed, being led by a relatively weak and ancient coalition, and animated by a spirit of “not wanting to pay for others”, Germany expresses restraint in these negotiations.

However, contestations are not confined to the couple. They actually flow over it : heads of states of Europe are more and more skeptical towards the power the couple can wield. Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands, has warned Macron and Merkel that his state would by no means blindly follow eurozone reforms simply because they are conducted by the two. On the other side of the Channel, the British also warn of the possible futures led by France and Germany. The partisans of Brexit advise the countries of Europe to be wary of the “machine” that is the couple.

Aware but not afraid of this competition, Macron steadily paves his way into the European Parliament.

For now, his aim is to make the most out of the newly found weaknesses in the EPP (European People’s Party). The mere mention of these weaknesses would have been impossible even 6 months ago, as it is the biggest coalition in Europe. However, its leaders are slowly moving from a social-democrat point of view, to a downright far-right party. Some groups in it are prone to detach from such ideologies and are as such perfect political allies for the european elections to come.

Macron has addressed most of his speeches at the meetings of EU officials to those that are part of this group : he has warned them about the rise of a form of “european civil war”.

Macron has started his European campaign in April 2018, in preparation for June. His party, for now, seems to be unable to have any kind of popularity on the European level, as its aspirations are mostly French. However, La République en Marche (LREM, Macron’s party) has support from center-right and green parties in Europe.

As we see, Macron is on his way to becoming a true European leader. “France is back”, as he says, alluding to the end of a Europe that is unsure of itself, being replaced by one that is led by strong states. But is France back, championed by Macron, in a way that the EU is ready to accept ? Is the role of France in the Franco-German couple this relevant, when Macron bombed Syria in coordination with May’s Britain and Trump’s America (when Trump himself warns EU leaders that it is high time they stopped relying on American aid) ? And, most importantly, what are the possibilities of the success of his policies in a region where populism is ever growing ?

What will become of this crucial point in European history is yet to be seen. For the sake of the EU and that of Macron’s ideology, we can only hope that the EU will emerge from these new challenges  stronger and more capable of coping with the world it is at the heart of.

 

Please note that the views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Munich European Forum e.V.

Diplomatic Solutions to the North Korean Nuclear Crisis?

By BEF 2017 NATO-Participant Brandon Roth

New South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, is at the center of a major North Korean diplomatic policy shift. Talks on the peninsula have the potential to change the political fault lines of the world’s largest nuclear powers. North Korean dictator, Kim Jon-un, contacted his long time Southern rival and the United States to discuss the North’s growing nuclear arsenal and sanctions. Recently, the UN imposed tough isolating measures that have further isolated the rogue North. World leaders are welcoming the change, however a diplomatic miss-step in world’s most volatile region could threaten international stability for years to come.

Questions remains, namely did Kim Jong-un chose a diplomatic solution due to strict UN sanctions as President Trump claims? Or is the dictator emboldened by his declaration of a nuclear weapons program capable of targeting both Europe and the US with nuclear ballistic missiles.

With the prospect of talks on the horizon, North Korea remains defiant as they recently activated a nuclear reactor with the potential to produce weapons grade Plutonium.

The Trump administration did not hesitate to accept the dictator’s unsolicited invitation. Claiming political victory, President Trump championed his policy of economic warfare against the world’s last Stalinist regime. “The president has made it clear, companies that help fund North Korea‘s nuclear ambition will not do business with the United States” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a February statement.

Many have voiced concerns current sanctions on the rogue nation may cause famine and starvation for the 25 million citizens isolated in the secretive North. After famine killed an estimated 2.4 million North Korean citizens in the 90’s, the US, South Korea, Japan and China began providing 75% of North Koreas food and energy trade. Recent estimates suggest 70% of the population continues to be undernourished.

After recent sanctions, China now provides 90% of North Koreas food and Energy trade, according to the UN Security Council.

Source: Stephan Haggard, professor of Korea-Pacific Studies at the University of California-San Diego. UNSCR refers to United Nations Security Council Resolutions.

Before the diplomatic shift by the North’s Supreme Leader Kim, President Trump claimed a victory by convincing China to back UN Resolution 1718 and 2375. This was an unprecedented move by China against its US$ 8 billion trading partner, North Korea.

The historic support of sanctions by China highlights recent strains in the China-North Korean relationship. However, China’s conflicted policy may have reached a turning point as the rebel leader tested nuclear weapons close to the Chinese boarder, sparking tensions and causing riots in the country.

Threat of conflict on the Korean Peninsula and uncertainty of the American role in the region has caused East Asian countries to quietly build-up their own capabilities. Many South Korean citizens support a homegrown nuclear weapons program and want the capability to provide their own security. Japan is working towards a larger alliance with India, Australia and is challenging the limits on its military capabilities imposed by Article 9 of its constitution.

The goal of talks with North Korea has always been the complete dismantling of its Nuclear Program. The U.S. has made it clear in the past, disarmament is required for future talks. However, in a 2017 meeting with Steve Bannon, he hinted the US “might consider a deal in which China got North Korea to freeze its nuclear buildup with verifiable inspections and the United States removed its troops from the peninsula”.

Accepting a nuclearized rogue state to the short list of nuclear powers is not an option. Even if North Korea didn’t launch a devastating nuclear strike, it has already proliferated its nuclear program beyond its borders. According to the CIA, the North Korean Regime secretly worked with Syria and Iran to exchange nuclear technology. Israel reacted to the building of a nuclear weapons plant in Syria by destroying its reactor in 2007. If Kim decided to work with terrorists, the results would be catastrophic.

 

Please note that the views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Munich European Forum e.V.

 

Sources:

Council on Foreign Relations. 2018. “The China–North Korea Relationship”. https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/03/north-korea-south-korea/555245/