Friday, January 10, 2014

Southeast Europe 2014 outlook: Starting the grand poker game, by Ioannis Michaletos

The re-engineering of the Balkan-Southeastern European and political landscape and the wider global context

Southeast Europe is a vital point within the crossroads of Eurasia, thus every major geostrategic shift and change of political balances is eventually felt through the region. 

Already a number of trends are becoming noticeable that will mature further in 2014, bringing about micro-historical changes that will in turn prepare the ground for more radical changes the years ahead.

The points further down are indicative and speculative on the changes ahead, starting from regional Balkan affairs of the short term and stretching out to hypothetical points of global importance. In any case, they are based on actual developments and the reflections different state and non-state actors take that in turn shape the decisions of their adversaries and allies.

Tactical moves & trends

Serbia-FYROM to have common Embassies-diplomatic representation

The recent announcement seems to lead both countries closer not only in terms of diplomatic collaboration but also in the fields of intelligence and high politics. It is also a defensive measure by both Belgrade and Skopje towards Albanian ambitions.

Albanian Balkan communities request unification via different political platforms

This trend is gaining in pace and is being evolved for years now. There are broadly speaking two centers of gravity. One in Tirana and one in Pristina vying for the leadership of the Albanian nation.

Romania asks for the inclusion of Republic of Moldova into its own territory

The formal recent statements of the President of Romania reflect on the wider consensus in the country and reveal a long-term political aim, which is now on the top of the agenda.

Turkey continues in strong pace the "Neo-Ottomanization" of Muslim communities in the Balkans

The process bears the sign of the incumbent Erdogan-AKP Administration along with the alliance - now broken- with the powerful Gulen movement. The policy is based on public diplomacy-soft power structures and comes along with a definite religious and historical umbrella.

Croatian and Serbian communities in Bosnia-Herzegovina closer gradually to the "Motherlands"

It’s a common secret since the mid 90's and the creation of Bosnia-Herzegovina state that Serbs and Croats are aligned to the "motherlands" than to the central government which mostly governs in a political vacuum. The trend is intensified due to all the aforementioned trends mentioned that are in essence a preparation for border changes in the Balkans.

Wider tactical moves & trends

Political destabilization-neutralization of Turkey

Turkey is steadily becoming a matrix country, with a delicate balance between seculars/islamists, Westernized/Eastern leaning ones, Turks/Minorities (Kurds predominantly), added with a vortex of severe clashes between former political allies (AKP Vs Gullen), a significant segment of the once all-powerful military-industrial complex in jail or marginalized and with an expanding young and dynamic middle class. The different variables within the Turkish society will continue to clash even more in 2014, while Premier Erdogan autocratic profile is gradually eradicating due to foreign policy failures (Syria), mistrust (With USA, Israel and EU) and emerging economic problems. Nevertheless he will survive at least until the next general elections, amidst a climate of destabilization that will neutralize the overall dynamics of the Turkish state.

"Clean out" & neutralization of business-political "state-fed elites" in Greece, Cyprus, FYROM, Kosovo, Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia, Serbia.

An ongoing process which is accelerating in Greece and will soon reach in Cyprus, as well as, to the rest of the countries on the door of EU accession process.

"Clean out" & neutralization of radical Salafi Islamists in central Middle East

The epicenter would be Syria and the Aleppo region, along with the central Iraqi terrain

"Stabilization" in the Caucasus political establishment

Armenian-Azeri relations are slowly normalizing, whilst Russian-Georgian leaderships are coming closer step by step.

"Stabilization" of Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Peace process drags on, but not peace deal on sight. Yet, business ties grow stronger and stability seems to emerge, even with Gaza strip.

Strategic moves & trends

Energy link projects at hand from Eurasia to EU through Southeast Europe

(South Stream, Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, Trans-Anatolia Pipeline, Kostanja-Pancevo proposed pipeline) + Baltic-Danube-Adriatic-Aegean Sea-Black Sea energy interconnectors. Multiple energy plans in various stages of maturation move one in 2014, further linking up the region and with it the Eurasian producers and the Western consumers.

Yugoslavia resurrection as preferable geo-economic corridor for bilateral trade between EU "hardcore" and emerging Asian markets (China, India, Indochina, Indonesia, Asia-Pacific)

Although Yugoslavia remains a "nostalgia" for some of the nationals in the break-up countries, the mid to long-term great increase on trade between Asia and Europe, relies on broad geo-economic if not geopolitical spaces between the sea entrance points and the densely populate consumer concentrations in the European hinterland. Thus Yugoslavia, albeit in a different fashion, comes at hand and is handy.

Wider-peripheral strategic moves & trends relating to Balkans

Establishment of Eurasian Union with likely de facto inclusion of Ukraine

Establishment of EU political-economic-banking and financial union, "Deepening process"

Establishment of Shia axis in a more formal manner (From Southern Afghanistan to Beirut and from Turkmenistan to Yemen)

Remaining "tinderboxes": Libya-Egypt-and the Horn of Africa

Wild card: Saudi Arabia-Gulf states

Joker: USA

Long-term move & trend likely to be glimpsed initially in 2014

Royal flush: Geo (Political, strategic, economic) link of Eurasia landmass plus Magreb-Mashreq in a gigantic network of trade, infrastructure, energy and industrial relations.