The Brief, powered by EFPIA – Remembering 1918

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter.

World leaders will gather in Paris on Sunday to mark the 100th anniversary of 11 November Armistice that ended World War One.

We are possibly still experiencing the aftershocks of World War One. The war started when Austro-Hungary declared war to the Kingdom of Serbia on 28 July 1914. The Balkans have been called the powder keg of Europe. And they still are.

But looking more closely, the Balkans were only a playing ground of the big powers.

When Russia defeated Turkey in the 1877-78 war, the resulting Treaty of San Stefano was seen in Austria as much too favourable for Russia and its Orthodox Slavic goals.

The Congress of Berlin in 1878 allowed Austria to occupy the province of Bosnia and Herzegovina, a predominantly Slavic area. In 1914, Slavic militants in Bosnia rejected Austria’s plan to fully absorb the area; they assassinated the Austrian heir and precipitated World War I.

Has anything changed? Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, NATO has possibly gone too far, at least from the Russian perspective, which is why the Kremlin is trying to reassert its authority over Montenegro, Macedonia, Serbia, Republika Srpska in Bosnia and Herzegovina and possibly in Bulgaria. In other words, the Balkans.

Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker has warned that if the EU collapses, there will be war in the Balkans.

And the UN of today looks almost as weak as the League of Nations, founded in 1920, which utterly failed in the 1930s in its primary purpose: to avoid another world war.

Emmanuel Macron, who will host world leaders, recently warned of a return to the 1930s. This historic period which saw the birth of Nazism and fascism, and also Stalinism, was a direct consequence of the Versailles Treaty, signed in 1919.

The disappearance of Austria-Hungary (simultaneous, but under a different treaty) and the de facto withdrawal of Bolshevik Russia from Europe, programmed Germany (which wasn’t occupied, unlike after World War Two) to seek a return match.

But this time, as Macron said, the whole of Europe risks losing its sovereignty if it is “pushed around by foreign powers.”

Indeed, this time the prize is not the triumph over another nation; it’s about the survival of Europe as a global player. The EU has so many enemies, also among its allies, to name only the US, Turkey and Israel. And its internal enemies are not only political movements, but full-fledged governments. To single out Hungary would be enough.

The Paris gathering will be a photo opportunity and possibly an occasion to ponder of the historic learnings. But the EU needs to be reinvented.


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The Roundup

by Alexandra Brzozowski

The Stubb vs. Weber face-off last night left many disappointed as around Helsinki’s ‘fireside’, no one got burnt. Today, Manfred Weber won the EPP Spitzenkandidat in a landslide victory. On the sidelines of the Spitzenkandidaten decision, the EPP handed an implicit reprimand to Hungary’s Orbán.

Greek Syriza, on the other hand, is on a quest to unite Europe’s fragmented progressive forces ahead of EU elections.

EU Economics chief Pierre Moscovici insists there is little room for Brussels to compromise with the Italian government over its budget plans.

On the Brexit frontier, hopes for a quick deal fade as EU officials poured cold water over a possible November summit in Brussels.

Post-election fallout in the US is not that much felt over the Atlantic: the EU expects ‘business as usual’ following the US mid-terms.

China’s commitment to open its economy is ‘unquestionable’, said Spain’s trade chief at the China Expo in Shanghai.

Europe and Africa can change global politics in a ‘revolutionary’ way, EU’s top diplomat Federica Mogherini said and suggested a new model of collaboration between the EU and Africa can change today’s dangerous turn of international relations.

Border regions matter and the EU must continue looking after them despite planned cuts for Cohesion policy funding, particularly as some of those regions remain under-developed. Cohesion Policy could help the European project, by making it relevant to citizens, writes Katie Cavell.

EU visa facilitation for Kazakhstan would be a win-win story, various speakers told EURACTIV’s video team, on a field trip to this dynamic Central Asian country.

A row threatens to delay the end to energy isolation of Cyprus and the Greek island of Crete. The European Commission says, it does not want to “point fingers” at anybody.

European cities are slow to adopt electric buses as high upfront costs are the biggest barrier to their deployment on a mass scale.

The COP24 summit in Katowice is approaching quickly where the task will be to assess the efforts made to achieve the long-term goal of the Paris Agreement.

Look out for…

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg meets with the President of the European Commission Jean Claude-Juncker tomorrow to discuss EU-NATO relations.

Views are the author’s

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